The Mice in the Kitchen (Part 3, page 1 of 4)

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Part 3

Chapter 1

They didn't sleep much. It was only to be expected. Of the basic needs: refuge, food and warmth, they had achieved the first two, but fighting the cold turned out to be harder. They decided to spend the morning trying to solve that, as soon as the sun began to shed some light on their new home and enabled them to scan the possibilities within their reach.

With the utmost precaution —they soon realized that the cook was quite deaf, but, nevertheless, she spent a long time there and might see them—, Adalberht collected all the straws and threads from sacks he could find, while Flora placed them neatly to make a bed that would provide them with a more bearable temperature at night; since, during the daytime, the fire was burning constantly, which turned the kitchen into one of the pleasantest rooms in the house.

Adalberht soon took control of his newly acquired body. The most difficult part was gauging its potential, combining its small size with, on the other hand, its great velocity. He gradually managed to find the balance and, especially and most importantly, to discover its drawbacks and its advantages.

It took them the whole day just to get themselves an acceptable bed and some provisions. Avoiding the old cook and trying to get used to —or rather, enduring— the vertiginous beating of their tiny hearts, which constantly reminded them of how fast their new bodies marched towards the end of their lives.

They also saw her a few times. The girl brought things into and took things out of the kitchen, not speaking much —the cook didn't give her much chance to speak, since she only addressed her to give her orders that were not open to discussion— and with a very sad expression. An expression of resigned sadness... Sadness that doesn't even shed tears anymore.

After dinner, the kitchen was empty again, as it had been the night before, when they had arrived. And, once again, some hours later, when everyone in the house was in bed, she came, clearly in search of the warmth of the dying fire. Adalberht wondered how long she had been living like that, since, not really knowing why, he sensed that, just like them, the girl was in the process of adapting to a new situation.

This time, the girl had brought an old blanket and a pillow with her, and she placed them as near as possible to the hearth. When she laid the blanket on the floor, to avoid the coldness of the tiles, she had nothing left to cover herself with. But she curled up there, with her face almost on the ashes, ready to spend the night as pleasantly as the circumstances would let her.

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