She opened her eyes to a beautiful sight, within mere moments after closing them to the box underneath the professor's arm. As he came into sight beside her, she could feel the pressure of the box being shoved against her skin, while he shifted it from beneath his own arm gently repositioning the cherished item.
"Professor Abast, where are we?" she demanded of him. White from all sides surrounded them, fixated by pillars that, colonial style, rose into archways that could simply have no measurement. God must have created them. Bonnie thought that the white walls might cave in if these pillars did not support them- but she realized that the architecture was more ornate and complicated than she could ever comprehend. "Professor," she gasped once more, "where are we?"
"This is my house," he enunciated clearly.
"But surely it can't be. Only a rich person could live here." She spun around. "You are rich!"
"Honestly," he said, looking extremely aggravated, "yes, I suppose you could say I am rich. Will you please- take a seat?" he gestured over to one of his engraved, deeply-plush, highly elegant, esteemed, perhaps, respected couches. "You are giving me a headache."
"Sorry." She gladly went over to the couch, and then started bouncing.
"It's so air-tight!" The professor walked quickly out of the room.
"Sorry. Yes- I'll stay." She grinned as he left. When he re-entered several minutes later, he was carrying two very large cups of tea. Letting out a long, heavily-laden sigh, he crossed to the other side of the room. He placed thereupon both cups of steam on a small nightstand beside the chair, before crossing one leg elegantly over the other leg. He then picked up one of the cups, sipped on his tea, and ignored her. Bonnie swept some of her blond strands out of her face. Slowly she was beginning to retreat back into the self she'd been a few minutes earlier, the old one she might think- plagued with all of those bad thoughts. They caused her to shiver involuntarily. The professor now watched her raptly. The girl had become deathly quiet. The ticking, of a clock on one of the many pristine, looming walls ticked somehow into Bonnie's subconscious. She inclined her head towards it. Then the lope of her neck dipped down, clouding her vision. The clock now chimed eleven, so the sound of her soft snores, while the child went, surprisingly, to sleep.
Professor Abast knew that were small Bonnie to actually follow the green-brushing primary sounds in his readings that he'd diligently followed around that concerned children who had been catalogued as Markspeople, that she would only have sleep ability as long as the music box reached through her subconscious. For it would not be in spirit of Bonnie's delicate nature to take under her control all of the music she harbored instantly. In her sleep, she gently had wrapped a cocoon around those loose, floating wisps of her own unique music genes.
"Little girl." He set his book down, unfolded himself from his seat, and walked over to her. His indecisiveness lightly breezed over her, nearly causing her, in his mind, to make her turn over, as though she could directly sense it. There was something strange about her, though not in the usual sense. Almost fearfully, he tucked a few strands of her hair behind her ears.
"Mmmnh." A soft escape of the oldest sounds in time from her box beside her complimented her baby snores. Professor Abast simply watched her as though, when everything was finished at the end of the day, he had the ability to just lie down on his couch and . . .
Not today. Such a peace was not to be allowed him in this place and time.
"Goodnight, child." A faint smile graced her lips. He shook his head to himself. What was it about the girl that made his head revolve around in a way that never in the past had labored him with such a weighty presence? He didn't know. He could never understand this malady that had cursed him. The thought pushed his pursed mouth into a white scowl. Honestly. Green-brushing primary nuisance. How did these ideas ever come to take over him? It was not something that he could have foreseen. The girl was a Markswoman of remarkable strength, and vivacity, fervor . . . but this did not mean that the professor by any means felt comfortable sitting down at the end of a long day in a soft chair that might drown him with the beauty of reading, to cater to a girl that was to be the bane of his existence. "Stupid child," he muttered to himself. "Insolent little whelp." How this could ever- what that old phrase said- 'luck be a lady?' Was that the phrase he sought? He now lifted his eyes to the spiraling stairway above him, framed with the grandeur of small, lacy white carvings spinning up the sides, done by a beautiful architect, and dipped one of his fingers into his mouth, to slowly draw on his face, thinking. His hands made imaginary circles as he thought. He had this habit of thinking in such mannerisms . . . growling, he stiffened his hands down at his side. What would it do him were the young girl to see him in such a form? No, no. This- this was never going to work.
