Red woke up early, as if father was waiting. She stretched. Her elbow hit the wall making a painful clunk. She tried to give her legs a stretch, but barely had any room to do so. The small attic made them cramped so she wasted no time, and trotted down the stairs. Yayha stood waiting, hands resting on her hips.
“The pies, the pies. We must bake the pies. Redalynne. Please now, lay the berries you broiled in the shells. I have my special sugar to sprinkle the tops at the end.” Yayha’s voice sounded condescending, but Red ignored the tone. She loved the harvest festival, and didn’t want to have a foul mood spoiling it. One small thought in the back of her mind, also made her grin in glee. She picked the berries, and even more; she picked them with Bo. She had a friend now, or at least someone who manifested tenderness towards her. Bo’s warmhearted smile filled her thoughts while she prepped and baked the desserts. She hummed a happy tune, and ignored any glances Gramma gave her.
Drastaire was already been bustling with villagers while Red set up Gramma Yayha’s stand. The sweet berries sent an aroma that could make the straightest man sin. She wished father was here. She wished to see his face, when he tried a bite of her pies. She felt pride, and knew that father would have that same pride as well. She missed him, but didn’t allow herself to think of him too much. She hadn’t been this happy in a long time.
This Harvest Festival would be different from the prior ones. Usually her time would be spent exploring the other booths and partaking in the games. She would always end the day at Froster’s booth. She loved his pastries, and as a close friend to her dad’s he always saved her some. Gramma told her she were to stay in the booth. No playing, no taste testing. It didn’t phase her though. She created something, and felt proud to share it with the villagers. She wanted them to be proud of her as well. A small child who never gets the proper recognition hungers for it, and she desperately did.
The villagers walked by. Yayha would stop passers-by.
“My pies, my pies. Everyone has always loved my pies,” she hollered.
They came. They walked in line. Red spoke up with a smile across her face “I made these. I also picked the berries myself. The crust only crumbles if you want it too.” a proud smile stretched across her face, but the villagers took one look at her and walked off.
How could a child bake? How could Marion’s daughter bake. Nobody trusted the delicacy that had been hand crafted from Red. Why should they. Not like she was special.
Yayha gave Red a look of pure distaste. Red’s greyish green eyes glistened in sorrow when they met Gramma’s stern ones. Everything shifted, and she could feel her heart start to swell. Her smile vanished into a frown, and tears found their way down ruddy cheeks.
“Should have known better,” Yayha started to grumble, her gaze not leaving Red’s face. She turned away, giving Red a good look at the back of her head. “Why did I let her speak up. Now what am I to do.”
Besides soft wails, Red kept silent.
Gramma’s head snapped back towards Red. “You,” she shouted. “You are too blame for my unhappiness. You ruined this day for me, officially. Leave my sight. Be gone. I can not stand to see your ugly face anymore.”
Red sniffled then followed orders. She hopped off the chair behind the booth, and walked away. She didn’t know what else to do, but figured maybe one of Froster’s pastries would help her now oncoming sadness.
She could see him at one of the further booths conversing with Geon, one of Drastaire’s leather crafters. He looked content, and that face changed within seconds to a bright smile. His chest started to heave as he chuckled back towards Geon. Geon’s gaze shifted towards Red, and she could see him whisper back at Froster. Frosters smile relaxed into a smirk, as his eyes met Red’s. He held up a pastry and nodded back at her. Without any hesitation she made her way towards him.
“A lovely festival this year isn’t it, little lady,” Froster said.
Red acknowledged him with a nod
“Ah, Juul would have loved it,” he said, quickly dismissing the conversation further.” Sorry, I know it must be hard without him around.”
Red gave Froster another meek nod in silence.
“Here, I made some extras this year,” he said while passing Red a sack of pastries. “This year I made some heartberry ones, some pinefruit ones, and for the savory taste buds some cheese and beef ones, and some with chicken, mushrooms, leeks, and cheese. Delish, delish. I hope you enjoy them.”
Red took the bag, and gave a quick look inside. They all had that perfect golden crust. Froster always had a knack for making flawless, mouth watering pastries. Red’s sadness diminished. It was miniscule, but it helped.
“Thank you so much, Froster. Your pastries have always been my favorite.”
“I might have more, after the festival. Come see me after, and I will give you what I don’t sell.”
“Hey, Froster. uhhmm…,” said Red
“What is it little lady?’
Her eyes left his as she kicked at the ground. Small particles of dust billowed around her ankles
“Its OK, speak up,” said Froster.
