Precious Things - Joe's Story (part 7 of 9)
Precious Things - Joe's Story (part 7 of 9) bdo stories
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ferp2
ferp2 Old, well, old-ish.
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About an hour later Joe heard, and then felt Finny climb onto the seat beside him. The night was cold so Joe held the reins with one hand while he made sure she was tucked in warmly beside him under the thick horse blanket.

Precious Things - Joe's Story (part 7 of 9)

About an hour later Joe heard, and then felt Finny climb onto the seat beside him.

The night was cold so Joe held the reins with one hand while he made sure she was tucked in warmly beside him under the thick horse blanket.

Joe was very aware of the silence coming from Finny. Normally, she chatted away ten to the dozen, non-stop wonder and awe at the everything she saw.

Every little thought that entered her head, Joe got to hear it. Eventually, it would get on his nerves and he would give her something to occupy her and save his ears.

But right now, Joe wanted to hear it, hear the nonsense prattle, the never-ending questions; anything but this awful silence.

Joe cleared his throat, making Finny look up at him. However, Joe didn't look back at her. When he started to talk, he just kept watching the road, or the horses, or the moon... Just not her.

"Some of us, people like me, find it really hard not to, you know, get mad like that."

Finny didn't respond. A quick look from the corner of his eye showed Joe that Finny was also doing the 'look anywhere but' thing. He tried again.

"Anyway, when I was growing up, I tried all sorts of things to not get mad. I even went around for a while with my hands tied together.

It didn't really work though; you see, when 'it' happens, you get very strong see, ropes don't really do the job."

Joe paused again and this time from the corner of his eye he saw that Finny glanced up. She didn't say anything, just looked at him with those enormous green eyes, waiting for him to go on.

Joe cleared his throat.

"So, after a few years of getting into trouble, I went to see this bloke... Can't remember his name, but he was like me... except that he could keep a lid on it."

This time Joe did look down and saw from the quizzical look on the four-year-old's face that she likely hadn't understood what 'keep a lid on it' meant. He tried again.

"Not get crazy mad every time someone farts." That made Finny laugh, which was progress. "So anyway, I asked him how he did it..."

Joe's throat suddenly closed up; the words wouldn't come. Gods, this was hard. It was only the four-year-old's incurable curiosity that pushed him to continue.

But it was good to hear her voice again even so.

"How did he do it?"

Joe coughed again, then sniffed again, before continuing.

"He showed me. He had this tiny little glass horse. You know, with really thin legs and tail and stuff." He took a breath. "Then he said to me that what he did was...

Well, he said, what I should do was... He said; 'You need to get something that you have to be careful with. Something very precious and delicate and that will break easily if you get mad.

Something small that you can't just lug around, but have to handle very carefully because it's so delicate you could break it if you don't'."

It was working, Finny was coming back.

"Did you get one?"

"Er, no. Well, I mean, I tried all sorts of things. But I didn't really care about them see. I had no patience with 'em. And this bloke ses, well, you have to care about it.

You have to, or it doesn't work."

"Din't you ever find anything then?"

"Well, yes. Eventually. I found something that I actually did want to look after... but, I broke it anyway."

"You got mad at it?"

Joe nodded.

"Yeah. Yeah, I got mad at it, and I broke it."

"Awwwwww."

"Yeah, awww."

"You should have got another one and tried again. What was it? Was it really precious?"

Joe looked at her with just a glimpse of annoyance.

"It doesn't matter what it was. I broke it, that's all." His face softened. "But yeah, I tried again. I got another one."

Finny dropped her voice to a whisper.

"Did you break it."

Joe nodded.

"Yeah, I broke that one too. After that, I gave up. I promised myself I wouldn't get another one. I'd probably just break it like the others." He took a deep breath. "But..."

Finny clapped her hands and grinned.

"You got another one!"

Joe looked down at her and half-smiled.

"Yeah... well, I wasn't going to. Then I met some people who had one, but they were about to break it. Break it on purpose."

Finny gasped.

"What did you do?!"

"I took it off them."

"You stole it?"

"Something like that. But if I hadn't, then the people would have broken it. They were actually taking it away to break it when I stopped them."

"You rescued it?!"

"Yeah, I suppose I did."

"So, you'll have to be very careful of this one. Don't break it."

He looked at her, then leaned down to whisper.

"I kinda like this one so I'll look after it." He sat up again, smiling.

Finny used her best grown-up voice.

"And don't lose it."

Joe stared straight ahead.

"Oh, I won't. And if anybody tries to take it away from me..."

He let the rest of the sentence hang in the air. Finny didn't, however.

