You are in your flower shop. Soil enriches your caked hands. Flowers fill planters and bushes erupt from pots. Enchanted lanterns bleed bright light. The last afternoon sun streams in through the lattice window.
The postage boy, seen through the window, walks by the shop. You should [[check if he has any mail for you->Postage]].You clean your hands on your apron and slip out the door. You hail the boy.
He jaunts over, wirey and nearly twice your height. He salutes, his form poor. His union cap barely sits steady, barely held by his curvy pointed ears.
A flutter passes through your heart. You draw postage from your pocket, the (link-reveal:"latest letter.")[
It's [[unlikely->Send Mail]] he has any mail, though you could [[check->Any Word?]].The boy accepts the post, bowing briefly, his cap nearly toppling. The moths die. The boy's bag flops against his hip as he jaunts away.
The evening sundown gilds your storefront. The wrought iron baskets overflow with dew-speckled flowers.
[[Your shop needs to be tidied up->tidy up]]. But the day's been long, and it would be a shame to miss the sun. [[There's always the morning->closing early]].Butterflies flutter through your chest, bringing hesitation. The words find their way out regardless: "Are there any letters for me?"
The boy shakes his head. "Nothing." He pauses a second, thinking. "You're expecting something?"
"Hoping." (link-reveal:"You pause.")["Sometimes, no news is good news."]
You [[hand over->Send Mail]] the next letter.(set: $checked to true)You slip back into the shop. The flowers need attention, and you indulge. The rich soil is welcoming. The blooming lavender elicits sweet memories of the southern islands.
His ring is heavy against your chest. The brass glows warmly. The stone glows dimly.
The sun shifts purple. (link: "Time to close up.")[You flick around the small wooden sign in the window. You hang your apron on the back of the door.
After finishing the work, the evening air is all the more [[satisfying->Evening]].](set: $tidied to true)The sun is a valuable commodity. You return to the shop for a moment, to hang your apron and flip the sign. The mess worth no more than a light scoffing.
The rickety wooden chair calls you. It accompanies the wrought iron baskets along the storefront. (link-reveal:"It creaks as it welcomes you.")[
The heavy ring is warm against your chest. Your fingers slide into your vest and pull out the chain. The brass is warm. The red stone glows. A relic from home, but a promise from *him*.
The cooling air lingers in your chest. The sun begins to hue blue. It's a [[brisk evening->Evening]].]The night air fills you. You wait. (link:"The night has no purpose yet.")[
A familiar face approaches. Agatha, her lute upon her shoulder, her sandy hair almost tangled amidst the strings.
(link-reveal:"You wave, smiling.")[(display:"speaking")]]You shout to her, "I had nearly forgotten you were playing tonight."
She smiles, and waves. "You'll like my new song." She stoops when she reaches you, to embrace for a long moment. "It might be a tear-jerker."
Your smile falters only a second. "What kind?"
"The kind about love."
The falter is full. (link:"Oh.")["I see."]
She firmly nods. (link:"She expected you to react like that.")["Walk with me to the pub?"
Your smile returns. "[[Of course->Pub Night]]."]Folks cram the tables of the pub - Playing craps, drinking frothy meads, and conversing about their prosperity. A small group of lanky teenagers sit in the corner, playing some game with papers and figures. A stone alcove by the fire waits for Agatha.
You both approach the bar. She speaks with the manager for a moment. All appears well, and she turns to you. "Wish me luck!"
(link-reveal:"You stick up your thumbs.")[
She sits on a box in the alcove. She summons her music, echoes it across the tavern. Some folks stop talking, others continue, but between songs is applause and hoots of approval.
Her eyes lock with yours. She announces a dedication, "to a lovesick friend, who's been waiting for a long time." Some eyes trace to you.
[[She plays.]]]Your eyes are puffy. It's easy to pretend its from the mead. She's earned a mug, which she drinks in one long chug.
