a flash-fiction piece
She ran an efficient refuge hostel, you couldn’t say less. Two spots to the right, six spots to the left, but strictly No Harlequins! Those were her rules.
“Yes, love, how can we help you? Need a space for the winter?”
The ladybird at the door looked shaken.
“Erm, no, thank you, but I was hoping you might have taken in some children…”
“Children!” she said, horrified, “What children would these be, then?”
She gave a quizzical glance to the tiny red thing hiding behind the larger one before her.
“Who’s this one, then?” she asked, accusingly.
The ladybird looked around, as if she hadn’t been aware of the little thing all along.
“This is my little Ann,” she replied, “she’s all I found, after the fire…”
“Fire?!” the manageress exclaimed with stern suspicion, “What fire would this be, then? We don’t tolerate no firebugs here…”
“No, no, no!” the mother implored. “I was out collecting aphids when I heard the cry; fly away home! But too late, the house was gone, as were the kids, except little Ann who had the sense to crawl beneath a pan…”
“Oh, you poor thing,” interrupted the manageress, because bugs have sensibilities too. She turned to face the twin entrances and bellowed into the masses,
“Oi! Anyone seen this here lady’s children?! Seeking refuge from an house fire, they are!”
There was a scuffle and a tussle, a bit of pushing, and a shove, and a faint cry of “Mum!”, and three two-spots in increasing sizes finally came to the fore, and all five of them then burst into tears. Though not the manageress; she was made of tougher stuff. At least that’s what her reputation had you believe. But under the hard elytra beat a heart of gold.
“You’ll be needing somewhere to stay,” she whispered, “take my place, two stones down the aisle, on the left. I can just as easily put my head down here, if you like,”
She then gestured to the masses behind her, “Keep an eye on this lot.”
And so the Ladybird spent the winter in the manageress’s house, and when Spring arrived, and with the help of her children, she built a brand new house, with fire retardant materials, and with reliable smoke alarms installed everywhere for good measure.