A/N: Howdy! Thanks for the reviews, favorites, follows, and/or stopping by to read this. You're all wonderful and you guarantee have my love. This chapter title is from Miranda Lambert's The House That Built Me. This song always reminds me of my grandparents' place because that's the only stationary place that I know. I grew up a lot there. Happy reading!

DISCLAIMER!: I DON'T OWN ANY OF THE LORAX CHARACTERS! ALL RIGHTS GO TO DR. SEUSS AND ILLUMINATION ENTERTAINMENT!


The Hanging Tree

Chapter 20:

The House That Built Me


"Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth." - Henry David Thoreau, 'Walden: Or, Life in the Woods'

Night time had finally settled and the bright stars twinkled above the slumbering town of Greenville. Within the late-Arbore's house, the Italian man sat heavily in his office chair. His strong hands came up to rub his tired eyes before he rest them against the hardwood of his desk. He had just lain Bethany down to rest after calming her down from an angry fit.

When Gregori brought her home from the hospital a couple weeks ago, Bethany proved to be more than a hand full. Already, she was showing signs of having a sour temperament. Which he found odd, considering how both him and Dorothea were textbook definitions of mild-mannered people.

But it was a relief to have her finally resting and not disrupting his progress. Cracking his knuckles and then picking up his pen, Gregori set to work on writing his analysis. So far he only had notes on the exploration and expansion of the philosophy over conformity. How does one create an identity when so many create one for you; or can you be content with everyone's approval when you do conform; or how does one separate themselves from the destruction of conformity, he wonders? Conformity, individuality, isolation were his three major topics he always discussed within his writing.

To both his parents' surprise and dismay, Gregori majored in creative writing and philosophy when he attended the college in Greenville. By the time of graduation, he already published a book analyzing the relationship revolving around nature and humanity. Here he analyzed the Truffula Valley, it's trees, and fauna. To the people of Greenville, the Valley held great value towards these magnificent trees. So if someone were to cut one down it was considered blasphemous.

It was this kind of analysis that garnered him attention from the people of Greenville. Before he knew it (and a little help from his parents), half the town had read his book. They praised him and told him what a brilliant young man he had become; and these were the same people who had teased him.

In the midst of writing a new essay on a the exploration of human existence, it got abruptly put on hold while he was sent away due to the draft. During this war, Gregori began to write down new theories and analyzed different situations he witnessed.

How valuable was a human life? He often pondered while hiding away in the muddy trenches.

Was there any value if we are so willing to take away another's life in the means of war?

There was nothing glorious or romantic about war.

Personality wise, Gregori knew he could not ever be meant on the battlefield. But now there were things he'd seen that he could never remove from his mind. Once he returned home, and back into the loving arms of Dorothea, alcohol began appealing to him more often than naught.

While sitting at his desk, the brawny man looked over at the bottle of whiskey and shot glasses nestled between his large law book and the eighth volume on Eastern philosophy. When reaching out to it, Gregori stopped mid action and quickly shook his head.

"Think about her," he breathed and returned back to writing.

OoOo

By the second day, Beth felt fatigue from the lack of nourishment and warmth. The only thing she could do was keep her eyes close to pass time. Her arms still remained around the tree trunk, but they did not hold on as tightly as before; her arms were so weary now.

There had been four men who has shown up that day. Most of them had paid no mind to her, but this fourth man who was currently leaning against the Thneed truck's hood. He could be considered handsome by his rugged features and broad chest and shoulders; to Beth, he was what was imagined by the phrase 'devilish good looks.'

While toying with the toothpick in his mouth, he unashamedly leered at Beth. Not looking at him entirely, she kept him in peripheral vision to be safe. Taking the toothpick out of his mouth, he began to make cooing and clicking noises to try to gain her attention.

'Don't look at him,' Beth chided herself, 'that's exactly what he wants.'

But against her better judgement, her dark eyes slid over to where the man stood. A smirk tugged at his lips.

