Smarts and Duckies
“It can’t be gold right? I mean it’s not like he’s minted. Plus, carrying a heavy box of gold into those caves would be mental...” Etta’s muttering along, chewing a muffin, while Farmer Thorne is kneeling in front of her. “I assume gems are out of the question. Hm...”
It might look like Etta is just noshing and blabbering, while a gorgeous man is fondling her foot; but in actuality she’s shopping for camping shoes. It goes like this: a lovely employee of a place called Mountain Equipment Co-op, which is a two story building in Downtown Winnipeg, brings a pair; Farmer Thorne takes off whatever is on Etta’s foot and rubs the sole with his thumb; then he puts a new shoe on; ties her laces, while Etta is making assumptions about what they should tell Officer Thorne.
“Maybe it’s some sort of an extra will. Some sort of estate papers...” she continues chinwagging. He hums and stretches a hand to her. She gets up, just like the first three times. She stomps the foot; he lifts an eyebrow.
“How do I know if it’s comfortable?” Etta answers his silent question. “I’ve never had shoes of this sort.” The farmer goes on one knee again to fix something. Etta looks down at her foot. The boot is chunky, has some confusing elaborate lacing, three coloured shoelaces, lots of loops. The large hot palm rubs her calf nonchalantly, and Etta giggles. He’s giving her a cheeky look from down there. The pair of blue peepers isn’t that much lower than her own head since he’s so huge, but he’s additionally fit this way.
Etta cups his face, leans in, and catches his mouth. It becomes very hot very quickly; and Etta winces away, clears her throat, and sits down.
The next pair of shoes appears; and once again warm strong fingers are dancing on Etta’s foot. From now on, Etta’s intent on shoe shopping only in his company.
That actually poses an uncomfortable question of ‘from now on,’ which Etta hurriedly pushes at the back of her mind.
She’s once again asked to get up, and she stomps around.
“These are much lighter. And my ballet foot doesn’t hurt; so I say, these are the best.” He’s tightening the laces on the second shoe, and his eyes fly up to her face. “What?” The eyebrow crawls a bit higher. “Ah, ballet. Yeah, I did it for a while. And then I had an injury, and went to uni, and did gymnastics there.” One of the corners of his lips jumps up. “Yes, those gymnastics I showed to you in the park.” The hot hand squeezes her ankle, and the round bone on it gets a thrilling rub of the thumb. Etta snorts and smacks his shoulder. “Not those gymnastics, perv.”
The perv kisses her knee - he has access since she’s wearing shorts - and Etta grins.
“So, what are we thinking?” asks the shop assistant. Etta’s thinking she wants to go back to her hotel with the farmer; but surely the bird is asking about the shoes.
“I think these ones are perfect.”
Etta’s bum is patted - by the farmer of course, and not by the shop assistant - and he busily disappears somewhere in the clothes department. Etta assumes she needs to be clad into something more camping appropriate as well; and she sits onto the bench and goes back to her muffin. Carrot and orange peel from Tim’s, the flavour of the Summer, apparently.
The next three days are spent in sightseeing; and nights in the unmentionable debauchery. Actually, there’s nothing unmentionable in healthy sex with a warm-blooded, real life male. Just shag. Just a very, very satisfying shag. The man is perfect. At least to Etta.
Someone might argue that a man should talk at least a bit, but Etta is OK with him just listening. She’s chatty; he fancies it. Besides, she’s quickly learning to decipher his nods, eyebrow twitches, and smiles. And yes, he smiles. Well, at least to her.
He goes back to his farm during the day; he is after all a bankrupt and needs to deal with papers. He then shows up for dinner, or they meet in town; and then they go back to her hotel, and watch a film. Well, alright, they managed to watch fifteen minutes of The Proposal on telly. Alright, ten minutes. And then he started kissing her neck, burrowing his nose into her hair; and Etta assaulted him. And then after a shower, twice more. She can’t help it.
It’s surreal, really. She’s far from home. There’s a ghost mystery, and a treasure hunt. And the man is so different from anyone she’s ever met in her life! Etta just can’t stop to think for a moment, and go back to her usual overanalyzing.
She walks during the day, and everything is new and exciting. The suburbs of Winnipeg look like a set from Stepford Wives; downtown has five skyscrapers; there’s a hipster neighbourhood just a five minute walk away from them called the Exchange District; and then there are two rivers meeting in the center of the city, and a historical park called The Forks. And then in her guide book Etta finds out that right in the middle of the city they have a national park! It’s called Fort Whyte; and there are marshes, and swamps, and bird watching, and bison! It’s like going to the country or on safari, but it’s just a forty minute bus ride away!
And then evening comes, and Etta should be worried and questioning everything - and instead she jumps onto her farmer with a happy squeal... and Bob’s your uncle. Again, and again, and again.
Etta’s falling asleep, wrapped in a large, furry farmer, her bum pressed into his wedding vegetables, his arm around her, the fragrance of the verbena bubble bath they took together surrounding them like a small cloud. And then the man behind her stirs; and she feels his long nose rub to the back of her head. Surely, he isn’t hinting on anything again. They’ve gone at it four times by now; and even Etta as starved as she’d been when they met is exhausted.
“Yes?” she murmurs, and wiggles her bum. Nope, he’s at least partially asleep. He apparently needs something else. And here Etta was starting to consider it.
“Bonds,” the farmer slowly pronounces.
