“You still haven’t bought anything.” Grace pointed out as the two women emerged from another shop. “That’s not how you go about Winterfest shopping…”
There were a few reasons for Cordelia’s lack of spending. The first was practical; in spite of having a steady salary now, almost every penny she’d earned so far was spent on supplies to build and improve her little shed, as Morgyn had referred to it. And unless she wanted to live in a shed forever, this could probably not change any times soon. Not that she wanted to admit to grace how broke she really was.
The second reason was that she found the town of Windenburg all decorated for the holidays a little overwhelming. Gibbs Hill used to get all sorts of decorations this time of year, of course, but nothing this extravagant. She was finding it hard to focus with all the lights and trees and nutcrackers about. How could one pick a perfect gift with all those distractions around?
“I guess I haven’t seen the right thing to buy yet,” she told Grace. “It’s no big deal though. I’m only shopping for one person anyway.”
“Lucky you!” Grace said. “I wish I was organised enough to only have one present to go… My family’s huge though, so I’ll blame it on that.”
“Yeah. Lucky me.” Cordelia repeated apathetically. She decided against explaining the real reason. Didn’t seem particularly festive.
Thankfully, Grace didn’t seem to be paying attention to her tone. “I’ve gotta say, they really did go all out this year. I don’t remember it being like this back when I lived here… Just look at the size of these trees…”
“They’re pretty impressive,” Cordelia agreed. She wondered if this was what Magic HQ looked like at Winterfest. Not that she’d ever know. Something to ask Dandelion about in the new year, perhaps.
“Come on, let’s take a selfie to commemorate the trip.” Grace suggested, pulling Cordelia closer. “Smile!”
“Not bad!” Grace looked at the screen before putting her phone away. “Now… let’s get that remaining present of yours sorted… what does the person like?”
This was one of Cordelia’s struggles in the shop. “Um… they’re not really materialistic… sugar?”
“I guess a nice tin of biscuits is aa good start… not much of a present, though.” Grace pondered.
She was right, of course, Cordelia thought. Besides, he’d probably get all sorts of nice treats in the magic realm during the festivities.
“He likes gardening.” Cordelia remembered.
“Hmm… maybe some seed packets? Gardening equipment or something?” Her friend suggested.
Cordelia thought about it. The problem with Dandelion living in Sylvan Glade was that he had access to all kinds of strange seeds and plants as it was, probably far more exotic than anything she could get here. And he didn’t seem to lack any gardening gear as far as she could tell.
“I don’t know.” She sighed.
“You know, we passed a Winterfest market just a while back.” Grace remembered, not giving up on her determination. “They have all sorts of knicknacks there, might be just the place for your non-materialistic fella. And if not, at least we can get some mulled nectar or something.” She grinned.
“Sounds like a plan!”
The market was just around the corner, so they didn’t have to walk far.
“Can’t go wrong with clothes, right?” Grace gestured towards one of the stalls. It was predominantly selling appropriately festive attire. “Would he like a reindeer hat?”
Cordelia laughed. “You know what, he probably would.” She could just picture Dandelion wearing something like that. Still, she was keeping her options open.
Grace’s eyes drifted somewhere behind Cordelia. “Oh, would you mind if we check out the book stall on the other side? I think it’s mostly second hand books, but they can have some interesting stuff from what I remember. My mom loves to read, I bet I can find something for her there.”
“Sure!” Cordelia followed. Grace was right, most of the books looked old, probably swapped by much more than just two pairs of hands. Some were barely holding together anymore.
“What did I tell you, some really weird stuff.” Grace scanned the shelves. “A whole book about violins… I mean, it’s pretty cheap I guess, but who’d read that? Some kind of crazy collector, maybe.”
“Actually, I think I’ll get it.” Cordelia beamed after checking the price.
“Oh? You think your guy would be into reading this?” Grace raised an eyebrow.”
“No. But it gave me an idea.” Cordelia smiled at her.
“You’ve got to tell me about this mystery man.” Grace seemed intrigued. “Should we get drinks?”
“Oh, it’s nothing like that. He’s a friend. A really good one.” Cordelia added. They made their way over to the bar and placed their orders.
