“We have enough problems taking care of our own,” Mrs. Dowd nodded sharply. “Of course you’re doing as well as you can. But William is, er….”
“Still my father, and still taking care of the town’s orphans.” Sharl brushed bits of pod-string off her hands into the bowl of hulls, and hoped Dr. Adams would be done with his examination soon. Mrs. Dowd wouldn’t linger if she ran out of time to hear more juicy gossip-
Sharl took a subtle deep breath, and sat on her temper. Again. That wasn’t fair. Father had shocked everyone coming back… well, not normally injured. And if the town couldn’t yet see that being huge and scaly and voiceless was just like coming back without an arm, or a leg, or screaming in the night because of the cannons….
She had to close her eyes a moment to not cry. How could they see it, when it’d taken her a whole day past getting the Sergeant Major settled under Dr. Adams’ care to even think to draw questions in the dirt near the garden? Question after question, interspersed with how all the children had been doing and how much they’d missed him, patiently drawing and erasing until finally her father had blinked, and started writing back.
Never mind writing. It’d taken her long minutes of facing familiar eyes in a scaled face before she’d dared to move toward the box and the limp man tucked into blankets in a dragon’s harness. And at least a few more minutes to stop crying, once she’d opened the box with her father’s shirt and locket and discharge papers, John William Bancroft’s name under the photo of a dragon….
It’d taken her that long and she loved her father. Of course the town was still uneasy. They just needed more time.
“But we don’t even know who he is!” Mrs. Dowd’s gaze was sharp. “No papers, no name – it’s so irregular.”