(2018-12-09) Of Butterflies and Sheep
Details for Of Butterflies and Sheep
Summary: When Lyra discovers a sketchbook containing a portrait of herself, she finds a new friend in the artist.
Rating: PG
Date: December 9, 2018
Lyra Young Saoirse Knight

With two hours left until noon, much of Mythic Wood is either still sleeping, or sitting groggy-eyed at church. And the sky’s overcast dreariness only deepens this Sunday-morning haze. Except, one girl appears immune. Lyra Young steps into the shop with a spark in her hazel eyes and a little bounce in her step. Wearing a leather jacket with a white rabbit patch, she shivers as the coffee shop’s warmth envelops her.

Most often when Lyra visits the shop, she heads straight for the section on engineering and mechanics books. But this morning, she sneaks a little peek around the shop before drifting off towards the romance section. It would appear she had a particular book in mind because she soon emerges hugging it to her chest. She makes the quick purchase and is about to leave when she realizes rain is pouring at last from those dark clouds. Not wanting to get soaked on her motorbike, she hesitates. She glances over at the tea-kettle and those fresh pastries. These prove far too much to resist.

Hugging her new book to her chest, she holds a cup of herbal tea in one hand and a croissant in the other. She takes great care not to spill as she heads for the seating area. But she proves a bit too focused on what she’s carrying, and ends up knocking over a book set too close to the edge of the coffee table. “Oh!” She gives a soft sound of dismay. Setting down her treats on the coffee table, she kneels to pick it up, but pauses. It’s not just any book. It’s a sketchbook.

Lyra picks it up ever so carefully, transfixed by the evocative portrait. She can’t help but turn the page. Her lips part in surprise as she discovers the portrait – not of another stranger – but of herself.

The portrait is done in charcoal of various colors. It looks as if it had first been sketched out in greys and peaches, and then the rest of the colors were layered into it. Dark strokes form the lines of her shoulders and the jacket, with the paper from the pad showing through in the form of that white rabbit. The eyes in the portrait are traced so delicately it’s hard to believe they were done with charcoal, and her hair is an elegant flame of what must be at least seven different shades of reds and oranges and greys. The colors sketched into each strand of hair lose definition towards the ends, bleeding into their component colors and melding into the texture of the sketchpad page.

A soft humming precedes Saoirse as she makes her way back into the public section of the bookshop. She emerges from the back in a soft grey knit sweater and a rather serviceable, if not slightly worn pair of jeans. She is carrying a small stack of books, and notes that the shop is still mostly empty, just as it was when her mother called her back. Her humming stops on its own as she notices she’s not the only one around, and she makes her way toward the counter to check the coffee pots before she sets to shelving the books in her arms.

As Saoirse turns towards the sitting area she immediately notices that she forgot to put away her things, and that one of her sketchpads has been discovered. This doesn't really bother her, not half as much as a paying customer stumbling upon one of her messes. Mother would be irked.

With a softly muttered "bollocks" in a lightly accented irish brogue, she makes her way over to Lyra.

"Sorry about the mess. That book's..ehh..not for sale." She smiles, only slightly awkwardly, not yet realizing that Lyra had stumbled across the portait of herself.

Lyra jumps a bit, half-closing the book as she glances up at Saoirse. A hint of pink warms her cheeks. “Oh, I- I’m sorry, I…” she stammers. She pauses, gazing at the younger girl. “This… you made this then?” She tentatively holds the book out to her in both hands, open just enough for her to see that she has in fact discovered her portrait.

Saoirse freezes for just a bit, her eyes locked on the charcoal sketch of Lyra, herself. As realization dawns on her, she momentarily squeezes her eyes shut and sighs, a blush rising in her cheeks and causing her freckles to stick out a bit more. She then opens her eyes again into a slightly more bashful smile, this time. “Caught…red-handed. As it were. Sorry, to be sketching you wit’out your permission.”
She gingerly takes back the offered sketchpad, looking down at the portrait, as well.

