Chapter Six - Rescue
Lady and I finally arrived at Bullingar and the streets have become busier. Perhaps it’s because it’s already afternoon, people may be buying their needs at the very last minute. I was looking around when a specific voice made my head turn around. There, I saw a familiar face stand-out from the crowd. I got off Lady and walked towards her, pulling Lady along.
“How much for the apples?” Laura asked the vendor as I stood behind her, keeping silent.
“Twenty gold coins a barrel,” the vendor replied.
“Twenty gold pieces? That’s outrageous!” she exclaimed.
“I know that the price isn’t the best but for the past few days, trade has been made a lot harder for everyone,” the vendor snapped. “Are you a rich person to even complain?”
I quickly intervened, “I am.”
Laura’s head immediately turned and as she saw me, her face printed an expression of shock. “Robert, what are you doing here?”
“Just trust me,” I smiled as I stepped forward. I handed over the money needed and carried the barrel of apples, tying it onto the saddle. As the barrel was secured, Laura and I began to walk away from the street of vendors to avoid getting squashed by the ever-growing crowd.
“Robert, you didn’t have to,” she said.
“Laura, that was nothing. It’s my pleasure,” I smiled in reassurance.
“Are you sure?” she asked. “Because I could have just gone to a different vendor. There are a lot of stalls here that sell apples.”
“Laura, what I did for you is because I wanted to help. You don’t need to be so uptight about it,” I laughed. “And besides, I don’t think a different vendor would see you apples because of that argument you had with that lady.”
She sighed, letting out a giggle after. “Well, in that case, thank you.”
“You’re more than welcome.”
“Well, I have to get back now,” she then turned to Lady and attempted to reach for the barrel. She stopped midway and turned back to me, “How do I untie the barrel?”
My brows furrowed at her question.
She looked at the barrel once more before she continued, “Oh, wait! I think I know where I can do it.”
She reached for the barrel once again but I stopped her just in time.
“What do you think you’re doing?” I asked, still holding onto her wrist.
“I’m going to release the barrel. I need to go now because getting the barrel back to the bakery isn’t easy,” she explained.
“Oh no, Laura, you’re not going to carry this back to the bakery,” I tapped on the barrel.
“Robert, Grandpa Ben gave me this task. Don’t take it from me,” she answered.
“I’m not taking it from you, Laura. I’m simply helping you,” I insisted. “I’m here now and because of that, I’m giving you a ride back to the bakery.”
“What?!” she shouted, taking a step back.
“Laura, we can stay here all day, fighting about this matter,” I scratched my forehead. “And trust me: the only way for you to return to the bakery is getting on my horse.”
Laura looked at Lady, letting out a sigh after. “All right, but I’m only doing this because I need to return to the bakery.”
She walked closer to Lady and I gave her a lift up once she stepped right beside Lady. I secured the barrel even more before I put Laura’s hands on top of it. “Make sure that this is secure at all times, okay?”
She nodded. “We must go now. Grandpa Ben will scold me if I stayed any longer.”
“Yes, my lady,” I answered as I grabbed Lady’s strap, pulling the two of them along.
“What are you doing, Robert? Why aren’t you on the horse?”
“We’re already moving,” I said as I turned my head to her for a brief moment. “If it isn’t obvious enough, I’m pulling Lady to walk.”
“Why are you walking?!” she exclaimed.
“You and the barrel are already heavy enough for Lady to carry. If I jumped on, Lady won’t be able to take that weight,” I explained.
“I didn’t ask you to put me on the horse!” she complained.
“But I told you to, didn’t I?” I smirked.
She was silent for a while. She groaned before she answered, “I will only let this happen this time, okay?” By the tone of her voice, she’s beaten. “Just for the reason that these apples need to be at the bakery right now.”
I smiled to myself, knowing that I won. All she could do was sigh or groan as she allowed what I wanted to happen. It’s not that I’m taking advantage of the situation. I just don’t want her to strain herself with a barrel that she can’t even push. “Please hold on, Laura. Hold on to the barrel,” I reminded her as I tried to hold back my grin.
“Stop smiling like you won a battle, Robert,” she snorted.
I let out a snicker. “I can’t stop smiling,” I slowly turned my face to her. “Because I know I did,” I added, teasing her further.
She was angry for a few seconds but it quickly turned into a smile.
