Muffins and Hot Tea

 

The man reached forward, grasping Danny’s shoulder to propel them forward. “Welcome, wel – but you’re wet! Come, come, we’ll soon fix that!”

The man trotted back toward the first shop, calling out, “Marigold! Marigold, leave the bin of scarves and put on some tea - our customers must be comfortable.” The man disappeared into the shop, still talking about tea and blankets.

Danny and Sarah followed quickly as a small woman appeared, placing a chair underneath the wooden overhang. Then she stood back, smoothing a clean white apron over a faded blue skirt. Her white hair was carefully pulled back into a bun, which bobbed regularly as she watched the travelers approach.

Danny felt his stomach catch as once again Sarah’s knees buckled and she collapsed into the chair. Sarah caught his look of concern and smiled back faintly, trying to straighten her own damp gingham skirt.

“Well young man,” said the big man, reappearing with a blanket. “This is for the little lady, and if you will step inside, perhaps we can find something dry, Mr…”

“Just Danny, sir,” Danny said, with a careful smile. He needed to make a good impression, neither he nor Sarah wanted questions. “Thank you for your kind help. We appreciate it, me and my sister - it’s been a long day’s travel.”

The man watched him shrewdly. “Well, come with me and we will find some clothes.”

Sarah pulled the blanket around her as the men went inside the shop. There was the sound of a kettle whistling and the only woman hurried in as well. Sarah’s hair was clinging to her damp cheeks and she pushed it back, watching the rain pour down outside the bazaar. A couple of young children were playing a game in the mud, tossing pebbles and skipping about. Soon they were brown and a young woman shouted at them from a distant store. Everywhere there seemed to be activity, except at that one shop. Its drawn blind reminded Sarah of what she was missing. Where was Amy? Could they find her?  After seeing the monster, and their long hours of walking, she felt again how dark the woods were, and how dangerous. There were still some trees visible from here, partially obscured by the rain. Sarah’s thoughts drifted as she looked at them, seeming to make out a short figure. It was a strange fancy. She could almost imagine that it wore a broad-brimmed hat, like a rancher, and that its skin was the same green as the leaves.

Sarah started as Danny placed his hand gently on her arm. He was wearing dry clothes and Scout, on his arm, looked far happier. “Sarah? I’ve found some clothes that might fit you. And there are muffins and hot tea inside. Can I help you in?”

A few minutes later, Danny and Sarah sat at a small table, warmed by tea and muffins. The old woman watched them carefully, still bobbing her head as she refilled their mugs or brought out jam and cheese. The man stood by the doorway, smiling benignly at them, pleased with the extra coins in his pocket. He noticed the way Danny watched Sarah, attentive but slightly awkward. They were certainly not siblings. That might be useful to know later on. For now, everything was going as planned.

The man smiled again, just as Scout cawed, beating his wings frantically. Startled, Danny almost didn’t have time to connect with Scout before Scout was out the doorway, and lifting up into the sky.

The End

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