The Most Precious House

by AlexM

A long time ago, when I was a girl, I found a house made entirely of pearls. From afar it looked like a cloud. Closer, it looked like sugary sweets piled one atop the other.

I was a child. I was foolish.

I ran up the hill to it, I pulled one of the pearls from its side and had it in my mouth before I realised the house was collapsing and there was no sugar in my mouth at all.

Further along the hill was a village, and when the house fell down all the villagers ran out — pulling their hair, wailing, leaking tears from their eyes like a gutted pig loses blood. I spat out the pearl and waited to be told how terrible I was, how stupid.

They were tiresomely predictable.

All except one, a girl with bright yellow paint stains around the egdes of her fingernails, who climbed up to the window of the room I’d been given while the villagers decided what to do with me. “Pssst,” she said, like water falling on the hot plate of a stove. “Pssst.”

I pried open the window and we looked at each other in momentary silence, girl to girl.

“I’m building a house of yellow leaves,” she said. “I need someone to help me paint them.”

I climbed out of the window and we walked down the other side of the hill, through a vineyard and a patch of wild, tangled undergrowth and small trees, until we reached a clearing. Dug deep into the ground were the house’s foundations, yellow against the dirt. The girl told me that the finished house would only be ankle-high — only the roof poking above the ground, like a pile of regular leaves.

“There’ll be a house down here and it’ll be better than dumb pearls and they won’t see it, not at all.” She grinned possessively across her paint pots. Then, bending over to open a pot, she added in a practical tone, “Besides, the wind would blow it all away if it was above ground.”

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