Just before lunch was usually a not-so-busy time at Best Kept Secrets, and today was no exception as Judy dusted one of the shelves off with a soft cloth before climbing off the step-stool. It was always amazing to her how much of the stuff accumulated in just a day, and with her being so short she had to keep the stool handy to keep things tidy. Still, it was a labor of love.
The blonde checked her watch, looked toward the door and decided that no one else would be coming in, so she could go ahead and eat. Lunch was from home today, leftover spaghetti and meatballs with a small salad on the side. Technically pasta was off limits because of her diet, but there was no harm in indulging, was there? Not when it was leftovers in her opinion.
There was a microwave in the office, and Judy set it for a minute and a half while she opened a bottle of water. She would eat and then get back to work. Even if it was only doing more dusting.
Daphne was enjoying Honfleur, even if it was a bit sleepy compared to Portland. It was a lot less rainy, however, and she appreciated that. When the weather called for shorts and t-shirts, the brunette didn't have to worry about packing an umbrella. The errands and chores her great-aunt delegated to her weren't that hard; she saved the heavy labor for workmen, which Daphne also appreciated, because she had an innate fear of ladders.
Today she had picked up a few non-perishable groceries, and was carrying them in a recycled canvas bag. Her mother was a bit of an eco-maniac and had instilled socially conscious behavior into Daphne and her older sister. It came as second nature, but she still found a small amount of glee in the fact that Daphne Sr. -- as she liked to refer to her great-aunt, if only in her mind -- was a lover of all things paper. Paper towels, paper plates, paper cups. It would have driven her mother up the wall.
An unlikely storefront caught her eye on the way back home. She halted in her tracks, her flip-flops almost getting stuck in some half-dried mud. As she gingerly pried her feet away, she studied the sign. Best Kept Secrets. It sounded like a sex shop or something. It was situated inside what was obviously a house; there was even a front porch. Even so, it seemed worth investigating. Daphne entered the store, the groceries in her bag crinkling with movement. The brunette was surprised to see books. "Oh, cool," she said aloud.
The sound of the wind chime startled Judy out of a reverie, and she put her salad down as she craned her neck toward the door to see who had come in. Normally she didn’t get disturbed during her lunch, but if it was a customer that was a different matter. At least the mailman had already been and gone.
“Can I help you?”
"Um, I'm not sure. I didn't even know this place was here until now." Daphne clutched her bag, her blue eyes scanning over the various titles. It definitely wasn't like Borders. A theme seemed to be going in the shop. A sparkly display of crystals caught her eye, and she gravitated toward them. She was a sucker for shiny things. When she discovered that one of her tasks was to clean and sort her great-aunt's old jewelry, she had been delighted. And promptly spent two hours doing so.
"What kind of books do you sell? Anything good for reading on a lounge chair outside in the summer?" Daphne had visions of buying one of those collapsible pools, filling it with water, blowing up a raft and reading all day in the sun. Sure, she'd look ridiculous, but it wasn't like she was able to do it back home. Might as well take advantage of her current surroundings, and she doubted she could convince her namesake to build an in-ground just for her.
“Mostly books on paganism, the new age stuff,” the older woman answered, somewhat disappointed to realize it was only a girl with a bag of groceries. If she was going to be bothered, couldn’t it be by someone interesting? Still, tourists were her bread and butter. Judy lifted her weight from the seat she’d been occupying, started around the counter.
“There are actually some pretty good books on crystal use,” she offered, indicating a small display of paperbacks near the wall. “Nothing too involved if all you wanted was a light read. Did you have something particular in mind?”
"That book about the crystals sounds good," she answered. Daphne wasn't sure what use could be derived from them, but they were pretty and she needed something to fill her free time. She had already read through the two paperbacks she had packed, and Daphne Sr.'s library left a lot to be desired. She wasn't much for bodice-rippers or men with long flowing blond hair. Or men with better hair than her, in general.
"And this one." She held up the piece that had caught her eye, an opalescent quartz that dangled from a black cord. "Do you get a lot of business here? I didn't know there were many pagans in Honfleur. Not that I was on the lookout for them, or anything."
