1 In Which There was Emptiness

In the town of Ingary wizards, talking fires and young men disguised as old wizards do exist; and the light was just being to shine through the gap of the two curtains in Sophie's room as she reached to the side of her bed for Hein, the wizard Sullivan's watchdog. Sophie's new room was a spitting image of her space in her father's hat shop, only now the room had a bed and floral drapes that added an air of femininity to the room. A train rolled pasted the widow leaving a thick black haze obscuring her view of the Market Chipping. Sophie pulled herself from the bed and shuffled to boil some water for tea.

It was eight o'clock in the morning, which was late to Sophie, but seeing as Howl and Michael don't wake up until at least ten she had plenty of time to clean up a bit before they came around. As the water came to boil Sophie set out a clean cup, filled it with water, scooped two spoonful of sugar, and put a bit of milk in. Sophie preferred her tea with a bit of honey as well but it seemed as though the castle was fresh out. With a piping cup of tea Sophie sat at the table content with comfort as Calcifer came awake.

"Good morning" Sophie said to the fire

"It's a horrid morning dear Sophie" Calcifer said with spite in his tone.

"Has howl been bullying you again?" Sophie said with pity in her voice.

"It's been a long night" he returned avoiding her question.

Since Howl and Calcifer were freed from the cruse that bound them together Calcifer only came in to sleep and keep the new castle from falling apart under the new contract Calcifer made with howl. Sophie sipped up the last bit of tea and put the cup in the sink.

"Calcifer would you warm some water for my bath" Sophie asked

"Anything for you my dear" is all Calcifer replied.

Sophie stepped in to the shower and shivered a bit because the water wasn't warm just yet, but it soon came around. After stepping out of the shower and putting fresh clothes on she went out to tend the flower shop before opening. In the months following months after Sophie broke the curse she found her own sorceress powers awakening. She mostly used her new abilities to grow flowers for the shop; she mixed different species of plants to create a wide spectrum of colors that made her shop popular; and now that Sophie was young she seemed to be attracting many suitors that came into the shop, and howl showed only indifference and she bashfully turned each one down. It bothered her that Howl made no advances toward Sophie after his heart was retuned, did he not want her; have all her feelings been in vain. She just didn't know anymore.

By the time the shop was all ready to be opened it was about 10:30. Sophie could hear the morning shuffle of Howl and Michael; they would have to fend for themselves this morning because Sophie was in no mood to make them breakfast and howl usually didn't include himself in meals.

It was closing time and Michael had returned in to the castle to practice some spells, Martha came earlier to bring some pastries and meet Michael during her break from the shop. But that was now a while ago. Sophie let out a sigh as she untied her white apron and took in the lush vegetation in her shop; the walls were painted an aged orange but it was covered mostly but ivy and potted plants that rested on the layers of shelves around the walls, in the center of the shop was an island that held some of the hybrid plants Sophie made one of which was a hydrangea that was a pastel lilac color that faded in to white as the petals fanned out. She fingered each petal feeling the purple velvet under her fingers. When she was done Sophie lethargically flipped the sign on her shop from open to closed, she froze as she felt hands encircle he waist pulling her close to a solid chest.

"I'm sorry for not saying hi to you all day but it seems I've been called to important business" Howl said in a husky voice, is sounded like he was sleeping all day. His breath left goose bumps on her neck.

"I'll wait for you" Sophie tried to say with composure, his lips grazed her neck, Sophie was unprepared for the intimacy Howl was displaying, and it was intoxicating. Sophie turned around to face him but he was already gone. He left behind a gaping emptiness.