Rorenfruit Sludge

I’m barely in time to steady the tray Meristo has nearly spilled onto a customer’s head. This isn’t his first near-disaster born out of clumsiness and distraction today, and he’s clearly not going to improve. I silently motion for him to follow me to the back, and he comes, head bowed like Iskielo after a scolding.

Something is definitely off.

When the door shuts behind us, he says immediately, “I’m so sorry, Miyara.”

At least he’s not pretending everything is fine. “What in the world is going on?”

“Everything,” Meristo groans. “My sister is organizing this event, and she’s conscripted everyone into being part of the preparations. She knows my schedule, so I can’t escape, but if I even walk into the house I get put to work. But I have exams coming up, and…” He sighs. “Let’s just say my marks are not where they should be and leave it at that. I need to study.”

“Can’t you just tell your sister that?”

Meristo shudders. “Definitely not. I can’t express how bad that would make my life in the long run.”

“So instead you’re not sleeping.” I sigh. “How long has this been going on?”

“Three days, I guess? I’m sorry,” he says again. “I know you needed me to work today since we have to deal with this huge shipment before the next one comes in, and honestly…” His ears redden. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I keep thinking about studying. It’s quiet enough here I can actually think. Please don’t send me home.”

“I won’t,” I say, watching him narrowly as I think. “But you can’t work like this.”

“I know,” he says. “I’m sorry.”

“Fewer apologies, more solutions,” I murmur, and then call, “Iskielo! I’m going to swap you and Meristo for the afternoon. Mind the front, please.”

“Oh thank the spirits, I thought my arms were going to fall off,” Iskielo says, rushing past me before I can change my mind.

“I’m not sure I can handle much of this without making a mess, Miyara,” Meristo says.

“Not in your current state,” I say. “But now that Iskielo is safely occupied elsewhere, we can address that. Lorwyn?”

“Hmm?”

“We have an emergency, and I’m taking pity on Meristo,” I say. “Two slops of rorenfruit sludge?”

She looks at him sharply and frowns, reaching onto her shelf for a jar that was invisible until she touches it.

Meristo is too tired to notice, which causes her to nod. “He’s skinny,” she says critically.

“But already exhausted,” I point out.

“That just means it’ll hit him harder.”

“Yes. That’s why I’m not suggesting more. He has the muscle from all the lifting he does here.”

“Excuse me,” Meristo says, “what is rorenfruit sludge, exactly, and why don’t I know?”

“If Talmeri ever asks, we don’t have any, because I couldn’t make a workable tea out of it despite her nagging,” Lorwyn says, readying a teapot. “The reality is I could, but it’s so potent I refuse to let it be served commercially, where someone else could brew it.”

“I feel like I should be worried,” he says.

“Rorenfruit sludge will make you feel the most energetic and focused you’ve ever been,” I explain. “It’s not addicting, but it needs to be handled so carefully we felt in good conscience we couldn’t casually introduce something like this into the market. This is an emergency, and after today you will behave as though it doesn’t exist. Are we clear?”

“Not exactly, but I’ll go with it,” Meristo says.

“You’ll have to help keep an eye on him,” Lorwyn tells me, passing him a small cup.

“I will. Meristo, before you drink, this is the agreement: you will move all the boxes back here where they need to go first. Once you’re done, use the remainder of your shift to study.”

All the boxes? Miyara, I couldn’t do that in two whole shifts, let alone—”

“Do you understand the order of priorities?” I press.

“Yes, fine, spirits,” he says, and downs the tea in one gulp.

And stumbles back a step.

“Whoa,” he says, eyes widening. “Whoa.”

“Boxes first,” I say, and he springs into action.

I stay with him as a guide, sending Lorwyn to check on Iskielo, as Meristo gets a handle on his newfound energy. But about the time he has, he’s finished.

In less than an hour.

“No wonder you don’t serve this,” he exclaims. “No one would drink anything else! This is…”

“You have your notes?” I ask him.

He rushes me, pulling me into an abrupt and tight hug. “Yes. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

“This is a one-time emergency,” I wheeze with a smile. “Never again.”

“I promise,” he says. “You’re the best, Miyara.”


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2 thoughts on “Rorenfruit Sludge

  1. This sentence is missing an ‘I’

    “ She knows my schedule, so I can’t escape, but if even walk into the house I get put to work.“

    Also thank you for writing, this story makes me happy.

    Like

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