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Moving On

Posted on Fri Sep 9th, 2022 @ 5:50pm by Juniper Farnsby

Mission: The Xiao Jin Chronicles
Location: The Black Stag, Downtown Eavesdown
Timeline: Mission Day 46 at 0100

"Goodnight Pat!"

The singsong tone came from a pretty pink bow of a mouth set in a pale heart-shaped face. The lips were curled up in a playful smile, sparkling blue eyes matching the mood as a halo of copper-bright red hair seemed to float around her face. The halo seemed to have its own opinions about where it should fall. Absently, the woman tucked a thick strand behind her ear only to have it tumble back out again as she bent to wipe the old wood bar.

The bell above the door tinkled as the door swung closed and she dropped her rag to come around and flip the deadbolt. It wasn't until she turned back around that her demeanor changed, lips thinning to a line and

"Everyone out, Juniper?" This voice came from the door back to the kitchen where a rotund muscular man was loosening a white half apron. As he came out he pulled it clear and tossed it expertly over a nearby chair.

She lifted her chin in his direction, a dryer, more cynical smile teasing at the corners of her mouth. "Pat was the last one out again," she told him, returning to the bar and snagging the towel.

The man harrumphed noncommittally as if to say that tidbit was hardly a surprise.

Juniper just shrugged and dunked her towel in a bucket of murky soapy water before setting about wiping down the tables. Her ribs hurt and she absently ran the fingers of her free hand under the bottom of the chocolatey brown corset she wore over a flowing shirt and a pair of men's breeches. Heavy boots that didn't look as expensive as they were in reality came up over the bottoms of her pants making them balloon slightly.

Half an hour later the glasses were cleaned and the floors swept, various ingredients refilled and garnishes prepped.

"See ya tomorrow Mac," Juniper called, poking her head back into the kitchen alcove.

Lifting a meaty hand in a half wave over his shoulder the man merely grunted. But Juniper had already turned and was making her way through the store room to the back entrance.



"Gorram junk lock," Juniper mumbled with irritation as she jimmied her key in the lock of her door. Booted toes rapped once at the bottom of the door before her wrist twisted and tumblers fell into place. The lock clicked and with a shove the door swung inwards.

With a huff of annoyance she stepped into her apartment making a mental note to talk to the super again about the lock.

Or maybe it don’t matter. Only gonna be here for another week, she thought to herself before wrinkling her nose, a shifty uncomfortable feeling wiggling in her belly.

“Juniper? That you?” a male tenor called from depths of the apartment. Weren’t too many depths to get into, but it had served its purpose with a living area that bore a couch, table, kitchenette, and an old worn out recliner. Bedroom to the back right and bathroom to the back left were the only other rooms.

“Yeah,” she called back.

Who else would it be at this hour Glenn? she sniped mentally before sighing. Wasn’t his fault she had a late shift nor that she was tired nor that she’d had to have Mac’s bouncer take weapons off patrons not once, but three times. Banner night for one that wasn’t usually terribly busy.

Practiced fingers worked loose the strings of her corset then tugged open the front clasps as she walked through the apartment, letting the corset drop on the threadbare couch and digging her thumbs into her lower back to massage out the kinks.

She let out a deep sigh then snagged a glass, filling it with water and sucked it down over the sink pausing only to call, “Food?”

“On the stove,” was the reply, followed by the body the voice belonged to stepping out of the bathroom, one hand on his fly and the other tugging on a zipper.

Glenn wasn’t terrible to look at. He weren’t tall by any means, but he was taller than she was and he had a kind face. Glenn was the sort of man you looked at and thought he must surely have a family with 3 kids, a gorram dog, and a pretty little wife out away from the less pleasant parts of city life.

‘Course he didn’t have those things. What he had was a steady job and a particular love of Juniper’s curves with a hope that loving her body and her particular brand of snarky wit could evolve to something more. And she didn’t hate being fussed over. He was a safe bet, though. And he was kind. And that was more than she could say for most men who had any interest in adding her to the notches in their various and sundry bed posts.

Glenn moved up behind her, wrapping his arms around her hips and kissing at the back of her neck. She fought the urge to shrug him off. She was tired and hungry and hardly feeling amorous, but this little tableau was Glenn’s way of reminding her she was his. So instead of shrug him off she shoved a spoonful of the lumpy protein-laden gravy like stew that he’d cobbled together.

