Ruby Red and Gentilberry Green: A Fantastical Romance - Part XXV

in #fiction6 years ago (edited)

This is the twenty-fifth part of an ongoing serial. Here are Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, Seventeen, Eighteen, Nineteen, Twenty, Twenty-One, Twenty-Two, Twenty-Three and Twenty-Four. Updates every two days, barring minor mishaps.

As problematic and confusing as her family was, Anne had never experienced anything quite so torturous as the family berry stall. For one thing, she was absolutely terrible with money, which meant that she had to actually wrestle both mentally and physically with the change, which meant that the customers either gave her a scornful look or a pitiful one.

For another thing, there was the incessant, pounding beat in the back of her head. Necristo and Aunt Mattie. Aunt Mattie and Necristo.

Two silver per pound was sixteen coppers was...

She looked around for the hundredth time that day, searching desperately for Uncle Matt, but there was no sign of him. It was like he had vanished into thin air with the horses.

"Can't you count, girl? That's four coppers less than you owe me!"

Anne colored, trying not to show the fact that she was counting her fingers, twisting her hands in the folds of her skirt. The portly man glared at her, warts bristling.

"No, I'm sure I -"

"Sure?" bellowed the portly man. "Sure? Where's the man who usually runs this stall? If you're his daughter, then I'm sorry about his choice of wife!"

"She's not my daughter, and you're not welcome here. Anne, give him back his coin."

"Ah, there you are!" gloated the portly man, snatching the handful of silver and waving his basket. "Listen, your wench cheated me out of four coppers. I have half a mind to report you both to the city guard. Do you have anything to say?"

"Uncle Matt, I didn't do anything of the sort," said Anne, deciding that she'd had more than enough of being civil. "This man just happens to be denser than a cowpat is all."

"What did you say?"

"Anne," said Uncle Matt evenly, "give the man four coppers."

"But..."

"Do it."

She fired up her best baleful glare, dipped her fingers into the coin-bowl, and counted out the coins, piece by piece. The man smirked.

"And now that we have an understanding..."

"The berries are free, sir," said Uncle Matt. "Good day."

Anne clenched her fists and ground her teeth, scowling as hard as she could at the back of the swaggering man's head.

"Next time," said Uncle Matt, "don't insult the customers."

The injustice of this was enough to turn her orange.

"But he was asking for it!" she spluttered. "He lied about me, and you let him get away with it!"

"If he called the city guard here and opened a dispute," said Uncle Matt, "we'd end up in the court one way or another."

"Over four coppers?" demanded Anne.

"The market-laws here are tighter than a thicket of thorns," said Uncle Matt. "It's why the market is so big. Hard to swindle your customers when they can just call the spears on you."

Anne sulked over this for a long while. Uncle Matt began to stack the empty crates, one on top of the other. Four of them were bare already, leaving only three.

"By the way," he said, without looking at Anne, "I found your gate."

"Really?" cried Anne. "The pla-"

Uncle Matt shot her a sharp look. She swallowed the word before she could say it.

"Oh," she said. "Where is it?"

"Even if I told you," said Uncle Matt, "it wouldn't make any difference. You've never been here."

"Alright, then when is it? When are we going?"

"Even if I told you," repeated Uncle Matt without a single change of expression -

"It wouldn't make any difference," said Anne. "I get it. You want me to finish selling all these berries, don't you?"

"The lighter the crates are," said Uncle Matt, "the easier they'll be to carry on the way back. And besides, our preservation charm will wear out soon enough."

"I had a feeling they were too fresh to be true," muttered Anne.

"You should expand on that feeling," said Uncle Matt, looking for all the world like a contemplative, staring out into the riot of noise like a mouthless marionette. "Lots of things are too good to be true."

For a moment, she thought he'd caught her out. But there was no follow-up, no thrust home, and at length she allowed herself to relax her guard, breathe normally, and focus on counting the change.

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Ooh, is this the story that started turning into a novel? I remember nominating one for the IOW anthologies, then seeing an author disclaimer that this was evolving into more than a short story. I lost track of this one about 13 chapters in, not for lack of interest, but failure to organize my reading time. That, and not having the whole thing in hand, in one piece, in my Kindle. (Lazy, impatient me.) I love the character arcs, the surprise twists, the fantastic setting. You'll surely publish this as a novel, right? right??

I do plan to, once it's finished. Thank you for reading, even if only for a while! Hopefully you'll be more interested in the complete version. :)

I totally want to read it all - just, too impatient to keep clicking links to get one from to the next. We live on seven acres, with the slowest internet service (and the slowest water pressure in the shower stall.) If I had normal internet speed, I might be better about serialized stories. I love your characters and the lavish, magical setting.

Well, white skin and red eyes, not so much, but it's all good!

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