The fog had dissipated before morning prayer finished. Arabella was glad of that as she hurried to her next task. There was an odd scent in the air that followed the fog which clung to the flagstones after she’d gotten ready. It was a pungent aroma, acrid and heavy, a bit like the incense used in some of the ceremonies held on holidays. It was the only thing she could compare it to, even though it wasn’t strong enough to make her eyes tear up like the incense had. A fresh breeze coming off the lake helped a bit to push the smell away as she moved on.
The air was a bit less heavy now as well, which was fine with her since she hadn’t been able to find Cyril this morning to help her with her hair. It lay tucked into her collar as she hadn’t been able to locate any of her ties. Thankfully it was hidden by the veil that trailed down her back from the hat she wore traditionally for prayer. Until she found a new tie that’s likely where it’d stay, otherwise it might get in her way.
Her light jog brought her closer to her favorite place in the priory. Warm dry air and the scent of freshly ground flour hit her as she opened the door. Peering inside she greeted the prioress who was fanning the flames of the oven. Somehow the aged woman who ran her home always made it to each of her daily tasks before anyone else, even when it was abundantly clear that she had still been in the prayer hall when Arabella had left. She always wondered if it was some sort of magic the woman possessed but never actually got up the nerve to ask.
Arabella’s eyes met the prioress’, who tilted her head slightly towards the basin. Berating herself slightly for getting lost in her ponderings, she headed over to it. Pulling up the grey sleeves of her long robes, she put her hands into the water of the wash basin and scrubbed for a good minute before she shook them dry, lightly floured them, and started making dough.
As the dry mix drank up the water in the bowl, she enjoyed the familiar squish of dough as she formed a ball. Once all the dry mix formed into the proper shape she pulled it out, flattened it onto the powdered surface, and started to work it back and forth. Humming to herself she let her fingers dig into the supple mass, stretching it out before pulling it back, over and over again until the consistency was just right. By the time she was done with the first batch of dough, the other apprentice priestesses had filled the room, and she handed it off to another before starting on the next one.
It was a simple, yet arduous task, but it was one of the most rewarding ones she had in the priory. Cleaning the priory, sweeping the stairs, doing daily prayers, all of that was nice, but this was making something, something for everyone. They baked bread every morning but not for those in the priory, because all the morning bread became alms distributed to the poor or the sick. They made other baked goods to sell, but the bread was her favorite. She loved the smell, so nice and crisp in the morning air as it cooked.
When she finished kneading the dough that would be set to rise, she sat down to rest when one of the other girls stared at her.
“Ara, your hair? Did you not tie it up?”
Arabella blinked and looked over, the gesture made her notice that some of her hair had slipped out of her collar and currently hung forward, the tips still tucked in but the long strand hung outward. “No, I couldn’t find one this morning.”
The other girl looked exasperatedly at her, “Well, hurry out. If the prioress notices you were making bread with your hair down she’ll have your head.” She glanced around, “Does anyone have an extra tie?” The other girls exchanged quick looks, but then shook their heads. Luckily the Prioress was out getting some salt from the stores. “Run to your room and tie it back. We don’t want to get splashed.”
Arabella winced but ran out, pulling up her skirts as she headed toward her room. They were always punished in a group if any one of them did something out of line. Was it her fault if she couldn’t find it?
On her way out she passed someone holding a stack of books then spun around and grabbed his shoulder. He adjusted with the motion, only taking a moment to confirm his hold on the books before peering past them.
“Oh, hello Ara.” Cyril adjusted a pair of glasses he used mostly for reading.
“Do you have a moment?” Arabella asked. “I need to do my hair.”
“I see,” He reaffirmed his hold on his books and looked around, “We’re just cleaning out the library today, but I don’t think they’ll miss me for a few minutes.” The two of them walked into an empty prayer room and sat down on the pews. Cyril put down the books as Arabella took off her hat and pulled her long yellow hair out of her collar.
As it turned out, Cyril did have a tie on him. He usually had several. His hair was almost as long as hers was, though so curly that it came out as an uncontrolled poof on his head if he didn’t oil it then tie it back. He also sometimes braided it, though how he managed to control it well enough to get it into strands she didn’t know. His long fingers moved through her hair quickly, straightening out quick tangles before separating them out and pulling it back into a hasty braid that went down her back before he tied the end. It was still neater than anything she could manage on her own and wouldn’t come undone.
“Thanks,” she said as she adjusted her hat and turned to look at Cyril. His brown eyes were only a shade darker than his skin, which was like the cocoa they occasionally got as imports from the South. She ran her hand along the braid, as neat as new rope just like Cyril always did it. “What was this about the library? Is that why you weren’t here this morning?”
“Yeah, we got a big import from Flaron. The boys’ side were all pulled to do it.” He glanced over towards the door. “I’ll need to get going soon.”
“Alright.” Arabella grabbed the books and handed them over, “We’re almost done with the bread, will the boys be coming for breakfast?”
“I think so.” He held the books against his chest and adjusted them a bit to make sure they didn’t fall. “I’ll ask when I get back, though we still have a lot of work to do. They’re having us sort through them for any redundant volumes that can be donated to other branches.”
“Well, I’ll bring you some if you’re late, alright?” Arabella straightened her skirt and patted her hair to make sure it wasn’t too puffy, “Does it look okay?”
“It looks wonderful.” Cyril smiled. “See you at breakfast?”
“Hopefully.” Arabella returned the expression before turning away and starting a light jog back to the kitchen.