Holiday Shopping

Saturday Market 
Lila listened, mostly enraptured. She kept her eyes on him, whether he looked away or made eye contact, nodding, and adding an "mhm" or "Oh, wow!" ash he spoke. When he was finished, touching his wrist, she did take it as an old injury. She didn't want to hear about a snapped wrist, nor did she want to think of her friend injured, so she didn't ask about it. She nodded when he finished.

"Out of all the circus skills, circus skill the right word? I didn't think juggling was dangerous, unless you were juggling chainsaws or something." It was their turn in line, and Lila motioned for Charlie to order first. She used the opportunity to look around at the others around them for the first time. Her attention had mostly been on Charlie and getting to know him better.

“Circus Arts,” Charlie corrected without malice. Most people were unfamiliar with the term unless they signed their child up for lessons, and she was correct that skills were involved. It was a reasonable guess.

She also wasn’t wrong about juggling as occupying one of the lesser danger tiers. Juggling was more akin to plate-spinning, devil sticks, and Diablo – feats which involved dexterity but required little athletic ability beyond manipulating the objects and hand-eye coordination. It certainly wasn’t knife-throwing or fire-eating or complex acrobatics which the popular imagination often conjured when thinking about the circus. Juggling on its own wasn’t as risky as the trapeze, or the tightrope, or utilizing a rolling globe, although one could incorporate that into the act. Still, every feat brought a degree of risk, which was why practice and training were essential.

“You can’t break your back or leg the way you can with some of it, but you’ve still got to be careful.” His other thoughts on the topic were interrupted by their arrival at the front of the line and the barista asking for their order. He glanced at Lila, happy to let her go first, but with her gesture, he took his turn. “I’ll have a medium hot chocolate. And-”

No, he wouldn’t ask for that with an audience. Instead, he finished after the hesitation, “No whipped cream.” His hand reached into his bag to retrieve his wallet. “Lila? My treat.”

Circus Arts, she internally corrected herself. She'd have to remember that. She didn't want Charlie to think she wasn't listening to him. She nodded as he warned her about the dangers of juggling. She found it incredibly endearing, how serious he was about his skill. She wanted to reach out and pat his arm, but the way he responded with the hug told her he wouldn't like that.

She thought nothing of his request for no whipped cream, and wondered if he thought no whipped cream being too picky. When she worked at McDonald's as a teenager, she'd met someone who wanted much worse than that. At the current store she worked at, she'd heard much worse. She didn't mention it, though she did feel surprised when he offered to pay for her.

"Are you sure? Thanks!" she said, looking at the worker.

"Medium cherry slush, please."

The worker was quick, getting them what they ordered, and soon Lila had her cherry slush in her hands. She took a sampling sip, nodding her hand as she gave the worker a thumbs up in thanks. She walked away with Charlie, sipping on her drink, careful to not give herself a brain freeze.

"So, we've hit the plushie booth, we still need jewelry, and some kind of notebook."

Charlie passed over a $20 bill, and then stuffed several of the remaining dollars of change into the tip jar. Empathy for those working outside in the thick of the crowd, or simply the generosity of the holiday season, one could say. He thanked the cashier as his hot chocolate was passed over, merely holding the cup between both hands for the warmth to pass through his gloves. Too hot to sip, but not so scalding that two layers might burn his fingertips.

“And something Portland for your dad, right? I thought I saw a booth selling hats on the way here.”

It wouldn’t be too difficult to retrace their steps, if she wanted to double back to examine the hats. Or to see whether they also sold tee shirts.

“Otherwise…do you want to start with notebooks first? To give ourselves a break from jewelry?”

Charlie brought the cup to his face, letting the steam rise to his chin and warm his skin. The rich chocolate aroma tickled his nostrils, tempting him to take that first welcome sip, but he pulled on all of his willpower to resist. Not yet, not unless he wanted to scald his tongue and have to lecture with a lisp for Monday’s classes.

Fuck, my dad! "Thanks for reminding me, I completely forgot." She sighed, wondering exactly what she was going to do for that.

"If we don't find something, I think a hat is the way to go. Feels kind of cheap, but this is pretty much my only real day off." She glanced around, not quite sure if there was anyone actually selling more than a regular spiral notebook. She wanted something preferably hand-bound.

"So there was this YouTuber who does notebook covers made out of Sculpey clay. She doesn't sell her stuff, but if I can find something cool like that, I think I'd be doing good."

She took a few sips from her drink, glancing around as she did so. No one was paying much attention to them, so it was easy for her to focus solely on Charlie. "It looks like a Grimoire, which is so cool. Not that I've seen many grimoires, just the one my ex had. Or...kind of one? She liked doing her own spells and stuff. Witchy stuff," she explained, not understanding the irony of who she was talking to. Had she known, she would've kept her mouth shut about that.

The steam tickled his nose, combating the chill in the air that brushed across his cheeks and lips. From behind the cup, he offered her a small smile, his happy to help without speaking the words aloud. It could be difficult to keep track of all of the gifts to buy when having to shop all at once, instead of spreading the items across the surface of a table to inventory what she had.

Well, they’d make the most of it today.

“If we can’t find something here, we could hit one of the museums later? The Historical Society probably has something.”

Charlie finally brought the cocoa to his lips, taking the first deeply satisfying sip. It would have been better with melted marshmallows, but he could rectify that the next time he made a cup at home.

In the midst of her talking about notebook covers and Sculpey clay was the admission about her ex being a girl, which he filed away for later to make sure he avoided misgendering anyone, or on the off-chance she wanted help finding a date, he knew who to look for. That mattered less than the topic of grimoires and “witchy stuff” which he doubted meant actual magic given that Lila described her ex as doing this on her own.

Most magic required a coven, and a coven required a minimum of five members. This had been drilled into his head from the youngest age alongside the importance of looking both ways before crossing the street and the blessing of the challah on Shabbat.

Charlie’s expression didn’t betray any familiarity with the subject or his thoughts. He took another sip of hot chocolate and asked, “Like the stuff they sell at Hot Topic? There was a girl back in middle school into that. She, uh, tried to cast ‘love spells’ on the popular guys. Never worked.”

"The museum is a good idea," she agreed. It was better than nothing. They'd have plenty of things that said 'Portland' on them, and surely something interesting on one of the hats. Lila had never been too much into history, she was more of an arts and science museum kind of gal, but if Charlie was there, she'd do it. She realized she was beginning to like Charlie quite a bit, and felt grateful that she'd found someone with whom she got along with. Most of the women she worked with at work were older, and while some of them were nice enough, she didn't like making friends from work. When things got tense, she didn't want to lose friends over something the managers did. She did wish she could fine some friends who were women, though. She didn't want to put so much pressure onto Charlie, who always looked like he could be knocked down by the slightest conflict.

Lila nodded. "Yeah, she liked doing tarot and 'spells' to make me feel better. It was sweet, and if I let myself believe it, I did feel better. It was kind of a messy breakup. We were both seventeen, neither of us wanted to come out to our parents, and she went away to college. We had to sort through a lot of stuff and grow up before we could really be together. Once we matured, we just didn't see each other that way," she shrugged. She made at face at 'love spells.'

"Those are so gross," she said. "Why would you want to make someone love you? If you're going to put energy into something, I'd rather put my energy towards...I dunno, not love spells. Maybe something to keep my plants from dying."

Lila had a lot more to say about love spells. The trope that it was romantic in movies and shows(looking at you, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and made the girl fall in love with you for being willing to manipulate their feelings. She didn't find it romantic, she found it...kind of rapey. She'd rather someone love her genuinely.

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