He went up to a small door that overlooked a veranda, sectioned off in one of the most insignificant, underdeveloped or perhaps merely disliked, scoffed at areas in his affluent mansion in which he dwelled. Although many did not know of it, this was actually one of his favorite rooms. Seating himself behind a small, rickety wooden desk that looked like it wanted to fall, he smiled with pleasure to himself, removing from its ornately carved drawers a rather long pen.
Although Bonnie could not have been sure of the time she did know that the professor had placed her under some kind of magic which caused her to sleep longer than normal, Bonnie did not either comprehend how this ‘magic’ worked, albeit she did think that indeed, there was no reason to question the matter, penetratingly. Looming in the distant edge of her conscious, how and exactly why she was here vaguely frightened her. Perhaps it was simply that at the moment exploring would be a great adventure, one that not likely was to be taken by the small, insignificant meager puzzle of the entire piece which she was wont to have a hard time putting together, but which when done, would surely make the most avid picture. Bonnie knew that she was on the verge of a great epiphany of sorts, and that little by little, one piece at a time, just a time, she would be putting into sequence some kind of fabulous, unparalleled world. Bonnie would soon live this world.
Playfully, Bonnie whipped two or three of the curved hairs from her temple, and with as much abounding fervor as one who could not stave from the means of plenty, for Bonnie’s hunger for adventure was a gushing infinity, she lackadaisically removed herself from the couch. Noting that her box had stopped in its melody of ravenous tunes that she wanted to die for, were she- another person rather than a little girl and not a teenager with too much angst drama in her life- she gave it a sorrowful frown, before the adventure took its full form. Bonnie’s eyes roved towards the staircase, and there it was. Of course, the appearance of this quiet appearing, serene, mellow grandeur took her breath away in a more literal sense that the beauty would have suggested.
By the time she gained the last step, after clearing several floors, the little girl was beginning to get a much more polished sense of the word beauty in its most grand form. The physical term was quite physical in the execution, luxury and wealth, small though they might be in her comprehension, made themselves known quite blatantly, really quick.
“Ahhhh.” For some reason that could not be fathomed, first instinct drew her to the first one on the right. The door she now stood in front of, smiling oddly. She knocked without hesitation, dawning opening her slow to come response, which revealed the form of a tall, black-cloaked man, whose eyebrows shooting upwards made her smile once again.
“Bonnie.” He seemed slightly sour. “What in the world are you doing here?” He pulled his long sleeve back to reveal a silver watch. “Oh,” he muttered, upon a glance. One line of his mouth shot down diagonally. He harrumphed.
“Is something stuck in your jaw, professor?” His eyes widened, but in a dangerous sense.
“What!” She took a slow step back.
“Um, Professor- I just- is there something wrong?” Her voice was completely innocent. He shook his head then, a strange look drawing about his facial expressions oddly.
“No, Bonnie. Come in.” He gestured out with one of his long-fingered hands. A black cat jumped spontaneously down from one of the windowsills in the far back on the room from out an obscured corner, and then, in a flash of dark lightening, ran out of the slip in the doorway’s light now created. Bonnie’s mouth fell open slightly.
“Yes. That is Selina. Impish feline,” he growled. Bonnie stepped further into the room, her wide, baby-blue eyes sparkling on making some of the room’s acquaintances. All sorts of strange oddities cluttered the professor’s room. A silver spoon hung over his desk in the shadowy corner in which he had sat, prior to her coming. Vines of every breed and variation in the blossoming flowery mannerisms that honeysuckle, or maybe . . . some of the prettier blooming she had witnessed around her neighborhood over the short years of her life dotted the walls. The whitewash would have been hard to discover. The room was ripe with silver and glasses of the extreme artistic delicacy that she knew, even while still so tender in her mind’s growth, was characteristic of greatness that took pride in making each piece a- masterpiece. Professor Abast though, she noticed, paid none of this any mind, but walked straight over to his desk and sat behind it, crossing his arms rather delicately it appeared from this angle. She stared rather sorrowfully at his back. Brushing out of the way a rather long wisp of ivy lacing across the ceiling from the part that crept along the wall next to her, she dropped her head, just standing there. She allowed her gaze to drop in its curiosity factor, giving it the meager enjoyment of the dress enclosed by a frame of now tattered frills her mother had placed on her that morning. Wrinkled layers of petticoats stared at her . . . a bit embarrassed by all the dirt and muck now scattering the red polka-dots, she drew the layers more tightly around her. Why should she care? The professor clucked, alerting her attention.
