(123-03-12) A Pie For Every Tin
A Pie For Every Tin
Summary: The Dolphin Festival is over, and Audra and Esme both have pretty new things to show for it. Also, there are pies.
Date: 11/03/2016
Related: Dolphin Tournament.

The festival has come and gone and the hubbub of activitie has finally died down. With less demand, the bakery is not as bustling as usual - in fact some of the lads are missing and off enjoying the summer sunshine outside of the hot ovens and dough racks. The mistress of the house, however, has no such luxury. She instead works the counter clad in a new gown of turquoise, blue, and grey. Something lovely and entirely new - a luxury for those of the middle classes. Her golden hair is pulled into the usual bun and dusted with flour - as always. She wraps up several loaves for a customer and sends them out into the hot streets with a cheerful smile and a wish of a good afternoon. With the shop quiet, she leans on the counter and sighs for the much needed rest.

Alas the bakehouse is doomed not to be quiet for long. The bright little red and blue striped figure of Mistress Esme from over the way bustles into view, carrying one of her linen-wrapped pie-tins, shepherding a pair of her delivery boys, each of whom is likewise burdened. Three pies! At once! A pie for every tin! And then she glances behind her to gather up another boy, whose task it is to bring up the rear with a shallow dish full of small pasties.

"Afternoon, Mistress Audra," she calls, and then as she takes in the sight of Audra in a gown almost as colourful as her own (but rather more attractive, and indubitably better-cut) her eyes widen. "Well, well. Your husband's as good as his word, then, dearie? It looks splendid on you," she declares, looking over the younger woman with every evidence of pleasure, "and well-earned too I daresay… Put it down there," she says hastily to the boy with the pasties, pointing, because he is quite a small boy and the weight of so much good food looks as though it might become too much for him. "There, and the rest — yes, that's it. Now run along, eh? I'll not need you again today."

"Hello," Audra replies cheerfully. "Isn't it grand?" She rounds the counter and does a little twirl of the fine linens. "We took in more than we expected - and I daresay the lads of yours can vouchsafe the last minute 'Dear Gods we need more mutton!' orders I sent over." She pauses to look at the tins. "And what have you here today?"

Esme watches the boys run off, two in one direction in search of trouble and the third more sedately home to his mam; then looks quickly back to Audra, admiring her twirl. "Aye, that's very fine with your eyes… I've never seen my mutton go toward somethin' prettier," she assures her neighbour. "Your first Dolphin Festival," she marvels, giving her head a little shake. "I feel almost as though it was mine too, I saw so much more of it than I'd done before! And ate plenty of your dolphin bread, too," she chuckles, "more'n I should've done, I daresay, but at my time of life the last thing I worry about is my figure."

Audra has to groan at the mention of bread. "I tied my fingers into knots shaping those, but they sell insanely well." She wriggles her fingers and sighs. "I'm glad it's over, but it was remarkably fun. I never got to play with it from this side of things; actually -enjoy- myself even if it was a ton of work." She pauses and says, "I heard you had an interesting time at the tourney?"

The boys put down the pies too haphazardly for Esme's taste. She steps nearer to the counter and her fingers nudge them into a nice tidy row. "Oh," she raises her eyebrows and laughs again, "that I did, dearie… You could've knocked me down with a feather, never mind a lance. Of course he's a customer of mine — Ser Malcolm I mean — but they do look so different up there on horses, don't they, and in all that armour…"

Audra eyes the pies once more with a curious glance. "Oh I've not met him 'fore. Not that fancy Sers stop in for pies or loaves of garlic-bread." She chuckles again. "Seems like it's a thing of lore though. And I can only imagine what it'd fetch to a jeweler - if you don't hang it up on your wall."

"I've not been at all sure what I ought to do with it," confides Esme softly, in case the thieves of the world are eavesdropping upon her in the empty bakehouse, "but I think I've decided I shall keep it… I don't need the coin, not really," she admits, despite the humble nature of her upstairs flat, to which Audra herself could testify, "and just havin' it's as good as money in a bank, I daresay, and… it's growin' on me, I don't mind tellin' you. It's always the memories attached to a thing that are worth more than the thing itself, don't you think? That's the real value, above silver and sapphires."

