Chapter eleven: Risks and rewards
After the breakup Melody changes.
I’m not sure if the others notice.
She didn’t talk much around the house to begin with.
But I notice.
Where every eye roll used to be followed with a cheeky smile, those are much rarer nowadays.
And it occupies my mind as I do my chores.
The washroom is heavy with the smell of chemicals and detergents as I pull the towels from the wash and pull them through the wringer.
It’s almost like her mind is completely absent when she’s sitting at the front desk each day. Before I suspect it was because she was tired from her nightly escapades but now. Now it looks like she barely even registers as being in the room anymore.
Like her mind is miles and miles away and I can only guess where they lead. I wonder if she’s started using dio during the day, or if I’m being paranoid.
I check the moisture level in the towels. My hands don’t distinguish between wet and dry but Harmony taught me a little trick, She gave me a fabric thimble and pressing that against the towels I can see if it becomes darker in colour or not.
Looks like it needs another run.
I wonder if Harmony knows about Melody’s ex-relationship but I don’t dare to ask.
I feel like she should know.
Maybe I can tell her?
But I’m afraid Melody would get very angry with me if I did that.
I can’t be the only one to know Melody’s going through a breakup right?
I feel too much like a stranger.
And too much like I can’t be trusted.
I turn the barrel with the crank, and a loud rattling sound fills the room.
What if I start making advances, flirt even? Accidentally of course. It could everything worse.
Is it possible to flirt by accident?
If so I want nothing to do with it but I can’t leave her alone either. It’d look like I’d be avoiding her which would be even worse.
Whoever invented romance should have left a book of guidelines, this whole concept is terribly designed.
Okay, that should be enough spinning.
I check the fabric, then dump the towels out onto the folding table.
Picking them out one by one and folding them neatly into a pile.
Would she even be interested in me?
I doubt it.
I can’t even kiss her, not really, all I can do is press my wooden mouth gently against her cheek but if she wants fire and passion…I don’t know if I can give her that.
I mean there are stories, case studies of dolls and humans making it work.
And also a lot of cautionary tales.
I once even heard the comparison between a dog and a cat trying to date.
I don’t think it’s like that but…I can’t think of a metaphor that makes any more sense than that.
The kindest thing is just to let it go right?
It wouldn’t be proper anyway, I mean she’s the daughter of my boss, there’s no way we could ever tell him.
Not that she’d want to anyway.
I feel like lying for the sake of others is somehow less terrible than lying for your own sake. I’m not sure if I’d like to do that.
And if he ever finds out my job is out of the question and I doubt he’d give us his blessing either.
I sigh, pick up the pile and make my way to the door to-
“Melody! Hi, uhm. I didn’t think you’d be here uhm. You startled me a little.”
Melody looks up from her spot on the floor “Oh, hi Delaylah.”
“Uhm, how are you?”
“Same as yesterday.”
“Right. Uhm…if there’s anything I can do?”
“Convince my sweetheart that she was being paranoid and nothing is happening between us?” She then lets out a scoff “I’m kidding, I could fly to the moon and back and she’d still mistrust me.”
“Thank you for caring Delaylah, but I’ll be out of your hair soon enough. Then you can go back to your towels and cosy hotel vibes.”
“What do you mean?” You’re not thinking of doing something stupid, are you?
“Unebre has nothing left to keep me here anymore. No offence to you or Harmony or my parents.
It’s just…I’m not going to sit here and wait around for my life to be decided for me. So…I’m leaving, gonna take to the tracks once I have the money I need and then no one can tell me what to do anymore.”
“Harmony knows, she just thinks it’s gonna take several years for me to save up the cash.” A shimmer appears in her eyes, I haven’t seen her this animated in a while “But I have a plan that’ll speed things up nicely.”
“Can’t tell you, don’t want you to become an accomplice.”
A real smile, a beautiful smile full of hope and aspirations.
The idea of her doing something wrong fills me with terror, I worry for her but…
How can I berate her with a smile like that?
For weeks she has been nought but a walking ghost and now.
“Be careful.” is all I know how to say.
“Of course.” She then gets up from her little spot and darts away.
Leaving me with a sinking feeling in my stomach.
I pull the picnic blanket from the linen cupboard and pass the front desk on my way out.
“I’m taking a break,” I tell Harmony.
“Oh, okay.” she looks surprised for a bit.
I can’t say the whole ‘break situation’ ever really got a solid conclusion. But I’ve decided that I don’t need them unless I need them and in that case, I’ll take them. And no one has tried stopping me yet.
I stride straight for the club Kregaya sings at but she’s not in at this hour yet.
I pass Zjeliah and manage to find she’s not there either and also he’s about to leave in about twenty minutes.
That doll sure has gotten a taste for visiting auction houses.
In a last-ditch attempt to find her, I pass the gallery. And to my surprise find it’s ‘closed for renovation’.
The door is open though, and I spot Kregaya standing by the far wall, tearing down a division between front and back with a sledgehammer.
“What’s going on here?” I ask pushing my way through piles of rubble and dust.
“Ask Jaxogeras. I’m not entirely sure myself but they told me could tear down a wall and no one needs to tell me that twice.” She swings the hammer into the wall and then pulls out the bricks that came loose with a crowbar dropping them on the ground.