“Is there a chance, I could ever live with you. Yayha is awful to me,” a tinge of remorse made her throat scratchy.”You and father were the best of friends. Isn’t there a way…”
Geon started to clear his throat. “Its not the way things go around here.” His voice had a harsh gruffness to it.
“Geon, please,” said Froster, waving his hands dismissively. “Don’t be a curd.”
Geon folded his arms across his chest. “Only one gone sour here is this spawn of… “
“GEON,” Froster yelled back. “Have some respect for Juul, and his daughter. You’re just mad because you have never beat him at a game of poker.”
“Oh whatever, Frost. You only like the kid because she is Juul’s. You forget how her mother nearly betrayed us all.”
“Geon, put a lid on it already,” said Froster. He turned his head towards Red “Don’t listen to this curd. He’s not as bright as he thinks.”
“Oh, whatever brown nose,” said Geon, before taking his leave.”
“Look,”said Froster. His lips became pursed. “I am really sorry, but the donkey is right. I wish I could take you in, I really could. Just give your Gramma time. She’s hasn’t been used to company in years. I would let you come over for a break, but you know Bettany. I would rather not come home to an angry wife throwing things at me.”
“I get it,” Red said. “She is kind of a wild one. Was she always like that.”
“A little bit, but woman were slim pickins when I had to marry. It was either her or Doyretha.”
The cringe on Red’s face was enough to say how much of a bad idea that would have been. Geon was the lucky one to marry that unhygienic blob of a woman. Her father being a couple years younger had a better variation.
It was the rules of Drastaire to marry a woman of same the same age. If no woman were the same age, it would have to be one a year younger and so forth. The man had to be older or the same age. Red really never understood that. She may have been young, but she didn’t think someone should live with someone for the rest of their lives for that very reason. They should be in love. Her parents were in love. Her mother and father did in fact, share the same age. Could have been fate, or maybe just luck. The rules of Drastaire weren’t entirely clear on whether the spouses had to be from the same village, so her father got away with marrying an outsider. Juul had many prospects to choose from, but neither held a candle to Marion in his eyes. After their marriage however, the elders gathered around and added another page to the old rulebook. If Juul wasn’t as respected as he was, he may have been exiled from the Village. If Yayha the next Elder in line wasn’t his mother, he probably wouldn’t have gotten as much respect from the villagers either.
Froster tussled up Red’s hair and said,” Well I have some customers waiting for me, and a game of poker afterwards. I will see you later, little lady. I will beat Geon for you too, and rob em’ blind, k,” he said with a wink.
“K, Frosty,” said Red, the only one ever to get away with calling him Frosty.
Red didn’t end up staying at the festival for much longer. She figured now would be her chance to be at home by herself. She also found it her one chance to do one more thing. Gramma isn’t out of the house very often, for very long. Red didn’t have many other opportunities. She had to go now.
Even though she had the house to herself, she stalked up those stairs very quietly. She did not pull the chain down to her own room. She did not enter the bathroom. Red snuck down the hallway towards the door at the end. er hands grasped the door handle. She stood there for a few minutes, as panic thumped in her chest. Slowly she turned the handle, cautiously she opened that door.
Red has never seen Gramma’s room, and today may be the one and only time. She didn’t want to snoop, or make her presence obvious so she searched carefully. Yayha had a large king sized bed loaded with pillows and a couple of thick blankets. A large brass armoire rested near the foot of the bed, with a polished mirror that had a small chip in the corner. A cat bed laid beside Gramma’s bed. It almost looked bigger then the small blanket Red slept on, and much more comfier. Red rummaged through the cupboards of the armoire. She remained hesitant as her hands fished through Gramma’s clothing and delicates. Not here. She tried another drawer Not there either.
The bedroom door creaked open, startling Red. Maybe she took to long. Was the festival over already? She didn’t hear anyone come in the front door. Her heart started to skip a few beats. She shut her eyes, and waited for her punishment. She waited for the yelling to happen, but heard nothing. The door creaked again, but this time she heard an audible hissing sound, followed by a low growl from Higgons. Red gave her head a shake, time to recollect herself and continued her search. It didn’t appear to be in the armoire.
Where else do I look
Red’s body turned.
The bed, maybe??
Her hand caressed the blanket as she it slid across. So soft, so… homey. So not for Red. She felt around the mattress until something else caught her eye. A closet. This had to be it.
She saw the key. It’s chain hanging from Gramma’s red suede jacket. Red snatched the key making no haste to get back to her room. She hugged that key in a tight embrace as she slept that night. A night filled with dreams that made her grin ear to ear as she dreamt of a boy, a friend.