IT was winter in Alvilaid.
Landon, being old enough to get a job, had gotten a job that would last him the whole winter. His second winter in Alvilaid, Alina's first.
"What will I do while you're gone all day?" she asked him when he told her about his job.
Landon shrugged. "Keep warm, clean up, plan what's for supper. Whatever you can do in your spare time, I suppose."
Pulling on the cloak he had bought for himself, and tossing the extra one to her, he left to begin hauling firewood.
Alina immediately pulled the cloak over her shoulders, and thought about what she could do that day. Landon would be surprised when he came home to find the hut they way she was going to make it. . .
. . .and he was surprised.
"What are you doing?" Landon gasped. He ran to help her hold up a falling shelf.
"Heave now, so we may get it upright. Heave, Ally!" they both forced their weight into the shelf, and managed somehow to get it upright.
They both sank to their knees from the exertion. "What was in your 'ead, girl? Tryin' t'move a great shelf when ye cannna even reach the top of it! Had ye waited, I might have been able t'get some help for you." Alina hugged him, and sighed.
She looked up at the strange boy from the marketplace and pouted. "I wanted to find a way to make the hut look better, and have more room."
He laughed. "Well, I will help fix it, right after we have something to eat. We will make this home the best place it can be." Alina smiled and stood.
"We have an accord." she stuck out her hand smartly, as he had so often done, and Landon shook it firmly, laughing all the more.
After their agreement, quite a few fights, even more amendments, and several adjustments and improvements came along.
Alina learned to cook over the years, from making simple dishes of bread and cheese to beef broth and vegetables, even learning to preserve fruit and make wine.
Landon had several jobs, first as a busboy, then serving guests at parties. He also hauled wood and water, watched children, trained with weapons, and taught Alina everything he knew in his spare time.
Alina learned quick as a whip from Landon. He taught her manners, reading and writing, arithmatic, formailities, customs, things he learnt from the elves, gardening, cooking, how to clean and maintain the hut, even mending.
She also learned why she could not say her situation: such things were considered disgraceful when you got bigger. Alina was not ashamed, she just had nowhere to go.
When she was nine and he was fourteen, Landon learned how to fix the roof, and Alina learned how to make jams and jellies. After several spills, she preserved fruit to eat during the winter.
When she was thirteen, and he was seventeen, she got her first job working to help a cook at an inn, and also sold food at the market. Landon had a full-time job, working at night as a bartender and doing odd jobs during the day.
They also made the hut a bit bigger, and built two small rooms, one for Alina.
The place where the old hut was had been forgotten long ago, so no one knew of it, nor did they see the work or the garden that Alina would eventually grow so that she could sell food in the market.
One day while she was selling vegetables at the market, Landon came to see her. He grinned when he saw her, leaned over to whisper in her ear as she rearranged some things. "A kiss for the prettiest girl, with the best produce in the market."
"I'm sorry, sir, but- Landon! Why are you here?" Alina jumped in surprise at seeing him.
"I'm runnin' errands today. Some fancy lady's housekeeper asked me to do it. I help serve their food, y'see, on the weekends." He grinned his carefree grin.
"What would you like?" she asked with a moan, smiling despite herself.
"Carrots, potatoes, lettuce, onions, turnips, yams, leeks, garlic, and some pomegranites if ye hav' any."
"Coming right up! Just one bushel?"
"Two bushels." Alina murmured. "Do you have a basket or are you paying for one?"
Landon laughed and showed her two regular baskets. " Hmm, you are prepared." He remarked.
Alina nodded and placed the baskets on a cleared space on the small counter. Grinning, she pulled out the items he had ordered, arranging them so that it all fit into one basket, and put the pomegranites in the second basket.
"Are you interested in spices or herbs as well?"
"Yes. All the herbs an' spices you have, regular sized batches."
"Packages." Alina corrected. "Regular sized packages." She produced thyme, basil, bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, rosemary, mint, oregano, oppara, saffon, sage, celery, dill, fennel and kartin, parsley, paprika, and four kinds of pepper.
"Take your pick." Alina said smugly, watching Landon's eyes widen at the sight of so many "herbs an' spices an' whatnot" that she had grown.
"You've done well." he remarked. He picked a regular package of each, and Alina placed it in the basket. "How much?" he asked her.
"Fifteen silver coins."
"Are ye sure?"
"Alright then. Fifteen silver coins." He produced it from his pocket. "Twas all she gave me, saying I could bring back whatever was left if there was any. Good pricing an' better produce, I say. See you around." Landon turned, holding a basket in each hand, and began to walk away.
"Oh, Alina." he stopped, and turned for a moment.
Quickly holding both baskets in one hand, he flipped a copper coin into the air, which landed in her hand.
"Landon, watch out-" He turned around to avoid being hit, then continued down the street, holding a basket in each hand again. Alina watched him go, shaking her head and grasping the copper coin.