Chapter eight: Utopia
The sun is bright, the sky is clear, and the park is overrun with people carrying parasols and picnic baskets.
“Oh dear, we’re not too late are we?” Mr Viola wonders “Girls, go look for a good spot.”
Harmony salutes her father humorously before darting off, Melody rolls her eyes put a smile creeps around her face.
Harmony yells “Over here!” from the other side of the field. Before she as much as has the chance to help
The guests rush towards her and Mr Viola hands me the picnic blanket to give to her.
We lay it out together, then everyone sits down. Well, everyone staying at the inn right now who didn’t already have plans for the day.
And enjoy the sun.
The sun makes people happier I found. I can’t explain why, but it does.
Customers who don’t agree on anything normally drink their soda lemonade together and chat about sports as if they don’t support opposing teams.
And the family is happier too. Mr Viola tells me it was just ‘business as usual’ while I was gone, but Harmony is floating around this Mr Dovey fellow and I’m pretty sure they’re friends.
Melody seems happier too, in her own sarcastic way of course.
“Oh, hi Melody.” I guess I was so lost in thought I didn’t even notice her coming up to me.
“I didn’t ask how your holiday was yet?”
“Oh, it was nice. I mean most of the time is spent in a train car but we played games and talked so it was nice. Oh, I taught some of my siblings how to play jinx. They enjoyed it very much so thank you for teaching it to me.”
Her eyes light up at that “Really? That’s great. I’m glad you like it so much, I was afraid you would hate the game after what we pulled the first time.”
“Yeah, that was not nice.”
“It’s okay by now,” I assure her.
She smiles, takes off her shoes and leans into me turning her face up at the sun. I can feel her shoulders drop as she takes a deep sigh of contentment.
“Every day should feel like this.”
“Wouldn’t you get bored of it then? Forget to enjoy it?”
“Nah, not me, maybe everyone else, but not me.”
There’s silence for a bit.
“I want to ask you a question but you told me not during work. Does this count as work?”
Her shoulders jump, and her gaze peers around the park in paranoia. “Not here. Right, come with me.” She gets up and pulls me up from the blanket.
“Melody your shoes-”
“It’s fine, it’s the park no one minds.”
“But won’t your stockings get dirty? I have to clean those remember and grass stains are a mess to get out.”
“You make a good point.” She drops back down onto the blanket and pulls the stockings off her feet. Neatly folding them next and pushing them into the empty shoes. “Perfect, now let’s go.”
Having run out of objections, I follow.
I’m not sure where she expects to find privacy in a crowded park but lo and behold she manages it.
“All right give me a boost.” She tells me pointing up at a big walnut tree.
“Just stand with your back against the tree and hold your hands like this.” She illustrates wrapping her hands together.
“What are you planning?”
“Climb the tree of course.”
“Isn’t that dangerous?”
“Only if you don’t know what you’re doing.” She chuckles at my expression “Don’t worry, sis and I would climb trees all the time when we were little, it’ll be fine.”
“All right then.” I push my back against the tree and hold out my hands for her to step on.
She grabs my shoulder pulls up her skirts and steps up moving past me in a fluid motion.
She’s so light, like a kitten.
“Could you go a little higher?” Melody asks so I push her upwards some more.
“Whoa! Okay, you’re far stronger than I thought, a little lower actually.”
I feel the weight disappear from my hands and look up to find her sitting on a wide branch close to the trunk “Come on.”
“Where do I start?”
“Well, Harmony would normally just jump, she’s very good at that.”
“All right…” I jump, try to hold on to anything but my hand aren’t as dexterous as a human’s.
“Maybe wrap your arms around one of the lower branches instead of the trunk.” Melody suggests.
I look around for a branch that looks like it can support my weight. Melody may be light but I am…less so. And I don’t want to hurt this tree unnecessarily.
After circling the tree a couple of times I’m pretty sure I found the thickest branch, I jump, wrap my arms around it and hope it doesn’t give out on me immediately.
“Well done Delaylah, now pull yourself up.”
“All right…” I pull up and after some awkward flinging legs back and forth I am officially in the tree.
“Now get up here.”
I put my arm on the branch above me and try tentatively to pull myself up, the branch creaks in distress “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” I admit.
Her eyes soften “All right, I’ll come down a bit then.”