"Hey there, little honey," He crooned as he gave a slight tip of his hat. "You're prettier than what people have been sayin'. Why don't you come over here?"

Beth only diverted her eyes to the left and lifted her lip in a scowl.

"Aw, now, don't be that way," He started and would have made his way over to Bethany, but stopped when he saw another Thneed truck arriving. Releasing a breath she did not realize she was holding, Beth tried to calm her racing heart. She rested her temple against the bark of the tree.

Sam Yertle stepped out and looked suspiciously at the other man. Then Sam walked over to him and said, "Your shift is over now. Head back to the factory."

The man huffed and eyed the teenager critically before replying. "Whatever you say, kid."

Then he left in his own truck; leaving Sam and Beth alone. Her eyes remained staring at the snowy ground before her. She heard the crunching of his foots as he headed back to his car and the opening and closing of the door. Only after a few seconds did she look up and saw that he was sitting behind the wheel while reading a different book than last time.

An hour had passed and with each minute turning over, the rumbling of emptiness shook consistently, relentlessly. Forcing images of food to the back of her mind and yet she still felt the reminding cramp double her over. Even the snow looked appetizing at that moment, but she knew it contained toxins.

All of a sudden, the young man opened the car door and planted both his feet onto the ground. He did not step away from his vehicle just yet, and then a popping sound echoed loudly with a fizzle followed soon after. That even out crunching of feet pushing through the snow got closer and closer by every second. Her heart felt like it dropped before it came back up again and began to pound tremendously in her ears. His black boots halted in front of her. Bending down, both Sam and Beth made eye contact; to which she quickly put on a brave face.

However, there was no need for Beth to put up a defense. The only thing that Sam did was place an uncapped soda-bottle right next to her. Surprised, she peered over at the glass bottle filled with the sugary dark-brown liquid. Then her dark eyes trailed up to watch the retreating backside of Sam.

Not once did he look back to see if she took the drink and instead picked up his book to continue where he left off. She waited several minutes; constantly looking back at the soda bottle and then at Sam.

Finally, once making sure again that the teenager was not looking, Beth snatched up the bottle and downed the beverage without relent.

OoOo

"I would love nothing more than for you and me to live out there," she whispered to him in the dark, "without fear and worry of others. We would be safe."

When Dorothea had still been alive, she spoke of this dream she's had since she was a small child. To live and seek refuge in the Truffula Valley would be an absolute paradise, she often stated.

"You want to build what in the Valley?"

So this is where Gregori found himself one day, inside the office of Greenville's mayor. The town's elected official had been a short, portly ginger haired man and usually seen with a cigar resting lazily between his teeth. He had a gruff disposition with a bit of country flavor added in the mix.

Gregori looked down at the magazine cutout of a cottage in his hand before he answered the mayor, "I would like to build a small house for my daughter and me to live in."

He leaned back into his chair, and blew smoke out his nostrils. "Son, you know that the Truffula Valley is owned by no one."

"Sir," Gregori began, "I thought that coming to you would help me. I'm not asking to own the whole forest. Just an acre or two would suffice."

When the mayor looked skeptical, to which Gregori quickly tried to change.

"And I swear that I will not chop down any trees," he finished, looking the mayor straight in the eye. "I know the lore of the Lorax."

The mayor made a noise in the back of his throat and then said, "This isn't about some ol' wives' tale. Why exactly do you want to live out there?"

"It was my wife's dream," Gregori confessed with a sad smile, "I feel that would be only right to honor that."

Releasing a sigh, the mayor replied. "I'll have a tenant granting you permission to own an acre of land out in the Truffula Valley. That is all, Mr. Arbore."

"Oh, thank you!" Gregori exclaimed and quickly rounded the mayor's desk to bring him into a bone crushing hug. "Thank you, thank you!"

Grunting, the mayor protested and eventually managed to get the young father to let him go.

Thus began the building of Dorothea's ideal cottage in the Truffula forest. He first started scouting out a perfect area to build this home and soon stumbled upon an open area wide enough to allow for the construction. A new treaded path was made by Gregori and his cart as he went from the town to his secluded area.

