Day 40

‘”Hello!”’ I called out, knowing full well that no one would answer. I dropped my bucket long ago on the gravel road sprouting with gibberish weeds and drowned around twenty-two insects. ‘”If this is some sort of new Holiday, and you’ve all kept it from me, then, then…well, I just don’t fancy it at all.”’

I passed empty stalls. Pens fallen on record books as if the writer was in the middle of scribbling insulting numbers. Baskets littering the usual routes taken by the very women they belonged to, articles scattered haphazardly. Knitting needles, naughty novels, peppermints. Digitalis peered into stores finding iron ovens still heaving smoke from burnt ringa pastries and savory scones. Clothes half pulled from hooks. Games of poker three quarters through where someone was obviously cheating.”

“So the stories Won and Lerol were gossiping about might be true,” Tipper muttered more to himself then to anyone else. Digitalis kept speaking, not really hearing anyone speaking. Glue Pot was right. Once she got going on a story, there was no Earthly way to stop her until she was finished.

‘”This isn’t right at all,”’ I told the air void of gossip, hard laughter, and humming tunes. Mrs. Dawdle should have been berating me for letting the water bucket slip from my buttery fingers. Three of the sixty children living in Pottestowne would have been present at the exact time of my scolding, tittering with red, joyful glee. Even though children were precious gifts, I would have later in the day boxed their ears until they, too, were ruby red. Ironhand, of course the blacksmith, never particularly liked conflict, and the unusually large man would somehow squeeze in between Mrs. Dawdle and myself, smoothing our ruffled feathers. The scene that never played out ached with loss deep down to my toes.

Right, well, first things first.

I hiked up my cotton breeches and straightened my white blouse, scouting out my own tiny household built in between two solid trees. Mind you, not there type of trees from the Forest of Death or the Kitsune Woods. Just the smaller, upright ones.”

“Does she mean normal ones like Earth’s?” Ginger wondered.

“No. They may look like Earth trees, but this is Soielle. I bet they’re blue,” Alastair commented.

“I passed the Red Sky Tavern, a scrunched up place, which seemed to pack in more patrons than one would expect. My best friends’ houses combined as shops sat smack next to the eldest inhabitants of the valley, Clive and Dunkle. Those two never exactly spoke of their ages directly, but one could just tell by the speck of distance caught in their eyes. That, and the wrinkles. Clive and Dunkle did so enjoy my weaving. Who would by my extravagant undergarments in bulk, now?

I stomped the final few paces to my plain front door. I was caught in shadow, the four paned windows of my yellow brick cottage, darkened. Thick, healthy vines wrapped themselves around her home, blooming fierce blue flowers. I grabbed the white gold handle of the front door. As I feared, there was no greeting when the hinges creaked open. No soft fur brushing my ankles and definitely no tinkle of a mew from my pet, Kali. Not from under the antique arm chair. Not from atop silky purple bedsheets. And certainly not from the brown kitchen table where a plate of honeysuckle bread still sat from the night before. I felt an unrecognizable garbly groan rumble in my chest. Somehow, my missing friend made the entire ordeal final.

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