Mire tucked the bishani in her wallet and her wallet in her front pocket. She wore pants and a comfortable sweater. Her hair was loose, but pinned back from her face with a hair tie at the crown. Strands fell in front and behind her ears. She never bothered to hide them. What was the point? Even when her hair was completely down, the tips of her ears poked through. As for the pants, dresses were for ladies who did not have to help out a fellow guardsman on occasion. A voice called her name and she turned to see Veridian, hand raised, at a stall they frequented for breakfast on duty days.
“Ver, I do think you have your eye on that pretty baker woman. What’s her name? Talia?” Mire grinned as she moved to join her partner. Her gait was an easy one, but quick. She had long legs. Veridian grinned,
“Well, since you won’t marry me, Mire, I have to look elsewhere.” Mire snorted. She’d never believed Veridian was in earnest whenever he proclaimed his undying devotion.
“If I married you, you’d never have your pick from the Kitten’s litter again.”
“A man has needs, Mire. Needs. Although dancing by oneself has its benefits, the best dances are with a partner.” Veridian winked at Mire. Mire just raised her eyebrows and wondered about his comment. Men might have needs, but some men knew how to control them. Mire nodded slowly as she surveyed the baker’s cart.
“So you say. But, I say a man who knows when to wait refines his appetite.”
“That’s food. Dancing requires practice and I can promise, I am a very, very good dancer.” Veridian waggled his brows at Mire, making her laugh. When she smiled and laughed, her face lit up. Veridian smiled to see it. This was much better than her brooding from the day before.
“Stop, stop, stop. I can’t take it anymore!”
“That’s what they all say… and then they ask for more!”
“Ver! Seriously, it’s too early for ribald humour!” Mire gave Veridian a punch in the arm, but it wasn’t a hard one. Mire was no fainting virginal upper class lady who’d swoon at such talk. She was earthy. She laughed. She liked her pints. More reasons for Azuel to want to be friends. Mire sighed, then.
“Ah, I despair of ever being considered a lady. Maybe Hulben was right.” Mire tucked the breakfast breads she’d settled on into her pack. An omelette made with a thick rasher of bacon, eggs, and some vegetables accompanied by a flaky, buttery croissant and strong tea was the best breakfast she could imagine.
The look on Veridian’s face darkened. “I’m sorry about that, Mire. I didn’t know Hu would be such an ass. Who knew his view of women was so poor?”
Mire shrugged and gave Veridian another smile. It was like the sun parting clouds. Veridian couldn’t help but smile back at her. “I don’t think you’re a man. For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t have anyone else as my partner.” Veridian gave Mire a soft punch back on her arm. He knew she’d never look at him as anything other than that.
Not for the first time, he wondered why she never seemed to date anyone. He’d seen look over men when they were at the Rat after she’d had a few pints. He’d even seen her look over women, so he he wasn’t sure if she did actually prefer men. He knew about her past. There'd been a write up in the Daily Tattler when the house mother had finally been arrested. The drawing that accompanied the article had shown a large-eyed elf girl, holding another child on her hip and surrounded by others. The elf-girl looked remarkably like Mire. Maybe she was right about waiting. Maybe that’s why she never considered him. She wanted someone who she thought might be a little more faithful, a little less keen to serve their appetites. But, for her, he could be faithful --- at least, that’s what he told himself --- and it's not like he'd ever spent time at places that catered to extremes in sexual pleasures. Sure, he'd tried women of different species. He'd even tried the dwarf at that one brothel, just because. But still...
“What are you up to today?”
“Oh,” Mire gave another shrug. “The usual. Laundry day for starters, bills, and I’m thinking I will go to the book store.” She glanced up at the sky and pursed her lips. Veridian looked at her mouth when she wasn’t looking. Someday, he’d get up the courage to kiss her. Maybe when they weren’t partners anymore… “I’m pretty sure it’s going to rain again this afternoon. So, I want to get my errands done early.
Veridian broke his gaze from her mouth to peer at the sky. He nodded.
“You might be right on that count. Guess I better get my errands done, too. See you next shift, Mir.”
“You, too, Ver.”
She’d never noticed the looks he’d given her. Not one. She had to know though. Right? She was beautiful, lithe, and graceful. She was round and full in all the right spots. He enjoyed watching one such spot as she walked away. Veridian arched a brow and decided a visit to the Kitten would be a good way to pass a rainy afternoon. Yes, indeed.
