Universally enthusiastic chaos-artist & storyteller

Chapter three: Rest and invitation

I carefully make my way down the steps with a crate in my hands, kicking my skirts out of the way with every step.
The box is heavy and I was told by the lady of the house to be very careful with it while getting it down to the ground floor.
One of the guests wants to throw a little ‘birthday bash’ at the hotel. And I’ve been told this is a big deal and now the dining room needs to get decorated in his honour.
I guess for humans making it past another year truly is an achievement.
It seems a bit short to me to have a party over that.
Maybe with a decade?
That’s a real achievement.
I kick at the door with my foot, then shimmy myself past and into the room.
It’s just past lunchtime, meaning the dining room should stay empty until dinner.
I open the box and pull out a long garland made from colourful paper only to hear a thud and the sound of something rolling away.
Did I pull something out by accident as I pulled on the garland?
I look around but I don’t see anything.
Maybe under the cupboards?
I kneel down and try my best to distinguish something against the dust.
And naturally, that’s the moment the door to the dining room opens and I’m addressed by a familiar voice.
“Uhm, there’s a doll at the front desk to see you?”  
I jump up from the floor. “Thank you, Harmony. I’ll be with you in a second.”
She nods and I scramble to get my things together.
Then follow her to the front desk where the doll has already picked up a bit of an audience from the guests.
“Kregaya, what are you doing here?”
“I haven’t seen you in what, four weeks, I thought it was time to visit you.”
“You can’t visit me at my job, I have work to do.”
“Well, then when’s your break?”
“Uhm, I don’t know I just sort of work until the family goes to bed.”
“Unacceptable.” She wags a finger in front of my face to accentuate her point “Just because you don’t eat doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a midday break. Show me to your boss, I’ll tell him what’s what.”
“Please don’t.” I groan. “We can just, take a little break now okay?” I look behind me at the front desk “Right?”
Harmony nods pleasantly “I’ll explain if dad comes down and asks.”
“Thank you, I’ll be back within the hour.” I then grab Kregaya’s hand and pull her out of the building leaving baffled faces behind.

The air is crisp. Spring is setting in but it’s not quite there yet.
The people passing us by on the street are still wearing their coats and capes.
“So where are we going?” I ask and Kregaya shrugs in response.
“Where do you want to go?” She counters.
“We can go bother Zjeliah or Jaxogeras?”
“Actually I was thinking just you and me for a bit.”
“The park then? It’s a lovely day.”
She nods “The park it is.”
The patch of grass in front of the theatre is more like a field than a park. But if the wind is right you can hear the music on the breeze and if not it’s still a great place to watch the people go by.
Laying on the grass is the best way to enjoy any park, but of course, neither of us has a blanket on us on a whim and I can’t go back to work with grass stains on my skirt.
We sit down on one of the benches as a compromise.
“How have you been Kregaya?”
“Oh no darling, you first. How’s the job?”
“It’s mostly just cleaning and dragging suitcases around.”
“Do you enjoy it?”
“I think I do. I like the people, they’re strange but very friendly.”
“I’m glad to hear it.”
“How’s the singing?”
She groans “The singing’s fine but finding an audience to listen to it is a chore and a half.
“Can’t you sing over there?” I point to the theatre ahead, she scoffs at it.
“They don’t want me, trust me it’s one of the first places I tried but I’m not sure they even understood the question.”
“What do you mean?”
“Means they looked at me like I was crazy and then gently urged me to leave.”
“That’s horrible.”
She sighs “It is what it is. But I didn’t come here to feel sorry for myself. I’ll figure something out don’t you go worrying about me.” She ruffles my hair and that reminds me-
“Missus Viola complimented me on my hair on my first day.”
“Yeah, thank you for helping me pick. It took some time getting used to it but now I really like this colour.”
“I’m glad to hear it. Also, you’re nearly as indecisive as Zjeliah, if the two of you had to actually pick by yourselves you’d have been forced to go to the job interview bald.”
“I could have tried wearing the old wig?”
“You mean with, or without the dough hook still attached?”
“Maybe I could cut it out.”
“Could you?”
“Good point.”
We have a laugh at this.
Then the atmosphere changes “Delaylah I must admit I came here with a bit of an ulterior motive.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Got a present for you,” Kregaya tells as she pulls her bag onto her lap.
“On no not again.” I let out a sigh but she hands me the beige envelope anyway.
“You’re going.” She tells me resolutely.
“But I don’t want to.” I turn the letter over and grimace at the bell-shaped seal on the back.
I don’t like Tiborah or his parties and especially not the death-day party he insists we have every year. Father’s death was a tragedy, it feels in bad taste to go have a ball around it.
“I know but Karokko is coming.”
“Karokko is coming?” I don’t think I’ve seen her at all since we left home.
“Yes, and she has to come all the way from Asheru so we’re going.”
I glare at the envelope some more, then sign and crack the seal to pick out the contents.

