‘You are the kissingest crew in the Verse’ said Sou-fen Macharia to her friend.
‘Nuthin wrong with showin affection, is there?’ replied Kaylee.
‘Nah, but I swear y’all took fifteen minute for hugging and kissing . Lil River kissed her brother and his hubby, an your husband, an he kisses you and Beege an Derry kisses you, and Beege kisses all the men, including that tough muscle of yours, then hasta chase after her brother and hold him down…
Kaylee laughed.’K. It does sound crazy smoochy when you say it. So, what are ya setting out at the booth t’day?’ ‘I baked date-nut and lemon loaves and two kinds of bread, potato-rosemary sourdough and challah.’
‘Challah? My Gran Frye made that for Sundays. Ooh, if I find eggs shoppin t’day, I’ll make pain perdu. With hmmm, protein sausages and fried tomatoes.’
‘The MuckedyMuck is in from Triumph. Ask Freddy if they brought any sausage from there. They sometimes bring in frozen patties or bulk packs. Real pig meat.’
‘Triumph? Have they lifted the quarantine?’
‘Cordin to Muckedy. Feds came in with Flyin Doctors and inoculated ever’bod and passed out the cure all to the sickies. The preachers was some mad, too! Then they got above themsel’ and tried to blow up a Flyin Doctor ship. So the Feds arrested all the clerics who’d been taking against the vaccs and took ’em off planet for trial.’
‘Huh, between transport an trial they’ll be gone two year or more. Then jail time.’
‘Them clerics ain’t gonna recognize Triumph when they get back.’
‘Serves em right. Not vaccinating against leprosy! What kinda version of God wrote that!’
‘Not Mithra anyways.’ Sou-fen made the sign of the sun.
‘Yah, well, I’ll skip Triumph sausage for a while, good price or no. Leprosy… ugh.’
Sou-fen’s comm buzzed. ‘Gotta take the next loaves out. You around for today?’
‘Goin shoppin later, but most of the morning.’
As Sou-fen entered her ship, Hope Washburne descended Serenity’s cargo ramp, stretching.
Hope, at fifteen, was as tall as her mother, a good 185 cm, and had missed the gawky stage, perhaps because of the dance and gymnastics she and Kaylee’s children learned from River. She wore a black jumpsuit, not the best colour for her golden brown skin and blonde dreadlocked hair. Her green eyes were large and expressive.
‘What’s on the schedule today, Kaylee?’ she asked.
‘We’re locking up the boat while the men are off and havin’ a girl’s day in town. Right over to the downtown mall, not just the spaceport market. Yer mum wants some fancy groceries and we need school uniforms for all you kids.’
‘Just one more year for me, ayi.’
‘They don’t have uniforms in pilot academy?’
‘If an academy has a uniform, I ain’t goin there.’
‘Spoken like a true Browncoat’s daughter.’
‘Well, I am. I’m Independent to the… I was gonna say ‘core’, but that don’t work.’
Kaylee laughed again. ‘Did you see my Baby Girl since her daddy went off? I don’t want her exploring alone.’
‘She’s with River, getting a lesson in origami.’
Sou-fen returned with a brilliant red and gold tablecloth and a basket of baked goods.
Four transports had set down o gather by the edge of the spaceport and flung up a white picket fence, supplied by the crew of the Pretty Baby, which the four crews used as a gathering place and a safe playground for their children. Sou-fen had a trading booth just outside the fenced in area, where she sold her justly famous baked goods. Wherever the Pretty Baby went, buyers clamoured for her dessert loaves .
‘Kaylee, if you see any pumpkins or apples or a good price on overripe peaches, could you grab them for me? I feel pies coming on.’
‘Dam tootin! Kin we get a pie in trade?’
‘You’ll need two for your gang.’
‘Tell him I’ll sell him a pie made special for him.’
‘Sou! You getting a letch?’
‘He’s a nice piece of man’flesh.’
‘As long as you don’t talk to him.’
‘That wasn’t my plan.’
The women laughed conspiratorially.