Chapter nineteen: The ending
I kick in the door to the hotel. I don’t have any arms free.
I’m holding Melody’s limp body, it’s running hot and I don’t know why. Her eyes are closed, she doesn’t respond to anything I say.
There’s still music in the parlour. I head towards it, then find the door opening up before I have the chance to announce myself.
It’s Missus Viola.
“Delaylah there you-.” The sentence slams dead in her throat as she sees her daughter. “Is she asleep?” she asks warily.
“I don’t know! Help! Please!” The words leave my mouth with all the pent-up fear I carry inside me.
The music grinds to a halt in the other room.
Melody’s mother looks back into the room, then says “Bring her upstairs to her room, please. I’m calling a doctor.”
I nod, jump upstairs two steps at a time. Behind me, I can hear another set of footsteps rapidly catching up to me.
“What happened?” My nerves jump at the sound of Mister Viola’s voice.
“I don’t know.”
“Well, where were you?”
I don’t know what to say so I just keep rushing. As I make it up the stairs mister Viola rushes past me to open up the door for me.
“Delaylah where did the two of you go tonight?” He insists, firmer this time.
I lay the girl down on the bed and wipe a curl from her face. “Utopia.”
“Utopia? I don’t know that place, is that the book club.”
“Uh-” I don’t want to tell him. He’d be so angry if he found out.
“Delaylah? Delaylah I beg of you, I need to know what happened to my daughter.”
“Utopia is a night club, we went dancing.”
“Dancing? Why not dance here?”
I lovingly stroke a hair away from Melody’s face. “We can’t dance here.” My voice is soft “Not together.”
“Of course, you can dance here it’s a party. You and Melody walked out on her sister’s party to go dancing elsewhere!?”
The door opens again. It’s Missus Viola.
“The doctor is coming, what happened out there?”
“Apparently our party isn’t good enough for them so they went out clubbing by themselves.” Mister Viola exclaims indignantly.
“I didn’t say that,” I mumble.
“Yes you did-”
“No, I didn’t! All I said is we can’t dance here!”
I ball my fist “Because your stupid family is already judging her for anything and everything she does and they’d have a field day if she started dancing with a woman!”
“How dare you-!” Mister Viola’s face flushes red in an instant.
“Will the two of you stop yelling please?” Missus Viola cuts with a voice that’s calm yet sharp as glass “Darling, go downstairs and watch the door for when the doctor arrives. You have to show him to the right room.”
“Now. Please.” She adds before nudging the man towards the door again.
Mister Viola huffs, then storms out of the room.
“Delaylah go get a bowl of water and a tea towel.”
“Will do as you’re told.” She cuts me off sharply “We need to bring down this fever.”
“Oh… right!” I rush out of the room. Straight down into the kitchen.
Mister Viola looks away as I pass by.
I grab a bowl, fill it up with water and pull a clean towel from the linen cupboard.
I rush up the stairs again. Hand off all the things.
“Thank you.” Missus Viola puts the bowl on the nightstand and soaks the cloth with water. She wrings it out, then places it on Melody’s forehead.
“What do you know?” She then asks. She asks it calmly, without judgement. I’m not sure I would have been able to manage it if I were in her shoes.
I hold my hands as I speak “She collapsed, she was pretty riled up but I never saw anyone collapse from that before.”
“Did she eat or drink anything unusual?”
“She had alcohol and…dio I think it’s called.”
Her eyes go wide at the words “Was it the first time?”
I shake my head.
“Did she throw up?”
“Then she at least got some of it out of her system again. How often?”
“Not regularly, just when she was feeling really bad.”
“Like tonight?” she asks.
I nod, “Like tonight.”
She bends over, placing her ear gently against her daughter’s chest. Her hand stroking her hair as she whispers “Oh my poor baby.”
“I’m so sorry. I should have stopped her I-”
“How long have the two of you been together?”
The question knocks me dead in my tracks. “Uh…a couple months,” I admit.
“I see. And the book club?”
I avert my eyes. “That was a lie.”
From beyond the room, I hear a cacophony of footsteps before the door gets slammed open.
A man with a beard rushes into the room, followed by Mister Viola.