When we arrived in front of the bakery, I stopped Lady right in front of the window so Laura won’t have to walk a mere distance from the bakery.
With utmost care, I helped Laura get down from Lady, carrying her.
“Thank you again, Robert,” she smiled as I began to untie the barrel from Lady.
“You’re more than welcome. Helping you is always a pleasure,” I replied as I put the barrel down onto the ground.
“Laura!” someone suddenly shouted from the bakery. As we turned our heads to the door, a small, brown-haired man came out from the bakery. He continued to scream as he walked towards us, “Where have you been?! I needed those apples a while ago.”
“Would you calm down, Ronald?” she replied as she rolled her eyes at him, irritated by his presence. “It’s not you who told me to fetch for the apples, Grandpa Ben did.”
“Well, I’m the one who needs them!” he snarled as he took a step forward.
“Well, if you needed them a while ago, why didn’t you get them yourself?!” Laura suddenly snapped, a side of her that I didn’t expect I’d get to see. “And if you must know, the money you gave was ten gold coins short!”
“How am I supposed to get the apples when my hands are full with orders?!”
“That’s enough for the two of you!” Grandpa Ben’s voice intervened as he came out from the shop. “You two are acting like children… again. And quite frankly, it’s getting annoying to witness,” he continued as he made his way towards us. He turned his attention to Ronald, “The next time you ask someone to fetch ingredients for you and I hear you complaining, you will be fetching all of our ingredients yourself.”
“How can I not complain when Laura over here takes too long in the market?!” Ronald continued to whine as he grasped his hair and threw his hands in the air.
“Have a bit of common sense, Ronald!” Grandpa Ben suddenly hit Ronald on the back of his head. “There are a lot of people in the marketplace. It’s a public area and you should know by now that public markets attract crowds,” he scolded. “Don’t expect it to be free from people like in these narrow streets of ours.”
“But Grandpa Ben--”
“No buts, Ronald,” Grandpa Ben blocked Ronald’s incoming response. “You do this every time and I’m getting tired of playing the judge. The next time you make a scene such as this, you know the consequences. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, Grandpa Ben,” Ronald nodded, a sigh escaped his lips as a sign of defeat.
“You may go back to your station. All the pies in the oven seem to be… over-baked,” Grandpa Ben replied.
Ronald’s eyes widened in horror and rushed back to the bakery.
“Thank you, Grandpa Ben,” Laura sighed out of relief, thankful that the whole argument with Ronald is finished.
“I may have taken your side against Ronald but that doesn’t mean you’re safe from trouble, young lady,” Grandpa Ben crossed his arms as he spoke firmly to her. “Would you please explain what took you so long to get the apples?”
Grandpa Ben doesn’t seem to be all furious with Laura but she’s still in trouble because she took so long. And it wasn’t even her fault, it was mine. I think I should speak out for Laura.
“Pardon, Grandpa Ben?” I called from behind Laura.
Laura and Grandpa Ben then turned in my direction.
“Oh, hello there, boy,” Grandpa Ben smiled. “Were you here all this time? Come over here,” he continued as he gestured for me to come closer to them.
With haste, I walked towards them. “Grandpa Ben, please don’t give Laura a hard time. It was all my fault. I was the reason why Laura took so long in the marketplace,” I explained without giving Grandpa Ben any moment to speak.
“Is that so?” Grandpa Ben asked with his arms still crossed. “And why is that?”
“You see, Grandpa Ben, I was taking a little stroll in Bullingar when I heard her arguing with the vendor of apples,” I answered. “I paid for the barrel and on our way back, we have a bit of a misunderstanding about who’s going to ride on my horse. That’s what kept us long.”
“Why were you arguing with the vendor?” Grandpa Ben turned to Laura.
“The barrel was worth twenty gold pieces. The money Ronald gave me was ten pieces short,” she replied.
“Twenty gold pieces?!” Grandpa Ben’s mouth hung as he exclaimed. “For a barrel of apples, that’s their new price for it?!”
“Yes, Grandpa Ben. Immediately, I knew it was over-priced,” she answered.
“And why were you arguing about who will ride Robert’s horse?” he asked another, his hands now on his waist.
“I offered her to take the horse along with the barrel. I decided to walk and pull Lady on foot to get us moving,” I said. “She wouldn’t let me walk and pull Lady while she was on the horse.”
Grandpa Ben turned his attention back to Laura, a brow arched.
