She only wore shoes when she couldn’t avoid them. Whether she enjoyed the squish of the soft swamp hammock between her toes and against the pads of her feet or if she ignored it, he didn’t know, but her feet were almost always black and wet from the land when she came into their home, leaving her little, wet footprints on the wooden planking.
Justus had decided it was a harmless habit and didn’t fight to put the leather shoes on her feet anymore. He just told her she was not to complain if she broke her skin by stepping on some sharp stone or twig.
He knew one day that it must happen. Not all of their hammock was soft earth and moss, and the trees bent close.
He was not surprised when one summer’s day she came limping into the house, trailing a thin bit of red in her wet footprints. He glanced up at her, but she didn’t look back. She crossed the room and, favoring one foot, dug through one of the woven baskets till she retrieved a strip of linen. She sat down on the floor then, stuck out her foot, and bent over it, her tongue between her teeth.
“You have to clean it first,” he said to her.
She looked up then. “Father?”
“You have to clean it.” Justus stood. He retrieved a small jar from the table where they kept all that they wanted to remain dry. Taking off the lid, he knelt beside her, and with his finger smeared honey on the wound.
She frowned crookedly. “Honey?”
He nodded. “Leave it there a moment.”
He stood and retrieved a small bowl of water. He washed the honey from her small foot then took the bandage from her. He wound it around her foot, tying it in place. “There,” he said. Putting a hand to her chin, he said, “You did well not complaining.”
She grinned at him. “Thank you, Father.”
“Did it hurt?” he asked her.
She looked down at her hands in her lap. “A little.”
He suspected that it hurt more than a little. It was a deep, clean cut, and he didn’t know how far she had walked on the broken skin. “It will be all right,” he promised.
She would be stronger than her mother. That thought made him smile to himself as he stood and helped her to her feet. She hugged him quickly and tightly around his middle then went for the door.
If it still hurt her that night, maybe he would use a little magic to heal the cut.
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