Writer’s Note: Seriously, I need to start these posts earlier in the week. BUT! I have officially come to the end of the scene I had plotted out when I began with Cael, Ilya & Alberich at the first housing lobby. So, that feels good. The prospect of next week’s post is terrifying because I only have a vague idea of where I’m taking everyone.
The conversation with Udo could be expanded a bit. I feel like he’s not a full person yet. But, that’s what the next couple of rounds of editing will be for….
Cael drained the last of his foggy moonshine and signaled for another to the bartender, who was visibly annoyed at dirtying his newly cleaned bar.
“And what do you think? Are the Novafolk coming back?”
The woman paused thoughtfully with a smile carefully held in place. Cael could tell she already had her answer. She was pausing to consider what she would say.
“I have had the privilege of visiting a few Manana colonies. A little unrest is not uncommon or… unexpected? …from the miners. But who knows, perhaps Edgard Dessal will be able to hold these people together and keep the moon.” She sighed, “Either way, I am not concerned for my safety with the butch kuja watching over us.”
Ilya couldn’t hear what the two were saying from her vantage point in the hallway, but she saw sudden gleam of interest light up Cael’s eye. She knew the woman talking to him would have noticed the change as well.
“What’ss yr name?”
The woman paused again before saying, “Senka.”
“You keep hesitating before you answer.”
“You have so many questions.”
“That was only two!”
“Three, if you count asking about my long evening; but even so, I can see you have more.”
“Mm… s’rry. How about I buy you another drink?”
Senka cocked her head, letting long strands of dark hair fall across her face. “All right.”
She said, as bartender refilled her glass, “I hesitated before, because ordinarily when a gentleman asks for my name here… my response is always ‘whatever you desire.’” She mocked a seductive tone, tilting her chin down so she was looking up at him. “But,” she sat up again, taking a sip, “I can tell you are not interested in creating a fantasy tonight.”
“Are you sure? I have had a pretty shitty day, and I don’t know, myself, what I want.”
“Exactly!” Lenka flashed a bright, spontaneous smile. All at once, the expression made her entire demeanor more youthful while revealing the crows feet at the corner of her eyes. “You are obviously no miner, and you certainly do not belong here. You have an air of a wanderer. Lost men, such as yourself, appreciate a little truth now and then to hold on to.”
Cael pondered her logic while sipping has his own glass and nodded. “You’re good.”
Ilya knew she should just turn away, walk back down the hall, back into the room, and curl up on the chair. He Bhaga, but she knew she was exhausted enough to fall into an immediate and deep sleep. Something inside wouldn’t let her leave. She could center the feeling dead within the ache in her chest. She couldn’t even rationalize why she had to stay, but she had to. She had to make sure Cael did not leave with this woman. Ilya didn’t think Cael would abandon her… did she? Ilya shivered at the thought, but no, as unhappy as she imagined he was with her for inserting herself into this mess, she knew he would never abandon her here. Not here.
A tiny sigh of relief escaped her as she saw a second man in a stunning blue robe approach the bar and cuddle up behind the woman. Why was she so worried. The woman would certainly leave Cael when she found out he had no credit.
Cael nodded to the man as he rested a chin on Senka’s shoulder.
“This is my friend, Udo. Udo this is that woman’s brother…”
“Cael, m’name is Cael.”
“Ya ya you! I have never see the boss woman so happy.” It could have been the unfamiliar lilt of Udo’s accent, but Cael believed he caught a hint of sarcasm in his tone.
“I didn’t r’lly have an’thing to do with it, I swear. I hope it’s alright.”
“Don’t worry about him.” Senka leaned back playfully into her friend. “He’s only mad she didn’t bring anyone for him.”
Cael quickly assessed the man. He had, at first, assumed Udo was Moungren, but the features of this face were a little too round. He had the look of an artist or intellectual more than that of a physical laborer. The way he draped himself against the bar behind Senka mirrored her posture more closely than any of the patrons still lounging about the lobby.
“Yes, I can see how the men following Mari wouldn’t have been any help to you. But you do find enough business here usually?”
“Mining the asteroids that gather in this planet’s fulcrums is still a game of life or death. So much bravado and strength is required just to go out again and again to survive. With so much testosterone built up in this little atmosphere; masculinity becomes a religion in itself, I think. Sometimes it takes a man to understand what is needed to find relief from that sort of environment.”
Cael nodded. “Never thought of it that way. I assumed there would be taboos against your… um, services.”
“Oh there is. It’s why I get to charge more out here. Or did, anyway.” Udo sighed. “We’ve all had to deal with some lean times since the Novafolk were kicked out. Everyone’s afraid to spend their money, and lose what little they have.” He looked down at Senka, “I know I shouldn’t begrudge your good fortune just because I didn’t get to share in it.”
“Don’t worry, my love, you know I’ll always share with you.” Senka looked to Cael. Cael noticed Udo also looking to him.
The meaning behind their looks finally penetrated his moonshine clouded brain.
“Oh… you two you are good.”
Ilya’s heart leaped when she saw Cael stagger to his feet. She watched as he thew an arm over each of his new companions. The ache in her chest grew dense and numb as she watched the three make their way toward her in the hallway. There was a slight pause as the Novafolk woman in the clerk’s window verified Cael’s credit. To Ilya’s amazement, they were waved through, and the three passed her without so much as a glancing notice. She stood, petrified in place in the shadows of the guards, the numbness in her chest having spread to her limbs. Ilya watched the three figures disappear into the recesses of the dark hallway, it’s inky blackness growing and reaching out to her. It was only when her knees hit the carpet that she realized she had stopped breathing and almost fainted. One of the guards turned at the soft noise and she scrambled back to her feet. She forgot about the oversized robe wrapped around her and her legs fought through the fabric as she made her way back to Ilya’s room.
Pushing her way in blindly, Ilya knocked into the lamp set haphazardly on a pedestal. The loud pop of glass and electricity startled Mari and her companion from sleep as Ilya continued to force her way into the room.
“Ilya?” Mari’s voice croaked drowsily.
Ilya jumped into the cushioned chair and pulled the ends of the robe up around her head.
“Ilya. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” She mumbled through the fabric of the robe. “I’m sorry about the lamp.”
“Es Cael okay?”
“He’s fine.” Ilya tried to keep her tone as flat as possible.
“Where es ghe?”
Mari waited for an answer.
“He’s in another room.”
“Ghe’s en another….” There was a long sigh. “Do jyou need a pillow orgh anything?”
“Jyou argh good, then?”
Ilya pulled tighter at the robe. “Yes.”
“Okay… good night, then.”
Ilya was wrong. Sleep did not come immediately, nor deeply.