Angels living among the mortals -- Gallifreya
Mrs Getherty had always been in the neighbourhood. And she had always been a little strange. For instance, she invited the local evangelists in for tea and cookies. And a nice, long chat that somehow devoured their entire day, covered nothing, and roamed from topic to topic like an indecisive kid with one dollar to spend in the candy store.
Nobody could remember when she wasn't a slightly dotty old lady who took in strays of all kinds. Nobody knew where she got her money from, either, but she apparently had enough to look after anyone and anything that elected to stay in her slightly dilapidated old house.
Nobody could remember the last time she was sick, when she last needed help, or when she ever had anything new.
Thieves occasionally tried to break in and steal what little she had. When they did, they found themselves fed and gently talked to until they elected to mend their ways.
People said her chicken soup could cure AIDS.
And when Taro ran away from home, Mrs Getherty just took her in like any other lost stray.
It was late, but noise in the kitchen never reached anyone else who slept in that old house. And there was always a bed to spare, for all that it was usually inhabited by insolent cats.
Taro sat somewhere in the middle of a huge fluffy dressing gown. It was too big to be Mrs Getherty's. Too big to be anyone's. But it was always warm and it always smelled slightly of cinnamon. She watched Mrs Getherty put together some tea and arrange for some soup to appear.
There was nothing on earth like Mrs Getherty's chicken soup. It warmed a body up from the soul out. A fortunate thing, since Taro had run away in the middle of possibly the worst storm in living memory. Her clothes had been soaked through.
But then, Mrs Getherty always had some spares. Taro didn't mind the slightly-too-large prairie dress of a nightie. She liked the flowers.
Mrs Getherty shook as she poured the tea. Despite her trembling hands, she never spilled a drop of anything. "Now. Why would you run out of a loving home on a night like this?"
"...don't like uncle teddy," Taro mumbled.
"Your mama's new boyfriend, Uncle Teddy?" she asked, sitting down with some great effort. "He's been helping pay the rent as I understand it."
"...been helpin' himself," mumbled Taro. "...don' like what he does."
"Mm-hm..." Mrs Getherty reached across to read Taro's hand. "Hm. One of those is it? Not on my watch."
Taro wondered what sort of thing Mrs Getherty could do about her 'uncle' Teddy. But she never saw it. Mrs Getherty made Taro finish her soup and drink the tea, both of which made her drowsy. The next thing she knew, she was being tucked into one of the spare beds and colonised by cats. Including a very friendly tortie who purred the instant she was touched.
And the next morning, Mama was picking her up out of the blanket of cats.
"Something strange came over that man," said Mama. "Did he touch you? Did he make you feel bad?"
Taro nodded fearfully.
But Mama just hugged her tight. "He told me everything. Everything! He went funny and confessed to me, to the priest, and to the police... He's demanding to help catch others like him. I'm so sorry, baby. I'm so sorry."
"Not your fault," soothed Mrs Getherty, leaning on the doorway. "Those types know how to fool people on every level."
Mama got distracted by dogs and children and cats long enough for Taro to break free and ask, "What did you do to him?"
An enigmatic smile. "I just showed him the error of his ways, is all. Let him see where he was going. I do admit, I might have overdone it a tad."
Nobody could remember the last time that Mrs Getherty had been cross, either. She never really got angry. She just... tidied things up. And last night, the thing she had tidied was the monster Taro knew as Uncle Teddy.
And just for a second... Taro swore that Mrs Getherty's shadow had wings.
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