Bitter 237

Once she’d finished making changes to the robe, Britta felt compelled to do the rest of the gear so it all matched. She was already over her set time, but it was a self-imposed limit. A little longer wouldn’t make that much of a difference.

It had taken her a little under two hours to do the robe. Now she knew what to do, and how to do it, the rest should take considerably less time. She told herself.

Her cloak was the main thing. The other pieces were all much smaller and would only require a bit of tweaking here and there.

It was oddly relaxing and absorbing in a way the rest of the game wasn’t. Perhaps she was playing the game all wrong. She could set up a small shop and sell bespoke items to wealthy NPCs. She smiled to herself at the idea of inhabiting a cutting-edge augmented reality to do a bit of needlework.

She was much more determined to do things correctly, and to an acceptable standard when it came to sewing. She could feel herself getting more accurate as she worked the material between her fingers. Was the game really making her a better seamstress?

It was another two hours before she was satisfied. So much for her discipline. Of all the things that might have tempted her to forsake her carefully planned schedule, she wouldn’t have guessed sewing would have been the thing to turn her head.

She thought the better she’d get, the quicker it would be, but her increase in skill was combined with a greater awareness of mistakes. The needle in her hand was bigger than what she was used to, but it moved swiftly, the glinting metal dancing with a nimbleness she could never achieve in real life. She hardly noticed the time go by, it was more important to get it just the way she wanted.

She put the outfit on and looked down at herself. There wasn’t a mirror in the room, but she didn’t need one. She cast Magic Mirror and touched her own hand to make a copy of herself.

The new spell was an upgrade of Mirror, the only real difference, as far as she’d been able to work out, was that she could tell her copies what to do. Even inanimate objects could be told to move around. They still couldn’t make any sound, though.

She told the copy of herself to turn around so she could get a better look at the outfit. She immediately saw more adjustments that needed to be made.

When she finally logged out, she was exhausted. She’d been fine when she’d been working away, but the moment she stopped, her strength left her all in one go.

She took off the helmet and lay in the dark, drained but pleased. She had also gained another 250 XP, which was a nice bonus. Perhaps she should take up a few more arts and crafts. A black belt in knitting was bound to come in useful.

She noticed she was less sweaty than usual. Did that mean being less active in the game directly correlated with perspiring in real life? It didn’t make much sense, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t true.

She hadn’t managed to visit Dennis in the post office like she’d planned, but that was okay. She had the whole weekend to sort that out. She got changed, her body limp, but her mind racing.

There were bits of her new look she really liked, others she felt less sure of. As her technique improved, her standards rose, making her want to go back and make things better. It was a bit of a never-ending cycle. Until she became an expert, of course.

The next day at school she was very tired. She couldn’t stop yawning in social studies and barely paid attention.

“Can you stop doing that?” asked Rashida, also yawning. “It’s contagious.” She yawned again and covered her mouth. “And stop staring at me like a heartbroken lover. I know I am the woman of your dreams, but I cannot return your feelings.”

“Sorry.” Britta had been examining the delicate embroidery around the edges of Rashida’s hijab. “How do they do that? It’s so pretty.” She reached out to touch it, and received a smack on the hand.

“Don’t touch what you can’t afford.”

“Are you talking about the hijab or…”

“It’s a blanket statement. Talk to me again when you’re earning over 100K a year.”

“That’s not very romantic,” said Britta.

Rashida shook her head. “You can fall in love after you establish a solid financial foundation. Trust me, a long-term relationship is much easier to maintain when you can afford central heating.”

Britta smiled at her friend’s pragmatic nature. “Do you really think love has a cash value, Rashida?”

“As long as you have someone interested in buying, yes. More than one if you want to push up prices.”

“Isn’t that prostitution?”

“Prostitutes don’t sell love,” said Rashida.

Britta was relieved to finally get home. It had been a tough day and she was glad it was over. The weekend stretched out ahead of her and she could do whatever she wanted, for however long she wanted.

After dinner, she sorted out her schoolwork—all up to date—and prepared herself for a long session in the game. She wanted to see Dennis, try to get hold of her shade, go have dinner with the Mayor, and do all that without getting cornered by either the dwarves or the Garbolum family thugs. There was a lot to do.

She lay on the bed with the helmet resting on her stomach. She closed her eyes to get herself in the right mental state, and fell asleep.

When she opened her eyes again, it was morning.

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