My original plan of saving up for a house with the earnings I got from the inn was proving to be a bust. Since room and board were already included in my pay, what Hal could spare outside that, while not slave’s pay, wasn’t substantial enough to get me a place of my own anytime soon. Not to mention Gus’s held back growth spurt was coming back with a vengeance, thanks to make careful administrations with my magic, and he was never full. While Hal and Milly were fine just telling him to wait until the next meal, I knew intrinsically what was going on with his stunted body and put all my meager earnings towards filling that.
He protested. But when I told him it’d take me at least forty years for me to save up for the kind of place I wanted in which to raise babies, and that didn’t include the money I’d need to pay for servants to take care of minor things so I could focus on baby rearing (and there was the whole thing about how to have an income while I was living there), he acquiesced.
Still, it was awfully fast for the naggy, overprotective teen.
“Are the hunger pains really that bad?” I had asked in concern.
He shook his head, mouth full of chicken leg even as we spoke. “I want to be a man as soon as possible, and one with serious muscles.”
I sniffed an opportunity for fun. “Oh, muscles, is it? Whatever for?”
“What else?” he took another ravenous bite of chicken, tearing what was left from the bone.
“Are you actually interested in girls now?”
He rolled his eyes. “Muscles are used for more than attracting girls, stupid.”
“Sure, sure. You just want muscles to swing swords and beat the bad guys to save the girls.”
“Stop talking to me like I’m five. And I know what you’re doing, I’m not letting you toy with me.”
“So you’re into guys then?”
He coughed on the last bit of chicken in his throat, thumped his chest, and glared at me.
“Does that mean you’re into girls just because you’re not chasing after a guy?”
I sighed. “Ugh, you really are no fun. You’re supposed to flail and blush and be all like ‘I like girls! I like girls a lot!’”
“Well sorry to burst your bubble,” and he actually puffed out his skinny chest then a bit. “I’ve matured. So stop acting so childishly.”
I laughed. I laughed hard. Especially since Gus didn’t even look like a teenager.
Gus did all the scowls. “Could you not?”
But I just puffed out my chest like he did, lifting my chin to make a mocking imitation of his expression. “Surely. I’ve matured. Such childish acts are beneath me.”
He threw the chicken bone at me and stomped away.
“Milly! Give me something to do before I punch Lilly.”
“Mature men don’t hit girls!” I crowed after him.
Sadly, he didn’t retort back, sad being because I had the perfect comeback for if he did.
But he was, in part, correct. Gus had seemingly had an epiphany of sorts and wasn’t as bristly or quick to rise as he had been. Yes, he still nagged the life out of me about talking to the patrons or smiling to much or going shopping on my own and the list goes on, and I still find my moments to tickle at his hard-built pride. But he didn’t insult me so much. He didn’t snarl at me. And he never again said he hated me or wanted me out of his life.
The chicken coop came in, along with a small flock of chickens. My new pastime became chicken watching and seeing what I could poke into the wire for them to eat.
“What is wrong with you?” Gus had asked. “They’re just chickens.”
“No, they’re velociraptors in petticoats.”
“They have fluffy fat butts and claws. I find the contrast pleasing.”
I swung at him, which he aptly dodged and hopped back inside, chortling.
Another thing that changed after the big blow up episode was more of the regular patrons of inn joined Derrick’s club. Now when an unknowing visitor reached out to cop a feel or otherwise sexually harass me, it was a game for them to see who could deal with it the quickest. It was actually the most embarrassing thing to watch as it was basically a bunch of full grown men ranging between their twenties and sixties looking like fourteen year old boys strutting their stuff to scare off the other kids that looked at their kiddy girlfriend funny. Even the words they muttered about chopping off hands or finding where they slept sounded like something they’d heard in a boy-focused action film.
Even Gus thought it was awkward to watch, and he was the actual fourteen year old boyfriend.
“Well, makes less work for me and the love slave, at least,” he said.
“Oh, so Derrick’s THE love slave now? Why not the rest of them?”
“He’s paid the admission fee,” he said, rubbing his forefinger and thumb together to signify money.
And as though the universe had recorded Gus’s requisites, a familiar blushing ginger arrived one day during lunch time with a basket of various apple themed pastries.
“My mom—no—I made these for you. As a, um…a, um…”
Oh brother, this was painful to watch. His face had gone so red I wouldn’t be surprised if his freckles burned right off.
“A gift to get us acquainted, right?” I said, feeling my own neck heat up in pure, empathetic pain.
He nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, I wanted to get to know you just cuz, well, Mom said you had a really interesting personality and I, well, um…” He finally squeezed his eyes shut and actually covered his face with a hand. “Oh god, I am such a…just kill me where I stand, please.”
I couldn’t help but giggle, even though the moment I did it I worried it would have made him feel even more embarrassed. But his shoulders, which had been attempting to hunch over his ears, lowered ever so slightly.
“Hey, it’s alright. You can be as shy as you need to be. I’m not expecting you to act a certain way. Dealing with people can be scary, especially people you don’t want to think badly of you.”
He lowered his hand, peering above it with those watery blue eyes. His face really wasn’t that bad. He had cute, boyish features, even though they contrasted heavily with his ripped shoulders and arms.
After gulping and wiping down his face, he said, “Well, there. I did it. I wanted to—to introduce myself, uh, properly. Crap, that’s right, I’m Glen Rights. You’re Lillian, right?”
I did a short curtsy, as much as a modern me knew how to do (thank you TV). “Yep. That’s me. You can call me Lil’ or Lilly for short. Thanks for the pastries. I love apple stuff.”
“I’m glad,” and he gave a cautious smile. “You should, uh, come by…sometime. I have breaks after the second toll. Maybe we could…talk? Just, you know…have a break?”
I smiled, trying not to show too much of my amusement at his shyness. “Next time I’m down town for shopping, sure.”
He positively beamed at that, startling me. I didn’t think such a so-so answer could make someone so happy. Even after saying good-bye and leaving the inn I caught him doing a skip and a fist-pump down the street.
“He’s got it bad,” said Gus, who had somehow magically appeared at my elbow.
“Totally doesn’t know what he’s asking for,” I said. “But look, pastries! More fuel for this man-child’s ambitions of growth!”
He gave the basket I offered him a dry look. Sighed. Then took the basket.
“Little do the love slaves know all their goods go to me,” he said, taking up his first sweet bun. But rather than stuff it into his mouth, he held it up to mine.
“You might as well have some. You weren’t lying when you said you liked apples, right?”
“Yep!” And I took a big chomp out of the bun. I squealed at the perfect mix of tart and sweetness.
Gus had a very, very odd look on his face.
“What?” I asked around the roll.
He blinked, shook his head, and stuffed the roll into my hand.
“Don’t ever eat from a guy’s hand, got it?”
I rolled my eyes. “Yes, because I’m eating from everyone’s hands like the mutt I am.”
“Do guys seriously get turned on by that?”
“Did you get turned on by that?”
His head snapped round, but I didn’t give him the time to deny it before squealing in mock horror, hands all up like a traumatized damsel witnessing her innocence go down the drain. “Eww! Gross! Gussy got aroused!”
“I did not!” he yelled, probably for the first time in weeks since his ‘epiphany.’ “You’re the gross one! I can’t believe you actually said ‘aroused,’ you’re disgusting!”
“Yes, I’m the gross one. Look at me eat this pastry all sultry and sexy like, oo oo, yum yum.”
“Shut up, you’re such a weirdo!” But his ears were still red when Hal called him over to help him manage the lid on a barrel of flour.
I smirked. I smirked like a fiend.
Perhaps I’d get grandbabies yet.