"Not now sweetheart," her father whispered gently, removing the girl's tugging hand from his sleeve, "daddy's in the middle something."
Margo hung her head and shuffled her feet, yet stood her ground. Her father rolled his eyes, and smiled. "Okay, Retes, you can stay here." Seeing the innocent look on his daughter's face, his grin widened. "You can't fool me with that expression. Up you go."
Margo was suddenly all arms, reaching up to be lifted onto her daddy's lap. Ever accomodating, her father lifted the little girl onto his lap as the rest of the people around him continued their debate.
"I've lost twenty-three sheep in the last week alone!" one farmer shouted above the rest, his face livid. "You big farmers might not think that's a lot, with all yer twenty thousand sheep or more..."
"Now Duncan, there's no need to shout," Eriq stated quietly. "We can hear you loud and clear. And we big farmers do *not* have twenty thousand sheep; we only have about eight hundred or so..."
"There, ya see? Gloating too!"
"Now Duncan, please be reasonable." Margo's father leaned into the conversation. "Even to Eriq, you know that twenty-three sheep is a lot to lose at once. We shouldn't be getting into that old discussion about who has more sheep than who, especially now! If we don't stop bickering, none of us will have sheep!"
The table had grown silent, each man seeing the truth in Joshua's words. "What do you propose then?" one farmer, a nearby neighbor of Joshua's, asked boldly.
Joshua sighed, making Margo shift a bit on his lap. "I don't know. It's obvious our night watches aren't working; if we don't lose them at night, it's during the day. And there's no possible way any wolves or coyotes could get into the barns; we've got them staked out too well."
The farmer Duncan scowled, his face screwing up to make his wrinkles seem even more evident. "Dammit, why can't we find whatever the fuck is killing off all our---"
"Duncan, that's enough swearing! There are children in here!"
The farmer grew beet red and stammered out an apology as Margo's mother Lydia stepped into the room. "I'm dreadfully sorry, ma'am. I didn't mean to offend your ears with my---"
"Oh cut the BS Duncan. You shouldn't be apologizing to me; apologize to Rete. I've heard much worse in my days; I'd just rather my children not pick up that dreadful habit."
"Rete...." It seemed as though Duncan had only just noticed the little girl as she waved to him from her father's lap. "I'm awful sorry, ma'am. Ah dint mean for you to hear that."
Margo instantly forgave the man. She liked being called ma'am; it made her feel much more grown up. And anyway, she'd heard those words from Robert from down the street; but of course she wouldn't tell her parents' that.
"If we can get back to the discussion now," Eriq stated, drawing back all the attention as Lydia served the drinks around the table. "That's better. Now, we were discussing plans on protecting our animals from whatever, or whoever, is taking them...."
The conversation was beginning to get boring in Rete's opinion. Certainly, the best part was when her momma had jumped all over Duncan about saying those cuss words. Now they were all just talking again. So, figuring Lillith needed to be found anyway, she crawled off her father's lap, who let her go without a fight, and headed to the door to go outside. Grabbing her coat, she put it around her shoulders as she headed out.
The cold, frigid air refreshed her like nothing else could. She loved playing outside; inside was so stuffy. The walls always seemed to hold her in, as if she was bigger than the room itself and still growing. Outside, she felt totally free and could run around without stumbling over her little brother's baby toys or her older sister's clothes. Even if it was a little colder outside than in her house, she didn't care one way or the other. She hoped they didn't ever move from Montana; she couldn't think of being anywhere where she couldn't run and play in the snow.
Now to find Lillith. She had been so sure that she'd left her bear in her room so she could stay warm. Lillith, she knew, didn't like the cold; sometimes, if she was left out in the snow, her mother had to put her into the dryer, and Margo knew Lillith didn't like being banged around in the bumpy dryer. So Rete had quit taking her teddy bear outside, except for when it was summer and the ground was completely dry.
