High in the Evening Sky
‘It’s not often one sees a maiden drinking alone at a tavern. Do you mind if I join you?’. Tomlin grabbed a seat facing across from the attractive young woman staring into her mug of ale.
‘Go away’ Sheena said. She never looked up as she took a drink.
‘Sheena, let the poor man sit down and have a chat with you. Maybe it will make you feel better.’ Willa said. ‘Besides, he’s cute and maybe worth at least a glance.’ Sheena looked up.
‘You’re right, you are a touch handsome. You may sit. But try to keep the talking to a minimum.’
‘Much obliged’ Tomlin said as he grabbed the beer that Willa had already poured.
Sheena fixed her gaze firmly back towards her mug and sighed. She took another drink.
‘Ah, I know I am not to talk much, but I know that sigh and that form of drink from anywhere. Typically, when a man or a woman does that, it’s because of some other man or woman that is on their mind. Am I right?’
‘Who are you again?’
‘My name is Tomlin, and I am a merchant from Tavros with a wagon of wares to sell at your market. I have been travelling for three days with the only companion being my trusty horse, Roland. I mentioned as much to your barmaid friend and that I was looking for someone to talk to, preferably with two legs instead of four, and who has the capacity to talk back. She sent me over this way. Something about getting some hardship off your mind perhaps.
‘Ah, I see.’ She shot her friend a look, who responded with an enthusiastic grin.
‘A few things then if you do insist on talking.’ Sheena said, ‘First, she’s not my friend, at least not anymore. She’s my co-worker here. I am off for the night but knew, or at least thought, I could come here and drink in peace. Second, I am not drinking to get a hardship off my mind.’
‘Then why the long sigh and longer swallow?’
‘I need courage.’
‘Courage to do something with another young man or woman whom you have a relationship with I can only assume.’
‘Yes, well no. I have a relationship with them, just …’
‘Not the one you want.’
She nodded and took a large final gulp of her current mug.
‘I see. The courage I think is unnecessary. If I may be so bold, you are quite an attractive young maiden, and I am sure that this other man would be wild to be with someone like yourself.’
‘A couple problems. Although we are childhood friends, we live in completely different worlds. I am a farmer’s daughter and a beer wench at the local tavern, he is the first-born heir of the local lord.’
‘Yes, but surely matters of the heart can overcome such fates and destinies’
‘Perhaps, were it not for obstacle number two. He’s married.’
Willa brought over another round of mugs of ale. One for each of them. Tomlin did not remember either he or his new drinking companion ordering them.
‘Not only is he married. He has two children, and his wife is the fairest woman in all the land.’
‘I highly doubt that anyone can be more attractive and fairer than you. You are the most beautiful woman I have seen in three …’
‘Days?’ Willa interrupted. ‘That’s not the best compliment considering your circumstances’
‘Decades! In all my time here. My apologies for the exaggeration. But I highly doubt such a person exists.’
‘Oh no, it’s true.’ Willa said as she was passing by with drinks for another table. ’It’s not even close, she is just devastatingly beautiful. Really not fair it is.’
Tomlin took a drink from his first mug.
‘If I may then, if this young man is truly so unattainable, then why even confess your feelings to him at all since such obstacles might make the effort fruitless.’ Tomlin said.
‘Well, I was in the woods behind town earlier, bemoaning to myself my situation, and a witch appeared out of nowhere. She laughed at my plight and cast a spell upon me.’
‘One of the bad witches I assume.’
‘Is there any other kind?’
‘Not that I’ve met.’
‘Right then and there she placed her curse upon me, without any provocation. I am to tell my heart’s desire my feelings by the height of the moon tonight, or else lose all that I hold dear.’
‘Anything specific that you hold dear?’
‘No, but I will lose all of it.’
‘Any idea what it might be?’
‘I think she’s going to be turned into a frog. She’ll be croaking and moaning around here all-night catching flies. Might be good for the ol’ tavern to have around Sheena the frog.’
Sheena did not acknowledge Willa passing comment as she again chimed in while running her tables.
‘I have some siblings that I care for and my father still works the farm we own just north of town. I fear something bad might happen to them should I fail this task and fall victim to this curse.’
‘These witches are truly the worst. They mock us and they toy with us like we are their plaything. They convince themselves its all in the name of some sick justice or teaching us a lesson. I just think they are malicious goats.’
You sound like you have had some experience, Tomlin of Tavros’
‘Not I, but my brother. He came across some witches in a way not too dissimilar from yourself.’
‘I am sorry to hear that.’ Sheena took another drink. ‘How did it turn out for him?’
Tomlin took a drink, a long one. It was his turn to stare into this mug.
‘Please, tell me more. I do not mean to be rude or to bring up a troubled past, but it would help to hear the experience of someone.’
Tomlin told the story of his brother and the witches he encountered along with a few other stories of his comings and goings around the kingdom. Willa got the hint that her work was done. She would look back to see Sheena and Tomlin deeply engaged in conversation with each other. He would make her laugh from time to time, while she would jokingly hit him or tease him. He moved from facing her to sitting beside her and she would steal glances at him and smile.
The night grew late, and the moon began to get high in the evening sky.
‘My apologies,’ Tomlin said, ‘but I have kept you too long. Your night’s task is still be completed.’
‘It is quite alright. I am aware of the time. To be honest, I have been putting it off for as long as I can.’
‘And here I thought you were enjoying my company.’
‘Well, you are not the worst to look at. But as far as the conversation goes, you are about as average as it gets.’
‘Now, I was going to offer to walk you to the lord’s son house and to offer some moral support…’
‘I would appreciate that quite a bit, thank you.’
Tomlin extended his arm, Sheena took it. They walked arm in arm out of the tavern and out into the night. As they walked down, Tomlin could sense the anxiety building in Sheena’s body.
‘I can sense you getting nervous.’ Tomlin said.
‘I still have no idea what I am going to say once I get there.’
Tomlin stopped and faced her and took her by the hand.
‘If it were I who were forced to confess my feelings to a person I longed for, who was so fair that it was not expressible through words and if fate had deemed that love could not be, I would look them in the eyes, as I do you now, hold them by the hand and confidently say,
“My dear, getting to know you and becoming close to you for as long as we have has made me so happy that I cannot help but appreciate what life has brought me. I have cherished our stolen moments, our secret laughs, and innocent touches. My heart flutters at your very sight and my knees slightly shake when you look upon me and smile. We cannot be together, this I know, but I also know I cannot stay silent anymore. From the first sight I have loved you, I always have and always will, regardless of what comes next.”
They eyes stayed locked upon each other. As their gaze lingered, they moved closer towards each other. With his free hand Tomlin brushed a strand of hair from Sheena’s face, moved in close and kissed her. She kissed him back, with more passion with each passing moment. After minutes pass, they pulled away.
‘I don’t think I need to see him anymore.’
‘No, I don’t think he’s my heart’s true desire anymore’
‘Oh really? Then who is?’
She looked at him half with shock and half with disappointment.
‘I only ask because you better tell him quickly. The moon is getting high in the sky.’
Well, if I must Tomlin, merchant of Tavros, then I will confess to you that I find you quite attractive, quite charming, and surprisingly emotionally supportive.’ She kissed him again. ‘And you are my heart’s desire. At least for tonight.’
She grabbed him by the arm and led him back down the way they came.
‘How will we know if the spell was lifted?’ Tomlin asked
‘I guess we can figure that over breakfast tomorrow.’