The bleak light from the cloud covered sun slips through her windows and lays a dappled print upon her floor.
It is nearly evening. He has been gone many, many days.
They provided against his absence with heaps of wood - food for the Homefire that ever blazes in the safety of their hearth - and she feeds it, watching carefully amidst the day's glories and pain. The children are clean and happy - two little ones rolling like puppies on the rug in front of her, an older one in her lap with a heavy head upon her shoulder. There is a pair whispering over the thick pages of a treasured book and another pair carrying on a secret meeting under the kitchen's sturdy table.
The wind attempts to climb down the chimney, but the heat from the hearth refuses to allow it - it gently chides the icy threatening howl with it's blast of warmth, and those within are protected from winter's chill.
As the sun sinks ever lower, in a last brilliant display of twinkling, dwindling daylight, night climbs into the sky to take it's place.
There is a sudden sinister rap at the window, causing the children to jump.
The flash of an eye in the window, before the beating on the door.
With a sigh, the mama recognizes the voice of her neighbour calling out to her from the dark.
The door is opened; and cunningly disguised as concern, the questions appear... tired, old questions, always in different wrapping paper... always containing the same poison...
"Don't you think he probably gets lonely when he's away for so very, very long?" the voice whispers... "i know my husband likes to be closer to us - yours must not mind being away from the warmth of the hearth... i know i wouldn't allow..."
Crafty eyes peer behind her - into the dim comfort of her home. Children blink wearily, ready for sleep as the neighbour's eyes take their time roaming around the one room home.
The neighbour finishes her call, and hurries back to her own homefire, and the mama gratefully closes the door behind her.
As her little ones pull their nightclothes over tiny blonde heads, she kneels at the hearth, and with the palm of her hand, touches it's very edges. It's hot. It's covered in soot and ash - evidence of it's daily use. She rubs clean the corner where the night they wed, he scraped their names into the stone with happy, broad strokes.
Deep in thought, she is startled by the click of the door shutting behind her. His face is wild and woolly and his eyes are twinkling at finding her leaning into the fire, palm upon the hearth. Tired children no longer, as the tiny hut fills with squeals of delight and laughter...
Little ones cling to his arms and tug on his boots - willing his stay to be long and his absences less frequent... He glances at the Homefire, bobbing merrily in the hearth - and adds another stick to the blaze.
read HOMEFIRES here.