First Day

Title: First Day
Time Period: June, 134 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Cordelia is subjected to a little trial by fire on at the start of what she hopes will be her new career under Aislinn's tutelage.

If strolls through the town of Dornie could have personalities, then this one would be split. There have been long moments where mother and daughter walked in near silence but for the crunch of their soles on gravel or the trickle of nearby water to break it up. Then, there are the moments where Cordie's nervousness bubbles up and she asks a dozen questions in the space of a minute, hardly letting her mother answer before she jumps to the next.

They are the sort of questions any barely-fifteen-year-old might ask on their first day of their first job — or, as Cordie has come to call it, her career.

The last of the questions comes as they come within a stone's throw of the apothecary where Aislinn works. "What if I'm bad at it?" Cordie finally whispers, big brown eyes staring ahead at the building that has become an important part of her life. The speed she had been walking at suddenly slows, despite being eager to set out and hurrying her mother along the path.

The mother stops in her tracks, reaching out to place her hands on her daughter's shoulders to similarly halt her steps and turn her to face her. "There's no way you'll be bad at it. You may discover you don't like it, but you're not going to be bad." The gentle smile is something only a precious few ever receive from Goneril Ross. Cordelia is one of those who receives it frequently without reservation. "And if you don't like it, that's okay. I will understand. Aislinn will understand. You can walk away any time."

And though there's a sincerity to it, there's also an underlying hope that Goneril's daughter will come to her senses and realise that this career path isn't for her. It isn't ambitious enough for her tastes, but Cordelia is young yet, and her mother is willing to indulge her whims for now. There will be time enough in the following year to steer her properly. Best to get it all out of her system now. "No matter what happens, you have a proud mother."

The praise and reassurance brings a smile to Cordelia's solemn face; it is a quiet sort of smile, curving up at the corners of her mouth but not quite enough to show her teeth. She nods her understanding, then steps forward to give Goneril a tight hug. She's an affectionate enough child but like any teenager, she gives hugs in public sparingly — today is a special occasion, however, and she's not too grown up yet.

"Thanks," she says quietly as she steps back, reaching up to try to catch all the errant strands of her hair and tuck them behind her ears. "Do I look all right?" is a less serious question, as Cordie smoothes down the lightweight sweater she wears over a pair of trousers and boots. A practical girl, she didn't try to dress "up" in girly clothes for the first day on the job — given the job she's beginning, they'd likely get ruined anyway.

"You look all grown up," Goneril responds honestly. She's surprised by it, too. Still young, but she's acting like an adult. Wasn't she small enough for piggyback rides just yesterday? She restrains herself from dropping a kiss upon her daughter's head for the girl's sake more than for the sake of her own appearances, settling for returning the hug with a tightness in her arms, and a less tangible one in her chest. "My best advice to you is not to be afraid to ask questions. If you need help, ask for it. This is important work, but you don't have to do it alone. You understand?"

The girl nods, one of the recently captured strands of hair blowing back into her eyes with a gust of the wind. "It's kind of like mechanics, in a way, right? I mean… things aren't working the way they should, and you have to find out why. Repairing leaks and taking out broken parts," she says with a small smile. It's a small olive branch, her way of giving the trade she didn't want to learn a little bit of respect.

"I suppose there's no reason to stand outside, right?" she says, taking a purposeful step forward and making up for lost time with a swift stride toward the apothecary, to take the steps up to the second floor.

With a deep breath and one more look at her mother behind her, she knocks on the door.

The door opens, but it isn't Aislinn standing on the other side. It's a tall, lean boy with white-blonde hair who hasn't completely grown into his face yet. Colm raises a hand in greeting to the two women, saying nothing, because Colm rarely says anything at all, then turns in place and bleats out, "Mother." The word sounds sticky and thick in his mouth, and it's this difficulty with enunciation that keeps him so quiet. Although there are rumours that Aislinn's oldest son is retarded, Goneril has spent enough time around him and his mother to know this isn't true. That he's able to speak at all is an achievement, and even if he couldn't his pale eyes are too sharp for her to miss the intelligence in them.

Aislinn appears a moment later, a towel wrapped around one hand and a tight smile on her face. The expression she wears wishes it could be more welcoming. "What timing you have."

It's this intelligence in the boy's eyes that keeps Goneril on her toes around him, where others might be inclined to assume he's dull of wit and thus unable to pick up on the little things in conversation, and body language. "Hello, Colm," she greets warmly before placing a hand on Cordie's back. Either as a reassurance, or to quell any notions that she might just turn around and start off for home.

