Lost in the Crowd

She said. “Well I’m here now.” And looked pointedly at the stall’s sign, listing the juices available.

Timothy bent a little to peer at her face. “What’s wrong? Who upset you?”

She gave him a withering look. “You might have been worried, I don’t know. Your friend thought it was funny to get me lost on purpose.”

She turned her back on them and placed her order, ignoring the hissed conversation behind her.

When she turned around again, Edda’s drink in hand, only Timothy was waiting. Simeon had disappeared again.

“Simeon said he was going to buy you a juice to make amends. Do you want one?”

Millie shook her head. “Let’s just go to the Music Tent.”

“It’s this way. Do you want me to carry that for you? It’s awfully easy to get bumped around here.”

“No, it’s okay.” She paused. “Where did Simeon go?”

“On a quest.”

“What?”

Timothy shrugged, looking a little uncomfortable. “He broke the laws of chivalry, so he has to go on a quest to make up for it.”

Millie stared at him. “Like King Arthur?”

“Yeah, kind of. He’s been reading a lot of those books and likes to imagine himself as a modern-day knight. Don’t tell him I told you that for pity’s sake. Anyway, I told him that the way he treated you was more Evil Knight than Galahad, so…”

“He’s gone off hunting for the Holy Grail?”

Timothy gave an embarrassed laugh. “It sounds so dumb but it’s how his mind works. He’s not a nasty person Millie, I promise. He’s just … thoughtless I guess.”

Millie eyed him doubtfully. Timothy ducked his head and shrugged again under her stare.

“The tent’s just down here on the right.”

He led her into a huge, open-sided tent with a small stage at one end and chairs scattered about. There was a young woman on the stage, strumming a guitar and singing about a love gone wrong. It sounded sad, but the tune was pretty.

“There they are.” While Millie had been listening to the music, Timothy was scanning the crowd for their mentors. He moved a couple of chairs out of Millie’s way and started walking towards them.

Millie asked. “Do you read King Arthur stories too?”

“Sometimes.”

She smiled at him. “Well thank you for being very Galahad.”

Timothy flushed but looked pleased as they reached the chairs where the three adults were settled.

Greta looked around as Millie handed Edda her juice. “Where’s Simeon?”

Timothy shuffled. “He’s looking for something.”

Greta gave him a hard stare. “What did he do?”

“It was my fault too. We lost Millie in the crowd and I didn’t realise until we got to the juice stall.”

“And?”

Millie spoke up. “Timothy didn’t lose me on purpose, but Simeon did. To be funny.”

Greta sighed. “Which isn’t funny at all. I’m so sorry Millie.”

“I got pretty upset and mad at him. Then Timothy told him off too, so I think he got the idea.”

Edda said. “That’s an awful lot of drama for a juice. It’s a very good one if that helps at all.”

Millie smiled. “That’s good. And Timothy was a very good guide once he realised so I’m okay now.”

Rosalie asked Timothy. “Has he gone on a quest?”

Timothy nodded.

“To find something that will make things up to Millie?”

Timothy nodded again.

Millie frowned. “Shouldn’t he be doing something to save or help someone? Shopping doesn’t seem like a great way to balance things out.”

Timothy gave her an exasperated look. “I’m working on it, alright?”

A giggle bubbled up and Timothy relaxed a little at her smile.

Greta asked. “How long do you think he’ll be?”

“Probably a while. We’ve both got our locator bugs though, so he’ll find me when he’s done.”

“Locator bugs?” That sounded interesting.

Timothy pulled a shiny black beetle out of his pocket. “Adam made them for us in case we got lost foraging. When you switch it on, it wiggles when you’re heading towards one of the other bugs.”

“It’s a bit creepy.”

Timothy grinned. “I like ugly bugs. Maybe he can make you a butterfly one or something.”

Edda stood. “With that sorted, Millie and I ought to get on with our shopping. We have a bedroom to decorate after all, and school supplies to think about.”

During the general farewells and stall suggestions, Millie gave Timothy’s arm a squeeze. “Thank you.”

Millie and Edda wandered out of the Music Tent and somehow found themselves at a little outdoor café, tucking into sweet treats.

“Do you want to talk about the thing with Simeon and Timothy?”

Millie shook her head. “No, it’s okay now. Simeon upset me at the time but I told him off pretty well, and I think Timothy did too, so I think it’ll be alright.”

She tipped her head to the side. “It’s funny, when I first met them, and again at the stairs, I thought Simeon was sort of the boss. But he’s not is he?”

“No, Timothy is the leader in their pair, but he’s quieter and prefers to watch how people act, and interact, before taking any sort of action. It’s a rather good trait for a healer.”

“Whereas Simeon…”

“Goes in all guns blazing. Greta and Rosalie think he’ll grow out of it. Adam can be the same sometimes too, and he was definitely worse when he was Simeon’s age.”

Millie smiled at that and took a bite of her chocolate brownie.

Edda changed the subject. “Now, I know I should have been organised and asked you to start planning out ideas for your room days ago but I think it’s more fun to see what’s around for inspiration first.”

She continued, waving her cake fork for emphasis. “Today is about getting ideas and making a start. It can be a big start, or a small one, it’s your room after all. But I just wanted you to know that you don’t have to completely sort everything out in a couple of hours.”

Millie bought herself some thinking time with another mouthful of brownie. She swallowed and said. “And you said we needed to get school stuff too.”

“Yes. Of course, all the basics are there and ready to go – the Council supplies a very good standard pack – but I thought you might like to look at bags and things with a bit more character.”

Millie nodded. Much as she’d love to go wild on lovely bedroom things today, it would be sensible to know what she wanted first and at least she could get something new and exciting for school.

“So, what would you like your room to look like?”

Millie ran her fork over the crumbs on the plate. “At home, I mean with Mum, my room was kind of childish. I guess Mum didn’t want to buy new stuff when I was leaving anyway but I felt like it wasn’t really my room because she’d chosen all of it.”

Edda frowned, she seemed to be looking for a good answer and not managing, so Millie kept going.

“And I think Mum and I have different tastes.”

She looked at Edda, worried. “Is it bad that I really want to come up with something that she’d hate?”

“Well that’s got me a little nervous but, no. You’re at an age where you need to start exploring who you are and what you like. And it doesn’t have to stay the same for the rest of your apprenticeship. In fact, the Council guide says to expect apprentices to change their rooms and style around every year or so.”

She waved her fork at Millie mock-threateningly. “I’ll get a little strict about things like fire hazards but I’m sure we can come up with solutions to anything you’re worried about.”

Millie smiled. “Mum really likes modern stuff that has words like ‘minimalist’ and ‘zen’ and ‘nordic design’ on the labels. And lots of white. I kind of want to play around with colour and drapey things.”

“Well we’re certainly in the right place for those. Shall we go hunting for inspiration?”

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