“I’m BORED,” George Ferreira announced to the shop. “Sooo bored!”
However, of all the people present — his parents, his brother, his grandmother, and of course the swarms of customers — nobody listened.
He sighed and kicked the salon chair nearest to him. A quick look over his shoulder proved that no one had seen — because, as usual, no one was paying attention to him.
George made a face. He hated being dragged along to his parents’ shops. It was one thing for Freddy, Freddy got to do things — sell stuff, talk to the customers, even help their mum mix some of the cosmetics and powders. True, some of it wasn’t so fun, like having to move all those cosmetics and put them on the shelves — but still, it was something. Freddy, if he had to come here, at least had something to do. Freddy wasn’t expected to just sit around, keep quiet, keep out of everyone’s way, and be bored out of his skull.
“Dad,” George said, wandering over to his father, “Dad, I’m bored.”
“Not now, George.”
George scowled but took the hint. He started to wander to the counter, where his grandma was standing.
“Oh, no you don’t, mister!” she said, wagging her finger at him. “You’ll not be getting into mischief with me today! You brought your fishing gear, why don’t you go out to the pond?”
“But Granny, I already–”
His grandmother shot him the glare his mother used to great effect, and George sighed. “Fine.” Making certain to scuff the floorboards with every step, he ambled out the door.
If it was a weekday, he would have been overjoyed to be outside in the bright sunshine instead of in a stuffy, dull classroom. As it was … well, there was the pond, but he’d already tried to fish for two hours and hadn’t caught anything. If there had been other kids around, he might have started up a game with them, but there weren’t. There weren’t any trees to climb, or old scraps of wood to make forts from, or swings to swing on or anything. He couldn’t walk over to the Wesleyan’s pet shop or stables because … well … he wasn’t welcome in either place without his parents or his grandma or brother, for reasons that really didn’t need to be stated. (But really, how was he to know that horses didn’t like it when you were playing below the stall door and jumped up really fast?) And while the day was hot, perfect for a swim, he couldn’t go swimmng. He’d get in trouble if got his clothes dirty (or really more like filthy, considering the mud and weeds that choked the pond), and he’d get in more trouble if he put his clothes somewhere they wouldn’t get dirty and jumped in with just his skivvies on.
So, seeing nothing else to do, he flopped onto his back and stared at the clouds as they rolled by.
That kept him occupied … for about five minutes.
He was just about to give up in disgust and go swimming, forget how angry his parents would be, when he heard something. Something that wasn’t chattering customers or bustling townsfolk.
George sat up.
He heard it again.
George crawled over to the edge of the pond, ignoring the sand and mud beneath his hands, and peered into the rushes.
Quicker than thought — but then he always was fast — George’s hand shot out and grabbed the frog before it could hop away.
“Cool!” George giggled, sitting down to examine his prize. The frog, slimy and slippery, struggled and squirmed, but George wasn’t letting go for anything. “Shh, it’s ok, I’m not gonna hurt you …” He tried to pet the frog’s head, but the frog wasn’t having any of it.
George frowned. Clearly frogs were no where near as fun as the cats back home. He was just about to put it back when an idea struck him.
With a devilish grin George got up, still holding onto the frog. His parents brought him out here to be bored, did they? Well — that was a mistake. And they’d soon realize just how big of a mistake that was.
Still grinning, he ran from the pond and back into the shop.
“Freddy Freddy look what I’ve got!”
“Not now, squirt, I’m trying to figure out what else goes on this shelf …” Frederick sighed. “Is it the firming lotion or the de-wrinkling one …”
“What–AH!” he said, turning around to find a frog shoved under his nose — or as close to under his nose as George could reach. But unlike other older brothers, who might have commenced with a sound thrashing, Frederick only laughed. “Good one, squirt. Now put the poor thing back before you scare it to death.”
“It won’t get scared to death! But I might get BORED to death!”
