Two months passed, each day filled with reading, random little adventures and the occasional letter from Janus, speaking of his anticipation for her birthday and their re-unitement. Sweet written words of adoration and hope for the future, even reading his mere ink on the pages, she could not help but blush at the attention and affection he showed her. A day didn’t pass without her imagining that fateful day and her future. She went about her usual daily routine of reading, making food, going off for walks and writing small letters, her days were always dogged by the thoughts of Janus and she often lost track of what she was doing as she thought about him. Her father was always out working or trading, or just generally making money in some way. As her birthday got closer the moments of being lost in thought became more common. The days crept forward with anxiety and anticipation. Although the days seem to creep forward slowly, it was somehow like a snake in the way that it creep but all of sudden was here.

She was woken up by the distant sounds of cooking, the sizzling of meat, the impact of metal against metal, and the sound of bubbling, boiling waters. It gently woke her up as it sounded so distant. She had slept well and felt good, giving a small stretch under her sheets and a big, open mouthed yawn. She slid from under her sheets, which didn’t change the bed in the slightest, as when in the bed, she was not noticeable there except for her head, being so slim and petite. When she was much younger she used to place her head under her pillows and hide, her father could never find her, she still could, if she attempted, do exactly that now. She dressed herself in baggy clothes, not willing to get properly dressed yet. She yawned again but felt fully awake, the sun was poking its aura over the distance mountains and was beginning to light up the surroundings. She left her desk covered in papers, some written on, more not. Now was not the time to clean up but to seek out the noise, she could feel the light burn of her stomach, already waiting and yearning food from after the sleep.

She slowly and almost silently walked out of her room, placing her whole feet onto the floor to wake her up with the coldness of the floor, her almost weightless body making almost no noise as she stepped. Gently taking the stair’s wooden banister in her hand and slowly sliding her hand down across the surface of it as she stepped, making no noise except for the occasional creak of the steps which were damaged from over use and her father’s repeated weight only being applied to certain steps as he walked up them in threes unlike most people that she had observed using stair cases. He was a patient man, but for some reason not so when it came to stairs and steps. She reached the bottom and entered the kitchen with a yawn, but stopped as she swallowed the smell of the food as she yawned, making her mouth instantly water with delight. “Good morning!” her father turned while poking the cooking meat with a wooden utensil, “Good morning my birthday girl. Hold on.” She sat down and waited. He scrapped the meat onto a plate which was filled with boiled vegetables and came over to her, leaving it on the side. “Happy birthday!” he leaned down rubbing her hair and kissing her forehead “I made you breakfast.” “I was hoping it wasn’t just for you, the smell has made me so hungry!” He replied with a cheesy grin and a laugh, he took two plates and laid them down, hoping into his seat. “Deer meat! Tuck in!” she didn’t wait for him nor reply, she instead instantly began eating the vegetables while she cut at the meat, it was cooked but bloody, her lips were so wet with saliva she couldn’t stop licking them as she ate. He seemed to be acting the exact same way, something about the smell of the meat made them both so ravenous. They took their time to put a vegetable on each slice of meat they ate, trying all of the combinations and each being as delicious as the last but in a different manner and way.

They sat full and happy looking at each other, suddenly her father raised himself from his seat and left the room holding up his finger as if to say Wait here or I have something to tell or show you. He came in with the sound of rustling papers, he held in his hands a pile of wrapped in paper objects, he leaned down and gently placed them all onto the floor as he sat himself on the floor too, sitting crossed legged and looking up at her. She removed herself from her seat and joined him. “Happy birthday, just a few gifts for you!” “Oh, oh, oh, oh, thank you!” She returned a cheesy smile to her father in thanks and began pulling and tearing and opening and ripping all of the papers to reveal what was her true gifts. As she did her necklace swayed from side to side, gently caressing at her neck. Which her father watched, admiring it. Knowing that he did not give it her so it was obviously from Janus, which he concluded the day after his visit, as he didn’t notice it as he was too tired during that day. She unwrapped books, countless books, she always felt that no matter the book, it was a great gift. It was like giving the gift of a small slice of someone else’s mind to adventure into. There was small rolls of ribbons and materials for her to use on her clothes or through her hair. Although she always wore the same blue ribbon that was too long, no matter how dirty or ragged it became, it would be hand washed and returned to her hair. If she did wear other ribbons, it was with the blue one, rather than replacing it. She placed them all in between her legs as she sat crossed legged too, separated from the ripped papers at her side. Her father watched and then spoke as she was pushing all of the ripped paper aside from the gifts, “I know you can never have enough books so I randomly selected as many as I could find.” she smiled at him, beaming “You know me well, thank you.” She sat herself up and crawled over to him and hugged him tightly, taking in his comforting smell. He stroked her head and looked down at her “I have left a small bag of money in the hallway, that is for you to spend on what you wish, on the condition that you spend all day in town and letting me make your cake un-bothered by you.” “Paha, of course!”

She stood up and picked all of her gifts up, taking them to her desk upstairs which looked more like a bookcase than a desk now, with random balls of ribbons everywhere. She came back down to pick up the wrapping papers she had torn, but her father had already picked them up and was feeding them to the fire in the fireplace. She went into the hallway and could see a small bag which had a lace wrapped around the top of it, it was inside a fruit bowl which contained no fruit, she took it in hand and slid it into her pocket, making her clothes pull down slightly on the one side that the gold was in, weighty. She went to the kitchen beating her father to the plates to move them to the counter. He entered the room and sighed at her, cleaning up on her own birthday. He crossed his arms and watched her, she turned and noticed his watching of her and approached him, hugging him yet again. “I’ll head off now then?” “Yes please my dear.” He has the flash of the eyes as if he was lying, holding back something, a surprise. She didn’t bother to point it out but instead got excited about returning although she hadn’t even left yet. She went back upstairs and dressed herself in clothes more suitable for a day of walking and potentially bad or good weather, not under or over dressing just in case. She left the house with a loud, high pitched and cheery “Goodbye!” which she extended for him to hear. She dug her boots into the ground and held her hands on her hips, ready for a long adventurous day, her blue ribbon waving in the wind.

