Chapter eleven: Happy birthday
I wake up with a feeling of refreshing melancholy.
I don’t want to get up, not yet.
I close my eyes, and think back to the dream, it was good. Yobu wasn’t great at the game, Himowa kicked his ass just as hard as she did mine. My eyes drift to the lady laying next to me in the bed. I kiss her cheek tenderly.
She grumbles softly “You okay?”
“Yes, yes I am. I love you.”
“That’s good.” She mumbles before falling back to sleep again.
I smile at this, get out of bed, stretch my back and look out the window.
The sea has gone pale blue, with islands dotted around amidst the water.
Ten days still I think.
But somehow that feels really close now.
I was so busy with what I left behind, I didn’t even consider where we were going
I wonder what Venusia is like.
I should ask Elizabeth about it.
I knock on the cockpit door.
“Come in.” The voice is Dana’s.
Did I get the time wrong?
“Oh hello, Dana,” I say a bit surprised opening the door.
“If you were looking for Elizabeth she’s still in bed. I told her she could sleep in because it’s her birthday.
“Right, that makes sense. I just had a quick question about the trip-”
“Anything I can answer for her?”
“Just, what’s Venusia like?”
“Well, it’s a bit of an odd place. It’s technically a Charalian city but since it’s sixteen days travel by airship never mind the boats they travelled with before that it governs itself almost like its own entity. It’s a crowded place.
It used to be just an empty island two hundred years ago but by now lots of people from lots of places made their homes there. And they all brought their cultures with them so even though it technically belongs to Charalia people tend to identify themselves with either their homeland or as Venusians.”
“And you think the kashuya can’t find me there?”
“If they did I’d be very surprised, it’s the architecture. Very confusing if you’re not used to it.” She tries to think of a description and fails “You’ll see.”
“You’re welcome. Anything else?”
“Any chance you can land for breakfast? Himowa and I wanna give Elizabeth our gift and it’d be nice if you could make it to celebrate with us.”
“Two hours from now?’
I smile “Great.” I turn back to the door.
“Oh and Hui.”
“You seem happier now, it’s nice.”
I fry some doughnuts for breakfast, it’s not the same as the butter and cream she’s used to but it’s the closest I can get without telling her to ‘wait till we made it to Venusia for supplies.’
Besides they’re nice in their own way.
There’s a knock on the door.
“Thought you’d be here. Ooh, are you making doughnuts?”
“Sweet!” she puts her head on my shoulder eyes fixed on the pot of oil “Did you sleep well?”
“I dreamt Yobu was here.”
“Yeah…it was nice.”
“Oh good.” She sounds relieved.
Thinking back on it I have to chuckle “Oh and you were there, being badass like always.”
“Really? Do tell.”
“Well okay, so the dream started as a nightmare you see…”
I tell her my dream from beginning to end and watch her face go from horror to smug victory and then onward to silent contemplation.
When I’m done her eyes cast downwards “That sounds like a nice dream.”
I hug her, and kiss her cheek “are you okay?”
“Yeah.” She smiles “Let’s wrap Alice’s candies shall we?”
“Oh right! The mango.”
I rush out of the room leaving Himowa looking confused for a bit.
To my relief, I find the candies survived.
The tray feels warm to the touch, I try wrapping my sleeves around my hands but stupid tailored shirts don’t have enough sleeve to use.
In the end, it’s not hot enough to get burned so I pick it up with my bare hands and walk back to the kitchen.
“Now let’s wrap those candies.”
“Not so fast, we have to know if they’re any good.”
I squint at her “Are you doubting my skills?”
“Yours? Not a chance but mine are a mystery sooo.” She picks a piece of mango off the tray pops it in her mouth and nods. “Hmm hmm very good.”
“That’s because you didn’t help with those.” I roll my eyes.
I pick one of the chaho crackers from the plate and hand it to her.