After a moment of silence, she asks you the question: "How did you like it?"
(link-reveal:"It takes a moment to think of what to say.")[
[[- "You spoke from my heart better than I could."->speak more]]
[[- "I'm not sure I can wait for him."->speak more]]
[[- "It hurt to hear it all."->speak more]]
]The moment of thought drags on. None of it sounds right. "It was good," you say. "Thank you."
She nods. After another round, she firmly clasps your shoulder. "[[Let's get you home.]]"You arrive back at your shop. She turns to you, looking apprehensive. "Thane, we must talk."
You nod, (link-reveal:"waiting.")[
She speaks slowly, deliberately: "Thane, you know I care deeply for you." Her eyes are warm, concerned. She grasps your shoulders softly. "I hurt to see you like this."
(link-reveal:"What can you tell her?")[
She embraces you tightly. "I trust you, and if you think this is right..." She sighs. "I just hope he's back soon."
(link-reveal:"You hope far more than she ever could.")["You must think I'm a fool, to wait for *him*."
"Thane, I want you to be happy." She slips her fingers through your hair. She pauses, looking your face over, before continuing: "I see how happy you are when you think of him."
(link-reveal:"Tears have returned to your eyes.")["He'll be here soon," you stammer. "I know it."
(link-reveal:"The sobbing begins. She holds you for several minutes")[, until your strength returns. She pulls back as you recompose, smiling easily. "Another round in couple nights?"
You wipe your eyes and (link-reveal:"force a grin.")["Aye. I'll see you."
After another brief embrace, she walks away, the lute bouncing on her shoulder. It's hard to tell if you feel calmer, or worn out. [[It's been a long day.]]]]]]]]You stumble up the alley stairs to your (link-reveal:"room above the shop.")[ (if: $tidied is true)[It's good you finished work before you left. (if: $checked is true)[Deep sleep will come easy.] (else:)[Sleep may not come easy, and you'll need the extra time.]](else:)[You'll have to get up early to finish work, (if: $checked is true)[but at least you'll sleep deeply tonight.](else:)[but the waiting has accustomed you to short rests.]]
(link-reveal:"You climb into your bed.")[There's space next to you, empty, (link-reveal:"for *him*.")[ You reach into your shirt, and pull the ring out again. It fits snugly on your finger. (link-reveal:"You can faintly feel his heart beat through it.")[ (if: $tidied is true)[You roll over, restless, and look out the window. The crescent moon hangs in the sky. (if: $checked is true)[You want to watch it in his eyes. You wonder how (link-reveal:"soon")[(show:?Ending)] he'll be home.](else:)[A star shoots across it. You wish he'd return (link-reveal:"sooner")[(show:?Ending)].]] (else:)[You place the warm hand on his side of the bed. (link-reveal:"//Soon//")[(show:?Ending)], you think to yourself.]
By now you should be on the road. I hope your journey is going well, and that you found good companions. I wait for you with excitement. I want to hear about your travels.
My shop is flourishing, and this spring the flowers seem more vibrant than ever. I have a growing number of regular clients. My lavendar is finally blooming.
I know writing back will be hard when you're between cities. Take your time. I know you had trepidations about the journey, but I have to reassure you: The people here are good.
I will see you soon.
- T]The song is slow at first. (link-reveal:"But it picks up.")[
She doesn't name you.
She doesn't name him.
She doesn't name what you have.
(link:"But...")[But her voice rips your heart out through your ears. (link-reveal:"Tears escape your eyes.")[
The song climaxes. The tavern explodes. With a quick wipe of the eyes, you join their cheering. Slowly, the room returns to its mood. You take the time to regain your composure.
[[She approaches.->You speak to her afterwards]]]]]**Elsewhere: A Flower Shop**
Written by Shade Jackrabbit
*This short story is written to accompany a D&D campaign I'm running, as some fluff to satiate my players between games. They are voracious, and yet I so gladly feed them.*