So, not really knowing where to begin looking, Margo headed for the toolshed. Lillith wouldn't want to get stuck out in the cold, especially the wet cold. The toolshed was the closest place the bear could go to still play but be dry at the same time. Unfortunately, when she got there she found that her teddy bear wasn't there. Margo then turned towards the barn, thinking that'd probably be the next place a water-hating teddy bear might wander off to.
As she got closer to the barn, she could see the door was slightly ajar. Knowing everyone else was inside the house, she knew that Lillith must have opened the door and gone inside. Her mother had always told her that a person had to close the barn door when they went in or went out of the barn, no matter what. However, Margo's mother had never told Lillith that, so Margo reasoned that was the reason the door was open: after all, how could the bear know about the rule if she'd never heard it?
Margo opened the door wider so she could get inside, then closed it behind her. She would have to tell Lillith about the rule; it wouldn't do to make the animals cold as well. The barn itself was pleasantly warm once one got away from the door. Margo had always liked the smell of hay and manure; Robert absolutely hated the place, but then Robert hated everything that he had to work around. Being only five, and yet to have to muck stalls or turn over manure filled mulch piles, Margo didn't find anything offensive about the odor. It was simply a smell to her.
"Lillith?" she called out, peeking around corners as she came to them. She heard a slight rustle to her right, but when she turned to look she saw nothing. Curiousity made her head over that way, but when she got there all she could see was a place where it looked like an animal had laid in the hay. Figuring it was only another of those pesky deer her father was always wanting to get rid of, she continued her search, calling out fo the bear.
As she was trying to peek over on of the stalls that house their horses, however, she heard something tumble then crash into the group of pails her parents kept stacked behind the haypile. "Lillith?" Margo asked as she headed towards the sound.
"Leave me alone!" a voice called out from behind there, stopping Margo quickly. Lillith did a lot, like listen and read and play games, but one thing she did not do was talk! "Who's there?" she asked in a shaky voice. When she got no answer, she stepped around the corner and saw what laid there.
The little creature curled up into a ball, shying away from Margo as she stepped closer. "Hey, it's okay," Margo soothed, stepping closer. "I'm not going to hurt you; I'm only a kid."
The little animal slowly uncurled itself and turned to stare at Margo. "You promise not to hurt me?" it asked in a little boy's voice, clearly unsure and afraid.
"Cross my heart and hope to die," Margo promised, crossing heart for emphasis.
The creature with the kid's voice stood up straight then, and Margo gasped in awe. "You're beautiful!" she exclaimed, childlike in her awe. In the small amount of light that poured in from the cracks in the ceiling of the barn, the little animal was almost glowing. His skin seemed to reflect the minor bit of light he received into small rainbows, spread out along the corner where they stood.
She watched as the dragon's color faded somewhat into a reddish color, and realized happily that it was blushing. "Thank you," it replied shyly.
"What's your name?" Margo asked.
"Oh, I'm not supposed to give that out. Not my real one, I mean. But everyone calls me Prism."
"Well, my real name is Margauret, but everyone calls me either Rete or Margo. I like Rete better though."
"Me too," Prism replied, nodding in agreement. "It's easier to say."
"Yeah, that's why I like it too." Margo stared at Prism, then asked somewhat shyly, not knowing if she should ask it, "What are you exactly? I've never seen anything like you before."
"Me? Oh, I'm just a dragon. What are you?"
"I'm a kid. My momma and poppa are adults." Seeing the contemplative expression on the dragon's face, she added, "We're people."
"You're a person?" Prism asked/stated incredulously. Then "Oops. My mother told me never to talk to a person. She said they're sometimes dangerous."
"Oh, we're not dangerous." Margo frowned a bit. "At least, I don't think we're dangerous...." She shrugged. "I'm not dangerous anyway. What could I do?"
Prism shrugged draconian style. "Beats me."
Margo paused a moment to study the dragon in front of her. She couldn't deny it; he was absolutely beautiful. She knew, however, that he was just a child, probably around her age in dragon years, however they worked. "How old are you?" she asked impulsively.
