(123-02-03) Mainly Concerning Floors
Mainly Concerning Floors
Summary: Esme pops across to Audra's on important pie-related business; she offers the exhausted baker a little help with her floor, and then ropes in a passing Violet to assist, bribing her with promises of pie.
Date: 03/02/2016
Related: The previous day's meeting between Esme and Violet.

The night has closed in but the bakery is still lit up - at least the productive side is. A baker's work is rarely done and the trademen and apprenticies handle the ovens while Audra cleans the storefront. Apron on over her dress, golden hair piled in a messy bun - she dusts the shelves and now-empty baskets while singing an absent minded ballad. A few candles burn to light her work but the storefront remains bathed mostly in shadow.

The bake house may officially be shut to customers; but Esme has popped across from the butchery on the offchance, and after a knock sounds upon the door a pale face appears in the window next to it, framed by a very green headscarf which can only be hers, and tilted at an inquisitive angle. Anyone in?

Audra seems startled by the knock and turns abruptly. After a sigh of relief at the familiar wrinkled face, she unlatches the door and waves Esme in. "Hello there! Do come in out of the heat. It's somewhat cooler in here at night than during the day."

"Oh, bless you," is Esme's greeting to her lovely young neighbour. She is carrying something wrapped in linen, which knowing her can only be a pie-tin heavy with promise. "I'm sorry to bother you so late — but I saw your lights and I wondered whether I might drop this off now, to be sure it went in first thing in the morning, eh? We've been rushed off our feet all day with an order for the Hightower, I don't think I could have finished it a minute sooner than I did," and she shakes her head, lifting her rueful gaze to meet Audra's.

Audra hides a yawn behind her hand and laughs apologetically. "Oh of course, Mistress Esme. And think nothing of knocking at such a late hour. Wasn't expecting anyone of course but certainly - I'll make sure the lads take it in with the first daylight batch. Don't think you need it before sunup, do you?"

"Oh, goodness," chuckles Esme, "sunup's certainly soon enough. But I know I'll have another rush tomorrow, and I'm expecting a visitor and I don't know when. Knowing the pie's sorted out is a load off my mind, and I thank you for taking it," she says more seriously, depositing the pie in the usual place and producing from a deep pocket beneath her apron the usual coins and pressing them firmly into Audra's grasp. "You look done in," she tells her, in a softer voice, "is there anything you'd like a hand with?"

The mistress baker knows better than to reject the offer of coin so she slips them into a pocket of her apron with a bemused smile. "I'll have the lads put it in after first rush, so it'll be ready before most folk are breaking their sup. Unless, of course, you work for a living." Audra waves the offer of help off with her dust-rag. "I was going to just sweep out the floors but I can manage that later. Just a long day, and a hot one."

"If you see a short one, let me know," is Esme's wry request. "Give me a broom and you sit down for a minute, you look as though you could use it. Or we might put your visitor to work, I suppose," she considers, "though it's not her usual sort, is it? … She came in the shop yesterday," she explains, "and mentioned where she was staying. Good of you to put her up. She seemed like a nice girl — a little too nice to be left to wander off by herself."

Audra takes a well-worn broom off the wall and offers it with a tired smile. "Visi— Oh. Violet. Sweet girl. Didn't have anywhere to lodge just yet and not much coin to her name either. While the weather's decent enough to sleep out of doors, girl like her might come to harm sleepin' in an alleyway." She sits as Esme requests, more-or-less leaning against an empty shelf of baskets where bread will go.

It is to be expected that a woman with dozens of highly-reputed cleaning-women at her command knows a thing or two about brooms, as well as knives; and with Audra's in hand Esme marches into the nearest corner and commences putting it to good and efficient use. She wastes not a single stroke, for whilst she cares very much for doing a thorough job, she's scarcely about to work harder than she must, is she? … And so the whisk, whisk of the broom against the floorboards underlies their continuing conversation.

"Quite so," agrees Esme darkly, nodding to Audra as she sweeps. Then she shakes her head and adds with a soft laugh, "I told her she might want to stop telling folk, especially the men, where she'd come from — she thought you must have told me all about her." Whisk, whisk. "All alone in the city, no kin to speak of, lovely soft hands and a figure like that, she's no serving-girl or milkmaid, now is she?" She gives the baker's wife an amused and knowing glance, as though to say, we're all women of the world here.

The floors are kept very neat and tidy, no doubt this will meet with some level of approval. But still- dust and flour and the muddy tracks of customer's boots will leave their mark.

Audra curls an errant strand of her hair around her finger as she chuckles. "I offered a position as a cart girl. Lovely thing like her can move twice as much as any of the lads, plus likely earn a tip or two simply for flashing a smile. But—" She sighs dramatically. "She's young and has a trade to speak of already, waitin' to get a proper place to apply it."

