The next morning the messengers started arriving. First that mongrel lapine girl with her annoying Moreau lisp, pink rosebuds, trimmed thornless. Phaedra put them in a vase, frowning at them. At least they’d add some festive color to the shop in anticipation of Friday’s big day.
She was already working on the next batch of chocolates, annoyed that the white chocolate seemed to have no effect at all, although the flowers seemed to indicate that something was happening. Lapis had never sent her flowers before.
Next, just as she was in the middle of whipping a particularly delicate mousse, another messenger arrived. This one a lanky, too-skinny teenager with a lazy way of walking. He handed Phaedra a letter and waited, leaning against the table.
“He’s expecting a reply, Missus.”
Phaedra put her whisk down, more annoyed than ever, and opened the letter. Inside it said simply, My lady love, may I be so bold as to visit you on this fine eve for a stroll on the pier?
“Oh by Hera’s right eye, tell him yes.” She picked her bowl and whisk back up. The messenger dashed away quickly.
The third messenger arrived as Phaedra was taking a cup of coffee in her parlor with Kate. The pair of them were discussing hair dyes, as Phaedra was experiencing a particularly vexing problem with her hair after her spat with Lapis a few days before.
“I’ve some India dye that may work,” Kate was saying when the messenger tapped on the door.
Phaedra let the child in. This one was scraggly and short and, as they all were, far too thin. Her hair stood out in a stiff halo around her head and she wore a wooden sword strapped to her back.
“Well?” Phaedra asked, holding out her hand for the message.
The girl scuffed her shoe, turned red and said, “S’pposed to recite it.”
Phaedra cast a glance at Kate and shrugged. “Very well, recite.”
The girl cleared her throat:
If witch you be, then bewitched I be
Enchanted by your symmetry.
If I should need to, I’d cross the sea
To be nearer me to thee.
Your skin is like the sweetest cream
and I do so love when I make you….”
“STOP STOP STOP!” Phaedra shouted. Kate was laughing so hard she nearly fell out of her chair. “That’s quite enough. Quite quite enough, thank you. Here, take this. Tell him that was…tell him nothing.” She dug into her coin purse and handed the girl a handful. “In fact, tell no one anything. Ever. Never mention this.”
The girl dashed out of the parlor and Phaedra turned to Kate who hand both hands clamped tight over her mouth to stifle her laughter.
“I don’t want to hear about this from any of the girls, either.” She warned.
Kate shook her head. “No fear. I’d never tell.”
Later she waited for Lapis to appear at the shop, a full bucket of water fresh from the harbor sitting on the counter next to her. He arrived looking particularly dapper, and, most surprisingly, appeared unarmed.
“Where is your sword?” She asked him.
“I thought, my lady, it would be wrong to be armed when I visited you this evening.” He took her hand in his and kissed it and dropped to one knee. “Particularly when I’ve such a question to ask you.”
Phaedra stared down at him in horror.
“Phaedra will you…”
Phaedra jerked her hand from his, picked up the bucket of sea water from the counter and upended it over his head.