Moody’s Meat Shop when there are clouds in the sky you'll get by
Moody's ended up being her pit-stop for the day, rather than Just in Thyme, but upon reflection Etta didn't see why she couldn't try the whole smile-at-a-stranger (but not a strange one) there as well as anywhere was a place she was reasonably familiar with, after all.

So, as she waited in the queue to speak to one of the butchers in the late-afternoon rush of the store, she first lifted her gaze from her boots and let it wander the shop at a reasonable level until...wham, she made eye contact with somebody. And without trying to overthink it, she smiled at them, hoping only that it didn't seem too forced or weird.
Ther butcher's had been recommended to him not long after he'd moved to the county, and since his first visit he'd been admittedly hooked on their pork sausages with caramelized onion and apple. They'd become a weekly treat, as sad as it was to think of a fairly innocuous and commonly eaten food item as a treat. Still, it was nice to have traditions, and this weekly trip had become his. For whatever reason, the sausages he favoured didn't seem to be an incredibly popular item, but that just meant there was more for him, and if he didn't buy them all up... Well, whatever force was out there to judge him, he hoped it forgave him, because he also knew where he could guide his hungry hyena for dumpster diving in dire times.

Waiting in the queue, he turned slightly to look out the window and at the line still forming down the street. This place was popular, but it was certainly deserved. Done with his brief moment of people watching, he made to turn back round and then noticed that the young wish behind him was smiling. At him. Or wait, behind him? He looked, didn't see anyone facing this direction. At him, then! Well, perhaps she was worried that he was staring at her. He certainly was not! Returning her smile warmly, somewhat apologetically, he nodded in polite greeting. [q]Good afternoon,[q] he opined, then sort of half turned back in the direction of the counter. He didn't mean to make anyone feel uncomfortable!
Oh...oh, okay, words were happening. Etta didn't exactly panic, but she hadn't mentally prepared herself to say anything interesting, either.

"...hi..." her voice was barely audibly to herself, though she tried to politely respond. She glanced out the front window of the meat shop, desperate for something to comment innocuously on. "...cold out today!" she remarked at last. At least he'd smiled back, and not in a way that seemed smug or smirky. She just had to realize that the world was full of mostly nice, normal people, not an army of hostile jerkbutts who wanted nothing more than to ruin her day and/or life...but it took some effort.
Oh! So she was smiling at him! Should he have recognised her, he wondered? Had they spoken in passing? Maybe she knew him in another town before and he had, in a haze of moving and uprooting his entire life, forgotten about her? Or, of course... she could simply have been trying to be polite.

No harm in that! But unusual!

She spoke so softly at first that he was unsure if she was actually addressing him or merely practicing before making the attempt to address him, but he kept smiling softly, encouragingly. He couldn't simply turn away and end the conversation before it even began; that would be rude!

But could he carry on such an awkward interaction? That was the question...

"Mm, brisk," he agreed, taking another look outside. Gosh, it even looked cold, dreary and grey-cast. "Doesn't it feel as though this winter has dragged on for years?" One thing you could always count on a English gentleman to do - complain about the weather.
"Yeah, it does," agreed Etta. It was certainly a more in-depth remark than hers. "I mean, I was ten years old when it started," she added impulsively. It was a weird feeling--humour as a panic response--and not at all familiar to her, where she usually just shut down and shut up. But she had told Oleander she would make the effort, and while he hadn't given any direct instructions about what to do besides smiling, she could extrapolate and assume that practicing further social interactions was the direction she was meant to be heading in. So even if her bicycle was wobbling towards a cliff-edge, at the very least, for the moment, she could tell herself you're doing it! You're doing it! as her feet jerked the pedals round and to speak.
Ah, an unusual sort of humour, playing off his complaint beautifully! If only small talk were a spectator sport! Chuckling in appreciation of her remark, he gave the world outside another glance so that he wasn't staring at his new companion in a weird, creepy fashion. Intuition told him to take a step backwards to rejoin the queue ahead. "Are you certain that wasn't your age when you joined the queue?" he asked, then wondered vaguely if his joke would land. If thought on too hard, that sounded creepy. But rather he meant that the queue had been long!
"The end of this queue has thick-cut bacon, so I'm much more inclined to be patient with it," she rejoined, her smile re-appearing with greater ease, this time. He'd actually laughed at what she'd said! And Etta didn't think it was a sarcastic, mocking sort of laugh. (With four siblings, she definitely knew that tone when she heard it.) "...even if that bacon is probably still running around as a piglet, at the moment."
"You have plenty of time to be patient," he noted easily, but again made certain not to look as though he was appreciating her body. He wasn't! He was sure it was fine but he wasn't that rude sort of man, thank you very much! "By the time I reach the end of this queue, I fear I may have to head immediately for some soft and cosy retirement home." There was a thoughtful pause as he looked back towards the counter. "Ah, but you're quite right; it's very much worth waiting for. I just hope the pork and apple sausages are still available... I can't quite see from here."
Etta wouldn't have said this guy was old...okay, older, undeniably, but still. She wanted to politely protest, but then she reconsidered that this was probably all part of the casual joke-y conversation thing where people got hyperbolic.

