Author Topic: Just Her Luck :: Night time at Ashleigh\'s Cloth Shoppe  (Read 5973 times)

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DoesWeep

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Just Her Luck :: Night time at Ashleigh\'s Cloth Shoppe
« on: May 19, 2006, 04:29:44 PM »
The babe was crying again. Oh! how could something so small produce such a noise! He was always in want. He always wanted food, a change of smallclothes, warmth, coolness, a bath, or a cure for a sickness. He wanted attention, always! Heath was a working young woman-- she had no time for children. Here he was, however, his little face red with want.

Bang bang bang, Heath\'s fist went on the hard wooden door. The rain drizzled all around her, and she tried desperately to shelter her youngling. Bang bang bang. It was so dark. The candles in the windows had been blown out. The road was empty and the sky was overcast. Beyond her road, the marketplace was just as empty, just as lonely, and just as dark. The sound of droplets on the cobblestones did nothing to sooth the squalling babe.

“Pate? Jim?” Heath called in her desperate little voice. She was shivering. Her hair was damp and untied, falling in sad tendrils around her pale wet face. “Please, someone!” The door was locked and Heath had no key. The long row of dwellings offered no back or side doors for thieves to break into. The only window was a wide bay window that displayed the Ashleighs’ wares — well made cloths, sewn or not, of up to five different colours. The family name was etched into the thick glass as it had been for the past few years. This was her home and her work, but tonight it was empty, and there was no way in.

The sound of a babe crying continued to echo in the black of the storm. "Anyone?"

Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: Just Her Luck :: Night time at Ashleigh\'s Cloth Shoppe
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2006, 12:34:14 AM »
Gallagher heard the sound of a squawking infant and stumbled to a halt, peering through the darkness to locate it (even though his ale-riddled brain told him the noise was originating ahead of him and, logically, he really oughtn\'t stop if he hoped to do something about it). The night was not particularly pleasant - the baby seemed to agree with that - but he hadn\'t realised just how ugly it had become until he\'d stepped out of the Falcon\'s Mask Inn a short while ago. Up to that point, he\'d had a very merry time of it indeed.

The rumble of thunder growling across the black expanse of the sky above spurred the blonde into action once more, a determined expression now overtaking his face. He\'d tended babies since he\'d been one himself; Hell, he\'d tended his own twin (or so the running family joke went).  He would sort this crying child out and make it back to his bed before he became soaked through.

He came upon the poor woman soon enough (his long legs covered the distance quickly, despite being a little unsteady for all the drink sloshing about within them), his heart going out to her for the condition she appeared to be in. Pounding fruitlessly on a firmly-locked door seemed to be doing no good, no wonder the infant was crying so loudly. The stress of a mother was always communicated to the child.

"Madam please, let me assist you," he told her earnestly as he meandered to a stop on her left. Although his voice was steady, the sincerity of his tone was somewhat undermined when the world did a neat jump and spin before his very eyes and he found it necessary to lean against the glass of the shopfront for support. It took his attention for a moment - long enough for him to read the name and recall that he\'d bought many of his clothes here, in fact - but he was soon looking back at her, straining to make out the glint of her eyes in the unforgiving blackness of the night. Damn, she seemed a long way down.

DoesWeep

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Re: Just Her Luck :: Night time at Ashleigh\'s Cloth Shoppe
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2006, 04:20:42 AM »
The distraught mother never heard the man coming. The rain was pattering all around her, and the thunder was grumbling over head making the baby wail even more. The fright that Heath felt, therefore, when Gallagher spoke his words, was quite evident on her white young face. Her grey eyes were wide and her red lips parted in surprise. Her arms rose in a protective position over her child, and her pale cheeks grew a splotchy red.

“I-I’m sorry,” her said as those eyes found their way to the ground. Had she been so loud as to wake a neighbour? Perhaps she should have remained silent and waited for the morning. Could it be she had attracted the attention of an unwanted stranger, drunk and vicious, in search of a lonely young woman with a pair of teats?

Heath tensed as the thought entered her mind. The outer city of the castle was no place to be wandering alone at night, especially if you were a woman.

Please, she thought desperately, don’t hurt my baby…

Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: Just Her Luck :: Night time at Ashleigh\'s Cloth Shoppe
« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2006, 12:58:29 PM »
"Oh no, don\'t be sorry!" Gallagher grinned enthusiastically, shoving himself off the glass window so that he was a little closer to the woman.  She seemed to shrink from him even more and he realised then that he probably ought to give her some space.  She was a tiny thing; no doubt he seemed threatening (had he been sober, he would never have dared to get so close so quickly; he was generally well aware of how much bigger he was than.... well, just about everyone else.  Certainly women).

"I\'m sorry," he told her hastily, taking a noticeable step away.  He looked to the building she\'d been attempting to gain entry to, then gave her a questioning look.  "Your man lock you out?" he asked sympathetically, trying to get to the bottom of her dilemma.  He tried his damndest to recall exactly who lived in this shop and then which was married, once he remembered that it was owned and run by two brothers.  He had done business with one... the older, he\'d thought... something starting with P... Paul?  Maybe.  Didn\'t seem right, though; he remembered it being an unusual name and internally cursed his alcohol-soaked mind for not giving him more information.

He definitely didn\'t remember a woman living there, especially one with a baby, but he had to acknowledge that he hadn\'t bought clothes in quite some time.  Many things could change - like one of the brothers getting this woman pregnant and marrying her, for instance.  Or perhaps she wasn\'t married to them and the child was a bastard neither wished to claim.  That would explain why she didn\'t have a key to a place he\'d assumed she resided in (and there was no explanation for that... why would a resident not be able to get into her own home?  No, this new theory of illegitimacy was far more likely).