Since chopping down the trees was out of the question, he sought out a new solution. Layers upon layers of stone compacted together. The only lumber that he used was purchased in town for the flooring and roof. Through Summer to Winter and only taking breaks during rainy or harsh weather, it took approximately a year and half to finish the little stone cottage.

Standing back from his finished project, Gregori grinned; proud to have accomplished this single handedly. He had built the cottage to be large enough to allow him stand straight without fear of bumping his head. It only contained a kitchen and the loft he installed was intended for his daughter; he would sleep below on the first floor and whenever he needed to work on a new analysis essay, he'd venture to the cellar. It only took another few months to place in a fence, a shed, a well, and the posts marking his acre of land.

Until he had placed all furniture inside the cottage, Gregori did not allow for Beth to be relocated to the cottage. It was mid-Spring when Gregori went to pick up his daughter from Little Lola's House. He had in trusted Beth in their care while he worked on honoring Dorothea; however, he was not expecting there to be hostile feelings.

"I can't believe you're actually going through with this, Arbore," hissed the House mistress, or Aunt Ada as the girls called her. She currently held Bethany in her arms as she glared at Gregori.

"Miss Ada," he began, but held his tongue when the middle aged woman suddenly got in his personal space.

"Do you really think that is a suitable environment to raise your child," Queried Aunt Ada. "And let's not forget that you're a wife-less man. You can't possibly raise this child all by yourself."

An old burning flame of anger ignited within the pit of Gregori's stomach. He looked defiantly down at Ada and squared his broad shoulders to then state, "I will raise my daughter by myself, despite what you say. You are in no position to tell me otherwise. Now, Ms. Ada, give me back Beth."

Hesitantly, Ada did hand over Beth. The child seemed to have relaxed once she was able to cling to her father. Gregori took noticed that she had grown quite a bit since he'd last seen. He put it in his mental list to buy her new clothes for later.

Just as Gregori was about to walk out with Beth in his arms Ada's voice stopped him.

"I suggest remarrying, Arbore. She needs to be around another woman or things are going to be complicated."

"She'll be just fine," was the last he had ever said to Aunt Ada and exited out Little Lola's.

Four years had passed since then and Beth held a woven basket. She pushed back long strands of hair away from her eyes while she waited patiently for her father to drop Truffula fruit from his high perch on the ladder.

"Here's another one, piccolina," called Gregori and then a bright red, round object fell towards Beth. She held out her basket and caught the fruit successfully. Then she casted a wide smile up at her father.

"I caught it!" She boasted proudly.

"That you did," He called back and gave a silly grin to make his daughter laugh.

This was a slower process than what he was use to, but it was helping teach Bethany how to help out around the house.

As the sun began to set in the horizon, Gregori and Beth carried the baskets back to the cottage. Lit candles and lanterns burned brightly inside and outside, keeping pesterous bugs away. Gregori sat in his chair out in their backyard with his harmonica snugly tucked in his right hand. Sitting in the opposite chair, Beth ate her dinner hungrily.

Once she finished and drank her glass of water in one take, Gregori asked, "So, what would you like to hear tonight?"

She wiped her mouth and then looked upward in thought.

"I don't know," She finally said. "You pick."

Without further ado, Gregori held up his harmonica to his mouth, looked over at Bethany's wistful gaze, winked, and then began a slow tune. The high pitched sound echoed longingly throughout the Valley and left a sense of wonderment in the night air. It was a tune that could only be meant to close out the day and put a very tired little girl to rest beneath the dark blanket of twinkling stars.


A/N: So I had to deal with a creep this week and decided to make Beth suffer that uncomfortableness too. And in case some of you were wondering, yes this so called war that Gregori went through is suppose to be some Seussian equivalence to WW II and/or a little bit of WW I.

Now I'm sure that this chapter is riddled with mistakes but I just don't care right now. I'll probably edit everything later. No Once-ler in this chapter. Sorry.

Thank you for stopping by!