It had been but a few days since Isaac’s passing and the rhythm of everyday life bad begun its pace again. Elma had begun her chores early, her mind needing the occupation. Today had been a day of miserable rainfall. A chill had crept through the house making Elma’s joints ache. “Still too young,” she thought to herself, certain she shouldn’t be having these pains. Wincing slightly as she scrubbed the floor she felt as though something was amiss. She had been doing her chores as she always had, but her mind was in a haze and less sharp than she typically allowed herself. It was an absence that bothered her.
Where was Grim?
A small panic had set in as her heart seemed to drop in her chest. Had he hurt himself? Where was he? Why wouldn’t anyone have brought it to her attention? She needed to calm herself first. Taking in a soothing breathe, she set to task of searching about the house and asking the other children if they had seen the elf child.
“I saw him go with Vlera earlier.” Inya had said to the open air when Elma had asked, never taking her eyes off her grubby hands as they attempted to sculpt mud brought in from outside.
“Thank you Inya, now you clean up that mess, the floor is not your art studio.”
A child’s exasperation was her only response as she had left the room in search of Vlera. Her hunt had taken her up to one of the storage rooms where Vlera was unsuccessfully trying to pull some blankets from under bins of old clothes.
“Vlera, have you seen Grim?”
“Well, I had, though he’s been adopted this morning.”
“What? Why wouldn’t you tell me?” she sounded more flustered than she wished to admit. Grim had grown on her in such a small time.
“On account that it was your old beau that adopted him.”
Elma’s heart shot straight through the floor.
“Lockhold? You let Edwin take him?! You know we said we’d never let him take another for his Latch Kids!”
“Did we? I recall you said had that and that I was rather absent in agreement.”
“How could you?!”
“Don’t act like you’ve got the moral high ground here! You were the one who brought Lockhold to us to begin with! There are too few that want these little bastards and we’re running shy on food for the lot of them as it is! No one would want that child! I did us a favor! That thing is a little demon running about the place and you’re the only one naive enough not to see it!”
“How can you even say half of those things that are coming out of your mouth? Lockhold’s kids get eaten alive by the world! That’s not a life you’re giving him, that’s a life you’re taking away! And yes, I brought him here because YES I was naive and a gullible fool! But I learned my lesson, how have you not? I thought you were cold Vlera, but I didn’t realize you were heartless!”
“Pah! Keep your high horse to yourself. Even with Isaac, we couldn’t afford to feed them all for another two months! With Edwin’s money we can continue to take care of the ones that we have already that aren’t cursed merchandise.”
“They aren’t merchandise!” Elma shrieked. Her outcry was met with a cutting slap across her face.
“Keep your voice down you damn fool!”
Stunned, Elma gaped. Her eyes then narrowed. She grabbed the collar of Vlera’s robe and through gritted teeth hissed, “The only reason don’t gut you like a fish is because I need you. You’ve become this wretched thing that blights everything she touches, and I need you.”
“Pah! It’s always this song and dance with you.”
Elma shoved her against the wall knocking loose some shelving and leaving Vlera a jumbled pile on the floor. It hadn’t been too long since Lockhold must have taken Grim, she could probably manage to catch him before they had gotten too far. Grabbing her rain gear she darted off to the neighbor to ask if she could borrow their horse. They were reluctant, but they had always liked Elma and favored her, this time as always.
She set off on the horse at a full gallop, already she was drenched with rain, her cloak soaked through. Still she strode on horse through the chilled gray, joints aching, hoping to see the two on the road ahead. All she could make out was more mud and a horizon. She pressed the horse onward faster and she could tell the horse was already tiring. Desperate, she tried pushing the horse, but it stumbled, and toppled in the mud. On her back Elma gasped up at the sky. The horse had fallen on top of Elma, crushing an arm, a leg, and her ribs. She choked and sobbed as water and blood filled her lungs.
The rain poured down mercilessly.