She began walking down the road, on the side of it just in case any horses and carriages were to come galloping past. She walked on the short grass, feeling it touch and gently scratch at her lower legs, which tickled. The sun was behind the clouds and barely shining through, dulling the day, the walk to the local town was just over an hour walk away. She was happy and smiling, skipping as she went, her feet barely touching the ground as she skipped almost weightlessly. She was indeed passed by a horse pulling a carriage, at such a speed that she instantly reflected on her choice to stay off the road not just as sensible, but life saving. The horses passed with speed and power, ripping the road apart as they passed, flinging dry dirt and dust into the air. She shivered and was repulsed at the thought of such raw muscle power clashing with another body, especially a body such as her own, so small and slim, it surely would of been destroyed in an instant.

She walked for a while, still happy and lively, but the sun stayed behind the clouds, unable to light up the day, leaving it duller than ever, she instinctively stopped, not knowing why she did but did anyway. She looked up, nothing had changed, she was just about to shake her head and carry on, dismissing her sudden stop with a forward step when a sudden clang was sounded, like wood being smashed against metal. She ducked and crouched like a terrified child, she thought someone had shot at her, a cannon maybe? Impossible. With that thought something hit her face as she looked up, again, and again, it was rain drops, in that instant it was pouring with rain and the flashed began. The impact of thunder, the booming of lightening. She hopped into the trees, placing herself under one, she had heard from her father that the worst place to go during a thunderstorm was under a tree, but there was a hundreds of them she thought, what are the chances of my one being struck. She walked further into the forest in order to surround herself by more trees, calculating that the mores trees she was surrounded by, the safer. Rather than standing under the last tree before the road, which seemed dangerous and stupid to her. She found a relatively average tree, thinking that if her father was correct, than the biggest tree or the smallest would be struck first. She stood with her back to the bark and watched the rain fall, looking up to see the flashes, she counted the seconds and listened to the impacts, none were close to her. She was smiling, excited and under cover from the rain, she could admire the beauty without being subjected to it. She thought to herself how she was happy it wasn’t bright and sunny as she rarely was anywhere but her bed during storms, at least now, she could really experience and admire it. She carried on watching and counting for what felt like several minutes, but was actually a half an hour.

The rain dribbled out of the skies as if tired, tiny specks of water, barely enough to keep the skin wet for a second before the curvature of the face rushed it off the chin and off of the body again. The sky was grumbling like a hungry stomach or one that had just ate after a long time of being starved, no thunder could be heard but the grumbles, no lightening could be seen. The clouds were slowly breaking and passing as the sun pierced through them, casting them away to the west. She hopped out of her cover, feeling the tiny specks of water hit her, and slowly lessen to nothingness, as only wind hit her face again. She slowly and carefully walked her way back to the road and began walking again, she did not walk in the grass as it was wet and slippy, as she found out when she hoped onto it to get to the road and almost threw herself over her own body. She continued her path interrupted, looking out for a sign to make sure she was still going the same way, the storm disorientating her from knowing which way was which when the road was so similar all the way down. She came to a sign post that signalled that the town was only a short stroll away, although looking out didn’t show that, as the road curved into a woods which you could not see around. She continued, happily splashing her boot into very small puddles left inside the foot prints of passed horses and a long continue line of water from the carriage wheels, forming a very thin and long looking river of rain and wet mud. She occasionally placed her foot across it to stop the waters and watch it trickle over and around her boot, she thought that because of this she must be on ever so slightly slanted lands, meaning the water was running down the road rather than across, although by looking at the land, she could see no real evidence of being on higher ground and walking to lower grounds merely by looking at the plains.

Coming around the corner she heard a thundering gallop, loud with weight and power, she hoped into the wet grass, slipping over and landing on her bottom, she stayed sat in the grass on her behind while the same horse and carriage that passed her earlier shot passed again, they must be delivery carriages as whoever inside would be beaten to a pulp by the mere speed and impacts that the galloping was causing. She watched it pass, admiring the speed at which it turned around the corner and disappeared from view. Standing herself up and patting her bum to remove any grass or mud, she felt her clothes were ever so slight damp. But it didn’t worry her, as the sun was now fully beaming down, sucking up every drop of water and quickly beginning to reach such a heat that her face felt like it was ever so slightly burning in its presence. No need to worry she thought, my clothes will be dry as a bone with this heat in no time at all! The wet mud and dirt began to crisp onto her boots as she walked in the sunshine, she approached a recently cut down tree, which was now just a stump left in the ground, and knocked her boots against it which a light kick, which forced of the dry mud and dirt to fall off with each impact. She smiled at her boots, happy with their new found cleanliness and passed the corner, which lead to a small hill down where she could see a collection of buildings with road running through the middle of it. She was almost there. With that realisation and the awareness of the weight inside her pocket, she began to anticipate looking around, treating herself, but food would be a good idea first, to treat herself with a fine thing to eat was all that was on her mind as she approached the town, each step bringing her closer to a full stomach and a lighter money bag.

