Serena watched Melia toddle around the main room of the house. Well, living quarters… whatever. Serena didn’t think the cookie-cutter. attached nature of the housing unit really qualified as a “house.” The company had given all its archaeological contractors housing in the newer section of the city while they excavated the ruins that had been discovered about five kilometers north. Serena would have preferred to live in the old town section, where the native Talus architecture soared, swirled, dipped, and curved in almost impossible shapes giving the buildings a fairy-tale appearance. But free housing was free housing and at least they had enough down time so they could take Melia and explore the area.
At three and a half years old, Melia had just reached the age where she was intensely interested in everything that crossed her line of sight. The old town section of Alosal contained a large market, smaller shops, galleries, and even a history museum among all its fantastical architecture. Jake and Serena could keep Melia occupied for hours there.
The planet, Taland, was in one of the more remote corners of the galaxy, and somewhat less developed, but it was moving up rapidly in the development category, and the Talus themselves were embracing a higher level of technology and taking advantage of the natural and archaeological wonders of their planet to create a tourism industry. It was the perfect place for Serena and Jake to settle for a few years while Melia was young.
“C’mon, baby girl. Let’s get you dressed and then we’ll go explore the market. How does that sound?” Serena cooed at Melia, swinging the toddler into her arms.
“Mah-ket, Mama! I go mahket!” Melia squealed.
Jake strolled into the living room from the extra bedroom they’d turned into an office. “Did I hear someone say she’s going to the market?” he asked, giving Melia a tickle which made her giggle.
“Daddy, you come to mahket wif us,” Melia ordered, patting Jake’s cheek with her chubby little hand.
“That sounds like the best idea ever!” Jake replied, kissing Melia’s hand. “You go with Mama and get dressed, and then we’ll go!” He looked at Serena. “Need any help? Otherwise, I’ll put together her bag.”
Serena blew a raspberry into Malia’s neck, eliciting more giggles. “Nope, we’re fine. We’ll be out shortly.”
An hour later the family was strolling through the large outdoor market in the center of old town Alosal. Melia was on a charm offensive with every vendor trying to cadge sweets and other goodies from them. The Talus loved children and they were entranced by the small size of human children, which meant Melia didn’t really have to work that hard.
“Daddy! Put me down!” she demanded as they approached a toy seller. “Lookit toys!”
Jake set Melia down and took her hand, allowing himself to be pulled over to the booth filled with all types of toys made from goldenglow wood. Grasping the edge of the table, Melia pulled herself up onto her tiptoes and gazed wonderingly at the toys shimmering with a golden haze in the sunlight.
“Daddy, they shiny!” she said in an awed voice. She turned to Serena. “Mama! Lookit the toys!”
“Yeah, baby. I see them,” Serena answered. “They’re very pretty.”
Melia turned to Serena and held up her arms in the child’s universal “pick me up now” gesture. “Mama, I can’t see all of them! I want to see!”
Serena laughed and reached down for her daughter, who immediately squirmed around until she was facing the stall and could look over everything the toy maker had set out. The owner of the booth, an older Talus judging by the faded colors of his crest, smiled at Melia as she surveyed his booth.
“Ah, the little explorer is feeling every inch of her age today!” He laughed.
Serena nodded. “Or lack of inches! And I’m dreading the day when she can reach even higher!”
“And at the same time we mourn their rapid growth,” the toy maker replied. He glanced at Serena and Jake, nodding his head toward a small toy with wheels and a leather pullcord. “May I?”
“Of course!” Serena said.
The toy maker picked up the wheeled toy and handed it to Melia. “Little miss, would you be so kind as to test out this toy for me? Can you tell me if it works?” he asked, handing the toy to Melia.
Melia’s eyes went wide, and she twisted around to look at her parents. Jake pointed to a small open space between the stalls. “Why don’t you pull it over there, Melia? That way the gentleman can watch you test it.”
“Okay,” Melia answered in an awed voice. Serena set her down and the little girl carefully carried the toy over to the area Jake had pointed out and set it down. She picked up the leather pullcord and glanced up at the toy maker. When he nodded, she took three careful steps forward, pulling the toy behind her.
“Go around in a circle, sweetie. That way you can see how it turns corners, too,” Serena encouraged her.
Melia nodded and started off. She made three circuits of the little open area before stopping in front of the toy maker. “I like it,” she said, with a shy smile.
“Excellent work, my dear. How would you like to take that home with you?” he asked her.
“Can I, Mama?” Melia asked, peering up at Serena.
“It is my gift to her for bringing in new business,” the toy maker assured Serena, nodding his head to the right. Serena followed his gesture and saw a Talus family with two young children watching with rapt attention as Melia tested the toy. She smiled at the toy maker.
“In that case, thank you very much. Melia, what do you say?” she replied.
“Thank you for the toy,” Melia said.
“You’re very welcome. My name is Loren,” the toy maker replied.
“I’m Melia,” the little girl told him.
Loren held out one six-fingered hand. “It’s very nice to meet you, Miss Melia.” Melia hesitantly reached out her little hand and grabbed his.
“Nice meet you,” she said in a quiet voice.
Jake held out his own hand. “It’s been a pleasure meeting you, Loren. I’m Jake and this is my wife, Serena.”
Loren smiled. “Please do bring Miss Melia back often. She’s a great toy tester and very good for business!”
Jake returned the smile. “Well, I think it will be difficult to keep her away now!”
It’s been an off two or three weeks (maybe longer). I haven’t done a prompt response in quite a while and I’m noticing the lack of creativity on my part. This week I picked up a spare prompt, The explorer felt every inch of her age, and ran with that. This is a small slice-of-life with the intrepid archaeologist couple, Jake and Serena. I hope you enjoy it.
If you’d like to take up a prompt challenge, head on over to More Odds Than Ends. Send in a prompt to get one in return, or just pick up one of the spares. Either way, have fun with it and let the creative juices flow!