She tries it, nods, then pulls me close and kisses me, passing the candy into my mouth and yes…
They’re good candies.
We wrap them up in baking paper and Himowa
darts off to return with a cute-looking handbag that has a tasteful geometrical pattern on the outside and a happy burst of flowers and birds on the inside. The fabric is cut and pieced in such a way it makes up a whole new pattern. And it should be able to hold her gun and maybe some small other items.
“What do you think?” She asks.
“It’s perfect, just like you.”
“Thanks.” She then starts putting the wrapped candies in the bag and closes it up. “What’s next?”
“Wrapping the bag and setting the table.”
The looks at me incredulously “the bag is the wrapper.”
“But the bag is so much more impressive than the candies. The candies are just filler so it’s not empty.”
She shakes her head “The candies are delicious and are worthy of being the main event. Stop doubting yourself.” She pushes my shoulder playfully.
I roll my eyes. I think she’s wrong. But I also think that this isn’t something worth arguing about. Wrapped or not, the bag is a wonderful gift and Elizabeth has got to be happy with it.
“Come on, I’ll help set the table, I bring the bag, and you bring those doughnuts.”
We enter an empty parlour.
Himowa sets the bag down next to Elizabeth’s plate.
“Hui where did you put the teacups?” Himowa asks.
“Oh, they’re in the kitchen still, I left them to dry and forgot to put them back, I’ll fetch them.”
The ship starts descending as I make my way down the corridor.
Elizabeth erupts from her room “Morning Xuiyo.”
“Hey, Alice. Happy birthday.” I bow at her.
“Thank you.” She hugs me tightly making me smile. “How’s breakfast coming along?”
“Wonderful, I’ll be heading to Dana real quick, see you in the parlour?”
She bops up and down on her toes, then darts away to the cockpit. I head to the kitchen pick up the teacups and head back to the parlour.
Himowa and I set them around so we can start breakfast.
And then we wait for Elizabeth and Dana to join us.
The ship jolts and bumps as we land.
By the time Dana and Elizabeth come back, Dana is holding a round box and Elizabeth is trying to guess what’s inside “is it a cake?”
“Well, I doubt it’s a book.”
“It’s not a book.”
“Happy birthday” Himowa announces and then rushes up to Elizabeth to hug her.
“Thank you!” Elizabeth exclaims surprised and then spots our gift next to her plate. “Wait what’s…oh my it’s a bag!”
“I told you we should have wrapped it.” I look at Himowa, she just shrugs in response.
“Oh it’s gorgeous is it…is it for me?”
“Yes.” Himowa says “And there’s something inside as well.”
Elizabeth’s eyes grow big as she opens it up “Candy!”
“It’s filled with candy, Dana look.” She rushes the bag to Dana and shows it off on all sides, putting extra effort into making her look at the inside and the candy within.
“That’s a nice gift.” Dana agrees.
“Yes! Thank you, Himowa.”
“And Hui.” Himowa adds.
“I made the candy. I know it’s not as expensive or fancy as a new gun but-”
She wraps her arms around me and squeezes me tight “I love it, thank you.”
I hug her back heart feeling light and amazing.
“Donuts for breakfast, nice. Let’s dig in, they’ll get cold.” Dana remarks.
“But what about your gift?” Himowa asks.
“That can wait till after,” Dana says.
Elizabeth squints at Dana but doesn’t protest as Dana sets the box next to Elizabeth’s plate and sits down.
Elizabeth tries one “They’re chewy. It’s weird but nice.”
After breakfast, Elizabeth is finally allowed to open the box.
There’s a cap inside, a captain’s cap with a brass pair of wings on the front of it.
Elizabeth looks at it in awe “When did you get this?”
“Back in Cygne. I wanted to give it for your birthday then but it didn’t seem like the right moment.”
“Thank you, thank you so much.” She hugs her, and Himowa does an “awwww” in the background. I try my best not to laugh.
It feels good.
Being here, with these people
My new family.