He peered seriously down at her, hoping he wasn\'t being too impertinent.

DoesWeep

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Re: Just Her Luck :: Night time at Ashleigh\'s Cloth Shoppe
« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2006, 02:09:15 PM »
Heath felt her heart in her throat, but she managed to keep herself from running away when the man came near. She could smell the alcohol on his breath and took a step back as the baby let out a quiet wail. The little one was getting tired by now, and despite the cold and his hunger, his crying was not so piercing.

By the time the question was posed, Heath was too nervous to notice that the man had taken a considerable step backwards. Her mind was flooded with signals, some telling her to flee, others clogging replies down her throat. On the outside, the young woman could do nothing more than shake her head slowly and continue to eye the ground.

But courage, it seems, can be mustered in even the most dire of situations. A mixture of desperation and worry for her son forced Heath to think clearly. She needed to co-operate with someone if she was ever to find shelter.

“Not my lover,” she said in a voice that could barely be heard over the patter of the rain. “My brothers.”

She chanced to raise her glance ever so slowly to look at her opposite. In the dark he looked like nothing else but a danger to Heath. His height seemed monstrous, and she felt a renewal of fear swell in her mind. There was, however, something pleasant in that face. Heath only saw it for a moment before her eyes found the wet cobblestones once more.

Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: Just Her Luck :: Night time at Ashleigh\'s Cloth Shoppe
« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2006, 02:52:22 PM »
"Brothers?" he asked in surprise, his head tilting back thoughtfully and his even features succumbing to a frown. It took him a few moments to put two and two together. She lived with her brothers... not her husband? So the child was illegitimate (though this was none of his business) and... but that certainly didn\'t explain why she couldn\'t get in!

"So you live here, then? With your brothers? But they won\'t let you in?" he muttered slowly, struggling to see his way clear to enlightenment. He was beginning to think that all these questions were getting him nowhere anyway; the girl was a shy mess, staring fearfully at her feet and not even able to look him in the eye. She didn\'t seem to want his help; he was no doubt interfering where he wasn\'t welcome. Despite thinking that he should just leave her be, however... he wanted to help, and the need only grew greater the longer he stood there watching her shiver and listening to her child whimper.

Truthfully, he couldn\'t bear the thought that such a helpless cause would be heartlessly abandoned to this punishing night. What were her brothers thinking? Perhaps there seemed to be a reason - to them - that they should ostracise the poor female; maybe they disapproved of her wayward behaviour in bringing a bastard child into the world. Were he in their position, though, and one of his sisters were to do exactly that, he knew he couldn\'t disown her.  Not for that. His parents certainly wouldn\'t, either, but that was neither here nor there at this stage. The way his family coddled its own was clearly not the case for the (he peered slyly at the shop window once more, finding it was becoming increasingly more easy to focus as concern invaded his being) Ashleighs, however.

Although he forced thoughts of familiarity from his mind - in order to better concentrate on the young woman before him - he couldn\'t help but view her as a pseudo-sister. He couldn\'t see her face clearly but in the dim lighting he was easily able to imagine her with the appearance of Kerri, his eldest sister. In mannerism, though, she was more like one of the twins - Amy. Whatever the case, he was of the mind that should some gentlemen ever find one of his siblings in such a predicament, he would expect nothing less than their best effort at easing the situation for the girl. This young lady was someone\'s sister; he was obliged to help, even if he scared her.

"Allow me to offer you a warm bed and shelter for the night, then - until your quarrel with them is sorted and you are granted access to the family home once more," he implored, pleased that there wasn\'t even the slightest slur to his words any longer. He gave her a sincere smile, hoping that the distant light of a street lamp might glint off his clean teeth and show her that he was friendly. And trustworthy.

DoesWeep

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Re: Just Her Luck :: Night time at Ashleigh\'s Cloth Shoppe
« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2006, 01:16:57 PM »
The questions posed to her were just shy of overwhelming for the young woman. Heath’s daily interaction with people outside her family usually included a total of four or five words exchanged, and no more than a few minutes in each other’s presence. In any other situation, she would have been far, far away by now. But she was desperate.
 
The questions, therefore, were barely acknowledged. It was only when he asked her, ‘But they won\'t let you in?’ that she changed her visual mood. She looked up, and opened her mouth, as if to protest. They wouldn’t lock me out on purpose, she wanted to explain. They really do love me! There’s something wrong, is all. If they knew I was here, they’d let me in… The only sounds made in response, however, was a small cough from the baby. The young woman’s grey eyes were back on the ground.
 
The stranger, however, was still not leaving. She wished to be rid of the anxiety of having another person around, the worry that this person might want to hurt her or her baby. She wanted to be alone, or with her family. More than anything, however, she wanted the very thing that he was about to offer.
 
She did not seek to disagree with the observation he made about a quarrel. No, that would require far too many words for the meek young lady, so instead she battled over whether or not she would accept his kindly offer. How could she trust him; this strange young man who had appeared out of the dark? Would she be safer remaining in the cold, wet doorway until her brothers found her? And let my son perish from cold and hunger? Heath\'s heart raced for a moment as her motherly instinct injected a dose of adrenalin into her system. She had to accept the offer. For him.
 
“I… I thank you,” she said, curtsying in a small but still ever-so humble manner. “I would a-accept.” Her face flushed and her eyes glossy with potential tears, she looked up to that trusting smile, and told herself that everything would be alright.

Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: Just Her Luck :: Night time at Ashleigh\'s Cloth Shoppe
« Reply #7 on: May 22, 2006, 05:05:39 PM »
"Excellent," he murmured, the smile becoming more relaxed as she finally accepted. He\'d been watching her intently and had been steeling himself for rejection - the timid thing seemed to be debating quite wilfully with herself and he wasn\'t so insensitive that he didn\'t realise why; in her place, he would certainly prefer to keep his family woes to himself and wait it out, rather than pick up with some drunken stranger if he were... well, a woman - but she\'d come to her senses. Standing out here and banging wasn\'t going to rouse her brothers (he dismissed the notion that he might be able to do so, for even though he\'d be louder, they were unlikely to even attend to a stranger\'s voice bellowing on the street) so she would certainly do best coming with him. He recognised that the final decision might have had something to do with the babe, and he respected that, too.
 
"My name is Bede Gallagher - most just go with Gallagher, if you like - and I am," he broke off his humble introduction to drop into a courteous (and really quite formal, considering the circumstances) bow just as he got to the important bit. As he straightened (with barely a wobble), he continued. "The Stable Manager of our city\'s finest - and only - establishment for equine beasts. From the king\'s horses to the farmer\'s; we look after \'em all in style," he explained grandiosely, dropping her a wink he wasn\'t certain she\'d even see.
 
His tones were jovial in their boasting, but he really was a significant man in the city\'s scheme. As much as he spoke with a flourish and a jibe, he took his role very seriously. It was a matter of security that he did - and those in power above him would remind him of this very hastily by tossing him out on his ear, should he ever forget that.
 
"Fear not, m\'lday," he continued with slightly more gravity, "I have my own quarters; I would invite you to share them, not a stall - even if the royal housings do rival my own. The fire will be low when we get there, but the bed is in its own section and will be warm, to hold you and yours very snugly. There\'s a fold out bed I can set up in front of the fire in the main room - if you don\'t mind - or I can go to the hands\' dorm. Whatever you will be most comfortable with," he explained, wanting to make it quite clear that he intended her no ill will or provocative accommodation. He figured it could only be reassuring, to get such an honest explanation after she\'d agreed to go with him... on blind faith.
 
After his reference to the baby, his thoughtful gaze fell to the bulge strapped to her. "What have you called the little one?" he asked, knowing that his voice had changed to adopt that annoyingly simpering tone that people so often did when they cooed at an infant, but he couldn\'t help it. Babies were such a celebration, and a delight. He\'d had a hand in raising many of them - as recently as last moon, when he\'d agreed to look after his two year old sibling for a week, when winter was at its harshest - and he felt a deal of goodwill towards them (of course, with the amount of alcohol in his system at that moment, he felt a healthy dose of goodwill for a lot of things).
 
He hoped that the mother would offer her name, along with the baby\'s, else he would have grave difficulty addressing her as anything other than Miss Ashleigh (and he could only suppose that was right... though she could also be a widow, he\'d lately realised). Such a delicate operation, was housing a refugee mother and child.

DoesWeep

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Re: Just Her Luck :: Night time at Ashleigh\'s Cloth Shoppe
« Reply #8 on: May 23, 2006, 01:09:19 AM »
Goodness, he did talk a lot, didn’t he? Heath couldn’t help but gaze up at this man— Bede Gallagher—with a slight look of wonderment. The dramatic bow that he dropped in front of her also caught her a little off balance. His tone and expressions, all full of laughter and grandness, almost made her want to smile in spite of the rain and cold.  Her mind, though still alert and waiting for an attack, wandered to lighter thoughts. Perhaps this man wasn’t so dangerous.

Heath didn’t venture to speak again until Gallagher’s flurry of words had finished their run. She might have offered her name, but the attention was drawn to her baby before she could pass the words through her lips. Her eyes dropped to her babe, now letting out but a whine as his little body was too tired to go on crying. His little face was quite flushed, and his eyes closed. He looked so tiny, even against his mother’s little frame.

“He is not yet named,” Heath said very quietly. She almost let out a smile as she gazed at him. Almost. “I-It is bad luck to name an infant before he has seen a year.” It wasn’t really a tradition practiced by all commoners. Most had the expectation that their children would live forever, when the sad truth was that most children would die before they were one year old. Heath’s mother’s family had always named their children after one year, so that the Talon would not be able to find them in the first fragile year of their lives. To Heath this made so much sense, but for some reason she could feel the eyes of her questioner on her face, and she reddened. “F-family tradition,” she blurted out as quickly as she could.

She was silent for a moment, letting the embarrassment increase with each passing breath. Before Gallagher could say anything, though, she blurted out another word. “Heath.” Her eyes darted up to him and then down again. “That’s my name.”

Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: Just Her Luck :: Night time at Ashleigh\'s Cloth Shoppe
« Reply #9 on: May 23, 2006, 08:20:57 AM »
"Well met," he murmured idly, his thoughts more focussed on the information he\'d just gleaned - though his head dipped automatically as a sign of respect and acknowledgement.

He found it rather appropriate that this quiet, tenacious woman (for she struck him so, in her determination to not give too much away while protecting her child with a fierceness to be expected of every mother) should be named after the lands around the keep that resisted cultivation due to their sandy or rough nature.  She wasn\'t rough but she did impress him as independent and contrary, despite her meekness.  It was possibly the way she refused to retain eye contact, or turned her body ever so slightly, that her infant be removed from his reach at all times.  She didn\'t say much, but her will was apparent, regardless.

