Muddy the Waters
Etta and Farmer Thorne are doing the door mambo. It’s when one makes a step to the side, and the other one is right in front of them; and then they switch. All that, while Farmer Thorne is mumbling some ’excuse me’s and ’could you hold’s into his mobile. Eventually, Etta somehow ends up inside, and he suddenly presses his phone under his collarbone, into his right pectoral muscle.
“Could you please wait for me?” he hisses at her, and before she can answer he sort of ushers her towards a chair by the wall. It’s the ‘husband chair,’ and Etta flops on it, pressing her handbag to her chest.
Farmer Thorne turns his back to her and start mumbling something into the mobile. Judging by the ‘termination date’ and ‘soil depletion’ and especially ‘tenant responsibility’ he insists on repeating again and again, he isn’t chatting up a bird.
Etta chews on her bottom lip, wondering whether she’s supposed to find the fire escape and flee, or she’s expected to stay and help out. The first quote in her to-do list is from Persuasion, and it’s all about a woman’s place in life, and how men underestimate them. But it’s not like Etta can get up and solve all his problems right now, can she?
And then she sees the only other person in the room, besides a very bored looking shop assistant.
A cute blonde, more or less of Etta’s age, is shuffling hangers with dresses on the nearest rack. She's ickle, pretty like a porcelain figurine - and has just finished crying, judging by the bright pink nose and puffy eyes. She sniffles and throws a sad look at Farmer Thorne who continues pacing the shop, blathering about ‘crop share lease.’
Etta glares at the git. While his companion - friend? girlfriend? Etta doesn’t care; they are related, and she needs to stop ogling his backside - is crying, all he seems to care about are his fertilizers and lease rates! Prick!
“Are you alright?” Etta asks the blonde. The girl turns and looks at Etta. The pixie haircut and giant blue eyes make the chick look even more vulnerable.
Etta reminds herself she’s in Canada, in the province where every license plate says ‘Friendly Manitoba.’ Back home she wouldn’t dare to ask, rightfully expecting to be directed to where the pits of Hades; but here she might even get an answer.
“Yeah, I’m OK... Thanks. Just… upset a bit.” The girl throws another look at Farmer Thorne’s muscular back under the crisp white shirt. “God, I hate this wedding.”
“Oh?” Etta squirms on the husband chair. “Congratulations?” she offers in a hesitant tone.
“What?! God, no! I’m not the one getting married! It’s my friend’s friend’s wedding.” She points at the pacing farmer with her eyes. “John over there. See him? It’s his highschool friend who’s getting married. And they are nice people, but it’s just the wrong time, you know?” She pulls out a tissue from her pocket and wipes her nose.
“I’m sorry,” Etta mumbles.
“Thanks.” The blonde emits a shuddered breath. “God, I hate all these dresses. But John here...” Another pointed look. “I’m his plus one for the wedding, and I love him to bits, but I’d rather stay home and feel sorry for myself.”
Etta shifts closer, together with the chair, trying not to scrape the floor with its legs. She needs to gather more data. Thankfully, all the blonde needs is an occasional sympathetic hum and a nod.
“I mean, the wedding will probably be awesome, it’s in the Millennium Hall, and it’s all thirties style. You know, like The Great Gatsby… But I just broke up with my boyfriend, and I need a bucket of ice cream and Gilmore Girls marathon, and not some uncomfortable dress, and stupid high heels.”
“I’m sorry,” Etta chimes in with the already tested, encouraging empty statement; and the girl nods and continues.
“You see, my boyfriend is a doctor, and he got the job up North, and he wanted me to move with him. But I can’t just up and go, you know? So we broke it off. What do you think of this one?” She presses a short, bright pink dress to her perky chest. Etta would like to say that this handkerchief is anything but the 1930s style, but she just hums approvingly, and adds ‘Looks lovely on you’ for the good measure.
