Early Afternoon, 21 Bethas, 2719
Woven Delights, Painted Ladies
"We should be able to get some of that velvet by next week,” Ava promised, smiling. She stood behind the counter at the back of the store, hands folded over one another on the top of it. Long, full sleeves fell nearly to her wrists, the dark olive green trimmed with a stripe of white and pink floral fabric. Her thick curly hair tumbled over one shoulder, dark locks glowing against the slender column of her neck. It was early afternoon, but her make-up still looked fresh, both the pale pink lipstick and thick black eyeliner.
“Thank you, Miss Weaver,” the young human woman who stood on the other side of the counter was smiling brightly. She adjusted the half-sleeping child on her hip; his head flopped against her shoulder, sticky thumb sliding out of his mouth. Her other arm held a paper-wrapped parcel tied with string carefully against her waist.
“My pleasure, Mrs. Smith,” Ava replied, still smiling. “Please give your mother my best.”
“Of course,” Mrs. Smith adjusted the little boy, smiled again, and turned to make her way out of the shop.
Ava brushed a few scraps of fabric from the counter, setting the heavy scissors back into one of the clever drawers beneath and sliding it shut with a soft click. She glanced around the shop, then made her way out from behind the desk towards one of the fabric-filled shelves lining the walls. The hem of her dress swished back and forth, the toe of small black slippers just visible as she walked. The dress was simple enough, but well made, the long full sleeves gathering into close shoulders, olive fabric crossed at the front to the waist, edged there with the same floral fabric as the wrists. A green sash held the dress there, and it curved out beneath before falling straight down to nearly kiss the floor.
Ava carefully re-adjusted the bit of fabric sticking out, tugging the errant curl of fabric up before smoothing the cloth against its roll. Carefully, very carefully, she didn’t look back at the door next to the counter. Instead, she strode slowly and carefully around the perimeter of the shop, checking not, perhaps, each bolt of fabric, but many of them, occupying herself with brushing bits of dust from the shelves with a small handkerchief.
The door at the back of the shop opened. Ava glanced back over her shoulder and smiled. “Alioe’s blessings to you,” she said, voice light and cheerful, watching the figure leave the shop with a nod to her.
Ava took a few more moments, tucking the dust cloth away, then opened the door herself, leaving it just barely ajar behind her in case the entrance bell might ring. The back room was much more comfortable than the front, with two lovely upholstered couches, soft and comfortable with heavy pillows, fabrics draped over the walls to create a welcoming environment, and a small table. There were currently two cups of tea on it, half-drunk, the remaining tea tepid now.
“A fresh cup of tea, dear?” Ava smiled down at Caina. She scooped up one of the small porcelain cups, black-lacquered nails a stark contrast to the cup and set it down on the small tray she’d brought them into the room with, followed by the second. Ava didn’t wait for an answer, crossing the room and disappearing behind one of the long sheets of fabric hanging from the wall. A moment later, the soft sounds of her feet on the stairs could be heard, and she disappeared upstairs.
It was only a few moments before she returned, carrying the small tray again, with two cups again, steam curling from the top of both. She set the tray down on the table before Caina, and stepped to the door leading into the shop, looking out for a moment to check that no one else had come in. Once satisfied, she turned back to Caina, looking down at her.
“May I join you?” Ava smiled again, a soft, even expression, standing by the couch with her hands gently folded over her front. Ava wasn’t sure she would have called Caina a friend. She had seen the other woman around in the How enough times to have accepted Caina’s request to hold a meeting in the back of the shop. It wasn’t so unusual; it wasn’t something she was always able to accommodate, but Caina’s meeting had been planned for a typically quiet day and time, and so Ava had been glad to accept.
Ava didn’t know what Caina’s meeting had been about; she had not asked, and she did not intend to now. Caina had the right to her secrets and using Ava’s shop gave Ava no claim to them. That said, since the meeting had been rather clandestine, Ava imagined Caina would intend to wait a little bit before leaving the shop, and there seemed to her no point in doing so without tea – and, if she wanted it, perhaps, a bit of company.