As for the child having no name yet... well, it was unusual but he was certainly not about to offer an opinion one way or the other.  It was not his business.  All he\'d really wanted was a subtle clue as to the child\'s sex, or a way to refer to it as anything but \'it\'.  He would simply have to be blatant, in that matter, but he was more intent upon starting them upon their journey for the time being.

"This way, then," he instructed, setting off along the cobbled path that all established shoppes owned.  He\'d only gone a few steps though, before he realised he was going the wrong way.  Apparently the ale\'s effects had not entirely abandoned him once he\'d gained a new mission.  With an embarrssed blush (that she thankfully wouldn\'t see), he spun on his heel and went in completely the opposite direction.  "No.  The stables are best reached from this direction," he told her sheepishly.  It was true that the area of the Outerkeep went all the way around and they really could have reached the main gates to the Innerkeep the way they\'d been going... but it would have taken a lot longer.

He cleared his throat once they were properly on their way and glanced down at her.  "So, the child - boy or girl?" he asked cheerfully, having ascertained that the best way (the only way?) to get her talking seemed to be to limit the conversation to her child or to simple sentences that she would have more hope in answering.  He wasn\'t entirely convinced that she was fully-witted (not that it mattered) and had concluded that he would need to speak more slowly to help her along.  Of course, she could also be very shy.

DoesWeep

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Re: Just Her Luck :: Night time at Ashleigh\'s Cloth Shoppe
« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2006, 12:55:27 PM »
Heath could feel the heat residing from her face as a gust of wind blew rain drops in her face, sending a wave of shivers over her body. Her thin brown cloak was soaked through, weighing heavy on her shoulders, and her handkerchief did little to keep her head dry. The articles of clothing that were the least wet were the layers bundled around the baby. And yet he still whimpered.

She watched the man as he started to walk in one direction and then stopped. Her hesitation most likely saved her from colliding with him as he wheeled around and set off in the opposite direction. It was obvious to her that Gallagher was fresh from the tavern, though he masked his inebriation under a control of speech and fairly even walking. But he even missed when Heath addressed her baby as ‘he’, and had to have a clarification.

“A boy,” she replied quietly, making no hint towards her discovery. She was walking quickly behind the male, trying to keep up with his longer strides but without getting entirely too close to him. While the questions concerned her baby, she was much more at ease to answer them, though it also kept her mind on the infant, and his protection.

The baby let out a hiccup and a sob, and went on crying.

Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: Just Her Luck :: Night time at Ashleigh\'s Cloth Shoppe
« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2006, 06:17:00 PM »
"Ahh," he sighed, nodding approvingly - for what else was he meant to say? Either sex would have prompted the same response, as it was none of his concern, really. He\'d completely missed the \'he\' reference in his intent on hearing an actual name, but ignorance was blissful and he walked blithely down the market lane and through the large main gates to the Innerkeep. The stables were on their immediate left once inside.
 
He\'d been conscious of the fact that she\'d started out walking behind him, rather than with him - for he\'d had to turn to hear her answer - so at first he\'d stopped for her to catch up to him. All that had resulted was an awkward two step as she stayed behind - and then stepped back - while he spun around her to get to her side. It was not at all eloquent and he seriously doubted that it had anything to do with how many pints he\'d downed. She obviously wanted to stay back there. He\'d merely reminded himself that she was simple and continued on his way with an internal shrug. He\'d intended to converse with her at greater length as they walked, but gave that notion up as a lost cause. What would be the point if he had to stop every three steps to turn and face her? It would be polite, but impractical, so he held his tongue for the rest of the walk and concentrated instead on going slowly enough for her to keep up, at least... though, the sooner they were out of the elements, the better.
 
Luckily, it wasn\'t entirely necessary she be at his side the entire way. He didn\'t know if she\'d ever been to the stables before but he doubted she was in a mood for a tour so he just led her straight to the northern end of the huge two-storey building. Although it wasn\'t used frequently by anyone but staff - mainly because it was only wide enough for one person to traverse - a long staircase that led almost directly to his rooms was found there. It had a landing halfway up and that was where he paused to check that his charge was still following. She appeared sure-footed even on wet wood, though, so he hastened up to open the door for her. This also allowed him to speak with the guard posted there - there were always two stationed at the other end, where the stock ramp was.
 
Apparently the northern guard had taken a dislike to the inclement weather and moved themself inside, for they were meant to be found outside, blocking any unauthorised access. Gallagher didn\'t blame them, but he knew that if their superiors ever found out, they\'d catch merry Hell (the secret was safe with him, however) for making such a decision without authorisation. The Captain especially would rant like a dragon; her fire was undeniable.
 
With a smile, he greeted the female guard just inside the door at the top of the stairs - at least she hadn\'t strayed all the way down the other end for a chat, as some had been known to do. She assessed him with suspicious brown eyes while he stepped in, but relaxed visibly when she saw who it was. Her smile mirrored his own as she bade, "Evenin\', sir," with a doff of her headwear.
 
