The height of summer came rolling in with a solid week of rain and thunderstorms, followed by a weak of blistering, humid heat. I had never done well in the heat to begin with, and that was with an air-conditioning equipped world.
Needless to say, the damp curtains over the windows and wet towel around my neck wasn’t enough. During our lunch break every day I could hardly see what Gus and were reading. He had mercy enough on me to leave me be, though by the second day he was using the book to fan me instead. When I’d get up to go back to work, I’d have to lean on something until my vision came back, my blood pressure had dropped so low.
Gus’s nagging got even worse.
“Just go to bed, Lil’. I don’t care that you have work, you’re worthless as you are right now. Lay. Down.”
“Holly crap, were you raised in ice?”
“I can’t remember your original skin color, you’ve been red for so long.”
“Here. What do you mean what? Dunk your head. In the water. God above, you can’t even understand the words I’m saying anymore.”
“Hal, Lilly’s passing out again.”
“Lilly, sit. Damn it, sit your butt down, in this corner, and drink. You budge an inch and I’m kicking you.”
Hal and Milly didn’t even have to say anything. Gus worried and nannied enough for both of them.
Despite how much I hated it, Gus probably saved me from heat stroke. Or dying from it. I wasn’t entirely certain I was avoiding it.
It totally made me worship Milly, though.
“How do you do it?” I asked on the third day from the doorway of the kitchen, not daring to go into the oven it had become with all her cooking. “You’ve got to be some sort of fire god. No, goddess. Yeah.”
Milly, face glistening with sweat, and permanent dark wet tacos underneath her armpits, laughed.
“I ain’t anything special. You’re just delicate.”
I had huffed at that. I strongly disagreed. But I couldn’t really argue, since in the short time we had talked I had melted to the floor and spread out like a starfish in order to get as much of me on the cool stone as I could.
“Would you fire me if I worked naked?” I asked Hal when he found me like that, three minutes later, as he walked down the hall.
“Yes,” he said, though not without looking amused.
“You look quite stout from this angle.” His feet were by my head as he looked down at me. He had yet to step over me, so my deranged mind figured this was the optimal position for a friendly conversation. “Like a wall. A tall wide wall. Hal tall. Heh heh. Punny.”
He looked at me for a few seconds longer before finally stepping over me. When he came back, it was with a bucket of ice cold water from the spigot, which he proceeded to dump over me.
I came to with a shriek, choking and spluttering.
“I needed to clean the hall anyways,” and he even spread his hands to start up a water spell that would turn the water he had just dumped on me and the floor into a glassy, blanket-like mop.
Though it wasn’t a long term fix. It only meant I was going to be soggy for the rest of the day AND hot. Freaking humidity. Freaking storm front that brought it in. Freaking weaksauce body that couldn’t stand heat or soap. Guh! What about this was anything like Methuselah?
My pink dress was out, even if the flowy, loose fitting top were cooler. It was white and thin, and therefore, see through whenever Hal or Gus saw fit to throw water in my face, which was increasing as the days went by, so I went blue dress and put the pink dress in for cleaning. Though that made me begin to wonder if I would have to retire the thing soon since my sweat seemed to be dying it green in some places. What was up with that?
And don’t even talk to me about night time. Gus and I took turns sleeping on the bed, on top of the covers, and the nice, cool floor. He threw a fit when I stripped to my underwear to sleep, but freak, this lands underwear was like capries and a tank top back home.
“It’s not like you can see anything,” I said from the bed, my face half smothered by my pillow and heat exhaustion. I couldn’t care less about everything at that moment.
“Yes I can!”
When I didn’t even respond to him, just cracked a bleary eye open to catch his flustered splayed-leg position on the floor, he screwed up his face.
“Fine.” He threw his pillow on top of me, then swooped the lone thin blanket he had on the floor over him like a tent. “Fine!”
I did an earth-worm jiggle to get the pillow off (even that was too much covering for the heat) and gave a happy sigh. It was as close to cool as I had been all day.
It was getting beyond frustrating to me how the heat seemed to affect only me like this. The patrons actually had fun watching me zombie around the room, forgetting orders, half-drowned in attempts to stay cool, and flushed. They seemed to find it amusing to repeat Gus’s lines at me and having me sneer or mutter something about ‘toughing it out’ or ‘working through my stupid delicacy’ back at them.
Course, when Gus wasn’t making me sit down and drink my weight in water, Derrick was.
“Sit lass, you’re redder than a tomato.”
That just rubbed me in all the wrong ways, because not only was the heat like nothing to Derrick, but he worked over a freaking forge all day.
Or, at least, I thought it didn’t affect him.
The fifth day in was proving to be the worst yet. Even Milly had to shut down the oven and think of a meal that didn’t require a fire. The chickens were looking half-dead under their little house in the run, having bathed themselves in dust till they had completely covered their original black, white, and red colorings. Gus was just as soaked as I was, and Hal kept twirling his hand around his head. Turns out it was a cooling spell that used water, but since it took a lot of his sparse magic to cast it, it was his last resort. When he walked past it was like a poof of sea breeze brushed in my face, though because of it he ended up slumped down behind the bar for the majority of the day, exhausted.
Few patrons came in that night. Only the bachelor laborers of the neighborhood straggled in, stinking to high heaven and as damp as the rest of us.
I had just bullied myself out of my seat in the corner to take the first orders of the day when the front door burst open and a familiar black bear staggered in.
“Hal, Milly,” Derrick gasped.
He stumbled, and instantly half the room was on their feet to catch him.
I saw red and dashed over before I had even registered what it was.