(Ed. note: "Littlejab" is the cubname of Thornbow.)
Easysinger paused at the log opening, waiting for confirmation that the crafter was indeed in before attempting to cross the threshold into the cluttered den.
“Here!” Tallow's golden head popped up from behind a work table.
By way of greeting, Easysinger held up two clay pots. “Our tallow pots have run dry. I was wondering if you might be able to refill them.”
“You're in luck! I just happen to have some on the fire now.” Wiping her hands on her apron, Tallow waved her forward enthusiastically. “Come in! Come in!”
Easysinger wended her way forward, carefully navigating her expanding bulk through the narrow corridor that ran through the detritus of Tallow's many projects. Her friend hurried to meet her, firmly grasping her elbow to help her over the tool-littered floor, guiding her into the brazier-warmed widening of the work-area proper. It wasn't until Tallow had cleared a space on one of the low benches and helped her lower down onto it that Easysinger noticed Tallow's cub, Littlejab, watching her progress with some curiosity.
It had been some moons since she had spent time around the cub, and in the way of cubs, she was sure that this was the first time he'd noticed her changed appearance. Now, he stood transfixed, and she could almost
hear the bees buzzing in his head.
|Illustration by Joanne P.|
“Hello, Littlejab! Is there something I can help you with?”
He approached cautiously, and pointed gingerly at her rounded belly. “Are you storing fat for winter?”
Both women's eyes glimmered as they exchanged a look, but no laughter escaped them.
“No, love. I'm going to have a baby.” She waved him closer. “Right now, there is a little cub growing in me, and before the full seasons turn again, there will be another cub here for you to play with.”
He looked at her skeptically, not quite sure if he could believe such an outrageous claim. Seeing his doubt, she decided further convincing might be necessary.
“Would you like to meet him?”
Littlejab nodded dumbly. Easysinger raised a finger, silently imploring Littlejab's patience, then she stood and stretched, first one way, then the other, then did a little bouncing in place. Finally, she sat back down, eyes closed, hands flat on both sides of her protruding belly. A pleased smile lit her face. Her eyes opened, and she held out her hand to Littlejab. He extended his tentatively, and she pressed the flat of his palm against the taut leather of her tunic.
Littlejab frowned as he stood there, waiting, feeling nothing but Easysinger's firm warmth. He was still half-expecting a joke, except for Easysinger's expectant smile as she watched him. He was about to pull
his hand away when he felt it. A sudden protuberance formed beneath his hand, sliding across his palm, like a fish glancing past when he played in the river.
Littlejab hopped back, eyes wide in surprise. This time both women broke out in laughter. Unsure, Littlejab looked from one to the other, then a smile broke out on his face as well, and he turned back to Easysinger, eager to feel the baby once more.
After Easysinger's visit, Tallow had returned to her work, leaving Littlejab to his imagination as he occupied himself with odds and ends on the workshop floor. In her preoccupation, she had almost forgotten his presence and was mildly annoyed to be called out of her thoughts so abruptly.
“What is it, Littlejab?”
Littlejab pulled his shirt up, revealing his own rounded, milk-fat tummy, which he pointed at. His eyes grew wide and he loudly whispered, “There's a cub in there!”
Tallow crouched down in front of him, shaking her head. “Remember, we talked about this earlier. Babies only grow in mother elves. You'll be a father elf someday. There's no cub in there.”
“There is!” He nodded emphatically. He grabbed his mother's hand and pushed it against his belly. “Feel!”
She was going to protest, when she did feel something. A slight shifting under her fingers, accompanied by a low, rumbling growl. She frowned at her offspring.
“There's no cub in there! You're just hungry!” She tickled his belly, then picked him up as he erupted in squealing laughter. “Speaking of fathers... let's go see if yours has something to eat!”
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