Writers Note: Feeling good! I am so friggin close to closing this chapter! Well… okay this scene anyway. I had to experiment with Cael’s drunk talk a little. I thought too many apostrophes would be distracting. As for Ilya, I spent most of my time digging into my teen years of seeing dudes I was crushing on with other girls. And that was basically the emotion I was trying to get across. I hope it translates. I hope it works.
Ilya lifted her head and pushed herself up enough to lean her shoulders and neck against the porcelain. The shower of water cooled enough by the time it reached her face to be a relief from the steaming heat of the bathwater. All she wanted to do was sleep. No, all she wanted to do was go home. She sighed. All she wanted to do was to go to Cael. Had she really thought she was running away to rescue him? The moment she decided to slip out of her mother’s home seemed so far away now, it was a different reality. A pleasant dream where Cael and Ilya played house and doctor like children. Her mad decision had been her attempt to remain in the dream, to hold on to it as she was forced to the waking world. She’d been nothing but a burden since finding him, and now he’ll have to find a way to get her home. It was only now, finally, that she understood it would only be her going back.
If you could create a line of credit so easily, why is Mari going through all the trouble of using the two Moungren’s credit lines? – Cael
Cael was already enjoying a second jar of some aptly named moonshine. His brain, now free from over-thinking, he was happily making his way through the soggy newspaper when the thought occurred to him.
Unfortunately, women can’t BE patrons at this particular establishment, only patronized. Plus, I’m sure she enjoyed the challenge, and I’ve learned not to step in until I have to. She was SO sure she would get a free room for all the business she brought with her! It’s good to know she still isn’t quite as charming as she thinks she is. – Sieffre
I would love to see what it takes to successfully charm one of these Novafold crones. – Cael
Cael snuck a glance at the doughy head and shoulders slouched in the clerk’s window. Their eyes met as she took a puff off of her cigar and he blinked hard, trying to look away naturally.
Strike that. No, I wouldn’t – Cael.
Ilya grew overheated in the bathwater and awkwardly sloshed her way to a standing position. She couldn’t hear anything over the shower. A peak through the plastic curtain confirmed still, sleeping bodies in the lamplight. The snoring man, Frantz had been moved to the threadbare carpet between her extruded shower and the bed, her borrowed green, fur coat tucked under his head like a pillow. Possibly cued by the opening curtains, the shower ceased and the tub quickly drained around her legs. As the heat seeped away, Ilya realized the wet payjamas pants and kurta top clinging to her skin were her only set of clothes. She stood helplessly for a moment, clutching her elbows, when a dark cloth robe unfolded itself from a hidden space between the wall and shower. She pulled it from where it hung on the wall and unsure of what to do, felt the thick, soft fabric and then sniffed it. It didn’t smell like much of anything, so with a shrug she draped it around her. She felt like a little child wearing her mother’s robe. Climbing over the edge of the tub and taking two steps, she was swimming in fabric. Ilya gathered the ends, threw one end over her shoulder and wrapped the other around her waist until she could hold the loose fabric to her body with one arm. She kicked off her sopping wet slippers and made her way to the hallway. She wasn’t comfortable with so many strangers in the room and wanted to see Cael.
Cael was squinting at blurry paragraph listing entities now friendly to the Moun nan Rebellion, further legitimizing their cause….
“Mind if I sit with you?” The feminine voice was soft and tired.
Cael looked up to see a middle aged woman with olive skin and waves of dark, curly hair that perfectly framed her heart shaped face. Her expression matched her voice, tired but calm and inviting. The warm lamplight would occasionally catch in her dark eyes, giving them an amber like quality.
“Be m’guest. Been a long day?”
The woman collapsed gracefully onto the stool, her elbow on the counter between drying glasses, her cheek resting against the back of her wrist. The dark, glittering fabric of her dress shifted loosely about her, artfully hiding and clinging against the shape of her body in a way intended to tantalize. She lightly laughed off what could have been taken as a very crude joke at her expense, and Cael realized his blunder.
“Oh, I begyr pardon, I didn’t mn to….”
“No worries, my friend. Buy me a drink?”
Before he could answer, she had nodded at the bartender who began pouring a concoction.
“Yes, of course.”
“And it has been a long day. I believe I have your… sister to thank? For the… sudden business this evening.”
Cael tried not to wince. “Yesss?”
“Then perhaps I should be the one to buy you a drink.”
Ilya crept down the dark hallway, ignoring the shocking and sometimes baffling noises emanating through the doors she passed; was that a man crying in baby talk about his diaper? She hid behind one of the oblivious guards as she peered into the lobby. There were definitely fewer people. Alberich could clearly be seen in the far corner, breathing heavily among the floor cushions. Movement by the bar caught her eye, and she saw Cael facing her, smiling. She was about to move out from behind the guard Cael laughed and began talking. With a sudden sinking heart, Ilya realized he was talking to the other figure at the bar. The person’s back was to her, but she could tell by the catlike repose that it was one of the women who worked here.
“No, of course not! It s’ms as though she isstaking carev all of us, tonight.”
“I find it difficult to believe you would need anyone to take care of you.”
“Very much to the contrary, I was finding myself completely helpless for a bed to sleep in tonight. These um, Novafolk… clerks can be….”
“Ha! T’put it plitely, I guess.” Cael leaned in and dropped his voice to whisper. “You’d think they would relax a little, after the rebellion n’all.”
The woman leaned in as well. “Between you and me, I think they secretly expect the Manana Corporation will take the moon back at any moment.”
Ilya watched the two lean in and the sinking feeling in her chest turned into an ache, but she couldn’t look away. This was stupid. Hadn’t she already resolved herself to going home alone? They were nothing to each other. He was never a real husband, and in all their time working together she had never thought of him as one. So what was this? What was she doing?