“Oh, mostly they come in from the city, a lot of them find the country a little too, well, country,” Judy answered, watching the way the sun twinkled in the crystal’s facets. “Of course I used to live in Atlanta, so the slower pace is nice as far as I’m concerned. Less cars, less pollution, less a lot of things.” Suddenly she became aware that there was a drop of salad dressing on her shirt, and she stepped back toward the counter to grab a napkin.
“You kind of caught me during lunch,” she said apologetically. “Do you like that crystal? It’s the last one like it I have in stock.”:
The mention of lunch reminded Daphne that she hadn't eaten yet, despite being up since a little past dawn. "Yeah, I think I do," she answered, looking at the crystal. "There's something interesting about it."
She had, of course, come to Honfleur for the opportunity to see something different, and while that was nice, she also wondered if she'd be able to borrow the car soon and make a trip to New Orleans. It would be cool to visit a place with so much history. "I'll definitely take it, then, if it's the last one. And the book, too." The brunette sidled up to the counter. "I'll make sure not to come around noon next time," she remarked. "Everyone needs to eat."
“A full stomach is a happy stomach, or so my mother tells me. ‘Course, my mother isn’t the one who could stand to drop a few pounds, but she always did like to see me with a full plate.”
Judy rang up the sale, looking for more conversation to make. “Are you in town for the summer?” she asked, indicating the bag of food the brunette held. “I don’t get many people your age in here, so that means you’re either visiting relatives or you’re taking a break from school. Or both, but it’s usually one or the other.”
Daphne brought out her wallet, sifting through the slightly disorganized contents. "Here for the summer, and maybe beyond, if I like it. I'm staying with my aunt. She owns a house here, and apparently it's really old and needs a lot of up-keep, which she can't exactly do anymore, so I'm helping her in exchange for room, board and spending money."
The brunette set her bag down to free both of her hands. "I enjoy the fact that there aren't many people my age running around here. It's a nice break."
“Would you like some tea? I’d just finished making a pot before my lunch. It’s mint, which not everyone likes, but some people find it cools them off in the middle of the day. Would you like a cup?”
The cash register dinged as Judy finished with the sale, and she folded the receipt into the book before putting it into a paper bag. She’d had her doubts about this one when she’d first come into the store, but she seemed to have a good head on her shoulders. It gave her hope for the younger generation to have someone so sensible in her place. There were worse things, after all.
She was about to answer in the affirmative -- she loved tea -- when she caught sight of her watch. "I wish I could," Daphne lamented, "but I have to be back at the house. My aunt needs this stuff to cook dinner, and she likes doing that super early, for some reason."
Taking her new shopping bag, she glanced back at the older woman. "But I'm staying really close by, so I'll probably be in again soon. I'm a quick reader."
“Well, you just come back any time you want,” the blonde said cheerfully. “I’m open fairly late during the summers, but even if you just want to browse you just swing on by. When the door is open, the door is really open.”
After a moment’s thought, she put out her hand. “My name’s Judy. Welcome to my place.”
Returning the handshake, she answered, "I'm Daphne. And I like your store. It's way better than the one down the way that sells hardware. I got snapped at for not knowing the difference between a flat-head screwdriver and a Philip's head." The brunette shrugged and offered a wan smile.
“They do take their hardware seriously down here,” Judy said with a snicker. “And sometimes the locals take a little getting used to. But once you’ve been here for a while, it’s like you’ve lived here your whole life. I guess it’s part of the slowing-down thing, the people have different priorities.” The older woman looked at the space where she kept her business cards, found the little holder empty.
“I’ve give you a card but I don’t have one,” she lamented. “But I’m sure you can remember this place, right?”
"I definitely think I'll remember it," Daphne replied. "It's the only shop I've seen so far that's in a house." Another glance at her watch. "I'd better be going. Thanks for the book recommendation." She waved and walked toward the door, a tiny bell ringing as it opened and closed.
Well, maybe Honfleur was more interesting than it had first appeared.
Judy’s spaghetti had gotten cold by the time she got back to it, but the blonde didn’t mind. Sometimes a potential new friend was just as good as a hot meal, and the microwave was on standby. Daphne seemed interesting, so hopefully she’d come back, if for no other reason than to get that cup of tea.