“Oh! No, it- it’s beautiful.” The warmth in her own cheeks deepens as Lyra offers Saoirse a shy smile of her own. “I… I really like it. It’s… well, you made me look so much better than I ever seem in a mirror. So… so thank you.” Offering it back over to the younger girl, Lyra tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. “I guess you draw a lot of people that come in here?”

Saoirse nods, pressing her lips together in a thoughtful line. “Aye. Er… Yes.” Her blush hasn’t quite dissipated, yet. “It’s good practice. And I guess in a way it helps me t’get to know people. Well… I mean… not that they know me.”

She sighs, “It’s creepy, isn’t it? Yup. I’m creepy. I knew it.” As she sighs she runs a hand back through her short-cropped hair, tousling it even more than it already was.

Lyra shakes her head, taking a step closer. “No, I don’t think it is.” She bites her lower lip, smiling at the younger girl. “Um… do you… want to sit with me maybe? I’d love to watch you draw something else. And… well… we could… get to know each other?” She lifts a shoulder in a half-shrug, taking half a step back.

“Not creepy, then?” Saoirse asks, more rhetorically than anything, as she tilts her head to the side, one eyebrow slightly raised. “Well, that’s good! It’s a start.” Her face blooms into a less-awkward smile, this time. Her pronunciation of the ‘th’ in the words ‘then’ and ‘that’ is just a little different—a little harder and a little more…well…Irish. “I’m sorta still workin’, but I don’t tink any of the other customers will mind if I…uhm… alright, I’d like that.” She, of course, knows very well that they’re currently the only ones in the shop.

Lyra's soft smile brightens, and taking a further step back, she settles down on one of the comfy chairs. Having forgotten her original purpose - the romance novel resting face down on the table - she takes up her tea to warm her hands and gazes at the younger girl with shy fascination. "Um… So… What's your name? You sound like you're not from Oregon…"

Saoirse shakes her head, "I'm not." Taking a seat half cross-legged in another of the chairs, she lays her sketch pad open to a blank spread of pages. "My mother's from dublin… We've lived…well all over." She lifts herself up off the chair a bit in order to straighten her leg and fish a few pieces of charcoal directly out of a pocket. "Belfast, most recently. My dad likes to move around." She settles back down again, charcoal in hand. "Name's Saoirse."

"Hi Saoirse. I don't think I've ever met anyone with that name before. It's really beautiful," murmurs Lyra with a genuine warmth to her smile. But then she hesitates, biting her lower lip. "Um… I'm Lyra. Lyra Young." She watches the younger girl, waiting to see if she recognizes that name at all.

"Tank you, Lyra is a lovely name, too." Saoirse shows no sign of recognizing the name, nor its connections, likely still new enough or isolated enough to know very little about the Brigade.

"Do you go to school here too? I've never really seen you at Rocklin. Thought maybe we didn't have any of the same classes."

Lyra shakes her head. “No, I’m older than I look. I graduated at the end of last year. You’re new here aren’t you? Is this your first year in town?” Watching Saoirse from over the brim of her teacup, she takes a little sip.

Saoirse shakes her head, glancing from Lyra to her sketchpad, and back again, tracing out the form of her sitting in her chair in grey charcoal. "We've been here for a few years, but I've only recently got back to school. We moved to be closer to my uncle when my mum got sick." She sketches Lyra's arms and face, next, grasping the teacup. "I tink I'm a year behind, now."

Lyra blinks, realizing that Saoirse is doing another sketch of /her/. Her cheeks grow a bit warm, suddenly self-conscious. She hides behind her teacup yet again, taking a little sip. “Oh. I’m sorry to hear your mom was sick. Who’s your uncle? And… how old are you?” she asks with a curious little tilt of her head.