"And what a wet one it is!" he answered enthusiastically, pleased when she gave a short laugh and agreed. He made some polite talk about how long her shift had gone - and would last - while he waited for his two guests to emerge from the outside, but he couldn\'t help overseeing his domain while he spoke. A few lights were evident on the floor, shining out of stalls farther down the wide aisle, indicating that a few stable hands had begun their night shift\'s work. The roster was something he organised and every hand was required to do one night\'s work per week. It was a skeleton crew, as there wasn\'t an enormous amount to be done - and the horses liked to sleep, too - but Gallagher preferred to always have workers up and about the place as an internal security measure. Plus, it ensured that everyone\'s tack got the regular oiling and care it needed. The lanterns exuding subtle light into the noticeably-warmer (than the outside) space gave it a cosy, welcoming glow that he hoped his stray would appreciate.
 
As Heath hesitated just inside the door to get her bearings, Gallagher urged her gently forward and closed the door behind her. "This," he explained to the guard once he\'d turned again, a light arm across Heath\'s shoulders holding her in place, "is Miss Heath Ashleigh." He may have been wrong entirely about her name and title, but he could only hope she\'d correct him if that were the case. He gave a brief pause, but when she didn\'t look up from the floor, he continued. "Due to an unfortunate mixup with a key, I found her locked out of her home this night, so she and her son will have my bed while I find another. If either of her brothers happen to come calling - which is doubtful - be sure to inform them that their sister is safe and allow them entry, would you? Likewise inform your colleagues that I have a guest, should they feel it necessary to question her presence in the morning."
 
The guard nodded and gave a very succinct greeting to the small blonde woman before spinning on her heel to do exactly that. Gallagher had been very deliberate in his description of Heath\'s circumstances, so as not to tarnish her reputation in the slightest. He frequently had... guests... that needed introducing to the guards, so that they could leave the stables whenever they chose (though it was frowned upon if they decided to wander too much on the way, for they weren\'t always the most... respectable of persons), but it wouldn\'t do to give that impression of Miss Ashleigh. Satisfied that all was well, Gallagher moved away from the young mother after entreating her to follow him once more, knowing that things were probably progressing too quickly for her to process fully, but determined to get her settled as swiftly as possible. At a glance in meagre lighting, she looked sodden and he was fairly certain that his arm - although wet itself - had come away colder and damper for the touch of her.

He walked along the wall to his right and turned the corner when it came to an end some twenty of his paces down. A sign over the door set squarely in the centre of the face wall read \'Stable Master\' (for he was not technically entitled to the quarters) but he didn\'t hesitate as he flung the (obviously) unlocked door open and walked through. A lantern left alight, suspended from the centre of the ceiling, complemented the glow from the large stone fireplace set in the left wall - a fire he hadn\'t set.  Well, that he didn\'t remember setting, anyway. He noticed that a large pot of water was suspended over the flames on the spit, though, and wondered if he\'d told one of the hands to get water for a bath ready before he left... or whether his habits of bathing most nights were just so well known that they didn\'t even have to be asked any longer. With a slight frown and just a little baffled thought, he decided it must be the latter.  Probably.
 
He stopped just inside, watching for his companion\'s entry and reaction. His quarters were compact due to there being divisions in it. He stood in the main room, a handmade rug and a simple two-person chaise before the fire pit on the left. The seat\'s back was towards them, behind it (right in front of him) stood a simple square table with four wooden chairs at it. To the right was a large black stove and a bench against the wall, the small metal tub upon the tall counter confirming that this space was the kitchen. Another bright handmade rug covered that part of the room, co-ordinating subtly with the crooked woollen creation (made by his sister when he left home a decade before) and multi-hued tapestry (made by all the women in his family) on his walls. Small curtains of material hung in front of the two metre long bench, hiding the shelf halfway up that supported all his foodstuffs.
 
A wooden wall ahead divided the apartment in two. Since there were two doors set into it, there were obviously two rooms beyond it, but both were closed. His bedroom was the one on the left (for it had a small fireplace of its own, in the same wall as the main room\'s), the one on the right was supposedly empty. Though the room bore no official title - it seemed intended to be a child\'s bedroom, considering its more limited dimensions when compared with the main bedroom - it was certainly not well labelled as \'spare\'. Inside, there was a treasure trove of stuff, strewn across its floor or stacked in supposedly-neat piles. There were a great many horse blankets, leather scraps (for him to work on in his spare time), finished bridles, spare cots and quite a few piles of notes and ledgers from the years he\'d been in this role. truthfully, there could have been more but he rarely ventured in there but to dump more things within and hastily exit. One day, he intended to buy or make some shelves or storage robes to hold these things, but... he never seemed to find the time to get round to it.
 
"This is where I live," he told Heath, curious to get a good look at her face, now that they were in decent light. He removed his calf-length coat while he watched her, revealing a simple outfit of dark brown slacks and a vest over a creamy long-sleeved cotton shirt. It had a rounded collar and five buttons, going from the neck to halfway down his chest; only the bottom one was still done up, the edges of the lapel sagging aside to reveal the inner points of his collarbones and some smooth skin.

DoesWeep

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Re: Just Her Luck :: Night time at Ashleigh\'s Cloth Shoppe
« Reply #12 on: May 24, 2006, 12:26:55 AM »
Heath’s heart was racing. From her dodging Gallagher’s attempts to stand near her to meeting his guards to being in his apartment, she was so clouded in embarrassment that she hardly saw the whole thing happen. In fact, she literally didn’t see anything because she had become quite fascinated with the ground, and refused to raise her eyes to meet anyone else’s. She chanced to look up only a few times, when her male companion had his back to her. He may not have noticed, but she saw the stables and fixed her gaze on them for much longer than she intended to. Her eyes were wide as she though of horses and riding under the sun, getting lost in the woods, and racing over the fields. She quite nearly released a wistful sigh before she caught it and swallowed it forcefully.

