The Alchemist's Practice Chapter 11
Hale and Hearty Is the One Who Dines and Drinks with Friends
Wynn made a positively delicious meal that night for Edric and her. The strawshrooms, onion, asparagus, and fiddleheads were fried in garlic butter and salted to perfection and placed next to a massive slice of pork tenderloin cooked in the same pan.
It was simple fare, but it shone in its simplicity. The vegetables were elevated beyond the sum of their parts with contrasting textures and taste. And, the pork was most assuredly local, and fresh, and not overloaded with spices to allow the meat's wonderful flavours to shine. The pigs were treated and fed well, and it showed. No inn or ale house in Sybold could have made a better slice of pork; of that, Edric was sure.
The meal was so delicious and all-consuming that he and Wynn ate fervently and without words beyond the simple exclamations about how good it tasted. Once Edric was finished, he leaned back in his chair, positively stuffed beyond all reason. He rubbed his stomach to complete the gesture.
Wynn laughed at his display. "No seconds?"
Edric, his eyes closed, waved his hand. "No, I couldn't possibly."
Wynn sighed. "Well, I suppose someone else should enjoy the pie I made later," she said with a sidelong glance at him.
Edric opened his eyes and held up his hands. "Now, now, you didn't say anything about pie."
Wynn grinned. "I thought so," she said before rising from her seat. "I'll get us some."
Wynn came back a moment later with a pie that was just cool enough to eat but still warm. The cherries the pie was made from burst out from the slice with how many were packed inside. Edric voraciously ate the piece he was given, disregarding the protestations of his full stomach, and would have taken another had he been less sensible. The cherry filling was tart and sweet and not the least bit runny as with some amateurish pies. The crust was flakey and buttery, and the barest hint of salt accentuated the subtle flavour of the flour and butter.
The taste of the pie brought him back to the days of late spring and early summer when he was a boy. He remembered eating the same pies made by Jia, Wynn's aunt, with his friends after they had been out playing for the day. The four of them, ruddy and muddy and without so much as a care in the world outside of where they were going to go play tomorrow.
Now, tomorrow was here, and Edric found himself with many cares, but they didn't seem to matter much. Sitting there, eating with Wynn, he only thought in the present.
Even eating, she was beautiful. Her grey-blue eyes shone in the dim light from the waning sun. She had her chestnut hair tied back, and there was a wisp of a curl at the end of her ponytail. Her cream skin and slender but strong figure made her look like a portrait come to life. And her curves―
"Do I have pie on my face?" Wynn asked him with a mouthful of food.
Edric realized he had been staring and moved his eyes away. "No, no," he said. He felt his face flush at what he was thinking just then. He tried to think of something else, then after a second, he grinned. "I was just thinking about who's pies were better: yours or Jia's?"
Wynn finished eating and leaned back in her chair, and folded her arms. "Is that so?" Her words were careful and deliberate, and Edric could tell that this was a delicate topic for her.
Edric knew it was a dangerous thing to talk about but couldn't help himself. Getting under Wynn's skin was like a favourite pastime, and he knew it was the same in reverse. Thankfully, he knew the perfect words to rouse her, but not hurt. "I can't quite decide. I think I'll need to taste a few more."
Wynn snorted, but he saw her suppress a grin. She pointed at him and said, "remember who's making the pies before you decide, Foster." She rose from her seat and took the remaining pie and their dishes out to the back of the inn.
While she was out back, the door opened, and some villagers entered. Edric looked outside and noticed that it was getting to be the evening hour. The villagers greeted Edric as they came inside and took seats in their usual spots.
Wynn came back out with a mug of chocolate stout, handed it to him, and went immediately back to work. She took the new customer's orders and then went off to the kitchen to begin cooking.
More villagers arrived, as well as a couple young girls that help Wynn in the evenings who began waiting on people as soon as they walked in the door. Then, before any could claim the other seats next to Edric, Garrick and Kennard entered. Edric waved, and Garrick pointed at him to draw Kennard's attention before they walked over to take the seats at his table.
"A fine evening, gentlemen," Edric said.
His two friends returned the greeting as they took their seats, and the serving girl came over to take their orders. The two of them ordered large meals and some ale and wine to wash them down with, but Edric declined as he had just eaten.
When Edric declined, Garrick’s eyes flashed over to him, the question evident. "I ate dinner with Wynn earlier," he said before Garrick had to actually ask.
Garrick grinned in his familiar, lighthearted way with one brow raised. "Had dinner with Wynn, ya did? Sounds nice."
Edric looked square at him and said, "Shut it," with only a hint of playfulness in his voice.
Garrick raised his hands as though his mother caught him sneaking cookies away from the pantry, but he still smirked. "Nothing meant by it," he said as the serving girl brought their drinks out to them. After she left, he continued, "alls I’m saying is, it must be nice to have dinner with a pretty lady such as Wynn."
Edric didn’t protest again, hoping that Garrick would let it go if he didn’t fertilize the topic. But, he would be lying to himself if he denied it. He had had a lovely supper, and his heart felt light. When it ended with other villagers arriving, he was disappointed.
Wynn had been the bright spot of his return so far and reminded him most of his youth and joyful memories. His friends brought him joy as well, but it was different with Wynn.
Edric wasn’t ready to acknowledge the reasons behind why it was different on his short visit home. There was no use watering that old bud when he would be gone soon, and so he changed the subject. "How did the day treat you?" he said to them both.
Having talked with Edric earlier in the day, Garrick let Kennard take the lead by drinking some ale.
Kennard leaned back in his chair and made small talk about his dealings at his family’s bank. Like Edric, he presumed, there was a code of conduct amongst bankers to not discuss the financial matters of his patrons. Kennard kept his talk light and straight to the point about only what he did, not what customers he serviced that day.
With the floodgates opened, Garrick sprung into action. He talked about his farming, how the crops were growing and his trouble with a particularly troublesome patch of weeds and some blight affecting his crops, which he blamed on some of the neighbour's farms and not being as diligent as he. Not that he was disparaging them, though. Then he moved on to the gossip of the day as heard by his farmlands. Like his mother Cerelia, Garrick could talk enough for the three of them if he were allowed to do so.
As the three conversed, ate, and drank, many stories were shared, and laughter had. Edric had a delightful end to his day that had started off rather sour, and it was all thanks to his old friends and the simple joys that only a small town could provide.
I hope you enjoyed this chapter of The Alchemist's Practice. Be sure to heart it below, and share it with friends and family. If you want to read more of my writing, check out www.mcleansnovels.com for links to all my books.
This chapter was a fun one. A nice way to end a long day for the main character, as well as a few small conversations with his friends. Last week was busy, so hopefully I'll have a bit more time this week to write a bit longer of a chapter for next week.