The past is our definition. We may strive, with good reason, to escape it, or to escape what is bad in it, but we will escape it only by adding something better to it. Wendell Berry
The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. L.P. Hartley
Summary: Stories from the Grey House, a pre MR look at the lives of Tonker and Lofty. It will not be pretty, but it might, just might, be beautiful.
Disclaimer: Terry Pratchett owns the characters and the world they live on. I am grateful for all the brilliant books and make no claims of ownership in any way.
Chapter 1: Normality
Magda Halter was sent to the Grey House when she was 4 years old.
She doesn't know why.
It was very sudden. One day they came and took her away in a big carriage. Her uncle and aunt were relieved when she went. Her uncle especially so.
She doesn't remember much about living with them. Somehow she doesn't want to think about that time much, she doesn't know why but something warns her against poking around in those memories.
She heard her uncle warn them she told lies. That confuses her even now as she knows she didn't and never would.
She sat on the too high seat, clasping her small bag of possessions as the coach clattered over the rutted road down into the valley, through the village to the big house with the tall walls. She's been behind those walls most of her life, and all the parts of her life that she can remember. Some days the newer girls ask her what her crime was. She doesn't answer them. It's no-ones business but her own.
She doesn't want to explain how she doesn't remember.
Everyone is there for a reason. Everyone has a story; though some of the crimes she doesn't understand (those of the bigger girls). She doesn't have a reason, a name for what she did. All she knows is that she's a Bad Girl. They say so. They run the Grey House.
When she arrived the priests said she had a devil in her. She didn't know what that meant then, but now, though she fights against it, she thinks perhaps they were right. She doesn't tell anyone though. She's afraid what they'll do to her to get the devil out if she reminds them.
They didn't have to take her in but they did. They are teaching her how not to be a Bad Girl. They say she's lucky they're kind people. She should be thankful. Sometimes she's not so sure about that.
She doesn't have any friends in the Grey House. Most of the girls there are older and live in the senior house, when they're not out working. The Gang rule the lower house and the girls her own age are either trying to get in, or hiding. They don't talk to her much, sometimes seeming more afraid of her than of The Gang. She doesn't know why and no-one will tell her. She spends most of her time alone.
Magda is 8 years old, a scrawny thing, not much to look at, too thin with sharp bones, a stubble of ginger hair growing back after her last transgression. She sleepwalks through her difficult world, surviving day to day. It never occurs to her to think ahead. She knows she has no power over her life's course. What point is there having expectations merely to be thwarted?
This year she will meet someone who will change all that. She doesn't know it, but the small dark haired girl currently being forced into a carriage, furiously clawing at Father Jupe, will show her a new future as yet unimagined. This diminutive girl will encourage her to live, help her remember how to laugh, and teach her of love, with all its related joys and sorrows.