“What?” she asked as her brows knitted in the middle of her forehead.
“So basically, what took your time is because of you, arguing with a vendor and with Robert over who’s riding on the horse on the way back home?” Grandpa Ben asked, unfazed.
“Grandpa Ben, I don’t want to have another discussion about this, please,” Laura complained.
“Laura, how many times do I have to tell you?” he scratched his forehead out of frustration. “Put your walls down. Let go of your pride. Accepting help from other people doesn’t make you weak.”
“Grandpa Ben, I don’t want to fight about this right now,” she groaned.
Grandpa Ben sighed. “You, young lady, really do have social problems.” He then looked at me, “Are you going anywhere after this, son?”
Should I tell the truth? That I came all this way just to see Laura? I might sound too forward, too desperate. Perhaps it’s best not to tell them the real reason. “I’m not sure yet. Maybe I’ll return home. I just wanted to make sure that Laura came back in one piece,” I explained. And besides, I don’t want to stay if my present isn’t necessary.
“Why don’t you take Laura here for a quick trot somewhere?” he suggested.
“Grandpa Ben, I don’t want to!” she protested. “I still have work to do here in the bakery. You saw how awful Ronald is in making the pies.”
“And you need to learn how to take a break from working. Have a life outside the bakery,” he said as he blocked her whining.
Grandpa Ben said “trot”. Does that mean Laura has a horse of her own?
“If you don’t mind me asking, shall we take my horse, or do you have your own?” I asked Laura.
“Oh, didn’t she mention it to you? She has her champion,” Grandpa Ben answered with a smirk.
“Grandpa Ben, please,” Laura continued to insist that she doesn’t want to come.
“Oh, shush, Laura. You need to have something different to do other than baking apple pies for the bakery.”
“I don’t need to go on a trot. I have work to do,” she replied.
“I’ll have Sheila do your work for you. I’ll place Ronald somewhere else.”
“But Grandpa Ben--”
“Please, Grandpa Ben,” I entered the conversation. “If she doesn’t want to, I completely understand.”
“Robert, you are taking her for a stroll,” Grandpa Ben insisted as he gave me a stern look. “And Laura, I’m warning you: don’t push it,” he continued as he turned to her.
I’m really confused right now. I don’t know whom to listen to: Grandpa Ben or Laura? If my presence is bothering Laura then I would prefer to leave her alone. However, I wouldn’t want Grandpa Ben to think that I’m being disrespectful towards him.
Probably the safest way out of this conversation… is to follow the old man.
“So…” I spoke as Laura turned to me. “Do you have a stable for your horse?”
She looked at Grandpa Ben once again. It’s as if she’s trying to break through his warning glare. But as her attempt failed, she let out a sigh and said, “My champion is at the back of the bakery.”
“Show him, then,” Grandpa Ben gave Laura a slight push forward towards me. I could see that he was pulling back a teasing smile.
Laura shrugged with a sigh and went on ahead. I grabbed Lady and followed Laura, smiling at Grandpa Ben as we headed to the back.
When we arrived at the back of the bakery, we were greeted by a narrow alley. Loaded sacks piled up beside crates that contain glass bottles. At the very end of it, I saw a little stable where a horse was being kept in and it was eating apples.
“Hello, Leo,” Laura smiled as she walked up to her champion.
“Leo?” I asked as I carefully followed behind her.
“Yes,” she turned to me with a smile as she scratched the horse’s neck. “I have this certain fascination for lions so I named my champion Leo,” she explained as she ran her hand through Leo’s long mane.
“Well, his name fits him very well,” I agreed as I reached them.
“How could you tell?” she asked as she started to prepare Leo for the trot.
“Lions are known to be kings of the jungle, am I right? That means they’re of royalty and I can see that your champion has a majestic flare into his aura,” I explained.
“That’s very well-thought-of you, Robert, and very kind to say,” she smiled. “Thank you.”
I let out a quick nod, an acknowledgment of her response.
“Did you hear that, Leo?” she turned back to Leo as she finished Leo’s preparations for the ride. “Robert said you were majestic. You must be proud of yourself.” As soon as she locked the saddle and everything else in place, she quickly hopped onto Leo.
“Shall we?” she asked as she turned to me.
I nodded and got on Lady as well.
“The last one to the hills is a rotten egg!” she teased and went on ahead of me.
“Hey, that’s not fair!” I shouted as I began to run after her.