Chapter Ten (part II)

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The sun was low in the sky when I woke again. I rose quickly, tying on my apron as I hurried down the stairs, readying my apologies. Dinner would be late -- all I'd managed to do was cut up a few carrots.

It was not yet 6 o'clock, but the front door was locked and Edgar was not at his desk. I hurried on to the kitchen, smoothing my hands over my hair, and there I found him, in his shirtsleeves, chopping an apple and humming cheerfully.

We spoke more or less at the same time.

I said, "Moon above, it's so late...! Forgive me."

And he said, "Ah, you're up. How are you feeling now?"

He smiled, and I blinked at him. "Better, thank you. Less tired."

"Very good." Edgar scraped the bits of apple together and chopped them into a mince. "Dinner is almost ready."

I peered round the kitchen. The kettle boiled and the stew pot steamed on the fire. The kitten lay dozing nearby, stretched out in a crescent moon with his furry belly to hearth. The table was laid for two, and all the compresses had been washed and hung to dry.

"Well," I said. "You've certainly been busy."

Edgar shrugged one shoulder. "It's nothing more than you do in a day."

He finished with the apple and spun to the fire, giving the pot a good stir. A scent, sweet and spicy, filled the air. I frowned.

"What is that?"

Edgar shrugged. "Plums and venison, apple, onions, carrots, peppercorns... I thought it might be good with clove oil."

I frowned more. "When did we get venison?"

"Oh... A client brought it." He straightened again, deciding, "A few more minutes," with a nod.

I treated my gums with clove oil, then I chewed on a few chamomile flowers, then I looked round the kitchen again, feeling uncomfortably idle. One of the cloths on the drying line hung near my head. I found it was dry enough, so I took down all the cloths and heaped them on the table. I was sure I could get them all folded in a few minutes.

Edgar was soon looming beside me. He picked up one of the cloths, murmuring, "I wondered if these were dry yet..." He folded the cloth in half, and half again, then laid it down on my pile. I picked it up and shook it out.

Edgar's breath hitched. I found him smirking at me, one eyebrow hooked high. "Did I do it wrong...?"

"What?" I blinked up at him rather stupidly a moment, and then I realized what I had done. I forced a laugh. "No... Nonsense. There's no wrong way to fold a dish cloth..."

Edgar pointed his chin at the cloth in my hands. "Plainly, there is a right way."

I could not deny it, though I tried my best. "There's... a way I prefer."

Edgar huffed a laugh and picked up another cloth. "Show me."

"Well..." I spread out the cloth, explaining as I worked. "If I fold it in thirds first... Then fold it in half... It fits on the shelf better, and then the cupboard is tidier." I glanced up at him, feeling bashful and daft. "I like things tidy."

"My mother likes things tidy." Edgar smiled back at me, holding my gaze a moment, then he spread out the last cloth and folded it in thirds.

Edgar left me to put the cloths away while he served dinner. By the time I closed the cupboard door, a bowl of thick stew waited for me, sprinkled with minced apple. I sat and spooned a few bites into my mouth, dimly aware of Edgar's eyes on me.

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