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Thick as Pea Soup

I awoke that morning in bed, hungry for soup, with a dull ache spread across my back. So close, within grasp, the dirtied straw ceiling spread in all directions for but a brief span. Grayed walls rose to meet that flaxen firmament, mosaics of court life laid therein: knights in silver mail, princesses gowned by white virginal silks; encrusted with crystal, goblets held high; a round table. I rose, stretched. My hands caressed soft and brittle straw. The twenty mattresses beneath me creaked.
A gasp. I looked over my beddings, down. The farmer boy gaped back. He wore the same loose scarlet shirt, baggy sage trousers as last night. A beechwood tray sat in his blue and bruised hands; blackened iron kettle of tea on top, steam at its cracked spout.
"Your manners are indecent," said I.
The boy straightened. His mouth closed, opened again, "How'd ya sleep?"
"Poorly." My right hand reached behind me. I caught it with my left, held both before me. "Tea, if you would not mind."
The boy blinked, glanced at his kettle, trembled. He set his tray on the dresser nearby. "I've forgotten the cups." He scurried back through the door. Cupboards creaked open, closed. How disorganized. The boy hurried back, hazel clay teacup in either hand. He clinked them on the tray, grabbed at the handle. Yellow chartreuse poured. The boy turned around, raised a cup. I reached for it. Twenty mattresses creaked, the distance between us too long. I pulled back, waited for the boy to scamper up. "Gettin' cool," he said. I jolted. My back burned, stomach growled.
"Excuse you," I said.
"Aw, shucks. Thank you kindly." The boy clinked the teacup, grabbed its other, took a sip. "We're not much for gettin' royalty this time o' year. Grandmama says I ought to help however I can, so that's what I'm minded to do. Is it as they say?" He perked, straightened, pointed at the mosaic. "I'm well and happy takin' care of home, don't be gettin' me wrong--but I've always wondered what it's really like."
My jaw dropped. This boy must have been dropped as a child. He needed a lecture. I turned away and pretended to observe the mosaic. "Dull," I found myself saying, "stuffed, cordial. Someone tells you what to do upon waking--and from then on, you're rushed from one event to another."
"I know what that's like," said the boy, his voice low. I looked back toward him. He stared at his bare feet, sanded gray oak floor. "Guess everyone's working for someone else, huh?"
That wasn't right. I swung my legs over the bedside. Twenty mattresses creaked. I slid to the boy and landed on my feet beside him. He stepped back apace, shoulders tensed, arms and elbows raised.
My stomach growled. Ahem. The boy laughed. Left hand scratched behind his head. "Can I make ya breakfast?" he asked. "We have peas for soup."
That sounded nice. I took the teacup, a sip: warm, sweet. My back ached a little less. I shivered, bowed my head. "What did you say your name was again?"
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019
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