“Cotton” | Chapter One | Written by Beccah & Nicholas McConnaughay | 2 - Mishmashers Mishmashers

“Cotton” | Chapter One | Written by Beccah & Nicholas McConnaughay | 2

2.

   At last, Satin arrived at her home, a home shared between her and her two sisters – a warm, large, but simple affair with a thatch roof surrounded by mulberry trees. The small child in her arms was still asleep, only offering the occasional hiccup and burp to remind Satin it was still among them.

   The lamia slid inside. Nightfall had come, but she’d mostly been able to avoid the repercussions of that fact. Inside, Satin could hear the quiet whirring of her older twin’s spinning wheel. Cautiously, Satin slithered up to Silke, a careful, deliberate effort was made on her part to use her bags as a way to obscure the infant from her sibling’s line of vision.

   Silke nodded a quick hello before glancing back down to the silk thread she was spinning; uninterested in Satin’s whereabouts. Long nights out were not uncommon, after all.

   “So, I found something peculiar while I was checking my traps today, …,” Satin started, and then, subsequently, stopped, making certain she had her sister’s attention.

   Satin rested her bags of pelts and trap components by the door with her back to her sister.

   “Mmmhmm…,” Silke hummed without looking up from her crafting, as though she expected Satin to prattle on about some colorful rock or oddly shaped tree branch she had found. The very tip of her light green tail worked up and down on the spinning wheel’s pedal.

   “Uh,” Satin began, momentarily hesitant until deciding to tear the plaster off, once and for all, “Tada?”

   At last, Satin presented the small, still snoozing hatchling, like a child unveiling their show-and-tell project.

   “Mmm, … very nice. Make sure you treat the pelts quickly. I don’t want your laziness stinking up my house again, …,” Silke said with a tired or bored (or both) yawn, not bothering to raise her eyes up from her task.

   She remained concentrated on the thread she had been working on. Meanwhile, Satin remained still, nervously holding out the waking tot toward her sister. Unsure of what to do next, other than continue to wait, she began to bob the child up and down anxiously, trying to get her sister’s attention.

   “Uhhh, Silke?”

   She received nothing more than another weakly afforded hum.

   “Silke?”

   Not even a hum this time.

   The child was now outstretched, opening its eyes and starting to wiggle, flailing whatever part of her that wasn’t held down. It squinted its eyes again, opening its mouth, about to wail. Satin soothed the child, then, once the crisis seemed averted, beamed at Silke: “Oh, for the sake of the goddess, would you look up you limp noodle!” She yelled.

   Silke’s head snapped up in shock. Her eyes shot wide open and attentive, first staring at her young sister’s nervous expression, then, at the child in her sister’s arms.

   She screamed.

   Satin screamed.

   The child screamed.

* * *

   “What in the world is that?” She shouted, bolting off of her stool and flailing around her arms as though she thought she could dispel the very shock itself from the air.

   The infant in front of her hiccuped and held out its arms, tears streamed down its face. A flood of memories flashed in Satin’s mind’s eye. For a moment, the child was replaced by a tiny lamia from many moons ago., long since grown. Empathetic, she snatched the small one away from her sibling and gently rubbed the hatchling’s back as her tear ducts let loose on her shoulder. “Did you steal a child?” She whispered harshly.

   “Of course not!” Satin stammered. “I found it abandoned. I am sure it is a very late stuckling!” She aimed her fingers at the child’s ears, then its legs. “Its ears are completely rounded and it doesn’t have a single scale anyplace!” She then pointed to the child’s mouth, full of its own hand as it whined. “It doesn’t even have fangs yet!”

   Silke brought the small child over to the hearth and motioned at Satin to throw more logs on the fire. Satin obliged, and, after some poking, prodding, and situating with an iron rod, the room was brighter for it.

   Silke’s golden eyes examined the child, taking in its lack of distinguishable features. It, ‘she’, her mind corrected, had soft brown hair in a halo around her tiny skull. The little ones’ eyes are large, green, and full of tears waiting to start flowing out once more.

   Satin was right in her assessment. Neither a scale, fin, nor a feather. Nothing! In her mouth were only dull teeth. “Soul-bound,” Silke said, at first, not to Satin, but to herself.

   “I considered that, but why would they venture this far out and away from their own?”

   Silke shook her head, “They are pack animals by nature, but even those who take solo animals as their bonds will not abandon their young at such an age. Are you absolutely sure the child was without parents?” Silke patted the hatchling’s back, soothingly shushing away her whimpers, bouncing her up and down as she did.

   Satin’s eyes glazed over for a moment, remembering the angry stuckling. What if he was the little ones’ father? No way a feral stuckling could ever or would ever adopt a child, right?

   “No.” She answered firmly, nodding her head, both to Silke and as a way to reaffirm her own beliefs. “There was a large predator who came after us, but got caught in one of my traps. I rushed right here afterward.”

   After a momentary lapse of guilt, she shook her head. No matter what, the little one would be safer with them. She had made the right decision.

   Satin looked across the room to where her twin tried to comfort the small child. The little girl wept and wept, whimpering despite all of Silke’s attempts to subdue her displeasure.

   “She needs a name,” Silke spoke lowly. “Something to call her until we’ve found her someplace to stay and someone to look after her. Saint Helen’s Orphanage has looked after a handful of children in similar predicaments. I can give her a call in the morning and see if she will take her in.”

   Satin remained quiet, thinking to herself for a moment. Most serpents named their children after their trade or job, usually reflecting the parents. Silke, Satin, and Suede all followed the tradition. The thought of naming the small girl after hunting or trapping felt wrongful or too presumptuous.

   Satin sighed, then, pepped up, a newfound enthusiasm. “You should raise her! You raised Suede when our parents were gone. Honestly, you kept looking after my lazy tail and I only broke out from the egg a few seconds after you!” She crossed the room, trying to ignore how the child turned her head away into Silke’s shoulder.

   Satin placed her hand on her twin’s opposite shoulder. “You should name her,” She told Silke, her eyes lowered to look at the little one. A humorless laugh slipped out, “I would do it, but you and I both know I am too lazy to take on this kind of responsibility. I would name her something silly like Tumbleweed after that little fluffy hair of hers.”

   Satin stretched her arms wide and faked a yawn. “I am about to head to bed. Do you mind taking the first watch? Today was extra tiresome, you know?”

   As she made her distance from the room, she expected Silke’s vengeful eyes to find their way to her. After all, it took some real nerve to come home with a child and expect ones’ sister to babysit it. And yet, that didn’t happen.

   Silke turned her back toward Satin and returned toward the center of room. Gently, she lowered herself back to her chair and sat. She rubbed the crying child’s back and tried to hum some random notes in an effort to sooth her.

   “Silke?” Satin said again, but, once more, Silke was too occupied to respond.

   The same way she hadn’t looked up at her while sewing her threads, she wouldn’t look at her now. She had a new project to contend with. One that would take a lifetime.

   Silke had not even noticed when Satin had left the room. She merely smiled and admired the small child. Why she smiled, she could not have said, but hoped soon to learn. She brushed her hands over the top of the child’s head, then, laughed: “Tumbleweed? What poppycock! Your hair’s more like,” Silke stopped for a moment, looking fondly at the child, “…Cotton.”

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