Chapter 3 – Flowers for a Stranger, Part II

“I am so, so sorry. He usually doesn’t do that.”

After firmly locking her hell-beast of a rooster in his coop, Cecilia tended to Kip’s injuries. The salaryman had ended up with more of a fright than anything else – his clothes had absorbed the worst of it, the only real cut on his body being a nasty scratch on his nose.

“It’s… it’s quite all right,” Kip replied, awkwardly shifting in his seat. He could hear the soft whirring of the washing machine from the other room. Cecilia had given him some very old clothes to wear while his own were being cleaned. He’d never worn women’s clothes before. The blouse, jumper and trousers felt weirdly loose in odd places, like he’d put on an ill-fitting potato sack. A very soft, feminine, fragrant potato sack.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Cecilia asked, cringing as she looked at the pink band-aid on Kip’s nose. “I… I can call the town physician if you’re feeling woozy—”

But Kip quickly shook his head. He didn’t want to make even more of a fuss than what was already happening.
“No, that’s- that’s okay,” he said, “It’s just some scrapes. And it was my own fault. I don’t want to burden anyone.”

“…I’m so sorry, Kip,” Cecilia muttered, deflating. “If I knew you were stopping by, I’d have put Sir Cluckles in his coop. He doesn’t like strangers.”
“He seems, er… very protective,” Kip replied, feeling like that was an understatement. Cecilia nodded in return.
“He is.”
“Have you had him long?”

“For years,” she said. “He’ll be seven years old this Autumn. I got him when… when I was going through a rough time.”
Her voice trailed off for a second as she looked over at the wall. Kip followed her gaze and noticed the photographs for the first time. There were dozens of them, most of them depicting Cecilia surrounded by animals – cows, sheep, llamas, even a horse. Kip’s eyes landed on a picture of her hugging the hell-beast called Sir Cluckles affectionately. Cecilia’s expression fell as, for a moment, the dark-haired woman appeared to be deep in thought.
“He’s… always been there for me,” she said eventually. “He’s always had my back. I know that’s kind of a weird thing to say about a chicken.”

“Not at all,” Kip smiled. “Animals are amazing.”

“…Yeah. They really are.”

“When they’re not scratching you to ribbons, at least,” she continued, chuckling to herself as she turned back towards the counter. “I really need to teach Cluckles to be better around other people. He did that to the Mayor once, too,” Cecilia recalled. “Though that was also kind of funny. He thought that her hat was a bird’s nest, and Lavina was trying to steal eggs from him. Cluckles chased her all around town trying to snatch it back. You should have seen the look on her face!”

Kip couldn’t help but chuckle at the picture that Cecilia was painting. He hadn’t liked Lavina when he’d first met her. Thinking of the Mayor running for dear life, chased around by the same rabid rooster that had pounced on him earlier somehow made her feel less intimidating.

The salaryman was still picturing it when Cecilia joined him at the table, holding two bowls of garden salad.
“Here you go, Kip,” she said, placing one bowl down in front of him “One apology meal.”

He hadn’t expected that. He’d thought that she was just cooking for herself- he didn’t realise that she’d made a portion for him as well.  
“Thank you, but you really didn’t have to,” Kip weakly protested. “It was my own fault, and this is too much just for a few scrapes—”  

But this time, Cecilia was having none of it.  
“Nonsense. It’s my rooster, and it’s my fault that you got hurt. This is the least I can do.” 
“I… thank you,” Kip muttered, realising that there was no changing her mind. Protesting any more at this point would actually be considered rude. So he nodded at her, making Cecilia smile happily in return. 
“You can keep the clothes, too,” she continued. “They’re old and way too big for me now, anyway. I’ll clean yours and deliver them to you in the morning. Where did you say you were staying, again?” 

“The Gnome’s Arms. Thank you, Celia. Really.” 
“No problem. Feel free to stay longer if you like. We’re all in this together, right?” 

As he looked at her, Kip suddenly realised that he wouldn’t mind staying longer. Even with the angry rooster lurking outside. 

Cecilia was… nice. 

“And hey, at least while I’m in here, I don’t have to worry about your chickens, right?” 


Kip actually ended up staying quite late that day.

Kip actually ended up staying quite late that day. The salaryman found himself pleasantly surprised by how much he enjoyed his time with Cecilia. She was delightful, happily chatting away at him about all the different animals that she’d befriended. Apparently, the entire countryside was filled with wild rabbits and foxes. Frogs could be found near any body of water, croaking and singing to each other. Unruly cows and sheep regularly broke free from their enclosures and the local population had all but given up on trying to contain the llamas. Cecilia had even befriended a flock of wild birds.  

In Bridgeport, all you could find in the wild were aggressive rats, incredibly overweight pigeons and mangy, feral alley cats. The place was not kind to nature. In contrast, Cecilia’s menagerie of foxes, rabbits and birds sounded almost unreal. Like he was listening to a fairy tale.  