At the first moment Etta thinks of the spy - and her first reaction is ‘ew.’ Not her cup of tea. Then she wonders if he points out that she’s a British and on a secret - sort of - mission here too. And then her mind wanders towards a radically different concept that is more about ‘bondage’ than ‘bonds,’ and she freezes. So far, they’ve been going all au naturel, and that’s a big step; but on the other hand, a thought of tying him to a bed is… titillating.
“Bonds. Or stocks. From the 1910s. They would cost a fortune now,” he answers, and Etta twists on the bed to face him.
“You’re a genius!” she breathes out in admiration, and he grins.
“I aim to impress.”
Etta places a firm gleeful kiss on his lips.
“You’re succeeding!” she exclaims, and he smiles wider. “Did you just think of it?” He nods. “What could possibly bring this idea? I thought we were sleeping.”
His large heavy hand lies on Etta’s naked hip.
Etta decides his creativity and acumen need to be reinforced and rolls him onto his back.
The next day they meet up with Mr. Toews, the accountant, as it turns out after all, for breakfast, and delegate the job to him - to find the bonds that a hypothetical person could buy in Canada or Britain in 1910s that would cost a fortune in 2016. Mr. Toews asks Etta - he clearly knows there’s no use asking Farmer Thorne - what could they possibly need this information for; and she mumbles something about her library research. The farmer is calmly drinking his Tim’s.
After that Etta and the farmer go for a lovely walk through the Forks. The water in the Assiniboine River is glistening in the sunlight; Farmer Thorne buys Etta a little bag of corn mill to feed the duckies; and the two of them settle on a pier. Etta’s feeding fat snooty ducks; the farmer is looking at the water.
“What will you do with your half?” he asks all of a sudden, and Etta looks into her duck food bag in confusion. She wasn’t going to eat any of the mill. And then she realizes he’s talking about their treasure. And since Etta’s growing better and better at reading between his five to seven words, she’s sensing he isn’t asking about the money per se.
“I don’t know...” she answers quietly. “I came here to help your ancestor. I sort of didn’t expect to get anything else out of this visit.”
“Will you go back to London?” he asks, his eyes still on the water of the river.
She read in her guide book that despite the reddish muddy look due to high levels of sediment, the river is pollution free and full of fish, including walleye, yellow perch, northern pike, mooneye, burbot, channel catfish brown bullhead, rock bass, white sucker, shorthead redhorse, and common carp.
The answer to his question is ‘yes.’ One way or another, she of course will go back home. Except the sheer fact of him asking points at… what?
Etta’s staring at the farmer, who slowly turns and meets her eyes. She might be getting to know him better - but she’s not psychic! She could, of course, ask whether he wants her to not go back to London, but she isn’t that brave. Maybe, it’s time for him to talk. A five word, straight to the point sentence would suffice. But will he?
He's silent, and Etta sighs.
“I will,” she answers carefully. What sort of a question is that? What does it even mean? Whatever he implies - if he implies anything, for that matter - she’d still need to go back anyroad. She has her cat, her flat, her whole life there. It might not be much of a life; and it doesn’t involve mythical adventures and physically gifted farmers; but Etta doesn’t quite have anything else. She feels suddenly sad. “I mean, I have a job. And I’ve worked hard for my position...”
“Do you like it?” he asks, still watching her attentively. Rassilon help her, he’s gorgeous. Etta properly wishes he were implying something. But it’s real life, and what could a man who’s known her for a few days imply? And there’s an ocean between them. And she’d need a visa.
“Um… I do. I’ve always wanted to be a librarian. I love books.” He nods and once again shifts his eyes onto the slow water of Assiniboine River.
“Would you do it if you found a treasure, say, in a cave?” he asks; and it takes her a few seconds to understand that he’s joking. He throws her a cheeky look from a corner of his eye; and Etta gives him a tentative smile.
And it’s a good question, isn’t it? And look, she knows the answer to it!
“No, I wouldn’t. I want to do pottery. I’m pretty good, but I never have time, and I needed to work to… eat. But if I found a treasure in a cave near a lake in a national park, say, in Canada...” she draws out, and he chuckles. “I’d quit, and do pottery. It would be ace to have a studio, and work there all day…” Etta’s getting carried away with her fantasies. “And I’d have tea, and listen to music, and Mr. Thornton would sleep nearby...”
“Mr. Thornton the Cat?” Farmer Thorne asks.
“Yeah, Mr. Thornton is my cat.”
“I’m allergic to cats,” the farmer says; and the two of them are staring at each other.
That was the first step, right? And he made it, right? Etta doesn’t have the foggiest! But it’s time to admit she fancies the farmer, and Etta decides he’s worth the risk of misinterpretation.
“You can take Claritin,” Etta blurts out, and the farmer straightens up and looks at her down his long nose. Etta loves the nose.
“Or we just won’t let Mr. Thornton into the house.” Oh look, one eyebrow is starting to crawl up! What does it tell us? No bloody idea what it tells us.
“The hypothetical house where my hypothetical studio is? Which is all of a sudden ‘our’ house in this hypothetical scenario?” Etta decides to clarify.
“At a hypothetical farm,” Farmer Thorne confirms.
Etta grins so widely that her cheeks hurt. Good thing he’s grinning too. She wouldn’t want to be alone in this.
“Let’s give it a chance, heh?” he asks, and Etta is touched. Awww, more than five words! And an unnecessary verbal declaration of what they both seem to understand! It’s like he’d just read a poem to her!
“Let’s!” Etta agrees gleefully, jumps up, and hangs on his neck.
He leans in and kisses her firmly. Yeah, there’s something to the whole strong and silent type.