“Philo! Wake up! Your girlfriend is here!” Chloe bounced up and down on the bed, waking Philo from a deep and, for once, restful sleep.
“She’s not my girlfriend. She’s your friend.” Philo muttered as Chloe jumped to the floor. He pulled his tunic over his head, rubbing sleep from his eyes.
“That’s not what Aunt says. She says-”
“Phi!” Ghadana giggled and threw her weight into a running hug that almost knocked them both over, “Remember me yet?”
“No! You know I don’t!” Philo said angrily, pushing her away. “And stop doing that! You’re giving people the wrong idea. And my name is Philo. P-H-I-L-O! Philo!”
Ghadana shrugged and skipped out of the room. “Oh, Phi! Don’t be such a baby!” She called over her shoulder.
Glaring after her, Philo pulled his shoes on, “Stop your snickering, Chloe, and let’s go before you’re late for school.”
“I still don’t think its fair that you get to miss school while I still have to go.”
“It’s your first day! Stop whining and move.”
“But not even Dana will be there! Her mother is keeping her home now too!” Chloe pouted, clearly upset that her best friend, who was a full year older than her, would not be attending the boring lessons at school anymore.
“Next year you and Ghadana will be out of school. Together. Now move!”
He collected his brother, Theodotus, along they way and was the last to leave the house for the day, and that was how Philo preferred it. No one asking ‘Philo, did you remember this.’ or ‘Philo, don’t forget to do this.’ It was enough to drive any 10-year-old mad.
Springing from the outer wall and landing lightly behind the siblings, Ghadana giggled, “Took you long enough! What’s the matter Theo, scared?”
“No!” Theo shouted, only half believing it himself but puffing his little chest out anyway, “Nothing scares me!”
Ghadana giggled again, wiggling her finger in his direction. “Of course you’re not! You’re strong and brave. Just like Phi!” She skipped off toward a side trail, “Don’t forget Phi, you promised your mom you would pick up her dress on the way home. Mother has nearly finished and I know your mom will look so beautiful. Bye!”
A deafening silence surrounded them until Chloe was finally bold enough to speak. “Oh, Philo, don’t get mad. She was just being, well, she was just being Dana.”
A bit of the anger left once Philo looked at his brothers face, and he tried his hardest to suppress the rest of it. “Come on you two, or you’ll be late and Father will be the one who’s mad and I’ll make sure you two get a beating too.” But it was said with false conviction. Only he knew, deep in his heart, that he hoped they would be late so he wouldn’t see the pity stares from the adults and other children snickering behind their hands as he dropped his siblings off at school.
“You’re late, Philo.” Kleitros scolded, wiping the paint splatter from his hands.
“I’m sorry father.” Philo sulked into the little shop.
Kleitros sighed heavily at the sight of his sons sulking, “I know this is not what you want, but someone has to learn the business for when I’m gone. You know very well that you’re the only one capable since Theo is to young and hasn’t shown any signs of talent.”
“But what about Chloe? I see her draw sometimes, but she hides them from you.”
Kleitros frowned. “You know very well why Chloe wouldn’t be able to take over, Philo. Our own people would be just as happy to buy her work, but not outsiders.”
Not wanting to have the same argument again, Philo busied himself with the supplies for his fathers current commission. Shaking his head, Kleitros tossed the rag onto the work bench. “Tukult, that Assyrian merchant who just moved from the mainland with his family, commissioned a portrait for himself, his wife, and daughter. I’ll be away all day. You’re to mind the shop while I’m gone.”
‘Minding the shop’ was more tedious and boring than school was and came with just as many unwanted looks. The only good thing that came out of it, was sometimes the buyers would pity Philo so much that they would pay full price instead of haggling for a lower price. Today turned out to be no different and by the end of it he could feel the anger simmering just below the surface.
“Excuse me, Child. Is this the shop of the painter Kleitros?”
“Yes, but you’ll have to return tomorrow. He’s out right now and besides, we’re closed for the day.” Philo stated bluntly, holding the unfastened curtain in his hand.
“Oh dear. Please, Child, make an exception. You see it’s my wife’s birthday tonight and she absolutely loves his work. I was hoping to make a trade, you see, for a painting. I’ve traveled a very long way off my normal path to get here.”
“Are you mad! We do not trade, coin only.”
