"Annie was your teacher?" Janna asked, looking at a stump by the side of the road.
Rose nodded. "He could have sent a letter." she said petulantly, walking slowly away.
"I'm surprised your brother's letter made it to us in New Ayro." Janna said. "We were about to leave."
Rose said nothing.
Janna started to lead the horse towards the stump, it was large and flat on top. Someone had chopped a crude step into the side. "How far is it to your family's house?" she asked.
Rose looked up at the road. "We'll have to pass through town. But then the road goes right by the farm."
"Is it far?" Janna stopped in front of the stump, pulling the horse in front.
"I'll walk." Rose said. "I want to stretch my legs." A cloud of dust blew across the road.
Janna gave her a long look, but said nothing and fell into step beside her, leading the horse. They walked in silence the rest of the way.
As they entered the center of town Rose stopped and looked around, it all seemed so familiar and different at the same time. The stables next to the inn had expanded, but teamsters still sat outside drinking on the bench. A storefront that she remembered as a butcher's shop now sold leather tack. A new fountain bubbled gracefully in the center of the square.
Janna followed her gaze. "Looks nice." she said.
Rose pointed at the dry goods store. "I was thrown out of there once."
"Because I'm a were. It wasn't long after I shifted the first time. Annie told the shopkeeper's wife and she told her niece." She paused, "I don't know why I was so surprised to find out she was the source. She could never just walk down the street without stopping to talk with people."
"They didn't like you because you're a were?" Janna asked, amazed.
Rose shrugged. "People have strange ideas around here." She nudged her friend, "Not all of us grew up worldly in Silver City." she teased. "Do you know that just a few months later the girl who told the worst stories about me, came to the house because she missed her red days?"
"What did you do?"
"Gave her some rue and told her to buy charms from Master Bowman next time. He's the local Magician." she added.
"Huh." Janna said. She looked at the shop, "Do you want to go in?"
"No." Rose said. "Let's go to the bakery," she pointed to a building on the other side of the square. "My sister Daisy is an apprentice there." she started walking, not waiting for Janna.
The bell over the door jingled as Rose walked in. The woman behind the counter looked up, "Good day, Lady, how are you today? Would you like some fruit pastries? Fresh from the oven! I also have fresh bread, baked just this morning, and loaves from yesterday and two days ago."
"No thank you." Rose said looking around, "Does my sister still work here? Daisy Farmer?"
"Farmer…?" The baker studied Rose and suddenly her face lit up. "Rose! It's you! I can't believe I didn't recognize you! How are you? It's me! Bonnie! Bonnie Fortenberry! Well, I'm Bonnie Dell now. But how are you? Let me give you a hug!"
The words were barely out of the woman's mouth when Rose's vision was suddenly filled with white apron. When did she get so fat? she thought fleetingly. The bell jingled again and Bonnie released her.
"Hello sir, how are you this fine day? Is there something you're looking for? I have pastries fresh from the oven!"
"No, thank you." Janna said. "I'm just waiting for her." She looked at Rose. "Is your sister here?"
Bonnie looked at her, then looked at Rose, "I'd heard you had a companion, but I didn't know what a fine young woman she was!" She turned to Janna, and shook her hand. "How do you do? I'm Bonnie Dell. Rose and I knew each other growing up." Janna shook her hand, then turned to Rose and looked expectantly at her.
Rose was fully aware what Bonnie was thinking, she decided she didn't care to correct her. "Is Daisy here?" she asked again.
"No, I'm sorry. She's working in Charleston now." Rose thanked her and turned away. "Oh, don't leave yet!" Bonnie cried, walking behind the counter. Grabbing a sheet of paper with one hand, she reached down and placed a small pie on top of the paper. It was followed by three more. "Please take these." she said wrapping them. "No, no! Don't try to pay!" She held up her hand. Rose had not moved or reached for her purse. "It's a gift!" She tied a neat bow in the string and held it out. "For you! It's so wonderful to have you back in Clay! You must come by again and visit!" she said unctuously.
Rose didn't move. Janna stepped forward and took the pies, they walked out together.
"Was she a friend of yours?" Janna asked, opening the package.
"No." Rose said shortly, memories of vicious taunts ringing in her head. Maybe Annie had been the first to tell, but Bonnie and Lucy had made sure no one would forget.
"Where to next?" Janna asked, biting into a pie. "Mm this is good! What is it? Cherry?"
"Probably." Rose answered absently. Should we visit Jason? she thought, No, the brewery is too far. He's probably at the house anyway. Walking to the rail, she untied the horse's rope and climbed into the saddle. "Let's go home." she said.
Janna wiped the remaining crumbs off her face, leaving a red streak on her sleeve, and mounted behind her. Rose kicked the horse into motion and they rode to the farm.