It’s an escape, and an addictive one.
Her routine doesn’t vary much: wake up, work at family bakery, be escorted home by secret husband. And so, the other characters start noticing quickly, starting with her friend, a glass merchant who takes the university magic test every single day, even though it’s supposed to test innate ability.
It wasn’t until well after I wrote this that I hammered out the details of how, exactly, she stole the vial. In the rewrite of this scene, she’s going to be much, much more nervous.
Clapping came from the window table. “I didn’t know baking could be an athletic event.”
Pinuar had come in, and I hadn’t heard the bell.
“The usual, please, after you’ve had a chance to catch your breath.”
I turned away and chewed my enormous bite of sausage braid as quickly as I could. How long had he been there? There was no way to ask without revealing the depth of my embarrassment, and so I set to getting his [usual order].
“That was an interesting song,” he said as I put down the food and took his money. “Unexpected.”
I didn’t immediately realize what he was talking about.
My blankness must’ve showed. “The one you were humming during your performance.”
I struggled to remember blur of the last few hours. Realization smashed like a shipwreck. The song from the city camped outside the city. The song I had picked up in a place that, still, was a total mystery to me. I had been humming like a deranged person as I whirled between the three recipes.
Relax, I told myself. He was only making conversation. “I suppose it helps the work go by faster.”
Pinuar sipped his cinnamon tea and peeled back a layer of his roll. “You seemed fast enough.” He shrugged. “But the Suong aren’t allowed in your city, and I know you’ve rarely left.”
Never. I had never left, not until last night, and I hadn’t known until now that I had been in a Suong encampment. I went back to the counter to fetch Pinuar a napkin, my mind spinning useless circles around my imbecilic slip-up.
Peeling back another layer, he dunked the roll in his tea. “Where did you pick it up? Songs don’t have the legs to travel on their own.”
Of all the things to ask. I decided to tell what was probably the truth. “Oh, I picked it up from a Suong. One with the legs to sneak into places.” With just a hint of lie thrown in. “Nirsuathu isn’t exactly air-tight.”
Pinuar smiled. “Very true.”
I decided to change the subject. “Taking the magic test again tomorrow?”
“Oh, yes. I’ve been practicing.”