Innocent Heart: Mouths and Minds to Feed

“There she is!”

Feira looked up as the call rose from the gaggle of children sitting on the rocks rising above the warm shoreline. One… two… three…. And two boys. I’m missing two. Then all of them were running to meet her — well, except for Siyra who had gotten it into her fifteen year old head that running was beneath her.

“We’ve been waiting!” called one boy, sand flying in his wake.

“What took you so long?!” called another.

Jenna, with her hair freshly chopped short, sprinted ahead of the other girl, Akiva, and the three boys. The eight year old tomboy let out a jubilant whoop as she saw the covered basket hanging from Feira’s arm. “What did ya bring us? What did ya bring us?”

Feira laughed and reached out a hand to catch the young girl as she stumbled over her own feet. “Food that you will have to share!”

“But I get a bigger portion, right?” Jenna chirped, putting on a frown as Feira lifted the basket out of reach of the girl’s grabbing hands.

Nine year old Bently skidded to a stop beside them. “Stop being so greedy!” he shot accusingly at the girl.

Jenna hopped back, hands balling into fists. “Take that back!”

Feira stepped easily between them, and rested a delicate hand on Jenna’s head with a commanding weight. “You two can pick a fight some other time,” she resolved as her and Siyra exchanged amused looks. “Akiva? Ren? I see Tom is not here. Ready for your lesson?”

“You bet! Well, I sure am,” said Akiva with a haughty little bobble of her head. “Ren’s just been messin’ around.”

“Tom’s off getting ready to start his Page — And it’s called a job, ya dolt!” Ren shot back with a smirk. He snuck around Siyra to pounce on an unsuspecting Bently.

Feira chuckled, letting the boys tumble about, and turned to lead the small pack towards the smoothed ocean boulders nearby that were crowned by the children’s faded cloaks and jackets. “Danert is not here?”

All of the children frowned, and Ren and Bently ceased their wrestling. “He’s… runnin’ messages today,” Ren replied as he moved to fetch the small pile of borrowed books for Feira.

Akiva sat down by Feira and began helping the young woman unload the picnic she had brought for everyone. “His brother came home,” she spat under her breath.

Feira frowned and looked to the others that were sullenly taking their seats. “The older brother? I suppose it would not help if I talked to him?”

“Nuthin’ helps,” Bently muttered, selecting a worn volume from the stack.

Jenna cozied up beside Feira, and was all too willing to begin passing fat sandwiches to her left. “Best to steer clear of him. He’s mean.”

Siyra frowned darkly, and she held the sandwich she was passed close to her. “He…. Let’s not. What are our lessons for today, Miss. Feira?”

With a knowing look, Feira studied the five children gathered on the beach with her. She drew in a soft breath, and worry vanished from her fair features “Today? We are going over our numbers from yesterday, and Akiva and Ren will be reciting their passages. But first let us enjoy our meal, hmm?”

Ren, having not waited for the others, mumbled with a mouth full of food. “Mmmph! I’s gooo!”

The rest followed suit, eager to consume the meal, and forget the lingering concern that weighed on all of their minds. Breeze catching her golden hair, Feira listened to their chatter and offered over an old tone to Siyra when the girl finished with her food first. It had taken months for them to accept her, and several more for her to earn their trust. She only tutored them for two hours  three times a week, but much of her free time seemed to include at least one of them. Never had Feira felt so fulfilled and so challenged, and as the book was passed for the next youth to read, a dose of pride and concern swelled in her chest for all of her charges, those present and those not.

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