Dalki woke to a strange thudding. Groggy, she tried to place the noise. There was too much silence between the thumps to be the prostitute doing business a floor up. It couldn’t be someone walking down the stairs. It wasn’t even enough, and it had gone on too long. She let one eye open and groaned at the light glaring through the curtainless window. The paper filtered the light a little but not enough to keep her vision from going a little blurry. Turning a little, she frowned when she didn’t encounter the curled ball that Fels normally made beside her.
The boy was a late sleeper who slept hard. She had been surprised by how loud and active he was in his sleep compared to his silent existence in the waking world. He kicked and grunted and thrashed. He’d been hard to sleep beside at first.
Combing fingers through her hair as she sat up, she looked around and saw her companion. He had the blowgun that Mr. Surly had given her. He put it to his lips and blew, his cheeks puffing out and going pink with the exertion before the dart popped out only to thunk to the floor. Dalki peered at the wall in front of him and could see two darts lodged in the wall and a third that had obviously hit the wall before falling to the floor.
She stretched with a yawn, trying to decide if she wanted to get up or just roll over and go back to sleep since she didn’t have a job to get to anymore. “Are you figuring out how to use that thing?” she asked, laughing a little when he jumped and whirled around. “I don’t mind. It’s not like I knew how to work it.” She got up and took the blowgun from him, trying to shoot the dart at the wall, only to wind up breathless with nothing to show for it.
Fels pointed to his lips and positioned them for her to mimic.
Dalki and Fels played with the blow darts for most of the morning, figuring out how to position their lips and blow hard enough to get real force behind the projectile. She felt a little useless, having nothing to go do when she was normally at work. She confided in Fels what she probably should’ve kept to herself. She told him about her adventure finding Ihyana, sitting against the creaking bed frame, legs sprawled out in front of her carelessly. She picked at splinters in the floor as she talked.
“And her door was locked from the outside. How weird is that? It’s not like she had a little tantrum and locked herself away. Someone didn’t want her to get out.” She glanced at Fels who had seemingly forgotten the darts and was watching her with interest.
That’s what she liked about the little guy. He was a great listener. It wasn’t just because he wouldn’t talk though she wouldn’t say that she didn’t mind not being interrupted with unhelpful advice. He would actually put down what he was doing and look at her, but as she glanced around in an attempt to think of what words fit what she wanted to say, he wouldn’t pressure her into making eye contact. At the end of monologues with Fels as the audience, she always felt like she had gained something.
She jerked her hand away when she accidentally shoved a splinter underneath her fingernail. Studying it, she kept talking. “And she only fussed for a little while. As soon as I told her I was taking her to Eshe – of course I just told her he was a noble – she calmed down and got really quiet.” She pressed down on her fingernail and the pad of her finger, watching for a dark spot of blood to appear under her nail. “And she had these huge eyes, Fels. Gigantic. I think Eshe is trying to help her… but I just don’t know. She was so scared. What if I helped send her to this horrible place?”
Fels, kneeling beside her, brushed the top of his head against her arm in a movement she understood as comforting.
Patting his head and running her fingers through his hair with the familiarity of family, she shrugged and felt her stomach gurgle. She frowned. They hadn’t had a meal yet that day, but she was slow to waste precious resources on food when she still felt fine. She didn’t know where she was going to get money from next.
She could feel Fels watching her and knew he had heard her stomach growl as well. She didn’t want to look at him but didn’t know what to do to distract him. He wanted her to eat. He plucked at her shirt and flicked her when she tried to ignore him.
“I’m worried about money,” she admitted in a whisper. “I don’t have a job anymore.”
Glaring at her, he jerked the bed away from the wall and grabbed the purse sitting in a hole in the wall. He jingled it. What wasn’t apparent in his actions but what she could recognize after years of reading only his body language and facial features was his concern for her.
“Fine,” she grunted, her stomach and Fels partnering to persuade her into buying food.
They were changing into clothing suited for going out when there was a knock. Dalki was in the middle of wrapping her breasts tight against her chest. “Get it, Fels. If it’s the landlord, just close the door. He knows it’s too early for rent.” Turning away from the door in an attempt at modesty, she heard the door open. There was a cough and a rustle as she was pulling her shirt over her head. Turning toward their guest, she was faced with a lady in fine clothing, much finer than would normally be found in this area, with a veil covering her face.