Sophie was perplexed.
Young again with all the wisdom of her old age and all her old problems more or less solved. Yet she was perplexed sitting amongst the jars and boots and water of flowers, only a week after that stressful mayday and she wasn't quite sure what to do about it. Wasn't quite sure what to do about Howl.
He was not going out and about on the pretence of flirting with Ms Angorian and he had his heart back. But he-
Howl crashed opened the door that led from the castle into the flower shop and beamed at Sophie. 'My dear Sophie, the weather is divine. I was thinking that we could perhaps go for a walk and a drink'
-Still perplexed her in this persona that oozed romance. The kind of persona that she use to suspect Howl had used alongside his useless guitar and charmed suit. Her mouth twisted into a frown as she recalled how Howl would become this love sick charmer when he had been around Lettie or Ms Angorian.
'Howl I'm still working' Howl strolled up to the counter and plucked a tulip from the vase on the desk. He twirled the flower in his fingers and smiled roguishly at her.
'Oh dearest Sophie, as it is your shop to open and close as you wish. And as I have no magical tasks this fine afternoon! We should go out!'
'Have you come to bother me just because you're bored,' Sophie took the Tulip back and placed it back amongst it's fellow tulips. Howl dropped his smile to frown at her for a moment. When Sophie returned her gaze from patting down the bouquet to Howl, the charm had come back in full bloom.
'Because I would like to spend time with my dear loving Sophie, with whom I have missed spending time with,' Howl grinned down at Sophie. Sophie raised an eyebrow at him
'Oh and what about the work you're supposed to be doing with Calcifer with the Castle'
'He's gone out as he is always out nowadays'
'Micheal's promised lessons?
'Out with your damned sister, he said he'd be back later. But low and behold,' Howl swept his arm out gesturing to the empty shop. 'She has dragged him out on her day off and who knows when he shall return. The time for a proper lesson has come and gone'
'The shop?' Sophie could feel the corners of her mouth twisting as Howl's lips began to purse in a pout.
'No one's been in in the past hour, I know. I can hear your little shop bell from the empty castle. Now, have you asked all your picky little questions now, Ms. Nose' Howl wrinkled his nose at her, and Sophie could not help but laugh. Laugh and laugh until the over done charm melted into fond exasperation with his nickname for her. Leaving her Howl in place of the past heartbreaker. She leaned back off the counter, letting her back stretch smoothly rather than the old creaking movements.
'Alright you fussy thing, let me close up shop and then we'll head down to the market for your drink' Howl grinned at her, before shooing her off to the castle telling her to change out of her work clothes. In his fussy cloud of hyacinth perfume, he wiped down the counter, and bounced around attending to the end of day chores.
Sophie watched her wizard take care of her little shop. Return to the counter to gather the tulip bouquet, Howl caught sight of Sophie standing in the doorway gazing at him.
'Go Sophie, get ready,' Howl made little one handed shooing gestures as he stepped towards her, tulips in arm. He came right up to her and kissed her forehead. Sophie could feel her face grow warmer. When she had been old she hadn't blush, even in her many embarrassing moments. Was it her youthfulness or... Was it just Howl?. She fiddled with the button on her new youthful blouse. One Howl had gotten her after the curse had broken. One of the many things he had done for her
'I think I may have to go by the market first'
Despite both her lovely Michael and Sophie working in the little flower shop that was once her father's old hat shop, Martha had only visited Sophie's little flower shop a handful of times. Once on that strange mayday with all the odd witch of the waste antics, and another few times to visit Michael since. But she had barely gotten a moment to visit since Michael had bounded into Cesari's with the excitement of living so close and being able to visit more often. Oh but the shop was so much more beautiful and lively covered in flowers rather than stuffy old hats. Even nicer than Sophie's carefully tailored hats.
Michael had tugged her around the counter of the closed flower shop to show her all the changes Howl (the dreaded wizard Howl! Martha still couldn't quite believe it the confident and friendly man who held her sisters hand and clapped a hand on Michael's shoulder, was the same man who was rumoured to eat young girls! ) and Sophie had done to make hats and feathers into flowers and petals.
Martha looked up from the counter to watch, in fascination as Sophie lively strolled out of the backroom door into the shop. Whilst Sophie's cheeks were splotchy red in the warm weather, her eyes glistened in a way they had not when Martha had last seen a younger Sophie in Cesari's. Her grey palour and dull eyes were instead replaced with mirth and laughter as Howl followed Sophie into the shop, whining all the way behind her.
'But Sooophie why can I not go with you to the Market place rather than going for a drink all by myself until you arrive. I can carry the basket like a gentleman and we can stop by Cesari's together to see Martha and have a drink there.' Sophie hid a teasing smile from Howl as she turned to face the shop and found Martha and Michael.
' I think your devious plan to distract me from doing my actual shopping is a little off since Martha is here and I am perfectly able to carry the basket by myself'
Martha snickered and heard Michael doing the same as they leaned on the counter. Howl gave them a glare. Martha had never won Sophie over through a tantrum and neither had Lettie who was just as cunning if not more so than the great and terrible Howl.
' I'm only going to the weekend market down the road for a few items, I don't need what you constitute as help. I can meet you after' She handed Michael a sheet of flowers orders for the next day and began to do a last check of her basket at the counter
' Sophie what if you had left and I didn't know how to maneuver the markets of Market Chipping you must teach me
' Michael knows
' And if I was all alone?'
' Calcifer is usually here in the evenings to help conjure things and Mrs Fairfax is only a door away'
' Sophie my love, can't I just come with you' Martha stopped snickering as Sophie paused. Martha knew Sophie could not be threatened by any tantrum or bought by tears. But the honest ache in Howl's voice pulled even Martha's heartstrings. She looked to her sister over the counter. Sophie was smiling softly at Howl, no actual anger in her whatsoever and shrugged.
'Alright you wicked man, I suppose if you happen to bribe me with a promise of one of those lovely cream cakes at Cesari's after I finished all my shopping.' Sophie raised an eyebrow.' I could possibly be convinced.'
Howl was at the counter and had the basket in hand before Sophie could change her mind. Sophie laughed, a fresh open sound that seemed to Martha, to liven up every flower in the room.
Howl was pulling her towards the door and Sophie just had the chance to call goodbye to the pair at the counter as they left.
Michael nudged Martha's shoulder with his.
'They're funny together when the pair of the them are in a good mood. '
'Do they always argue this much' Martha was fascinated with this Sophie that poked and prodded at Howl teasingly. With no sisters to take care, no burden of being the eldest and someone to challenge her, Sophie was a breath of fresh air rather than a tense raincloud.
' I'm pretty sure it's how they show they care. But I wouldn't go near either of them in a rage. Sophie can be as scary as Howl.'
Martha leaned her head on Michael's shoulder 'I'm glad Sophie has found her fortune in life. She seems so much better for it
Howl held onto the basket as Sophie argued with someone, other than him, over the price of vegetables. For once the feeling of Sophie's magical aura did not seem worried fizzing up around her, and whatever had made her crease her forehead in concentration was gone.
She was nosy, always fired up to snap back at howl, and yet Sophie glistened in the afternoon sunshine. Howl hoped she had found her fortune with life, because he had found his courage and heart with her