Betha felt like tugging her hair in frustration. “Lizzy, you’re ten years old! You’re too old to be playing with blocks. You should give them to your little sisters.”
“No!” Lizzy shouted again, tears of rage in her eyes, and she shook her head vehemently. Betha found herself wishing her husband were here. Lizzy never misbehaved when Leon was around. A moment later, she steeled herself. She could deal with this without him.
“I never raised you to be so selfish, Lizzy Petrule.”
Lizzy shook her head again, her pigtails flying. “No! They can have all my dolls and the wooden rocking horse and even my paints, but not the blocks!”
Betha was startled. “You’d give all your other toys away? Just to keep some baby blocks? Why?”
Lizzy wiped her eyes. “They’re important to me,” was all she would say.
Betha would never understand this child. “Fine,” she snapped, wishing it didn’t feel as if she were giving in. “Keep the blocks, but you will share all your other toys, understand?”
“Yes, mama!” Lizzy cheered, all her tears gone as she hugged her mother. Betha sighed and hugged her back.
A door opened. “I’m home,” Leon called.
“Ril!” Lizzy shouted, tearing away from Betha and pounding down the hall to the front door. A few moments later she came back, having essentially ignored her father in favour of taking his red feathered hawk on her arm. Ril sat there with his sharp claws not even dimpling her skin and his vicious eyes locked on her face. She chattered to the battler non-stop as she headed for the stairs.
Leon came around the corner behind her and smiled as he saw his wife, his eyes flickering towards the girl while she headed upstairs. “It’s so nice to have a daughter’s love,” he laughed.
“Well, you certainly have mine,” she said and went to him.
Upstairs, Lizzy went to the nursery and to the corner that she’d sectioned off for her own with a hanging blanket and dire threats to her little sisters. She let Ril perch on top of an old, battered chair and dug out the blocks her mother had wanted her to give up. They were old and worn, the paint chipped and faded.
“Mama wanted me to give these away,” she said as she spread them out. “To my sisters. I talked her out of it, but I had to give up all my other toys.” She looked at him. “It was worth it. Do you think it’s worth it?”
The bird hopped down to the ground, his body shifting from side to side as he walked over to the blocks and used his curved beak to pull certain blocks to him and lay them in order.
ALWAYS, he spelled.