-07-  Determinations

“Are you sure this is… alright?”

There was a knot in my stomach. It was different from the time she had come down to sleep next to me. I was asleep, and it was her move. This time, it’s an invitation to warm her bed. I’m not so dense as to misunderstand what that means in the modern era on Earth where I’m from, but to know what that means here in this place which is made from bits and pieces of fantasy novels and history books, without electricity, air conditioning, or indoor plumbing… and that's before we even get into societal and religious customs.

I’m digressing now mostly because I’m scared.

Her bed is there, full of her scent. It’s a pleasant scent and one that is both relaxing and full of tension. Aside from my older sister and my mother when I was a child, I’ve never shared a bed with a woman where I needed to be considerate.

In other words, yes… it would be my first time.

That’s not to say what I imagine is going to happen or that I should have any expectation that it will.  But, I’m a man in my mid twenties, and I haven’t the first idea how old Mrs. Thalica is. She’s clearly old enough to be a mother of a seven year old daughter, so she should be older than me by at least a year or two, but that’s only going by logic generally based around laws in developed countries back on Earth.

Aside from my common sense, I don’t rightly know what the actual laws of the land are. I don’t even know if coming into a woman’s room here is a criminal offense.

Calm down, Gard. Breathe. Breathe in… 2… 3… 4… and out… 2… 3… 4…

From behind, a pair of arms wrapped around my body just below my rib cage. I felt a soft cushioning sensation press into my back just beneath my shoulder blades, and I knew immediately that I was not prepared for this activity at all.

“Gar… you’re tense?”

I apologized.

“You don’t have to be nervous.”

“Even if you tell me that, aside from… sharing a bed on occasion with my mother or sister when I was the same age as your children… this would be the first time for me to do so… as an adult, with someone… I see as a woman.”

“You’ve never once warmed the bed of a woman?”

I could only shake my head.

“Then, are you tense because I… have warmed a bed before, with my husband?”

“I’m worried I will disappoint you. Or perhaps… misunderstand something.”

She slid around until she was standing before me.

“When I said warm my bed, I meant just that. Just occupy the place next to me and keep my body warmed. The night I came down to you, I had experienced again a warmth I thought long forgotten. Surely… you wouldn’t tell me that the cold hard lonely nook downstairs would be more desirable than next to someone who can also return a bit of warmth?”

She was trying to put me at ease. It was a sour pill of relief and shame that I swallowed in order to feel confident enough to move forward when she took my hand and led me to the bed. I had taken off my shoes, and she had decided on her own to take my shirt off, as it would be unnecessarily in the way.

I entered into the sheets of her bed and lay down. She, still in her flour-caked frock, began to disrobe before my eyes. I had thought she wouldn’t have undergarments, but I was wrong. Though a bit ragged, there was a thin, tan, and somewhat torn version of a brassiere as well as a similarly thin pair of un-decorative panties in a far better state.

I rudely stared at the body of this beautiful angel. Her skin was youthfully supple, next to no blemishes save for what could be seen from the area of her belly which went to her panties. It looked like some kind of scarring. I had seen it before on my older sister’s stomach as well, since she used to wear only sports bras and elastic band shorts when she would do stomach toning exercises around her house, on the occasions I would visit on the weekends.

What I was looking at was what an inconsiderate man would call the proof of motherhood. They were stretch marks left behind from the burden that having children places on a woman’s body.

“You’re so beautiful.”

The words almost unconsciously spilled from my lips. She was in the process of putting on her pajama-gown, but when I had uttered those words, she had instead left the gown unadorned over her body, and instead draped it over the trunk which held her clothing at the foot of her bed. She, wearing only old worn rags for underwear, joined me in the bed as well.

“Tell me, Gar… what of me is beautiful?”

My hand reached out, but not to anywhere indiscreet. My fingers gently touched a side of her stomach and traced over the markings which were the only blemish on her nearly flawless and sun-tanned skin.