“Friend, huh?” Grace wasn’t letting it go.
“Don’t read into it.” Cordelia rolled her eyes. “If we should focus on anyone’s love life, it’s yours. Whatever happened to that hunky bartender from Elixirs and Potions?”
Grace shrugged. “Not a whole lot. We went on a couple of dates, but we decided to just be friends.”
It was Cordelia’s turn to tease. “Friends, huh?” She threw Grace’s question from earlier right back at her.
A chuckle escaped Grace’s lips. “Ok, that’s fair.” She admitted. “I mean, it’s not that he’s not cute or anything. But I’m not really looking for anything serious, and I can’t risk ruining the only pub in Glimmerbrook if things get messy.”
Cordelia didn’t get that. Why wouldn’t it be worth a risk? But then, she didn’t know the first thing about relationships. She decided to just nod knowingly, pretending to understand.
The bartender placed their drinks in front of them, and they carried them over to one of the free tables.
“I’m just not ready to settle down.” Grace explained, likely picking up on Cordelia’s confused expression. “I’ve got a short attention span, I guess. Nothing wrong with dating around… speaking of which, any more non-dates with Morgyn?”
She told Grace about Morgyn’s visit, their offer to help with the sprites and the magical fireplace. The only detail she didn’t go into was the whole shed living situation that prompted Morgyn’s spell – it was just too embarrassing.
“So, what do you think?” She asked her friend when she was finished with the story.
“I don’t know, Cordelia, it’s all a bit weird.” Grace was still smiling, but there seemed to be a hint of concern in her voice. “Besides, from what I’ve heard, Morgyn… gets distracted easily.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” A strange heaviness settled in Cordelia’s stomach. “Like… like you and your short attention span?”
“Wow. I never thought I’d be compared to sage of untamed magic…” Grace took a sip of her drink. “All I know is they take on these protégés… But I have no personal experience with it. My friend Tomax trained with Morgyn for quite a while though and… I don’t know, I just don’t have a good feeling about it.”
Cordelia studied her friend’s face. It seemed Grace’s smile had disappeared. She wasn’t sure what to make of it.
“It doesn’t matter anyway.” Cordelia said finally. “All Morgyn’s doing is helping me get rid of the sprites, that’s all.”
“I guess that’s true.” Grace nodded. “Oh crap, we better get moving if we want to catch our train back to Glimmerbrook!”
The finished up their drinks and hastily left the market. They didn’t talk much on the way to the train station, Cordelia was too lost in thought. They take on these protégés. Whatever that meant, it didn’t really matter – she wasn’t a spellcaster, so it wasn’t like she would ever find out first hand. Maybe that was why Morgyn wasn’t interested in her…
As if Cordelia wasn’t already in a strange mood, as soon as she said goodbye to Grace at the station in Glimmerbrook, the sprites decided to welcome her back home. Of course they did, pesky things.
She trailed back to her campsite through the deep snow, trying her best to ignore them. It was no use though, they followed her all the way back home, nibbling at her coat.
“Just… get off me!” She tried to shoo them away, with no effect, of course. As if she’d learned nothing in all these years. The sprites would leave when they wanted to leave, and then come back again. Like they always did. She sighed and headed inside.
Her eyes couldn’t help but linger on the fireplace Morgyn conjured. Morgyn… gets distracted easily… Why did what Grace said bother her, anyway? It was all so stupid.
She shot an angry look to the sprites. And then it hit her. Maybe their appearance tonight wasn’t that bad of a thing after all…
Morgyn did want to study them up close… all she had to do was toss that strange coin in the fire, and they’d come over. Cordelia pulled the coin out of her pocket, shifting it in between her fingers.
I don’t know, I just don’t have a good feeling about it, Grace’s words echoed in her head.
It almost felt as if the coin was burning in her hand. “You’re a lost cause.” Cordelia told herself out loud. It was clearly true; she was talking to herself like some sort of a weirdo now. That was new. It was all the sprites’ fault, really. All she was trying to do was to get rid of them. And Morgyn was willing to help. That was all there was to it.
She took a deep breath, and chucked the coin in the fire.
What did Grace know, anyway?