Audra glances at the rough cut emerald of her ring. She can agree to that. It's not the finest piece of jewelry a girl's ever worn but it's the sentiment. "All depends on the lady. Good folk value meaning over value. Can tell a lot about a person by what they hold dear, can't you?" The baker grins at that. "Do they love money or what the money can provide? Do they love the person they're providing for or themselves? All good questions."

Esme's eyes follow Audra's down to her ring. (She herself wears a thin, plain gold band, in remembrance of her late husband.) "You really can," she agrees on the subject of character analysis. "I never thought to have such a thing, of course," she admits, "and certainly not from the likes of him — it'd never have entered my head to miss it if he hadn't! — but he said to me—" A pause, a tilt of her head, as she recollects. "It was the right thing to do, because a true knight is always generous. He really meant it, too. Such a nice young man, I always think, with such nice manners. Very fond of the spiced sausages we do."

"Proper knights are lovely things, ain't they?" The girl laughs brightly. "Always good to see they're about the honor and protecting women and not just pounding away on one another with a sword." She nods in agreement. "But that's right kind of him. Only knight I know per say is the Tyrell lord over at the theater. We just struck a deal to keep supplying the Whimsey, so I'll need to sit with you and when we've time to go over inventories and plan ahead." Audra smiles warmly and looks at the pies. "Do those need heating up?"

"Bakin' for tomorrow," explains Esme, nodding to the products of her culinary labours. All morning. "Some friends of ours have invited me and Edmyn to a picnic in the country, and of course I want to take the best I can make — it's a steak and kidney, a rhubarb and strawberry, another with mixed berries, and three kinds of pasties. I've been up since—" She makes an exaggerated gesture. "Tryin' to get through all this as well as the rest. Still, it'll be worthwhile tomorrow, eh? Will the day after be soon enough to talk over what else you'll need for the Whimsy? That Ser Loryn, he's another nice boy, isn't he — he gave Ser Malcolm a right bit of trouble at the tourney, too," she mentions.

Audra says, "Day after is fine." She waves the issue off - no rush. "And he's asking me to make HIM up a picnic basket as well for a lady. Asking me how to properly romance someone - but denying it at the same time." She snorts in dry amusement. "I almost wanted t' remind him that I wasn't the best person to recommend about how to win a woman proper. I told 'im my husband won me with hot meals and a soft bed and gentle consideration." She glances back at the bakery and smiles. "Picnic sounds lovely, before the autumn chills creeps up whenever it is."

"Day after," agrees Esme with a nod. And then she chuckles at the image thus presented to her. "Oh, dear, and him a Tyrell lord—! You'd think if the talk were anythin' to go by, romance was invented up at Highgarden. Still, a picnic's a good start for him, isn't it. Easier to get to know each other a bit when things are so informal and you're passin' the plates yourselves instead of waitin' upon a servant to do it, I should think." She tilts her head. "But it don't seem that unlike, really, now that I think on it. A woman choosin' a man is always choosin' the life that goes with him and that'll be hers too, and with him it'd surely be the softest. I hope she's clever enough to say yes."

Audra shakes her head as she smiles. "He's got it something bad. Distracted, staring out the window, anxious. Looked like he needed a girl to take his mind off the girl, if you know what I mean." She arches her eyebrows, wordly women they both are.

That thought causes Esme's lips to twitch. "Fight fire with fire," she agrees gravely, "some say it's the only way." She rarely bothers taking off her apron just to walk across to the bakehouse; today it's almost as flour-dusted as Audra's own (and no wonder, after three pies and all those pasties), and her hand absently straightens it before reaching into a pocket beneath to produce the cost of so much baking. "Here, dearie, lest I forget," she insists, picking small coins from her handful and lining them up along the edge of the counter in front of the pies. "I don't know where my head is today!"

