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An exchange of goods

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1 An exchange of goods on Tue May 10, 2016 8:40 pm

My hands feel stiff as I wring them in one of my dishtowels, looking up from the sink to look at the dreary day just outside the window. Spring is one of the rare times the farms and small communities bordering Oenanthopolis can enjoy the seasons without the overwhelming burden of The Weeping City's dense fogs. With winds coming from the south to push the fogs back closer to the city, the southern farms are able to enjoy it longer than most as they work to grow the city's vegetables and herbs. 

In the midst of these farms lies mine. The property that had once belonged to my family has since been divided and auctioned to my neighbors, and my small home has been left with only a modest yard to grow my own foods. At times, like now, with my hands in the sink of dishes and the only sounds around me being that of the winds whistling through the trees just outside my windows, it sometimes feels like the world's left me to my own devices. It's been over a week since anyone's even glanced at my front door, and the solitude borders on overwhelming at times.

Still, the threat to it is real as I spot the carriage cresting the hill coming from the city. The southern winds have lost out to the northern today, and I recall the voice buzzing on the radio this morning talking about the storms looming over the northern end of the city. Storms that have pushed the fogs into the skies above our farms here just south of The Weeping City. Fogs that have allowed this carriage to come to a stop just outside my window. 

That stiffness in my hands returns as I dry them again, cutting off the water to go answer the door. I'm beat, though, as it pushes open ahead of me and two lithe men step in to begin drawing the curtains, leaving me speechless. 

"Lady Veretrum." I greet the woman standing in the door as she drops her parasol, handing it off to one of the men who'd entered ahead of her.

"Niamh," She smiles warmly, stepping in as the door shuts behind her. It's bittersweet seeing her. She's become an intermittent guest in my home, one of the only guests I receive anymore. Still, it seems she only ever arrives when there's bad news to be shared. 

"Come, sit." I say, glancing up at the two men accompanying her before leading them into the small dining room. I'm already past the table and heading for the stove to put on a kettle when I realize they're not following me. 

"I won't be long, dear." Ylva remarks from just inside the front entry, the gauntly beautiful woman looking particularly out of place in my home. "As you know, the contract is running out soon."

"Yeah," I nod, retreating from the kitchen's entry to take a seat at the table. "I don't know what I'm going to do-"

"That's why I'm here," Ylva interrupts me, her lips pursing. She gets this look of annoyance and disdain whenever I fret about what will happen once her money stops paying my bills. This look of distaste as though she really wishes I just wouldn't. "There's a doctor I know, who he is isn't important, but he's got a patient he's sent home recently. Someone who's injured themselves and lost a leg. He's been looking for someone who can help out. Keep the place tidy, see to it the man gets to his various appointments. 

"I don't recall much about the man, I've never met him, but I know he isn't of Prime blood, and thusly he won't require anything of the sort from you."

"So what? He'll pay me to come clean up around his house and ferry him to and from doctor's visits?" I ask, a little confused by the notion.

"I'll pay you. With our agreement reaching it's end, you'll need an income, won't you? And this friend of mine has some foundation in the city for... Whatever. Basically, people of high standing - such as myself - can adopt people who've encountered hardships that prevent them from working. I've been looking into it to see if you'd qualify - you don't. But he does, and I can volunteer to be his benefactor and in turn hire you."


"But- why would you do that?" I frown sharply, "Your contract is up in a few weeks, you could wash your hands of me."

"I'm not proud of what happened to your husband, Niamh. I'd come to grow quite fond of him, and he spoke very highly of you. Seeing to it you have a comfortable life out here is the equivalent of you letting a bird out of your solarium. It's a blip in the grand scheme of things."

"So I'm a bird you're saving..?" I nod softly, looking at her in mild offense. 

"Maybe a bird wasn't a good example." She shrugs, looking around boredly. "A dog, maybe? Cat? Tree, I don't care. Will you just go get dressed into something proper so I can take you back into the city? You're to start this evening."

****

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2 Re: An exchange of goods on Tue May 10, 2016 9:21 pm

It's been over a month since the "accident," and I wish I could say it's gotten easier. My income has taken a substantial hit since I'd been condemned to bedrest for much of the healing phase, and it hasn't gotten much better since I've been cleared to be more active.

Getting up and down the stairs to go down to the shop is exhausting, and making my way around the various work stations has proven more of a challenge than I'm willing to face most days. So I'm left with piles upon piles of unfinished jobs, and a phone ringing off the hook with angry clients who don't care about the newfound handicap.

Needless to say, when the shop bell rings with an unexpected visitor after closing hours, I'm a little less than thrilled. Even with the new leg I've crafted - adjustments still pending - I'm left struggling to get out of my seat so I can hobble over to the intercom, my dinner left at the table nearly untouched after finally getting off the phone with three separate clients.

"Business hours ended at nine!" I call down as I lean against the wall to push the button so I can talk into the speaker. It's very difficult not to let the frustration enter my voice - I haven't eaten all day dealing with disgruntled clients ringing that damn bell. "If you have an order pending, leave your name and number in the postbox, and I'll be happy to address your concerns tomorrow."

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3 Re: An exchange of goods on Tue May 10, 2016 9:33 pm

The night's grown uncomfortably late as I approach the worn-looking shop, Ylva several paces ahead of me as she knocks impatiently at the door. Her eyes seem to close in annoyance as she lets the man finish, tucking her gloves under one arm as she uses a taloned finger to hold the button to give her response. 

"I'm a friend of Doctor Heely's." She speaks into the intercom, that look of disdain returning as it gives a touch of feed back. "Your benefactor, Lady Veretrum? I've got your help standing out here and it looks like those showers will be breaking any moment, so I'd appreciate it if you'd let us ladies in."

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4 Re: An exchange of goods on Tue May 10, 2016 9:38 pm

I hesitate at that, an uncomfortable knot forming in the pit of my stomach. I've had mixed feelings ever since I gave Dr. Heely the go-ahead to advocate for me. I'd been both disappointed and grateful when no help came during my initial recovery - my pride the only thing that was spared in the absence of someone's assistance. Obviously, I'd gotten Dr. Heely's message about finally finding a benefactor for me, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't secretly hoping this mysterious woman would never show up.

"Follow the wall to the right, and up the stairs on the back wall," I finally say into the intercom before buzzing them in.

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5 Re: An exchange of goods on Tue May 10, 2016 9:51 pm

I can see Ylva absently check the watch tucked just inside her sleeve, sighing as she glances back before opening the door and heading into the shop. I can't say I've ever stepped into many of the shops within the city, but this isn't what I'd had in mind. Instead, it looks closer to the scavenger shops you hear about in the other cities around the country, with only the faint gleam of the fine metal pipings leading to and from machines to give it any air of wealth or fine living. 

Ylva leads the way towards the stairs before letting me step ahead of her, her attention on putting her gloves back on as she follows me upstairs. 

"We're going to have to move this along," She says once we reach the landing, leaving a sense of unease resting on my shoulders as I look around for the man we're here to meet.

"Do you have prior engagements?" I ask, Ylva looking up down at me as she shrugs and shakes her head. 

"No, I'd just rather be at home."

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