The apartment Heath also looked up to study. She couldn’t help but feel a little safer now, indoors and in the light. The warmth was almost enough to make her completely at ease, but with a stranger only a few steps away, she remained on her guard with her infant still clutched to her breast. Now that she was indoors, though, the wetness was even more obvious. Her pale face was slick with rain, her hair matted into tendrils, and a pool of water was beginning to form at her feet as she stood motionless just beyond the door. Her eyes traveled slowly over the walls and the furniture until they finally rested on the thing she yearned for most.

She hesitated for a moment as Gallagher introduced the place, and then (to everyone’s surprise!) spoke. “Might I…” she began slowly with a slight quiver in her voice, “sit by the fire?” She looked to the floor first, following the patterns in the rug and then traveling up the man’s leg to his face.

It took just a heartbeat for Heath to get a good look at him. In the light he did not seem so frightening. He was quite handsome, in fact, with a smile on his face that could have warmed even her shivering frame. His body seemed quite fit indeed, though the light also showed how big and strong he really was. She swallowed and looked quickly down to her baby when she though of how easily he could overcome her.

By now, however, she was really beginning to consider trusting this man. He had been nothing but accommodating since he had found her, and had made no move on her in the dark. Now that she was in his very house with guards at the doors, maybe she shouldn’t have felt endangered, but rather quite safe. Besides, no one who loved horses could possibly be dangerous, right?

Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: Just Her Luck :: Night time at Ashleigh\'s Cloth Shoppe
« Reply #13 on: May 24, 2006, 03:55:37 PM »
He was pleased when she spoke and made her request; it made him feel she was beginning to make herself comfortable within the surroundings. She was really quite plain to look at - not really the type he would choose to... entertain... normally - but he found her eyes most intriguing. And there was a lot more intelligence in them than he\'d been giving her credit for.
 
"Of course, but," he broke off in a manner of entreatment, dragging the word out to further indicate that he had something else to add. Quickly, he hung his coat on one of the hooks beside the door at Heath\'s back and then strode across the living area to the closed door on the left. He opened it while remaining to the side so that his guest might get a glimpse of what was within. "You might simply prefer to sit by this one, so that you can," his glance trailed down her dripping form pointedly, "get out of your wet clothing in the privacy of your own space. I can even offer you a hot bath, if you like?"
 
On saying this, he ducked into the bedroom. His bed was a specially-made work of larger-than-normal proportions (to accommodate his great height), wide enough to sleep three comfortably and long enough that his feet didn\'t dangle over. He\'d had it specially made by the royal bedmaker - supposedly, it was as big as the king\'s and had taken quite a bit of manoeuvring to get upstairs in the first place. Once he\'d moved into the room, the bed would be all that Heath would see through the open doorway, well-illuminated by the crackling fire beside it. The bed was neatly made (Gallagher saw to this himself, daily) and held four duck feather pillows, sheets and an enormous patchwork quilt of exceptional warmth (again, made by his family but with this item, the men had contributed at least one patch each, sewn by their own hand). The mattress was filled generously with the best ticking available - where his comfort was concerned, he did not scrimp when he could afford it.
 
Upon stepping in - if she chose to follow - Heath would find a smaller fireplace in the farthest part of the left wall and a huge tin tub for bathing in the closest one. The wood pile was stacked furtively in the corner (stablehands replenished it daily so there needn\'t be too much on hand, especially since there was a similar pile for both the other fireplace and the stove in the main room), hardly seen beyond the generous metal bath situated there. Gallagher enjoyed bathing very much (the smells he picked up when working with animals were frequently offensive and contact with all beasts made his eyes water monstrously if he didn\'t wash regularly - more if he forgot and rubbed them) and he\'d also commissioned the generous tub to fit his height. If she chose to bathe, Heath would no doubt be able to almost paddle in it.
 
Gallagher had moved behind the door to where there was a large, multi-drawered bureau used for holding his clothing and manchester. A matching wardrobe stood guard over the back corner (for suits, coats and spare, thicker blankets) and a tiny (by comparison) imitation of the dresser stood right beside the bed. The blonde opened a bottom drawer in the bureau and dug around at the back, knowing what he was looking for but not... immediately... able to find it. At last he emerged with a triumphant smile, holding a flannel nightgown he\'d owned for a long time. It was a man\'s style (not that he thought that would matter to the young woman whose clothes were entirely wet) and had been given to him when he was close to exiting his teenage years. It hadn\'t fitted him then (plus he preferred to sleep only in pants, if he could help it), so he\'d politely accepted it from his aunt or grandmother or whichever relative ignorant of the way he\'d grown had chosen to make it for him, and promptly left it at the back of these drawers with all the other ill fitting clothing he\'d felt obliged to accept but could find no use for (he was fairly certain there were another two nightshirts at least, but they were not as thick and fluffy as this one). It was a most fortuitous thing that he\'d kept them, it seemed now.
 
He spun around, wondering whether his guests had followed, calling loudly (in case they hadn\'t): "Ah hah! I have a change of clothes for you also, m\'lady!"

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Re: Just Her Luck :: Night time at Ashleigh\'s Cloth Shoppe
« Reply #14 on: May 25, 2006, 11:51:14 AM »
Heath moved over the wooden floor with the softness she was blessed with. Her leather shoes made a slight squishing noise as she stepped, and she could feel the water soaked right through her woolen socks. She made little hesitation in following Gallagher into the room, for her baby had been wrapped in damp cloths for far too long and was in much need of tending to. Even before she surveyed the room, in fact, she placed her son on the bed and turned to face her host.