"Mmm. I understand she hopes to save wisely and retire young…" Again that knowing look, as though Esme's every bit as well-acquainted as Audra with the popularity of that scheme among young ladies of the night, and then with how seldom it comes to fruition. "… Someone's been in here with muddy boots," she pronounces in the self-same dark and disapproving tone with which she greeted the suggestion of young girls coming to harm sleeping in alleyways. "It really needs a good mopping after; where might I find a bucket?"

Audra pushes off the shelf with a wave of her hand. "Oh no, I'll handle the mopping m'self, Mistress Esme, you have your own shop to see to." She smiles at the notion of the saving and retiring though. "Not everyone is quite so lucky, not everyone makes it out. But if I can give a girl a glimpse of a good honest life, it's my duties to the Gods isn't it now?"

"Halloo, the house!" calls a voice from the doorway. Violet walks in carefully. "I think I left my hairbrush," she explains to whoever's there. Her face lights up when she sees the two women. "Mistress Audra! Mistress Esme! Are you baking pies?" she asks, excitedly. She walks over and examines their work, impressed. "Sorry for disturbing you two," she says, realizing her intrusion, and goes to look for said hairbrush.

"The girl's seeing to mine," explains Esme with an indulgent smile, "and I can't stand to see a floor in such a state, you know I can't." She keeps sweeping, at any rate, doing the best she can with the flour and dust and dried mud. There'll be precious little to mop afterwards. "And you're right, of course; if you can plant the idea in that pretty head of hers… you never know." Which is all she has time to utter upon the subject before it intrudes in the flesh, seeking the instruments of its beautification. "Good evening, Violet," she says pleasantly. "Only the one pie, I'm afraid, which Mistress Audra is kindly going to see baked for me bright and early… cherry pie," she adds.

Audra gives Violet a kindly smile as she brushes a bit of flour off her apron. "Hello m'dear. Yes, you did. I put it behind the counter for you," she says as she goes to fetch it. "Hope the bakery wasn't too hot or noisy. The lads didn't give you trouble, did they," she teases with a wink. She hands the hairbrush over and then tsks at Esme. "You'll have my floor cleaner than I can manage and then what am I do to, you'll make me look lazy." More teasing.

"It weren't so bad, and the boys weren't trouble. Don't tell 'em that, though. It'd break their little hearts," Violet says with a small grin, taking the hairbrush. "Do you need help with the floors?"

As usual Esme deflects any compliment paid to her deftness with housework; she shakes her head and looks down at the trail of muddy boot-prints she's briskly erasing and insists, "Oh, it's easy enough when you know how. I show all my girls who clean for me the right way of these things — it's less work all in all if you do it right the first time, and keep on top of it. I know you've not had a house of your own to think of for very long, Mistress Audra, and if ever you're not sure of something…" she offers discreetly.

Audra shakes her head in mild amusent. "Twixt you two I'm going to start thinking I'm a fine lady with servants to scrub my floors and fetch my ale." She pops round into the back and returns with a scrub mop and a bucket. "It'd be nice to see it properly done, Mistress Esme. As you said, I'm still learning the art of keeping a shop. And keeping it clean."

"It'd be the least I could do for your kindness," Violet says earnestly. She tucks the hairbrush into a pouch on her belt. She pauses for a moment in thought, before looking up at the two women again. "Cherry pie, you said…?" she asks hopefully.

Esme's eyes gleam. "You like cherry pie, eh?" she inquires of Violet, as she continues sweeping her way methodically across the bake house floor, demonstrating especial thoroughness in her treatment of under-table areas and the corners where shelves meet walls. "If you give us a hand with the mopping now, I might be persuaded to set a piece aside for you."

Audra yawns again. "Oh. Goodness. I'm exhausted," she says earnestly. "Why don't you goodwomen head on out and I'll take care of this in the morning. I'll be up before dawnrise anyhow." Baker's hours. She presses her hand over her mouth again. "I already told the lads when to pop the pie in."

Violet grabs a mop. "I do, in fact, like cherry pie," she affirms with a dimpled grin, getting to work. Looks like she's mopped a floor before. Go figure. "G'night, Mistress Audra!"

"The last thing you need in the morning is a floor to mop," Esme informs her neighbour sensibly, as she opens the door to send her sweepings straight out sideways into the gutter where they'll be washed away and never seen again. Then she returns the broom whence it came and commences her critique, for both girls' benefit, of Violet's mopping technique. "Now, see, dearie, you're holding it all wrong… You want to put your hands like this, it's easier on the back if you've got a big floor to do, or a whole house…"

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