Bitter 233

Even though she had sensibly and calmly come to the conclusion that she should forget about the lost scroll and move on, it was hard to stop thinking about it. Britta spent the next day at school randomly making exasperated huffs and grunts as the memory of putting the package in her jacket pocket flitted through her mind.

She would shake it off, or push the thoughts away with a slight shudder, but they kept coming back.

It was annoying, but she assumed she would get over it eventually. Her life was full of instances that made her shiver with embarrassment when they snuck up on her, but for the most part they remained in the dark corners of her mind where they’d been banished to.

When she got home, she sorted out her schoolwork, made sure she was ahead of schedule on all subjects, and had something to eat.

“I went to the Auction House,” said Dad over dinner. “See if there were any scrolls up for sale.”

“Yes?” said Britta. “How much?”

“No buyout price, just bids. It was up to twelve silver.”

That didn’t sound like very much, even if it was only the start of the bidding process. Perhaps it wasn’t as valuable as she thought. Which was both a consolation and an annoyance. Good that she wouldn’t lose out all that much, but why did she get a crappy reward when Dad got something really cool?

Then again, even twelve silver coins would have come in useful.

She gave herself another hour in the game. Should she waste time looking for the scroll? For all she knew, the one in the Auction House was hers, being sold by whoever found it.

Once she was in-game, she went to the post office, just to have a quick look. It was unlikely, but maybe her stuff would still be there. It was a game, that sort of thing could happen.

There was no sign of any of her gear in the post office. She got in line and asked Dennis if anything had been handed in for her. The parcel still had her name on it, so it might have gone back into the system. He informed her he had nothing for her. There wasn’t even a lost and found box for her to rummage through.

Disappointed, she left. It was the outcome she’d expected, but it was better to know for sure, and then draw a line under it. Move on.

The important thing, she told herself, was to get better at making snap decisions.

She was fine when she had time to think things over and work out a plan, but that wasn’t always possible. Sometimes, you had to make the choice without thinking at all. And if it was the wrong choice, you had to not dwell on it and take the necessary steps to keep going.

Easier said than done. She’d been doing nothing but dwelling since she’d messed up. It would make for a very slow and depressing gaming experience if she reacted like this to mistakes she might make. She was pretty sure there’d be more.

The even better thing to do was to get better at making the right call. If she didn’t mess up, she wouldn’t have to waste any time at all. Not on dwelling, and not on trying not to dwell. And the only way to do that was get more experience at making off the cuff decisions, and probably a lot more mistakes.

There was part of her that suspected her intention to make instant calls with no deliberation would go badly wrong, but it wasn’t like she’d end up dead. Not for very long.

Her next port of call was the guard house. She hadn’t seen or even spoken to Stan in a while, and she was curious about how he was doing. She bought some fruit for him because that’s what you took people who were in hospital. She had no idea what an appropriate gift for someone in prison was.

There were people waiting for visiting time. The exact same people as last time, it looked like. As soon as she sat down, they were called to go into the yard.

She wasn’t sure when visiting times were. There was no clock and no sign. It felt like it happened when she got there. Was that how it worked? Once she set up an appointment, it triggered when she got there? Would her dinner date with the Mayor work the same way?

The families took their seats in the yard and waited for the prisoners to be brought in. The large heavy door on the far side was pushed open and they filed out, chains binding their hand and feet.

Stan was in the middle of the group. He looked different. A bit bigger, maybe. It was hard to be certain with all the tattoos on his arms.

“Did you do those yourself?” she asked.

“Pretty cool, huh?”

She wasn’t sure. There were numerous designs and insignia along both forearms. Did he have more on his chest and back? At least he didn’t have any on his face.

“Have you been working out?”

“Yeah. Thanks for noticing. They’ve got all these side quests you can only do here. It’s pretty fun. I’ve also got my cooking proficiency up to intermediate. I might open a bistro when I get out.”

“Sounds nice,” said Britta. She leaned closer. “I have a way to get you out.”

He raised his manacled hands. “No, no. Let’s not do anything rash.”

It was going to be difficult to hone her impulsive decision-making skills if Stan was going to push in the other direction.

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