She just wanted to go home.
Was that too much to ask?
Daisy scowled as she was one step away from entering the Spring festival grounds. The… loud and crowded festival grounds.
If the paths to her house weren’t flooded she would have ran away.
She clutched her purse tighter and closer than she would have ever needed to on her way home in the woods.
People were wearing bright pastels that swished as so many ran and danced to the music. Nearly everyone was wearing flowers in some way shape or form, crowns, sewn on dresses, tied around ankles, you name it. There were even stalls selling jewelry engraved with flowers and other things. She had to dodge vendors who were walking around their stalls with arms wide and just couldn’t take a hint.
She was nearly there when she was knocked back. A man with a mask with flowers carved into the wood stepped in front of her blocking her path through. He threw open his arms which held several flower necklaces on each. “A pretty necklace to mimic all that the summer has!” He towered over her and Daisy and she could just sense the big smile that the mask covered face. “How would the young lady like one?”
Daisy gnashed her teeth growling at him. The man held his hands up in surrender. “No need for that, just looking for an honest way to fill my purse!”
Daisy folded her arms skeptically and looked straight into the willow bark mask. “Oh, I’m certain.” She snarked.
The man threw his head back laughing and removed his mask. He had tan skin with even darker freckles, curly brown hair with a short scar on his right cheek. “What are you even doing here, Daisy?” He asked, tilting his head. His eyes sparkled with annoying curiosity.
“Not wasting my money on jewelry that will die in a week.” She scoffed, eyeing the several necklaces around his arms.
“Aw Daisy! You know I prefer arm bands! These are for my sisters!” Cole smiled, placing a hand on his chest, his eyes twinkled. “Could it be that you've decided to socialize with the populus?”
She snorted. “For your information, Atwell,” She drawled, jabbing a finger in his chest. “The winter melt flooded the path to my home. If you could be so kind as to move and let me get on my way-”
Cole tutted, blocking her exit. “You know I have to bring you over to Mom! It’s been a whole winter since we’ve seen you!”
Cole grabbed Daisy by the shoulders before she could object. She was pushed to a stall covered with honeysuckle vines. The smell of baked goods hit her nose and she could see why there were so many brightly dressed people around waiting to spend their coin.
Cole let go of her shoulder and waved at Mrs. Atwell. The older woman beamed with a smile as bright as the sun and came over.
“Hello Daisy dear!” Mrs. Atwell dusted her hands off on her apron as she came over, flour flying into the air. “This numbskull isn’t boring you, is he?” She asked, jerking a thumb at Cole.
Cole did his best not to laugh as his Mom pulled an extremely disoriented Daisy into a hug. “So glad you could come!” She kissed Daisy’s forehead with vigor.
“Good to see you as well, Mrs. Atwell.” Daisy choked back trying to get air through the tight hug.
His Mom tutted releasing the poor girl and placing her hands on her hips. “I’ve told you time and time again, it’s Mom to you!”
She took Daisy by the chin examining her. “You’ve wasted away throughout the winter! You're practically a twig!” His Mom criticized playfully poking Daisy in the ribs. “You should visit more often! We need to get some meat on those bones. Katie!” She shouted over her shoulder to Cole’s sister. “Get our best honey cakes!”
Daisy blinked, not entirely aware of what just happened. Cole chuckled when he could see the gears finally start working again.
“I’m not going to be able to leave without carrying tons of food, am I?” She whispered slowly as Mrs. Atwell left to go help Katie.
“Not unless you can gain several pounds before she comes back.” Cole mused smiling. “It might be a few minutes, let’s go to the back.”
She sighed and followed him, but was soon bowled over by people.
“Katie!” Cole’s sisters cheered.
He snickered at her dazed face. All of his sisters jumped up and down in excitement going on and on about how they had kept their dresses in the best shape over the winter, and how they missed her.
Honestly, Cole didn’t even feel like family.
