We dropped by the bakery on our way back. And, as luck would have it, the shy, ginger Rights man had the till. He nearly jumped out of his apron on seeing us walk in.
“Li-Lillian! It’s been a while.”
“Yeah, it has been. Work’s been insanely busy. I’ve only now gotten a break.” Crap, I’ve forgotten his name.
Gus, who had his hands in his pockets like your usual swaggering teenager, grinned and reached out for my hand. I thought it weird he was actually doing such a childish thing as holding my hand in public when he did everything he could to act big, but then I felt the squiggly tendrils of his magic and sighed.
Going to run a commentary in my head, are you? I thought, even as I put up a mental wall I’d learn to build to cover up my thought on how I’d just managed get through one of these kinds of conversations with Nehcor.
Pretty much, I heard from him, zinged up through my nerves to my mind. It was his latest trick, telepathy. At least he wasn’t practicing cutting off my nerves. Apparently, mind magic applied to the whole nervous system.
“Your—your name was, um, Gus, right?” said the man.
“Yep. Glen, right?”
“Yeah. That’s impressive. I really suck at names.”
You forgot his name, didn’t you? Came Gus’s thoughts. Poor guy.
Shut up. I couldn’t talk telepathically and out loud at the same time. At this rate, he might think all our pauses were weird.
“I feel like something chocolaty today,” I said.
“You’re in luck, I just finished some chocolate mousse this morning.”
“Mousse? I thought you were a bakery.”
“Well, yes, but, um, well, cold made desserts are something I’m better at then…baking.”
“Oh?” I peered past the glass to the desserts beneath, one of which was a tray of the delectable, multi-layers of chocolate mousse. “You’re a fire mage, then?”
“Yeah, though, not a very good one. I’m more of an ice mage, if there’s such a thing. I hardly have any magic capacity to speak of, but I’ve, uh, got a good feel for taking the heat in around me.”
“Oh my gosh, that’s cool, where were you during that heat wave?”
We’d only gotten a few sentences in and he was already pink, clashing horribly with his ginger hair. It made his watery blue eyes pop, though.
“Trying my hand at ice cream, actually.”
“Do-do you like ice cream?”
“It’s not that,” said Gus, speaking up for the first time, though his little smirk did not bode well. “She’s just shi—I mean, crap at heat. She passed out and everything.”
Glen Rights became all puckered-orange-eyebrow concerned. “That bad? I mean, that’s…”
“Shut up,” I smacked him on the shoulder. “He’s a ginger, I doubt he does all that great in the heat either.”
Glen gave a sheepish smile. “Yeah. I burn. In the sun, that is. In the heat…”
“Are you going to give us some of that mousse yet?” asked Gus. “Like, a sample or something?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah. I guess if you want.”
“I know you have manners. Why don’t you use them before I get arrested for carting around an uncivilized savage?”
“What, he’s the one drooling over your face and forgetting his job.”
Glen went beet red and his shoulders hunched up, as though struck.
“I-I-I’ll just go ask my mom if that’s okay, yeah.”
And ZIP he was gone.
I let go of Gus’s hand, folded my arms, and just looked at him. My face felt a little hot too.
My look did nothing on his mischievous, Cheshire grin. “What?”
“People’s feelings aren’t your play things.”
“Technically, it’s his eyeballs—“
“Alright, I’ll stop, just quit it with the ‘Gus’ing.”
He snatched back my hand.
Love slave number two makes it way too easy though, said his warm strings of magic.
I yanked my hand back, finally working a frown out of him. Brat. Like I’d feed your mischief by letting you make snide remarks into my brain.
Gloria Rights came out, all smiles and happy to see me, though she seemed exasperated with her son. We got our order of mousse and a tall bottle of milk and got to enjoy it in my favorite seat by the window. She seemed to already understand the relationship between me and Gus, because she hadn’t asked and knew him on sight. At least Gus managed to prove he had manners then, calling her ‘Missus’ and thanking her for her time. I didn’t need to be holding his hand to feel his thoughts of ‘Look. See? I’m civilized. When I want to be.’
I already knew that.
Then it was picking up my dress I had specially ordered. I was delighted to find it made of the lightest cotton, with short, lacey sleeves and outer skirt, so as to keep the thin white underskirts not see through. It had a thin, lacey bodice that tied in the back.
“The light colors may be hard to clean,” said the dressmaker. “But if you leave it in the sun, that should keep it white enough. If you have any problems after winter storage or from the leather just bring it to me come spring, I can get the yellow right out.”
I was ridiculously pleased.
Gus was not.
“It looks like a wedding dress,” he said.
I guess I could see where he was going with that, since the bodice was mostly white lace and the skirts were ivory, practically yellow, but it had a brown leather waist band that laced up like a corset in the back like my pink dress. Kind of broke the image. Also, it was fairly cheap for a dress, lace aside. Apparently, there was a quick little wind spell that could make all kinds of lace.
Even so, I got plenty of compliments from the patrons when I came through with my new summer dress. It would be my ‘for serving only’ dress. No cleaning, cooking, or dirty work would be done in it, even with an apron over it, but since its purpose was to achieve optimal coolness in the summer, it was worth it.
Derrick couldn’t seem to drink right and choked several times.
I wish he wouldn’t. It was embarrassing.
Gus didn’t mess with him like he did with Glen, though. What was up with that? But I only had to look at Derrick’s massive, masculine figure to realize a possible reason as to why that was. Not to mention that, although the blacksmith was socially awkward, he wasn’t a shy, stuttering mess like the baker’s son.