“So, when John asked if I wanted to go to the wedding with him…” The girl shrugs. “He’s my former boss, and generally a nice guy. And it’s so sad about his farm. But you see, organic farming is very challenging.”
Etta just can’t decide at what point friendly chattiness can already be considered oversharing. Don’t get her wrong, the blonde is exactly what Etta needs right now, but TMI doesn’t even cover it!
And then she remembers the quote.
“But can’t you go with your boyfriend?” Etta asks carefully. “Do you have a job here?”
The blonde - she still hasn’t given Etta her name - freezes with some bright yellow monstrosity in her hands.
“No, not really. After John had to fire me, I tried looking, but it’s Summer, and there are no jobs. And I was just sort of planning to lay low for a bit… After this break up… It’s been six years, and I...” New tears roll over the blonde’s eyes, and she emits a long mournful sigh. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
“You can go with your boyfriend and see where it leads?” Etta offers. “Take a risk… You can’t live in calm waters all your life.”
The girl stares at Etta, as if she had just admitted she’s the Doctor’s companion, and everything about the blue box was true. And then a wide smile blooms on her face.
“You know what? You might be right! What am I afraid of?! I can go, and see what’s it like; and I mean, I do love Liam, right?”
Etta nods, although she has no bloody idea whether the nameless blonde loves a Liam.
“You know what?! I’ll go to him right now, and I’m so moving North with him!”
The girl pumps her fist in the air, stuffs the latest dress back onto the rack, and decisively marches to the exit.
Since Farmer Thorne is busy growling into his mobile, the blonde apparently decides the North awaits, and the Winter is coming, while past employers are indeed in the past; so she decisively jerks the door, the bell sadly clanks, and she disappears out of Etta’s life like a supporting character on network telly.
Etta decides she needs some compensation for the absurdity of her life these days and opens a maple syrup lollie. Farmer Thorne sputters and hisses for five to seven more minutes, and finally hangs up.
He looks over the shop, Etta watches him. Rassilon help her, he is gorgeous. Who knew all this class, posture, and style were hiding under all that fur, and silly old clothes?! But sadly, they’ve turned out to be related, so now she properly needs to train herself to look at him with familial pride, as opposed to hardly contained lust.
“Where’s Alycia?” he asks, and Etta pulls the lollie out of her mouth with a happy pop sound.
“She’s going back to her boyfriend to travel North with him.”
Farmer Thorne’s face retains the same cold unreadable expression for six more seconds, and then he mumbles something - probably not to be pronounced at any audible volume level in the presence of ladies - and plops down on the second husband chair.
“Great. Just great,” he grumbles, and stares into nothingness. Apparently, he’s still not fond of more than five words in one statement.
“When is the wedding?” Etta asks carefully.
She's no idiot. The second quote was about marriage. Marriage means wedding.
“The day after tomorrow. And I don’t even have a freaking shirt.”
And then it dawns on Etta.
The numbers above the second quote - 36-37 18 - are nothing else but the size of a dress shirt for a - tall, large, and deliciously wide shouldered - male. Alright, maybe Etta needs more practice to retrain herself from drooling over him. But he is magnificent! What can she do?
“I’ll be your plus one,” she offers nonchalantly, already knowing his answer. As it was mentioned before, she is no idiot.
He’s sitting, his elbows on his knees, hands hanging passively betweeen his legs, and Etta is not - under any circumstances - looking at the long fingers, elegant wrists, and black hair on the back of his palms.
He then slowly turns and gives her a long look.
“Who are you, Miss Ryan?” Rassilon help her, this voice is made for audiobooks, preferably by Olivia Dane.
“I’m a librarian from London, Mr. Thorne.”
His lips twist in a grimace but he doesn’t say anything. Not that he ever does.
“So, your former employee mentioned, it’s a 1930s style wedding?” Etta asks in a fake cheery tone. He nods. “Perfect. Let’s find you a shirt and a dress for me.”