Every night, he would fold her into his arms before she slept. Creases grew into her, turning brown with wear, and she loved them. When she woke up in the night, dreaming of darkness, he would take her to his desk and draw for her a map of her face, turning it into another world. Tracing the contours of her smile, he would scrawl a warning, "Here be monsters", whispering to her that she was a dragon when angry.
As she grew older, she populated his maps with creatures and peoples from the books she read, or her own creations. He taught her to draw, and to write with an old inkpen, in a cursive script her teacher could make neither head nor tail of. She made him angry once, drawing in the drying sand with her finger, and smudging the ink. When he was angry, mountain ranges grew across his forehead and caverns opened in his cheeks. Here be lions.
Walking home from school, she knew the local area inside out; from the maps he had drawn and taught her. He would copy them onto old parchment, or a piece of vellum, and she would roll it up, tie it with red ribbon, and keep it in a chest in her bedroom.
Her friends were all book-lovers. They visited to sink into the musty old-book smell of the library, and exclaimed in wonder at the maps and charts displayed the walls. Sometimes, if he liked them, he would draw one a compass rose, adorning it with emblems of their personality. He never drew anyone else's face.
She grew older still, and brought boys to see the maps. They smiled at them, and told her how impressed they were, but most seemed to be more interested in her face, in her hair, in her hands. The cartographer warned her against them, but she loved deeply, and she only let them go on the day when they ripped a book, or spilt coffee on parchment, or, once, when they insulted her father.
He sank into a silvering old age, and sometimes his fingers were too stricken by arthritis to hold a pen. On those days, she sat with him, now married, with a family, and they traced the lines of his old maps, and she told him the stories she had written so long ago. They would stare together at the night, and in his creaking voice he told her how he dreamt of mapping out the moon. (Here be serpents). There was a lunar globe in his study, and she would examine it when he had gone to sleep. These days, she folded him, and his creases showed on his face.
When the old cartographer died, she sold most of the maps, charts, books and drawings he had created. The old house where she had grown up, she gave to a housekeeper, to preserve for her children. She kept the chest of maps on vellum and parchment he had made for her, and she kept the globe of the moon. It sat on the table next to her bed, and her husband bore its presence patiently, knowing why she kept it.
Several years after he died, the television showed the first pictures of man setting foot on the moon. On that day, she took the lunar globe from her bedside, and sold it to a museum. Before long, there would be many maps of the moon, she knew, and she would live to see maps of the stars.
Here be dragons.