Chapter eight: Messy
After doing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen for the third time in a row I can’t find any more excuses to waste my time.
I head to the parlour where Himowa is practising her swordsmanship waving the blade backwards and forwards in an almost hypnotic motion.
“Hey.” I offer.
She does not reply. Face averted she glides across the room distancing herself from me.
I get it.
I sit down on the sofa and wait for her to take the initiative.
Find she doesn’t want to.
And head to the cockpit instead.
“Hey, Alice.” I knock on the door
I open the door and step into the glass bubble.
Beneath my feet there are mountains but they look weird, yellowing and sickly. Nothing like the mountains we had back home.
“Where are we?”
“Kaschmal, I can’t tell you much about it aside from that it’s mostly sand and the people who live there aren’t too keen on people landing.”
“Ah…So how’s the Dana situation?”
A painful wince comes from Elizabeth’s direction “She does that thing where she says I have to make my own decisions but will make it very clear she doesn’t approve of just keeping the money so it’s like ‘it’s your choice, just make sure the result aligns with my moral compass though.”
I huff “Yeah, I get that.”
“I’m tempted to keep the money just to spite her…which yes sounds terrible now I say it out loud.” She grunts “I guess I just need time…luckily I’m two thousand feet up in the air with nothing to do but think.”
I don’t know what to say to that. If there’s anything I’ve learned these past days it’s that thinking isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. “Want me to sit with you instead?”
Elizabeth turns her face to me “Yes, I’d like that.”
The yellowing mountains make way for long deserts and then an oasis filled with blue and flanked on all sides with life.
“It may look like a nice vacation spot, but if that oasis is anything like the ones in my books it’s filled with crocodiles.”
“Long lizards with sharp teeth that drag you under in the water and drown you.”
A couple of hours later I have to excuse myself to start making dinner.
But it was nice.
That evening I’m slicing the pork into thin strips for marinating.
I found a sharpening stone in a drawer and after a good half hour of drawing the knife back and forth, I find the knives much easier to work with.
It slices cleanly through the muscle tissue.
I wonder how I’m going to make sweets with the things I already have.
Maybe I can mix sugar, rice flour and egg and then bake a sort of cake from that? Or I can dry some mango in sugar. That’s a really simple snack and not particularly impressive. But it’s nice to eat.
Part of me wishes Himowa had shared her plot with me earlier so, back in Charalia I could at least get the ingredients needed to make something special, something I could show off with.
But I guess the bag is the true gift. So what’s in there isn’t that important?
A sharp pain shoots through me.
I drop the knife.
Attention fixes on the finger I accidentally cut into.
I can feel the blood pulsing as it leaves the wound.
It’s not even that big a cut and yet I can feel my heart racing in my chest.
My brain is a jumbled mess.
Eyes fixed on nothing but red.
I should get a towel, and cover the wound, I know all this and yet I just stare.
Unable to look away.
There’s a knock on the door.
I hide my hand behind my back before saying “yes?” trying my best to keep my voice level.
Himowa opens the door “Elizabeth wants to know when dinner’s ready”
“Oh uh…soon. I just, wait no I still need to do a lot, like, half an hour?”
She pulls up an eyebrow “You look pale and you’re rambling, what’s wrong?” She steps closer.
I step back.
“Show me what’s behind your back.”
“There’s nothing behind my back. It’s…” I grunt and show her my hand.
The moment she sees the blood her eyes grow big “What happened?”
“Then why try to hide such a thing?” She sighs “I’m grabbing the medikit. Don’t move.” She strides out, closing the door behind her with a thump.
As I grab a clean towel and cover the cut Himowa’s question ghosts through my head.
Why did I try to hide it?
It’s not like this was ever taboo before. I worked in a kitchen I cut my hands before, never on purpose and always I just covered the cut so no blood could get on the food and moved on.
Am I scared of the sight of blood?
Is this something I’ll have to deal with now?
I sure hope not.
“Sit down” Himowa orders as she kicks in the door, sets the kit down on the table and opens it up.
I oblige, then watch her as she pulls out the bandages and cut cream.
“Can we skip the cream?” I can still remember the sting and it’s not something I care for again, even if it dulls the pain in the long run.
She shrugs “Sure.” She pulls the towel away gingerly and wraps up my hand best she can.
“Sorry, it looks so messy.” She apologises as she ties the ends together. I can’t help but think back to Takeyo, wrapping my arm back when I was locked up in my old room.
He just appears in my brain like that, always in stupid moments and for stupid reasons.
I’m annoyed that guy sticks in my brain more often than even Hashiro could.
You’re actually good at this? I’d told him.
He almost sounded embarrassed by it, as if having a caring side is a bad thing.
“I’m sorry for what I said this morning”
Himowa bites her lip, tucks the end of the bandage under neat the winds and sighs “Hui, Xuiyo, whatever I’m truly trying to give you space to process what happened to you back home but-”
“No, you’re not, you think I don’t notice you disappearing at night? The faces you make when you think no one’s looking. You cut your hand and hid it from me, that’s not normal.”
I shrug it off ”Thank you for the bandage. I need to get back to making dinner.”
“I want to help but I can’t if you keep locking me out like this.”
“You can help by leaving me to my job and quit prying all the time. It’s annoying”
“So you’ll apologise for one rude thing and then immediately say another.” Himowa huffs indignantly, closes the medikit with a snap and lugs it out of the kitchen.
I upset her again.
I feel bad about that.
But I told her I don’t want to talk about it, she’s should respect that right? Not keep on pushing and pushing in the hopes I trip and spill my guts. That’s just as unfair.
So she’s the bad guy now.
Dinner is silent that evening.
The ship is standing in a field surrounded by sheep so it’s the four of us at the dinner table.
But no one has anything to say.
I’m in the bowels of the ship.
It’s nighttime. Himowa is up in her bed sleeping soundly
Dinner was quiet, Elizabeth ate in the cockpit, and Dana tried to start a conversation but Himowa and I both didn’t quite feel like talking.
I get it why she’s mad.
But I can’t explain why I act this way.
I don’t know what’s wrong with me.
I just feel…scared.
Like something terrible will happen and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.
A boogeyman that lives in the back of my brain and won’t leave me alone.
“You know if I knew you’d haunt me I’d have made sure you were dead first Takeyo.” my mouth pulls into a grimace. Then I sit down on the floor knowing that’s just tough talk.
I should hate Takeyo but…
In a way, Takeyo was the only sibling I could ever tolerate…
He’s the only one who ever tolerated me.
Or at least tried to in his own way.
Poor misguided Takeyo, dancing for the kashuya and refusing to see the rot underneath the wallpaper.
His betrayal still stings.
Telling Hashiro I had a gun, making that bastard that much harder to kill.
I bet he’d feel pretty shitty now if that betrayal got me killed.
At least I think that’s what’d happen.
I try to steer my mind away from the past.
Will I ever be done with this jumble of memories and thoughts that keep creeping up whenever I let my guard down?
I take a deep breath and listen.
I don’t know why but the repetitive knocks and clangs feel soothing to me.
They feel like a constant.
Like something solid and real.
Something to hold on to in an ever-changing world.
I sit down against the wall.
And close my eyes.