"We need to celebrate," Mr. Nestor said with joy. I had been arguing with that stubborn man for nearly an hour over what to do with the money I gave him. Oh, sorry, the money he 'earned.' That old man that swindled my money left me bitter.
"No, with all due respect, Mr. Nestor, I really think we need to invest that money into valuable items we can turn for a profit. It needs to go back into the business. The shop could use some repairs," I said. I think he still had the high from getting so much coin in bulk. Last night, the night after that old man robbed me, Mr. Nestor stayed up just musing over what he could buy. I heard him from my room.
My room. I was still getting used to that idea.
Mr. Nestor looked up at me from the coin on the counter. "Listen here, young lady. With all due respect yourself, I think I've been in this business longer than you have."
I wanted to be nasty, to tell him that he only owned this business for a few days. But that might remind him of his mother, so I dared not go that route. I wanted to present a compromise to split the money between leisure and practicality. Still, it wasn't my business to suggest. It just wasn't my business. But it was my money, anyway, he only didn't realize it. He was my investment.
With a deep sigh, I said, "okay, okay. I'm just worried, is all." The people that threatened him the other day said they'd be back but never said when. Mr. Nestor hadn't brought them up since, and it infuriated me. How could he be so nonchalant about it?
"No need to worry about me. Now, I wouldn't normally ever close up shop, but why don't we go and get you some new clothes? That backpack of yours can't possibly hold many outfits."
It was hard to be upset with Mr. Nestor. He might have been naive, but he had a good heart. "I have a change of clothes in there, Mr. Nestor. That's enough for me." In truth, I wanted to go outside and wander, explore my new surroundings, scope out potential hot spots, and plan routes. I was out of the orphanage and wanted to get my life started.
I had invested nearly all of my money into making sure Mr. Nestor didn't lose my new home. If those people killed him or took hold of the residence, I would be either out on the street or back with those disgusting children.
Mr. Nestor shook his head. "A single change of clothes won't do. We should make it quick, though. Even though the market is in sight of the shop, I don't want to miss the customers I would get."
A smile crept across my freckled cheeks as he gave me an excuse to be by myself. "Well, I could go alone. I may be young, but I'm capable and safe. And like you said, the market is in sight."
Mr. Nestor went up to the window and put a hand on the glass. It was cloudy out, and each ray of sunshine fought to be seen. But even the dimness outside was bright compared to the gloomy interior of The Humble Wares. "Fine," he said. He went to the coin box and picked a couple drachmae out. "Wait, how about this?" He smiled a devious smile. "How about two drachmae, and you answer a question of mine?"
"Huh? Um… I guess so." I wasn't used to anyone asking me anything, so this caught me off guard.
His eyes were intense, and I remember being afraid of whatever the question would be. While he usually had a playful smile on and laugh lines on his eyes, his lips were straight at that moment. "How did you end up in the orphanage?"
I knew that question was coming at some point. I mean, how far could I go really before he asked me questions about my past? "It's not important…," I said and shifted my gaze somewhere else. When I looked back, he was still holding the coins up and away and waiting for an answer. I sighed. The hardest part was deciding on telling him the truth. "Okay. I ran away from my parents when I was nine or so. I wanted to go north and see if I could see an Erdos."
That clearly wasn't the answer he was expecting. His mouth dropped open, and his hand moved to cover it. "You want to see a monster? That'd explain why you're all the way up here in Orna. Why? Why would you want to see something so dangerous?"
"Ah ah, you said one question, and I paid my price," I said and laughed softly.
"Aw, come on! I gotta know. Otherwise, I'll think you're crazy. I mean, who in their right mind would want to put themselves in that much danger?"
It wasn't about the danger, though that didn't bother me so much. "It's silly, Mr. Nestor. I already know that. But just think about how rich you would be if you got a hold of that many bones. I mean, set for ten lifetimes, easily. But there's also the mystery aspect of it. Where do they come from? They just fascinate me, is all."
Mr. Nestor furrowed his brows. "That fascination is dangerous. Well, I…" He looked down and sighed. "I appreciate you answering." He smiled at me, the intensity in his eyes faded, and he handed me the drachmae.
I slowly reached out my hand and took the two coins. "Can I ask you a question?"
His eyes lit up like that of a man that gets no attention. "Of course. You can ask me anything."
I looked down at the two drachmae in my hand, if anything, just to avoid eye contact. "Why did you adopt me? I mean, like, the older person? Why did you and…" I struggled to think of his wife's name.
"Thank you. Why did you and Elena want to adopt me?"
Mr. Nestor wandered over to the window again and gazed out. "Well, it was my idea. It was something we actually argued about a lot. I was adopted, too. I don't know. It was just a way for me to give back, you know? Something I always wanted to do. I know how painful it can be to sit there and watch all your friends get taken away one by one while you're left sitting there."
While I certainly wouldn't call any of the children I had the misfortune of being around 'friend,' I knew what he meant. His answer didn't necessarily surprise me, but it struck a wrong note with me.
So I'm to be pitied, I thought.
"Does that satisfy your curiosity?" he asked, looking back at me. I nodded, as the words might have choked out of me unpleasantly. "Well, unless you need anything, you're free to explore the market. Just don't wander too far. Try to stay within sight."
I walked up to the door and put my hand on the knob. I remember feeling nervous. No one in the orphanage could simply leave, especially not alone. It wasn't a prison, but all the adults saw us as children, even though I'm older.