“Bonnie, I will have no qualms in telling you about your situation. How you find yourself to be in my personal living arrangements remains a mystery to you, as well as do your abilities. Come and sit.” Cautiously, she stepped over to the chair he was beckoning her into, whilst swallowing a nervous gulp deeply. The girl’s awareness of her appearance heightened as the professor straightened his robes behind the desk, lacing his white fingers together, to rest in a temple stature below his chin.
“It matters not that you are filthy,” he told her with a grimace, creating some sort of strange brushing away movement, in a perception of her worries that surprised her, “but I am however, disappointed about this plan. I told that foolish old man to stop meddling in my affairs.”
“Meddling in your affairs?” she questioned. He winced.
“Do not ask so many questions.” She sighed, blowing the air out of her side, dejectedly hugging her arms about herself. For some reason, his eyes narrowed significantly. Why would-
“I am not- accustomed to dealing with children, Bonnie. You did not do anything wrong, but the arrangement in which we are currently living is not one I condone. In my opinion, a plethora of other guardians would have qualifications for this- ” he gestured between himself and the girl- “that live a better lifestyle. I am sure, that my own credentials- ”Bonnie scrunched her face at him. “What are credentials?” He sighed once more.
“You see the problem.” She simply stared at the professor for several long, wide minutes, with big, round eyes, a bit befuddled, but oddly saddened, by this talk.
“It means that you don’t want to- um- take care of me.” Her face turned red. Professor Abast considered her for what seemed like a lifetime to the young blond child standing under his perceptive gaze. The black onyx of his eyes bored like a drill through her, a long, spiraling something or other that fascinated her, and at the same time made her nervous. She couldn’t describe its effect, nor understand. Finally he said slowly,
“No, Bonnie. My wants- and my needs have nothing to do with this situation.” His words seemed to be dredged up from a deep well of imaginary thoughts that he pulled forcefully from. He rolled his eyes backwards. “Oh, why did I agree to do this? How that portrait possibly could have inspired- ”
“Portrait?” Bonnie’s eyes lit up. “The one from the forest?”
“Yes,” the professor hissed. He looked at her quickly. It crossed his mind in a second that although he did not mean to display his emotions to the child, that she continually drew them from him inadvertently. She now saw concern flash across his features, if only for a moment, and he cursed himself.
“You are to be resting, at this moment.” He paused. A long green vine to the side of him caught his attention. It would not make a surfacing beauty this winter, as it normally did under musical influence. “The time is not good for you, to wonder about anything, not the slightest item in your mind,” his voice softened, “that may be troubling you. You have undergone an ordeal.” A smile graced Bonnie’s face then. That was it. The strange feeling that he elicited from her when she was with him. Safety.
“But I just took a nap, Professor.” A large, yawning, gaping hole in the desk caught his attention now.
“I know . . . ” Her eyes widened as her brilliant mind ejected several things at once for her to toy with, but after a minute or so, she picked up on the first and foremost realization that was there. The professor was concerned about Bonnie . . . the thought warmed her. She lowered her eyelids. That sense of safety was not threatening to overwhelm her. This was new, bright and refreshing. She had never before had this sweet feeling, not with anyone. Her experiences with her mother did not, somehow compare with what she felt now. She just knew it. In an act which astonished Professor Abast without any hope in it of the ability of description of it, in all of his skills as a highly educated person, she went up to him and put her arms around him. She was privileged to see the lines of his face soften a little, which incited her curiosity.
“Professor,” she giggled, not being able to help herself, “you have a lot of lines on your face.” Her voice was soft when she said it. He harrumphed, and then gave her an ironic sneer.
“Yes.” She stared innocently at him. Professor Abast, squeezed his eyes together tightly, while placing two fingers up to his temple, one from each hand. The girl’s eyes resembled large teardrops when her legs moved of their individual accord, to carry her away to the other side of the room. She closed them in one languid movement, pulling her arms around herself. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.” The man wetted his dark lips with his tongue. “I have- no reason to keep any information from you.”
“Oh.” She folded her hands across her lap, proceeding to wait expectantly. “Good.” He rolled his eyes swiftly. Snapping his fingers to chastise himself, abruptly arising then, while resting his hands in order to hang by his sides the professor gave his chair a light, barely discernible kick- but of course the small girl heard. He walked away from her, placing his hand on the doorknob to leave the room altogether.
