Ch 40 - Grief

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The well seethed in Lacey’s head—demanding wishes, needing all of their wishes.

Lacey pushed it away. She was in the eye of the storm. Her own calm bubble. She unwrapped Blayd’s arms from around her, and stood facing Goeden. The hunched rodent-man was on the other side of the well, holding Ella’s hand out toward the moss-covered stones.

“Let her go now!”

“I don’t think so, village girl,” Goeden sneered. “She is the key. And she will wish!”

Ella cried out as Goeden twisted her arm.

“Do it. Wish for everything to be undone. It will make everyone happy, none of them will be monsters anymore.”

Ella stopped her struggling and looked up at Lacey. “My sister won’t be so mad all the time?”

“Exactly,” the rodent said, his whiskers quivering.

“Ella, don’t listen to him. I will be mad if you make that wish. Super mad.” Lacey waggled her finger at Ella with a stern expression borrowed from Mama.

Ella’s lower lip quivered. “You’re always so mean to me.”

Lacey dropped her hands to her sides. “I’m sorry. He’s lying. Nobody will be happy if you undo the wishes. I won’t be happy, because I won’t be your sister anymore. I’ll be a bat.”

Ella scowled. “You lied, mean mousey man! You want me to send my sister away!” She pulled back her little leg and kicked him with all her might.

Goeden yowled and dropped Ella’s arm. She stumbled backwards to the edge of the well. Lacey watched in horror as her sister teetered at the edge of the stones.

There was no time to run around the well. She tore the cloak from around her shoulders, and leapt across the well with her arms outstretched. But she was too late; her baby sister tumbled down into the well before Lacey was half way across.

Lacey reached down in mid flight as her sister’s terrified face disappeared into the darkness. Without the wind under her wing flaps, Lacey plummeted toward the dark. She wrapped her arms around her body, intent on letting it happen. She had failed. She had let her baby sister get hurt. But instead of falling to the unseen bottom, cold stone slammed into her stomach, knocking the breath out of her.

Her momentum had carried her far enough that she hit the side of the well and tumbled onto the ground.

She lay there staring up at a fuzzy glow far overhead. When the world came back into focus, she realized it was the Night Mother, a face full of love and forgiveness. Then she turned her head and saw Goeden, his rodent mouth hanging open.

Lacey didn’t feel love and forgiveness. She got to her feet, ignoring the freezing cold that bathed her bare torso.

“I-I didn’t mean for her to fall.” He scrambled backward, pulling his dagger out and waving it in her direction. “Please! I just wanted to be normal again. Happy.”

Lacey stayed where she was. Goeden let his knife lower a little. Her hand shot out and clamped around a stone on the well. There was nothing but silence. Maybe she was too angry to hear the demands of the well anymore or maybe it knew she was giving it what it wanted.

I wish,” Lacey began, and Goeden’s eyes bulged in head. He dropped to his knees, waiting for his punishement.

“Lacey! Stop this instant!” Mama’s voice cracked through the wall of black fury in Lacey’s mind.

 “But Mama. He—Ella…” She took her hand off the stones and pointed to the silent depths.

“Ella what? Where is my baby?!” Mama’s voice rose to a shrill.

Lacey shivered, suddenly feeling cold and empty. She was barely aware of Blayd slipping his cloak around her shoulders again.

The hunters were poised on the edge of the clearing behind Mama, who had taken a few steps toward the well. The wall of pine trees around the clearing seemed to crowd a little closer, as if they were all leaning to look into the well.

“No,” Mama whispered. “You can’t give her to me and then take her away.”

Meemu bounded out of the trees and ran to Lacey. She scooped him up, letting his warmth soothe her, and sobbing into his fur. But even now, her eyes would not make tears for her. She had suffered so many things—bullying, humiliation, pain, fights with Mama, the loss of her father—and never once been able to shed a tear. This one mattered more than any of the others. She squeezed her eyelids together, trying to force a single drop from them.

The hunters came forward, shooting the well wary looks, but none of them seemed affected by it. Riley strode over to Goeden and yanked him to his feet. The rat Founder did not resist. He hung his head, but his despair had nothing to do with Ella’s death. All of his hopes had rested on Ella and the wish. Now that she was gone, once again, he had no power to change anything.

Powerless. Lacey, refused to be powerless anymore. “Blayd! Help me with this capstone. We are going to seal up this well forever!”

She foisted Meemu into Mama’s arms and waved Berellan over to join them around the round flat stone. Meemu struggled in Mama’s arms as she tried to bury her tear-stained cheeks into his fur. He broke free and jumped up onto the stone, shaking his head to settle his ruffled fur.

“Go on, Meemu. This is for the best.” Lacey shooed him off the stone and they lifted it, just barely. Stone scraped against stone as they shimmied it into place. Before they could finish, Meemu yowled and swiped at the back of Lacey’s leg. She yelped and dropped her side. The heavy stone missed landing on her foot, and flipped up and over as the others lost their grip. Lacey stumbled out of the way as it slapped down hard where she had been standing, sending a shockwave through the forest floor.

Meemu leapt up onto the edge of the well, his ears swiveling, like he heard something. Lacey cocked her head to the side, listening.

She heard it. A far away whistling whine. The others stared at her blankly. Nobody else could hear anything in the fog shrouded Wish Wood.

Lacey went to the edge of the well; something red glowed in its depths. The noise started getting louder and the red glow started climbing up from the black bottom of the well. Then she realized the vibration in the forest floor hadn’t stopped after the stone fell. It was growing, along with the noise.

A/N: Sorry this update took a little longer than I intended. But I was busy finishing up NaNoWriMo. Which I won! I got 50K words written in a new story called Runaway Destiny, which will be the next story I post on Wattpad, since Little Lacey is coming to an end. 

Thanks to everyone who has been reading, voting and commenting as they follow Lacey's story. Hearing how much you are enjoying it has meant so much to me! 

Each an everyone of you is amazing! 

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