“Hey I got necklaces!” He called. That got his sisters attention for a moment where they ran over to snatch them up and brief thank yous but that was it.
This was all his fault really. Cole had six sisters and he had known Daisy was a seamstress. Once he had introduced them, they all loved her from the pretty dresses she made them to her snarky attitude.
True to his word, his Mother and Katie came back with a plate full of golden baked honey cakes, all of them dripping with golden honey and a bit of powdered sugar sprinkled on top.
She felt her mouth water. The snow that year had been heavy and Daisy’s house was out of the way so she barely came to town. She didn’t miss society at all.
Mrs. Atwells cooking on the other hand…
Daisy reached for her purse, but Mrs. Atwell popped a cake into her mouth. “No need to pay, just eat, dear.” She said kindly.
“Thamfk yfou.” Daisy managed to get the sounds out even with a cake shoved into her mouth. Mrs. Atwell chuckled lightly before turning a glare onto Cole. “You make sure she eats.”
Cole saluted her seriously, he leaned down as soon as his Mother gave an appreciative nod before turning away.
Cole leaned down to Daisy’s ear. “If you let me eat some of those I’ll show you a place with less people.” He offered.
Daisy looked at her plate, she couldn’t finish them anyway, she nodded.
He took her to a shaded hill that overlooked the festivities. The two sat on a patch of grass and slowly began devouring the honey cakes.
Cole took a bite of one and honey coated his mouth. His mouth watered and he ate another one. The next time he moved his He couldn’t eat too many honey cakes, his Mom wouldn’t let him hear the end of it. He tried humming a tune instead.
“What are you muttering?” Daisy asked coldly as she took a bite of the honey cake. How anyone could sound as cold as she does while eating his Mom’s cooking was beyond him.
“Dial back the frostbite a bit, can’t you?” He teased. “Winter is over!”
“I know.” She pouted. “I’m extremely depressed about the whole thing.”
“At least now you’ll have more business.”
“Ah yes, nearly half the town will come to my home asking for clothes to impress a sweetheart.”
“They will all be shouting your praises.”
“You mean like everyone’s shouting right now?” She grimaced. “I’ll pass.”
Cole huffed. “It’s not just shouting.”
Daisy expertly raised an eyebrow.
“Try listening to what they are saying. Winter is over! New life will begin.” He jumped pulling Daisy up into a twirl.
“There’s already too much life in the world.” She snarked, tearing her hands back. She pushed him back causing him to trip and fall on the ground. “Give me a cold dead winter any day.” She hmphed folding her arms.
He laughed from his vantage point in the grass. “Still grumpy from coming out of hibernation, eh? Don’t worry. If you ever change your mind about people, I can promise you Mom would love to kick me out and give you my room.”
Daisy snorted. Cole counted that as a win. He pushed himself up and pulled down his mask. “As much as I’d love to keep you here, I’ll help take you through, so you can get home.”
Daisy gave him a small grateful smile. “Thanks.”
After a few minutes she realised she would have been better off agreeing to go home with literally anyone other than Cole Atwell. It wasn't only the problem that he had an attention span of three seconds and felt the need to go towards the fire jugglers display (even though Daisy agreed it was impressive), the problem was Cole Atwell knew everyone and they knew him.
That meant they all wanted to talk which also meant they only went five yards before being interrupted by a,
‘Ah Cole, how are your sisters?’
She sighed, Cole at least tried to wheedled himself away from conversation fairly quickly.
“Do I even want to ask about how you know that many people?” She muttered as they finally exited the festival grounds.
Cole laughed. “You? No. But if you are interested, I have plenty of stories.”
She groaned, making him laugh. “Goodbye Atwell, send my condolences to your mother.” She said as she began to walk away.
“Condolences?” Cole muttered in confusion.
“She still has to live with you doesn’t she?”
He barked out a laugh. Daisy smiled as she took a bite of some of the left over honey cakes on her way home. She was exhausted, but the day had been a little nice.