She did her part to squint at the counter to try and get a look for the sausages in question, but from this distance, she couldn't make out the writing on the little labels, and she certainly didn't have a close-up enough view to distinguish what, exactly, was going on inside all that sausage-casing for flavourings and add-ins.

"Well you could always MacGyver something with plain pork sausages and cook down some diced apple and onion together into a quick relish or chutney sort of thing," she suggested, always ready to fall back on kitchen tips if she felt her ability to banter was sputtering.
Ah, and she was something of a chef as well! Hm, well, she very well could be an actual bona fide chef. Miron wasn't bad at cooking by any means but was certainly no expert, but even to his untrained palate, apple and onion chutney as an accompaniment to plain pork sausages sounded absolutely perfect. The jittery, hungering hyena within didn't care what it got to crunch on, but was starting to get just a touch impatient with this queue...

Successfully ignoring the feeling of it twisting his empty stomach in knots, he focused his attention on the unexpected conversation instead. Perhaps this was a blessing in disguise.

"I always find that chutney I make winds up tasting far too acidic," he pondered out loud, tapping his chin with his forefinger. "Do you make much of it yourself? Perhaps you have some wisdom to share on the matter!"
"I haven't had much time to devote to making preserves lately," admitted Etta, somewhat ruefully. She loved the idea of it--storing up fresh things in bright clean clear jars and lining them up on tidy shelves until the cupboard was full. Maybe when she finally got around to planting her own garden and had her own vegetables and fruits and herbs growing in the yard...but for now the fuss and bother of going out and buying the amount of fresh fruit or whatever she would need to make a significant batch of home canning just seemed like overkill. She mostly made-do with quick pickles or bought some quirky sauce or paste from Just in Thyme. The nice man gave her a cooking problem to solve, however, and Etta couldn't help brightening a bit, for once feeling like maybe she wasn't on shaky ground when it came to trying to make interesting conversation. "...but you can always start with less vinegar or citrus than your recipe calls for, and taste it as you go...but if the batch is already made, a bit of sugar or honey won't mess too much with something like mango; but in a more savoury chutney you'll want to just try a pinch of baking soda--and no more than a pinch. Or if you can really afford to wait, let it mellow for a few months...the tang will die down as it ages."
So this was an area in which she had some impressive level of expertise! Goodness, but he had been smiling an awful lot lately! That was... twice this week! He regarded the young woman with fascination, rather enchanted by her explanation. She had clearly come into her element in this thread of conversation and he wasn't going to whip it away from her. In fact, it made this whole spontaneous conversation much less awkward.

"You know, perhaps it is my recipe which is off. I do wonder... may I pick your brain for a while longer?"
"Sure!" said Etta, weirdly thrilled to feel relevant, however minor the point. This was safe ground, she felt like. She hadn't felt that way about most conversations in a while. This was superficial and stuff she knew and easy answers.

She looked back at the queue, which hadn't moved.

"I'm not going anywhere in a hurry," she tried joking lightly.
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