“All of you. Your beautiful blue eyes which are more pleasant to look at than the clear sky at mid-day. Your copper hair, soft and pleasant to the touch. Your naturally sweet fragrance, which I cannot help but savor when your body is close to my own. Your skin, lightly tanned by the sun’s light and supple to the touch. But most of all here,” I answered, feeling the only imperfections visible on her body, “Somehow this is the most beautiful part. The only part that both denies and accentuates your divinity. Proof that an angel descended from heaven and saw even one mortal fit to give her love to.”

Her hand quickly snatched hold of my own, bringing it up to her lips to press against her cheeks which were becoming flush.

“Does this flattery come from the gentleman I have named Gardavan, or the self-professed rogue who named himself Roach that I should be wary of?”

“I would be wary of both, for it isn’t flattery, but a worldly truth obtained by having been allowed to attain your grace. That songs of how wonderful you are have not yet been spread far and wide by the bards each day is a crime to poetry.”

She giggled and then kissed the back of my hand.

“Gar,” She slid under the covers and lay with her back turned to me. The hand of mine she held was never let go, and instead was draped over her stomach, that I might touch her skin more. She shuffled her body until our warm skin met each other and I could feel her entire body sigh in relaxation. “My legs get rather chilly at night. To make sure to rub them well to keep me warm.”

I carefully moved my hand lower until it rested firmly on her tender thigh, caressing it carefully.

“As you wish, Mrs. Thalica.”

My night was spent holding and caressing chastely and tenderly the mostly naked body of my benefactor. Before we drifted to sleep, she talked of wanting to eat many more delicious things from my homeland, and I felt once more a strange peacefulness come over me. Having never experienced it before, and unable to put any words to what it was that I was feeling. There was one thing that was clear to me, whatever this feeling was, transcended any happiness I had ever known in my life thus far.

I was left with only one haunting feeling while we kept each other warm. This was not my home, and she was not my woman. I was an intruder, taking advantage of her hospitality.

I hated myself.

I hated myself for wanting this.

I hated myself, because I knew what the feeling really was, and I was scared to name it.

I wanted to be greedy and make it mine, but I was in no position to do so.

I was a thief in the night right now.

And I wanted to steal the place beside her which belonged to her husband, even though to her, there was naught left of him but a few memories, and three legacies that he ever existed.



“Gardavan… it is time to waken.”

My face was hot. A soft hand stroked my hair and down my back. It felt cool to the touch, soothing me with every pass. I opened my eyes to find my face buried into her chest, the soft fabric that she wore was even noticeable.

“Mrs. Thalica?”

“Come… it’s time to get ready to begin our work.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

I reached up brazenly to stroke her cheek. She responded by giving me a deep kiss. Her body was cool to the touch and I worried all the while we kissed how badly I had failed the one task she had asked of me.

“Yes, from now on you will continue to warm my bed.” She said to me firmly, her skin practically aglow.

“Huh? Aren’t you cold? Your hands… felt cool.”

“That is because your body was as hot as the embers in an oven.”

“Is… that… so?”

“Yes. It was so troublesome to bring myself to waken this morning, so we need to work quickly, it is later than usual."

I caused her trouble after all.

We both exited the bed, and she dressed in her usual working clothes. I was dressed once more in her husband’s clothes, and when ready, we departed downstairs to begin the day’s labor.

“I have decided that tomorrow we will close for a day.”

“Is there a reason for it?” I asked. Since she took me in just over a week ago, we had not closed even once.

“We will visit Zedron, and you will see what you can make of his wares. Do not worry too much about the cost, just get what is needed. I have decided to place my trust in your for making the second kind of bread you suggested.”

She trusted me with that much?

“I will do my best to meet your expectations, Mrs. Thalica.”

I began the usual dough making, while she began stoking the ovens. The children came down, and both of them immediately came to the kitchen, looking a bit… antsy.

