All was silent as I stepped into the quaint little house. My feet echoed slightly on the clay floor as I crept towards the wooden stairs. Could it be possible that Diya wasn’t awake yet?
I moved noiselessly and stealthily, placing each foot as carefully as I could. I reached the staircase unnoticed; placing my foot on the first step so cautiously it didn’t even creak.
My second step was just as quiet until –
My left foot thundered through the second step with a resonating screech of splitting wood.
“Morning child,” a stern voice said from my keeper’s doorway.
I tried to turn my torso so I could face her, but my foot twigged painfully. I winced, hunching up my shoulders.
“Morning,” I said in a would-be-cheerful voice.
“Have fun running around with that boy of yours?” she asked, her voice still formidable and severe.
“What do you mean boy of mine?” I asked, a slight note of anger in my voice.
“We’re just friends.” Although I couldn’t see her, I knew she was shaking her head. She knew very well I’d have liked to e more than friends.
Her shadow was cast in the early morning light and fell in front of me. It grew smaller as she moved into the slightly darker room.
“You’ll get in trouble one of these days Astrid,” she said, now standing next to me.
“I think I already am,” I said, looking down at my now aching foot.
I heard Diya chuckle.
“Before I help you out,” she said in her deep voice, “let’s discuss your punishment.”
I opened my mouth to argue, but she gave me a look that could burn a hole into rubber.
“Breakfast, every mornin’ this week, to be ready by the time I wake up,” she said happily. This wasn’t much of a punishment, but I could tell why she picked “this sentence.
“Fine,” I said in a strained voice. I could feel the splinters throbbing in my ankle.
With a grunt like a boar, her thick fingers clutched my ankle and pulled. It was a painful method; my toes cracked as my foot came up, splintering more wood.
I rotated my ankle slowly, trying to detect serious injury. When I placed it back on the first step it ached painfully, but I could at least stand on it.
“Can you get up the stairs all right?” Diya asked looking up in my face.
“Yes,” I said confidently, limping my way up.
“Good,” she said, making her way back to her room. Her broad figure was still dressed in a plain white nightdress, her long hair still in the fisher’s net.
The entire second floor was devoted to my use. It wasn’t actually much to say, since it was the size of a small room. I plunked down on my bed, rubbing my sore ankle, wondering whether I would be able to go to association.