After only a short while she was close enough to actually make the buildings out, there was a row of ten or so buildings that looked like warehouses with shop fronts, roughly five on each side of the road. Past them was a very long line of much smaller buildings, which were evidently houses as the people outside sitting reading sat on their own lawns and fences and also the people tending to the small gardens was testament to. That line ended with a sudden barren looking patch of dirt that went on for what looked like a mile or so, where the road turned into a huge semi-circle which turned back on itself and returned to the towns only road, leading all the way back. It was a Cul-de-sac. Past the Cul-de-sac was nothing but dark, tall and wide trees which were impossible to see into, never mind past. As she entered the town, she was looking up at the houses and the people tending to them and relaxing near them, she suddenly felt her foot clip into the floor and almost threw herself forward. She stopped and looked down, there was a black material where the dirt road ended and the town road began, it was hard and smooth. As she stepped onto it, which was an inch or so higher than the dirt road, she felt the smoothness of walking over it, it was oddly pleasing, causing no impacts to her feet or hips as she walked across it, unlike the dirt road with its constantly foot-holes and not at a consistent level to walk across.

She walked past the warehouse like buildings observing them, there was a bookstore, she peered in to see a staircase that went both up and down, which excited her but she was too hungry to adventure in yet, as she knew she would be a long time once in there. On the other side she could see a woman outside folding clothes up onto a wheeled object, it was four wheeled and had a small walling of wood around each side, creating a square shaped container made out of the walls. The woman filled it with neatly piled and folded clothes, grabbed a handle on the end of the object and pulled it inside. Lucia watched, quite struck by it, it was like a wheelbarrow but far better suited for the purpose of the moving of indoor objects, rather than outside. As she stood watching another storefront caught her eye, it was different to all the rest as it was the only one to feature windows in the shopfront rather than just an open door. The windows were taller and wider than any she had every seen. The window was essentially the entire wall of the front of the warehouse. Through it she could see people sat and talking, seated across from each other to enable them to face each other. They all had some form of food in front of them. Some had bowls with liquid food, others had plates of meat or cooked vegetables or merely a small piece of paper with some kind of breaded food on top of it. As she looked she spotted a very small child with a white moustache, he was eating some kind of cake, instead of bringing the cake to his face by using his arms, he was instead holding the cake by each side with his hands and lowering his head towards it, to eat it up from the table he was sat at, thus getting it all over his face, creating his moustache. Her stomach felt like it was falling for a split second and then grumbled at her for watching.

She patted it and continued to walk, smiling and peering at the people in their gardens as she passed. She thought she might as well see the town before eating, then she could sit, relax and fill herself up. Many of the gardens were quite plain, but the odd few were adorned with beautiful small trees, they looked like the giant trees of the forest but as if they had been shrunk and planted in the garden, other had hedges with flowers going through them, like a beautiful virus or infestation. By now the land was pretty much fully dry, so many people were out sitting, reading, gardening or just generally walking around and conversing with each other. She reached the end of the houses and could see the end of the road, from black road, to dirt road, and then grass followed by nothing but trees. She walked very slowly towards the end of the road, placing her heels on top of the end, pivoting herself on it and looking out, like a sailor looking out from the edge of a peer. She could see a figure in the distance, taking a shiny object into the air and bringing it down and a fell tree. It has no bark and had obviously been selected, cut down and dragged her for chopping into firewood. He hacked and chopped, throwing his axe down and picking up what wood he had cut up, carrying it over to a small stump with a hand axe resting inside it. He placed all of the wood next to it, taking the axe out with a single pull of his shoulder muscles, picking up a piece of wood and placing it on the stump and holding it in place as he brought the hand-axe down into it. Splitting it into two with a single chop that looked so effortless to her. She watched for a short amount of time, it made her think about her father, she wondered how he was getting on with the cake. She thought to herself that he had probably already done it and only sent her out so he could get it done in a hour and have the entire day to nap. She smiled at the thought.

Inside the kitchen at her home was her father dressed in his typical dark clothes with white patches and blotches all over him, interrupting the blackness of his clothes. As he noticed each patch and blotch of white, chalk like substance on his clothes, he looked down, dipping his chin into his throat and patted his hands at the patches, making more, spreading them further across his clothes and making him whiter than before. He tutted at himself and decide to forget about being clean, he might as well get it done, mess or not, he could clean up after. He pushed his finger tips and knuckles into a big ball of light yellowness, dipping his fingers into the white power and slapping it onto the blob ball. Shaping it with pushes and pulls, light hitting and spanking. He rolled it out several times with a wooden cylinder and returned it back to the ball. He leaned down to pull a grate of metal out of the cupboard underneath him, it was a thin circle of metal sheeting, he placed it on the counter and threw the ball into it, shaping it to fit to make a base. He lightly sprinkled white powder over the top and slid it inside a hot stove. He washed his hands in a small bowl of water but left his dirty clothes on. Taking out a few small bowls he slid a big bowl of fruit near him which he had taken from out of the hallway much earlier, before Lucia was even awake. There was fruits and a few different berries, he took them out one at a time, making the berries into a jam, and slicing up the fruits, the jam would go on top of the base while the fruits would go on top of the jam, stuck in place by it. Decorated by fruit slices and covered in jam, he thought it would turn out decent at the very least. Although he didn’t really know what he was doing to be honest. He thought it was worth a try, even if he failed, at least he tried. If he did fail he would just apologise and present the failure cake for her laughter, and then tomorrow take her to a bakery and buy her which ever cake she wanted. He got everything ready, covered the small bowls of cut up fruit and jam with a small, sticky sheet of paper. He clapped his hands together as if to remove dust and crossed his arms while looking at his work, he looked down again to survey his mess and rolled his eyes at himself. He left the room to change his clothes, so he could sit around clean, reading and waiting for the base to be cooked.