When the healer appears in the doorway, Goneril becomes more sombre only because she recognises the tightness in the corners of the other woman's mouth. "Aislinn. As promised, one extra helper." The urge to angle herself so she can peer inside the apothecary better isn't too difficult to ignore, but it does at least exist.

"Hi, Colm," Cordie greets her sort-of cousin with a smile, stepping into the shop and looking around with new eyes — she's been in it before for various reasons, but never with the thought she'd work here.

When Aislinn appears, Cordelia's nervousness shows in her uncertain smile. "I'm sorry if we're interrupting anything important," she tells the fair woman, her hands moving to clasp themselves behind her back to keep them still and from touching (or worse, breaking) anything of value.

"Colm," says Aislinn, signing the boy's name at the same time she speaks it, for everyone's benefit. It's difficult to do with the towel wound around her hand, and when she does Cordelia sees that the material is smeared with blood; Colm is watching his mother's mouth intently, relying on her lips as much as her hands, both injured and not, to communicate her meaning. "There's hot water on the stove. Please bring it to the table."

She gestures for Goneril and Cordelia to take a seat while Colm fetches the kettle she asked for, kept warm by the small, wood-burning stove in the corner. The apothecary isn't a very large space, but the ceilings are high with exposed wooden rafters, making it seem bigger than it really is. Shelves line the wall behind the counter, and dried flowers hang in bunches from nails and hooks, filling the room with a worn smell that would turn musty if Aislinn didn't keep everything so clean. "I've just had a little accident," she explains to Cordelia. "Nothing very serious, but take a look and tell me what you think?"

Goneril can't help but appreciate Aislinn's method. She'd prefer to stay standing, but she takes a seat to be polite, and because she thinks it will help ease her daughter's nervousness. As much as she wants Cordelia to realise this isn't meant for her, she still wants her to do well. And though she doesn't ask, she does wonder if the accident is actually an intentional act.

The teen's teeth rake over her lower lip and she gives a small nod — the sight of blood doesn't bother her, but she is nervous, and didn't expect to have to perform any first aid on her mentor the very first moment on the job. "S-sure," Cordelia says, and rather than sit, looks around to find the basin. Her step to it is more certain than her voice, and she quickly but thoroughly washes her hands before returning to the table.

There, she reaches for Aislinn's hand and slowly begins to unwind the cloth, eyes downward. "What did you cut it on?" she asks.

Colm brings the kettle to the table, along with a wooden box carried under one arm. The kettle he sets down on the table's sturdy surface, followed by the box, which he opens by releasing the ornate brass latches that secure it. Inside is a selection of loose leaf teas all in identical paper bags. At some point, Aislinn or someone else must have taught him to read, because he skims the labels with the tips of his fingers, different blends identified by his mother's loose, looping handwriting.

He selects a bag from the compartment marked dandelion and sets to steeping it. "My knife," says Aislinn. "Don't worry: I've already washed it, and the wound's a shallow one. It won't bleed much more."

Brown eyes slide from daughter to sister-in-law. Goneril leans back in her seat, by all means comfortable despite the blood. She watches Cordelia's movements with interest, curious to see what her instincts tell her. She can only hope the girl passes whatever test this seems to be.

As she peels the last layer of towel gently away from the skin, Cordelia's brows furrow as she examines the laceration. "What were you cutting? It won't affect the cut in any way, will it?" she asks, her eyes darting up to Aislinn's face and then to the boy making the tea. She isn't sure if that's simply to drink or if there's a purpose for it she should know, and it's a long moment as she mulls it over before remembering her mother's advice.

"Will a poultice help? I know dandelion is good for digestion; I read it somewhere in one of Grandda's books, but I don't remember if it said anything about cuts…" Cordelia looks upset with herself for not knowing. "It looks clean. I can try to bandage it for you," she offers.

Colm brings his hand to his face and points at his mouth with his middle finger, lips forming an 'o' shape, and then moves it to his left, mindful to keep his finger extended. The sign could mean anything, but in the context of the steaming water and what he seems to be mouthing, he probably means: It's hot. The gesture that immediately follows it, however, is one that Goneril recognizes. Aislinn has directed it at him a hundred times before in her presence. Be careful.

"The tea is for your mother," Aislinn tells Cordelia, "but I like that you're thinking. No poultice. You'll find some gauze behind the counter, bottom shelf on the left."

"How thoughtful." Goneril's tone is neutral, making it difficult to discern if she's being sincere in the sentiment, or if she's perceived some sort of slight in the choice of tea. It wouldn't be the first time she's looked too deeply for hidden meanings in seemingly simple actions. It's a side effect of being the sort to engage in simple actions with hidden meanings. She offers a smile to her daughter as if to tell her well done.

