(123-04-11) Visitors
Summary: Audra couldn't help but notice a regular visitor at Esme's over the way; meanwhile, she's expecting one of her own…
Date: 14/04/2016
Related: Related Logs (Say None if there aren't any; don't leave blank. You have to use full URLs, like http://gobmush.wikidot.com/logtitle)

After the dolphin festival, the bakery has calmed down. Even with the new business over at the popular theater, things have become sedate. It's another wam lazy evening so the shop is largely open and shut at the same time. The lady baker is mopping with the advanced techniques taught to her as she sings under her breath.

Green and orange stripes and a headscarf which matches neither come bustling into the baker's view, encapsulating Mistress Esme from the grocery (and the butchery, and also the service by which your home or place of business can be cleaned and tidied, very reasonably, no job too squalid). She is carrying as ever a pie-tin, wrapped in a linen cloth to keep it clean and safe on its journey across the street and back again; it's late for her to come in, she being such a morning person, but then, it's a Monday evening, and half the Shambles has already noticed the recent nature of her Tuesday dinners.

"… Oh! I shan't come in and walk on your floor," she calls, considerately, in view of the operations underway; and she hovers on the threshold and gazes with undisguised approval at the freshly gleaming surface in question. "I just thought I'd walk this over now for the morning, eh? If I'm not interruptin'."

"Dear mother Esme, do come in, I can always redo them. Just floors," Audra says cheerily. Her golden hair is wrapped in the usual bun and her blue work dress has the usual flour adorning it. "Preparing for supper tomorrow?"

"Aren't you sweet?" The little old shopkeeper beams. "Aye, floors are made for people, not people for floors," she agrees ruefully, "but I'd hate to spoil your work, when you're so near done for the day…" This she says whilst wiping her feet with extreme conscientiousness, not that they're in dire need of it after all day on her own pristine floors and the care with which she picked her way those few yards through the street. "Yes," she allows then, bearing the pie before her as she comes into the shop, "it's somethin' sweet to have tomorrow — I s'pose you know I always try to be beforehand if I can." And, with the fewest number of steps possible upon Mistress Audra's fine floor, she attains the table where she always puts down her pies, and puts down this one too.

Audra says, "Of course. We'll have everything ready when ready, as usual." She sets the mop in a corner and wipes her hands on her apron. "Having company again? Or is that fellow a new delivery lad?" The question is asked with casual curiosity. "Noticed a bit of new traffic around here."

After the pie comes the money, produced from the deepest recesses of a striped pocket; Esme pauses with the small coins still clasped in her fingertips, and looks up to give Audra an amused little smile of the oh-look-you've-caught-me variety. "Aye, well," she agrees, "as it happens I am expectin' company." She puts down the price of her pie's baking and pushes the coins nearer to Audra. "Smallest street in Oldtown, ain't it?" she asks, shaking her head.

Audra smiles knowingly as she pockets the coin. "So who's the gent? Long lost nephew? Sausage delivery boy?" She winks as she teases. "Our lives seem regular as day and night so any bits and blips get noticed."

Esme rolls her eyes at her young neighbour's teasing — but there's a small smile still playing about her lips. She doesn't really mind it. "He's an old acquaintance I happened to meet again," she explains vaguely, "when he wandered into my shop, quite by chance. He's fond of my cooking so he's been comin' to dinner on Tuesdays. I expect he'll keep on comin' till it seems as ordinary as anythin' else round here, and then there'll be nothin' at all to notice, will there?" she suggests, quirking her eyebrows. "… I'd take it kindly if you'd make that your point of view when you're passin' the time of day with all the rest," a glance this way and that indicates their neighbours; "my son don't need to hear any funny gossip that's been passed up and down the street so many times nobody knows where it came from or can make head or tail of it."

Audra holds up her hands innocently. "Twixt the two of us, nothing more. Also means I can quell any other nosey inquiries should they come my way. Words tend to go back and forth across the counter in the mornings when bread is being picked up for the day," Audra says with her red smile.

"… I've used that argument a time or two myself," sighs Esme, shaking her head again. Her look at Audra suggests it's not only the floor she's admiring. "Knowin' the truth of a thing bein' the best way to put the right face on it to others, I mean," she clarifies. "And if that's why you're askin' about my business — part of why you're askin'," her knowing expression suggests she's fully acquainted with the other reasons, "well, all right."