The man stopped his chopping, threw his axe to the floor, implanting its blade into the ground and staying handle up. He sat himself down on the sawdust covered stump, leaned down, rubbed his arm over his sweaty forehead while removing his cap, to which he ran his fingers through his hair and popped the cap back on, covering all of his short hair. He sat relaxing staring into the distance, taking little notice of Lucia. She turned herself around, not wanting to be a nuisance to his rest and began walking back towards the town on top of the road. Casually passing the houses and getting back to the warehouses, as she approached the shop front with the huge windows from the side, a young male and female leave the shop, holding the hand of the little boy that had a white moustache before, he no longer had it, instead he was holding the right hand of the young male and the left hand of the young female, stood in the middle, skipping forward. As he skipped forward too fast for the pace of his holders, his arms were pulled back as the two holders tugged him back holding up his weight, he lifted his legs until he could swing behind them, just to skip forward again to repeat. His holders began to shout ‘wahey’ as he skipped and jumped forward to swing back, all three of them taking full advantage of the moment to laugh and be loud for the fun of each other. Lucia stood to the side of the door way, watching and admiring them, she wasn’t sure if the two young holder were his parents or siblings, but either way their happiness and fun with each other was enough to make anyone watching or passing extend a smile onto their own face and return that smile to the three who had caused it.

Lucia walked herself into the building. Instead of talking to anyone, she walked herself around to find out what it was like, she felt like she should only bother someone when she was ready to sit and eat. As she ventured around she noticed it was like a restaurant with a cafe as a front, the cafe had a doorway that led into a bigger, more open room with many comfortable seating areas for as many people as she had ever seen in one area. She thought to herself that it could easily seat everyone in this town and more. But as of now only a few people were sat, eating big meals that smelled so deliciously well cooked that she felt that not only were her lips getting wet with the thought of eating them, but her nose and eyes began to run with water, as if she couldn’t contain herself. She tried to sniff as she blushed and felt stupid at her sudden wateriness, dabbing her sleeves on her eyes to dry them with a small wipe of the material. She made her way back to the counter at the cafe where more people were eating than in the restaurant area, although she had seen no people walk past her or enter the building, it seemed fuller than before. She decided with the money that she had and the over crowding of the cafe that the restaurant would be a better choice, a solitary but perfectly made meal to relieve her of her hunger that had built up from her earlier adventure.

She walked back into the restaurant area and approached the counter. There was currently no one there but on the side lay a small bell to call for attention. She pressed her palm down onto it making a small dinging noise. A waiter made his way over from sitting down, he must of been resting as no one needed him, as he had served everyone their meals so far. He smiled at her as he made his way over, walking behind the counter and placing both of his hands palm down on the counter and looking at her “Sorry, I did not see you there.” She returned his smile, knowing from his tone and body language that he was being sincere. “That’s no problem.” He slid his hands back on the counter until they reached his waist, which he then folded them to cross his arms. “So, how may I help you young lady?” “Erm.” She put her finger to her lips to signal her thinking as she read the writing behind her, a black board marked by chalk listing meals. “Can I have the soup to start and then…” she continued to think patting her finger at her lips an pouting slightly, “And…What are prawns?” “They are a type of sea food.” “Are they nice? I am curious of the name.” “Meaty almost, rather than fishy.” “It says giant?” “Oh, young lady they are called giant prawns but they aren’t bigger than a vegetable, a carrot maybe.” “A sea carrot?” “Excuse me?” “Oh erm never mind! May I have them please?” “Of course, anything else?” “And the vanilla slice.” “My personal favourite.” “Oh, thank you for taking my order.” “My pleasure.” She looked around as if lost, as if waiting for direction or orders, she turned back to him and went to speak but he interrupted her. “Madam, you may take any seat you like, we are not busy, I will find you and bring the food to you.” “Thank you.” she said, somewhat relieved at his preemptive-ness.

She took her leave and wondered around for a very short while, looking at all of the seats. At the very back of the restaurant was a windowed section, very similar to the shop front where the cafe was. The windows allowed you to see the vast forest behind all of the warehouses and homes. There was a small seated area here which no one was sat at, it was somewhat hidden and secluded from the rest of the entire warehouse, like a secret gathering spot that could easily be missed by anyone passing by. As she sat herself down at a seat in the corner, facing a very small table, she thought to herself that it wasn’t too secluded, so hidden that even the waiter did not know she was here. As she entertained that thought his steps could be heard, he came around the corner holding a small bowl full of liquid, his hand covered by a small cloth to prevent burning his hands as he carried it, while his other hand carried a very small plate which was covered in cut slices of bread. He gently placed the bowl down and then the plate at the side of it and told her that he would be back in ten minutes in order to return the bowl and that the dinner would be no longer than that, he wished her an enjoyable meal and promptly left her to enjoy the starter. She picked up a piece of bread, dipping the end in and biting at it, to taste it. It tasted like tomato as its redness evidently shown, but it tasted odd too, as if many herbs had been mixed into it, odd but pleasing to her tastes. She took the spoon to her side and began to scoop the liquid into her mouth, it was hot, but not hot enough to burn, only hot enough to make her sigh with pleasure as it warmed her throat as it went down and even more so her stomach when it sat resting and warming it from inside. She quickly devoured everything that she had on her plate by dipping whole slices into her liquid and then instead of scooping the rest up, she held the bowl in both hands and raised it like a hungry baby, and poured it into her mouth, gulping it all down in a desperate hungry instant. She sat with a stomach full of bubbling liquid, the starter had only made her more hungry. She patiently waited for her dinner to arrive while staring out at the trees flowing and brushing against each other in the wind.

