Daria fingered the long, rustling grasses, picking through them for roots, herbs, and healing plants, head down, intent. Watching from a few feet away, Ink scratched the itchy spot on her head, digging her nails deep underneath the dark cowlick at the back.
"Don't scratch. If you scratch, I'll have to spread the rosemary paste on your scalp again. You won't like it." Daria's voice was stern and matter-of-fact; she didn't quite look up. "How a foundling like you who's been living in the forest managed to make a den for the night with poison ivy for a pillow, I will never know. And you nearly a woman."
Ink didn't reply. Ink rarely spoke. There hadn't been a need, when she'd been living alone, and that had been two years now. She was out of the habit. Even now that she'd been a full springtime with Daria, she still hardly said a word. But that seemed to suit Daria, who didn't appear to expect answers.
Ink's blood mother had expected answers. When she didn't get them, she would reach for her walking-stick.
That seemed a lifetime ago, now. Ink looked up; the sun warmed her face from a sky studded with tiny puffy clouds. She let a tiny smile stretch the corners of her mouth.
"Don't dawdle," Daria said. She straightened for a moment, hand on her lower back, and pointed to a stand of brilliant pink flowers several feet away, under a gnarled oak tree. "Over there--I need foxglove."
Ladyslipper, Ink said to herself, trying not to forget the names she'd given things while she'd lived in the forest. Names the plants themselves had seemed to tell her, but she wasn't about to tell Daria that. Not yet. She walked slowly to the patch of foxglove and began gathering the flowered stalks in a bundle. She had walked nearly all the way around the tree before she noticed what had been growing in the shelter of the tall foxglove.
She let out a small cry. Whitecaps! They had been her favorite--such a treat to find them when she'd been eating nothing but sun-dried old apples, boiled tubers, and bitter walnuts for weeks. The tiny mushrooms, just boiled in her battered tin cup with water from the stream and the little onions she called teardrops...it reminded her of nights spent alone huddled by her small fire, but also of her mother before...before Maisy...
The girl known as Ink swallowed hard against the ache in her chest. She gently plucked the small handful of whitecaps and cradled them in her free hand, the bundle of foxglove sandwiched carelessly under her left arm. She walked quickly back to Daria where she squatted, plucking catmint leaves for tea. Ink stopped beside her and held out her hand.
"How did you...?" Daria trailed off, and the lines around her face softened for a moment. She pulled Ink to her chest with bony arms, letting the tears wet the front of her linen shirt.
This week's piece was inspired by this photo by Flickr user dis cover y. I think this was probably influenced by the little potted herbs I just put on the kitchen counter this week. Check the usual suspects for more Flickr Fiction: The Gurrier, Isobel, Elimare, Chris, TadMack, Neil, Valsha, and Mari.