Cordelia offers another small smile at the praise from Aislinn and gets up to gather the gauze and a pair of scissors. "I'm not a bad sewer when I have to be," she says quietly as she returns to the table, "though I don't particularly like it. Embroidery and cross stitch, I don't have much patience for 'em, though if I had to give stitches, I think I could do them straight enough… not that I'd hoped to do them my first day or on you of all people, Auntie."

The chatter is of the nervous variety, meant more to calm herself than her patient but it might eventually grow into a pleasant enough bedside manner. She stops her chattering to dab away the newly accumulated blood with a clean corner of towel, then starts the process of wrapping the wound in the gauze.

Colm selects a porcelain cup with a floral pattern for Goneril and pours her the tea, which smells bitter, but before she has the opportunity to either accept or refuse it, he opens a glass jar of honey and scoops out two generous spoonfuls into the cup. A glance at Cordelia and his mother tells him that what they're doing isn't going to take very long, so he pours Cordelia a cup as well. Four spoonfuls of honey this time.

Goneril can be sure that means something.

"You'll learn, sweet one," says Aislinn. "Patience and the needle. You're already doing so well."

There's only a brief closing of her eyes and a flicker of a smile to acknowledge the way Colm heaps honey into Cordelia's tea, unrecognisable as a reaction if it isn't being watched for. She offers her nephew a smile. "Thank you ever so much." Her gaze returns to Cordie's work, pride evident as she earns Aislinn's praise. "Embroidery isn't a practical skill anyway. Needlework does have its practical applications, however." Which is the I told you so to an argument that was had years ago, when Cordelia was much younger.

Pale cheeks flush with Aislinn's praise, and her eyes dart up and she gives Colm a flash of teeth for the honey, though Cordelia didn't notice the discrepancy between the two cups. "Thank you," she says, a nod first to the younger boy and then to his mother, before bending her head to finish her work. The bandage is tied off and she rewinds the remaining gauze around its spool.

"I hope it's not too tight," she says to Aislinn. "I can be patient when it matters," she adds, with a brief glance toward her mother before looking back to her aunt. "I just never found sewing on tea cloths interesting. I mean, there are other people who can do that, and I'm sure I respect them for it, but I want to help people."

The tea is out on the table, the women are talking, and Colm decides that now is as good as any to slip out the door. Not only because it was left hanging wide open, but because there are places he'd rather be, like the stables or exploring the woodland with his younger brother on his shoulders. Sensing his intentions as he passes her, Aislinn hooks her free arm around the boy's waist, pulls him into her and presses a kiss to his temple when he dutifully bows his head for it.

Then he's gone, and the door swings shut behind him with a gentle click.

"It's a little tight," Aislinn admits, flexing her fingers. "That's all right."

Wrapping her fingers around her tea, Goneril glances over to her daughter. "Well done, Cordie." She doesn't say that she thought the girl might panic in the face of real work the minute she stepped through the door. In a way, she's disappointed that she didn't, while still being proud of her for handling the situation with good poise. It just means that the girl might actually be well-suited for the work.

Well. Goneril can work with that if she has to. "I do appreciate you doing this for us, Aislinn."

Her task finished, Cordie reaches for her own tea, taking a sip and dropping her eyes as Goneril thanks Aislinn. After a slow sip, savoring the sweetness, she nods to her mother for the praise and then to Aislinn in agreement.

"I can loosen it for you if you like. I'll do things 'til I get them right," she promises — and she does have a stubbornness to see such a promise through when she thinks it matters. The embroidery on the pillow she never finished — that's another matter.

"I can't wait to learn what everything in here can do," she adds, and she glances at her mother's tea cup, clearly checking just how much is left and gauging how much more time before her mother leaves and she can begin her work in earnest.

"I'll show you how to do it proper in the morning when we change it," Aislinn promises. "You tell Jorn I need you here at seven and not a minute later. We'll sweep the floors and take inventory this afternoon so we can spend tomorrow outside. The first step to understanding what things do is learning how to identify them, and to do that you have to find where they grow."

To Goneril, she offers a more secret smile than the one she gave at the door. She might be right about the injury's origin. "I've been needing an extra set of hands," she says. "Colm likes to be out under the sky all day, and Ariel's much too young. I should be thanking you and Eadgar."

The prospect of spending time outside foraging in the summer's warmth is one that makes Cordelia smile — she's a tomboy at heart, and, like Colm, likes to be under the sky, unless it's raining. Which it does much too often for her taste.

Eager to start, she gulps down her tea as quickly as she can while still heeding Colm's silent warning. Once that's done, she quietly excuses herself in order to find the broom, eager to prove herself on her first day. She leaves the two adults to talk, the broom's swishing rhythm the backdrop music to their conversation.