To his word, he arrived no longer than ten minutes after had he previously served her. He came around the corner holding only one plate, again using his clothe under the plate and holding with two hands this time. Lucia moved her empty bowl and plate to the other side of her table by pushing them forward, towards the edge, making room for the new plate. He gently placed it down in front of her and spoke gently “Seeming as this is your first time, you take the shrimp in your hand, crack open its hard outer layer of skin, removed it and you will be left with a soft, tender piece of flesh, you eat that but not the shell.” “Oh I see.” she said while studying them on her plate. “Enjoy your meal, madam.” “Thank you.” he nodded at her with a small smile and turned, taking the used plate, bowl and spoon with him as he casually strolled back around the corner and out of view. She looked down, there was an extremely green salad underneath the prawns, forming a bed, the prawns themselves were arranged in a circle, facing inwards with their tails outwards, all tails curving to the same direction. Which formed an odd sun like outline with the tails as the suns rays of sunshine. She took a small piece of the salad and bit into it, it was so fresh that it made a slight crunch, with the crunch her mouth filled with water from the salad, it was refreshing. But she was excited by these prawns, she took on in the tips of her fingers and awkwardly used her other hand to strip the hard skin off, it came off like pealing dried paint or a boiled egg. She was left with a clump of much softer flesh in her hand, she bit half of it and chewed on it, it was very tender and soft for flesh, but didn’t have the fishiness feel or taste of dish either, it was a nice in between. There was a small dollop of unknown orange sauce in the middle of the salad, she too the remains of her first prawn and covered it in the sauce and ate, it was slightly sour but worked well with the half fish half fleshiness of the prawn. She carried on eating, pealing each prawn, wrapping it in salad and sauce, making coats of saucy goodness for them to wear before devouring them. They were oddly filling, she had only eaten a few and already felt almost full, but she didn’t waste anytime thinking about it and instead just swallowed them all down, full feeling or not, she was not wasting this delicious meal or her money.

Just as she was finishing her last few mouthfuls, the waiter came around the corner with a grin at his timing “Perfect timing I see.” “Very much so.” she replied, giving him a smile to congratulate his smugness. “Shall I be taking this?” he said as he placed his fingertip on the rim of the plate, “Yes, please.” “Very well, the pudding shall be five minutes so you have time to digest your meal. Vanilla slice was it?” “That is perfect, and yes it was, thank you.” again he nodded, acknowledging what she had said but feeling no need to reply with words. He took the plate for her and briskly ventured back into the kitchens. She felt stuffed but she felt and thought that she might as well indulge herself rather than cancel her pudding. She waited, not counting the time nor minding how long it would take either way. She was happy to sit and relax and digest.

Just as last time, he came perfectly on time. Serving up her plate and very politely and slowly presenting his open palm to her which a fork rested on, handle towards with the fork resting on a small tissue to prevent contact with his skin. She gently took it from him and thanked him, he nodded in return and informed her that he would be waiting at the counter for her whenever she was done. She thanked him again out of courtesy and let him leave. Although she was full, the merr sight of the pudding made her hungry again, it was a pale slice of what looked like a cake slice of a cheese wheel. The bottom of it was marked by a biscuity like base. She slanted her folk and pushed it down to cut through the slice, it went through like the vanilla was made of cream, easily slicing and separating it but still keeping its form. She slid her fork underneath the slice and held her free hand to the side of the folk that it was overlapping on to prevent it falling, or at least if it did, in order to catch it. She slid the fork into her mouth and closed her mouth around it, biting slightly at the fork end and sliding it out to leave the slice in her mouth. She chewed, it was extremely sweet but was made pleasant by the creaminess. She ate it all up like a happy child, licking her licks when done. She got the urge to lick the plate but resisted it, seeming as she was today a woman she felt that she should prevent herself from such a childish act, although she felt she would of enjoyed it far more if she had just done it knowing exactly that she shouldn’t anymore. She finished but felt after all of this time eating that to sit around would kill her, so she stood herself up from her chair, stretching and shaking her head gently to rid herself of the light headed-ness that she had gained from getting up after being sat down for so long. She picked up her plate and placed the fork on it and approached the counter. Passing it to the waiter who thanked her for saving him the trip and informing her of the price of her meal. She happily paid the small amount of gold and added an extra piece, knowing that he would notice but also knowing that he would accept it and keep the extra piece for himself, which was exactly what she intended him to do. He thanked her and wisher her an enjoyable rest of the day. As she walked through the cafe, it was far less busy than before, everyone inside was very relaxed and quietly talking and eating. She passed through and stepped outside, the day was just as light as when she entered. She stood looking at the warehouses and remembered the bookstore that she had passed and looking into the entrance at as she passed it earlier. She decided that would be her next stop.

On the edge of a hilltop, a solid, varnished dark brown house stood strong. Well lit and strong enough to take on any wind which it was assaulted by. From the entrance walked Janus, signing to the people in front of him with hand movements and shouts, shouting to raise the volume of his voice to be heard, rather than with anger. The people in front of him packed away the boxes they had at their feet into the carriage. Two carriages stood one behind the other, the one in front already having a driver and horses strapped up to the carriage. This was the one that was being packed. The people all wore the same tight fitting black clothes, they looked like valets, they were all Janus’ servants. He watched with crossed arms and a smile, telling the first carriage to leave the moment it was down as he himself and the following carriage would follow when they were, which shouldn’t be longer than ten minutes. He strolled himself back into his house to sort more things out, out of sight. While the servants finished packing the last few boxes, jumped inside and tapped the ceiling to alert the driver to leave. They slowly and carefully began a light trot out of the area, down the hill path and into the forest, setting off for Lucia’s.

Lucia stood looking at the bookstore front from the cafe’s shopfront. She walked over to the other side of the road in order to get back to the bookstore, the door of the building was still open and no body could be seen from outside. She stepped in feeling the change of surface under her feet, it was carpeted and made no noise as she walked. There was two staircases, one leading up and another leading down. She had never seen a staircase leading underground before so she decided to venture down. She stepped down and looked out at the aisles of books, she randomly selected one and walked down it, as she did she noticed that a slight oppressive feeling was present here, she concluded that it was because she was now underground and the lighting was no where near as good as upstairs with the well lit areas. She randomly selected books and pulled them out, stroking their orange pages and sniffing them, she could smell how old they were and it pleased her. To her the smell made her think of a very old man writing furious while hunched over a desk, like a crazed poet that cannot write as fast as his thoughts and passion need to be able to express themselves. Although looking at the books pleased her, the oppressive atmosphere of the underground was not to her liking so she decided to go back upstairs.

