It is National Daughter Day, and to celebrate here's a scene I wrote to introduce readers to the oldest mouse sister, Minifred, who is unexpectedly left in charge of her four younger sisters when their adoptive father, the alligator Gannon, dies in Down The Well:
Minifred Apollina Nim was the born on a bitter cold winter morning, where the frost had just begun to draw lace on the glass windows of the humble cottage her parents made their home.
The coal colored mouse removed the kettle of hot water from the oven as her mind tried to stay busy. Lady Winter had been leaving doily lace on the windows of the yellow manor for a few passing days now and Minifred tried not to think too much about the birthday that was waiting for her just a week away. The sun was barely over the jagged tops of the tree line the circled around the fabled Charmsend village. She had learned long ago that it was easier to start the day an hour or two ahead of her younger sisters. Her delicate hands sat the round wooden table just as her mother had taught her. She then prepared the tea blend with the freshest herbs her father used to use. She pulled the eggs from the fridge along with the flour and blueberries and laid them neatly on the countertop.
Gannon enjoyed making pancakes for her and her sisters every morning, and absolutely insisted she not worry about making the family breakfast.
From the teapot she filled her own mug with warm water and placed the mesh metal tea bag into it. Her fingers slid around the cup and the warmth radiating from the ceramic made her let out a relieved sigh.
The yellow manor was still as a lake untouched by Folk-kind, aside from the deep snoring that rattled the wooden bones of the house. They came from Gannon’s room on the ground floor, and the faint creaks of the wood planks groaned under the tall mouse as she walked her way to the large oak door, the only door fit for an alligator of Gannon’s size. The morning air greeted her with a frosted kiss as she sat on the porch swing. The townsfolk had begun moving as many were headed to their mundane jobs, but she knew she had a while longer before her sisters awoke. Until then, she had a while longer to wrestle with thoughts that would stir in her mind. Memories she wasn’t ready to dance with, at least not yet.
She was the first child of George and Florence Nim. Who were long time residences of a village called Taper. A town many blink and miss on their way through to the Scorch Fields in hopes of seeing the ever burning Eternal Flame. A town that Minifred remembered and whose name would dance on the tip of her tongue, when her younger sisters asked about where they were from, but taste always proved too painful to speak of.
She would go to become the oldest of five and took great pride in helping her mother care for her sisters. Years of learning how to recreate her soups, stews, among other dishes, and with her years of organizing would not have prepared her for the tragedy that was going to strike on the spring after her twelfth birthday. It had felt like a lifetime ago, though the tragedy was much closer to her than she’d like to admit. Sinking its unrelenting claws into her beating heart that should have been stopped.
Minifred recalled the way the pollen had tickled her nose once they entered the renowned Emerald forest. The statuesque trees that towered over top of their family’s humble wagon had surely seen a fair share of travelers through the ages. Their branches and leaves would have witnessed the best and the worst Thimbleton had to offer, and with that in mind, Minifred wondered if the tree’s gave any notice that some rickety wagon, owned by a mischief of mice, was worth remembering in their ever knowing roots that trailed beneath the rich earth.
The closer they got to their destination, a newer town that was said to have been settled in the rich Emerald valley, the trees around them became faded, and gray with death.
“Perhaps a blight.” Her mother suggested.
Her father shrugged it off. “It’ll pass by the graces of the Great Hare.”
If Minifred knew then what she knew now, she would have suggested another route, or just to turn around all together. Every time she thought about time travel and warning her parents, she was now old enough to face that even if she did defy the laws of Thimbleton and return to that fateful day, would her parents have even heeded her words? Could she really have saved them?
She brought the teacup to her mouth and savored the flowery taste of the camomile tea passed through her lips. The muffled chattering of the other town folk as they passed by the porch didn’t phase her or her numbed hallow gaze. Though she was here and alive, she was also still fighting against an unseen battle.
Her fingers rubbed around the top of the mug slowly as she remembered the details of the quick gray shadow that flipped their cart. She sipped, passing over the memory of long dark claws crushing their father against the earth. She inhaled as the flash of another quick and frankly sour smelling creature snatched her mother away from her. No one to hold her or her siblings. The way the two creatures yowled in delight as they ripped her mother in half, savoring each ear splitting rip of her soft silver furred flesh. Then, as a shadow lingered over her and her sisters, she felt the same dance of nerves in her stomach pass by, but a killing blow wasn’t delivered to her.
Minifred’s eyes snapped to the kitchen window where she saw Gannon preparing the pancake batter, he gave her a gentle smile as the swing went back and forth out of sight. She then leaned back in the wooden porch swing and looked to the rafters above her. Each time she swung the image of Gannon cradling all five of the mice sisters in one arm, and an image of Lyudmila’s pristine snow fur covered in the blood of her parents’ murderers.
Two things were certain the day Minifred and her sisters set foot in the town that was suppose to be the family’s fresh start. One, that she would do everything and anything to keep her sisters safe from these strangers. Two, that though the trees of the wood may not remember her face, they will remember the way her parents’ blood tasted as it seeped into their roots.
Lore Deoradán wants to be happy when she grows up. But navigating her parents' mercurial moods, moving to a new town just two weeks before her high school graduation, and dealing with her beloved grandma's declining health all make that dream seemingly impossible. Will her new job be the first step toward happiness, or will it be yet another disappointment?
When she falls down a well into a magical world with talking animals that haven't seen a human for years, she must clear her name of the mayor's murder. Although, how anyone believes she killed a Herculean-sized alligator is beyond her. Now, her survival is tied to a mouse with a chip on her shoulder. There's also a cat who owns a pub where the animal patrons might be cannibals, a giant snake librarian who probably wants to eat her, and sentient lampposts who are never there when you need them.
Can Lore prove her innocence, help a newfound friend save the town from a dark and dangerous schemer, and find her way home?
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