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The sun is well up from the dreary November hills when I finally make it back to Sleepy’s. My day began a lot earlier, with Mom prodding me awake, pulling me out of bed and throwing my cooking apron at me. “Need twenty jugs of potion blank pronto,” she says. “I hafta go out. You mind store today.”


“Nineteen days in a row,” I say, climbing to my feet. “Not gonna happen, Mom.”


“Gonna happen. Count on it, lass. Who’s paying for your schooling?”


“Mom. I have plans. I told you.”


“You have plans, all right, my girl. You have plans to be here all day and into the night and make twenty jugs of potion blank, and mind store. I got business. You don’t like it, you can thank your stars I feed you and put a roof over your head.”


“Mom,” I say, “yesterday you were all, you work today, you get tomorrow off. Now’s tomorrow.”


“Tomorrow’s always tomorrow,” she says with a laugh. I think about strangling her but instead go into the shop kitchen with the apron and my walking clothes, which look like my working clothes because they’re the same clothes. “That’s the way,” she calls after me. “I may be back by noon, but then again I may be off on business, you know,” she finishes with a high tone that I suppose is meant to make me think she’s meeting with wealthy foreigners with long order sheets.


I make sure she hears the bolt of the lock sliding into place. “Mother,” I call out, “I am going to make you a deal.”


“You are going to what?” she calls through the door. I can tell she’s just a little concerned.


“I am going to make you up ten jugs of potion blank. No one ever comes to the shop before the fourth hour of the morning anyway, so I’ll keep you locked out and I’ll get some work done. You go do what you need to do with Constable, but be back by fourth hour, because I’m going to be gone about then. If you don’t like it, I suppose you won’t like the stink potion I might leave in your bedroom. I’ll work all day tomorrow. Am I clear?”


She takes a minute or two, stomping around the shop muttering, to come up with something to say to that, and by the time she starts yelling back at me, I’m half the kitchen away, banging pots and pans and getting the fires banked up good. Her voice isn’t as penetrating as she thinks, nor are her threats.


So it’s nearly noon when I finally get to Sleepy’s, two blocks from the house. Fenric and Janet are sipping green tea and sharing a scone. “Oi, it’s here,” says Janet, but she takes her knife and cuts off half of her half of the scone, and pushes her cup toward me. “You look like you need it,” she says, “and I’m on my second pot anyway.”


“Oh thank the Virgin,” I say.


“Knew you’d come around to my point of view on faith issues.”


“I would,” I say, “if only all religious people were like you.”


“Or all thieves were like me?” asked Fenric, cutting his own half scone in half and plopping that in front of me. I’ve already finished Janet’s piece. “Doesn’t Mother Dear feed one?”


“No,” I say, “one needs to be one’s own lookout around Mother Dear. Mother Dear did not want to let one come today.”


“But you work every stupid day,” says Janet.


“And half the nights.”


“And half the nights! Laboring over that cauldron—!”


“Those cauldrons. There’s six of them.”


“Those cauldrons. While one inhales who knows what combination of fumes, and while aforesaid Mother Dear makes it with who knows whom in order to get good prices for her intoxicant needs.”


“And in order to get Constable to look the other way about her intoxicant needs,” says Fenric. “And one knows that nice boy Fenric does not have the highest opinion of said Constable.”


“Oh, one knows that,” I reply. “For example, one knows Constable shares aforesaid intoxicants. Among other things.”


“Constable would be Constable Robert?” asks Janet. “He’s a pig.”


“That would be the one. One would have thought often what a pig he is. Anyway, here I finally am. Where are our—?”


Just then Eleanor comes in from the back door and heads over. “All that tea,” she says, by way of morning greeting. “I think I have enough coin for another pot and another grande scone.”


“Sounds great,” says Janet. “Fen, wouldn’t you love to go roust the boys again? The first rousting seems not to have taken.”