The baker's lady has learned not to reject or try to haggle over the coinage. She pockets it instead with a smile. "We'll make sure they're ready to go come morning, so you can go and enjoy the picnic. Maybe I'll talk Terris into abandoning the shop for a few hours, we can go do something similar ourselves. Just relax a bit. We gave some of the boys a week off to go and cool down after all that festival work."

With a casual (hah) glance down to Audra's waist, so slender still in her new gown, Esme opines that, "It might do you good, the pair of you. You can hardly have seen each other these last few weeks, and that's not good when your marriage is still so new. Don't want to grow apart when you should still be growin' together, eh?" She nods to the pies. "And I know you will, I don't worry. Master Terris's reputation is for reliability and you've done nothin' but add to it in your time here, dearie," she assures Audra kindly.

Audra is sadly still thin but it's a natural thin rather than a lean hungry thinness. "Might be lovely. We've busy night and day around here, haven't much 'us' time lately."

"It's like that sometimes," agrees Esme. "Your time gets away from you if you don't keep a tight enough hold on it…" She speaks of course as one whose husband was the other half of her own business, though so far she has had little or nothing to say of him to Audra but that he existed, and he liked foreign food. "Still, if you make an effort." She nods firmly, suggesting that this is the important thing. Then she glances about in every direction, and having satisfied herself that they really are unobserved — the remaining bakery boys concentrating on their work, the passersby oblivious — she takes a couple of quick little steps nearer to Audra. "D'you want to see it?" she asks, almost guiltily, touching the rather high neck of her dress.

Audra blinks as she processes for a moment. "See… the necklace? Oh Gods yes, I'm curious. I figure somethin' like that is worth what you or me makes in a year at the -least-."

"More'n that, I reckon," confides Esme quietly. Her quick and clever work-worn fingers hook the necklace out of its hiding place to gleam and glitter against her striped cotton dress: silver dolphins, sapphires so blue they have almost a purplish cast to them, and a single small and precious firegem placed to rest just beneath the hollow of her throat.

Audra breaths softly in awe and appeciation. "Mother's mercy, that is… oh so lovely." She shakes her head slowly as she whistles. "I've never seen anything so richly made. It's beautiful."

The dolphins were indeed finished with exquisite care — the more closely one looks at them, the finer their detail… The firegem blazes another moment against a blue stripe of Esme's dress and then, sighing and giving her head another shake, she tucks it away again out of sight. "It is, right enough," she agrees, "and wasted on me, of course, but it's growin' on me. D'you know he had two of them? Ser Malcolm I mean. He won the same last year."

"Wasted." Audra puts her hands on her hips as she draws back. "Nonsense. It's a sign of the Mother's favor- love and charity and piety and whatnot. I doubt there is anyone who would contest you embodying those values, Esme." She shakes her head in wry amusement. "Your love for your boy is known through all the Shambles, and when have you ever missed your Sevenday prayers?"

The little shopkeeper looks away from the onslaught of praise, straightening her apron again (and this time quite unnecessarily). "Oh, well," she says uncomfortably, "if you're goin' to put it like that. But there ain't anythin' unusual in a mother lovin' her child, and you'll know that for yourself soon enough, I hope. It changes you, it always does."

"I hope," Audra echoes with a small smile. "Spent years doing everything a girl could to -avoid- a babe and here I am prayin' for one. Maybe the Mother's making sure I've gone on the up and up before she blesses me." Her cherry red smile falters a bit. "I wouldn't want to condemn Terris t' childlessness, it's… he wants a son so badly and I'd be overjoyed to give him one." The cool and collected veneer fades a moment as she looks miserable. Truly afraid she can't do right by him.