"I'm six," Prism stated proudly.
"Oh, I'm only five." Somehow, being by prism made her feel young, even though he was only a year older than her and the exact same size.
"Don't worry, you'll soon be as old as I am," the little dragon comforted, stepping towards her. It was then Margo noticed what was in his hand.
"Hey! You found Lillith! Oh, thank you!"
Startled, Prism drew back, but Margo followed, continuing to chatter. "She wandered off from my room and I went out here to find her then I met you and we began talking and I forgot all about looking for her....but you found her! Thank you."
She looked into the dragon's face and noticed something; it had a sad expression on it's face. She followed its gaze to her doll, and realization sprung up in her. "You like my doll?" she asked, fighting back jealousy.
Prism just nodded mutely, still staring at the doll moments before he'd been cuddling. "She really didn't...wander out here," he stammered out sheepishly. "I sort of...well, took her from your room. I'm really sorry though," he added in a rush. "I just saw her and...well..." He trailed off, not knowing what else to say.
Margo looked down at the doll, then at the little dragon. After a lengthy pause, which made Prism shift in his tracks a bit, Margo asked, "What do you have that you can trade for her?"
Prism brightened up immediately. He made a strange crooning noise from the back of his throat, almost like a purr but higher pitched, and from almost nowhere a little ball of light appeared. "This is Jeebee, my sprite. It always plays with me like Lillith plays with you. If you want to trade..." He left the sentence hanging, and Margo understood his meaning. She gazed longingly at her doll, a gift from her mother, then at Jeebee as it hovered in the air, doing crazy little movements around. Finally, she sighed. "Okay, it's a deal." She spat into her palm, and held it out to Prism to take, like she'd seen Robert do numerous times on the recess playground.
Prism stared at the proffered hand, then gingerly took it. Margo took it firmly and gave it a shake, then let go. "Okay, now it's done and can't be broken." The thought brought on a sadness, that she'd probably never see Lillith again, but she stamped it down. "She doesn't like to get wet or cold. Promise me you'll keep her warm."
"I can promise that easy," Prism replied in a draconic equivalent of a grin. It was strange how easy his face was to read, considering he was a completely strange animal. But Margo didn't care about that right now; she just wanted Lillith to be treated good. "Also remember..."
Prism listened intently while Margo listed off the likes and dislikes of her best friend. Finally, Margo was through, and finished off, "If I ever find out that something's happened, you'll regret it."
"Nothing will happen to her, I promise. As for Jeebee, she takes care of herself. So you don't have to worry about her except for when she gets a bit of mischief in her on occassions. But you'll learn to watch out for that; it's when she glows the brightest."
"Okay, I'll take care of her."
"I need to go home now," Prism stated, glancing around. "My parents don't know I'm gone right now; I didn't tell them."
Margo clucked her tongue in a tsk-tsking sound her mother made frequently. "I've learned that is not the best thing a kid, even a dragon kid, can do."
"I know, I know. I really gotta go."
"Will I see you again?" Margo asked the rainbow dragon as he walked past her. She realized that, in the short while he'd been there, she'd grown to like him. With so few kids her age around, it was so very difficult to find someone to play with.
"I don't know," Prism replied. "I'll try, but I don't think I can promise anything."
"Okay," Margo replied somewhat downcast. "Well, maybe we'll still meet again." The last part was stated as part statement, part question.
"Probably," the dragon agreed. "Listen, I really gotta go..."
Margo nodded and followed the little dragon out of the barn. "Where do you live?" she asked as he unfurled his wings. Strange how she hadn't been able to notice them until now.
"In the Realm," he replied, flapping his wings. "Maybe someday you can visit there."
"I'd love to! Is every dragon as pretty as you?"
She saw him blush again, and giggled. "Some are even more beautiful," he said modestly, then stated, "Stand back now."
