After dinner, Isabelle put away the dishes and wiped the table.
Claire brewed tea, and unwrapped the lemon cake.
When they were done, they sat down across from each other again.
Isabelle picked up her fork first and took a bite of the lemon cake.
“I know the flavor, but for some reason it’s delicious today.”
Hearing Isabelle’s admiration, Claire dug into her lemon cake with her fork.
Claire loved this time of day, coming home from work and spending time with her family.
It would have been better if her parents, who had died in the pandemic a few years earlier, had been here too.
However, she had promised to herself not to dwell on that anymore.
To just be grateful and happy for the moments right now, because that’s what they would’ve wanted.
Claire swallowed, savoring the lemon flavor in her mouth.
As she did so, she reached into her pocket for a necklace she’d forgotten about for a moment.
“Is this what you mentioned earlier?”
Isabelle took the swinging necklace from Claire’s hand.
As Claire said, the necklace had been rolling around roughly for quite a long time, and there were a lot of scratches.
Jewelry was the exclusive property of the aristocracy, and commoners usually used colored glass decoration, but the purple decoration of the necklace was not glossy.
She looked around for initials or something, but couldn’t see any.
It didn’t seem worthy of a lost and found report.
In the meantime, Claire dampened her handkerchief with water, then took the necklace back from Isabelle and carefully cleaned it.
Her careful touch grew rougher and rougher until she could hear it squeak, and Claire’s expression grew sullen.
She had hoped it would shine up a bit, but the scratches were worse than she thought.
Claire had thought it would make a nice gift for Isabelle.
However, Isabelle had other ideas.
This purple glass, dull but fine, seemed to suit Claire better.
It would accentuate her pale skin, she was sure.
Isabelle slipped the cleaned necklace around Claire’s neck, and retrieved the hand mirror.
“Why are you putting this on me? Don’t you like it sis?”
“Look in the mirror.
It’s perfect for you, you look beautiful.”
Isabelle whispered as she lovingly tucked Claire’s flowing coriander hair behind her ear.
Claire looked in the mirror at Isabelle’s words.
She didn’t think so.
These bright colors didn’t suit her.
“It doesn’t suit me.”
“You’ve never worn colored glass before, it just feels awkward.”
“I think it looks weird.”
“You look beautiful.
Don’t you believe your sister, Claire?”
Isabelle’s exasperated tone made Claire burst into laughter.
“Okay, I believe you, I believe you.”
Maybe it was because she kept telling her she was pretty.
Claire stopped tilting her head as she looked at herself in the mirror.
Claire arrived at work a little later than Brenda and Drew.
She arrived around the time the smell of Brenda’s first batch of bread wafted out.
She swept the floor, then displayed the loaves.
Occasionally, she would arrive at the same time as Brenda to help her because she had a large volume scheduled, but that was very rare.
Claire loved the smell of bread baking, who didn’t?
Drew, how are you feeling?”
Drew, who was carrying a bag of flour, looked a little more cheerful than usual.
“I feel a lot better after a day’s rest.
You must have had a hard time walking all the way to the Count’s house yesterday because of me.”
“It wasn’t hard, it was nice to go for a walk after all these years.”
“The birch grove surrounding the castle is beautiful.”
“The smell of the trees is very nice.
It calms me down.”
Drew and her were chatting about yesterday’s work when the backyard door opened, and Brenda walked in with a basket full of eggs.
“Good morning, boss.”
“I love the necklace you’re wearing today, Claire.”
Claire had worn the necklace because Isabelle said it was pretty, but she felt a little embarrassed when Brenda immediately commented on it.
“Purple looks so good with your skin tone.”
As Brenda continued with her compliments.
“I bet the boys in town will be lining up.”
Claire’s cheeks flushed red as Drew joined in.
She was not offended, but more embarrassed.
Unable to contain her embarrassment, Claire quickly grabbed an apron and broom, then headed out to clean the store.
She opened the window wide to let the air in, then she wrapped the apron around herself.
The sun was shining through the open window.
Today was payday, so she would stop by the butcher on her way home and buy some meat.
She would also stop by the grocery store since she was out of butter.
A smile spread across Claire’s face.