The young mother’s bravery failed for just a moment as he faced her with the dry garments. She dropped her gaze and slowly offered her arms to take the nightgown from him. When the babe let out another squeal, though, she looked up and found her voice, as faint as it might have been.

“Might you have extra blankets, sir?” she asked. “Or wash cloths. The babe is more in need than I.” Her face was flushed once more when she finished, though she was building more and more courage as the night wore on. Nervousness was not going to take care of her baby, after all. In the very least, she was going to have to speak to this man much more than she would to another stranger.

She turned then, unable to face him much longer. It was so much easier to look down to her child. The little baby wasn’t about to judge her or hurt her. She could smile to him, talk to him, show him her deepest fears and her greatest dreams. In all the world, she could trust this babe the most. More than her brothers, even.

The thought of her brothers brought Heath back to a more urgent matter. Her old friend worry surfaced in her mind and she dropped her face into an anxious frown. What had happened to her brothers after all? Had they left her alone, or had they forgotten about her? Had they gone out for just the night, or perhaps they were gone forever? Maybe they were dead.

The small young woman shivered, and unclasped her cloak.

Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: Just Her Luck :: Night time at Ashleigh\'s Cloth Shoppe
« Reply #15 on: May 25, 2006, 05:51:44 PM »
"I do - better, in fact! I have spare napkins and some clothes!" he exclaimed, very pleased all of a sudden that his mother had brought a surprising tenth child into the world just two years ago. And that he\'d looked after her recently.
 
He stepped first towards his wardrobe and extracted two blankets - one a small, knitted woollen one dyed in red that was just the right size for folding around a small child (though he did cringe internally at the thought she\'d use it immediately when the baby\'s clothes were wet or - worse- when he was naked. Gallagher knew full well what little boys were like once their organs were uncovered, and he didn\'t have another blanket to substitute for this one), and the other a larger, yellow-coloured one that Heath could wrap herself in, should she choose (again, hopefully not around wet clothes) - and two bathing towels. They matched the one hanging on the hook in the wall behind the bathtub; a small stool stood to its side holding a scrubbing brush and soap to complete the necessary toiletries. Upon turning to see what baby clothes he could claim, he noticed the young woman removing her cloak and dropped what he already held on the bed beside her son.
 
"Let me take that for you. I\'ll drape it over a chair in front of the other fire, should be quite dry by morning that way," he announced decisively, swiping the garment out of her hands and striding out to the main room to do exactly as he\'d described. He threw a few extra bits of wood on that fire, then returned to the bedroom with another chair. She would surely not wish to dry her more intimate clothing on a chair where he could see them. He positioned the chair between bed and fire, then threw some more bits of wood on that blaze as well, before walking back around the sleeping platform to attend to his original task.
 
"So... what did you think about that bath, then? Think he\'d appreciate it?" he asked jovially, nodding over his shoulder at the infant kicking his legs atop his bed. Bede closed the bureau drawer and straightened with four cloth napkins to cover the boy\'s naked bottom and every bit of baby clothing he had. Laying them on the mattress for the young mother\'s inspection, he rested his hands on his hips and added, "I have two pots of water boiling on these fires - thanks to my stablehands - and there\'ll be some in the tub, ready for the hot to be added. It wouldn\'t be any trouble."
 
He wanted to say that he\'d gladly use the bath after she was done, but didn\'t want to frighten her with the thought that he\'d force her out of the room for any length of time - after he\'d offered it to her unconditionally - just for a bath. As far as that went, he could wait until the morning, even if his odour was not currently at its most pleasant (thanks to a day of work preceding his time at the tavern). The thought of him being naked nearby might also spook her (though, having a child and living with brothers, she was surely certain of that fact of life by now). He held his tongue and watched what she was doing instead, waiting for her to indicate her wishes one way or the other.

DoesWeep

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Re: Just Her Luck :: Night time at Ashleigh\'s Cloth Shoppe
« Reply #16 on: May 26, 2006, 12:39:12 AM »
By now Heath was more or less eager to close the door behind Gallagher and enjoy some amount of privacy. She really did want a warm bath, and moreover, she wanted to feed her baby. Since she carried no milk for the child in bottles, she was going to have to breast feed, and she wasn’t about to do this in the company of a strange male.

“I would like a bath drawn, sir, thank you,” she said rather quickly, her back still to the male. She was beginning to unbundled the babe who wielded his fists and feet in the air the moment they were free from bondage. Though he was yet a tiny infant, he was full of energy and rather strong.

Once the baby was undressed down to his small clothes, Heath began stripping some of the wet garments off of her own body. She was mindful of the man in the room, thus merely removed her boots, socks, and handkerchief for the time being. She roughly ran a pale hand through her semi-dry blond hair, its full length reaching down her back in wet chunks. She then stopped for a moment, her eyes on the baby and her hands on the bet. Without turning around, she spoke again.

“Thank you again, Mr. Gallagher.” Her shyness was never more evident than in these words. “We wont forget this.”

Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: Just Her Luck :: Night time at Ashleigh\'s Cloth Shoppe
« Reply #17 on: May 26, 2006, 06:04:20 AM »
He smiled as he manoeuvred the fire iron to wrest the large pot of water carefully from the bedroom\'s fire. "Nay, \'tis nought to forget. I would do the same for anyone left alone on the streets," he assured her humbly.