She kicks out her legs and I make sure to look away in modestly as she clambers down.
There’s a thud next to me but the branch seems to hold to my relief.
“All right so you requested gossip?” Melody giggles.
“Uh, I wouldn’t say it like that honestly. I was just wondering how you and that lady are doing now.”
“It’s going great actually, Hope and I did fight first. She felt like I was picking your side in the matter but I assured her that you had no idea what you were doing and it won’t happen again.” She squints her eyes at me “It won’t right?”
“I don’t think so.”
“But yeah after that was forgiven and forgotten she was very happy to see me again.” A sneaky smile curls around her lip “In fact, I’m going to utopia tonight”
“Just a club of like-minded people, you should come along, you don’t have a curfew do you?”
“It’s settled then, tonight at midnight I’ll be waiting for you outside the hotel and we’ll get to the club together.”
“What about your curfew?”
She laughs “Delaylah you’re such a funny lady. I haven’t followed the curfew ever since I was fifteen. So outside, midnight. You in?”
“I think so?”
And with that settled, she pushes off on the branch we’re sitting on and jumps out of the tree.
“Melody!” I shout startled.
“What?” she shouts up “We were on the lowest branch, it’s fine, look, I’m fine!”
“You nearly gave me a heart attack.”
“Dolls can have heart attacks?”
“I don’t know but it sure felt like it.”
Melody laughs at this “I’m sorry, will you come down?”
“Yes, but not like that.” I grab onto the branch and carefully lower myself down until I’m hanging straight down and the distance back to the ground is less than a metre. Then I let go.
“Jumping’s more fun,” Melody assures me as we head back to the others.
“I don’t agree, jumping looks terrifying.”
“Exactly, that’s what makes it fun. Makes you feel alive.”
“I don’t get it. Your species can perish so easily and yet you seek out danger?”
“You make it sound so dramatic, it’s fine, really I promise, worst I would have broken a leg.”
“You can break a leg!?” I exclaim as an utterly horrifying mental image pops up in my head.
“Yeah, you can’t?”
I knock on my leg “Solid wood, you’d have to try incredibly hard to come close.”
“Then I even moreso don’t get why you don’t just jump off every single thing ever if it’s not even a risk for you. I’d forgo stairs altogether and jump out the window to get down if I had solid limbs.”
“Well, then I’m very glad you don’t.”
She rolls her eyes, but with the blanket back in sight it seems like our little chat is over for now.
I look around for the other Viola sister but Harmony is nowhere to be found.
But it doesn’t look like anyone seems to mind.
I guess it’s fine?
Maybe she just went on a walk with Mr Dovey.
I’m sure that’s it.
After the picnic, it’s time to go home but it’s difficult to keep up with chores as my mind keeps wandering to tonight.
I’ve never been to utopia, is it going to be like the club Kregaya sings in? Or more of a cafe? Or something else entirely?
What if I embarrass myself?
What if I embarrass Melody?
I’m not sure if this is a good idea.
Good idea or not, time stops for no one and midnight strikes all the same.
I put on my hat and coat and make my way out of the inn.
“Melody?” I call.
She shushes me from behind “We don’t want me to get caught do we.”
“No, but I didn’t see you.”
“Uhu, that’s kind of the point. Now let’s go.”
She grabs my hand and drags me along me down the street.
Around us, people stare while I can only wonder about what they must be thinking of this.
I look up at Melody but she seems not to notice the crowd at all. Her eyes are sharp, focused on our destination.
I prefer looking at her rather than the masses. Although I have to try my best not to notice how the scattered light of the street lamps shimmer in her light hair.
Or how beautiful her eyes are when they stand determined like that.
The first thing I notice when she opens up the door to me is the smoke.
It drifts and bubbles in and out of focus like ripples in water.
For a moment I wonder if something is burning, perhaps we should not go in?
But Melody doesn’t seem phased at all as she enters without fear or apprehension.
I follow quickly so as not to lose her out of sight.
She heads straight for a table in the back where a couple of people are already seated.
I only recognise one of them, Melody’s lady love Hope who upon seeing me lets out a huff “You brought it here?”
“Her, not it, please darling don’t act petty? I just thought she’d fit in.”