The trees outside the room whistled, and for some reason Bonnie could not fathom how the professor had such impeccable timing, but she was extremely sorrowful that he took his cues from the wind. He would always be leaving . . . always walking out. But then, why should this bother her? It was his house, after all. Because . . . she had to know. Even if it was a frightening choice.
“Professor.” She swallowed. “Please wait- ” He did stop, but his back stayed a solid wall, effectively shielding him. “I never actually had a real family, Professor. Well, I know that I am not your responsibility and that you don’t think that you are good with- kids and everything,” the girl felt the beginnings of her courage fall loose, like small threads that were close to being unraveled from their piece of cloth, “but,” she continued rapidly, “I- well, I’ve always wanted to go to school, and I’ll work really hard at my studies,” she said in a rush. Her voice was thickly earnest. “You are a teacher.” The wonderment in her voice was impossible to miss. Now he turned fully. He was looking at Bonnie squarely now, but she was unaware of his dark, frank eyes as she spoke. “You could teach me. I love to read, and I would be real good at English.” Her lips pushed upward into a thoughtful turn. “I don’t know actually, what else I would enjoy yet, because my parents never took me to school. I would be in the second grade, though, I do know that, because I kept track. That’s all I wanted to say.” She bit her lip, staring down at the floor as her eyes began to burn. This made her angry. She sniffed furiously.
Astonishingly however, to her pleasure that is astonishment, when she met his eyes finally, the professor was smirking. “Point proven. I suggest you remove those clothes. Tomorrow we will begin training you in some of the essential areas that you have neglected. I will call a servant to the manner to help you- ” and he proceeded to eye her critically. Although Bonnie blushed at this, a smile traced her lips that was full-fledged- “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Bonnie still had a lot of questions, but perhaps this had saved her from the shock she otherwise would have experienced from her ordeal, for at this moment, at the conclusion of Professor Abast’s statement, she was the happiest little girl that probably ever existed.
Later on, after Bonnie had finished changing with the help of a lady whom she liked, named Pat-sie- well that was how she said it anyway- she attempted to do as the kind lady instructed in the manner of trying hard, to go to sleep in a bed Patsie had made up. But, it proved to be much more difficult than she should have supposed. Bonnie was not deterred, although from her day of extreme measures that took their heavy, somber implications upon her, playing with her mind . . . fitful though, perhaps sleep was relative. She tossed, turning under her ‘white’ pristine covers while not truly harboring any desire to sleep. It would probably be, that if she did manage to fall asleep she would probably experience dreadful nightmares after the absolutely colorful display she had just undergone, those colors of dark, dark, and dark. All she could see was the dark in her room. Bonnie saw the entire ordeal in shades of black. Of course the professor was dark since he dressed entirely in black. And what was worse, it wasn’t as though she imagined these colors. She actually saw them. It had been that way ever since she was little. Her worst experiences were always projected blackly in her mind, but . . . even still, she apparently didn’t feel so nervous around this black scenery as she might have thought. Not around him anyway, so perhaps there was more about the color than sadness and- horrible places she had been, ordeals that she had undergone which had brought her to tears on each occasion, and made her feel angry. She thought about that for a minute. Perhaps the professor was not actually black in his personality. Maybe it was gray, an idea that her eyes squinted around in a probing semblance reaching for the details of his personality. Like magic, her mind offered up the grail sought after, bringing with this peace and understanding. She was right. He was gray. She remembered how he looked sipping his tea earlier, slowly taking in the flavor while she sat across from him toying with the box.
That hot tea had had been drinking made her shiver pitifully. Deeply as she was buried, her covers would not sustain the poor tot in her ravaged state, who felt as though she had been submerged into an icy terrain, one that was freezing her small toes from her body. She pulled up into a sitting position. Why was it this cold? It shouldn’t be this chilly in the barest environment that was so neatly arrayed, though filled up with curiosities that were the professor’s penchant it would seem. More glass, and a bit of ivy . . . Bonnie welcomed the sights, even while her thinly frail body struck out in an act of rebellion. Eventually she decided that staying under the covers the entire night probably would do her more harm than it would good, and, well, surely the professor would understand if she just wandered a tiny bit, right? Coming to what could have been deemed undoubtedly as rash, the girl mischievously slithered out from her layered white sheets until her feet landed on the floor beneath her. A smug smile gracing her lips that she should have wiped in a rational mind-frame graced her little face until she crept into the hallway adjoining her room. She walked down the hall, and when she reached the suave, crème colored carpet stretching the landing rounding the end of the walk, a long spiral staircase led into an unknown territory, which immediately caught her attention. Gulping, she made up her mind by putting a foot on the first stair.
