The newest addition to the growing public library system in Birmisia Colony was in Port Dechantagne’s southeastern most neighborhood. It was known to the residents as Woodstead and was made up of rows of three-story brownstones, with businesses on the ground floor or the basement, and apartments above. The library building was a modest structure, two stories, but overlooking a long sloping hill, recently denuded of trees but otherwise undeveloped. The wide panoramic window offered a beautiful view from the lower level, but it paled in comparison to the view from the Library Director’s office above.
Kieran Baxter stared out from his office. He had started out watching the conchoraptors hunting among the leaves at the forest’s edge. It was too early for pinecones, but it was a good spot for mice or lizards. Before long though, he had stopped looking at anything at all, as his mind wandered. A knock at the door returned him suddenly to the present. His secretary poked her head into the room.
“Someone to see you, Mr. Baxter.”
She then opened the door wide and a thirteen-year-old girl walked in past her.
“Thank you, Miss Kulp,” said Baxter, as she closed the door.
“Hi, Daddy,” said the girl, bouncing up to him and wrapping her arms around him.
She was tall for her age, lanky, just like her mother. Her medium length blond hair had been curled. She wore a grey shirtwaist over a white skirt, a straw boater was balanced on her head, and she carried a small grey and white striped handbag.
“You’re old enough to call me Dad now, or Father.”
“I have a father,” she said squeezing him, “but you will always be my Daddy. Dad’s not too bad though.”
“What can I do for you today, my dear? I could count on one hand how many times you’ve visited me in my office.”
“I wanted to talk to you about money.” She looked toward the chair. “Can we sit down?”
“Oh, is this an official meeting then?” he laughed and stepped around behind the large pine desk to take his seat. “I thought your mother had you on an allowance.”
“Oh, she does. In fact, it’s really starting to pile up. I can’t seem to spend it fast enough.”
“Would that were a problem we all had.”
“I know. That’s why I wanted to talk to you about it. I want to give you some money.”
“You don’t have to do that, Sweetheart.”
“I know I don’t have to, but I want to. You and Bryony have treated me like I was your own child, and I’m not. You’ve known me since I was a baby, but I’m not your flesh and blood. You just had the bad luck of meeting my mother when she was pregnant with me.”
“I consider that very good luck,” he said, sincerely, “if for no other reason than I get to be your dad.”
“But poor Bryony. She marries you and she gets me foisted upon her—the child of your old chatelaine.”
“That’s not how I would characterize your mother.”
“In any case,” she continued. “I’ve lived with the two of you for five years now.”
“It can’t be that long. Can it?”
“It’s well over five years. And here I have all this money that I can’t use. I want to give it to you. You can pay off the loan on your house.”
“I thought you had a better grasp of money than that,” he said with a frown. “Why, we must still owe five thousand to the Bank of Birmisia.”
“Bryony says it’s more than six thousand, and I have almost ten thousand marks right here.” She held up her handbag.
“Ten thousand… You’re carrying around ten thousand marks?”
“Yes. Mother is giving me five hundred a month, and I just don’t have that many expenses. I take my friends out sometimes, and I go out to lunch. I buy a dress every now and then. I want to give you and Bryony the rest.”
“Good grief,” he sighed. “Does your mother have to do everything so ham–handed? She can’t… Oh never mind. In any case, I’m not taking your money. I will, however, take you to the bank after I’m done here for the day, and we will open a bank account for you. You can save your money for the future. You can use it to attend University, and maybe buy your own house someday.”
“Mother says I don’t need any university. She says that all that education is a waste. I’m going to be a great sorceress, like her.”
“Is that what you want? To be like her?”
“Well, I do think I’ll be a sorceress. It’s in me whether I want it or not. But I don’t want to be a twat like her.”
“Senta! You will not use language like that.”
She grinned back at him. “I’ve heard you call her that same thing.”
“Well,” he said through gritted teeth. “Do as I say, not as I do. Now go down and look through the book stacks, and I’ll wrap up my business. Then we’ll go to the bank.”
She hopped up and skipped around the great desk to his side, kissing him on the cheek.
“I love you more than anything, you know, Dad,” she said.
“I love you too.”