The second part of my NaNoWriMo work. As again, read it after the break.
If anyone else is participating in NaNoWriMo, let me know. Maybe we can swap techniques and tips for getting through the month. My main tip is to make sure you have whisky on hand. Nothing makes words flow better than whisky neat.
“I'll be careful, sir.” He nodded, appeased. Tilda got to work dissecting the next piece of meat. She wasn't nearly as fast as Mister Heinrich, even with his age and bad back. She just didn't have his skill. It took her nearly an hour, almost cutting herself more than once, to do the work he had managed in only ten minutes.
By the time Tilda finished and took the trays out to put in the cases, there were already customers in the store. She returned a wave after she put the tray down.
“Hey, Wendy, Sara.” Tilda said. “How are you two doing?”
“Not bad,” Wendy said. The girl ran a hand through her long brown hair. “So are you planning on coming back to the University anytime soon? I miss taking classes with you.”
“I don't know...” Tilda sighed. “I don't really have the time. After my father passed, I've just been making ends meet.”
“Just making ends meet?” Mister Heinrich frowned. “With how I pay you, you should have enough to buy gold bars and make your own house with them!” He laughed. “But really, if you need time off for class, tell me. I am flexible.”
“No, no, Mister Heinrich. It's not that.” Tilda waved her hands defensively. “I just... well, I don't know what I want to do. I need to figure things out before I go back to school.”
“Don't wait too long,” Heinrich said. “If you get into a rut, you will end up wasting your life here. You have it in you to do big things.” Tilda blushed. She wasn't used to so much praise. The day had started off strange and had gone all sappy.
“And if you don't come back soon,” Sara quipped “Charles Masterson is going to find himself a girlfriend before you can get your hands on him!” The younger girl smiled, her bowl-cut blonde hair making her look impish.
“Ooh,” Wendy said, nodding. “Charles Masterson. Now he's a catch. And he has such a big crush on Tilda, too.”
“W-what?!” Tilda said, blushing more. “No he doesn't! He never even looked at me!”
“If you really think that, you weren't paying attention,” Sara said. “He was just too shy to say anything to you. It was sad. I think all of us were trying to get him to ask us out, but he was always waiting for you to make the first move.”
“I couldn't do that! He was so-”
“Handsome?” Sara asked.
“Popular?” Wendy put in.
“Walking in the door,” Mister Heinrich noted. The three girl's heads turned. A handsome man stood in the doorway, with the build of a firefighter and a kind face to match. Unlike most men in town, Charles was clean shaven, making him look a few years younger than he really was. He wore a light gray suit that was almost white, but just dark enough to be a little more interesting. Charles raised an eyebrow.
“Um... did I walk in at a bad time?” He asked. He had missed the conversation, thankfully. Tilda coughed and calmed herself down, managing to stop blushing through force of will. Sara and Wendy tittered.
“It's never a bad time for a good customer,” Mister Heinrich said. He looked at Tilda. “I'll go give him a hand. If I look tired, you can come and take over, eh?” He winked. Tilda blushed a little, despite herself, and nodded. Heinrich took Charles over to the other end of the counter and helped him with his order. Charles looked at Tilda and smiled. Tilda felt herself sweat a little and nodded a silent greeting.
“Speak of the devil and he appears,” Sara whispered, giggling.
“Your boss recognized him right away,” Wendy pointed out. “He must come here a lot.”
“Well...” Tilda hesitated. “I guess. I mean he only comes by a few times a week.”
“A few times a week?” Sara asked. “Wow. I think he comes for more than just the meat.” She smiled at Tilda. “If you know what I mean.”
“I just-” Tilda stopped, taking a deep breath. “Look, I'll... I'll talk to him about it. Just not right now. I have to get my head together. I can't just ask him things like that without figuring out what I want to say first.”
“If you take too long I'm going to ask him,” Sara declared. Wendy gasped.
“I guess that puts you on the spot!” Wendy said. “You had better hurry or we'll snap him up!”
“Fine, I will!” Tilda said, a little too loudly. Charles looked at them. She blushed, then continued more quietly. “Just not now. After work.” Mister Heinrich was wrapping up his order in butcher paper. Charles took it, thanking the older man, and walked over.
“Hey, Tilda,” He said, smiling. “How are you doing?”
“We'll just be going!” Wendy said. “Bye, Charles!” She dragged Sara off with her. Sara waved. Tilda offered a wave back as they left the shop. Charles waved, a bit confused looking.
“Um, I'm doing pretty good,” Tilda said, returning to the conversation with Charles. “I've had kind of a strange day today.” Charles raised an eyebrow.
“A strange day?” He tilted his head. Tilda shrugged.
“It'd just make me sound crazy if I tried to explain. It's nothing important. S-so how was your day?” She smiled and tried to look like she wasn't nervous. It was difficult talking to him now that she knew he had a thing for her. It should have made it easier, really, but now she felt like she had to impress him.