“tat’s alright, she’s better now. For now. Rupert Knight…he’s my uncle.” Saoirse looks from her sketchpad back up to Lyra, gazing at her in a way that might make some people uncomfortable, though she seems to be in ‘art mode’ and doesn’t seem to have remembered to feel awkward about staring. She examines the way her hair falls, the way her fingers wrap around the teacup, the shape of her shoulders as she bashfully tries to hide behind it. With a few glances, all of these things start to make their way onto her pad, her charcoal-stained fingers moving quickly, expertly, from line to line, shading occasionally. She re-crosses her legs with a little shift, trying to avoid one of them falling asleep. “I’m seventeen.” She grins, rather lopsided, “Is tat the right answer?”

The realization that this elfin little artist is related to Rupert Knight makes Lyra’s eyes widen. It’s a name almost as notorious as her own grandfather’s name, but of course, for very different reasons. Perhaps if Saoirse realized who she was, she wouldn’t be talking to her at all. She bites her lower lip. And of course, she also can’t help but be affected by the way she studies her with such intent focus. The way her eyes trace over her is almost palpable. But hearing how old she is, Lyra blinks and emerges from behind her teacup with a little smile. “You’re my age. Almost. And you’re like me… You look younger.” She’s trying to hold still, but she can’t help but sink a bit lower in her chair. “So… you’ve been here a while, but only just started school again this year? How do you like it?”

“It’s ‘cause I’m so short.” Saoirse grins at her sketchpad, once again looking up and studying Lyra. Her striking blue eyes trace over curves and contours, the folds of her jacket, the way it hangs on her body, the worn spots, the way the light does or doesn’t shine off of various fabrics. With a little nod to herself she fishes out a piece of red charcoal, and half a piece of orange, and starts working on sketching out her hair, reds and oranges, like a little force of nature.

“I like the school well enough. I tink it’s surprisingly…uhm… diverse. All kinds of people.”

She looks up and laughs a little. “You don’t have to try so hard to sit still, it’s alright.”

Lyra giggles with a hint of impish mirth. “Maybe. I’m short too, so maybe that’s why.” Her gaze flickers from Saoirse’s features to her hands moving across the page with the various shades of charcoal. Told she doesn’t have to sit so still, the girl relaxes with an appreciative nod. “Alright. I can’t wait to see it.” She tucks a lock of her vibrant red hair behind her ear. “I guess our school – the town itself – it’s pretty diverse. You… are you… in the ACCEL program… by any chance?”

“Mhh, short, maybe. But definitely fun to draw.” Saoirse puts a few more touches into her sketch, spending most of her time on that hair, and the contrast between it and her hastily shaded rendition of the bookshelves and couches around them. In the sketch, most of the color is in Lyra’s hair and clothing, and the unseen light source that gives her definition—almost as if the young woman is giving color to the parts of the room closest to her. She’s drawn in a relaxed pose, teacup raised toward her face, comfortable and contemplative with the hint of a smile and a blush in her cheeks.

“I am. My mother’s family are Merrythoughts. I tink that’s supposed to mean somethin’, but I’m not sure what.” With a final glance she lifts herself off the chair again, straightening one leg and shoving the bits of charcoal back in her pocket. She then settles back down and turns the sketchpad around so Lyra can see the hastily completed drawing.

Lyra’s soft smile brightens at that compliment, and her blush deepens noticeably. “Thanks,” she murmurs before taking another little sip of tea. The Merrythought family doesn’t appear to mean much to Lyra, but she nods regardless. “I see. I was in the ACCEL program too. Though… my family doesn’t really know what that means. My grampa, I mean. He, uh… wasn’t approved.” As Saoirse turns the sketchpad towards, her Lyra grows rather still. Gazing at it, her eyes shine with awe. “You’ve made me look so beautiful,” she murmurs. At last, she glances up from the drawing and smiles at Saoirse with a profound shyness. “You have real talent. I think… you could make money doing this. Like… real money.” Sinking even lower in her chair, she presses the back of her hand to her cheeks, trying to cool the heat of her blush.

