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Who is under my Table

The Intruder Beneath the Table

By Ekombe hauPublished 20 days ago 5 min read
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Photo by Мария Кашина

In the quaint village of Willowbrook, nestled amidst rolling hills and whispering woods, there lived a reclusive scholar named Professor Edward Fairfax. His ancient cottage, adorned with creeping ivy and crowned with a thatched roof, stood at the edge of the forest, its windows glowing softly with the light of oil lamps. Professor Fairfax was renowned in academic circles for his expertise in ancient languages and obscure folklore, but to the villagers, he was an enigma, seldom seen and seldom heard.

One brisk autumn evening, as the shadows lengthened and the last remnants of daylight faded into the gloom, a curious incident unfolded within the walls of the professor's cottage. It began with a series of peculiar noises—soft shuffling, faint whispers, and the occasional creak of floorboards. The professor, engrossed in his research, paid little heed to these disturbances at first, dismissing them as the tricks of the wind or the nocturnal antics of woodland creatures.

But as the night wore on, the sounds grew more persistent, more insistent, until they could no longer be ignored. With a furrowed brow and a slight frown, Professor Fairfax set aside his quill and parchment, his curiosity piqued by the mysterious commotion echoing through his home. Clutching a candlestick in one hand and a stout walking stick in the other, he embarked on a cautious exploration of his cottage, his footsteps echoing softly on the creaking floorboards.

Room by room, he searched, his keen eyes scanning every corner and crevice for signs of intrusion. Yet, to his bafflement, each chamber appeared empty, its shadows undisturbed, its secrets concealed. It was only when he reached the dimly lit study, his sanctuary of scholarship and solitude, that he detected a faint rustling emanating from beneath the heavy oaken table that dominated the room.

Intrigued, yet wary, Professor Fairfax approached the table with measured steps, his senses alert for any hint of danger. Kneeling down beside it, he peered into the darkness beneath, his candle casting flickering shadows upon the floor. And there, amidst the gloom, he glimpsed a pair of wide, startled eyes staring back at him—a pair of eyes belonging to a small, trembling figure huddled beneath the tabletop.

"Who are you?" the professor inquired, his voice a mixture of curiosity and concern.

There was a moment of silence, broken only by the faint sounds of the night outside. Then, in a timid whisper, came the reply, "I... I am Emily, sir. Please don't be afraid."

Professor Fairfax's brow furrowed in perplexity. Who was this mysterious intruder, and what could have compelled them to seek refuge beneath his table? With a gentle yet firm hand, he beckoned the trembling figure out from its hiding place, revealing a young girl of no more than ten years old, her clothes disheveled, her eyes wide with fear.

"Emily, you say?" the professor repeated, his gaze softened by compassion. "What brings you to my doorstep at such a late hour?"

The girl—Emily—cast her gaze downward, her fingers twisting nervously in the fabric of her threadbare dress. "I... I was running, sir," she murmured. "From the orphanage. They... they're cruel to us there, sir. They beat us, and... and I couldn't take it anymore."

A pang of sympathy tugged at the professor's heartstrings as he listened to Emily's tale of hardship and suffering. He knew all too well the plight of the downtrodden and the forgotten, having spent much of his own youth in the dusty halls of academia, a solitary scholar with no family to call his own. And now, it seemed, fate had brought him face to face with a kindred spirit—a lost soul in need of sanctuary.

"Come, Emily," he said gently, offering her his hand. "You are safe here. You may stay with me for as long as you like."

And so, under the flickering glow of candlelight, a bond was forged between the reclusive professor and the orphaned girl who had sought refuge beneath his table. In the days that followed, Emily became a familiar presence in the cottage, her laughter ringing through the halls, her youthful curiosity reigniting a spark of joy in the professor's solitary existence.

Together, they explored the winding paths of the forest, gathering wildflowers and chasing butterflies beneath the dappled sunlight. They embarked on imaginary adventures through the pages of dusty old tomes, unraveling mysteries and discovering hidden treasures within the musty confines of the study. And each night, as they sat together by the crackling fireplace, Emily would regale the professor with tales of her past—the hardships she had endured, the dreams she dared to dream, and the fleeting moments of happiness she had glimpsed amidst the darkness.

But even as their bond deepened and their friendship blossomed, a shadow loomed on the horizon—a shadow in the form of Mr. Grimsby, the stern and unyielding caretaker of the village orphanage. For weeks, he had scoured the countryside in search of the wayward girl who had dared to defy his authority, his heart consumed by a mixture of fury and determination.

And now, armed with a warrant for Emily's return and a heart hardened by years of bitter disappointment, he stood upon the threshold of Professor Fairfax's cottage, his steely gaze fixed upon the trembling figure of the girl who cowered behind the professor's protective embrace.

"Come now, Emily," he barked, his voice a harsh echo in the stillness of the room. "It's time to go back where you belong."

But Emily clung to the professor's hand with all her might, her eyes brimming with tears, her voice trembling with fear. "Please, sir," she pleaded. "I don't want to go back there. I want to stay with you."

The professor's heart ached at the sight of Emily's anguish, his own resolve wavering in the face of Mr. Grimsby's steely glare. Yet, deep within his soul, he knew that he could not turn his back on the girl who had brought so much light into his life—a girl whose innocence had touched a chord within him that he had long thought dormant and forgotten.

With a firm yet gentle hand, he stepped forward, shielding Emily from Mr. Grimsby's menacing presence. "I'm sorry, Mr. Grimsby," he said, his voice steady with conviction. "But Emily is under my protection now. She is no longer your concern."

For a moment, the two men locked eyes in a silent battle of wills, each refusing to back down from the other's unyielding gaze. But then, with a resigned sigh and a reluctant nod, Mr. Grimsby turned on his heel and departed, his footsteps echoing faintly in the distance.

And as the last echoes of his departure faded into the night, Professor Fairfax gathered Emily into his arms, holding her close as they stood together in the warm embrace of the flickering firelight. In that moment, as the shadows danced upon the walls and the stars twinkled overhead, they knew that they had found something precious—a bond forged not by blood or obligation, but by the simple yet profound magic of love.

Short StoryMysteryFantasyFan FictionFable
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Ekombe hau

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