Reflexively, Bonnie had a physical reaction when the softly mellowed sounds of piano music, flowing with rupturing ecstasy dotted by the apparent beautiful enjoyment of one playing as, well, perhaps, she thought wryly, only he could, tickled her ears, coursing through her in a wave of calm that settled the butterflies previously churning her tummy like a gentle pat. The first doorway to the right had been left slightly ajar, and here was where she came to a halt, holding her breath jerkily. She bit her lip for a minute, not a few seconds, gnawing like a grinder her meek lips, unable to precipitate. Then she walked in, slid herself behind the door’s frame within a shadowy corner, and watched the professor play an unfamiliar tune upon a lovely black, glistening grand piano. She barely heard herself breathe, holding back as though she were actually a suspended fragment of time and space- what she wouldn’t give to the world, where she able to play like he was now playing. Grinning slyly, she slid down the wall behind her to a cross-legged position. Then she settled into an apt observance of the wonderful display in front of her, enchanted by the professor who slowly regaled his undetected audience. Sweat beaded his brow as he moved through cadences that swooped over her in a wide arc that she did not recognize, but that were so, terribly enlivening. His black hair fell backward during moments which spiraled to a peak, and then down over his face in a teasing interplay, also for the first time creating an appeal of light, wispy tendrils at the end of the strands framing his face. For the first time she saw the professor in what was perhaps the most singularly unique, complicated, but honest picture he had ever borne.
Bonnie breathed a deep sigh of relief. Professor Abast threw his hands into a full, flushed melody that danced over the keys quicker than the pace of a jackrabbit running from a predator, thick with supplication, like a woman, deeply blushing, begging for a kiss from the lips of her lover. It arose above her and around them both, arose higher, then fell back into a burst of energy, before finally, the movements began slowing, creeping to a rest, into fingers stopping. His lined face softened by euphoria that had not ever existed until this point, she could not make herself to think, acknowledgement to the child in the corner, not existent. How could it be? His breathing worked around to a nice, steady slow, pulsation of a sweet smelling sense that filled the air now swept Bonnie into a peace that she had never imagined the effects of, before she met with the love she held for what had just occurred. Her very breath seemed to become as one entity with the professor’s, both of them one sentient being in some strange way, and with the music. And that something, it must have been that something, compelled the child to move, without a sound, over to the man sitting at the piano. She stood next to his tall form for a minute, quietly watching his closed features. Finally he opened his eyes, meeting hers with immediate surprise.
“Bonnie.” Just a word then.
“I’m sorry.” In a mature act, she offered a hand to him, though to an unknown purpose, just held it out. “I know that I shouldn’t have come in here, but you were playing the piano, and I wanted to listen to you,” she said breathlessly, her cheeks still rosily entreating him to believe her shining face. “It was gorgeous. You play so wonderfully.” Her words were magnetically earnest. But interestingly, surprise again from this man overwhelmed her, as he merely glanced down at her feet while her heart pounded, not looking like one who would in any way be about to reprimand her actions. Her flushed cheeks nonetheless deepened at his directed gaze. Her blond hair had been brushed, and she’d taken a bath, but- she had only been dressed in a gown of thready white satin, that just barely shielded her body. In a reflexive act that he had become quite accustomed to, in this short time, she put her arms around herself, tightly reigning in her bodily warmth, for some reason, now feeling ashamed. Those dark eyes met hers again and bored through her as though they were x-rays.
“You’re shivering,” he stated.
“I’m fine, sir.” He drew one, spidery finger swiftly across his lips. “You should be in bed.” He pursed his lips slightly. “But it is a beautiful instrument,” he enumerated in silky, soft tones, caressing the piano for a last time with his attention. Lines of thought folded across his forehead. “I can understand why you wanted to hear me play.” She could hardly believe what her ears were saying.
“You mean you don’t mind that I listened?” It was too good to be true, it was really! He lifted his head. After a time, tutted.
“You make no sense with your foolishness, child. Why should I mind that you listened?”
