Happy Birthday Mae

Finally getting back on the Ebony bandwagon here, now that a major submission has been completed… enjoy!

~*~

Nyal pulled at his collar nervously.  It was always too damn hot in this town.  Why was it always so hot?  He was sure he would be a sweaty, horrible mess by the time she showed up, but there wasn’t really anything he could do about it.

“Nyal?”  Her voice, sweet as his mother’s homemade cakes, floated through the thin wooden walls of the barn.

“In here!” he called back, nervously patting down his fluff of black hair with a silent curse under his breath.  Why did it always have to act up?

“Where are you?” she called, with a soft giggle that made his toes curl with happiness.

“Just around the corner, Mae!”

There was silence except for her feet on the soft hay as she approached.  She rounded the corner and he stood back, smiling, his arms wide.  “Surprise!”

She looked beautiful in her blue country dress with the white apron.  Her red hair was always perfectly coiffed in a bun, little curls falling around her milky-white ears.  He could sigh just looking at her. He would paint her, if he knew how to paint.

She was agog, staring with her pretty brown eyes at what had been three hours of hard work.  He watched her take in the paper squiggles he’d made out of parchment and yarn to decorate the ceiling, the small crates he had turned into a makeshift table, the lanterns filling the tiny room with their warm yellow glow, and the picnic basket with the cold lunch he’d made from scratch.

He’d cut his finger when chopping the celery, he’d been so nervous.

Mae looked from one thing to the next, and finally at him.  “Nyal, I…” she looked down and away.  Mae was always so shy! How sweet, he thought, feeling another surge of happiness.

“Happy Birthday, Mae.  I made it just for you!”

“Erm, that was so sweet,” she said, but her eyes weren’t looking at him.  Not at all.  They were glued to the barn floor.

Nyal hid his disappointment, going to the basket and opening it up.  “Fresh goat’s cheese, like you like, and vegetables… and I couldn’t remember if you said you liked cider or mead so I went ahead and got both-“

“Nyal, I have something to tell you.”

He couldn’t look at her. Could only look at the bottles sweating water in his hand, the stain on the corner of the well-worn tablecloth he’d pilfered from Melmidoc.  He hadn’t noticed that before.

“Derrick and I- we’re together now.  I know it’s hard, but you and I, you know, it was great.  Really great, and then, it wasn’t, and I just- I started falling for Derrick, and…” she shrugged.

“What?” Nyal said.  He accidentally dropped the mead, which miraculously did not break, only rolled across the hay-strewn floor.  He wasn’t sure he had heard her correctly.  “What do you mean you and Derrick are together?  You and I, we’re courting, aren’t we?”

“Please don’t take this badly,” Mae pleaded, shifting her feet and playing with the edges of her apron.  “I didn’t mean to hurt anyone,”

“You- you lied to me?” Nyal said, shaking his head.  “You said you loved me, and then you go off and- and Derrick? Really?”

“Sorry, Nyal, but it’s the way it is,” she said.

Nyal scoffed, suddenly angry at the paper squiggle dangling just before him.  He ripped it down, tearing the yarn with it as he threw it onto the ground.  She jumped at his violent motion.

“You’re horrible,” he said, looking at her with teary eyes.  “You can’t just throw the word ‘love’ around like that. You said it first, Wune’s sake!”

“Oh, grow up!” Mae said, fists clenched by her sides as her eyes flashed lantern-glow in angry pinpricks of light.

“Get out!” Nyal said, pointing at the barn door.  “Get out of my barn, and don’t come back.”

“I will!” Mae said, folding her arms across her chest.  “Who’d want to stay in a smelly old barn eating vegetables on their birthday, anyway?”

She stomped out the door, and Nyal stared after her, breathing heavily.

The dropped mead bottle suddenly exploded open in a foaming mess of alcohol, filling the room with the scent of fermented honey.

He glared at his feet and tried not to cry.  He was nearly fifteen.  He shouldn’t be crying.

Three hours of work for three months of courting a girl that had never really loved him.

The last of the bottle’s contents dribbled onto the barn floor.

Nyal watched the cork come back across the floor towards him.  It stopped at his feet, rolling in a puddle sodden with mead and dirt and the few tears he did let fall.

~*~

This is backstory for my novel, Ebony Book 1: Ragnor’s Bane. Nyal is one of the main characters, and he actually becomes a big player later in the series.  I feel so bad for him here… sort of based on true stories I heard from friends, mashed together.

There were a lot of questions as to whether or not mead could explode from a corked bottle if dropped, especially in medieval-y times.  I am not entirely sure, so my excuse is: if it required carbonation, and I hope someone can tell me whether it does, wizards have the power to carbonate mead.

And yes, wizard-carbonated mead would be expensive, but Nyal would have access to it.  SO there you go. But only if it’s not physically possible.  Someone tell me if you know!

JMS

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