“Out with it.” Mrs. Thalica said with a stern tone of voice. It seems she was familiar with her children’s mannerisms.

Both of her children looked at each other and then not to her, but to me. Finally Trev broke the silence.

“Gard, can you make more cookies for us?”

This… was a trap. Along with making thin dough to transform the stew with duck meat we had for Sup yesterday into pot pies for dinner, I had also made sugar cookies. They came out a bit burnt on the bottom, but it’s cookies.

Children and cookies.

I was a child once, so I completely understood. I actually wanted to wait, and make oatmeal raisin cookies for my first attempt, but I also wanted to see if I could make them properly first before committing myself to purchasing anything from Zedron.

It would be a waste if I couldn’t make them correctly.

Mrs. Thalica is a mother. There’s no way I don’t remember the infamous line from my own mother being: You can have cookies after you eat your dinner.

It wasn’t unreasonable to expect the same thing here. Only… her elbow bumped into me.

“You did put a few away yesterday, didn’t you?”

She caved!

“Y-yeah… wrapped them in one of those doilies… right over there.”

She tilted her head and the two children darted over to the doily sitting on top of the wooden box that the unsold bread went inside of. They quickly unwrapped it and with two cookies sitting between their lips, they each brought a cookie over to us as a wise offering. Trevor to his mother and Nefe to me.

Then they just stood there munching on them. I had enough to make about two dozen, and there were about eight left over. It was only because I advised Mrs. Thalica that too many cookies before bed was unwise.

That was the adult in me talking of course. I can think of a certain crème filled cookie that was quite delicious when dunked in a glass of ice cold milk. One time when I was an early teen I had almost eaten a whole package. I paid for it with a massive stomachache and an hour-and-a-half experience in the bathroom some time later.

I thoroughly lied to myself that I was looking out for the children’s well-being. The real reason was that I wanted to see the satisfied look on Mrs. Thalica’s face as she enjoyed the sugary taste of them a second time.

I was able to see exactly what I wanted.

The children devoured the remaining cookies until even the crumbs were gone, and I offered the last remaining one which had been given to me by Nefe, still uneaten, to the woman whose bed I warmed last night.

She accepted it, but not by hand. From my hand to her mouth, she accepted the cookie, taking a bite and leaving me holding the remaining half. It was a cookie that knew the taste of her lips, and I couldn’t possible stand that.

It became a part of me, quickly.

“Mommy, we should sell cookies too!” Nefe suggested, with crumbs sticking to the corner of her mouth.

“Yeah! We can eat… deliver them with the bread and see how many orders we can get after they find out how yum they are!” Trevorkane, face even messier with crumbs than his older sister’s, also agreed.

Mrs. Thalica looked at me and I shrugged helplessly. It was her decision if she wanted to add them to the menu, I would gladly make them if she asked.

She nodded.

“I will speak with Gardavan later on the matter. Now that you’ve gotten what you wanted. Go change and get started.”

““Okay~!”” The children, empowered by sweets, raced upstairs.

She was left shaking her head.

“Worried you spoiled them?” I asked her.

“Not at all. Why shouldn’t I when I have the chance? I… just feel bad I ate yours.”

I laughed.

“I can make plenty more whenever you wish. In fact, I rather hope to make the ones made from oats and raisins. They are my favorite.”

“Gar… Now you are making me wish I had chosen today to close, instead of tomorrow.”

She quickly threw her arms around me and gave me another kiss. It was a short one, and when she pulled away, she was licking her lips. It seems I also… had some crumbs stuck somewhere around my own mouth that she felt the need to clean off of me.

We continued our work. Mrs. Thalica informed her son when he came downstairs, dressed in normal clothes, to let the customers they deliver to know that the bakery would be closed tomorrow.

Nefetina, the spitting image of her mother and the one who usually helped out with the morning cleaning until her younger brother returned with the day’s orders, had nothing to do. The store’s cleanliness had improved drastically since I arrived and eased up the burden somewhat on what Mrs. Thalica had to do each day. So Nefe sat on a stool and just watched for a while.