When she was back on the ground level she looked up, blinking at the height of the warehouse, she placed her hand on the railing of the staircase and made her way up while staring up, if there was no handrail she would of no doubt have just walked off the staircase while gazing at the ceiling. She shook her head to prevent her staring any longer as she reached the final step. She ventured down the aisles again, at the end of them was a wall of notebooks and diaries with prices on them. She flicked through many of them. One of them had been made to look, smell and feel old, it looked like an ancient book, she instantly wanted it and decided on buying it. She took it and placed it under her arm and continued to look around at the books on the aisles. She stopped again without intention or knowing what aisle she was on and took a book from the shelves, flicking through the pages she realised it was a history book of the local areas and forests. It was illustrated with graphic and detailed drawings and painting of the landscapes, town, animal and plant life. She decided she would buy this as a gift for her dad, maybe just as a thank you for the cake he was making for her. She thought that would please and annoy him, please him because he of course loved anything from his daughter but annoyed because she had spent her gift money on him, both of these however pleased her to know. So it was decided. She placed it in her left hand and with the other book under her arm, she decided that would do, as the trip home may become burdensome if she purchased more. Maybe she would return just to buy two more books every now and then, to make a day of her trip and spoil herself on occasion.

Lucia’s father was sat reading a book, with his back lent back and his feet raised, seating his feet on the chair opposite him. He had his arms raised, holding the book up to the ceiling and was reading it like this so if he fell asleep he would drop the book on his face, thus instantly waking him. This was just in case he burnt the cooking cake base. For the past ten or so minutes he could smell the heating up of the base which started to smell appetising to him. He placed his book down on the table in front of him and slide himself out of his sitting position, stretching his arms up and to his sides as he got up and walked over to the stove. He opened it, letting the heat out and then leaned himself down onto one of his knees. He couldn’t really see it from the shade created inside the stove so he felt his hand across the top of the counter until he could feel a cloth material and pulled it to fall down. He took it in his hand, wrapping his hand in it and then pulling the cake base out, it was perfectly cooked and ready. He closed the stove and left it on to heat the house with a very small fire. He gently placed it upside down on a plate and cut around the metal container to release the base, it came out with very little effort, he placed the metal container out of the way and gently flipped the base over, pulling the small bowls of cut fruit and freshly made jam to him. Taking a small soft brush out and delicately dipping it into the jam and using it to spread it across the base until it was an inch thick. He took the small slices of fruit and placed them around the base, sticking them in the jam in random patterns and then sprinkled a light white powder over it to cover it. He placed it in a thin container made of white paper, covering it with a see through baking sheet. This covering and container was merely to stop insects getting stuck on top of the cake and wrecking it by dying inside the jam and of course making it look disgusting. He crossed his arms and looked at the container, content with himself and his efforts.

She happily returned to the ground floor of the library, sliding her free hand down the handrail as she did. She looked around while standing still, trying to spot a counter, which she couldn’t. She approached a man stacking shelves who told her that it was in the back of this floor, taking it to her and leading the way. The same man served her, explaining that he was currently the only person allowed to sell while the other workers could only stack shelves and stock as they were all new. She didn’t say anything but just nodded and pushed the books forward on the counter, which he seemed to study and then tell her a price. She paid and thanked him and wished him a nice day, which he returned with a grin. As she left the counter to exit the building he quickly went back to his stacking, the moment he reached the pile of books he needed to stack however he instantly slowed down and seemed extremely casual. She didn’t think much of it and instead just casually exited the building. She noticed that the sun starting to dull a little, afternoon no doubt.

Now that he was done with preparing Lucia’s cake and had it nicely stored and waiting for her return. He decided to go outside, going into the hall and putting his boots on and opening the back door and slamming it, as he always did by accident when he went out the back door. His boots crunched small random objects on the floor, like twigs and hay like grass. He walked himself down the path that was only made by the hundreds of previous trips of his boots down this way, keeping the grass trodden down like a small jungle pathway through slightly tall grass. He reached his wood cabin, which kept wood under a small roof in order to dry, which a small tree stump for cutting at and a very small patch of dug up ground that he used to throw remains of animals or other food waste into. Behind the wood cabin was a much bigger wooden building, about half the size of his house, this was filled with wines and cheeses, left to mature down some steps underground which the shed led too, also down there was salted meat, to preserve and feed him and Lucia over winter. Later on in the year, when Summer was near, he would plant a type of flower there to be visually pleasing. The remains and waste fuelling the land to grow them stronger and faster than any other area in his garden. At this time, just before winter, there was no point planting anything so his garden was barren except for grass and cut up wood. For once he didn’t need to cut wood, for many days now he had been doing nothing but chopping wood and transporting it to local towns, making enough money to buy food rather than grow it, it was hard work but he loved the travelling and endless chopping of trees. He took the spade which was resting on a few uncut logs which was placed under the small wooden roof, placed there to prevent it getting damp or damaged. He threw it blade first into the small patch of dug up dirt, forced his foot onto the side of it and dug it in, pulling it out to remove the soil to the side of it. He was doing this to widen the patch and deepen it, also to tidy it as when Winter does come, the ground will become so hard that he will no longer be able to widen or deepen the patch, as the ground becomes rock solid by frost and bitter, freezing winds, drying and hardening the fertile ground into a block of impenetrable rock. As he continued to spade and shovel the dirt out he slowed to gain his breath, he heard the faint knocking of knuckles on wood, it sounded like his front door being knocked. He left the shovel and spade by the side of the patch of dug up dirt and walked around the house to approach the front door from outside. He could see that the front door was open and swaying and slamming closed and back open in the window. He got close enough to put the door handle in his hand, pushed it open and closed it behind him as he walked in. The house was silent as he stood in silence himself, he dismissed it as the wind blowing the front door open somehow, he walked to the back door and noticed it wasn’t closed properly either, he knew he had closed it himself, he stood puzzled and frowning, not willing to move or make a sound.

