Autumn didn’t like the city.
She thought, all in all, it was a fair dislike. The city was noisy, crowded, smelly, loud, and foreign; the traffic impatient, the people worse.
She had grown up near people like those she chose to live with now – people who were sideways-of-normal enough that they didn’t judge, or, at least, when they did, there was someone else to call them on it. Walking into the city was walking back into the normal world, as her mother would say, “Mundania.” It was remembering how to put on a face that felt stiff and uncomfortable, like a suit, like a mask.
There were times, however, when the cities were unavoidable. Paperwork. Downtown craft festivals. Her brother calling. A mysterious message from someone who might be Tattercoats and might not be (The handwriting had been all off, but the wording had been perfect). And so into the city she went.
Craft fair meant she could shirk conventional appearance rules; paperwork meant she could not. Winter meant she had to look nice, but a little odd, to tweak him. Tattercoats meant she had to look pretty. She had spent more time getting dressed today than she normally took in a week, and ended up looking, to the naked eye, quite a bit like Autumn-dressed-down, or perhaps a Victorian Gypsy.
The paperwork people did not notice, which, after all, was the whole idea. She filed her forms, paid her fees, and left poorer and more knotted into the system, but less likely to become far more poor and far tighter knotted. Her father had taught her that: “‘Render unto Caesar,’ honey, means ‘make sure the guards have no reason to look at you.'”
Her father, she pondered, had been more than a bit of a rebel.
Winter had noticed, if only for the many-times-touched lines of her clothing, but had simply said, “you look very nice today, Autumn.” Winter was only a rebel in having gone as smooth and orderly as was humanly possible.
And then she was in the park, waiting for someone who might or might not be Tattercoats, and a man walking by looked at her, looked at her and didn’t say anything, but tipped his hat at her as if it was 1890, and Autumn felt something twist. She reached for the connection to Tattercoats, found it, as always, elusive and uncooperative, and found instead the heartstring of the city.
She was sitting on the bench, reading songs in the heart of the metropolis, when her alarm rang an hour later to remind her of the festival. She left humming, new songs in her heart and a new design for a picture already presenting itself. She might prefer the wild roads, but the city, it seemed, would have its own song for her, too.
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