“On what basis?” the woman bites. I didn’t get a good look at her last time. But seeing her now she looks to be a few years older than Melody. Her hair is black, short and slicked back.
She’s also very beautiful, with big dark eyes and pink lips.
I don’t like her, don’t like being talked about like this. “If you rather I leave-”
“No! Come on sweetheart, you know I only have eyes for you right, there’s no need to be jealous.” Melody sits down on the other’s lap and leans into her. She starts kissing her, first on her neck, then the edge of her jaw, her cheek and her lips, again and again until the lady finally relents and kisses back.
“You’re a menace.” She berates her with a smile.
“And yet you love me.”
“Guess there must be something wrong with me.”
None of the other guests look up at this, though one of them stands up, hand brought to his chest. “Right so since those two will be occupied for the next two hours I’ll take it upon myself to introduce the rest of us simple folk. “I’m Vervent, resident hopeless romantic, this is Chastity she’s an artist.”
“Call me Chess, everyone does.” The woman cuts in.
I make a mental note to remember that.
“Sharp is our supplier and Mallow?…not quite sure what he does here but he’s been at it for so long it feels wrong to send him away now.”
Mallow rolls his eyes, pulls a pillow from his seat and flings it to Vervent’s head “What you meant to say there was ‘Mallow is so great he doesn’t need some silly title.’”
“I mean I tried the title ‘carrot muncher’ before and you didn’t care much for it.”
“But anyway, that’s us.” He sits down again, head resting on his hands “Now who are you?”
“Oh, I’m Delaylah, a coworker of Melody’s.”
“Nice to meet you Delaylah, say you’re a doll right?” Chess opens the conversation.
“Yes.” I didn’t think that was hard to see.
“Is it true dolls just kind of switch up their gender whenever they feel like it?”
“Uhm…well it’s not that simple, it’s less of a whim decision and more like giving in to a nagging feeling that things aren’t right anymore and they need to change.”
“But, you can’t change, right? Not really, it’s still you right? Like what were you born as?”
“I was born as a doll.”
The woman chuckles at this as if you might be a child who didn’t understand the question “I mean yeah, obviously, but were you a girl doll or a boy doll.”
“Chess, you’re not helping Delaylah feel welcome. Besides it doesn’t matter now does it? It’s not like she has anything beneath those skirts anyway.” The man with the rabbit ears says cuts in.
“Mallow!” Chess exclaims.
“What? It’s true isn’t it?”
“And you’re telling me I’m rude.”
I ball my fist. Frankly, I think they’re both rude. I send pleading thoughts to Melody but it seems she’s put all her attention towards her partner.
Why even bring me along if you’re going to ignore me when we’re here?
“Darlings, darlings, there’s no fighting in utopia, just sit back, relax. Want a little something something to take the edge off?”
“I thought you’d never ask Sharp” Chess says as she pushes some hair behind her ear with one hand while pulling her coin purse from her pocket with the other “I’ll have two, one for now, one for later.” She then pulls out a coin and places it in the man’s hand.
“Your wish is my command,” Sharp says with a smile and pulls out two small bags to hand off.
The woman takes the bags, opens one of them, opens her mouth and sprinkles the powder inside over her tongue.
“What is that?” I wonder aloud.
“Dio, it makes you sleepy and euphoric but I doubt a doll like you has much use for it.” The young supplier explains.
“It feels like waking up on a lazy Sunday morning and staying in bed as long as you like.” Chess explains.
“Oh uhm, I don’t sleep. I tried staying in a bed for any length of time before and I didn’t see the appeal.”
“That’s so sad,” Vervent tells me as he puts an arm on my shoulder.
“Yeah sleep is when your body and mind get to reset, it’s a calm that cannot be parallelled when awake-”
“Maybe hypnotism.” Sharp adds.
“Fine, maybe hypnotism but I’m not convinced of that yet. In our dreams, we solve problems, fight monsters, live out lives that vanish the moment we open our eyes.”
“If you have to fight monsters it sounds like a very busy calm to me?”
“It’s both, it’s wonderful. I’m so sorry you don’t get to experience it.”
Melody finally manages to pull herself away from her lady love “Enough teasing the doll, let’s play some cards.”
“House rules or sister rules?” Mallow asks.
“House rules please.” I look at Melody.
“House rules it is.”