“Well,” she paused. “Daddy- see, well he never wanted me to listen. He always got angry whenever I played my music box at home.” Professor Abast lifted his eyebrows delicately.
“You can listen here,” he said poignantly. The child smiled brightly at him. A smirk just hardly tugged at his lips, but she saw it anyway.
“Go to bed.” She grinned at him now fully.
“Yes, sir.” Bonnie was reluctant to turn around though. She simply stared at him, awed by the tall, formidable man’s formality, although exactly what made the impression on her she knew was obscure at this moment. Professor Abast found himself in an odd predicament as well, compelled as he was to just stare at her. Something, a small trickle of whatever it was, stirred behind his black orbs, but what it was, again she could not decipher, or in any way or manner determine, but only knew, that it was going to be okay. She bit her lip again, inadvertently moving closer to him.
“You- you are comfortable with your arrangements?” he asked, his voice bent with a thready hesitation. Yet Bonnie, to his good fortune, was considerably, among all of her other strange qualities, exquisitely bright. An excellent, beneficial brightness for everyone. She understood what he asked, her brain stimulated with admiration just now.
“I’m very comfortable with them sir.” He shifted in his chair, and then, coughed. “Am I making you uncomfortable, Professor?” she inquired. He coughed again, twice in a row.
“No, no of course you aren’t.” A dull flush crept into his long white cheeks. His eyes then flitted back to her person. “Why have you nothing on your feet?” he scolded her. The question took her aback.
“I don’t know. I didn’t think about it. Er- well when I tried to go to sleep I became distressed, and started to think about how I came to be here with you and- understanding that you’d explain everything I- um- ” She lowered her eyes. “I don’t understand everything. It makes me nervous.” She shivered now involuntarily, somehow seeking an invisible terror against her own will. The professor of course knew that it would not sit to explain anything to her. Not now. Yet, facing what was.
“Blast it all, Bonnie, I told you I am not good with children!” he exclaimed suddenly, in a burst of warm distress that made his face color up again, jerking upward into a stand with his hands curled into tight, sculpting fists. She saw his nails dig into the skin. She was mesmerized by the agonizing strength they used to cut him. “Look at you- you are going into shock- and I have positively no idea how to help you, blast it. Meddling old man . . . ” Bonnie empathized with the professor in but a mere minute. She padded over to him and reached out with one of her soft hands, raised it to his rock-hardened fists, to, eliciting astonishment from him, the calloused, ink-stained fingers.
“It’s okay, I understand. You don’t need to be ‘good’ with me. I’m used to taking care of myself.” He visibly swallowed, his face still turned deliberately away from the girl patting his hands. He looks like a rock or a piece of boulder. The innocent thought sobered the bright girl, who in spite of her still fresh, not quite eloquent vocabulary when she thought this, was able to commiserate with him, uniquely and therefore with love. His handsome hair swept back, folding around his angular shoulders, and his black, deep eyes of an inky-jet color, as dark, and icily fascinating as his overall demeanor, portrayed a scene that made her let out a sigh.
“I’m sorry, Bonnie,” he said lowly. Then he finally looked at her. “I will make an attempt to explain tomorrow.”
“Sir . . . you have some baggy things under your eyes. Are you sick?” she questioned. For just a fleeting ghosting instant, tenderness passed through his cold orbs, but they left the same frostiness there.
“I am not sick . . . it is nothing to concern yourself with.” She bent her head over. Then there was a swooping sound before her, while Professor-Abast went to knee-level. She looked back up, her wide eyes of baby-blue drilling him like little fiery pigments, and to her surprise . . . he held out his hands to her, in supplication.
“I am afraid that I will hurt you.” His voice was raw with cutting-edge misery that, in a mysterious figure of a black shadow, went into her very soul, though she did not understand it, and it made her ache for him. She somehow understood that earnestness had sneaked into the professor’s entire manner, so subtle in quality, yet meaning so much, to her, that she suddenly started crying.
“Bonnie, what is the matter?” he asked her, alarmed.
“I- I’ve never had someone who cared about me before.” She went to lean her head against his chest. He, taken aback for an instant, said nothing.
“It’s alright, Bonnie,” he whispered at last. “It’s alright.” Then he gathered the little wisp of a girl into his black-armed robes, and held her, as she sobbed brokenly, at a complete loss.