Writer’s Note: Awww… yeah! More movement! Woot! The whole race vs plastic surgery conversation is still super awkward and clunky, but I’m satisfied that I at least have the beginnings of where I want it to go. Couple hundred more edits and I should have it!
Ilya snapped her head forward again.
“Sorry,” she whispered.
She could feel Cael shift from one foot to the other as he stood over her, his arms surrounding her so he could lean against the counter.
“So people can change their race?”
He took a sip of her water. “Well, on the surface, I suppose.”
“But how could you stand it? I mean, to look so different?”
“I don’t… know, Ilya.”
“I just don’t… to wake up with a new face, to be so alien from my own family and… people; I would go crazy every time I looked in the mirror.”
“I guess, for some people those things aren’t so important.”
“Would it feel different-”
“Ilya, I just… I can’t. Please stop.”
She fell silent like a child being scolded. Ever since they got out of the jail, it seemed as if she couldn’t do anything without annoying Cael. She wanted to badly to find him, assuming he would be able to fix everything the moment they were reunited. Every few minutes he would glance around the lobby for Mari in vain. He seemed lost. It was a thought that gave Ilya a sickening pang of anxiety.
A pitiful grown emanated from Cael’s belly.
“Was that you?” Ilya asked without turning her head.
“Yep… can’t remember the last time I ate.” He bent down so that his face was over her shoulder. “Are you hungry at all?”
Ilya shook her head, not wanting to discuss that it was from the fresh set of knots in her own stomach.
“Ah, hello.” Cael spoke up to the bartender. “Is there any food available?”
The bartender’s eyes never left his paper. “Meals are served to the rooms only; guarantees credit is available.”
“Nothing to snack on? No nuts or… crackers?”
The bartender continued reading as if he hadn’t heard Cael’s questions.
“There you are!”
Ilya and Cael both sighed in relief as Mari sauntered up. She was still wearing the black, skintight body suit. Its two front zippers opened down to her hips, exposing a rectangle of skin, the hanging flap implying a strip of skirt or the lengthy flap of a savage’s loin cloth. Ilya noted the similarities between the flat bodies of Mari and the reclined woman with the mask-like face. Perhaps curves were only valued among her people.
Mari dropped onto a stool and stretched her arms across the bar.
“I see thegh set jhou ohp with thee shots. You’rghe… whelcomeh.”
Cael cleared his throat. “Could you talk in Sakhimi for Ilya, again?”
“Yeahhh… no, that’s note gonn happen…. little too few many compim… complimenry shots, m’fraid.”
Mari looked at Ilya and screwed her face up in a crooked smile.
“Can you let us into your room at least? We’re starving and they only serve food to the rooms. YOUR room, I assume, is also getting some kind of complimentary special.”
“Nope! But I gote two lines of credit attached to et so lessgo! Food time!”
Mari pushed herself from the counter, and Cael helped Ilya down from the stool.
“What’s going on?”
“We’re going to her room to get some food, that’s all.”
He turned back to Alberich to call him over when a cry sprang from that corner. All eyes in the lobby turned to see the woman with the porcelain face slap and yank at Alberich’s arm. The large man was sprawled on his side and breathing heavily. I massive, black, pillowy coat sleeping among the cushions was all they could see. When it was obvious she was not going to be able to wake him up, the woman struggled to her feet in her tight floor length dress and storm off as best she could with mincing steps she could take in the confines of the skirt still with an expression of calm serenity. The disconnect between the woman’s annoyed body language and her face’s placid expression were disconcerting to Ilya. The perfection was suddenly not quite as compelling to Ilya anymore.
They left Alberich in the corner and followed Mari, who had walked up to the older Novafolk woman in the clerk’s window.
“Let the big guy sleep et off en the cornah. Ghe es with me. Okay?”
The woman looked up from the squawking kampdator and took a drag off her cigarrette.
“You pay for any trouble he causes.”
Ilya looked at Cael and shrugged as she turned back to the window.
“Yeah, sureh; seems fair.”