Chapter ten: Losses and victories
I stand in front of mister Viola’s office.
About to lie to him.
I feel nervous.
I could tell him the truth.
But Melody wouldn’t like it.
I promised not to tell.
I feel like that weighs heavier.
It’s for the best.
But that doesn’t have it less nerve-wracking.
I knock on the door.
“Come in.” Mister Viola calls from the other side of the door. “Ah Delaylah, sit down, how can I help you.” He tells me jovially while enjoying his morning cup of tea. Breakfast was less than an hour ago, but Mister Viola likes to take a second or even third cup of tea in his office most days to ‘stimulate the mind’.
I sit down quickly and put my hands on my lap. “I uh know what Melody does when she goes out in the night.”
He almost chokes in the beverage, and sets it to the side for now. “Go on?”
“She goes to a book club to discuss all the latest literary titles like ‘the common days in the life of a mayfly’ and ‘Plonk’.
“A book club you say?”
The man lets out a sigh of relief “Well that’s a lot more anticlimactic than I expected.” The man sighs “I’m glad to hear it but…why so late in the evening?”
“Perhaps it’s the only time everyone can make it. I didn’t exactly ask her that.”
“I see….” He picks up his cup again and takes a tentative sip “Well I wish she chose a different one. I know I’ve already asked far more of you than is my right but perhaps you could…nudge her to look around. There must be similar clubs that don’t require her to sneak out at night?”
“She’s a stubborn lady, I doubt I can persuade her of anything she doesn’t want to do.”
He sets the cup down again with a ting “Quite right, forget I asked. Well, thank you for easing my worries Delaylah. You are dismissed.”
I bow and swiftly make my way out.
Well, that went over better than planned. It feels…a bit off to lie. I can’t say I enjoy it.
But it does make Melody happy.
I like it when Melody is happy.
“So what did he say?” Melody pops up behind me with curious eyes the moment I pass by her room.
“She beckons me in, closes the door behind us.”
My eyes drift around the room, I’ve never actually been in here before.
I’m surprised to see it looks exactly the same as the rooms the guests stay in. Just your standard beige striped curtains edged in ruffles, light brown blankets and a simple oaken desk with an upholstered chair off to the side.
“Right! So…I think he bought it. He kind of wishes your book club wasn’t this late in the evening but he won’t try and make me change your mind on that.”
“Wouldn’t work anyway.” Melody crosses her arms.
“He’s well aware of that yes.”
She smiles at this, then wraps her arms around me “Oh thank you Delaylah, how can I ever repay you.”
“Is that a turn of phrase of a question?”
“Both I guess? Means if I can help with something I’d love to.”
I don’t have to think about it for long “Could you show me how you do your hair?”
“Yes, the little twists and tucks, I think they look very pretty but I wouldn’t know how to do such things myself.”
She blinks her eyes at me, then laughs charmingly “Sure, why not?” she pulls the pins from her head and the curls tumble down, spilling onto her shoulders “Now our hair is pretty different, so don’t expect the result to look the same unless you want to curl your hair the night before.”
“You can curl hair?”
“Yes? You never did that before? Do you always wear the same hairstyle?”
“No, I just pick out a different wig whenever I get bored of the old one.”
“Oh right, sometimes when I talk to you I forget you’re a doll. And that things are different for you. So your hair isn’t sewn into your head.”
“That’d be impractical.”
“Tell me about it.” She laughs “But yes, curling hair is not that difficult, but it takes a lot of time so I’ll show you how to do it some other time. For now, we’re going to section of the hair…”
I nod and follow the steps carefully as she explains. Her presence filling my world just for a moment.
I’m not in love with Melody.
I’m fascinated by her.
I like being her friend.
Humans have such a different view on the world. Their conversations are much less predictable.
And she’s fun to be around. I appreciate hearing Melody’s views on the world and life even if I don’t always agree.
But I’m not in love.
Yes, she’s pretty, headstrong and clever.
But many people are pretty and headstrong and clever, I can’t be in love with all of those.
Besides, even if I were.
It’s not like I could do much about it.
She’s in a relationship with that lady I don’t like.
There’s not much to do about that.
I look at the result in the mirror, it’s not bad but it’s definitely not as pretty as the way it looks on Melody. “I think I messed up somewhere.”
“What? No no, it looks fine. You just need to practice.” She makes grabbing motions into the air “Gotta get a feel for it in your fingers.”
“I see. Should I keep it for today? Or would people just laugh at me.”
“Keep it, I’m sure the other will love it, and if not, that’s really their problem, not yours.”
That’s an interesting way to look at it. “Thank you, Melody.”
“Thank you for lying to dad for me.” She then checks her own hair quickly, deems it satisfactory and opens up the door again “I have to get started on some teacakes now.”
I go back to my duties.
Room 6 has been kept on and off by mister Dovey. I believe he travels here once a month on business. Something with a factory by the bay he has to supply to.
It’s not like he explained to me what he does of course. It’s mostly just pieces of gossip I pick up here and there.
He’s a neat patron, likes to keep things generally the same. I kind of like cleaning his room, it’s predictable.
That is…under usual circumstances.
While pulling the blankets off the bed something falls from the folds and onto the ground.
Surprised, I pick it up.
It’s a necklace with a very recognisable bunny charm hanging from it.
I can’t think of many ways Harmony’s necklace found its way into mr Dovey’s bed.
I pocket the jewel.
I guess Melody isn’t the only one with a special someone.
I continue making the bed.
I find Harmony by the front desk later in the day, chatting with Mr Dovey.
“Oh hey Delaylah, can I help you?”
“I’d like to discuss something, in private that is.”
Mr Dovey tips his cap “I’ll be off then, those gears don’t make it to the customers by themselves.”