Dear Delaylah,

You are hereby invited to Father’s 62nd death day party. It will be held in the usual place at the usual time.

I hope you’ll be able to make it.
Yours truly,

“I’ll have to ask my boss if I can take some time off to go there.”
“Please try.”
I fold the letter neatly and push it back into the envelope “I will, but for Karokko, not for that weasel Tiborah.”
“Honestly, I don’t get what you have against him. He’s a nice guy.”
I shrug “I just don’t like him.”
“Fine, just be polite when he lets us in and then you can proceed to ignore him like you do every time.”
“I don’t ignore him every time, but the one time I tried to be polite and ask how he was doing he turned the conversation around and turned it into a hearing,” I explain putting the letter in my skirt pocket.
She raises an eyebrow at me “Oh my, I wonder why.”
I look at her blankly for a bit.
“You know he doesn’t mean ill by it right?”
“I do, but just because he doesn’t mean to annoy me doesn’t mean it’s not annoying to me.”
Kregaya’s eyes dart around for a bit as she dissects that sentence “I guess…?”
“Well, anyway if that’s all I’ll be going back now, I told Harmony I’d be done within the hour and there’s still the main room that needs decorating for tonight-”
“What’s tonight?”
“One of the guests is celebrating his birthday and having a ‘couple of mates’ over. And I think he’s paying good lodis to do so? Which is why everyone is suddenly in panic mode.”
“So what you’re saying is that I chose a terrible timing with my invitation?”
“Yes but also no because I don’t have time to be annoyed about it.”
“I will take that as a win then.” She wraps her long arms around me and hugs me tightly for a moment “Good luck with the party tonight and please let me know when you know whether you can come to the death-day party or not. Last time the train conductor wasn’t thrilled to see a bunch of dolls show up at random so this time we wanna make a reservation first.”
“Aren’t you supposed to always make a reservation?” I wonder.
“Really? Well, if so that explains a lot of the annoyance that poor man was having. I think we may have ruined his day back then.”
I chuckle at the image, then wish my sister a wonderful day and make my way back to the hotel.

Where it turns out people have gone exponentially stressed.
Mister Viola almost jumps towards me, his face pulled into a mask of distress “Delaylah where have you been!? You didn’t decorate the dining room like I asked and when I ask Harmony I have to learn you’re ‘on a break’. This is not the time to start breaking, we have a party to prepare for.”
“I’m sorry mister Viola, but my sister came over to see me. And she was shocked to hear I don’t get breaks. She says just because I don’t eat doesn’t mean I’m not entitled to rest and relaxation once every so often.”
This knocks the wind from his sails for a bit.
“Right, well.” The man stammers “We’ll discuss that later, you’ve had your break for today, please go decorate the dining room now.”
I nod “Right away sir.”
I hurry to the dining room.

About an hour later the door opens again.
“How are things here?” Melody asks.
“I think they’re all right?” I say looking around the room. I already replaced the tablecloth and put up some ribbons.
“You didn’t touch the baubles yet?”
“Right, they’re…fragile.” I admit awkwardly, “I’m afraid I might break them.” It’s hard to gauge my own strength sometimes, especially when holding something precious.
“Oh, really? Well in that case can you fetch me that stool and set it by the window? I’ll help out.”
“Really? Thank you.” I pick up the stool and move it while Melody selects her baubles.
She strings three of them together with ribbon and hangs them carefully above each of the windows. The way the light catches them fills the room with little lights.
It looks magical.
“That was pretty great you know, the way you stood up to dad back there.” I look up at her, whiplashed by the change in subject.
It didn’t feel great. It felt like a panicked excuse that miraculously worked. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it if my sister didn’t come by to get me in trouble first.”
“You have a sister?” She sounds surprised by this.
“I have several, all dolls were made by the same man so we’re all related.”
“Oh, right of course.” She chuckles at that “Silly me.”
“It’s okay.”
“Maybe I should ask Harmony to get me in trouble so I’ll find the courage to stand up to him.”
I’m not quite sure what to say to that “You can try?”
She chuckles, shrugs and steps down the stool. She sets her hands down on her hips. “Now all that’s left are ashtrays, loads and loads of ashtrays. These guys tend to smoke.”
“Yeah like cigarettes and stuff, you never seen anyone smoke before? Like sucking on sticks and blowing out smoke afterwards”
“I…guess I never thought about what they were doing.”
“Then I guess we both learnt something today.” She heads to the door “The ashtrays are in the supply closet, I’ll bring a couple over.”
“Right, thank you.”
I look upon the room and bask in the little lights streaming in from the windows.
This looks like a job well done.
I hope the guests appreciate it.

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