“Gardavan, are you smart?”

What a question.

“I’d like to think I know many things, but I can’t say for sure that makes me smart. A little bit intelligent, maybe, but smart… I don’t know.”

“Smart and intelligent, aren’t they the same thing?”

“Not at all. You can know a great many things and be intelligent because of it, but even if you are full of knowledge, you may not know how to apply it to a situation which benefits you or others. It’s only when you can do that, can you say confidently that you are smart.”

“So even if I learn a lot, I won’t be smart?”

“Being smart is all about observation. Looking for solutions to things in the least complex way.” I explained to the young miss. “Take for instance the daily orders. It’s not always that we sell every loaf of bread. Some days we sell more, some days we sell yes. If you had a way of marking it down, what amount each customer asks for each day, and then comparing it over time, you would have a good idea of how much you would sell in every day, so that you don’t have too many left over loaves of bread. It will save on the cost of ingredients, and you can control how much profit comes and goes to an extent. Of course, it would mean less bread to donate to the orphanage, but then you could privately make a bit of fresh bread just for them if you wanted to be charitable. A soft and warm freshly baked loaf of bread is much tastier than an old one, isn’t it?”

What I said caught the attention of Mrs. Thalica as well.

“And you are knowledgeable in how to do that?”

“Yes. Inventory control and accounting. I… attended a special school that had that as a subject of learning.”

“Can you teach it to others?” She asked.

“I don’t see why not.” I replied.

“Nefe, how are your maths?” Mrs. Thalica asked her daughter.

“I can count as high as one-hundred one-hundreds!” she proudly answered.

So, ten-thousand. Considering that I hadn’t seen her attend any such thing as school, that’s rather impressive.

“Can you do addition and take-away with numbers, Nefe? If I have six cookies, and you eat four, how many are left for your brother and mother to eat?”

She began calculating on her little fingers, finally holding up the successful sign of universal peace.


“Then, how about something a tiny bit harder? Are you up for it?”


“Okay. Let’s say you and your brother want to make sure you each have a cookie to eat in the morning every day, for seven days. How many cookies would I need to make today, so you can have enough?”

“Um… two cookies… and seven days…?”

I could watch her fingers as she counted strangely. She used two fingers and began getting confused as she surpassed the number of fingers used to calculate the amount of cookies which exceeded them by four.

“A teacher might say the math for that question was two times seven. How about instead of counting each cookie individually, you count by two’s?”

I suck out one sticky, dough-caked hand and began raising and lowering fingers using different ways of counting using the multiplication tables I had memorized as a child.

“Two cookies a day, seven days. Use each finger as two cookies, and count seven times. Two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve…”


“Right. Two times seven is fourteen. However you can flip that around and do it easier if you can commit some numbers to memory. For instance…”

I began reciting the times table for the number seven. It only took two fingers to reach the same number, though she was impressed when I went all the way to seventy on one hand alone.

“Do you get it?”

She nodded.

“But what are the numbers I have to memorize?”

While Mrs. Thalica handled the baking of the bread, I began an impromptu math lesson with her daughter about times tables. In no time at all she had figured out how, though she did stumble a bit on actually getting the numbers right. She had a rough time particularly on her nines. At the least, up until her fives, and provided the numbers weren’t double digits with the exception of ten itself, she had it down quickly.

“Your mom here can bake twelve loaves of bread every thirty minutes. We have two ovens and can make two batches in each oven every bell. The store is open for seven to eight bells. About how many loaves can we cook each day we are open? Rather than giving me the answer, can you tell me how to create that equation?”


“An equation is the mathematical problem in number form only. Like two times two, or five plus three plus eight.”

“Ah.. um… Twelve loaves… but two ovens… that’s… twelve and twelve… or two times twelve. Then it’s two times an hour that they can be made… and then seven hours…”

“So, two times twelve times two times seven?”