One hand on the spoon and the other on the handle of the pot she squirmed in his grasp so she was facing him. He grinned, unabashed and pressed against her until she held up the spoon and pot, making a show of chewing to show she wasn’t going to reciprocate.

With a chuckle he relented, backing off with both hands held in the air and her expression shifted to something more playful than scolding. She swallowed the bite in her mouth and spooned another mouthful, chewing quickly before asking,

“What’s in this?”

It weren’t the sort of thing that anyone with sense would take as a compliment from her. Glenn weren’t half the cook she was and he knew it. But he tried and the stew was mostly warm which meant he’d made it recently or at least had reheated it knowing she was coming home soon.

“Nothing too exciting,” he said. “Stew cubes, pepper, carrot, brown gravy.”

She nodded, chewing as she did and shrugged. “Not as bad as your usual,” she said then, eyes glinting mischievously.

Glenn might not be a white knight or even a particularly romantic choice, but he was kind.

She took another bite, before setting it back down and returning to the sink to refill her cup.

“So,” Glenn began and she had to fight back an urge to stiffen. She knew that tone. “You talk to the super about returning the rent you ain’t using yet?”

Turning off the tab she shifted back around again, leaning back against the sink and feeling a bit of escaped water soak into the top of her pants. “Not yet,” she said. “Not gonna bother ‘til I give him back the key, remember?”

Glenn nodded, but wasn’t willing to let it go. “Better to talk to him now so he knows it’s coming.”

“Better to talk to him then so he can’t make claims that I’m using the place,” she quipped back a mite sharper than she intended. She caught the flinch on Glenn’s features and sighed, another wiggle of shifty discomfort making itself at home in her belly. “Ain’t no use giving the man more reasons to say no.”

Glenn opened his mouth as if to protest, but she cut him off. “I’m tired, Glenn. Tired and have another shift tomorrow night. Can’t we do this another time?”

But she could see he was determined and with that knowledge her expression shuttered.

“Juniper…” he began, trying to appeal to her again.

“I’m getting a shower,” she said, not even acknowledging what he said.

“Juniper, c’mon. That money’s not worth…”

She stalked out of the room and shut the bathroom door behind her, locking it mid sentence.

He tried knocking once while the water was running, but at least he knew a fight that he weren’t going to win at that moment and left her be the rest of the time. As she lathered soap into her locks she wondered uncomfortably about why she’d even agreed to it. Moving that was. She was moving in with him. That’s what she’d agreed.

She felt itchy and anxious as she scrubbed–like a wild animal someone had trapped and was now trying to make tame. She weren’t no house with three kids and a dog kinda woman. At least she weren’t for Glenn. But then…

“It’s still a better deal than being alone,” she muttered to herself before stopping the water.

But some persistent thing in her brain disagreed and she was more than a little bit frustrated and grumpy when she made her way into the bedroom naked and still damp with half a mind to take out her frustrations in a brief, but vigorous bout of intercourse.

She didn’t have to hear the wood sawing growl of his snore to know he was dead out when she walked in. So much for relieving some tension.

Not bothering with a stitch of clothing she flopped onto her side of the bed and tugged the blanket over herself and tried to will herself to sleep.




Dawn was always earlier than she thought it should be, but it was particularly noticeable when one hadn’t slept. And Juniper hadn’t. Instead she’d lay in bed, listening to the godawful racket Glenn made all night. She dealt with the frustration herself, but even that didn’t fix things and so she lay there. And tossed. And argued with herself. And when the light rose some sort of strange peace had stolen through her.

She rolled out of the bed, dressing as quietly as she could and fishing around for a rucksack. When she’d shoved everything she wanted into the sack, even digging through a few of the boxes that Glenn had started packing to find things, she turned a last look in his direction, the long throaty sound of his snore still going as if not a minute had passed since she’d laid down.

“Sorry Glenn,” she whispered, shaking her head. “Thought I could. But I just can’t…”




It was early and so the trip to Eavesdown Docks hadn’t been long, but waiting might have meant chancing a conversation with Glenn. It was easier this way, she thought and with that thought came urgency that fed on the unease she'd been wrestling with. In some ways it was as if the urgency had eaten up all the discord in her leaving behind only clear clean notes. Even without sleep this was the lightest she’d felt in weeks, maybe years. And there were always somebody happy to hire a cook for a stint.

With a bounce in her step that bordered dangerously on perkiness she started down the lists, a true pleased smile curling at the edges of her lips.




 

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