Saoirse smiles a bit proudly at the praise. “Tanks. I don’t know that I made you any more pretty then you look.” She turns the drawing back to look at it again, herself. “Though, if you keep that up, I’ll have to put more red in your cheeks.” She grins slyly, the corners of her eyes narrowing just a bit as just one side of her mouth curves up with the smile. “I don’t know about making’ money from these. These are just sketches…practice…a way of… uhm…helping me look at the world. Anyway… are you the only one in your family that went trough the ACCEL program?”

Lyra can’t sink any lower in her chair and brings her legs up, ankles crossed, to half-hide behind them. But as Saoirse asks about the ACCEL program, she nods a bit and re-emerges. “Yes. It… well, it was a little tough cause – well, I wanted to be a mechanic. I was disappointed. But then, I’m working at Eos now. I work in the Robotics Lab. Mostly programming but- but I also get to do some mechanics stuff.” She grins and adjust further in the chair until she’s half curled up with ankles crossed and her boots off the chair. “Do you know what you want to do yet? After you graduate, I mean?”

Saoirse presses her lips together and glances out the window at the rain. “I don’t. I guess I should. But…” she shrugs, crossing her legs under her and leaning slightly forward, her gaze shifting back to Lyra. Her sweater is a little big, and a little loose around the collar, which she adjusts, tugging it back up her shoulder a bit. “I tink I might like to stay here a while, though… it’s nice…” 

Now that she’s slowly exiting ‘art mode’ she starts to look a bit more shy and unsure of herself, she fidgets a bit, glancing down at her seemingly permanently smudged fingers. “So… you like to fix tings?”

“Well, I try to. Being in the ACCEL program… well, I mean – I’m not supposed to be able to really work with technology at all, am I? But I’ve been able to manage. And I think that’s something. I was a little ‘accident prone’ in the lab at first, but I’m getting better.” Lyra takes a last sip of tea before leaning forward to set the empty cup of the coffee table. She takes up the croissant and eats it with one hand under it to catch any falling flakes. “And I can understand wanting to stay here. I’ve got roots that go deep, I think. I could never leave. Not even for college.”

“Still, you get to work in robotics. That’s gotta be fun. I don’t tink I’d be any good to anyone, cooped up in a lab.” Saoirse glances back down at her sketchpad. She looks thoughtful, for a moment, her face relaxed, lips slightly parted, before she chews one of them a bit. “Would you… like to keep it? I can get some spray so it doesn’t smudge…I mean… it’s just a sketch, but…” she looks up, meeting the other girl’s eyes. This is obviously a slightly vulnerable moment for her, as she’s not sure how weird it is to just offer a practice sketch to someone as a token of friendship, but she’s already offered, so she can’t really take it back now.

“I’d love it. If you’re sure.” Lyra smiles across at her, still rather shy herself. “It’s just a sketch. It’s beautiful. And… well, I mean… I don’t think I’m ugly or anything, but… it would be nice to have it and… well… look at it to remind myself how at least one person might see me.” She tucks another loose strand of hair behind her ear. “I wish I could do something like that for you. But I’m not very artistic. I mean… I guess I can sing a little bit, but I’m not that good.”

"Oof… my singing is brutal. The whole neighborhood would give out. And I'm sure!” Saoirse grins a bit and stands up with a little burst of energy. “I’ll get some spray from upstairs…uh… don’t go anywhere?” She makes a sheepish face as she straightens out her sweater, turning to dart toward the back and up the stairs. Quick footfalls can be heard scampering up the stairs and into her room. Though unobserved by Lyra downstairs, she moves quickly, almost as if she realizes this is still a change for some decent human connection and is still afraid of messing it up. She grabs a can of fixative from her drawing desk and darts back out of her mostly-messy room, careening down the stairs as only a teenager can.

“Ta daaaaa” she holds up the can of spray fixative, coming once again to a stop near the comfy chairs, slightly out of breath, with cheeks a little rosy from her quick climb up and down the stairs. “I’ll just give it a coat and then you won’t have fingers like mine.”

