Having finished chores early today, I was now making my way towards the general store. Moving the basket to my left arm, I used my right to push open the door. The smell of everything from leather to baking bread hit me full in the face, reminding me of the last time I had visited.
"What can I do for you miss?" the storekeeper asked kindly. But his smile fled when I turned to answer the question.
"Here," I set some coins on the counter, "for what Jon didn't pay for."
He grumbled something and scooped the money off with one of his meaty hands. Satisfied, I began my search for fabric. I decided that maybe making my mother and sister new dresses might add a little color to their black mood. And by then, if William returned, I'd have more money and could begin refurnishing his wardrobe also. It wasn't much, but it was all I could think of at this point.
Ding-a-ling. The small bell on the door cheerfully welcomed the newcomer and I took no mind--until I heard his frightfully familiar voice.
"My father sent me to pick up his order." I ducked my head further beneath my bonnet.
"Of course, of course," the storekeeper muttered, going back to get something. I heard him drum his fingernails--those painful fingernails--impatiently on the wooden counter, setting me further on edge. But it was when they stopped and I felt his eyes on me that I marked the peak.
"Good evening Miss," he greeted, a hint of suspicion hiding behind his words.
"Good evening," I replied with all the casuality I could muster. But I soon learned that normality wasn't something you tried to force.
"You," he breathed. That seemed to be a popular nickname of mine today. His footfalls neared until he stopped right next to me and spun me around to face him, nearly jabbing me with his accusing finger, "You owe me an apology."
That was it? For intruding onto his balcony and then impulsively slapping him across the face when he tried to stop me? Alright. "Sorry," I shrugged.
"I--" he paused, as if expecting me to argue back instead, before muttering, "Yeah, you'd better be.What on earth drove you to be so unladylike and steal food like that anyways?"
My cheeks burned; unladylike to feed ones family?
"I said I was sorry kind sir. So why don't you just keep that noble nose of yours out of people's business if it disgusts you so much." It was probably the most I'd spoken in weeks and it wasn't much but he seemed as surprised as I was.
"Yeah," I could tell he wanted to say something really good but all that came out was, "You'd better be."
I couldn't help but smirk as I turned back, enjoying the pattern of jostled pride on his face just as much as the ones of fitting style on the fabric.
"What's your name?" he asked after a moment.
"Nellie," I replied slowly, wary as to his curiosity, "Why?"
"Just curious," then, unlike the stuck-up version of him I knew, he stuck out a hand, "I'm Lewis. Lewis Evans. Nice to meet you."
I returned the handshake, finally getting a good look at him, "You too." He was at least a head taller than me with neatly-kept blonde hair. Those stormy blue eyes that had glared down at me for the short moment I saw them last were now much softer with a curious amusement.
"Here's your father's orders," the storekeeper announced, heaving a large sack onto the counter.
"Oh," Lewis went to gather it, "Thank you." I watched him pay the impressive amount for the lot and move towards the exit from the corner of my eye. He hesitated at the door as if debating whether to say something but, with a shake of his head, left.