She lets out a sigh of amused resignation, and leans her forearms on the counter to confide in Audra in a quiet, woman-to-woman sort of manner. "He's an old family friend, let's call it," already he's being upgraded from an acquaintance, "and he's good company of an evening. My son's very dear to me, Seven bless him, and all the girls who work for me are hard-workin' and good," this in an earnestly virtuous tone, "I'd not have 'em else — but sometimes it's nice to have somebody a bit more grown-up to talk to, don't you think?" Which might also be why it sometimes takes Esme rather a while to deliver a pie for the baking. "I think you'll be seein' him come and go pretty regularly from now on, but there's really nothin' to say about that. Nothing's like to change."

Audra confides, "I know that feeling. Baker's boys and cart girls can't really chat about deep topics and suchlike, nor can my old lady friends down dockside." The blonde chuckles at that. "But I haven't been doing much of that lately. Don't want to give gossipy tongues more wag than usual."

Esme nods; she is all grandmotherly sympathy. "Young and pretty as you are, and with a bit of colour in your past, it's the kind o' talk bored people can't hardly resist," she agrees with a rueful shake of her head, "no matter how little there is in it. Shame you're obliged to consult public opinion as well as your own conscience, but that's the world we live in… Of course," and that small smile of hers turns to a chuckle, "at my time of life it's a different kind of talk, ain't it? Tryin' to solve the mystery. Long-lost nephews," she suggests, "or fellows wantin' to buy my shops out from under me. I heard that one last week and you may be sure I put a stop to it." A firmer nod.

Audra laughs and suggests, "Bastard son of yours who wandered out of a motherhouse t' find his ma." She holds her hands up to stave off insult. "Better we talk of this than why the chandler had a black eye two nights ago and his missus sulking like child without a sweet."

Again Esme chuckles, having no trouble joining in the joke. "Oh, aye, that he must be. A quiet homely little truth's never goin' to compare with the fun of tales like that, is it?" She sighs and sobers to a degree at the mention of their other neighbours. "Those two have never not had one trouble or another, have they?" She presumes Audra, though a relative newcomer to the Shambles, has heard tell. "I'd not like to put any more fuel on that fire," she admits; "best we stick to our own business, you and me. How are you and Terris gettin' on, by the bye? Did you have that time away you were talkin' of?"

Audra blushes. It reflects prettily on her face. "We did. And it seemed to do us a world of good." She gives a coy smile and runs her hand over her apron again. "Seems you're not the only one with a visitor comin' round…"

Immediately Esme who has been leaning upon the counter straightens to her full but diminutive height, the better to look Audra up and down with twinkling eyes and a growing grin. "You don't say," she marvels, obviously pleased that her young neighbour has said. "Now, what did I tell you? I said it'd come right, didn't I?" she demands delightedly. She lets out a soft 'ahhhh' and shakes her head, still beaming as though the good news were her own. "Seven bless and keep the two of you, dearie. How far along, d'you think? … I'll not say a word," she hastens to add, "till you're ready to have it be known."

Audra laughs as she hops up to perch on the edge of the counter. "I'd say about a two-month. I didn't give much credit to the first, but the second time things didn't come round I was fairly sure. I've seen enough girls who didn't take their preventatives so I could guess my own complaints were what I was hoping for.

The talk having turned so confidential Esme comes nearer, around the end of the counter, to lean her hip against the other side of it next to where Audra is sitting. She's adding it up in her mind. "Then when last we spoke of it, and you were frettin'," she says slowly, softly, her face tilted upwards and her eyes upon the younger woman's face, "you must've already been in the way of it. Isn't that funny? Ah," she sighs again, "I'm that glad for you… If there's anythin' at all you need help with," she insists, "I'm just over the way, mind."

Audra grins again, chewing on her lip a moment. "I suppose. Maybe the offerings we made to the Mother had some benefit, eh?" She touches her hand to the small crystal star at her neck. "Maybe he was just in a right fine mood after we got the profits from the festival. But give it another month or two before we start making lists of baby names and buying cradles. Just… to be safe." She holds her hand over her stomach again and smiles in a soft way.