Frederick rolled his eyes and turned back to the shelf. “Whatever, squirt. Just bug someone else with it before Mum or Dad get on my case.”
Bug someone else with it … George grinned. Frederick might have been too distracted to realize it, but he had just given George virtual permission to raise hell …
Not that he needed permission, of course. But it was always good to have an excuse.
With that in mind, he squirmed between customers and ran to his grandmother. “Granny Granny! Look what I’ve got!”
“Not now, lad, I’m a bit busy …” And she certainly was, bent over the beans on the cashbox, clearly trying to figure out how much the customer owed and what change to give her.
“Granny! It’ll only take a minute!”
“Not now, not now …”
Seeing the way the customer’s eyes were bugging out and how she looked ready to throw down her bags at any second, George stood on tiptoe to see what she had bought. Gold-dust ointment, lily perfume and eyelash darkener … “It’s five silvers and three coppers, Granny, so you’ve got to give her seven coppers back. Now will you look?”
“Truly?” his grandmother asked, looking in spite of herself. She was greeted, as Frederick had been, with a faceful of frog. But she only rolled her eyes. “Oh for heaven’s sake, George, go bother your father with that, I’ve got work to do–just a moment and I’ll get your change, ma’am,” Granny said to the customer, as she tried to find the little button that released the cash drawer. Of course when she found it, the drawer flew out and hit her square in the stomach. “Oof!”
George, however, didn’t notice, for he had already taken off in pursuit of his father. Richard was with a different customer, extolling the virtues of … something. “And I assure you, my good fellow, that if you give your lady-friend some of our silver-dust ointment, not only will her skin have a fresher, more glowing appearance, she’ll also be grateful for you for … well, not forever, but certainly long enough for you to, shall we say, make some progress in the relationship?”
“What kind of progress?”
“Well, that depends …”
“Dad Dad!” George grabbed his father’s sleeve. “Look what I found!”
“Not now, George, I’m a little busy …”
“But it’s important!”
Richard gave George and the frog a fraction of a second’s glance. “Very nice …” He smiled weakly at the customer, as if to say, “Kids, you know?” The customer did not seem amused.
“George, if it’s that important, talk to your mother about it.” Richard turned back to the customer. “Now, my good sir, as I was saying — the silver-dust ointment, it ought to be good to get yourself an embrace, a caress, maybe even a kiss from your lady, but if you want — shall we say — if you want real gratitude, I would recommend the gold-dust ointment. It’s the hottest item I have in the store, to be honest it’s flying off the shelves …”
George sighed, but knowing a hopeless case when he saw one, trotted over to his mother. “Mum Mum! Look what I found!”
“What, dear?” Even though Bianca was cutting a customer’s hair, she was by this point so good at this that she didn’t have to look at the customer … which was her mistake.
Because if there was one thing Bianca hated more than dust and customers who skipped out without paying for their items, it was frogs.
Bianca shrieked — the scissors flew — a long lock of the customer’s hair fell to the ground.
And every eye in the shop turned to them.
Everything seemed to freeze for a moment. The customer’s eyes were on her shorn lock of hair. Bianca’s eyes were on the customer. And of course everyone else in the shop was frozen in disbelief, staring at them.
Everyone except George, that was. He was used to these sorts of reactions to his mischief-making. And so he knew just what to do.
Out the door he flew and into the shopyard. As soon as the door shut behind him he heard the commotion erupt, but that didn’t stop him for a second. Sprinting past the pond, he tossed the frog into the rushes. “Thanks for the help, buddy, but I gotta fly!”
In his haste to get away, he didn’t even notice the old man in the white robes who had just walked onto the property, though he nearly barrelled into him. The old man straightened his conical hat as George went running to one of his trusty hiding-spots.
“Well, well, well,” the old man murmured, stroking his long white beard and reaching out with his senses — for he had more than five — over the shop. “Well, well. What have we here?”
He smiled. “I’d wager it’s an unexpected talent — or my name isn’t Merlin Emrys.”