But the many photographs adorning Cecilia’s walls served as a testament to the truth. It was real. Over the next hour, Cecilia carefully drew out a map for him, highlighting all the best spots for animal spotting. She’d even marked a den of wolves in the depths of the forest- 
“But don’t go anywhere near them! They’ll chew your face off!”  

Kip had laughed, promising that he would stay away. He’d taken the map with him. Part of him could not wait to follow her instructions, set out into the countryside and see what he could find. Kip liked animals. Even rabid roosters like the one that she had in her garden. By the time Kip left Cecilia’s home, the sun had already started to set. The salaryman only barely made it back to the Gnome’s Arms before darkness set in.  

Saturday ended.  
Kip had seven days of holiday left. 

And, despite the unexpected, aggressive avian attack… today had been a good day. 
Kip hoped that the next day would be just as nice. 

With a groan, Kip turned over in his bed. He’d been sleeping deeply. It took him a few moments to realise what the annoying, buzzing sound next to his head meant. Then the salaryman let out a second groan. He rolled over, pushing the blanket from his chest and groggily sitting up as he reached for his phone.

A message. Kip blinked, trying to get rid of the blur of sleep and waiting for the text in front of him to become readable.

Two seconds later, he wished that he hadn’t looked.

“Your request for extended leave has been denied. I expect you to clock in on Monday at 8:00.”

It took a moment for the meaning of those words to sink in. Then, Kip could feel his heart drop to his stomach. He gulped, trying to process what was happening as a familiar feeling of dread slowly began to spread throughout his body.

A misunderstanding. This had to be a misunderstanding. With shaky fingers, Kip typed a reply.

“I put in the request more than two days ago… I’ve already arrived”

He hit send- and three dots appeared in the corner of the screen not even two seconds after his reply had reached Edgar. The feeling of dread in Kip’s stomach worsened.

This couldn’t be good.
And it wasn’t.

“As you very well know, our company is in its busiest period. We have lots of items in the pipeline. You are a competent asset for the project and your presence has been found necessary. For this reason, your request cannot be granted. I expect you to clock in on Monday at 8:00.
Do not make me get HR involved.”

He hadn’t been able to write a reply.

Kip didn’t want to leave Henford-on-Bagley. He wasn’t ready. He hadn’t recharged yet – he wasn’t even close. The thought of catching the train back at the end of the day and having to return to his empty, colourless apartment filled him with dread, making cold sweat run down his back.

He didn’t want to leave.
But… he didn’t have a choice.

He had to.

And because of that… Kip only had one day left.

After putting on an identical blouse in a different colour, Kip slowly made his way through the outskirts of Henford-on-Bagley. There was only one seed packet left to deliver. Kip had promised Agatha that he would take care of them all, and the salaryman had no intentions of going back on his promise.
But… his heart was no longer in it.

Kip tried to enjoy his surroundings as he went. He really did. But it was as if the message from that morning had flipped a switch in his head. The greenery around him might as well not have existed. He couldn’t focus on any of it. Edgar’s message kept playing in his mind, over and over again, adding more and more weight to his shoulders as he walked.

Kip tried not to think about it. At least he still had today. He didn’t have to worry until this evening. The salaryman tried his darndest to focus on that-
But, as it turned out… Kip was not permitted to do that, either.

As he came close to the McMillan residence, the salaryman could feel his phone begin to buzz in his pocket. With a heavy feeling, Kip pulled it out. He unlocked the screen, expecting to see another reply from Edgar. But he was greeted with a very different message instead. It wasn’t Edgar.

It was John. His direct superior.

“Did you create an order for next week, or an inventory?”

Kip grimaced. He knew what John was referring to. They needed one of those every week, or the entire office would suffer. Kip had passed that on to a colleague while he was gone, or so he’d thought. He knew that he could not afford to ignore this. Mechanically, Kip began to type a reply.

“Good morning. I’m on holiday. Beth should have taken over”

It didn’t take long for an answer to arrive. When it did, it felt like a punch to the gut.

“Beth is off sick and Edgar confirmed that your holiday request was not approved. We agreed that you would work weekends – you should have prepped the order yesterday. This is extremely unprofessional behaviour.”

“I don’t have a laptop”
“Call me.”

It wasn’t a request. It was an order. An order that Kip couldn’t afford to disobey – not if he still wanted to have a job to return to when he came back. Kip slowly punched in John’s number, putting the phone to his ear right as his general manager picked up.

“John Smith.”
“Good morning, John, how are-“
But the man didn’t let Kip finish his greeting.
“Do you have your work phone with you?”

“I… yes. I do,” Kip muttered.
“Good. We’ll have Marc give you access to our server on your phone. Make do.”
“But… I’m on holiday…”
His weak protests fell on deaf ears.
“This takes priority, Kip. We’re counting on you. You need to step up here. I expect that order in my inbox by 5PM, or we’ll be forced to withhold pay for insubordination.”

