Since you’re just hanging around, sloshing that noontime whiskey on the rocks, here’s an update.
I finished the first draft of that hero thing I was working on. It technically has a title, but I hate it so I’m not telling you what it is. Neener-neener. *tweaks your nose, cackles*
I’ve also started a new WIP tentatively titled: The Thief of Sherwood Street. Yes, it’s a Robin Hood retelling. NO it’s not going to be like anything you’ve read on Robin Hood. How do I know this? I don’t. I don’t know you or your habits. It’s not like I STALK you or anything. (The portrait of Kali in your hallway is a little crooked, BTW.) My original plan was to save this for NaNo, but fuck it. It wants to come out now, so it’s coming out now. YOU DON’T OWN ME, NANO!
Here’s a taste. I’m sure you’ll hate it. *chugs coffee, shudders*
There was little light in the market. Every few feet or so, a mound of wax sat like a melting rock on a plate, a shoestring as its wick. The small flames shuddered as people whipped past, their meager purchases clutched to their chests. Most kept their heads hidden beneath hoods, despite the dense heat of the space. With no ventilation, the market was like a sauna in the middle of January—a small blessing on days when frost settled on eyelashes and cold hardened lungs. The stench, though… Even rats steered clear of the place.
Robin tightened the strings of her smiler—a rectangle of itchy nylon with a pair of blood-red lips painted on the outside—and walked with her head down through the center of the market. Her long, dark hair fell like a curtain over both sides of her face, obscuring her features from the Omega guards posted at each exit. They were new, the guards; the product of a recent ordinance regulating the number and quality of attendees at the market. Their word, quality. ‘For the safety of all Sherwood occupants.’ Robin wished they’d come out and say what they were really looking for. Suffragists. Extremists. The ones who paint their smilers with black X’s. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed one of the guards was eyeing her. She tightened the grip on her shoulder bag and walked a fraction faster.
Milo’s booth was tucked in the back corner of the market, hugged between a wall of Omega advertisements—all glossy and pastels and exclamation points—and a cobbler. She’d just made out Milo’s sign, an ampersand, when a deafening clang of bells erupted. Every person in the market stopped where they were. Conversations died. Negotiations paused. The market became a museum of living statues.
When the echo of the bells quieted, a robotic voice came through various loudspeakers posted not just in the market, but the whole of Sherwood. “So that the occupants of Sherwood may properly observe the five year anniversary of the death of Richard Lionsart, smilers may be removed for a duration not to exceed one minute, beginning now.”
All around her, market-goers timidly untied their smilers. A wave of worn, tired expressions spread across the market. The only blip in the ocean—an infant who giggled at the sight of so many changing faces. Peek-a-boo. Robin loosened hers as well, but only allowed it to dip for a few seconds before retying it. She couldn’t be sure that the guard who’d chosen her to give his attention to wasn’t nearby.
Exactly sixty seconds later, the bell rang a third time. Smilers replaced, the market resumed its activities. Robin plunged into a swell of people, allowing them to cover her as she approached Milo’s booth.
A mishmash of items covered the chipped table that made up the bulk of Milo’s space. Broken appliances, bits of fabric, photographs of people no one could identify, books on etiquette and how to repair shorn buttons… the man had everything a person didn’t know they needed. The guards watched his booth closely, but Milo always pretended not to notice. He was a small man, but his boisterous laughter and showmanship made him six feet tall. Behind his smiler, Milo held a genuine smile that reached the very tips of his eyelashes.
He was in the middle of negotiating the cost of a spool of yellow thread when Robin caught his eye. Milo winked, holding up one finger.
Finished with his deal, the man skipped toward Robin. She reached out and gripped his hands in a brief show of affection.
“How are you, Miss Hood?” He asked. “Keeping out of trouble?”
Robin raised an eyebrow.
“Relax. No one is listening. Even if they were, could they hear over the chaos of this place?”
He had a point. The building was mostly metal and without any insulation to dampen the sound, the quietest you could expect an in-progress market to be was north of a dull roar.
Milo continued. “Can you believe it’s been five years?”
“Feels longer,” Robin said.
He nodded. “Indeed. He was a good man, God rest his soul.”
She rolled her eyes.
“Still clinging to your lack of belief, are you?”
“With both hands.” Robin wedged a finger beneath her smiler to reach an itch at the corner of her mouth. “These things are fucking ridiculous.”
Milo shrugged his agreement. “Supposed to curb the unfortunate upswing in suicide, though, aren’t they? I heard the cobbler saying his wife’s cousin jumped into the river last week.”
“If they want to keep us from killing ourselves, they ought to leave us the hell alone.”
“The rumor is…” Milo lowered his voice. “That Richard didn’t actually kill himself. They say that partner of his, John Prince, did him in.”
Robin sighed, dropping her bag on the table. “I have about as much time for rumors as I do for your god.”
“Fair enough.” Milo rubbed his hands together. “What have you got for me today?”
“Depends on what you’ve got for me.”
Light twinkled in his eyes. “You’re a woman after my own heart.”