He fell quiet as he concentrated on pouring all the bubbling water into the tub - which did, indeed, have a measure of cold water in it already to give it some volume. This was the responsibility of the most junior stablehand (a boy named Martin, at this moment), just as it had been his responsibility to tend the Stable Manager and Master once, before he worked his way up the ranks. Martin was not a particularly capable boy just yet - most fresh off the farms weren\'t very knowledgeable of complicated routines such as those necessary in this huge establishment - but what he lacked in skill, he compensated for in eagerness. Gallagher was never more glad to have his efficiency evident than this night and made a mental note to thank him for not forgetting (he had once, when he thought his boss coming home drunk wouldn\'t want a bath - he was soon set straight).

Testing the water after one pot, he found it to be tepid and doubted it would do for Heath, especially as it would be necessary for her to get warm quickly. Although he\'d contemplated briefly not pouring the other (larger) pot in, one swish with his fingers decided him against that. Too hot was better than neither here nor there. As swiftly as his burden allowed, he went out to the main room, retrieved the biggest pot of water and added it too.

"There\'s soap here on the stool beside and I gave you drying towels there on the bed, I\'ll leave you to it," he then said cheerfully, distracted by the revelation of the child and knowing that this was the moment he should ask for the water after her, if he really wanted it, but she looked so busy... After standing and wriggling briefly on the spot (switching the pot from hand to hand twice), he decided it couldn\'t hurt to make the offer and have her refuse - she seemed confident enough to have spoken more already; if he phrased it right, she would feel no qualms about telling him her true feelings, surely? "I-if you think you\'d like to sit a spell in the other room afterwards, in front of the bigger fire - before retiring - I\'d... use the water and then empty it for you?" he mumured as casually as he could.

DoesWeep

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Re: Just Her Luck :: Night time at Ashleigh\'s Cloth Shoppe
« Reply #18 on: May 27, 2006, 07:45:36 AM »
Heath actually turned to face her host as he filled the bath. The question he posed was met with downcast eyes and hands wrung together in front of her. Though the prospect did at first add colour to her cheeks, she was able to reason that she wasn’t going to be in the room with the potentially naked man, and that the room really wasn’t hers, so she shouldn’t worry about leaving him alone in there. Besides, she was in no position to disagree with anything he said at this time. By now her debt to him was beyond anything she could repay materially.

Thus she replied to a quick nod and moved closer to the fire where she would be placing her wet clothes. She was desperate to be out of her thin sopping hide and into the wonderfully warm water across the room. But her desires were shadowed still by doubt and worry. She couldn’t stop thinking about her little apartment and those who dwelled within. If something was the matter, she needed to find out. She was afraid, oh yes, she wouldn’t go back there in the dark now, but she could not let the anxiety sit on her mind for too long. She would go back, she decided, as early as she could in the morning. It would be best to leave Mr. Gallagher as soon as she was rested, perhaps even before he woke up. Yes, that would do. She would be nothing but a bad dream, and then someday she would pay him back.

Her baby crying out for his mother’s attention caused Heath walk over to the bed and few cold fingers on her child’s cheek. Shhh, her gaze seemed to say, everything will be alright.

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Re: Just Her Luck :: Night time at Ashleigh\'s Cloth Shoppe
« Reply #19 on: May 27, 2006, 05:02:40 PM »
"My thanks; enjoy your bath, then," he smiled warmly at her and exited as the boy began to wail. He closed the door behind himself and set about organising his own bed. He hadn\'t bothered getting his pants from beneath his pillow - since he\'d be going back into the bedrrom to bathe, there was no point - but he did regret not gathering some fresh linen and blankets on his way out. He would also need a pillow (normally he would use two but he thought his guest would need at least three to sleep on and to hedge the babe with).

Ah well, she\'ll be out soon enough and it will take you no time at all to get yourself a bed ready.  Have some patience, man.

To amuse himself for the time being, he went into the spare room and shuffled things about, dragging his favourite wooden-framed stretcher bed out into the light. He set it up in front of the fire - he\'d spent many a night by a sick horse\'s side on this folding bed - and then looked about for something else to do. Seeing nothing that needed his attention, he walked to the kitchen and tore off a bit of bread to gnaw on. His stomach alerted him to the fact that it was empty of anything substantial (that wasn\'t liquid), so he set about building up a fire in the stove.

While it took, he went downstairs to relieve himself, realising that the drink was beginning to take its toll and that he\'d need to acquire another chamber pot for the night, lest he be up and down stairs constantly. He found another in the spare room and placed it beneath his stretcher, washing his hands in the wash tub (that also had a bucket of water in it, thanks to Martin) on the kitchen bench before he pulled a frying pan off its hook on the wall. The stove fire was crackling merrily by now, so he set the metal pan down on the flat top and lifted the curtain attached to the counter. He still had some strips of pig meat in his meatbox - he got a fresh delivery of meat daily but tended not to eat it all, sharing it instead with some of the hands or the cats that hung around to catch the mice and rats in the hay in the basement - so he extracted all that was left.

With a pleased grin, he placed the meat into the warming pan and broke two eggs in as well. He had plans for at least three more eggs - to offer some to his houseguest - but the pan simply wasn\'t big enough to hold everything at once. Besides, he estimated that he\'d wasted enough time in the preparation that Heath would exit the bedroom any moment - just in time to sit down to a plate of meat and eggs - and he could cook his eggs when he\'d bathed. He had no idea if the young mother had eaten this night or not, but he was of the opinion that a little extra in the stomach of a nursing woman could never go astray (and he would be able to finish it all off if she was adamant in refusing a late-night meal).