She held herself exceedingly still against the back counter until the tickle in her throat settled into a mild, throat-clearing cough. She was hardly surprised that the merchant was adept at navigating her pantry from the get-go: the order of her kitchen was impeccable; copper pots, iron pans, and sterling cooking implements dangled resplendently from the walls, arranged in multi-tiered rows of increasing size and metallurgical composition.
However little credit she gave Nisa for her ability to sort through the nuances of her cabinets, Ingram was quite impressed by the woman's efficiency at cracking open the pecans. The shells were brittle and liable to splinter to tiny, glass-like pieces if they were split the wrong way. Rarely did she ever feel so pleased to watch another person accomplish a task she had intended to finish herself, but Nisa had a knack for instilling confidence and calm in every domain of her life; so much so that during the merchant's previous visits she had even resorted to inventing chores and side projects just so they could spend time in one another's company, engaged side-by-side in solemn, patient work around the castle.
It was then Nisa chanced to speak, "It might be best to take a break at some point."
"No," she said at once. A silence descended on the room, interrupted by the popping sound of burst shells. Ingram reinstalled herself by the wood-burning stove, stubbornly firm in he...
... middle of paper ...
...still manage to say the wrong thing nearly ninety percent of the time. Thus, with an edgewise glance at her friend to gauge her reaction, she evaded the present subject and all its prickly implications of needless rest and instead turned the talk to pleasanter imaginings of the future, "Nisa, I may follow you the next time you leave town, since you seem to be the only competent person in the world who listens to my genius-like ideas." Long had she wanted to traverse the continents and explore the ceaselessly changing landscapes therein, but she loathed the idea of travelling accompanied, as some cumbersome accessory to Nisa's nomadic business. For a calculated space of time, she let the idea play out in the merchant's mind; then she had to ask, "Is it true that there are roads made of dirt? Has no one heard of soap? Soap is an equally viable road-building material."
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