It was just past dawn when it started to rain. Mei had been wandering around the cottage sleepily, waiting for the water to boil for their morning tea. She had always been an early riser, especially so when rising early wasn't a requirement. She scrubbed at her face and pushed her hair back, watching the small lump of blankets on the other side of the one-room cottage rise and fall. Her son had never had any trouble sleeping well past daybreak.
The kettle had just started to huff and whistle when she heard it. A pattern of noise over the rising wind and rain. A sharp creak, and then a harsh, flat thump. It didn't register, the first few times it happened. And then the wind seemed to pick up even more, and the noise increased. Finally, it dawned on her what the noise was, and she swore and bolted for the front door.
Mei didn't even stop to throw a coat on before running out the door and down off the front porch. Icy, early spring rain soaked her to the bone, plastering her hair and the sleeping gown she wore to her back. She knew she should have had Farmer Kelley look at the door before he left. It had taken nearly a full season to get the old wood shed repaired and refurbished for it's new porpose: a place to grow her rapidly growing collection of herbs, medicinal and otherwise. She had even traded and barganed and scraped together enough for a simple glass window, enough to bring in the light during winter. And it was working so well. But the door latch wasn't what it should have been, and would, on windy days, pop open, inviting all that frost and coldness in. Mei hated the idea of her plants withering in the cold.
The grass was slippery and made her feet hurt it was so chilly, but she rushed anyway. Once there, she snatched the door mid-swing, and heaved it back closed. The latch engaged with a satisfying CLANK! and she stood there for a moment, shivering and waiting for it to spring open again. When nothing happened, she turned, and started to hurry back to the cottage. It would be a nice day for hot oatmeal and jam for breakfast.
She only got halfway there, though, before spotting a dark lump propped up on the stone wall of the little house. She paused, and then slowly started to approach, ignoring the cold and tossing her head to get water out of her eyes. It was slowly becoming more clear, that shape. Brown, green, and still. A beast, unconcious, blending in with the walls of her river rock home. Beaten, she decided, as she got closer and saw the stains on the rough cloth of his shirt, the swelling and cuts and blood on his fur. It only occured to her as she was kneeling in the soaking grass and mud that he might not even be alive anymore. After a small hesitation, she touched her hand to his chest and said gently, "Hello?"