Feb 23, 2020 6:28 PM
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Brycen loves baking.  Well, she loves most of the job.  She likes preparing and kneading the dough, being able to zone in on something other than her own whirling thoughts.  She likes the scent of the baking bread.  She likes the trickle of friends and acquaintances and villagers she doesn't really know but still finds herself liking, in and out of the bakery.  She likes meeting people's little children for the first time.  She likes knowing the role she plays in the functioning and happiness of the village.

The waiting, for dough to rise and bread to bake and customers to arrive, she does sometimes feel like she could do with less of.

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There's a villager there today. Hardly unusual. He has a simple enough order. Trouble is, that leaves them both waiting. Frank can only tolerate so much silence, and this is someone he's only seen before in passing.

"Does your family own the bakery, or are you apprenticed to someone else?"

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She smiles at him.  "It was my father's," she says.  "But I do all the baking nowadays."  She leans forward a bit, conspiratorially.  "I'm better at it than him," she adds, in a stage whisper.

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“What’s your secret?”

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"Whenever I'm making a loaf of bread I try to imagine someone in the village who's going to enjoy it.  I like to think that helps."

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Help she's cute.

"I don't think I could do it. When we give someone a salve or a potion, we can see them get better. Don't you ever get to watch someone taste something you've made?"

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"Oh, sometimes," she says.  "But you want to try to feel a bit of that love while you're still making it."

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"Who were you imagining when you made...that one?"

He starts asking for stories about everything that she's currently working on, right up until she's finished with his.

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She has stories!  They’re cute!  This one’s for a tired old farmer who always buys two hot pretzels, one for him and one for his wife.  This adorable miniature cake is for a little girl who’s just had her fifth birthday and is going to try cake for the first time.  These rolls are for a new woodsman just home from the paths who's going to have his first dinner with his family in weeks.

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The stories are cute. He doesn't say as much. Commenting on how charmed he is might burst this nice little bubble.

He does tell her about the woodsman's experience on the path; his wounds needed tending, and so he regaled Frank and his mother with a fanciful tale about his uphill trek through the woods. Frank talks about the storm of dust that buffeted the man for hours, and the brief encounter he had with a terrifying creature made of dead, decaying plant matter- as well as the beautiful sunsets, like he'd never seen in the village, and the restful sleep he found underneath a shady tree.

"...before he finally stumbled into the village. He spun around on the spot, not even really sure if he'd made it home. The paths can do that, trick your senses, if you spend enough time on them. That's when I found him and brought him in. We talked to him a little bit. Got some water in him, patched him up, and sent him on his way- probably here, since walking the paths is hungry work. Speaking of food, I've probably let my bread get cold."

By now, realizing that other customers having come and gone several times, Frank finally has the sense to look sheepish.

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She giggles.  "Probably."  Bread: retrieved.  "But it was nice talking to you, Frank.  I should like to do so again."

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“Thanks. I know who to come to if I need a good story.”

He goes.

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She waves.

She's smiling to herself the whole rest of the day, and the next few days in fact.  Sometimes instead of daydreaming about the villagers she catches herself daydreaming about him, his earnest little smile and the way he tells stories.  Something in the way he looks at her, and the way he talks about helping people in the village, leaves her helplessly charmed.

It takes her an embarrassingly long time to realize she has a crush.

Well... she doesn't want to do anything rash, and it would be untoward to make the first move, and she doesn't even know if he likes her that way, and they only spoke for a few minutes really, she doesn't really know him, who knows if they'd be compatible... but still, she finds herself hoping he'll find his way to her bakery again soon.

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He brings home the bread, prepares dinner, and tells his mom about his day. He doesn't discuss the baker endlessly (though he can't help but mention her fondly). He talks more about the coming week: most patients let them know what they'll be needing. There are emergencies, but most times, people know they'll fall ill before it happens. Besides, if they don't catch the symptoms, he or his mother will. The next time he diagnoses an ailment, he smiles at the thought of Brycen, imagining exactly what that customer might want.

The next time he goes to the bakery, Frank hasn't prepared an order. He waves briefly, not wanting to distract from the other customers, and mills about, trying to get a sense of what she's making that day. 

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She waves back.

She's kneading something, at the moment, and the counters today are stocked mostly with braided or knotted loaves, and a few sweet pastries and confections.

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"Hey, Brycen! It's good to see you again."

Is that what you do when you're glad to see someone you're giving money to? He thinks he's probably behaving oddly, but he can't stop himself from smiling.

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Well, Brycen doesn’t seem bothered!

”Hello, Frank!  Anything special for you today?”

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"We wanted something sweet to offer our patients. What do you think I should pick?"

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