Mile watched the workers until he knew he couldn’t put his work off any longer. He went back inside to the workbench and finished cleaning the shoes. He put them on his father’s table, lined up next to all the other works in progress. In the mornings, he was his father’s apprentice, cleaning and repairing shoes, while occasionally learning more about the craft from his father when the shop was empty.
It was agony having to sit still for so long, trying to focus on something that he didn’t even care about in that moment. Finally his father let him go for lunch, and Mile ran upstairs. His mother handed him a steaming bowl of beef stew, reheated from last night’s supper. He bounced in his seat as he ate, excited about the festival. A disapproving look from his mother made him sit still and finish eating. He cleared the lunch dishes and started washing them as part of his afternoon chores.
Several hours and a few reprimands from his parents later, Mile was standing in front of the small mirror in his room, wearing his fanciest clothes. He tugged a comb through his messy hair, trying to make it lay flat. There was no point though; it always got messed up again, usually from his anxious hands running through it.
Finally, he felt like he was ready. The entire time he’d been getting ready, he’d gone through about a thousand scenarios in his head. He wasn’t even positive the mystery person would be there, but he had a fleeting hope that fate would help him out with this one.
With permission from his parents, he left the shop and headed to the town centre early. He kept his pace as slow as he could as he approached the tables. There were already a good number of people there, despite how early in the evening it was. Mile found an empty chair next to a table and sat down, crossing his legs in front of him. There were actually quite a few empty chairs, with nearly everyone chatting around the food tables.
Mile scanned the crowd of people, as if his mystery person would just appear, but there was no such luck. He kept his eyes on everyone’s shoes, hoping to catch even just a glimpse of a special pair of shoes. When he could spare a moment from watching people’s feet, he would glance up at the large clock tower a few blocks away. It was nearly time to start, and the musicians had begun tuning up their instruments.
He talked to a few regular customers who paused beside his chair, all the while keeping an eye out for a new face somewhere in the crowd. He was so distracted, that when the music started up, he jumped, heart racing. He laughed quietly at himself, a little embarrassed to be so skittish. Mile decided then and there to give up this stupid daydream of finding the mystery person, and got up to get some pastries.
It took him a little while to get back to his chair. First he’d had to wait in line to get to the tiny desserts, and then his mother had pulled him into a conversation with her friends. It was a relief to get back to his chair. Having so many people to walk around always made him nervous. He’d had a lot of practice in his life, but one slip-up could mean injuries and lasting embarrassment.