“Have a nice day.” Harmony positively beams at him.
“And you.” He beams right back.
The man skips out of the building carrying his head high and a whistle on his lips.
Harmony stares at the door, then turns to me “So what did you want to discuss?”
I pull out the necklace and put it on the desk. The moment she sees it her eyes go big. She snatches it and turns to her face toward the kitchen “Mel! Melody can you dip in for a second!?”
“You know I’m on my break right?”
“You can have my break later, deal?”
“Oh all right.” Melody emerged from the kitchen and shoos Harmony from her chair. She looks up at me and waves pleasantly before I get pulled into the kitchen by Harmony.
She closes the door behind me. “All right let me explain.”
“You fell in love with Mr Dovey?”
“Uhm, yes.” She blinks “But that’s not what I meant.” She points to the necklace. “We didn’t do anything that could make me pregnant or get me in serious trouble. And he is going to propose to me he’s just saving up for the wedding. His parents kind of ditched him so he doesn’t have his pop to pay for the party. He’s up for promotion in a bit so then he should be eligible enough.”
“Like, worthy I guess? Able to support me.”
“Is that a human thing?”
‘Very much yes.”
I chew on the concept for a bit “Do you trust him?” I ask seriously.
“Yes, yes you’ve seen him he’s a teddy bear of a man. And he really loves me.”
“I take it your father doesn’t know?”
“Of course not, he would kick him head first out of the establishment if he did.”
I start to feel sorry for the man, even the daughter he thinks tells him everything still keeps secrets from him.
But I can also understand where the girls are coming from.
“You won’t tell him will you?”
“I won’t, but I do hope you know what you’re doing.”
She nods, then hugs me “Thank you for not judging me.”
“Of course not, love is a complicated thing.”
A lock of hair strays into the corner of my eye. I wipe it away quickly.
I’ve been learning this the hard way lately.
It’s dark out.
Melody left an hour ago, she started using the front door now.
I wonder if she and her father talked about it or if she decided by herself that secrecy is no longer required now that he knows.
Either way, I’m glad no one is clambering up onto the counter anymore.
I must have read the book I got from Naja before but the memory has sagged deep enough that it’s still a bit of a surprise. Recalling the story as it plays out rather than knowing the whole thing from start to finish before opening the book.
I like it, I hope she gets the same enjoyment from the books I lend to her.
Then the door opens.
“Melody? You’re back early.”
The small light from my lantern isn’t enough to see her face by, but the tears in her voice say enough “uhu.”
“Are you okay?”
She shrugs, then dashes up the stairs without a word.
Should I follow? She sounded pretty upset.
Maybe things have ended with Hope.
No, wait, I’m not allowed to think that yet.
And it’s certainly not allowed to make me feel hopeful.
But I do think she could use an ear to listen to, you know.
As a friend.
I try my best not to wake anyone as I walk up the steps.
“Melody, Melody it’s me, do you want to talk?”
There’s no response, perhaps I was too quick to judge, or maybe she wants to be alone instead.
But then the door opens and Melody walks back to the bed without a word.
I pull out a chair to sit on, Melody grabs my arm and pulls me onto the bed with her instead. She then leans into me and cries.
I’m not entirely sure what I’m supposed to do but I guess I can’t go wrong with a hug? I wrap my arm around her shoulders and very gently squeeze.
And then I wait for her to be ready to speak.
I want to know what upset her so. But I don’t want to ask. Don’t want to upset her even further.
It hurts to watch her like this.
But I don’t think there’s much I can do right now for her but ‘being there’.
My attention gets snatched back to Melody. “Yes?”
“She-” she gasps trying her back to stop crying.
“Take your time.”
“Uhu.” She then gestures to her coat and opens her mouth “Di-”
“Oh! The little baggies right?”
I gently let go of the girl, then jump off the bed and rummage through the collection of cigarettes, matchbooks and playing cards.
I find the envelopes hidden behind her handkerchief. I pick out both and hand them to her. She looks at the piece of fabric and vaguely smiles at it. She then picks up the envelope opens it, throws the powder onto her tongue and grabs the handkerchief. She blows her nose and then sighs “Thanks.” She takes a deep breath “She…uh…saw us together the other day in that bar and then she freaked out and we fought and she broke up with me.” Her voice turns into a pitiful squeal but the news still hits like a ton of bricks.
What am I supposed to say to something like that? I’m sorry for your loss? What a nasty lady, you did nothing wrong?
She leans against me “I didn’t want to make a scene and now here I am.”
My gaze drifts to the bed on the other side of the room where Harmony is supposed to sleep. I think she’s still asleep. Or else she’s not making herself known.
“Oh don’t worry about sis, she’s with Mr Dovey tonight. Just sleeping.” She adds at my expression.
“Oh, okay then.” I’m not sure if it’s the powder she just took or the story being out now but she sounds calmer now.
She sighs “I mean it wasn’t going to last, we both knew it, I’m just frustrated that the thing to end it, was a misunderstanding and not anything either of us did wrong.”
I put an arm around her while telling myself sternly it’s for comforting purposes only, don’t get any weird ideas.
“I’m sorry to see you this sad.”
She nods “I mean she was so convinced you were in love with me it was ridiculous. Nothing I said could sway her.”
I chuckle uncomfortably at this, my arm around her shoulder suddenly feeling rather suspicious.
She scoffs “The thing that hurts me most is that she believes I’d cheat on her and lie to her. Just, no, I wouldn’t.” She lets out a frustrated grunt followed by a sigh “I’m tired, I should probably just go to bed.”
“Are you gonna be okay?” I ask as I get off the bed.
“Of course. Oh and Delaylah, thank you for coming up. You’re a good friend.”
I nod awkwardly, get up and close the door behind me.