Memories and Maladies


14th of Triabra, 27AE

Dakrithel was a painter, thinly built, wavy brown hair, with an awkward affinity for the arts. Ember was, well, a number of things, finding each profession more loathsome than the last, but she found joy in simplicity and beauty. She had dark, curly hair, with a short, athletic build. The two had lived a happy life together, mostly.

Every year, on their anniversary, they held a tradition of buying each other a number of gifts. They tried not to go over the top with exorbitant and lavish purchases, but more often than not it became an expensive season. Tiny gifts would suffice, sometimes useful, other times funny, and oftentimes quite meaningless; it was the thought that counted most, and thoughts were what made gifts special.

You see, every gift comes with a story. Every gift involves some thought or intention. They would share the gifts and then laugh or reminisce about the thoughts behind their purchasing them. Sometimes the stories would involve how they thought the gift up, or how embarrassing their conversation was with the clerk upon purchasing certain items, or even about how difficult it was to hide the gifts from each other until the day of. She enjoyed wrapping the gifts, while he preferred merely pulling them out of a bag.

And each year they would weigh the value, both sentimentally and thoughtfully, of the combined bounty of their gifts, thus making contest of who could come up with the better surprise.

Not all gifts needed to be purchased, however. Some were crafted. Some were grown. One year Dakrithel’s only gift to Ember was a bouquet of flowers: firepetals, Aelin smiles, and lilypeons; all of her favorites. He won that year. The reason being he just wasn’t the type of man to ever get a girl flowers, saying it was too clichéd and meaningless, a point she argued and chided him over for many years to come. Upon their ninth anniversary, he had grown flowers for her, in secret, in a neighbor’s yard, and she loved them.

For their tenth anniversary Dakrithel chose to make something special for Ember’s final gift. He decided the story he wished to tell was one they had shared long ago. He pulled out his creation from the bag: a green crocodile, made from stiff cane fibers weaved and folded together. He painted it, gave it a face, and was quite happy with his construction.

“What’s this?” Ember asked excitedly.

“A crocodile,” he said. “Bring back any memories?”

“Uhh,” she said, racking her brain for memories of crocodiles. “No, not that I can think of.”

“Think way back,” he said, the grin on his face masking his growing disappointment.

“Okay,” Ember said. She looked up at the ceiling, twiddled her fingers, and bit her lower lip, all proof that she was thinking very hard. “I’ve got nothing.”

Dakrithel’s smile slipped. “Alright. D’you remember our first date?”

“At the Ruins of Velundane Museum?” She asked, now truly perplexed.

“No, no. Before that. Before we even knew we were courting.”

“Your mother seemed to know we were,” she added. “But I’m sorry, I honestly don’t remember what you’re talking about.”

“Enasembra the 8th?” Dakrithel asked. “The 15th year of the Second Age?” ‘This surely will jog her memory,’ he thought.

“Why do you even remember that?” she asked, now growing defensive about having no memory at all as to what he was referring.

“When you were a baker?” he said, growing desperate for a spark to light.

“I still bake!” Ember exclaimed, teasing him. “I baked you that cake, didn’t I?” she said, pointing out the half eaten cake on the table.

“When you were a baker at the Large Red Bakery,” he said at last. The Large Red Bakery was one of her many previous occupations over the years.

“Oh!” She said, finally getting it, sort of. “I just don’t see how that night has anything to with a crocodile.”

Dakrithel sighed. “Alright, I’ll start from the beginning.” And so he told his tale. She didn’t interrupt. She merely listened, smiled and laughed.

“This was back in Westriff. I had seen you only a few times prior. We met through friends and, after a brief correspondence, I learned you worked at the Large Red Bakery down on the corner of Hafalass and Steelboot.

“Well, after I finished work one day, I decided to visit you. I think we both had an understanding about our feelings towards one another at that point, so I wanted to finally voice my feelings to you. It turned out that I was very unceremonious with my timing. The owner of the bakery had just left and you had, just minutes prior to my arrival, closed up shop.

“I knocked on the window, and saw you jump with a start, broom in hand. You smiled and opened up for me. You were actually getting a head start on baking cookies for the next day, and you asked if I could help. I had never baked before, a point that seemed to amuse you. Needless to say, many cookies were burnt that night, and even more came out in odd shapes.

“But we talked. And we talked. And did I mention we did a lot of talking? Hours went by. We spoke of our lives, our hobbies, and our passions. We laughed and smiled, and got to know one another on a level we didn’t expect to so quickly. I brought up how, yes, my mother assumed we were a couple thanks to gossip through the bramblevine. We spoke in length of how you were planning a prolonged trip alone to Guyvara for a charity effort, something that stood out to me as quite brave for a young girl like you had been.

“Little did I know you were trying to get rid of me by saying, “I don’t know when I’ll be back, so maybe we shouldn’t start anything serious.” But by that point I had already realized I found my wife to be. I said simply, “I can wait.” I’ll never forget the look of speechlessness on your face.

“To make a long story short, at one point during the evening you made for me a miniature crocodile molded from parchment paper. I placed it atop the counter, next to a plate of cookies, thinking it playful and funny.

“I used the restroom in the back of the shop, which doubled as a storage closet – a fact I thought was really unsanitary for a bakery. At that highly inopportune time, the store owner walked in; do you remember her? She was furious at you for keeping the store open so late. We hadn’t known this until after the fact, but she had been watching us talking at length through the windows. She began shooing you out of the store so that she could lock up.

“All this while I was stuck waiting for an appropriate time to come out of the closet/bathroom. There was none. Eventually I had to come out, attempt an explanation and an apology, but nearly got kicked, literally, out of the shop. It was incredibly embarrassing, for both of us. And she kept going off about the “stupid crocodile” on display.

“That night, we got to know more of each other than any other single night, well, save for our wedding night. But you know what I mean. It’s one of my fondest memories. It’s also the night I got you fired.”

“I was thinking,” said Dakrithel, “that we should name this crocodile Malady, for all the trouble it caused.”

“I think that’s a great name. Thank you.” She kissed him deeply, remembering all too well the night he told tale of.

Ember had a similar gift up her sleeve though. When it was her turn to share her final surprise, she pulled out an old coin, with a deep groove down its face. She smiled, knowing it was a good one.

“A coin?” he asked.

Her smile faltered. “Don’t you remember?”

Prompt taken from the Daily Fantasy Writing Prompt, March 14, 2016.