Disclaimer: I only own a cracked iPod! I don't own R.A, John Flannagan does.:)
A Chapter of the Past
Outside her restaurant, Jennifer Dalby directed the meat delivery with her wooden ladle. The chill autumn wind whipped around her, trying to tear away her thick shawl. She glanced up the road as the last parcel of fresh meat (there was so much required that she hired a cart to bring it over from the butcher's) was carried inside. A familiar tan horse was turning in at the top of the road, riding leisurely; an equally familiar cloaked man sat atop it. A strange fluttering stirred her stomach.
"Miss Jennifer, that's the last of it. Need anything else?"
"Hmm? Er, no. That's all. Here's your pay." Turning to the old man who drove the cart, she handed him some coins from her little coin purse distractedly.
"Ye've given me too much miss."
"Oh have I? Keep it John." The old man eyed her curiously; miss Jennifer was the essence of economy. While by no means stringy, she kept close order of her earnings.
"If ye say so miss." With that he climbed up into his cart and drove off, creaking and clattering. Jenny rushed inside, feeling far from her usual controlled self. Looking into the polished metal mirror in the foyer, she noted her windblown hair, red face, and large apron. She began fussing over her appearance, but stopped herself with the stern thought:
You're being silly! I'll bet he's not even coming here. He's probably going to the castle, for whatever reason he's here. And even if he is coming, that's no reason to be all flustered. Gilan is just a friend.
But the fluttery feeling wouldn't go away. She bustled around, trying to keep herself busy.
What if he does come in here? Oh, your such a mess. I'll just take off this big apron and fix my hair quickly.
Taking off her apron, she also loosed her blond hair from it's neat coil at the back of her head, and smoothed out the rippling tresses. Gathering up the top half of her hair away from her pink face, she twisted it loosely into a bun, a few inches above the nape of her neck, and pinned it carefully. The rest of her hair was left tumbling halfway down her back. It was a look that she felt was particularly becoming on her.
"There," she said to herself quietly "That's better. Doesn't hurt to be prepared. Besides, there's nothing strange about wanting to be presentable to a friend."
"Miss, shall I put the beef to roast?" It was her head assistant: a girl that Jenny had taken under her tutelage; in both cooking and waiting.
"Yes, yes do. Don't forget to season it just the way I showed you. And not too much salt." Even flustered, she would see to it that her food tasted good. Hooves clip-clopping outside caught her attention.
It's just a rider, it can't be Gilan. He's certainly riding to the castle…
Despite herself, she peeked discreetly out the window, and her heart skipped a beat when she say the tan mare outside.
"Goodness," she exclaimed quietly to herself. The door swung open, and Jenny was thankful for the foyer that hid whoever had entered. She quickly turned and disappeared upstairs on a fictitious errand.
Entering the restaurant cum inn, Gilan stood still for a moment, looking in. The service wasn't particularly busy this time of day, and was even less so than usual because everyone was getting ready for the harvest festival, and the harvest itself. So, Gilan had little trouble avoiding being noticed as he entered the dimly lit room walked straight in, just in time to see Jenny rushing upstairs. He grinned that famous grin, faded into the shadows, made his way silently to the far side of the room, and up the stairs.
Walking into the empty upper level, which led to the inn accommodations, Jenny stopped in front of another burnished plate, musing idly as she waited for the inevitable summons of her head waiter.
Why am I running? Don't I want to see him?
Yet she couldn't explain the nervous feeling. She gazed into the mirror as if it could give her answers.
A chapter of the past opened before her, and she remembered her Ward days. It seemed that all her former yearmates were destined for greatness in their profession: Will was the hero of the nation, fast becoming as legendary as Halt. Alyss was a skilled diplomat, and rivaled Lady Pauline. Lady Pauline wasn't the first female diplomat, but she was the first to be accepted and proven right; others had been regarded as oddities, while Pauline, with the cooperation of Baron Arald, had made great strides in earning women a place in the political world. George Carter, an up and coming lawyer. Horace, the youngest Knight in recent time to achieve his level of proficiency.
Then there was her. A simple cook, albeit an excellent one. All her friends, leaving their mark on the world. Each held a special place in her heart, but she and Alyss were particularly close; being the only girl yearmates, they'd bonded closely. She could still rely on Alyss to come of an evening to share a cup of tea and life's woes. Alyss always complained that Will was awfully slow about proposing already; Jenny smiled to herself at the thought.
Turning the page, the next chapter of her life opened to her mind's eye: Opening her establishment, friends moving apart in body, but never in friendship. Perhaps the most important chapter, Halt's wedding to Pauline. There she was introduced to Gilan. As the second groomsman and bridesmaid, they had danced together.
When Halt and Will had gone to Hibernia, Gilan had come to take over Redmont fief for them, according to the new task force that Crowley had devised. Of course, Jenny didn't know about that, but she knew that Will and Halt left, and Gilan had come. Whenever he could, Gilan would come eat at the restaurant. He'd stay late, just sitting at a table with her, laughing and joking. Before she knew it, she was head over heels for him, and she hoped he felt the same way for her. But how could one tell? What if, after all, she was merely pleasant company to him?
Coming back to her current situation, she instructed herself on how to behave:
"When I go down, I must be perfectly in control. Don't assume anything Jen, what if he doesn't lo-like you back? Yes. I'll be friendly, but calm and collected."
Suddenly, a face appeared in the mirror behind her. She gasped and flung herself at the grinning figure.
Head assistant Bethany was near the foot of the stairs when she heard Jenny's shriek. Alarmed, she rushed up. What was this? Practical Jennifer Dalby whirling around in the arms of this tall, handsome stranger?
I suppose she knows him, but I'll be!
Catching sight of the startled girl over Jenny's shoulder, Gilan winked roguishly at her, and promptly kissed Jenny full on the mouth.
I hope to goodness she knows him! thought Bethany incredulously.
With a shrug, the good girl turned and clomped back down the stairs as Jenny melted into Gilan's arms.
A/N Just a lil' oneshot idea for ya! Ik others have done UHMAZING stories like this before, but i promise this is original! I wrote it as part of sothing else before i ever came here, but it didn't fit in the story, so i rewrote it as a oneshot.:3 Enjoy!(And review plz!)
~God bless, Mychele