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It was that simple.
Courage and valiance and truth: those were the three words that she had never had to teach him. They were carved on his back and arms and feet and mouth, from the time he opened his wonderful eyes to the world to his very first words to her.
She had had to teach him love though, and it was an uphill struggle all the way to make him understand how he wasn't supposed to hurt those people he liked or to destroy those things that mattered. The lessons often ended with her on her knees, sobbing as he stood over her and stared, bewildered and puzzled.
She cried plenty those days, but she never cried more that the time when she had looked up from the apple she had been peeling to find him standing in front of her, little hands clasped carefully one over the other. Slowly he lifted one hand, and she had dropped knife and fruit when she saw the baby bird cradled carefully between his palms.
She remembered how he had looked at her then, his face a mixture of hope and surprise and fear, and that little bit of pride that had been there from the time she had stretched out a hand to him and he had taken it, hesitantly.
She had fallen to her knees, and he had flinched a little, but not far enough as she reached out her arms and pulled him towards her. She cried many, many tears into his small shoulders that day, one arm wrapped tightly around this precious, precious boy of hers, the other stroking his hair as she sobbed and told him what a wonderful child he was and that he had done very, very well.
People often whispered behind their hands and doors at how different they were from each other, and whatever could have possessed her to take in a child that no one else wanted. But that was the point really; the child had needed a place to stay and someone to guide him to prevent him from making the same mistakes as he had in the past, and she had reached out a hand.
There were times when she looked into his eyes whenever he came running in through the door with something in his hands, and she saw her husband as he had been before the plague had swept him away from her side and into the grave.
Children were a burden, yes, but this was one burden that she had chosen to take on willingly. It wasn't because she was lonely, although there were many days when the house felt too empty and nights when her bed was as cold as the grave; it was simply because he had needed her, and she had opened her door to him.
It was that simple.