"... then, KERPOW!" She said, punching the palm of her hand with a small fist.

Joe should have been smiling at the childish reaction, but he wasn't, he was deadly serious.

"You said it Carrot-top. Kerpow!"

It was only then that the menace in Joe's eyes dimmed. He grinned and tousled her hair, very gently, like with something precious.

.....

They reached Heidal a couple of weeks later, and from there Joe planned to take them both further east to Altinova where she and Joe could lose themselves in the teaming city.

But they were stopped at the eastern gate because the direct route had been declared unsafe due to a flare-up of the in the on-again,

off-again fighting that was all too common in the war with Calpheon.

So, traffic was being diverted north to the coastal village of Velia where they could embark on a boat that would take them along the coast and then upriver to the city.

The journey to Velia should have taken two days, but as they made camp on the second evening, Finny said was not feeling well. More worryingly, she didn't want supper.

Finny usually ate everything put in front of her...

Well, except for that one time when Joe had made a stew from a pair of rats after being unable to catch anything else, and Finny had point-blank refused to eat it.

After Joe's final demand that she would eat it 'if she knew what was good for her', The little girl had calmly walked over to the stew pot,

scooped up a hand full of dirt and deposited it into the stew.

Finny wiped her dirty hand on the seat of her britches the, with all the defiance of a child her age plainly visible in her eyes, she looked up at Joe.

The half-giant's face was a moving picture of contorting muscles, and his big hands clenched and unclenched like they couldn't make up their mind.

The berserker shifted his eyes from the pot of ruined stew to Finny. Joe, having gotten his anger under control, then pointed off to the wagon.

"Go on. Get your little arse in that wagon and stay there. I don't even want to see you until bedtime."

Arms folded across her chest, Finny set off for the wagon at an angry stomp. But she stopped halfway and turned.

"But what about if I need to do a..."

"Move!"

Finny moved, scooting off to the wagon as fast as her feet would carry her. Back to the campfire. Joe turned and stared into the rat and mud stew, shaking his head.

Joe made do with sharing oatmeal with the horses. Several times he looked over at the wagon and once nearly gave in and almost called out to release Finny from her prison time. But he didn't.

He didn't because, as he watched the dirt and twigs fall from Finny's hand into what was going to be their only meal that day, Joe had felt the anger rise.

He had felt it rise and felt it fuelled by hunger. It had taken Joe real effort to wrestle the anger back into its box.

While Finny spent the day in prison, Joe toiled away at all the tasks he had been putting off so that he could think.

The hours passed, it got dark and, after a final torch-lit check on the horses, Joe sighed and headed for the wagon.

Finny looked asleep when Joe climbed in, but once he had lit the candle it was easy to see that Finny was faking it in the way little kids do; eyes tightly closed,

hands clenched and holding their breath. He crawled across the rush mattress that served as their bed and gave her a nudge.

"Here. Sit up."

Not sure if Joe was still mad at her, Finny slowly pulled herself into a sitting position. Joe sat next to her and held out a wooden bowl with a spoon in it.

It was an oatcake biscuit, broken up and softened with hot milk, which Finny realised must have been the last of their little supply. Joe had even sprinkled some brown sugar on top.

Finny felt very grateful and very sorry at the same time. She bit her lip and looked up. Joe's face was anything but mad, a little sad maybe, undoubtedly tired, but any anger was gone.

"I'm sorry," she whispered. "For doing..."

"I know." Joe tilted his chin towards the bowl on her lap. "Just, eat your supper before the milk goes cold."

Finny nodded and started to eat. Joe was still watching her.

"Finn?" She swallowed what was in her mouth and looked up. Joe's face was very serious. "You mustn't do things like that Finny. If I get mad... even if I don't get 'mad' mad...

if I ever even tapped you, I could really hurt you, break bones, that sort of thing." He paused.

"I know you're only a kid, but you have to try and really behave because sometimes it's very hard for me... you know?"

Finny nodded.

"Yes, Sir." She stuck the spoon in her mouth and used her free hand to make an 'X' over the centre of her chest. "Crosh my hard."

Joe smiled at her as she went back to eating her supper.

"Good girl. Make sure you drink all the milk up, I don't want it spilling on the blankets, and it ends up stinking the place out.

" Joe pulled off his boots, climbed under the cover and rolled over with his back to her. "Put the candle out when you're done. See you in the morning."

Finny slurped down the last of the milk.

"See you in the morning." She intoned. The little phrase had become a kind of ritual, as if not to say it and get the reply was to invite terrible things during the night.

She snuffed the candle and then snuggled down.

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