Demil did not disappoint, the shop he led her to had a sign out front that read Gilver’s Fashions & Finery which showcased a number of fancy dresses and tailored suits in the windows. “Our finest clothin’ establishment, by far,” he boasted. When she entered, though, she thought that maybe ‘the finest’ was not quite what she was looking for. The closest they had to travelling clothes were some men’s trousers and button down shirts. Just a peek at the price and Fiora about swooned. They were exorbitant even by Kavaccet’s standards. Not that she had actually gone shopping before, but her studies had included basic economics. Something every Bloom should know when they become a Flower in charge of a household.
Demil caught her frown and guessed, “A bit too rich fer yer tastes, eh?” She only nodded. She hadn’t even counted how much her mother had given her for this trip, but she was not about to squander it here. He gave her a knowing smile, as if he’d expected it all along. “Come on, then. Come along. I’m goin’ to show you the best place for clothin’.”
“The best?” she stammered, “…but I thought –“
He cut her off by holding up a hand. “This here is the finest in all Brittner, but it’s not the best. Not by a long shot.”
She tried to question him further as he led her away, but he seemed to enjoy keeping the secret. More twists and turns and dead-end shortcuts now had her doubting she’d ever be able to find her way back to Nivia’s. She suddenly wished Civyl were with her and hoped he was alright with the old woman, wherever they had gone. Houses started to get closer together and the shortcuts became more frequent, but Demil’s grin never left his face as he urged her forward. The smell of refuse and worse also rose. Even Clover seemed uneasy as he snorted and stomped his hoof beneath her.
The sight of a number of scruffy and dirty urchins reminded her of Demil’s lost childhood. “I couldn’t imagine growing up on the streets,” she whispered with a pang of guilt at her privileged upbringing.
“Oh, wasn’t so bad,” he shrugged, “Not after the first winter, at least. Once you survive yer first winter on yer own, you know you can survive anythin’! I know where every hidey-hole, every secret door, n’ every wild patch of berries is. You meet a whole lot more people, too, when yer on the streets. Get to know the real people behind the faces. It’s those folks who will help you when you’ve nothin’ to give back that are the ones to be thankful for.”
Fiora let that insight sink in for a while. It was true, she had been sheltered. And did she ever really know the Lady? Not if what Alex had told her was true. She followed him quietly with much to consider.