Minette opened her mouth to respond, but Maw wasn’t done.
“And why do you keep it like that anyway? I keep me own hair shorter’n yours. It’s practical.”
“Practical,” Minette snorted. Sometimes that felt like the only label people slapped on her. That she was useful, like a tool.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Maw demanded, hand creeping toward the dastardly wooden spoon. She jerked her head toward the open front door. “You’d better be off to your father. He’s redder than that apple of yours.”
Minette swore, curses drowned out by Paw’s laments about his lazy, tardy son. She popped the slice of bread in her mouth and ran out the door.
Paw was waiting by Lumpy, their beefiest workhorse, and one of their carts. His face was indeed ripening as Minette watched. He shook his head at her, climbing astride Lumpy with a grunt. “Fix that hair,” he barked.
There was no room for discussion. Minette nodded, swallowing the last of her bread. She hopped into the back of the cart just as it began to judder and rumble away from the house.
Paw’s hands were especially tight on the reins today. It was almost definitely about Irma. Minette knew better than to ask him about it when he was in a mood like this. Paw was an angry worrier. He meant well.
Minette watched the streets pass in silence instead, wondering at all the lives going on around her of people she’d never met, wondering if, hidden away in some shop, there was anyone else even remotely like her.
The worst thing about the forge was how hot it was.
Minette could admire the tools adorning the walls, the private space all to her and Paw. The run threading through the field outside, dry in this part of summer but still full of pretty stones and the occasional pot-bellied toad.
But the heat. The heat got to her.
The center of the room held the tall iron fireplace where they did the majority of their work. Inside it, a cross-hatched plating sat over where the flames roared. It was on this plating that they did what the Coppersmiths did best: smith the copper.
It involved a lot of gruntwork, heavy lifting, shouting, pounding, and blasting.
There was molten metal, soot, ashes, sparks, flames, and smoke. It was grimy work. Even working at the forge for just one hour turned her entire face black and made her feel like her lungs were clogged up. She worried over Paw, whose voice had turned from gravel to crushed up bones, to something throaty and crackly.
Minette did not want to be like him.