The sun shone. The sky was that beautiful blue one gets on perfectly clear days: only there on the rarest of days, and all the better for it. It made the straw into spun gold, the grass greener than any emerald, even the roads were bright.
I smiled at the girl who ran towards me, straw shoes smacking on paving stones, hair messily tied back, dress undyed and wrinkled. Her eyes were bright as the sky, and her hair matched the hay. There were ink stains on her fingers, still sharp black against sunburned skin. And, of course, scrolls spilled out of her arms.
"I--I got a commission!" She beamed at me. Prema had had some trouble around that. Never cleaning up will lose you quite a few jobs, no matter how well you write or tell.
"Wonderful, little one." I ruffled her hair, to the extent that was possible. "Who's the lucky patron?"
She gave some impressive title that rolled off her tongue as well as one of her first stories told around the campfire did now. My lips twitched. She'd been practicing her patron's name. "And what does she want you to write?"
Prema's eyes were still as bright, but their character changed. "Um, tell, actually." Now she shifted the scrolls to one arm and pushed her hair out of her eyes. "And...it has to be something new." She shifted her weight and licked her lips, suddenly huddling in on herself. "She--she saw some stuff I wrote, and she wanted me to write something for her, then tell it, for her guests at the party."
"And you're getting...?"
"A good outfit, a night around potential clients, dinner and a few silver pieces." She flushed a little at the last, as if accepting food and fine clothing for one of her stories was perfectly acceptable, but money unthinkable.
I nodded and smiled. "Good, for a first commission." Premmy relaxed a little. "And what have you got there to look at?"
"Oh! Well, everything."
She laughed. "All right, not everything. Everything I've ever written. Unless a muse decides to come around and smack my head with a new idea, I don't have time to come up with a whole new story from scratch and memorize it in time."
"Oh? When's the party?"
She grinned sheepishly at me. "...A week? I know; I know!" was all she said to my look, "but I've got fittings, and...well, I'd get so nervous."
I laughed. "As you wish. So you need to pick one to finish."
"Yes! I've got all of these memorized as far as they go, they just don't end."
"Well, which one did your lovely patron like?"
"Oh...well, this one." She juggled the papers around until she had the right one on top.
"You know, you could put those on the bench." I nodded over and we sat together, keeping all the scrolls between us. When she handed me the scroll I'd asked after, she looked away. It didn't take me long to figure out why. The characters were a little exaggerated at times, and it skipped over some things I wouldn't've skipped, but...
"I didn't know you were writing an autobiography."
She squirmed a little. "I--I mean--I'm sorry! I know I should've asked you before I showed it to anyone, but she wanted to see something and I forgot to take it off the shelf! I--" By then her eyes were starting to fill.
She flinched. "Yes?"
How to say it... "You wrote beautifully. This is your story. I happen to be in it, but this, as it is written, is your story. As far as I am concerned, you never have to worry about showing this to anyone. If I had been hurt by this, it would have been because you believed something bad of me, not because you had written of it." I squeezed her shoulders and took in the air, tinted with the soft smell of hay and the warm smell of life, in general. "Not everyone will feel that way. But I'm your teacher too, and I'm honored I was there so much."
She looked at me. For a moment, she waited, as if she thought I would tell her it was some joke. Then she wiped her eyes, hugged me, and gathered everything up.
As she dashed away, she called over her shoulder, "I've got an ending!"
I smiled and walked around town. Nothing ever ends. But she'd found an ending, at least, and that would be enough for her patron. Knowing her, it would be fantastic. She wouldn't stop until it was.