“Oh, you know.” He smiled. “Just the usual.” He paused. “Um... that reminds me. Have you seen anything strange going on?”
“It's... you'd know it if you saw it. If you see anything strange, or strange people in costumes or whatever... um...” he scratched his head. “Just be careful, okay? There's stuff going on. I can't talk about it.” He sighed.
“Okay,” Tilda said, smiling. “I've been having a strange enough day to just trust you on that.”
There was a gentle knock on Archie's door. He stood up, surprised, and pulled his pants up from his knees. With great haste, he threw the magazine he had been reading under his bed. The knock came again, louder this time.
“One second!” Archie yelled. “Man can't even have five minutes to himself to relax...” He buckled his pants and stumbled to the door, almost tripping over piles of dirty clothing. Archie unlocked the door and pulled it open.
“You are Archie Nicholson,” It was a statement, not a question. The woman at the door was... Archie's mouth dropped open. The long white dress seemed to glow in the sunlight, like she was an unearthly angel. A veil covered her entire face, and all Archie could make out was her silhouette. But he liked what he saw.
“Yes,” Archie said. “Oh man. Can I help you? Who are you?” The woman laughed.
“You should have been expecting me, Archie. You did reply to that ad, after all...” Archie gasped.
“That ad?” He blinked. “I guess I did respond to that one I got in the mail a couple weeks ago.” It had been the only mail he got that week, and the only ad he had seen in months. It just wasn't something that was very common lately. Even if he got a hundred times as much mail, he'd remember that one, printed on a strange, heavy stock with gold leaf.
More importantly, he'd remember the offer. Archie wasn't the type to socialize, and hearing that there was a woman who wanted to be his bride just waiting for him to write to her, well, that made his imagination run wild. He had expected it to be a scam or a joke, but now, with the woman standing in front of him, it was more than he had ever expected. She wasn't some ugly sow who was being foisted off by her family, or a recent immigrant looking for citizenship. She was beautiful. Archie could just tell, even without seeing her face.
“Then you know why I'm here,” she said, stepping inside. Archie stepped aside to let her in. She didn't even seem to walk, like she was floating through the air. “You're a very lucky man, Archie.”
“Yeah,” Archie agreed, nodding and smiling. “So, um, what happens next? Do I need to get a suit or something?”
“Or something,” the woman said, laughing. “That's a good way to put it.” She removed her veil, facing away from Archie. “There's one important thing we have to do first.”
“What's that?” Archie asked, his hopes rising. The woman turned. She was as beautiful as he had expected, or even more, with a touch of some exotic ancestry he couldn't quite name that enhanced her features.
“You have to say 'I Do.'” She blinked sideways, and showed fangs when she smiled.
Tilda rode home as the sun started going down. Mister Heinrich lived above his shop, and preferred to clean up himself. A package of some of the better scraps left over from the day sat in her bike's basket. She wasn't sure how she was going to cook them, but it certainly helped her food bills.
The sky was as red as blood by the time she got to the guest house where she lived. Tilda locked her bike up and then walked up the stairs quietly. They creaked as she put weight on them. She really didn't want to disturb the creep who lived next to her. He wasn't a really bad guy or anything, but there was something about him that just set off alarms in her head.
She got all the way to the door without making much noise. Then she heard someone clearing their throat behind her.
“Welcome home.” Tilda turned around. That woman in a white dress was there. How the hell had she gotten up the stairs without making a sound? Especially in those heels.
“What are you still doing here?” Tilda asked. The woman took a step towards her.
“I've been waiting for you. Actually, I wasn't even originally looking for you, but there's something about you that just... really interests me.” She smiled. Tilda wasn't sure, but just for a moment she thought she saw fangs in the dim light.
“Look, I don't even know who you are. And I don't want to know.” Tilda unlocked her door. “Wherever you came from, you can just go back there.”
“My name is Arma.” She took another step. Tilda pushed her door open.
“Great. Nice to meet you, Arma. Goodbye.” Tilda stepped in and closed the door behind her. She sighed. What a strange person. Probably a thief or a crazy woman. She'd have to be crazy to go around town in a dress like th-
“It's nice to meet you too, Tilda.” Tilda spun around, her thought interrupted. That woman in white was in her room. How the hell had she gotten past her?
“You- how did you do that?!”
“It's not difficult,” Arma said, not answering the question at all. She walked around the room. “Now, I sensed something the last time I was around here... where is it...” Tilda watched the bizarre woman as she paced.
“J-just do whatever you're here to do and leave,” Tilda said, trying to maintain distance from her. “I don't want any trouble.”
“Now, now. You don't seem like the type who can really say that.” Arma stopped in front of Tilda's storage closet. “Ah. I see. It's coming from in here... open this closet.” She waved imperiously.