The bell rings, indicating a customer. The man looked lost and confused, eyes were foggy.
This isn't the first time someone came in this way, looking for someone to ease their troubles. The woman behind the counter has gone through enough conversations to know what to do.
"Hello." He said awkwardly, eyes distracted by the colorful ornaments and herbs on the shelves. "Good afternoon, how may I help you today?" Her voice was warm and calm, keeping her guard up from this stranger.
"I am looking for something." He says sheepishly scrunching up his face. "Describe it and I'll try my best to help." Suddenly, blush was evident on his cheeks and tip of his ears. She felt strangely familiar.
It didn't help that she was beautiful too.
She cleared her throat and motioned her hand to a table by the window with soft cushiony seats and hot tea waiting for them. He looked surprised, eyes flicking back to her. As she offered to take his coat, her mouth curled up in a kind smile.
"I was expecting you."
He tried not to but he smiled back to her, he couldn't help himself. His parents raised him to have good manners as both host and guest.
Besides, his doubts washed off the moment he stepped foot into the shop. The warmth it gave, the feeling of being welcomed to stay.
It was the comfort he craved.
"Have a seat, dear. Tell me what seems to be bothering you."
He sighed and held the teacup to warm his hands.
"My troubles might be quite foolish, and I've been trying to handle them on my own but it's taken over my life and I need help." He paused, studying her reaction. She was steady, holding her kind gaze as she silently drank her tea. He averted his eyes to the window before continuing.
"I feel lost. Like I should be doing something. It's so confusing and it has ruined many instances of my life where people would come in and try to understand me," He pauses.
Once again, his body shifts and his face scrunches up.
"How can they understand something that I don't understand myself?" The man sighs, tired. His fingers mindlessly fumbles on a loose thread from the cushions beside him.
"I try not to but they say I push them away." She crossed her legs and pursed her lips.
"Lost, huh?" She paused to think, eyebrows scrunched up.
"Then find what is causing that feeling. Do something, don't just wait and imagine all your troubles going away. That's it, nothing is broken that needs to be fixed."
"That's it?" He peered up to her, lifting his chin from looking down on his lap. "Yes." She assured him.
"You say you feel like you should be doing something, well you're young! Go out there and find what it is you need to do."
"But I've tried everything-" He pushes,
"Clearly you missed something." She calmly places her now empty teacup on the table and smiles.
There's just something he can't put his finger on.
She just feels so familiar.
Like they've met.
But that can't be possible.
He knows that this is the first time he's ever seen her face.
"You don't need a potion to put yourself first." She laughed softly, continuing their conversation.
His thoughts come to an abrupt stop as her voice again fills his ears.
What he was going on about, he has forgotten.
"How did you find me?" She asked, leaning back to her chair.
"Oh- my grandmother, she suggested that I see you. She said you were an old friend?" The woman hums softly, thinking to herself.
"Old friend? What's your name?"
"Ah! Little Andreea. How is she?"
"She is doing alright, she told me to tell you that she kept all the letters you sent." He felt strange. He was small under her strong gaze. There was some kind of wall between them and the more he felt it the more he was interested to touch it.
"I take it that she loves the flowers I gave?"
"She did, yes." He smiles sheepishly, scratching the back of his head. They were quiet for a while, enjoying the silence and the soft wind howling outside.
"It explains your problem, you know?"
"Ciobanu, derived from the Romanian word 'cioban' meaning a 'shepherd.' Ciobanu or Shepherd always tends to people. They protect and guide. In many cases like yours, Ciobanu also feel lost at some certain point in their lives. Andreea was the same."
He fell silent. His fingers fiddle and fumbles against each other, face hesitant. "Something's on your mind and you're afraid if it's rude to ask?" She cocked her head, waiting for his answer.
"Well, I have a few."
"I have time." She motioned him to continue, pouring tea for herself and calmly sipping. He hasn't touched his cup since he arrived.
"How did you know I was coming? And how do you know grandma Andreea? You called her little so that means you met her when she was a child. I don't know how old she is, but you don't look like her one bit!"
"Never talk about a woman's age, Alec! It is very rude." Her loud laugh sent vibrations into his chest, he liked it.
"Sorry." He smiled.
"To answer your questions, the forest is alive with creatures in hiding. They do love to gossip you know? They take visitors very seriously." She paused, tapping her finger on the dainty china.
"We have many conversations. Oh, and Andreea, did she at least tell you who I am?"
He shook his head no.
"Call me Elophia, I have a last name but I won't disclose it because I appreciate my privacy. I have lived for a very long time," Elophia paused, pursing her lips and rolling her eyes.
"Against my will and consent, honestly. I met your grandmother in 1930 in which I believe she was 8 years old at the time. We met at the edge of the forest. She said she heard beautiful singing."
Alec focused himself on every word she said, slowly taking in the new yet peculiar information.
"The singing was forest fairies. Ignore them, I told her, as they were only creatures a human couldn't see. But she was stubborn, still pushing to know where it came from." Elophia shifted, her gaze grew cold.
"Some things are meant to be left alone. I made sure she understood that."
Silence fell upon them. The hot tea that was served earlier was now cold to the touch. The window was no longer accompanied by the warm sunlight.
He should leave.
"It is getting dark." Alec quickly stands up, hand patting his pocket.
"No need for pay."
"My only wish is for you to tell Andreea I miss her."
It was a strange wish but one he could understand and respect. As he was walking himself out the door, she opened her mouth to speak.
"Things lurk at this hour. Don't stop walking until you are out of this forest. If you hear someone calling your name do not turn your head, instead keep them straight ahead, if you see an old lady pay her your respects and help her pick three flowers. Understood?"
He nodded slowly, hair standing up at the back of his neck.
"The wisps will guide you out. Remember what I said well."
He said his goodbyes and walked away. His body slowly gets smaller as he goes further out of sight.
Everything was going smoothly until he heard out a loud cry,