“Oh dear. Are you sure? I’m an expert carver, I’m sure there is something of equal value on my cart-” He began to turn, motioning Philo to follow.
Still skeptical, Philo trailed after the old man. He rummaged through the pile of items, trying to hide the fact that he had absolutely no idea how to tell the quality of the work. He was about to tell the carver to come back with some coin when he spotted a very faint, but nonetheless there, ‘C’ with a detailed dragon curled around it, burned into the side of one of the wood pieces. Philo’s eyes grew wide with wonder.
The old man chuckled, “Ah, you have a very good eye for art, child. This is one of my best works with musical instruments. And one of my last, before my hands grew to unsteady. Never had the knack for playing, and as you can imagine it’s rather difficult to make something you can’t use yourself.” He rubbed his chin in thought, “I would sell it for a bit more than one of the paintings, but seeing that I’m in a bind and you’re helping me out,” he made a questioning gesture, “what do you say?”
“Oh. I-I don’t know. Father doesn’t really like trading.” ‘But maybe if he saw something that Master Cavish crafted he wouldn’t object. He even said it was worth more than the paintings here. Father might even be proud of me!’
Mulling that idea over with himself, he nodded firmly, “Alright, it’s a deal as long as I agree on the painting.”
Shifting the weight of the harp to his left side, Philo rapt several times on the door frame.
“Philo! You’re just in time. I finished it just a moment ago. Oh! What have you got there?” Sonia eyed the harp, “Oh Philo, it’s simply beautiful! Where did you get such a lovely thing?”
He looked down at his feet in embarrassment, “Uh, well, Master Cavish wanted to trade and Father wasn’t there, and Mother has been secretly teaching me on hers and I thought maybe if I played at the party and on one of Master Casvish’s pieces that Father wouldn’t object to the trade.” He winced, hearing the idiotic words as the rushed past his lips.
“Well, your Father does love that mans work.” She clucked and ushered him into a side room picking up a bundle off the table, “Here you go, tell your mother I’ll pick my payment up in a few days. A good harvest this year, I’m hoping?” She gave Philo a knowing wink and he smiled. His Mother was legend in town to have the best garden foods, but never sold them in market. Instead, she chose to trade them for goods and services around town, much to the poorer people’s luck.
Tucking the package safely under his right arm, he thanked her and set out for home before Ghadana found out he was there.
“Mother, I have your dress and Sonia said she would come by in a few days to pick up her payment.”
“Good, I was hoping she would have it done early. Philo, what’s that under your other arm?” She crossed her arms, hip jutting out to one side. It had become well-known, to her children at least, as the stance of disapproval.
A bit shamed, but determined to have his mother on his side, he quickly told the story of the harp making sure it sounded better than what he told Sonia earlier.
“Let me see that.” She sat down in the nearest chair and turned the harp over a few times, inspecting it carefully before handing it back. “Well, I have to say he will be proud of you for acquiring this, but not for the reason you did it. You know how your father feels about me teaching you to play.”
“But maybe if he sees this and I play for him at the party he won’t forbid it.” Philo said hopefully.
Sighing, Melitta hefted herself out of the chair. Her swollen stomach showing the first signs of another sibling. “Philo, love, I know you are hoping that this new child will be gifted and can run the shop with your father. But the problem is, you don’t know that and neither do we. Your father can’t take that risk. We simply don’t have the luxury of waiting to see. And even if the child does show signs, and assuming it’s a male, it will be much to young. What will happen if your father dies before he’s born?”
“But I’m not as good as father is, and everyone would just buy mine out of pity. I hate that.” Philo turned his back, hot tears filled his sight.
Melitta went and gently turned him to face her, “If you regain your memories one day, then it’s meant to be and if you don’t then so be it. Years down the road, adults will be too old to remember and kids will be old enough not to care about anything but their own lives. Be patient, have faith that everything will work out. The Gods will provide for those who are faithful.”
Philo smiled up at this mother and nodded. She kissed his cheek and smiled. “Now, let’s practice the music you’ll play for your father when he comes home tonight. You can’t just spring it on him at the party.”
Authors Note: Ghadana and her family were submitted by littlemissgogo in the casting call (spoiler alert!). Congratulations on being included in the story as a Major character!
Kleitros is 38 |Melitta is 36 | Philo is 10 | Chloe is 8 | Theodotus is 5
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