I was sittin’ there, watchin’ alla Littles play again today (cuz we still ain’t taken ’em back to Nim, but we gotta soon, cuz we’re kinda sorta out of food) when Hazel came in, all pink an’ outta breath. It’s cold as ‘cicles outside! She said she had somethin’ she wanna show me. I tucked my new sword inna belt loop an’ found a hat an’ followed her out.
Oh, gumdrops, I dunno if ‘cicles is cold enough to describe the weather. Was more like alla air was frozen, an’ we hadda swim through it! But there was no snow, so it was cold without a good reason. We walked through the woods a ways, down a path I don’t use so much, an’ down a trail I always thought deer made.
Partway down, there were some noises from behind. I pulled Hazel offa road, an’ we hid behind some bushes. I pulled my sword outta belt an’ got down inna fighting stance. Then the thing makin’ the noise came inna view, an’ I stood up straight, steppin’ back out onna road. Things were ok. It was just Falcon. I wasn’t even mad he made me worry.
“I wanted to see it too,” he said. An’ the three of us kept goin’.
Not too long later, the trees opened up inna clearing. Inna middle was a big white house. The windows were boarded up some onna first floor, though, an’ there were lotsa dead weeds round the place.
“It’s a nice house?” I said, waitin’ for Hazel to lemme know why were were here.
“It is,” she agreed. She walked through the weeds an’ up onna porch an’ pushed the door open. It swung in. The door didn’ squeak like I thought it might.
Falcon an’ I followed her to the door an’ peeked in.
It was a nice room, with a li’l bitta furniture covered by sheets. Falcon an’ me came in a bit further, lookin’ inna corners an’ stuff. “Why’re we here?” I finally asked. “It’s a nice house, but somebody else owns it. We ain’t supposed to go inna other people’s houses.”
Hazel smiled. “No, we’re not. When Vega and I found it last month, she tried to research the property records, but we got stuck. Cooper helped us find its owner. Turns out the house belongs to Gramma Happy. We talked to her. She said she didn’t realize this house was so close to our Home but that, since she didn’t have anybody using it now, it was ok for us to use it. Cooper is working on getting the Government to recognize this as an extension of our Home so they can send Gramma Happy some extra money too.”
Grammy Happy is so super nice! I was feeling really excited now. What else was in the house? We could clean it up an’ have plenty of room for the whole Flock now.
Upstairs, we found another big room like onna first floor. It had some chairs an’ a nice long table an’ some benches. An’ a bookcase. Falcon’s eyes lit up when he saw the long table. He started talkin’ bout gaming an’ science an’ all sortsa things we could do there. It sounded pretty cool.
We kept goin’ through. We came to a room with lotsa little-sized yellow furniture, an’ Falcon started talkin’ bout how Meikiko would love livin’ inna room that had stuff her size. An’ there were two beds, so she could always have a little friend over, too. I hadda agree: it was perfect.
Hazel said there were some issues with the place. It couldn’t never be its own stand-alone Home, cuz there wasn’t a kitchen. But it could be a sorta overflow place, where kids could come an’ play an’ maybe sleep, cuz we were sorta runnin’ outta room–or at least runnin’ outta beds. I was really glad, tho, that we couldn’t make it inna its own second house, cuz I liked our Flock bein’ together.
We stepped inna last room. It was a bedroom for big kids, with nice bunkbeds an’ a li’l dresser table. There was a window facin’ out to the woods. It was cozy an’ friendly. But there was one small problem…
There was a girl sleepin’ inna bottom bunk bed. She woke up alla sudden an’ stared at us, her eyes big like moons.
“I don’t know,” Hazel confessed. “She wasn’t here before.”
She leaped outta the bed an’ stood afore us.
“I–I–I’m sorry,” she stuttered. “It’s so c-c-c-cold. I just wanted to sleep somewhere warm. I’ll be going now.” An’ she turned, like she was gonna just walk out inna cold.
But she didn’t have shoes. Or a coat. Or anythin’.
“Wait,” I said. An’ they all turned an’ looked at me. I knew I shoulda kept my mouth shut. Now I’d be the one makin’ decisions. Oh boy.
But I knew it was wrong–like, super-duper wrong–to send a kid without shoes inna cold like we came through.
I took a deep breath. “My name’s Kestrel. This is Falcon an’ Hazel. We live inna house nearby…an’ maybe now here too.”
“I’m…Lark,” she said, all quiet-like.
“Do you have a home or parents?” I asked. This felt strange. I’d heard Wren ask questions like this, but I hadn’t done it afore. She just shook her head a li’l bit. “Maybe you can stay with us, then. Alla we are orphans too. We all work hard to keep it goin’, but there’s always somethin’ else needin’ doin’. We gotta talk with Wren first, but wouldya maybe wanna think bout joinin’ us?”
Lark smiled super big then. She didn’t hafta say a single word.