Wanderers and Lost Things

Sorrel set his chin on the mahogany detail and pressed a cheek to the car window. There were no sidewalks. Or streetlamps, or sewer drains or taxis for that matter. The small buildings were old things made of wood and brick. Nothing shined with the plastic and metal of the city. It smelled of wet dirt, wood fires and green things. Sorrel would never in his whole life fall in love as completely as he did then.

Next to him his mother shifted on the seat. “My dear, your nose is not meant to bend that way.” She scolded the eight year old gently.

Sorrel did not remove his face from the window. His mother wasn’t using the tone that indicated he was in trouble and after all and there was more to see. People didn’t carry briefcases or the soft leather bags his mother did. Instead they led horses while others pulled crates and barrels from old trucks. Everyone was too busy to gawk very long at long sleek towncar Sorrel rode in. Except them.

A group of women watched their car; they wore mud splattered workman’s boots with their hair in long braids. They laughed and talked as the car worked its way slowly over the uneven streets. One of them especially, her strawberry hair wisping from her plait, kept her azure gaze tight on them. Sorrel felt, even behind the black windows of his car, that she saw him. So he waved. The woman’s blue eyes sparkled as she wriggled her fingers back, red lips smiling.

His mother touched his shoulder. “Come away Sorrel.” She leaned forward to give direction to the driver.

“Why?” He looked back at his mother.

“We’re meeting your father for lunch.” She reached over and smoothed down his hair. Sorrel sat back down on the seat, but not before looking back to the town square. The women were gone. He sighed loudly as the car sped up.

*****

Sorrel began to think he might be lost.

The bayside market surged around him, the press of skirts and the clunk of sturdy boots made it impossible for him to pick out familiar faces, even if there were any. This had never happened before and Sorrel didn’t quite know what to make of it. Before someone had always been around, one of the many adults set to take care of him, or his mother or father.

But not now. The strangers going about their business were content to let him alone. Sorrel breathed in the strange fresh smelling air. He would have to find them before his mother got upset and his father became angry. Not knowing how else to go about it Sorrel chose a direction and wandered.

The winding dirt path was easy to navigate, the stalls set up on each side caging the shoppers in by bins of fish, stacks of books, skewers of savory smelling meat and the occasional glittering trinket. Sorrel paused at most, taking in the strange shops so different than the malls of his home. Smaller avenues wound away from the main market street, each filled with lilting musician’s voices or particularly interesting spectacles. He was at one of these, watching a woman swallow fire, when he got the distinct impression of being observed.

He turned and was right. Bright blue eyes peered at him from a circular petite face. The skirts from yesterday had been exchanged for baggy canvas pants though they were tucked into the same travel worn boots. Her smile too, was familiar.

“Are you alright love?” She asked and bent towards him. She smelled of the woods and honey.

“I’m lost.” Sorrel answered, remembering vaguely the many warnings regarding strangers he’d received throughout his young life. But he had spoken to many strangers today. The man he’d bought an apple from, the little girl who’d asked him his name then ran away….

“You are not lost.” The woman said a little sternly, surprising Sorrel. “We wander, we are never lost.” She smiled and her face softened considerably. “Your parents on the other hand are.”

Sorrel nodded. “I’m trying to find them.”

“An admirable task. But until they are found…” She pulled from her pocket a bright deck of cards. “My shop is right here, we will wait and talk.” There was a small secret smile behind her eyes as she pointed to one of the wooden stalls.

Sorrel was tall for his age, and thus slipped easily into the chair set just inside the open structure. A thick rug covered the damp dirt of the ground and curtains added an illusion of interior. The table between them was bare and the woman began shuffling the bright cards. “Do you know who I am?”

Sorrel shook his head. The woman’s mouth tensed. “That is a shame. Your parents should educate you better.”

That was odd. Sorrel had dozens of tutors and instructors. “I’m Sorrel.” He said.

“I know love.” She said with another smile. “Now let’s see where your talents lie. Pick up the cards.”

“You’re not going to read my fortune?” Sorrel asked, disappointed. He’d seen the psychics on television, and the palm readers during the state fair with these cards. Granted they’d also had crystal balls and cloying smoke.

“It wouldn’t work, even if I tried. You’re special that way.” She gestured to the cards. “Cut the deck Sorrel.” He obeyed, splitting the thick cards and set the stacks before her. The woman turned over three cards, a man with a crown and a sword, a woman holding a cup and the third, someone carrying seven swords. Her mouth twisted. “More a shame.”

Sorrel looked up at her. “Is it bad?”

Her hand cupped his chin as she stood and she smiled down at him. “No sweet child, it is expected. Your parents will break their accord with me, though I cannot say when. It saddens me, but does not surprise.”

Sorrel stared at the woman, having no idea what she was talking about. “I should find them.” He said slowly and hopped off the chair.

“Perhaps. You are confused, and that is much my fault as theirs.” She sighed and drew out a small disc, the size of a half dollar and carved in dark wood. The woman held it out to him. “A gift, so you always remember who you are. Keep it secret if you want to keep it at all.” The woman quirked her lips again.

Sorrel closed his hand around the token, its delicate carving against his palm. He did want to keep it, the same way he’d fallen in love with green and wild of the town.

She bent slightly to kiss him on the forehead. “Now go find your lost parents.” With a gentle push Sorrel was out on the dirt road again, the half dollar disk wrapped in his fingers. A moment later the first of his bodyguards spotted him, at which point there was much yelling and talking into headsets.

He looked back for the woman as his father’s men led him away. She was gone of course.

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