After sweeping every nook and cranny with the broom, she noticed that the window sill had accumulated dust, so she grabbed a rag.
As she concentrated on the window sill, she looked up and made eye contact with a passerby on the street.
“Uh, Claire, nice to see you.”
It was Max, who was currently courting Isabelle.
She’d seen him a few times at the bookstore where Isabelle worked, so she recognized his face, but she didn’t know him that well.
Claire greeted him awkwardly.
“You work here?”
Max, who worked as a teacher at the Waverly School, had been talking to Claire in the same sociable way he treated his students.
However, Claire found it awkward and uncomfortable to be alone with Max without Isabelle.
It wasn’t that Max was a strange person; he was the epitome of a polite, well-mannered gentleman, in keeping with the image of the teaching profession.
Claire, on the other hand, was very shy.
She felt sorry for him, but she thought of an excuse to get away from him.
It’s time to take out the bread, so I’m a bit busy right now.
Without giving Max a chance to respond, Claire shut the window.
If he was really a gentleman, he would understand.
This act would not affect the heart that was courting Isabelle.
Claire had finished cleaning up.
Now she was busy putting out muffins, cakes and other goodies in the display when the bell above the door rang, and a customer entered.
A middle-aged woman entered alone, and asked for two of each type of muffin.
“My grandkids love the muffins here.”
“Really? My boss does a good job.
I really like them too.
You should try the lemon cake next time.”
At first, she had a hard time dealing with customers, but as the seasons passed, Claire became more comfortable.
However, she still struggled starting conversations with people who weren’t regulars.
There were times when Claire didn’t like this aspect of her personality, but no one was perfect.
However if her personality really wasn’t good, she wouldn’t be able to get along with Brenda or Drew.
So, that wasn’t the case.
Claire has a positive attitude, much like her late mother.
After serving a variety of customers, the store sold out of bread.
Finished earlier than usual, Claire happily accepted her weekly wage and walked along the streets of Belford.
It was only dusk, so the gas lamps weren’t lit yet.
This was what happiness looked like, she thought.
As she walked lightly through the grocery store, buying the same butter she always bought.
Her next stop was the butcher’s shop.
She wondered if she should buy pork or beef, maybe even a whole chicken to roast.
As she stood there looking at all the meat hanging on the rack, Mike, the butcher, approached her.
“The beef that came in today is very good quality.”
Claire glanced at the beef hanging in the direction Mike was pointing.
She didn’t know what she was looking for, but the fresh crimson color whetted her appetite.
Let’s brown the beef in butter tonight.
After paying the bill, Claire walked out of the store with the paper-wrapped beef in her arms and bumped into a passerby.
He was a tall man.
Claire looked at the man’s shoulder and apologized.
Either the other person would apologize as well, or he would accept the apology saying it was okay.
One of the two reactions should come back, but there was no such reaction from the man.
Claire began to wonder what kind of answer she should wait for from the man.
Should she just go because she’d apologized.
It didn’t stain his clothes, so it wasn’t something that needed reparation.
She wondered, did he not hear her saying she was sorry? No.
In case he didn’t hear, she’d go after apologizing again.
Claire stiffly apologized again and turned to leave, only to be pulled back by the man.
Embarrassed, Claire’s gaze lingered on the man’s face.
He was tall, broad-shouldered and strongly built, but he looked familiar.
The man, with the fine black hair and purple eyes, was charming in spite of his terribly cold appearance.
It was impossible not to recognize a man who looked like he could mesmerize anyone.
So, he must be a stranger.
Anyway, it wasn’t what he looked like that mattered.
He was wearing a classy looking shirt and jacket.
She didn’t think it would be polite to look up and down, so she wasn’t able to check his pants, but she was sure they were made of quality material.
Claire wondered if she’d bumped into the wrong kind of guy, the scoundrel son of an important house.
A cold sweat trickled down her spine, but she gathered her courage.
“I wasn’t looking where I was going.
I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”
Her shoulder began to ache where he’d grabbed her, but she couldn’t tell if it really hurt or if it was just nerves.
Claire looked into his eyes.
He was looking at her, but he didn’t seem interested in her.
It was frustrating.
Why did she have to bump into this kind of guy and get herself into this awkward situation?
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