[Story] Thorns -Complicated

One rare afternoon, the shop is quiet. Maybe the weather; it’s dark and cloudy and threatens to snow or rain or both. I still have plenty of orders to work on, I’ve been slowly catching up on them over the last couple of weeks. Rose is doing paperwork at the counter, I think Josie is helping Pup with his schoolwork, but I’m not sure. I figure now’s as good a time as any. I tell her I want to talk, and she looks surprised but she says, “Then talk.” But not here. I don’t really want everyone listening, and I could use some fresh air. I suggest that we get lunch somewhere nice, maybe the place in the mage’s district.

I’m not even sure exactly what I want to say. Ultimatums and demands don’t work on her, and I don’t know what I’d demand anyway. I guess I just want to know where things stand, again. I seem to ask that a lot. We take a carriage because it’s warmer, but we don’t talk on the ride over. She watches people outside of the windows, so I do as well. It feels strange riding in a carriage, but I suppose she did often back in Gilneas, though that was a lifetime ago. Sometimes I wonder how much of it she remembers.

I ordered something warm, some sort of beef stew with a sandwich, and she got the same. While we wait for the food, she asks about how the trip to the Ghostlands went. I tell her about sleeping in the ruined building, about the school and Nash pretending to be a student. She found that part amusing. I left out some of the details, not because I’m hiding anything, but I just didn’t think she needed to know. Then again, maybe she knows anyway. She said that it sounded as if we had a profitable business going, and I wasn’t sure how to take that. Sure, it was, but it was a one-time thing, I doubt we’ll have strange mages coming up and asking for books every month. Besides, she needs me at the shop, right? She said that she did. I couldn’t tell if it was a hint that we should move on, or not. My mind always goes to the worst possible outcome, maybe she was just making a comment.

The wine is pretty good too, at least from what I know about wine. Nobody has Gilnean wine anymore, but this place found a bottle in the cellar, so I bought it. I think she did smile a little at that. She’d unpinned her hair on the ride over, and it hung over her shoulders in dark waves. She has no business looking that beautiful. I wish I could just ignore it, ignore all of it. Things would be so much simpler. I would just do my work and that’s it. But it isn’t that simple. I told her what Josie said, and she seems surprised. But she didn’t deny it. So now I wonder if it’s really true.

I told her I missed her while we were away, because I did. That didn’t change just because Nash was there. She said she might have missed me, a little. Good enough. I know her well enough to read what she’s really saying, which is that she doesn’t want to admit it. But what about Josie? Josie is fine. She won’t be too upset if Rose is away for a night, she knows where she’ll be. I know I’m a fool to keep trying, but I can’t help it. And it’s all just as good as I’d imagined. So I thought things were going great.

The next night, Nash and I went to meet the mage to give him the translated book in exchange for our payment. Mostly Nash’s payment, he’s the one who did most of the work. I proposed that, and at first he refused. I don’t understand that kid sometimes. Then he said he’d take it because he needed the money to find his own place. I was stunned. Had someone upset him, made him want to leave? He was warm at the shop, and a lot safer. He was upset because I’d stayed with Rose. I reminded him what I’d said back in the Ghostlands, that it could still happen. Nash had said he understood, but maybe now he didn’t. Now I felt like a jerk. I never wanted to hurt him, that was never the plan. But then he said something about me only being with him because she wasn’t there. And it stung because there was truth in it. I didn’t want to admit it, but yeah, maybe he was only there because she wasn’t. That’s not what I intended, I don’t want him to feel that way. I do care about him, I told him I enjoyed working together and doing other things, just talking or whatever. It didn’t sound very convincing when I said it, but I’m not good at saying those things. Especially to a guy. But it’s true. I wouldn’t hurt him on purpose. I mean sure, if she wasn’t in the picture it would be a lot less complicated. But she is, and I can’t change how I feel about her. I wish I could, I told him that. I hope he believed me, it seemed like he did. I thought everyone would be okay but I guess I should have figured that feelings are more complicated than that.

He also snuck out of the city that night. He went into some little place in the woods, and a gnome recognized him for an elf. He ran away, and had to kill two guards to get back into the city. I wanted to scold him for being stupid, but I guess he already knew that it was. I don’t want him taking crazy risks like that again. It’s dangerous enough that he’s here at all; now the guards are going to be extra alert for weeks. Oh, and he slept outside in an alley. Anything could have happened there. At least he promised he’d stay inside at night. Everyone at the shop cares about him, he must know that. Rose leaves him little cakes and Josie brings him mittens and ear warmers. They don’t want anything to happen to him either. I think he believed that at least, even if he’s not entirely sure about me. That’s all that matters.

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