“Ok!” Lyra promises with a bright smile. In the time it takes Saoirse to fetch the fixative, she quickly finishes up the last of her croissant and wipes her fingertips off on her jeans. As the other girl comes careening back, she can’t help but giggle. “Thank you so much, Saoirse. I’ll have to be real careful heading home. I came on my motorcycle.” She pauses, glancing off out at the raining Sunday morning. “Mmm… maybe I should even come back with something better to carry it i.”

“Hmm. I could get you a bag, we have some behind the counter.” Saoirse scoops up her sketchpad and, fishing some charcoal out of her pocket again, signs the name ‘Selkie’ in a shanty script to the lower right of the sketch. She deftly tears out the page without damaging anything important, and walks a ways away so that the fumes from the spray don’t bother Lyra, she then sprays the charcoal with a liberal enough coating of fixative, wandering back over to set it to dry on the coffee table.

“You have a motorcycle?”

“Oh! A bag would help,” says Lyra with a little nod. She watches with interest as the artist performs her final act of creating this piece for her. Once she sets it on the counter, Lyra leans in to see it. “Selkie… That’s such a nice artist’s name.” But then she glances back up at Saoirse when she seems to express surprise at the motorcycle. “Um… yeah.” She hesitates. “So… you don’t know who my grampa is, I guess. He… well… he kinda runs the Iron Brigade. The motorcycle club in the area.” She watches Saoirse with a hint of caution – a bit scared of how she’ll react.

Saoirse smiles, “Magical creatures. Seals that shed their skins and appear as beautiful women, fall in love with sailors, pine for the sea, have cute babies, and eventually go back to being seals. A bit more complicated then tat, but I loved the stories when I was a kid.”

She wanders over to the counter for a bag, electing to turn around and hop up backwards, then turn herself around and slide back down over the other side. “The Iron Brigade, like a sort of biker gang? Long beards and lots of leather?” Saoirse has heard of the Brigade, though not much, and she doesn’t really know the sources well enough to judge their biases, though there was some mention of criminal activity, it doesn’t seem to bother her much, as she can’t really imagine Lyra doing anything too criminal right at the moment, and that’s about as far as her frame of reference extends.

Lyra nods a bit at Saoirse’s characterization of the Iron Brigade. After all, she herself is wearing a leather jacket, albeit with a little white rabbit patch on it. “Yes. So… I mean… if your family would rather that we not… you know… talk too much… I’d understand. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you right away. But I mean… /I’m/ not part of it. I just work at Eos.”

Saoirse just shrugs, snagging a plastic bag with the Bellwether Books logo (a pastel sheep with a belled collar in a field of heather and gorse, which she designed) from under the cash register and sliding back over the countertop. “I don’t know tat my parents care all tat much. I mean… as long as you’re not going to rob us or anyting like that. As to uncle Rupert…”

Her face clouds a bit, a few thoughts of a sort of vague doubt, or the feeling of suspecting that someone doesn’t much care for you, pass through her head. She’s obviously still figuring out exactly what it means to be a “Knight” in a place where that name actually has clout, and unsure of where her relationship with her uncle even stands. More of her than she’d care to admit is afraid to explore it, for fear that he and his family might really not care for her at all.

“Well… I don’t know tat he knows me well enough to want to boss me around, just yet.” She smiles, though it’s a slightly distracted, weak sort of smile as she’s still momentarily preoccupied worrying. “Besides… I tink I’d like to form my own opinion.” She sits down with a little ‘fwump’ and holds out the plastic bag for Lyra.

Lyra accepts the plastic bag and hugs it against herself as if it were something precious. And it is. It’s a token of friendship – a sign that Saoirse isn’t put off by who she is or who her family is. Her eyes flit to the sketch still drying on the coffee table. “Do you think I could call you Selkie? Or… is that just for your art? I can also just call you Saoirse, cause that’s also such a nice name.”

Saoirse lights up and grins an infectious, boyish grin. On her freckled face it looks like what laughter must look like, if it didn't have a sound. "You can, if you'd like. Either, or both. Some of my friends did…before mum got sick and we moved here."

