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Musings from the Fox and Raven Tavern

 
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Holly Tanner
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2012 3:11 pm    Post subject: Musings from the Fox and Raven Tavern Reply with quote

“I certainly hope business picks up,” Stefan Tanner said to his daughter, Holly, who was leaning against the bar behind which he was working. “I think people are afraid to come back to Marketplace after that disaster that blew up the Bon Bon.”

Holly nodded and sighed as she glanced towards one of only two tables that were filled in the Fox and Raven Tavern. It was lunch time on Tuesday, and usually at this time, the place was packed with people and Holly barely had time to think between trips back and forth between her customers, the bar, the kitchen, and the drinks station. She spent the hours between eleven o'clock in the morning and one-thirty in the afternoon scurrying about like a chicken with its head cut off, ferrying food and pints and cups of tea and glasses of soda, clearing tables, ringing up checks and making change, all without even a moment's break. But since Brian Ravenlock, or whomever it was, had blown up the Bon Bon Boutique and damaged the fountain, the average Rhy'Din citizen was too afraid to come back to the Marketplace for a meal at the Fox and Raven, or do their shopping at any of the surviving shops and kiosks and carts. “Maybe Governor Helston will help us out?” Holly said to her father, who merely smirked and shook his head.

One of the Carter boys, Luke or Adam maybe, raised his empty pint glass in Holly's direction with a shy smile. The smile pinned the man's identity; it was Luke, the eldest of the three brothers and the one that Holly liked the most. “Gotcha,” she said to him and turned to see that her father had already pulled the man's stout. She winked her thanks at Stefan and went to the Carter's table, happy to see that at least Joshua and his three sons, Luke, Adam, and Noah, were still brave enough to enjoy their lunch break at their regular table. After dropping off Luke's pint and checking on the others' drinks, she asked Joshua, “Is your business suffering at all?”

The man shook his head, his tanned, leathery face crinkling about the eyes as he smiled at his favorite waitress. “Not a bit, Holly. In fact, it may just pick up a bit if the Bon Bon's owner decides to rebuild. 'Course, she'll probably end up using Lutz's company. Still, Luke's the best finish carpenter in the city; we'll see some business come our way because of this, no mistake.” Luke blushed deeply at his father's compliment and Holly smiled softly at the younger Carter, before laying her hand on his arm as she left, headed to the kitchen. “Dad, I'm going to go ahead and take a break, okay?”

Stefan nodded and glanced towards the empty taproom. “Go ahead, sweetheart. I think I can manage.”

Holly chuckled and entered the kitchen through the swinging door just next to the end of the bar, kissing her Aunt Sofia's cheek as the woman rolled out dough on a granite counter. “Still dead out there, Holly?” Sofia asked, glancing over her shoulder as Holly settled down on a stool across from the fridge and sipped a lukewarm cup of tea.

“Yeah, the Carters are here, though. So, that's good, at least. They're good tippers and not handsie.”

Sofia shook her head a bit, astounded that her niece could still be so ignorant about the ways of the world. “That's because Luke Carter has a thing for you.”

“What? No, he doesn't. He's dating that Padma girl. The pretty one with the...uh...whatchamacallit, bindi-thing, on her forehead.”

“Only because you haven't ever smiled at him unless you're taking his order or bringing him a pint, you silly girl. If you chatted the man up, Holls, he'd drop Padma in a heartbeat. There's that Valentine's Day Ball comin' up here pretty soon. Ask him.”

Holly goggled at her aunt, her jaw flapping in the breeze as an alarming shade of crimson creeping across her cheeks. “No way!” she squeaked out. “I'm not asking a boy to a dance! It's not a Sadie Hawkins thing, Aunt Sofia. If he wants to go with me—if he even likes me—he can ask me. I'm not seeing anyone.”

“Talk to him, Holls. Trust me on this,” Sofia said before turning back to her dough, rolling it out to a quarter of an inch thick before wrapping it in plastic and putting it in the freezer for tomorrow's pies.

Holly frowned at her aunt's back, certain that Luke Carter had absolutely no interest whatsoever in dating her or talking to her except to tell her how he wanted his burger cooked or that he needed more mustard or stout. Still, he was a rather nice looking boy...well, man, really. She figured he was close to 30, maybe three or four years older than her. His blue eyes always sparkled when he looked at her, so maybe Sofia wasn't too far off base. Did they sparkle like that when he looked at Padma? Holly couldn't remember. She'd have to pay closer attention the next time they came in together.

