Two young women sit down for a date, and after a quick, assessing look I signal to Meristo. I’ll take over this table.
One woman is smiling a lot, clearly excited and hopeful.
The other is so nervous she blushes and stammers with every sentence, which makes the first woman fret, which makes the second more anxious. She’s flushed and sweating, and I will not be able to stand idly by and watch this for more than a minute.
“You are such a meddler,” Meristo says to me with a smirk as he returns to the counter.
“Proper service is always meddlesome,” I say. “It should simply be invisible as well.”
He laughs. “Whatever you say, boss. So?”
“Let them know we’ll be with them shortly, and hold the front for a minute.”
I take off to the back with a tea tray, prepped with cups, pitcher, spoons, lemon and honey, and no actual tea steeping.
“Lorwyn, I need this tea ice-steeped, fast,” I say.
“A customer who’s nervously sweating herself into such a state she’s made herself too self-conscious to function on her date. It hurts to watch, and I think if she can cool off for a moment she’ll calm down.”
“If she’s too nervous to cope, maybe she shouldn’t date this person,” Lorwyn says.
“My own experience suggests chronic awkwardness in such situations is not an insurmountable obstacle,” I say dryly. “Merely incredibly uncomfortable for all concerned, which in this case includes me. I don’t see why I should have to endure this awkwardness when for once I’m not the problem.”
Lorwyn rolls her eyes. “So you think I’ll take pity on you so you can take pity on her. I see what you did there.”
I toss her a satchet of tea. “I was thinking this one.”
“Jeriot fronds?” she asks. “Yeah, okay, I’ve never ice-steeped this one. I’m curious. Give me a minute.”
“Have you ever ice-steeped with witchcraft before?”
“You wouldn’t ask that if you’d experienced a summer in Sayorsen,” Lorwyn says. “I’ve got this.”
The ice-steeped tea draws out the complex flavor of the jeriot fronds without shocking the green leaves into bitterness. It may be my preferred way to brew this blend from now on.
“The jeriot fronds give this tea a unique property,” I explain to the couple after they’ve each sipped. I can practically see the nervous woman taking deep, calming breaths. “Have you noticed it?”
“Peaches!” her companion exclaims. “It’s a light scent, but one of my favorites. How lovely.”
“I’m glad you like it, because that will be with you for the next few hours,” I say. “Each person who drinks it smells a different scent, but they’re always sweet ones, and it masks anything remotely unpleasant.”
The nervous woman blinks rapidly a few times, and then a smile breaks across her face. I bow my head slightly, and when her companion turns to test whether the scent comes from everywhere, she mouths Thank you at me fervently.
I bow and take my leave. They cool off, sharing the pitcher, each relaxed and smiling and one easily solved complication managed.
“You know, I’ve never considered this a good idea before,” Meristo says, “but maybe I should bring my dates here after all.”
“Somehow,” I say dryly as he grins, “I suspect you can manage without my assistance.”
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