As she speaks Esme is already nodding; "Much the wisest thing, dearie. Nobody's business but yours and his, till you're well on your way. … Not that I'm not flattered to know so soon, eh?" Her smile broadens again. "Mind you, if you keep holdin' your belly like that, the news'll be apt to get round a mite sooner than another month. My friend who visits on Tuesdays'll lose his place as a topic — so p'raps I ought to be encouragin' you," she chuckles.

Audra smirks at that and puts her hands behind her on the counter. "Don't tell my sweet man, please? He needs… I need to be sure. Seventy and Seven times sure. Nothing breaks a man's heart more than losing the daddy dream…" She's seen it somewhere in the streets. "And I love him too much to give him hope an' then have it fade."

Grey eyebrows lift in sudden surprise; but by the time Audra has finished speaking Esme is nodding her understanding. "Not a word," she says solemnly, "to him either. But— you had to tell someone, eh?" she guesses.

Audra rolls her green eyes. "Girls gossip faster n' wildfire spreads so I ain't about to share this down dockside. An' my ma died many years ago. But you know how we're trying, and what it means for him to have a son to pass this place on to. Gods be good it's a boy, but a girl just as well."

"Ten fingers and ten toes, and all the rest according to the Mother's plan," says Esme soothingly; "and whichever one you don't have this time, why, you're still so young— and now you know it's all workin', too." She pats Audra's knee. "You'll be all right, you and Terris, and your secrets are safe enough with me." She pauses. "I daresay you'd hang on to mine, too, well enough, wouldn't you? You're a sensible young woman, I've thought so ever since I saw how you began to settle in here. You have an eye for the future."

Audra says, "Those what have a past, they say." She offers a tiny shrug. "And what secrets would I be sharing, your steak and kidney pie recipe?" The blonde chuckles at that. "We're neighbors, and my Terris thinks of you as family, which means you are as mcuh to me."

"Oh, well," and Esme draws away, raising an eyebrow, "I'd not be quick to forgive anyone who went round talkin' of my steak and kidney recipe, family or no family." Her smile however suggests which category her favourite neighbours fall into. "The other thing, well, it ain't a secret, not really — I just want to make it seem as borin' as possible so people won't be inclined to make a fuss over it," she explains frankly. "For myself I don't mind bein' talked about, or bein' laughed at — I'm old enough and tough enough it goes in one ear and out the other and does no harm in between. But for my son's sake, I'd rather not inspire any talk he might end up hearin'. Best if nothin' happens to worry him, or confuse him, you see? People do take it into their heads to be spiteful sometimes. Better to be so borin' it ain't worth it."

Audra nods to the though, her legs crossing at the ankles. "Oh yes, he'd not take it well if confusing or conflicting news reached him, dear lad…" She smiles before she slips back down to her feet. "Well, let me get your things prepped for baking, and the floor is ready for a final bit of a hit."

"Yes. And that's why," agrees Esme, another private little smile flickering across her lips as she takes a step back from the counter, "we have a nice quiet family dinner on Tuesdays with an old friend, nothin' more. I'll let you get on, dearie, and I'll be back round myself for the pie, about the usual time. Spiced apple pie," she mentions, "new recipe I'm tryin'."

Audra oohs. "Tempting. I can see that a bunch of wee bitty pies may be a good seller. If you come up with a winning recipe and we take it to the Whimsey, we'll give you a right share of the profits," the young woman says with a smile.

Esme eyes her pie. "Don't reckon there'd be much profit in it," she admits, "considerin' the particular spices I put in… Mind you, your theatre trade can afford more than your cart trade, can't they? Might be worth discussin'," she laughs; "I'll let you know what we think of it, when we've eaten it. Goodnight, dearie, and I hope you'll be on your way up soon. You need your rest."

Audra gives Esme's hand a friendly squeeze. "I won't be long. I'll give Terris your hellos then. And give your boy ours, if ever gets a bit hungry, he's welcome to come over and grab a bite anytime."

Esme's hand, small and rather the more work-worn of the pair, returns the squeeze with interest; she gives Audra another broad, encouraging smile. "I'll tell him no such thing, or you'll have him round here at all hours beggin' for dolphin bread out of season." As is often the case when she's scoffing, protesting, or rebuking, she sounds faintly pleased. "Seven blessings to you, and just you remember what I said. Anythin' you might need."

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