Holly settled down with her tea and a hunk of freshly baked bread to page through a magazine from Earth called Vogue. Some wealthy woman who had a harried assistant with her had left it last week and Holly was amazed by the beautiful clothes and glossy ads in it. She spent the rest of her break wishing she was half as beautiful as the women in the magazine.
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Holly Tanner
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2012 4:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The next time she saw Luke Carter was the following night. He came in with Padma, the girl Holly told Aunt Sofia that he was dating, and sure enough, when he walked into the Fox and Raven, he had his arm comfortably around her shoulders and hers was tucked around his waist. In Holly's albeit limited experience, that meant they were more than just good friends.

She watched from the main bar area as Prudence, the hostess during the dinner hour, seated Luke and Padma in Holly's section and growled softly, knowing Pru had done it on purpose. The evil girl even winked at Holly when she went back to the hostess station in the entrance hallway of the pub. Holly flashed Pru a fierce smile that was more a grimace of anger and went to her newest customer's table with a gracious expression replacing the grimace.

“Evening, Luke, Padma. What can I get you two tonight?”

Luke looked up at Holly and she saw that sparkle in his eyes, the one Aunt Sofia had mentioned in the kitchen yesterday afternoon. Holly's heart skipped a beat and her palms were suddenly very damp. What if Sofia was right? What if Luke did like her? If that was the case, what on earth was he doing with Padma? “I'd like a stout and Padma wants a cup of hot tea.” He glanced back at his date. “Black, right?” he asked her. Holly noticed—or perhaps dreamed—that the sparkle was not present when he looked at the pretty Indian girl.

Padma nodded, barely acknowledging Holly's presence, just as she did every time she came into the pub. “Yes, black. Cream, sugar, and lemon on the side please.” And just like that, Holly ceased to exist for Padma.

“I'll be right back,” Holly said, knowing the words were falling on deaf ears.

“Thanks, Holls,” Luke said, flashing her a dimpled smile that was startling white through the thick scruff of his beard. Holly felt herself blushing and turned away abruptly to hide it, nearly mowing down an elderly customer in her rush to get back to the bar to place their drinks order. “Sorry,” she muttered and danced around the old man.

After she dropped off their drinks, took their order for dinner, and brought their food back—Luke had the nightly special, lamb cottage pie, and Padma ordered a salad with grilled chicken, oil and red wine vinegar dressing on the side—Holly's section was suddenly filled to overflowing and the other waitress on duty that night, Lily, decided it would be a good time to take her dinner break, so Holly rushed around both the entire dining room and the bar and completely lost track of Luke and Padma. By the time Lily came back from her dinner break, Luke and Padma had left, and the money to cover their bill—plus a huge tip, Holly noticed with glee—was on their table. “Damn,” she muttered under her breath as she pocketed the tip and tilled the rest.

It was after closing time when Bennie, the lad who helped clean the pub after hours, noticed the envelope with Holly's name on it. “It was near the fireplace in the dining room, propped up on one of the end tables near the couches,” he told her as he handed it over. The envelope wasn't anything special, nor was the writing on the front of it—it felt like cheap paper and looked like ball point ink. “Thanks,” she said distractedly to Bennie, slipping the envelope into her jeans pocket, and went back to divvying up the tips for the night between Lily and herself.

Half an hour later, Bennie and Lily were gone, and Holly and Stefan were the only two left in the pub. “Business seems to be picking up a bit,” her father observed as he shut the lights off and made sure the fire in the dining room's hearth was completely out. “We did double tonight what we did last night. And I saw that your young man was in, too.”

Holly rolled her eyes at her father and slipped her jean jacket over her flannel shirt. “He's not my young man, despite what Aunt Sofia says. He was with Padma tonight, Dad. They were on a date.” She paused for a moment. “She ordered a salad, for heaven's sake! A salad, at eight o'clock at night. Who does that?”

Stefan chuckled and led Holly to the back door of the pub, going out and holding the door for his daughter. The empty beer garden looked slightly spooky in the half-light of Arabrab and Trebor. “A girl looking to impress a boy who doesn't really like her,” he said sagely. They crossed the gravel floor of the garden, headed for the arbored gate that led to the Tanner family home. “Good night, Holly,” her father said, stooping down to plant a kiss atop the crown of her head. “See you tomorrow afternoon.”