It seems that every time she mentions her mother's illness she runs a hand back through her own shortly cropped hair, as if there is a connection there that she, herself, hasn't noticed yet. It seems a sort of tick or habitual gesture.

Her grin then turns impish and lopsided, "but only if I can call you Rabbit."

Lyra goes rather still at the request. “Oh…” she says, blinking. She glances down at the patch on her arm. “Yeah, I see. Umm… maybe not Rabbit? That’s what I called someone else I used to know. It’s not really mine. The name, I mean. But… you can call me anything else you like.” She manages a bit of a smile, though it’s clear that whatever memories Saoirse’s request suddenly stirred are painful ones.

In typical teenage fashion, Saoirse manages to switch gears from playful to catastrophizing in the bat of an eyelash. Noting in Lyra’s body language that something is really quite wrong with what she just asked, her mind fills with thoughts of ‘fecking gobshite, Saoirse, you’ve fecking ruined it’ in rather colorful language that would make her blush if she were caught saying it out loud. She backpedals almost immediately, “I-I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to… I mean…I just saw the patch and…bollocks” She trails off, fidgeting uncomfortably in her chair.

The intense emotions Lyra stirs in Saoirse shake the girl even more. “Oh… Oh no, I…” Caught up in her desire to reassure and soothe the sudden fear and anguish in the other girl’s heart, Lyra rises and sits on the edge of the coffee table, drawing much closer. She takes her hand in both of hers and holds it close against her chest. “It’s alright. I promise. It just belonged to someone that died. That’s all. I like that you want to give me a nickname.” She smiles with a gentle warmth, having completely forgotten her own pain.

Saoirse blinks and re-blinks as Lyra takes her hand. She looks equal parts awkward, afraid, and terribly relieved, and all of those emotions sort’ve play across her features in various ways. A twitch in an eyebrow, a creasing of her forehead, the biting of a lip. An interminable stream of consciousness of all the appropriate things to say flits through her mind, things like ‘I’m so sorry for your loss’, ‘I’m sorry that I hurt you, I still want to have a friend’, and ‘how are you so warm’, you know… mostly appropriate things to say, but what she ends up saying is:

“You’ll… get chalk on your hands…” as she stares at her smudged fingers, a grateful smile hiding somewhere just behind her eyes.

Lyra's hands both tighten around hers, holding them closer still. "That's alright," she murmurs with that unguarded warmth. She senses that hint of awkward shyness, but thatprofound relief is worth it. But even still, a hint of a blush lingers on her cheeks as she lets go. "You could call me Alice… Cause of the White rabbit. But that might confuse people. It's not really a nickname if someone could use it as a real name…"

“Hmmm…” Saoirse bites her lip. “I’m sure we’ll come up with som’tin’. Alice doesn’t seem quite right. And I am sorry… about yer friend.” She looks sheepish, but on her way back to feeling more relaxed, again. Unsure of what to do, and not wanting to start fidgeting again, she checks to see if the fixative is dry on her sketch. Giving it a little pat on the edge with her tinted fingers.

"Thank you," says Lyra rather softly. She shifts to the side on the coffee table, letting Saoirse check on the sketch more easily. Luckily it was centered enough on the table that she didn't sit on it in her haste. "Perhaps I could be another magical beast like you, Selkie." She grins at her. "Though you don't hafta pick now. There's no rush. We're gonna be friends for a long time."

Saoirse sorta beams at the mention of ‘friends for a long time’ a fledgling hope blossoming somewhere in her chest, a friend? Here? Does she remember how to do this? What do friends talk about? Boys? She’s got to get to know some boys to gossip about… A few more thoughts flit through her mind and she just smirks, a few freckles moving on her cheek. “Like Troll? Ogre? Pukwudgie?” There is a mischievous twinkle in her eye.

