"Pinky!"

Edith turned around at the old nickname and grinned at the woman standing on the other side of the counter. "Deenie!" she exclaimed. "I thought you were going to Spire Rock this summer! Are you here for the fair? Sit down! Let me get you a drink!"

Nadine smiled and leaned against the counter watching her friend grab two mugs and put them under the tap. "We were going to Sunflower, but Archie – Father bless him! – heard about a new silversmith near Milburn so he decided to make a little change in the route."

"'A little change?' That's the opposite direction!" Edith exclaimed, walking around the counter and leading the way to an empty table.

Nadine sat down in the chair across from her. "I know." she said, picking up her mug. "But you should see this man's work. He's really quite an artist. Archie thinks he'll get a good price for it in the south." She took a drink. "Fortunately this little detour brought us here and I talked him into stopping for a few days. He can talk to the other traders at the Fair and the children can visit my mother."

"Your mother? Didn't she warn you not to marry a Trader?" Edith teased.

Nadine snorted into her mug. "No, that was my Aunt. Aunt Wanda, she lived with us for a while after Father died. She warned me about everything!" She raised her voice in a querulous, mocking tone. "'Don't go near the river, Nadine! You'll fall in and drown! Don't touch that dog, Nadine! It looks sick! Don't go with Walter Turner, Nadine! He'll break your heart! Don't make friends with traders, Nadine, they only want money!" She chuckled and took another drink. "No wonder I married late! I couldn't move without being told I was heading for disaster." She laughed ruefully, "But I showed her! I not only married a successful trader, I had twins!" She took a drink. "Too bad she didn't live to see it." She looked down in her mug, then brightened. "Speaking of Walter, how is your brother?" She leaned in conspiratorially, "Still sleeping with anything on two legs?"

"Please, Deenie, give the boy some credit," Edith replied loftily, "He has standards. It's anything female with two legs."

"Oh, do forgive me Lady Turner! I did not mean to sully your brother's good name."

They both broke up laughing.

"Let me get you a refill." she stood and picked up the empty mugs.

"Go easy or you'll be carrying me home."

"I'll only give you juice." Edith said, walking to the counter.

Nadine snickered at the old joke.

Placing the mug under the tap, she watched it fill with ale. Then the kitchen door opened behind her and she looked over her shoulder in time to see Willa walk out, holding a broom. She caught her eye and motioned for her to come over. "Start at the back corner, near the fireplace." she told her, setting Deenie's mug down on the counter. "It's getting dusty. Sweep everything towards the front door. Be sure to get everything off the stoop or people will just track all the dirt inside again."

"Yes, Lady Turner." Willa said. She started walking towards the corner. After a moment, she started mumbling to herself.