Kip’s mind took a few moments to fully process John’s threat. As he tried to respond, he could hear the tell-tale beep-beep-beep of the call ending. His general manager had hung up on him. He hadn’t even said goodbye, and the abruptness of the call made it clear just how angry John was.

Kip couldn’t refuse. He simply couldn’t afford to. Between increased rent, rapidly rising prices of food and other products and sky-high veterinarian bills, Kip barely had any savings left. And he’d used most of that money to pay for his holiday. If they docked his salary, Kip wouldn’t be able to pay his bills. He would miss rent. He couldn’t afford to do that- they would throw him out without a second thought. He’d end up homeless.

Kip knew that creating a report like the one that John had asked for would take hours, especially on such a small phone screen. If he needed to get it done by five o’ clock, then he’d need to get started almost immediately. It would take him the rest of the morning and afternoon.

That meant… that he had about an hour of holiday left.

That’s all he’d been given. One hour. Kip had just one hour left to enjoy himself and forget about his troubles – but now that hour felt like a ticking time bomb, steadily and rapidly counting down to zero. Kip wouldn’t get to use Cecilia’s map. He wouldn’t be able to see any rabbits. He didn’t have time to get a drink. He wouldn’t get to bond with birds, or pet cows, or get chased by Sir Cluckles a second time.

Kip wouldn’t get to do any of it.

“What about you, buddy? What have you got to look forward to?”

12 thoughts on “Chapter 3 – Flowers for a Stranger, Part II

  1. Poor Kip. First he is attacked by a devilish rooster. But he doesn’t seem to hold a grudge against it.

    It is so sweet to see how he finds resonance in Cecilia’s joy of animals. His many flashbacks show that he once had a very close relationship with a dog. A really sweet dog.
    Kip is just about to be able to breathe freely when he receives a text message from his boss. His work environment is so toxic 😬😭 (I’m having some flashbacks to a really mean boss I had at one point in my life)
    A layoff won’t be a major accident, even if he thinks so right now. The world lies open before him and a way out often appears from an unexpected edge.
    I send him lots of love. He needs it where he is right now.❤❤❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cecilia’s love for animals is definitely a way to endear herself to Kip – in the game, the two of them really hit it off 😊

      Toxic work environments are a real nightmare. Although Kip’s workplace is mildly exaggerated for dramatic effect, I had some major flashbacks while writing these chapters, too 😖 Let’s hope that Kip realises that his world is so much more than that office… and let’s hope he realises it soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Aww, Kip is looking so precious with his blouse and pink band-aid. 🥺Must protec. I adore him and Cecilia bonding over their relationships with animals helping them get through tough patches; they are both precious beans.

    Silly Kip. You are a guest in the chickens’ home right now. 🤣

    Oh no, the colors faded again! Kip needs to drop this toxic job like a bad habit and Stardew Valley his life around. I know it’s easier said than done to take that first step, but I’m hopeful he’ll get the chance to see that his well-being is worth the risk!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Two precious beans in a pod! Or was it peas? Eh, potato tomato. They hit it off so well in the game, too 🥰

      Yes! Stardew Valley your life, Kip! I did actually let him Stardew Valley it up in a different save, and to this day that remains my favourite game ever. We’ll see how well this Story Kip does 😁


  3. I see that Cecilia is being quite popular recently XD

    The second part of the chapter punches much harder instead. Phone ringing at night is never a good sign, but that was a particularly bad exchange of messages and calls. That work place is really horrible!
    Someone really needs to propose him a job in Henford so that he can quit the grey city for the green countryside! (I say so because he doesn’t seem the guy to quit everything without a plan B on how to make a living for himself…)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, what can I say? She’s a likeable sim 😄

      Someone really does. And you have Kip pegged pretty well there – it’s going to take one heck of an eye-opener for him to really change his ways…


  4. Poor Kip! My worst workplaces were not (quite) as bad, but I can still relate. I’ve had a couple jobs that seemed very reluctant to give time off.

    Since the title of the story is “Tales of Henford” not “Tales of Kip’s Really Awful Workplace”, I am going to trust that he will not be leaving here so soon. But, wow. 😮 What a terrible boss!

    Keep up the great story!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup. Some workplaces are just not worth the kind of sacrifices people make for them 😶 We’ll see what Kip ends up doing in the next few chapters…


  5. I love the ominous gathering of chickens inside the house 😂

    Poor Kip. I felt tight in the chest on his behalf when he got those messages. I honestly hope they fire him just to set him free since he doesn’t seem able to make that choice himself yet. BE FREE KIP! You don’t need that job, the apartment or even the city! Rely on the kindness of strangers! 😭❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d completely forgotten about how the chickens just go absolutely everywhere if you don’t lock doors and fence gates. It’s hilarious 😆

      Poor Kip really needs some perspective. And to throw his work phone in the nearest river. Both is good. I bet we can do both.

      Liked by 1 person

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