Lyra wrinkles her nose at Saoirse. With a vigorous shake of her head, she says, “Nooo!!” She hops up off the coffee table and squeezes in right beside the other girl. Both are so tiny that they fit easily into the chair together. “Come on, you’re Selkie. That’s so beautiful and mysterious and nice. Can’t I be like… Veela? Wait… no, maybe not that. I’d be shy of that one.” She giggles. “And besides, you have to pick it. But… but pick a good one, ok?” She sticks out the pink tip of her tongue.

Saoirse blushes at the sudden proximity and scoots a bit to make room, but she doesn't put too much distance between herself and Lyra, having not had much affectionate contact at all for the last couple years since coming to Mythic Wood. She very much enjoys the almost huggable warmth beside her, though a part of her remains on edge, as if the fledgling friendship is something she's afraid of breaking.

"Alright, alright. Nothin with warts, I promise." She fidgets a bit, despite herself.

Lyra can sense just how much Saoirse craves this connection with another person. Without hesitation, she wraps her arms around Saoirse’s middle for a quick squeeze before drawing back again. “Thank you,” she says with an impish grin. Then glancing off over their shoulders at the rest of the bookstore, she adds, “Sooo… when you’re not making art… do you read a lot then?” She watches Saoirse with a bright little spark of curiosity.

Saoirse lets out a little noise of surprise at the squeeze, but it isn't a distressed sound. A blush rises in her cheeks and she grins like a dork, scanning the rows of books before her eyes return to Lyra. "I do. I love …so many things about books." Her face goes sheepish again, will Lyra think she's a huge dork? Does it matter?

“I love losing myself in romance novels,” confesses Lyra with a sheepish little grin of her own. “But you all have such a great selection of mechanics and engineering books. And in your-“ she pauses, making sure no one is around to overhear “-magical section, I even found this one book that discusses science from a magical perspective. Working at Eos, I mean… that’s what I do. I’m a witch and… um… well, I think I still get little flares of magic – more than most people. So you wouldn’t believe how ‘accident prone’ I was when I first started. I was starting to wonder if maybe they were right all along. But… but I think I’m starting to get better. And that’s exciting.”

"Romance novels?" Saoirse gives a little eyebrow waggle, nudging the other girl playfully with her shoulder. "But I'm glad you can find a way to keep workin'. Do you like it there? Like…as a career? What kinds of tings do they do?" She fidgets just a bit, fully aware that she should probably know much more about such an important company.

Lyra’s cheeks flood with warmth at Saoirse’s playful nudge. The book on the table, though it’s face down, there’s a chance she’d recognize it. It’s a steamy one. Thank goodness the other girl turns to discussing her work at Eos. “Well… it’s a robotics lab. So… like, we do robot stuff. But I can’t really get into specifics. Cause… non-disclosure agreements. Company secrets. I like it a lot. I’m learning so much. And the people mentoring me are really nice. I think Eos is doing a lot of good here.” Some might consider this a controversial opinion. But Lyra appears firm in it.

Saoirse gets a fleeting conspiratorial look with another lopsided sort of grin, “Top secret, I see.” She seems to be relaxing into herself a little bit, not fidgeting with her sweater quite as much, and her body language seems more relaxed and open, though it’s perhaps slightly apparent that she’s not altogether sure how to sit or how much contact is appropriate to maintain with this new friend of hers. Given her circumstances, she hasn’t really had many opportunities to figure out just how affectionate she actually is, and so some of her motions are indecisive, as if she’s second guessing how comfortable she should let herself be.

“That definitely sounds like interesting work.” She chews her lip a bit, “I’m tryin’ ta tink of creatures that I loved as a girl that don’t involve drownin’ children…” she trails off a bit, “I guess tere’s ‘Merrow’.”

Lyra slides an arm around Saoirse’s waist to hold her close in a gentle embrace. If the other girl isn’t sure how much contact might be appropriate, she is pleased to show her. With an impish grin, she says, “That sounds like a sound a cat would make. Mrrow.” She trills her ‘r’, making a very good imitation of a kitten. And with a little laugh, she nuzzles the top of her head against Saoirse’s cheek.