The door opened, and I took a step outside. The cool shade extended out from our building several feet, but I could feel the sunlight so close.
The dog bumped into my backside, pushing me the rest of the way out and sniffing around. I wasn't too worried about him wandering off since, at that point, I didn't have a significant emotional investment in him, so I didn't try to return him inside just yet. He followed me close wherever I went, which I thought was a good sign.
Gentle wind brought the smell of fresh bread and the noises of laughter from the market square. All that coin, all those distractions. I took a good look at my new surroundings, trying to look like an innocent youth, which wasn't hard considering how excited I was.
The two alleyways on either side of The Humble Wares looked like they would be perpetually dark. Perfect for conducting shady business.
The patrons operating in the market didn't appear incredibly wealthy. If I was to steal, I'd much rather steal a few valuable coins than a couple drachmae or a few obols. Ideally, I wanted to get my hands on a talent.
I sauntered through the market as if I wasn't wearing a tattered and oversized chiton, continually having to shift it to remain decent. Vegetables, fruits, baked goods, clothes, trinkets. Nothing interesting for sale, but I was too happy to be outside and free to be disappointed.
I needed new clothes, though. Clothes had always been given to me the few times I received them. I hadn't ever had the choice of what I wear.
It didn't take me long to spot the outfit I wanted, either. A bright yellow chiton, and upon further inspection, there were pockets on the inside. I decided that I had to have it.
"That one's four drachmae, sweetheart," the brutish stall owner said. I didn't even see him until he said something. He was tall, muscular, bald, and not at all who I expected to sell clothes. Four drachmae was a lot of money, even for clothing. I understood the piece was well made, and the yellow dye could be expensive, but still. I only had the two drachmae from Mr. Nestor.
I put on my best puppy dog face and puffed out my lips. "But mister, my papa only gave me two. Pwease, can you sell it for two? Pwease?"
"It's four. If you don't have that, you can fuck off," he said and took it out of my hands to put on a shelf behind him. I was flabbergasted. Usually, that routine worked rather well, but maybe I was getting too tall and old for it.
I didn't have anything to trade or offer. I racked my brain, trying to figure out how to get it. Losing sucks, and once I want something, I have to have it. I dropped the innocent little girl act. "All right, sir. I may only have two drachmae right now, but I will soon have a lot more. If you sell to me today-"
"I said, fuck off." He spat on the ground beside me.
At that point, I knew I wanted to get back at him. He didn't have to be that rude. Not to patronize myself, but I was still a young woman. The man had no respect. Then I saw the yellow fabric shift from the corner of my eye. The dog made his way behind the stall and began dragging the chiton from behind him.
What a smart dog, I thought. The market was too cramped for people to notice, so they usually made such good spots for thievery. Just in case he turned around, I wanted to keep distracting him. "I think we got off on the wrong foot. My name's Katya," I said and extended my hand to shake. He made no movement towards me and made an effort not to look at me. "And you are?"
He sighed. "If I answer you, can you go away?" The chiton was out of sight now, as was the dog. I hadn't yet considered the possibility of the dog going right up to me with the garment, but I was happy he didn't. He was a much brighter dog than I gave him credit for.
I shrugged my shoulders. "Sure."
"My name's Jason. Have a nice day," he said and gave me the most fraudulent smile I had ever seen. Oh, I would definitely be back to bother him.
Happy enough with the exchange, I left and looked for the dog. At that moment, I knew what I wanted to name him.
I saw yellow moving through the crowd and ran towards it before Jason would notice the chiton missing. The dog looked up at me as I passed, but I continued running around the block to a random alley. Specifically away from The Humble Wares to avoid any suspicion, and just in case Mr. Nestor was looking out his window. I didn't want him to get any ideas.
Like a good boy, the dog followed me, chiton in his mouth. He dragged it along the ground and stumbled on it a couple of times, but I didn't mind. I could clean it and repair any scratches made.
"Good boy. Awe, that's such a good, smart boy," I said and patted him on the head. I took my worn chiton off(don't worry, I had on a strophion, or undergarment). I wrapped the yellow chiton around my waist to hide it and then put my rags back on.
The dog looked mighty proud of himself, as he should have been. Drool went every which way as his tongue flapped about in the heat.
"Are you ready for your name? Huh, boy? Well, it's Accomplice. 'Complice for short. You like that? Huh, 'Complice?" He wagged his tail and blankly stared at me. I knew Mr. Nestor told me to stay within sight, but I was riding the high of theft and wanted to see what else this slice of the city had to offer me. I walked down the dirt street a bit, away from the market, to look at the other buildings and shops. Accomplice followed me every step of the way, not going too far away.
I made several valuable observations on that walk. I spotted a coin converter so that if I got a talent, I could exchange it for drachmae or minae. I saw an actual clothes shop, a restaurant, and a book store. There were even some useful alleyways that I could path out. They had people in them, so I didn't wander through, but I decided they might prove helpful later.
'Complice began slowing down, and I got the idea that he may not have been used that much exercise. He didn't look especially fit, after all. He was bony and nearly as thin as I was. I was gone for long enough anyway and decided to head back.
It had only been about thirty minutes since I had left, and they were some of the best minutes of my life up to that point. No chaperon to avoid or group of children to help look after. It wasn't a field trip. It was just me being mostly free.
My joy ended when I heard glass shatter and saw The Humble Wares' windows come down in bits. People from the market looked in horror as two men stormed the shop and ran off with Mr. Nestor's money box.