“Right… Guess I’ll do that. But, I also wanna talk to you. Is that okay?”
“Ten minutes? I’ll have this wall down by then.”
I look at the structure, it’s almost entirely upright still…and yet I can’t help but believe her.
I look around in the mess, a couple of other siblings are doing duty as cleaners, picking up rubble and bringing it to the back. In the end, I find Jaxogeras there too, hanging over a workbench with a saw in their hand. “Stegarius, did you come to help as well?”
“Uhm…I’m sorry I wasn’t even aware you were redecorating.”
“Not just redecorating. A whole new establishment. Photography is nice and all but I guess it never clicked with me if you pardon the pun. So now I want to create a place dolls come together for leisure.
“Okay? So what will it be?”
“A bar, well I won’t have drinks to serve but I’ll figure something out. I honestly didn’t think any of this through apart from wanting to take the photo’s down and wanting to drag more tables in.”
“Kregaya is taking out a wall though?”
“Yeah, I thought she might enjoy that. And it brings more room into the place so I didn’t really see the harm.”,
“Well uhm, good luck with that?”
“Are you sure you don’t want to help out?”
“I’d love to but I need to talk to Kregaya and then head back to work. I’ll come by later to pull my weight okay?”
“By then we’ll already be done here.” They joke. But I’m already gone longer than usual when I take a break. I don’t want to make anybody worry.
I walk back to the pile of rubble that used to be a wall “Well done.”
“It’s so much fun, you should try it sometimes.” Kregaya puts the hammer down and wipes the dust off her clothes. “Anyway, you wanted to talk?”
“Yes, I show her the picnic blanket, wanna go to the park?”
I spread out the blanket to protect our dresses and we sit down.
“So what emergency has occurred that you walked out on work for?” She asks.
“I’m worried for one of my coworkers and I don’t know what to do.”
“All right?” She lays her head on my shoulder, eyes drifting to the distance beyond. “Go on.”
“Her name is Melody, she’s in a bad place right now and she wants to run from home.”
“Ah.” There’s a pause for a moment as my sister thinks “Is she in danger at home?”
“I don’t think so. I think she’s mostly just sad. She went through a breakup and now she’s feeling very melancholy about it.”
“I see. Well, if she’s safe at home I feel like she should probably stay there. Not because I don’t want her to be happy but the outside world isn’t kind to young ladies travelling alone. Especially not the ones in emotional distress.”
“I agree, but when she told me about it, it was the first time since it happened that I have seen her this…hopeful.” I sigh.
“Well hopeful or not, that’s not an excuse to suddenly go act all reckless.” Kregaya says sternly. “Besides running away from home isn’t cheap-”
“Yeah about that. She says there’s this plan she wants to pull but she won’t tell me what it is because it’s illegal I think?”
“Whoa hold up.” She sits up and looks at me incredulously “Why didn’t you start with that?”
I shrug “I wanted to paint a full picture first.”
“Right…Well, do you know anything else than it being illegal?”
I shake my head “I’m not even one hundred per cent sure it is because all she said was that she didn’t want me to become an accomplice.”
“Sounds illegal to me. Was this the friend you wanted to have us hang with you on my debut night?”
“Okay so normally I’m not the one to spy on people…but you might have to spy on people.”
“Sorry darling, I don’t make the rules, but I don’t think she’s going to prefer prison over that hotel of yours.”
“Right…I don’t like that solution but I can’t say you’re wrong.”
“And hey if it’s just some light pickpocketing you might just let her get away with it. And no one needs to know.” She pats my head, I push her off playfully. “Very funny.” I don’t know if I want to spy on my friend. I lied to her father expressly so I didn’t have to…
I guess I’ll have to think about it.
“I’m going back now, thank you for talking to me.”
“Always darling. Do you feel better now?”
We fold the blanket together and after it’s all neat again she hugs me “Just be safe okay? I don’t want you to vanish on me out of the blue.”
“Good! Now I’m going back to Jaxogeras’ to see what else I can destroy. Good luck.” She waves at me, then darts off with enthusiasm.
That evening I wait patiently, book in hand for Melody to come downstairs.
I made up my mind.
I rather have her angry at me for following her than not following her and possibly regretting it later.
She passes me by and heads straight for the door.
“Have a nice evening,” I tell her.
She looks at me, smiles a bit disingenuously and disappears out the door.
I wait for a moment.
Then get up.
And start my pursuit.
I didn’t expect her to be gone the moment I close the door.
Is she a phantom or something?
I can’t have waited longer than three minutes.
This isn’t good.
Guess I’m looking from scratch.
I pick up my step, assuming she must have at least gone towards the city centre.
And hope for the best as I set off.
I tried utopia but no luck.
I tried that bar we went to but nothing.
If she gets into trouble now, I can’t help but feel it’s my fault.
I try to push the thought down.
That’s not going to help me.
Think Delaylah, think!
Maybe she really did go out to pick pockets in that case, the theatre would be the place to do it.
All right, theatre it is then.
I stride off towards the amusement district.
And as I pass the lights, music and cheerful passersby I realise I’ve been an absolute idiot.
She’s out for money.
She knows how to cheat at cards.
I leave the theatre be and make a beeline for the casino instead.