In her jacket pocket, Lyra’s phone vibrates with a high-pitched chime. It makes her start with a little flinch. “Oh! Oh, uh… sorry, just a sec.” She leans into Saoirse even more as she fishes it out of her pocket on the other side. Checking them message, she makes a disappointed sound. “Aw… I’ve gotta go.” She tucks it away real fast before Saoirse can catch a glimpse of exactly why.

Wrapping her arms tight around her new friend’s shoulders, Lyra gives her the tightest squeeze and presses her cheek against hers. “Thanks for sitting with me. And for sketching me. And for giving me one of your sketches!”

Saoirse, completely at a loss as to how to respond to all the sudden affection and closeness, pretty much just sits there and blushes, her body mostly frozen with the occasional small noise squeaking out of her. She does manage to mostly return the hug with one of her arms, though the embrace is over before she has time to fully process the affection and decide how to respond to it. There is a part of her that feels all sorts of warm, a part of her that’s worried about getting chalk stains on Lyra’s jacket, and another part of her questioning every gesture and her reactions to them, analyzing what she should be doing, how she should be responding, how a ‘normal’ person would respond. She’s not quite sure she’s done it right, and her smile reflects her desire to not have messed anything up, and her excitement at the prospect of such a huggable new friend.

“O-of course! I was glad to do it…uhm… glad of the company… don’t let me keep you.”

“It’s a good thing the rain has stopped,” murmurs Lyra as she hops up. Picking up the plastic back, she slides the sketch into it with the greatest care. “Oh! Before I go… Can I get your number?” She holds up her phone. “We should go get milkshakes sometime. Or cake. At the bakery. You down?” Her eyes shine bright with eagerness as she smiles down at Saoirse.

Saoirse looks to be concentrating for a bit, re-saying the words softly to herself “I’m…down… ohh!” Her brain catches up, “I am! Down. I mean… tat’s class…er… tat would be great.” She gives another sheepish smile, fishing her phone out of the pocket that doesn’t contain the bits and pieces of chalk she used earlier. She’s… not very good with it at all…and would never admit that she’s only had a cell phone since her mother got better and they opened the bookshop. She fumbles for way too long to navigate the phone interface, muttering in a not-at-all-adorable, slightly distressed voice “I… em….I don’t know…my number…this… cheeky…bollocks…” She looks back up to Lyra with a face that quite plainly says: “halp”

“It’s alright. If you want, I can just send myself a text from your phone. Then we’ll both have each other’s number.” Lyra holds out a hand for her phone. And once she’s got it, she’s quick to navigate through the interface, and a couple of seconds later, her own phone buzzes with that little chime. “There!” she says, smiling bright as she hands it back. “I also saved my number in your phone so you can find me easy.” Yet again, she wraps her arms tight around her precious new friend. “We’ll text later. Kay?” And then with an impish little grin, she turns and scampers off out of the shop. It isn’t until she’s almost home that she realizes she left her new book on the coffee table. But at least, she remembered to take the sketch with her.

Saoirse nods, tries to watch how Lyra navigates the seemingly impenetrable combination of menus and apps and icons, and then nods again, managing a slightly better hug in return, this time. “Tank you, Lyra. Alright, I’ll text!…I think…I’ll try.” She says, referencing her total hopelessness when it comes to smartphones.

She watches the other girl leave and then looks around in a sort of ‘what just happened’ sort of way. Did she really just make an actual friend? How was that so… easy? She wanders over to where the girls were sitting and starts to clean up the teacup, noticing the book turned face down on the table, she picks it up, meaning to return it to Lyra when she gets the chance, she notices the cover and the title and blushes and laughs at the same time, a full-voiced, no-one-is-listening sort of laugh. The arm holding the book wraps around herself, remembering the hugs, even as her other hand raises to rest against her own cheek. She thinks of the affectionate young woman that just essentially inserted herself into her life, and, smiling, hopes desperately that she didn’t get too much chalk on her jacket.

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