“Very good. That’s correct. There are times where certain things need to be multiplied in order to make sure it’s correct, though. In my homeland they called them parenthesis. Basically it separated parts of the equation which needed to be solved separately before being solved at once. For instance, the first parenthesis would go to the amount of loaves which could be baked at one time in each oven. Two times twelve. Then the second which would be how many times each bell, which in this case is two times seven or two times eight. Then your final equation would be something like two times twelve which equals twenty-four. Then you multiply those two, twenty four times fourteen to get your answer. It’s easier to remember two bigger numbers than four smaller ones. But that doesn’t always apply when trying to calculate it in your mind.”

“Yeah, that’s too hard for me.”

“It just depends on the effort you are willing to put in to learn it. Along the way you also pick up tricks to help you. Even I would have trouble solving this problem in my head. Twenty-for times fourteen. But twenty five time fifteen, is easy since I can do it by fives. Twenty-five times fifteen is three hundred and seventy five. Then we need to take away the number we borrowed to make it easy, which was one full times each number. So three-hundred seventy-five take away twenty five is three hundred fifty. Then take away fourteen more is three hundred and thirty six.”

“…we make that much bread?”

“Yes, and at one copper every two loaves for three hundred and thirty six, for which this equation is a part of mathematics called division… sort of a mirror to multiplication like how take-aways are to addition, you can simply break that number in half since it ends in an even number and we’re dividing by twos. Half of three hundred is one hundred fifty. Half of thirty six is eighteen. Added together one hundred fifty and eighteen is one hundred sixty-eight. That’s how many copper coins is earned a day provided every loaf was baked and every loaf was sold without a single problem.”

“let’s see, we have one hundred sixty-eight copper coins, and Mrs. Thalica here taught me how to count coins recently, let’s see how many silver that is in total, shall we? Do you want to try it?”

“It’s one hundred sixty eight and…?”

“This is division, it’s like take-aways, but the opposite of multiplication. It’s about shrinking a number. One hundred sixty-eight divided by twelve. Or, how many times can you take twelve from that number? There are times you won’t be able to take a whole amount away, what’s left is called a remainder or a fraction."

She shook her head. I guess the lesson was too advance.

However there was one party who was curious as to the answer. Mrs. Thalica herself.

“And how many silvers is it, Gardavan?”

I quickly calculated, providing the answer “Fourteen silver coins.”

“Mommy… that’s a lot of money.” Nefe said with wide eyes.

“It may seem so, but ingredients have to be bought. Sacks of flour, oil, eggs, sugar… those fourteen silver coins a day is much less when everything is accounted for.” I explained. This math lesson soon devolved into one of economics for Nefetina… and even Mrs. Thalica.

The fact is, that number is significantly less that. We barely make one-hundred fifty loaves a day. I was only giving the answer in a perfect set of conditions. The real amount was closer to five silver coins a day. Less the cost of ingredients each day, her profit margin was about one silver and three copper coins each day. And she paid me two of those each day I’ve been here, and there were about ten to fifteen loaves which went unsold on the slowest days.

She really didn’t lie when she said she couldn’t afford to pay me more than that. Furthermore, this is why meat was a huge luxury for her and the children.

This is also something I wanted to improve for her and them.

I wanted to start by taking her out of daily poverty.

I was determined.

She shared the warmth of her bed with a nobody like me lost in this world centuries behind my own. I would at least make it so they could eat meat when they wanted, and could have the things they desired, education for the children included.

I wanted to aim big.

One gold piece a day in sales.

It would buy her a better pair of undergarments.

She deserved to have nice things. I had no other skills, so I would put what knowledge I had to use for this family. Because they were what was most important to her, and I wanted her to be happy.

Because that was what I learned as a child that the role of a man should be. A man is a provider, and with the absence of the husband and father to this family, they have not been provided for. I couldn’t let that continue. For as long as I was welcome here… I would remain devoted to Mrs. Thalica.