(123-06-18) Pins In, Rings Out
Pins In, Rings Out
Summary: Esme has a present for Audra. Audra has a question for Esme.
Date: 18-23/06/2016
Related: Scrimshaw

The foot traffic between the grocery on the corner where the Shambles meets Oldtown Square, and the celebrate bakehouse further along, is constant, but consists largely of apprentices and delivery boys entrusted with raw ingredients or pies for the baking or very fine sausages for Master Terris's supper. It's been a couple of weeks, all told, since the last time Mistress Esme settled one of her perfect pastry lattices into place and found herself at enough of a loose end to warrant strolling across for a good gossip with Mistress Audra — but it was bound to happen sometime, wasn't it?

The little shopkeeper is wearing a very blue headscarf with her orange and green striped dress; she hasn't troubled to take off her apron, which is clean enough. "Not interruptin', am I?" she calls hopefully, stepping across the threshold with the linen-draped form of a pie tin in her arms.

Audra's hair is wrapped up in a white linen coif to keep it off her neck as she work with some of the more delicate pastries, pinching edges to make lovely cups. She's slender enough to where her pregnancy shows - her usually tight-laced gowns undone a touch on the sides for comfort. She smiles at the colorful woman and beckons her in. "Of course not, Esme. You're ever welcome here. Been busy as of late?"

Of course Esme's dress, by contrast, fits loosely about her small and skinny body, and is altogether shapeless. Still, it's cheerful and comfortable and covers her decently, and isn't that what matters—? "Oh, now, those are very fine," she exclaims, nodding to the pastry cups as she slides her own pie onto the edge of a long table, in the usual place. She has an eye for pastry. "And bless you for sayin' so, dearie, when I'm sure you must be rushed off your feet… I've been keepin' busy, I always do. How are you feelin', then?" she asks, smiling. It must be a question Audra is hearing a lot of these days.

"The worst seems to be over," the woman replies with her warm red smile. "The sickness has passed and I'm feeling normality again. The midwife says this is about the time the babe is going to start squirming and wriggling - so an all new set of stomach strangeness." She gives an approving nod to the pie and motions over to the ovens for a boy to take the pie for prep. "Terris has taken up learning cradle songs," she confides with a laugh.

Esme makes a face suggestive of being charmed. "Oh, now ain't that sweet," she says; "and I'm glad you're feelin' a bit more yourself. It's somethin', all right, to feel a babe movin' about inside," she muses, whilst rummaging through a pocket. "Edmyn wasn't an early riser yet by any means — he'd be wigglin' about and turnin' over half the night… I hope yours won't do that," she chuckles, setting the requisite coppers upon the table and pushing them over till they're adjacent to Audra's pastry-making operations.

Then her other hand delves into her other pocket. "Now, I've brought you a little somethin' else," she confesses. "Everyone'll be givin' you things for the babe, and that's a help, to be sure, but since you're the one goin' to all the trouble of carryin' him…" She produces something wrapped in a handkerchief and, since Audra's hands are still covered in flour, unwraps it to show her a whalebone hair ornament delicately carved with the likeness of a mother dolphin and her calf, leaping together over stylised waves.

Audra pauses to wipe her hands on her apron before she gingerly takes the hair comb out of the wrapping. "Oh goodness, this is lovely!" She delicately runs her fingers over the carving. "I feel like it's going to shatter in pieces! Ain't this a bit pricey though? I mean, bone is bone but this is the stuff nobs wear." A bit of her 'street' comes through in her surprise.

Esme chuckles softly, and has the good grace to look embarrassed. "If I'm honest with you, dearie, I've come into the way of a few o' these. Helpin' somebody sell 'em and get the price he deserves for his people's work. And a girl as pretty as you, well." She shrugs. "It'll look a sight better in your hair than it will in mine, won't it? And if anyone asks you where you got it, I'm sure you'd be kind enough to send 'em along to me, see?" And she inclines her head nearer, and she winks. "Not but what you don't deserve somethin' pretty, but I won't lie to you, there's somethin' in it for me, too."