The woman from the clothes store was back outside with her little carrier, placing clothes inside it and pulling it back in. Lucia followed her into the building while looking all around her. There was all type of clothes everywhere around her, men’s suits, men’s winter wear, women’s dresses and even random hats and accessories. She stopped following the woman, letting her get on with her work without being stalked, she stopped at a row of coats, spotting a very dark navy blue robe, she tried it on, it was baggy and didn’t leave a single part of her body exposed to rain. It was warm inside, lined with some type of very soft and dark fur, maybe that of black wolves. It seemed layered, as if wind proof, she folded it up and kept it under her arms as she held her two books in her two hands placed together to deal with the weight. Looking for a counter, she found one, which the woman who had been carrying and pulling around the clothes was at, with her trusty carrier just to the side of it, completely empty. She placed the robe on the counter and gave the woman the coins that she asked for, she had plenty to spare but Lucia was planning on keeping a few for a another trip to this town, to treat herself to a meal and some more books. The woman asked her in her delicate and gently low voice if she wanted her books packed in the box that her robe was packed into, she said yes and smiled, thanking her and nodding at her as she handed it over the counter and into her hands. She happily walked towards the shop entrance, holding the box with both hands due to it’s weight.

As she reached the entrance to the warehouse and exited the building, she stepped out and looked up at the sky. The sky had darkened yet again, it was colder than before but still bright enough to see, and the clouds did not look like they were about to erupt into rainful tears. She placed her box down by the side of the road and opened it, taking the robe out and slipping one arm in and throwing it around her shoulder and placing the other arm in. This was just to keep warm with the colder wind. She put the lid back on the box and stood up, carrying it and deciding to walk back home.

As she began to walk home the weather did not not change, the wind kept its blowing, making her face cold as she went, blushing up rosy cheeks to which she pulled her hood down on her robe to cover more of her face but still allowing her to see in front of her. Awkwardly she had to hold the books in the box in front of her, as it was too wide to place under her arms, as it would slip open and most probably throw the books into the dirt. She walked on and on, being easy to spot because of her robe by passer bys, who move the other side of the road and pass her with great haste. She thinks as she walks which keeps her mind busy for the time of the walk. Before she knows it she is among familiar trees and evidently close to home. Seeing her wooden home come into view as she rounds corners, slowly letting it come into full view and growing with every step. She was close enough to see the house fully and could see no activity through the windows. She placed the box in one hand as it was no light enough to be held with just one, although still awkward because of its size. Placing her free hand on the door handle and twisting it, entering and closing it behind her. She pulled her hood down with a sigh at the feeling of her head and hair being free from the overshadowing of being covered up. Taking the box into the kitchen and gently resting it on the table she could smell cooked goods. The other box on the counter caught her eye, she crept over, feeling like a naughty child creeping up on its younger sibling to scare it by a sudden grab or shout. She lifted the lip and could see the cooked cake, complete and delicious. This and the aroma that hit her nostrils instantly made her want to eat some, but she decided to wait to eat it with her father, so she could thank him. She went about the house to look for him, not taking her robe off, he was not sat in the living room reading or sleeping, he also was not upstairs in her room, which he never was anyway, or his own. So she concluded that he would be outside cutting wood, she thought back to walking to the house, recalling no noise of wood chopping which makes a very distinct and clear echoing noise in these lands. Maybe he was seeing to the stored food or trash patch. Maybe she could sneak up on him and actually be the naughty child this time.

She made her way to the back door, opening it and stepping forward and closing it behind her as slowly and gently as possible, watching the gap become smaller and smaller until nothing, fully closed. She huddled herself down into a crouching position and moved slowly and gently, placing the palms oh her hands on the floor to spread her body weight into all four limbs to reduce noise as she went. Creeping forward in an ape like way, keeping herself low and quiet as she went towards the wood cabin. She reached it, seeing the patch filled up to the top and smoothed over and the tools back in their place, the wood block showing no sighs of being used. From this she concluded that he must be in the food storage shed. She moved herself to the entrance of the shed, still crouching and holding one hand up at the side of the entrance and the other palm down on the floor. She looked down the steps to which she could see only the flickering of a light, the steps were visible because of outside light but the trees behind her made the light flick on and off of the steps. While past the steps she could see nothing but blackness. She gently placed her feet on each step, trying not to let her feet make any noise, they did not make any noise as the steps were made by cutting out hard clay in order to make steps out of the already placed ground, rather than place wood there.

As she reached the bottom, with the rows to both of her sides of shelves for wines and other foods and the occasion barrel which would store liquids and flesh, she could see all the way to the back of the storage room, only because a candle was lit on a wooden table, one that always held tools, random equipment and usually papers. She could see no person or figures except for that of a shadow being cast onto the walls from the candle light, it looked like the outline of someone’s face and hair, being blocked by something lower, something wider. She slowly approached close to the shelves on the side of the shadow, so she could sneak up on him, as it only made sense that it would be him. She held her hands at the shelves and instead of stepping, slid her feet through the dust and dirt without leaving her feet, slightly gliding over the surface as she went. She reached the corner and peeked around it an inch at a time until just one of her eyes could see, she couldn’t make it out in the light, she could only make the shadow of someone facing away from her. She felt nervous as she wasn’t sure who it was, she couldn’t make it out, or was it even a person, she thought maybe it was a hunted animal or maybe someone had visited her father, out of confusion and not wishing to risk scaring a stranger, she cleared her throat to make herself known. Nothing.

