A/N: I make audio-readings of stories, so if you would like to see the reading for this one, go here: /z_18PNEjVNw

...

The farmyard was deserted of people on this Saturday morning, as it quite often was. Farmer Smith was away at an auction for the day. That meant that Jenny could take some time to hang around at the farm and be by herself, except for the free-ranging chickens pecking about in the dust, the cows hanging their heads placidly out of the side of the barn, and the feral tabby cat, hunting for rats. Usually the farmyard made her feel peaceful with its aura of harmony with the Wiltshire countryside and its naturally slow pace of activity, but today she struggled to tune into the feeling.

Jenny had never been a sociable girl, but she had certainly never hated people. But her classmates thought she did, just because she wanted to eat lunch by herself and absorb herself into classwork instead of joking around. It wasn't that she disliked any of her classmates.

She just didn't fit in.

The sun warmed Jenny's skin, and she tried to let the glow percolate through to her soul, which had been feeling the cold shoulders of her schoolmates all week. But it didn't work. She felt gloomy inside.

Jenny felt as if she might cry, but she was determined not to. It was a gorgeous day and she was at the farm, one of her favourite places in all the world. How could she feel unhappy now? It made sense to Jenny to think like this, but forcing herself to feel happy didn't seem to be working. It just left her feeling irritable.

She had brought along her coloured chalks and paper, so she decided that if she couldn't force herself to feel happier, she would absorb herself into a new drawing instead. She smiled grimly, hefted her art case, and went into the barn.

The barn smelled of warm hay. It closed reassuringly around her like a great, wooden coccoon, and as she walked in she heard the vaguely-disgruntled grumbles of chickens who had thought the barn theirs and theirs alone for the day. Jenny clambered up onto the hay bales until she found an arrangement to sit on that felt right. She settled down; to one side was the main, open floor of the barn. To her other side was a shaded section. She smiled grimly and brought out her art materials so she could draw an impression of the doorway and the sheep-studded green fields beyond.

She worked on the picture for she-knew-not how long, but sketching the shapes, planning how to show off the light and balancing the warm browns and beiges of the indoors against the rich blues and greens of the outside took long enough that she began to feel a little calmer.

And then she heard a peep.

Jenny frowned and looked down into the shade to her right. She couldn't see anything, but she heard the peep again. Carefully she put her art things to one side and clambered gingerly down to investigate.

There, in a small hollow space between two bales, was a nest of clean white eggs. And one of them was cracked in two with a damp, round belly and two strong little legs kicking in between.

A hatchling! Jenny sat more comfortably on her feet and watched in wonder.

The eggs were too large to come from a chicken, and as the first chick rolled over onto its front, she saw that its beak was the wrong shape, its feet webbed. These were goslings! She smiled her first genuine smile of the week.

More of the eggs were cracking, bulging and breaking as their occupants responded to each others' calls and began to hatch. Jenny counted the eggs as they rolled and twitched.

Twelve.

As the rest of the clutch pushed at their shells and emerged, weak and wobbly into the comfort of their nest, the first hatcher rested and gathered its strength - and watched Jenny out of the corner of its eye.

She wished she had been able to draw this scene. But the light was flat and gloomy down here, and she would have had to have worked quickly to capture the weaving necks and and toppling goslings fast enough. But that didn't matter. Jenny knew that even though she hadn't captured this image on paper, she would remember it for life.

Time wore on, and the full dozen goslings had finished hatching. As was the way with baby animals, they were already alert and bright, their heads high and their eyes clear.

But Jenny had been sitting for long enough that her lower legs were numb. So she pulled herself with difficulty to her feet and sat on the hay bale next to her chalks. Pulling off the hay that had become impressed into the skin of her knees, she decided that it was time to go inside, into the farmhouse, and fetch herself a snack. She smiled at the hatchlings one last time, packed up her art things, and walked away.

Had Jenny thought this to be the end of her adventure? She was only half a dozen steps away from the hay bale when she heard excited peeping behind her, and turned.

From behind the hay bale ran one, two, then three and four goslings. Jenny was confused... and then she realised what had happened. "Oh," she said, and knelt down, even though it made her knees protest. They caught up with her and milled around as their siblings caught up. "You know, I can't be your mother. I'm sorry I confused you, guys."

But of course, they didn't understand English.

She stood up again and scratched her head. "Hmm. Damn. Okay, I guess you can follow me a while, but I'm going to have to talk to Farmer Smith about this."