Audra unwraps her coif and shakes her golden hair out before sweeping it up and sliding the comb into place. "Came by, hmm? Someone kill a big beastie and come by plenty of bones?" She raises her eyebrows suspiciously but smiles. "Moving from pies and dry goods into luxuries?"

That suggestion, Esme pooh-poohs by means of an incredulous expression and another chuckle. "Oh, no, not so's you'd notice," she sighs, shaking her head. And then she's all admiration, rocking up onto her tip-toes to get a better look at the hair ornament's place in the taller young woman's hair, at the curves of the dolphins arching above the curve of her bun. "That does look lovely on you, dearie — I knew it would. The fact is, they come from someone who wants to trade in kind, handiwork for provisions against the next winter — he ain't got no idea how to sell anythin', and I do, so…" Again she shrugs her thin shoulders, letting Audra draw the natural conclusions. "But people can't buy what they don't see, so I've got my girls wearin' em in the shop, and I thought you might like one too… but you're to keep yours," she laughs, quirking her eyebrows. She's not so generous with shop girls. "Just you wait till you're a mother — everything'll be for your children, then, and not enough for yourself. You should store up pretty things now, while you still can."

Leaning on the counter, Audra brushes her hands over the ornament again. "Here you go talking about the winter too. Bunch of damned northerners it seems. Summer's not even faded and yet here comes talk of snowfall." She chuckles at the thought. "But that's right kind of you to broker goods for someone. And I'll certainly point 'cross the way when people inquire. Hopefully it will garnish some trade, though most of the folk who buy here aren't the kind with coin for fripperies and finery."

"Nor in my shop, truth be told; but they ain't too costly, these pins and what not," concedes Esme, "and you never know where talk will end up once it's begun. From maids to mistresses sometimes, eh? … Thank you for understanding, dearie." She beams across the table, and clasps her hands together in a gesture of gratitude and satisfaction. A narrow band of paler skin on one finger shows where she wore a wedding ring for nigh on thirty years, until just a few days ago. "The winter I'm always gettin' ready for ain't the kind with snow, necessarily," she concedes, taking back the handkerchief and folding it and tucking it away in a pocket, "but I'm always pleased to be able to put somethin' else away for it."

Audra gently reaches over to take Esme's hand, to better study the lack of ring. She asks the question silently with raised eyebrows. She's not one to pry but she does look concerned for her neighbor.

The touch seems at first to surprise Esme, but she gingerly permits it; then, "Oh," she laughs, understanding what Audra's about, recognising the question in her eyes. "No, I didn't lose it," she says first of all. And, a trifle hesitantly, "Didn't seem quite fair to my friend, to keep wearin' it."

Audra smiles as she gives an understanding nod. "It's good to find a friend, my dear. Being happy is important in this world, no matter when it finds out." She gives Esme's hand a happy squeeze. "So when do we properly meet the gent, hm?"

Esme's fingers answer with a gentle pressure, and then she reclaims her hand and smooths her apron with it, quite unnecessarily. "Oh, well," she says offhandedly, "I'm not sure about that, to tell you the truth. His work don't leave him much time off, and what there is, we like to spend quietly," she admits, with a small smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. She clears her throat. "… Not that I've that much free time m'self, either,” she adds with hasty sobriety. “You know what it can be like.”

The golden girl nods in understanding. "Day in day out, work comes first. What time we get to spend to ourselves - no ovens no lads. It's precious. He's happy to not have to go out to seek company, and I enjoy having a sweet man at my side who thinks me as important as the Mother herself."

"Oh, well," and Esme quirks her eyebrows, "right now you are, dearie." She breathes out a comfortable sigh then. "Not half bad, is it? I'd forgotten," she concedes dryly, "supposin' I ever did know. Well, I mustn't keep you standin' round gossipin' all day," she supposes, accompanying the words with a tilt of her head and a twist of her lips which suggests she might have considered doing just that, if they were ladies of leisure. "I'll send a lad round for the pie, eh? And you just take care of yourself when you can."

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