First: A story featuring a male keeper and a female Kept.
A job. No matter the discussions, she knew what Jasper was offering Kearney.
Mélanie wanted to protest – this is a kid we’re talking about! – but no matter how young Kearney looked, they were clearly already getting comfortable with being on their own. She smiled instead, like she thought this was a great idea.
Kearney looked between them, coughed a couple times, and seemed to decide. “Sure. I can do that. But only because the lady here is nice.”
“She is nice,” Jasper agreed. “She’s quite nice, and I would suggest you remember that as you deal with her. Because I’m not the nice one.”
Kearney didn’t shudder, didn’t even look all that impressed, but there was a slight change in their manner as they looked at the booth Jasper had been setting up. “So, where do I put this? What can I do?”
“Smart one.” Jasper patted the air near Kearny’s shoulder. “All right, we’re going to-”
Several minutes later, every was arranged to Jasper’s liking. Mélanie, set up behind the table, looked at their arrangement and couldn’t help but smile. The whole place had a feel like a farmer’s market or flea market from back before the collapse, except she knew that everything on Jasper’s table was probably stolen.
The table across the “aisle” from them was selling bread, rolls, and treats; her mouth watered just looking at it. Next to them, someone was selling what looked like parts of old electronics. To the other side, books, stacks and stacks of books.
Next to them, knitting, and three people sitting behind the table working on what looked like an afghan. Mélanie looked over. “Is there – is there anyone selling yarn here?” she whispered. “Either scrounged stuff of fiber from sheep? I know there have to be people still farming sheep somewhere…”
“I bet there will be people farming sheep until the world stops turning, and maybe even then,” Jasper agreed. “Kearny?”
“Yarn? Um, Ocean Conley, about five tables down that way, he sells stuff he pulled out of a couple old craft stores, and then Hattie Bowen over there, she and her family keep sheep and llamas and something else, alpaca? Been doing that for like forty years.”
“I will get you some yarn,” Jasper assured her. “You have an urge?”
“I have too much free time.”
He clucked. Mélanie’s stomach plunged and she struggled not to take a step backwards. Had she done something wrong? She’d been doing so well – no, she’d gotten too relaxed. She had to remember where she was, who and what she was –
All that rushed through her before he grinned, and just as fast, all of it was gone and he was snorting at her. “You know, if there were still spas, I might send you to one to see if you could relax a little bit. All right, if it makes you happy. Should I be looking for fabric for drapes, too?”
“Please? Or very very fine yarn. I think I could manage a loom given enough time.”
“Can you and Kearney watch the booth while I do some shopping?”
“That fast?” She blinked at him. “What do you charge for things?”
“Kearney? Do you have a sense of what things cost here? Good enough to bargain with people and tell Mélanie here if someone is trying to rip her off?”
“Well, uh, I don’t normally pay for things, so it’s not all that good, but I’ve got some idea.”
“I’m sorry!” Mélanie winced. “I just – I haven’t been to a market of any sort in quite a while, and-”
“Easy, easy.” Jasper hugged her tightly. “I’ll stay here for a bit and go through a few transactions with you, okay? Remember, when I’m on my own, I’m stuck here all day unless I want to close down the table.”
“Partners,” Kearney muttered.
“Hush,” Mélanie scolded the kid. “Partners.”
“Oh, look at that scarf. I wish I could – but-” The woman on the other side of the booth was balancing a basket of baked goods on her arm and staring, wistfully, at some of the pretty nothings Mélanie had picked out.
“You could,” Jasper assured her. “I haven’t seen you around here before, have I?”
“Oh, no. We were – we were living in Madison, but everything got really, uh, messy there and we had to, well run away.” She ducked her head. “I don’t have anything left, though. We left with just the clothes on our back and we were lucky to get out with that. People here have been really generous, but-” she flailed with her other hand. “I don’t have anything to give you for it. I need everything I ave just to start paying back.”
“This one-” Jasper lifted up the scarf on one finger “-for you, is free. All I ask is that you remember my humble booth when you’re more on your feet. And as to feet, is there anything you need to help you get more that way? Some custom aimed your way? Something to help you do what you do a little easier?”
Mélanie watched in a little awe but not nearly as much surprise as she’d thought she’d have had as Jasper charmed the wan woman, ending up sending her off with two shirts as well as the scarf, all for free, and the names of three people she ought to talk to about her potential skills.
“So that’s how we’re supposed to sell things?” Kearny muttered, once the woman had left, but Mélanie still couldn’t stop grinning.Want more?