“I need room to work.” The doctor complains.
“Delaylah go downstairs and wait for me to come down.” Mister Viola orders.
I jump up and leave the room.
The door slams shut behind me.
I can hear the sound of guests still. Inquisitive sounds.
I don’t want to go down.
I don’t want to face these people, their questions or their judgement.
I want to stay here.
I sit down against the wall and draw my legs up against my chest.
They know now.
They know everything.
All the lies.
All the secrets.
Melody is going to be so mad when she finds out I told them.
It was supposed to be our secret.
I hope I at least said anything that can save her.
She can be as mad as she likes.
As long as she opens her eyes again.
The last words she said repeat in my mind over and over.
I didn’t get the chance to tell her but I want to marry her too.
If the church will not have us then Bar-B will do.
How beautiful we’d look going down the aisle wearing Zjeliah’s dresses.
Kregaya could sing at the party.
I wonder if we should hold the reception at Bar-B as well or maybe even go back to my family home, there’d be enough room in there for all of the dolls.
The Viola family would not be too happy with it I imagine.
But they don’t have to come if they don’t want to.
Mister Dovey didn’t bring his family to the wedding and he looked plenty happy today.
I hope he and Harmony have a nice honeymoon away from this whole mess.
What if she doesn’t survive the night?
I don’t like thinking about that but the thought keeps popping up in my head.
Would the family so much as invite me to the funeral?
Maybe the last time I saw her already passed by.
Everything is uncertain all of a sudden!
I don’t like it.
Missus Viola knows about Melody and me.
Can I hope for her blessing? Harmony didn’t mind, maybe, just maybe when she wakes up, we can be together for real.
Or she calls me a bad influence and sends me packing.
There’s only a single thing I know for sure.
If Melody dies tonight.
It’s my fault.
Downstairs the party has died down.
People have gone up and down exchanging little bits of information.
Only twice someone notices me sitting on the floor.
Both times they just pass me by without a word.
I should be angry about that but I’m not.
I’m too scared to be angry, there’s no more room inside my body to fit it.
I want to know what’s happening.
But I don’t dare go in.
The door opens, I don’t even look up.
“I told you to go downstairs Delaylah.” Mister Viola doesn’t even sound angry, just tired.
“I didn’t want to.”
He sighs “Fair enough.” He sits down next to me on the floor “My wife told me what happened between you and Melody.”
My heart skips a beat but I don’t know what to say.
He leaves the remark hanging for a while, then sighs “I hope you understand my trust in you got broken tonight.”
I want to cry. “I understand.”
“Good.” He takes a breath “The doctor says she’s stable. I want you to watch over her tonight. Make sure she doesn’t wake up confused and alone.”
“Yes, yes I can do that.” A flutter of hope ignites in my chest as I push myself off the floor but the man puts his hand on my arm to stop me.
“Then when she does I want you to say goodbye to her, and I want you to leave.”
Then his words stomp it out like a defenceless little butterfly.
I want to beg him to let me stay.
Do everything it takes.
But I just nod instead “I understand.” As my head tells me this is my punishment.
And I have to accept it.
He lets out a small sound I can’t place. Then he lets go of my arm.
We get up together.
He dips his hand inside his breast pocket and pulls out an envelope. “I wrote you a letter of recommendation. I left out tonight’s incident, the lying. I hope you’ve learnt your lesson there.”
I accept the envelope and look at it with disbelief “Thank you, sir.”
His eyes drift to the floor “I truly wish you the best Delaylah, just not here. I hope you can understand that. If not right now, then someday when you have children of your own.”
I don’t know what to say to that but the man turns around and walks away before I must figure it out.
Leaving me with nothing else but to put the envelope into my pocket.
And walking back into that room.
Which makes sense of course.
I light a little rushlight and make my way over to the bed.
I didn’t even register the doctor leaving.
When did he do that?
Has it been long?
Someone already pulled out a chair.
I sit down.
Light the lamp that’s on the nightstand, then twist the shaders to a comfortable half-light.
She looks so peaceful.
And yet part of me worries she might die.
I want her to wake up, ease my worries, tell me she’s okay.
I also don’t want to say goodbye to her just yet.