She stood herself up, guessing it just must of been her mistake. With the lack of light, being underground and having such a long day, maybe she was making figures up out of anything, she guessed it must of been an animal or probably something stupid like a jug or something not even vaguely human like. Out of curiosity she put her hands to it, it felt like clay, like wet clay that has just been shaped. It was most definitely that of a humanoid shaped face, as she felt with her hands, wet with clay, a bust maybe? But of her own face? Maybe her dad made a statue head for her? She became excited and knowing that she should leave it as it would be a surprise ruined but not caring, she was far too curious, she took it over to the candle light. She could only see clay like surface, the bust lacked hair as she looked. Holding it from the back she realised from the light that she had it backwards. She turned it around to revealed what it really was. She could see an almost blank, featureless face on the bust, the clay was still wet on the top but it had been applied with different amounts in different places, it was unlevel. She wiped her hands across it instinctively which rubbed away the wet layer. But with this she noticed something odd, the eyes were not made of clay, but looked merely filled of clay. It was a terrible bust attempt if she ever seen one. It was a mess and must of been abandoned. She wiped at it more and more until only the hard layer was left, but with this she noticed a rubbery feeling and blood. There was blood on her hands from wiping at it, she noticed there was no longer clay, but tough, rubbery skin. She rubbed near the eyes to reveal pale skin and more blood, revealed clay filled eye sockets. She instantly realised with horror that it was no bust at all, but a face, a head, a dead persons head. Horrified but just as curious as horrified, in a panic she rubbed more and more at the face, taking the clay off, revealing teeth and no cheek flesh, which had been cut. No nose but just the clay filled hole and blood. No ear, but again just clay and blood with red flesh.

As she did all this she become painfully aware of recognising every single feature, missing or not, she could fill in the gaps. She held it, squeezing her hands in towards it from both sides, panicking in horror. Not only was it a dead head, but she knew it. She threw it in revulsion and instantly emptied her stomach on the floor. She could not stop, bringing her to her knees and throwing up everything she had eaten, until she was throwing up nothing but her own guts, feeling like they would at any moment pop out of her throat as she gagged and gagged. Her hands were filled with dust and covered in dirt and sick from wiping her face and being forced to hold the floor as she threw up. She dragged herself away from it and towards the entrance. Managing to stand she regained her strength and will by the mere urge to be away from this room. She managed to run up the stairs like a galloping horse, she ran out of shed and straight passed the wood cabin, she attempted to run and step over the dirt patch but didn’t judge the distance, instantly stepping into it and her leg being swallowed by the newly placed ground. As her foot went down it was stopped by a solid object, she ripped her leg straight out of the dirt and pushed it out of the patch area, standing like an animal who has just been attacked, regaining composure in a panic of survival. Having one leg caked in dirt like clay she ran the fastest she could, not back into the house but away from it, down the dirt path road away, anywhere but away.

Janus was now well on his way to Lucia’s, it was later than he wanted, it was beginning to get dark but at least he was only five minutes behind his other carriage now. He sat patiently, anxious and unable to read in the light. While his servants ahead kept their eyes on the road, leading Janus’ second carriage by directing the first. He need only wait a while longer. While it began to darken, his front carriage lite a torch to light up the area, it wasn’t needed but soon would be, as when it began to darken, it would get to a certain point and then suddenly be pitch black, and these torches could last for hours.

As she ran for miles and miles in panic, in the distance she could see a light, a flame, moving towards her, she ran faster and harder towards it. The clay on her leg had begun to harden, her boots making her taller being so covered in muck. She couldn’t care less, she needed to get to the light.

As the servants in the first carriages looked forward with their torches they could see something in the distance, and hear it as it began to make shrieking noises. It was too small to be a horse and its feet were not making any noise, but the noise was animalistic. They readied themselves fearing wolves, carried on leaning forward to see it. As it got close enough to be withing sight of strained eyes, one of the servants took his hand of his weapon and jumped down to which the driver shouted “What are you doing?!” stopping the carriage with his speech. The man looked up at him with a disappointed face and returned a tone of anger “It’s a person, you fool!” He took the torch and held it up, clearly illuminating himself to whoever it was to show them he was there. It was a woman, caked in clay, she came into view and as quickly as she had, she ran into the man with the torch, rapping herself around him, pushing her face into his body and wrestling him to the ground, making him fall and drop the torch. The other servant picked up the touch and went to grab his dagger from his belt to which the man wrestling with her scream out “Don’t! I think it’s Lucia!” The man returned a confused what, wrestling her out of the other man’s hands to look at her. “You’re right!” “Signal with the torch to the carriage!” “Yes.” he replied in a feeble voice, and carried on repeating that one word while he did so. After a very short time the carriage came into view stopping at the clear signal of the torch. The man had now took all the power out of her body movements by wrestling with her and controlling her body by holding it in place. She no longer moved but for little hand movements, she was either out cold or could no longer move, or maybe, thought the servant, she had just given up. He picked her up in his arms easily, she was weightless, as if her losing of power and will to fight had left her body light and empty. The driver from the other carriage asked what was going on while the man carried her to the carriage, he did not reply, instead he forced himself in Janus’ carriage and while he sat waiting, suddenly shocked by the sight and having Lucia literally dropped into his lap. Janus said nothing to the servant until after a long pause after putting her in a comfortable position on himself and shaking the shock out of him, he whispered “Turn back.”

They did exactly that, taking the carriages and turning them to return, everything was silent but the night’s animals. Other than the trotting of their feet, even he horses made no sound. Janus’ sat stroking her face and holding her as if she was some powerless baby. His eyes were wide, he barely blinked nor breathed. He whispered over and over to her, not knowing if she could hear him, merely saying “It’s okay, it’s okay.” Feeling even himself, like he was muttering sweet nothings. He wiped and stroked her face, occasionally leaning his head down to rest his chin on her head or to kiss her forehead. He was curious as to what was happening, he felt like he was inside a dream. He shook his head withe the thought “But that can wait, for now, she needs me. Conscious or not.”

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