The village was filled with the sound of children playing, carts going down the street, and bickering between merchants and customers. The familiar sound of the bell made children stop and run towards the school in a panic. The village road was filled with people, all the men mindful of their horns. I follow the flow towards the bakery, not only watching my dress but my horns as well.
The stones were cool on the bottom of my feet, reminding me I need to buy some shoes from Mr. Tom. I passed by shops with 2 floors, one for public use and the other to live. I hope one day I can buy one of these buildings, but I don't make enough to even get there in 10 years.
Slowly the scent of baked bread sneaks into my senses, I take a right down an alley. I open the back door and enter the kitchen. The smell of bagels teases my stomach as I grab my apron of the hook. I put it over my dull pink skirt and tan work corset, I double check my hair and smooth out the apron.
"Ah! You're here early Lina!"
I look over to Mr. Reed entering the kitchen, slicking back his graying hair and putting his other hand on his hip. He had speckles of floor all over his black apron and sweatpants, obviously ignoring the fact his wife will yell at him later.
"Yep, I couldn't ignore that fresh baked bread smell for long."
"You flatter me too much! you're making me tear up!"
He dramatically dabs his eyes, the emerald color shining with his tears. He snaps back and immediately goes over to a silver mixing bowl and plops a blob of dough on the wood board next to it, already covered with flour.
"Anyway! We got a busy day ahead of us! Could you get all of these kneaded and braided? That would be appreciated. Let me know when you're done!"
He gestures to multiple blobs of dough and leaves the kitchen with a wave. I pull back my long white sleeves, revealing my plump arms. I knead each chunk of dough for a minute each. I braid them up into a simple braid, leaving me with 9 pieces of braided bread. I crack my tired knuckle and my neck.
"That should work."
Pushing aside the fabric covering the kitchen entrance I walked out into the shop area. Mr. Reed was assisting a customer so I waited by the door. He turns around.
"Ah, done so quick! As per usual Lina, i'm guessing there's around 9?"
"Yes sir, exactly 9"
"Perfect, go ahead and throw them in if you will?"
"I'll do that!"
"Just come out here and help out customers when you're done!"
I re-enter the kitchen grabbing the wood paddle, I swiftly shoveled it under a loaf and carried it over to the brick oven. I blew a clear spot in the ash and dusted it off, I set the loaf down and repeated this 8 times. I double checked the heat of the flame guessing what time I would need to turn them around. Mr. Reed yells back into the kitchen.
"Hey Lina? How long do you think they will need?"
"About 30 minutes sir!"
I brush off my hands on my apron and head up to the front, immediately greeted by some of the village women.
"Oh hello Lina dear!"
Miss. Tom comes up to me, the other ladies looking over at the sound of my name.
"Oh Lina! How are you settling in?"
"If you have any issues feel free to tell us!"
Ms. Parker and Ms. Lix join Miss Tom.
"I'm doing well, I'm doing a lot better here than in the other places I lived."
"You weren't living, you poor thing."
"You are probably the bravest person I've met Lina, don't do that to yourself again,"
Miss Tom pats my arm, while the other ladies look at me with respect and sadness. I see Miss Tom's braid coming undone, along with the other ladies' braids.
"Well enough about me! All of your braids are falling out!"
I quickly go behind them and start re-doing Miss Tom's braid, her chocolate hair smoothly following my directions.
"Oh! I didn't even notice! You're a lifesaver Lina!"
I tie it off and Miss Tom looks at me gratefully with her brown eyes. I move on to Ms. Parker's hair, her blonde wavy hair being somewhat disobedient.
"Yes thank you dear!"
Ms. Lix's eyes light up, showing her leaf like eyes. I tie off the braid and do Ms. Lix's, Ms. Parker looking on with satisfaction. Ms. Lix's hair weaved perfectly together, making a beautiful full braid.
"You've spent way too much time on us, get back to work before Mr. Reed scolds you!"
"Thank you for helping me out again Lina, I got your pay right here."
He set the small pile of silver coins into my hand. Mr. Reed slapped my back and shoved me out of the bakery before I could reply.
The sunset sky skimming the roads as I pocketed the money into my dress, double checking for holes in them first. People are lighting up the front of their shops, ranging from food to other goods. A group of men were headbutting each other in front of the brothel, a woman hanging by the doorway. The men ignored her and kept going, she finally sighed and went back inside.
But what really caught my attention was the crowd of people ahead. People were crowding each other, some parents holding up their children. A group of men on horses in uniform was in the center. People were muttering, gossiping on why the Kingsmen were here. The man in the front coughed, bringing the crowd to a hush.
"Citizens! We come from the capital to bring news!"
Everyone starts talking again, coming up with more reasons. They quieted down again.