It's more than Esme can resist. She closes the slight distance between them and pulls Audra into a quick hug. "Ohhh," she sighs, patting the younger woman's back a few times with a reassuring hand before letting go of her. "It'll come right, you'll see. I had the same worry — only worse, because I thought I might have been too old — but we had a son, right enough, and though he wasn't what we'd ever thought of we never loved him the less for it. It'll all come right," she repeats, holding Audra's eyes with her own, earnest and intent, "for you too. It's not been so many months yet, not at all."

Audra lowers her voice a little as she leans in against the tiny old woman. "Don't tell him, please? He's so hopeful. I don't want him to think there's something wrong with me. Hopefully if we just keep trying and praying, She wil be kind."

"I'll not say a word. But I'm sure there's nothin' the matter with you," insists Esme, patting her arm this time, "you're young and you're healthy, and the Mother always has a special ear open for prayers like yours. Don't keep worryin' and tryin' though, eh?" she suggests, quirking an eyebrow. "Just enjoy yourselves and trust in Her to choose the right time for you."

Audra blushes as she chuckles. "That's why I think perhaps a day or two away from the shop - no stress, no apprentices needin' to be watched at all hours, just he and me and relaxing a bit. Might help." She sighs as she steps back and adjusts her gown a touch. "He was proud of buying me this, it's lovely isn't it? Had it tailor made and all."

Esme nods understandingly. "I'm sure it will, dearie," she maintains, "and in a few months' time you'll be wonderin' what you could ever have been so worried about." She gives the dress another examination, the corners of her mouth tending upwards. "It's very fine… and he must be so glad to see you wearin' it. They're like that about their presents. It's no good puttin 'em away for best, or they'll always think you didn't like it, whatever it was."

Audra says, "It's fine and fancy, oh yes. I wore it when I went back to the Whimsey. I'll likely not wear it when I'm doing a lot of work or walking the carts about, but he's quite pleased to be able to buy me pretty things and me wear them." She seems to get some cheer back and smiles. "He works so hard, poor love. I thought it'd be easier on him when I stepped in, but he just finds other ways to keep himself busy in the back." She takes a peek at the rhubarb pie curiously, peering into the tin. "Should be a lovely morsel. Other than beautiful gifts of jewelry, how's business?"

"Not doin' too badly," concedes Esme, eyeing her pie — not that she doesn't trust Audra, but it's a special pie, "and picking up nicely too after it was slow during the festival. This year I said to myself I'd finally get out and — oh, see the dolphins come in, and this and that. And I did. As you will too, dearie, when your son's the baker here and you and Terris'll be in a position to take time off again durin' the festival weeks," she chuckles. "Not before, though, I shouldn't wonder. Well. There's a season for everything."

"When wee Terris is old enough to take over? Give me a score of years and then we'll talk." Audra is assuming Esme will be around by then, why wouldn't she be still alive? "How was the dolphins proper? I hear things like magical and inspiring and pious… but others just say they're overgrown fishies." She giggles. "Not that they didn't make for some lovely inspired breads and marzipans."

"Oh, I'll not be here to talk to, but p'raps you can tell my son about it," chuckles Esme, a realist who then breathes out a quiet sigh. "Ahhh… It was a beautiful thing to see. More than any jewels, to be sure. One of the Mother's own miracles, so many of Her creatures comin' here all at once, and we know why. If you'd seen it you'd not be worryin' about when wee Terris was coming along, nor need reminding just to trust Her."

Audra gives a faint sigh. "I would expect so. Just the wonders of life and all that. Far prettier sight than what I'm used to in the harbors I'd wager." She runs her hand over her hair and smiles at that. "I should have found the time to go. I barely slept as it was. So much to do between the carts and the theater. I think we both slept half a day once the festival proper ended."

"… Only half a day?" Esme looks amused, and shakes her head again. It's best not to look too closely at that green scarf with the little yellow dots, it could give a person a mild headache. "Well, I'll let you get on. I've left half my work undone this morning to get my pies in order for tomorrow, and that'll never do, will it? Can't let the apprentices start thinkin' my eye's not on 'em. Good day to you, Mistress Audra, and Seven blessings too."

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