She gave her father a fond smile and hugged him impulsively. “Say hello to Ma for me!” she called over her shoulder as she turned off the main path and went down to her own little house, a former barn that her father and Joshua Carter had converted for her the summer she turned eighteen. Once inside, she hung her jacket on a peg near the front door, slipped her shoes off and wriggled her freed toes. The house was cold and dark and Holly took a moment to light a fire in the wood-burning stove before setting the kettle on the stove. Then she headed up to the loft where her bedroom was and changed out of her work clothes and into a pair of royal blue pajamas and a thick, fluffy socks. When she was done, she noticed the envelope Bennie had given her laying on the floor of the loft. She picked it up and carried it down to the kitchen, made herself a cup of hot chocolate and dumped in a large handful of mini marshmallows. Carrying her cup into the sun room just off the living room, she curled up on the wicker sofa and tore open the envelope. A single sheet of paper slipped out and she began reading.
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Luke Carter
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2012 6:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote



Holly:

In the legends of a place on Earth called China, the sea turtle is the symbol of endurance, strength, and wisdom. It is one of the most important creatures to those people. Whenever I see you, I am of just how important you are. Not just to your family, but to your customers, your friends, and me.
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Holly Tanner
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Joined: 25 Jan 2012
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Jobs: Cook, Ale Tester
Can Be Found: The Fox and Raven Tavern
805.02 Silver Crowns

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2012 6:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“And it wasn't signed? Like at all?”

Holly shook her head and shifted slightly on the sofa in her sun room, her bare feet propped on the table that sat between where her best friend, Primrose, was sitting and her. Holly curled her toes a bit and studiously eyed her toenails, which she'd just painted the same shade of aqua as the tank top she was wearing beneath one of her father's old sweaters. “Nope. No signature, no name, nothing, Prim. Just what I showed you.” She nodded towards the letter and the painting that had been left for her in the Tavern the night before.

Prim leaned forward and picked up the letter using just her thumb and pinkie finger, carefully holding it so that she didn't smudge her newly painted fingernails. She read the letter for at least the hundredth time and then carefully set it back down on the table. “That's so romantic, Holls,” she said with the star-struck look of a girl with a crush.

Holly snorted. “Or creepy,” she said and then decided on a third coat of polish on her toenails.

“Creepy? No way! It's romantic. He said you are important. And wise and strong. And hello? Turtle? He knows you, Holls. He pays attention.”

Holly's tongue stuck out of her mouth just a bit as she concentrated on painting her big toe before answering Prim. “Yes, I know what he said. I've read it at least a million times, trying to figure out who it is. And the fact that he knows me and pays attention is what I think makes it creepy. It's like... It's like he's watching me, studying me, but is too afraid or too much of a psycho axe killer to talk to me.” She shuddered dramatically. “Creepy.”

“Maybe he's shy. Maybe he's afraid you'll shoot him down.” Prim sat back and pulled her legs against her body, her own bare feet resting on the edge of her chair, her fingers carefully splayed out over her knees so her polish could dry. “Who do we know that's an artist? Someone who comes into the Tavern a lot? Do you like this color?”

“I don't know any artists,” Holly said and glanced up at Prim's fingernails. She'd painted them a warm, rich coffee color. “I like it. It looks good on you. You can take it. It makes me look jaundiced.” Holly started on her other foot and shrugged. “It'd have to be someone who comes into the Tavern a lot. It's not like I ever go anywhere else, right?”

“Oh, speaking of, on your next night off, let's go out to Star's End and see that new movie. You know, the one about the vampires, with Jon Granger in it?” Prim was utterly in love with Jon Granger. She had DVD copies of all the movies he'd done and playbills from all the plays he'd done at the Shanachie Theatre. “I'll buy candy if you pick up the tickets,” she cajoled in a sing-song voice.

Holly laughed. “Yeah, that sounds like fun. I could probably trade shifts with Lily and we could go Sunday night?”

“Deal,” Prim said. “Gonna bring that in tonight?” She nodded towards the letter. “Ask around about it?”

“I think so. Maybe someone will have seen who did it or maybe the person who did it will actually say something about it. I know you think it's romantic and all, but I still think it's creepy. Why doesn't he just talk to me?”

“He's shy, Holls. Maybe he's not good looking or maybe he has a stutter or something. Who knows? I wish someone would paint me pictures and tell me I'm important.”

“Aw, Prim. You are important! And how about instead of painting you something, I make you some sugar cookies instead?”

Primrose squealed with joy and as soon as their nails dried, the girls headed into Holly's kitchen and while Holly measured and stirred and rolled out dough to cut with flower-shaped cutters, Prim sat at the kitchen table and chattered on about this and that. When the cookies had finished baking, they decorated them and boxed them up. Prim left, her arms full of cookies, and Holly got ready for work, remembering to put the letter in her bag before she left the house.
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