Below is the next bit of my novella, Dropping Slow, which I am posting serially during the month of June, as part of the Every Single Day Challenge to raise money for Sharon the Light. If you’re enjoying the story, please feel free to donate via my Crowdrise page ($10 minimum donation) or directly, at this link (no minimum donation). Everyone who donates will receive an ebook copy of Dropping Slow, once it’s all posted (if you donate directly, please leave a comment to let me know!).
The street market in Camwenne is notable not only for its size and variety of vegetables, meats, and other edible items, but also for the astonishing number of used book booths it contains. This is, perhaps, unsurprising considering the number of libraries in the city. It’s one thing Tace remembers about the market, the endless supply of books for cheap, but she’d still managed to forget how sprawling and enormous the entire thing was.
Her security guard a few steps behind her, she makes her way gingerly into the mid-week crowd, bags in hand. They’re low on some staples, but not out of anything; if her nerve fails her and she leaves before getting everything on her carefully-crafted list, it’s fine. It’s sunny and not too hot; she has sunglasses and a hat and a carefully crafted list, so–she tells herself–she should be fine.
Many of the stalls have changed hands, and some of them have changed location. She buys flour, fruit, and assorted vegetables from people she doesn’t know, counts her money carefully, does not try to haggle. She’s pleased when she finds the honey stand again.
It isn’t actual honey; Javi actually lived on Earth before he went into IWT, and so she has heard about golden honey, bees, blah blah blah. Bees on Thuuis look vaguely like the insects they’re named after, and serve the same function; their honey is light, translucent green and, Javi claims, not as sweet as honey from Earth. Since Javi was ten when he was signed into service, neither Tace nor Lin entirely believes him.
She hefts a jar in her hand, smiling at how much she remembers, and hears, “Ariadne Tace?”
Ariadne. The beekeeper couldn’t pronounce “Ardriyne”; Ariadne was as close as he got. She can’t remember how he found out that was her title in the first place, but she remembers he insisted on using it.
Her eyes find his–he’s a short, square man, redheaded like the people are where he comes from–the island, the big one they call fairyland on Homshoi; she can’t remember the name of his country, and she can’t remember his name. But he smiles, and she smiles back.
“I’m glad to see you, Ariadne. I saw you were wounded. We all worried for you.”
All her words are gone. Her heart speeds up, decides the best place to beat frantically in her throat, and she feels her smile falling off her face. His falls, too, and his face wrinkles with concern. He puts out a hand. “You all right?”
She looks down and sees the honey, from the corner of her eyes she sees her guard take a step forward, and her words unlock. Oh, thank gods she’s never believed in. “I’m all right.” She takes a deep breath, lets it out, pulls her head back up and faces him, feels Second (First) Ardriyne Tace Flogyston’s training snap into place over her like a flight suit. “I didn’t expect anyone to … um … know me, anymore. It’s been a long time.”
“It has, yes.” His smile is more tentative, now, but still genuine. “And you are back in Camwenne? Home with your boy and your girl?”
She grins, then, and his smile relaxes. “Yes.”
“You were hurt, but they will make you better,” he says, definitive. “Lovers are good for that.”
“Oh, well,” she says, and he laughs, takes her money for the honey. They make their goodbyes and she walks away, turns a corner and stops by a stand selling band t-shirts and hats to take some breaths, her heart still pounding in her throat.
The bags are heavy and keep her hands from shaking as she turns to her guard–discreetly looking away from her though she knows he’s still aware of her position–and says, “I’m ready to go home, now.”
Copyright 2017 by Laura E. Price. Feel free to link to this story–signal boosting is welcome!–but please don’t reproduce it without permission.