Below the cut (click the links to go directly to a story):
1. Ash and Lydia get mysteriously transported to the present day.
2. Mrs. Khaleel’s day off.
3. Jamie tries to explain to Rafe where the town’s name comes from.
4. Mr. Moon goes on a reality TV baking show.
5. Dot Wrenn and Abby Gower go to IKEA.
The shop-girl regarded him tiredly. “Okay, I’m sure this reenactor thing is really fun for y’all, but there’s a line. Would you like to order a cup of coffee?”
“Yes, please,” Lydia said, but Ash put a hand on her arm.
“How much is it?”
“For what kind?” At his blank expression, she prompted, “We have drip, lattes, mochas, cappucinos…”
“Cappucino,” he said, because he liked the word.
“Two shillings and…?”
The girl rolled her eyes. “Two pounds and sixty pence.”
Lydia’s eyes went round. Ash smiled pleasantly. “Not today, thank you.”
“Inflation, right?” the shop-girl said sarcastically. “Look, I won’t tell the Historical Accuracy Police if you use your credit card, I swear.”
Ash’s eyes gleamed. “What’s a credit card?”
Sometimes Noor wished Imogen could get away more often on Saturday afternoons. But too many townsfolk started off their day of rest on Saturday evening, and a day of rest for Lively St. Lemeston meant a day of work for Imogen. Still, she spent most of her Saturday afternoons at Makepeace’s Coffeehouse. She liked sitting behind the counter there. It was warm and friendly and felt safely cut off from the rest of the room, the coffee was excellent, and SHE didn’t have to work, after all.
When Imogen had a spare minute or was fussing with the brewing beans behind the counter, they’d talk, and when she was wandering about the place, Noor would sit back and sow gapeseed, or tell a waiting customer which was her favorite cake, or read one of the newspapers scattered around the room, or get in a little flirting. She was especially fond of trying to get recipes out of Mr. Moon, who came in sometimes to check on the cake supply and blushed in a very darling manner. And when a customer didn’t eat their cake, she and Imogen would cut off the bitten part and split the rest.
Sometimes Imogen, bustling by, would say, “Hand me one of those plates, sweet,” and she’d laugh and say “But Imogen, I’m on holiday!” and make a show of doing it very slowly.
“You’re sure you don’t mind us invading your kitchen, Mrs. Marsh,” Ralph said for the third time. James didn’t like it. It was his kitchen, and of course he didn’t want to be in Mrs. Marsh’s way, but he already worried about being in people’s way twenty-four hours in the day and he wished that just once, he could enjoy some cold pie and a piece of cake in his own kitchen with his own brother-in-law and not worry about whether he was imposing.
“Of course not,” Mrs. Marsh said comfortably for the third time, which was just what she’d say if she did mind, so what was the point in asking? “It’s easier than pulling Luke away from his duties to take it up to you. And big lads like you can’t be expected to go a whole afternoon without eating! Shall I have Polly make you up some sandwiches, too?”
Ralph hesitated before saying, “No, thank you, ma’am.”
“You could have said yes if you wanted the sandwiches,” James said in a low voice when she’d moved away.
Ralph hesitated again, before answering, with a trace of unease, “I didn’t want them, only it was always our rule to never say no when someone offered us food. It still feels strange to break it.”
James didn’t know what to say to that. Oh God, why couldn’t he think of anything to say? Ralph must be thinking right now about how James had never been hungry or poor and couldn’t possibly understand.
The moment stretched unpleasantly. Ralph eyed his fork with a faint and distressingly attractive frown, his finger tapping on the wood table. Then he looked up and smiled. “I’ve been meaning to ask, why is your town called Lively St. Lemeston?”
“Um.” He ought to know this. He knew Lydia had told him. Why couldn’t he remember? “Well, the St. Lemeston is a corruption of Saint Leonard’s Town, of course. Like the forest. People hereabouts think St. Leonard was a hermit in Sussex for a while, though it contravenes the official biography.” He thought maybe Rafe frowned again, just for half a second, at ‘contravenes.’ Why had he used such a pointlessly big word for no reason? “The Livelies…I think the Lively family founded the town, or were its patrons long ago. I don’t remember what happened to them. Lydia would know.”
“If I might venture a word, my lord,” Mrs. Marsh said.
“Yes, of course,” James said hastily, and sighed inwardly at the glowing smile Ralph aimed at her.
“Please do, ma’am.”
“The Livelies and the Reeves were the oldest great families in the town,” Mrs. Marsh said. “The Livelies lived at Lenfield, before the Tassells bought it.”
“Where are the Livelies now?” Ralph asked.
“Oh, it’s a sad story. Lord Lively’s only son Richard was a Cavalier in the Civil War, and died.”
James remembered bits of this history now. Richard’s sister went to France and never came back, and some time at the beginning of the last century, the Tassells bought the land from the current owner who lived somewhere in Kent.
“Lord Lively died of a broken heart,” Mrs. Marsh said, “and his poor daughter was the heir to his fortune, but not his land…”
James blinked. He was pretty certain that wasn’t true. But Ralph put his hand on his chin and listened, so James listened too. It was a good story even if it was all nonsense. He felt sorry for the poor girl locked in her room by her cousin. He hoped her Roundhead lover was kind to her after she fled with him.
“Gather round, everyone,” the host said.
“Nnnnnh,” Robert moaned quietly to himself, eyeing the cream whipping in his stand mixer. “Oh oh oh.” He dithered unhappily for a moment before turning the mixer off. Next he stood before his double boiler of half-melted chocolate chips, hands hovering by the knob. Meanwhile the custard for their mousse was growing cooler by the minute.
“I’ll turn everything off, you go,” Betsy said, hiding a smile. They would wait for her too, she knew, wanting to catch her horrified reaction to whatever twist was about to visited upon them. She took the double boiler off the heat, set the bowl of chocolate on the counter, and put a paper towel over the custard before hurrying to join Robert.
“And now, since the theme is Valentine’s Day and we’ve had record cold this February, we’re going to need you to add an element to your dessert that’s served hot!”
Robert buried his face in his hands with an audible groan.
“We’re just here to buy a new bed,” Dot said again, without much hope.
“Yes, but since we’re already here…” Abby’s brown eyes glinted. Minx.
Dot didn’t understand the great appeal of wandering through an enormous store when you could be home reading or making out in the front of the TV and drinking spiked hot chocolate, but she rolled her eyes and grabbed a shopping cart, hiding a smile. “I can’t believe you of all people like those meatballs.”
“Are you saying mine are better?”
“Of course yours are better.”
Thanks everyone for playing! I hope you like your stories.