"The Prince will be taking on a journey to find his wife! Under no circumstances is harm to come to the Prince! Maidens! You can not refuse his proposal, if you dare..."
The ladies shrieked, their chatter heightened and pitched. The men started shouting at the Kingsmen, some started throwing pebbles at the horses.
"THERE IS NO ARGUING! THIS LITTLE VILLAGE HAS NO RIGHT TO REFUSE!"
More protesting started, catching outsiders attention.
This is going to be bad...I have to get out of here.
I quickly go around the mob and past the Kingsmen, all of them preoccupied with the new protesters.
I stop and turn around facing a Kingsmen on a black horse. Their uniforms were blue with silver buttons going down the chest. The man popped one of the top buttons open.
"Wanna have some fun while no ones looking.....you gotta be rich to have bought some fake horns..."
"Uhhh, I need to go home..."
"Really? I can take you home girly."
"I'm fine really...."
"Hmm I think not sweetheart."
He swung down from his horse, I quickly backed away. He got an excited look in his eyes and grabbed onto my wrist pulling me in and grabbing my waist.
"Please let me go..."
"Hmm what's that?"
His hand grips my waist tighter and his other hand slides from my wrist to my chest. He squeezes the cotton filled pads and he squeezes them more looking at my face for a reaction.
"The fuck..." He mutters
He then grabs my crotch scaring me, I manage to push him off me but he grabs my horns, trying to rip them off as if they were a headband.
"THE FUCK!? ROBERT WE GOT A CRAZY RAM OVER HERE!"
Some Kingsmen looked over at my disheveled body forced into a bow. The man roughly tugged my head up and to the side.
"Your a fucking male but you dress like a slut!? How dare you touch me!"
He tugged me down sharply letting go of my horns, I tumbled to the ground.
"You dare touch a lady!? How dare you call yourselves Kingsmen!"
Ms. Tom and Mr. Tom run over, Ms. Tom helps me up off the ground, minding her dress
"THAT IS A MAN YOU BLIND WOMAN!"
Ms. Tom raises her voice.
"UNFORTUNATELY THEY ARE, BUT YOU DO NOT DARE CLAIM WHO THEY ARE!"
Mr. Tom stands in front of us, holding his arms out. Ms. Tom puts her throw on my shoulders helping me fix my dress. I feel myself tear up slightly.
"Did he hit you as well!? How dare that son of-"
"It's fine, he didn't but...thank you..."
Tears fall down onto the ground. Ms. Tom looks at me concerned, the Kingsmen hurriedly get on their horses and leave. The villagers run after them with rocks, chucking them at the scared men. The mob yells after them, more villagers adding to the chase. Wife's look after their angry husbands in shock. Some come over to me asking if I'm ok and if I need a handkerchief.
Ms. Lix helps fix my hair and my pads, I keep thanking the ladies. I hold my hands to my chest, attempting to calm my breath.
I honestly couldn't ask for anymore...they've done so much for me...
"Lina would you like some help getting home?"
"I'm- I'm good, but thank you girls for helping me out..."
"Oh nonsense! You're one of us, girls need to stick together!"
"I- I just can't thank you enough..."
"No need to darling. If you need help just ask, now I would go home and wash up. We wouldn't want that hair of yours to lose its shine."
Once I calmed down I checked my pockets to make sure I didn’t lose my money. I pulled them out, counting them out.
I should have enough for my food. I can set the rest aside for my emergency savings…
I dropped the coins back into my pocket with small chings following. A warm evening breeze blows on my dress and face. The birds let out occasional chirps and the sun laying down for the night. I walk down the quiet street, passing by a noisy tavern. The sound of laughing and cheering seeping into the street. I finally got to the small cottage that I call home. The stones holding strong and the shutters well latched.
Once I enter I slip off my shoes, setting them to the side of the doorway. A gentle chill meets my bare and sore feet.
Better get the fire started.
I walk around my rocking chair and grab a few chunks of wood and a match. I shuffle back over to my stone fireplace and set the wood down horizontally. The match lights up when I strike it and I hold it against the wood as it catches the dry bark. I feel a zap of pain and I drop the match, sucking on my burned finger.
My stomach rumbles, begging for food. I grab a half of a loaf of bread off the counter and slice it up, grabbing my butter. I slide my knife through the butter, spreading a decent amount on the bread. I quietly savor the flavor of fresh grains and soothing salty cream. When I finish I place the porcelain cover over the butter and wrap the remainder of the bread for safe keeping.
My bed calls to me, so I slide my dress off leaving me in my under-dress. I quickly slide into bed, hoping the fire will last the night. I lull into sleep, the silence saying good night.
I'll worry about bathing until tomorrow morning...
“Why would you do this Alex!?”
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