Margo did as she was told, and watched the small rainbow dragon take off into the air. She waved back to him, but he seemed in such a rush he didn't see her. She watched as he headed up into the sky; then, a great ball of light appeared in front of him, and Prism turned into the ball, passing through it. As the tip of his tail passed through, the light flashed out like a candle does in the wind, and all was calm again.
Margo turned back to the barn, already missing Lillith, only to be confronted face to face with the pixie face of the sprite. "Oh, I'm sorry," she exclaimed, stepping back. "I forgot all about you."
High pitched chittering emitted from the small ball of light as her colors intensified, and Margo could almost feel the tongue lashing she was getting. Seeking to alleviate tension in the only way she knew how, she asked, "Want to play tag?"
All noise stopped coming from the sprite, who brightened and began doing crazy circles in the air. "I'll take that as a yes," Margo replied, smiling. "You wanna be first?"
Immediately, the little sprite swooped down and effectively tagged Margo, then sped off. Laughing, Margo ran after the sprite, thinking about how much fun they were going to have in the coming time. As she was going out the entrance, however, bounding after the little spec of light, her eye caught the gleam of something shiny nestled underneath the hay by the door. Momentarilary leaving the sprite to, unknowingly, play by herself, Margo turned back to the barn and pushed aside the straw that covered the object. There, she discovered a small, roundish object which glittered in the little light available. Picking it up, she recognized it immediately as it threw rainbows of light across the barn. Smiling, she held a scale of Prism's up to the sunlight streaming through the cracks in the ceiling and watched as it threw rainbows of light across the barn. Margo laughed in childish delight and, feeling a strange compelling urge to do so, reached out to touch the light. Naturally, however, like all rainbows it was too far away to touch; and when she moved the hand holding the scale to the sun the rainbow ceased to exist. Margo just shrugged, her curious young mind already moving ahead to what mattered now.
When the sprite came in to check on why her new playmate had deserted her, Margo had stuffed the scale into her pocket. She raced after the small sprite, who obediently, and playfully, took off again across the meadows, Margo in hot pursuit.
Over the years, and as she grew older, her early memories slowly faded as is wont in children. Her childhood friend, the sprite, disappeared eventually and was forgotten as a childhood fantasy, an invisible friend. Margo's parents never believed her story about a dragon, and as children are so impressionable Margo was made to believe that she'd only found a rather pretty and quite strange rock or mineral while she was out playing one day.
She never did get rid of the scale, however, even thought she was told it was a rock. It was, in her mind, simply too precious to take off or set aside, even for just a little while. So, from the day she got it, it was always found somewhere on her. It migrated from her pocket to a keychain around her neck, one which was never removed but continued to grow longer. When she was seventeen, however, she had the rock taken to an engraver and figured into the likeness of a dragon. As to whether the action was prompted by her childhood memory or whether it was simply because she was reminded of a dragon each time she looked at the rock, Margo never knew. But from then on, a small one-inch curled dragon hung from her neck, still acting as a prism for light and still casting rainbows on the wall, although none ever as bright as that first.
So, little Rete grew up, putting aside all her childish thoughts and fantasies and moving into the real world. She graduated college and worked as a clerk for her father's lawyer; not her dream job, but a necessary step in her eyes. And, as ever, the dragon carving went with her, a talisman she never dared lose, never took off for fear of it being stolen or lost. She intended to begin law school at Davis by the end of the summer, hoping to pass the bar within four years. As she had grown older, the day to day life of the farm had lost its appeal; the cold Montana weather had finally grown too cold in her eyes so she had moved to California, land of everlasting sun and beaches. She hadn't counted on rain, especially this much; but that was tolerable at least.
She, basically, planned to live a normal life, become a lawyer with no real specialty, and spend her life helping people. Perhaps someday she'd run for office; God only knew the government needed some sane people, and she was about as sane as they came. Someday, also, when mister right came along, she'd get married and have children, becomming a working mother. Life wouldn't be exciting, but then, in her opinion, now wasn't an exciting time.
Sometimes, however, things don't turn out as you plan them...