I want to look at her face and imprint every line into my memory so I can never forget her.
I lean over to her and lay my head on her chest, just for a moment.
Her heart is beating still.
The envelope rustles in my pocket as I get upright again.
I spot the inkwell and dip pen lying on the nightstand.
Did he write the letter of recommendation in here? I guess that makes sense.
He left the well open by accident, I close it so the ink doesn’t dry out.
I wonder what I’ll be next.
I was looking for a destination and I found it…but now I have to start all over again.
I don’t want to start over.
Maybe jobs are not for me.
I could try attending school just like Lara.
I guess it’s worth a shot.
Learn medicine, prevent this from happening again or-
Maybe I should just stay away from humans for a while.
The movement is only slight yet overwhelmingly present.
A shoulder moving just an inch to the left.
Followed by the raising of an arm as her hand travels to her face.
And she opens her eyes.
“Delaylah?” she moans.
“Where am I?”
“Home.” For you.
“When did we get home?”
“A couple hours back.”
“Did I pass out? My head hurts.”
“You’ll be okay, the doctor said so.
Her eyes grow wide at my words “Doctor? I needed a doctor?”
“I didn’t know what else to do.”
“You collapsed on the street, do you remember?”
“We left Utopia?”
“Yes, and then…” Please remember what you said to me. Please.
“I collapsed?” she tries, but it’s clear she’s only repeating what I said earlier. “Apparently.”
I cut my losses. It hurts but it’s for the best.
It’s doomed anyway.
“I panicked. I carried you home, your mother called a doctor.”
Her face becomes even paler than it was before.
“Your parents asked what happened and…I told them everything. I’m sorry but I needed you to be safe above all else.”
“Oh god, so they know about the dio?”
“And the book club being a lie?”
“Oh god.” She groans painfully “Did Harmony leave already when you brought me in at least?”
She sighs, relief washing over her face “Good, she doesn’t need me ruining her honeymoon.” She points at the lantern “Can I get a bit more light please?”
“Of course.” I twist the knob. “Just say when.”
“That’s enough, thank you. What time is it?”
“Two in the morning.” I’ll have to tell her sooner or later but as long as I can answer questions I feel like I can procrastinate the inevitable.
“So uh…how did dad take it?”
Unless you ask that of course.
“He took it as well as you can expect from a man who’s seen his daughter in danger.” I hold up the letter of recommendation “I’ll be…going away after this.”
“What?” her voice is small. “Dad fired you?”
“Yes, but it’s for the best. Please don’t be mad at him.”
“For the best? Do you honestly believe that?” she sounds hurt.
“I’m sorry.” I place a wooden hand on her shoulder in comfort “Maybe I can come back again after the hurt I’ve caused has dulled.”
She scoffs weakly “Delaylah none of this was your fault.”
“I should have protected you.”
“From what? My own dumb mistakes? Delaylah look at me. Look at me.” Her voice picks up volume, her voice breaking as the desperation breaks through.
“Please calm down.” I push down gently.
She pushes back “It wasn’t your fault.”
I stay quiet, my hand resting there on her shoulder without fighting back.
She puts her hand on mine “Tell me you understand none of this was your fault. Please.”
“Fine, it’s not my fault.” I lie.
She nods and takes my hand in hers.
“I’ll wait for you. You’ll always be welcome here. I will fight dad if he doesn’t let you in okay?”
“I love you.” She kisses my hand and then pulls me closer into a hug.
“I love you too.”
I carefully place my other hand next to her shoulder on the bed so as not to put too much weight on her.
She kisses my lips.
I carefully wipe away a tear from her face.
“Goodbye Melody. Please get some more rest okay?”
She swallows hard as I move away “Uhu.”
Then she starts to cry.
I want to comfort her.
But I turn around instead.
I open the door to Bar-B. It’s empty, save for the owner sitting behind the bar.
“Hey Delaylah. How was the wedding?” Jaxogeras asks as they’re playing around with tiny gears and springs again.
I shake my head “I’ll tell you later…How uh… how are the gears?”
They put down the tweezers they used to push the tiny parts around and looks at my face “Are you okay?”
“No. Can I maybe stay here for a while?”