Mire entered the book store and inhaled a deep breath. The shop owner was a grouchy, young man with black hair and penchant for the drink and smoking, who cared more for his books than people. His assistant was sweet and regularly the owner’s verbal whipping boy. The assistant’s hair was long, but his pate was balding. The assistant sported a beard, as well, where his boss did not.
As a regular, though, Mire knew what to expect. And, her looks, her coin, and her love of books always meants she would be allowed back in even when she and the owner would have a falling out about the quality of this writer or that. All she needed to do was bring a bottle of wine and an all was forgiven.
“YOU!” The owner roared as she entered. He sputtered. “Who gave you the right to enter my shop? Hm? HM?” So, it began. Mire smiled sweetly.
“Me.” A response to his greeting and an answer to his question.
“You. You pointy eared philistine, get out of my shop!”
Mire put down her bag and pulled out the croissants, some cheese, and a bottle of wine, as if she was rummaging for something. The owner paused mid-rant. “Oh, is that… is that… a Black’s vineyard?”
“Oh, that?” replied Mire. “Yes. Just a burgandy. Pay it no mind, I was planning on drinking it while a read a book. Hmm, where did that go? Oh, there it is.” The sound of bishani clinking together in a very small pouch followed her words. “Ah, here it is.” Mire smiled at the little bag and began to put the other items back. The shop assistant looked back and forth between the pair. His eyes lit up when Mire produced the bag of bishani. Sales were good! Sales meant food!
“Wait. Wait…” Dylan Bernard waved his hand randomly as he edged a little closer to Mire. “I was a little harsh when I said you had oatmeal for brains. I mean, there is some validity in the argument that the latter half of the story is an allegory in the falsehood of history.” For Dylan to admit as much was to acknowledge that his thirst was greater than his love of the written word, but not by much.
“Here, here, here…”
Dylan deftly slipped next to Mire and acted charming in that way that only a truly drunk en man could – specifically, clumsily and pathetically. His hand slipped once or twice on a stack of books as he tried to act nonchalant. “Let’s not be hasty. Come, browse the books…”
“Buy some books…” Chimed in Bailey Bianco, the assistant.”
“Yes, yes… buy some books…” Dylan somehow managed to become deft as he scooped Mire’s bundle of treasures into his arms and drifted over to the small desk he used regularly. “And, we shall have a lovely repast together.”
Mire’s eyes twinkled with amusement and a little sadness. Dylan Bernard would have been a beautiful man, what with that muss of lovely black hair and those dark green eyes, if he didn’t drink so much. But the drink had left gin blossoms on his cheeks and nose and he always smelled a little sour. But, now, all was forgiven and Mire was free to roam and pick and choose to her delight.
“Why don’t you go ahead and start without me? I’m more hungry for new books than wine and cheese.”
Dylan made a grandiose gesture, “my Lady Mire, you are most kind!” Mire snorted a soft laugh as she moved off into the stacks. Here she had been thinking she’d never be a lady. An hour later, Dylan was snoring softly, book laying across his face.
“Well, Bailey, I hope it will give you a little respite from the despot.”
“Oh. Uhm. Why. Uhm. Yes.” Bailey nodded, though he still had the sad faced look of a bassett hound. “I say, uhm. Miss Elemire?” Bailey was standing awkwardly and rubbing the back of his head. Mire knew what was coming and deftly side stepped it by holding up the stack of books she’d decided to purchase.
“I’ll take these, Bailey. And just call me Mire. Everyone does.”
“O-of course, Miss Elemire.” It was always the same. Mire traded bishani for books and tucked them into her pack. By now, it was past lunch and her stomach had begun to rumble. The sky answered in agreement. Mire moved to the market, finding a little this and that to have for lunch and to stock her pantry. All, in all it was a good day.
When she arrived home, it was late afternoon and the clouds were stacking one atop the other. She needed to get her laundry in before the rain started. Mire stopped short when she found a black-haired, green-eyed Lady leaning against her lintel.
Mire’s eyes widened. So soon? Arms full, Mire found it hard to balance on the step below, offer a proper greeting, and get the door open. So, she chose to duck her head in greeting, dig out her key, and hold the key out to the woman.
“If you could get the door? I’d be happy to have your company.” Mire offered Latifa a smile as she spoke. The sky rumbled again and Mire looked up worried. “Teodinus! I hope I can get my laundry in before it starts pelting down rain.”