Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

4.

They all went off to get a good night’s sleep, and some of them got it: George was out like a light for eight hours, Rob dreamed he was the goalie in a football match, and yet somehow scored the winning goal. Whatever Zinnia Rose was dreaming about, in her new bed, she was smiling in her sleep.

Lilah Bay dreamed about Garik and Neal, and about Elio, who three times in a row started out seeming innocently desperate and true, and three times turned on her in the thick of it. Garik and Neal seemed always in danger, just out of reach. Finally, Lilah was making love with Elio, who was trying to reassure her again that he was on the up and up, but when he rolled over to light his pipe, Garik shook Lilah and dragged her away clutching her clothes. She woke up and lay there, thinking she wouldn’t be able to fall asleep again, and then she did, and had a dream of being chased. At the end, a laughing Elio was ready to seize the glowing gem, but Garik grabbed him and made sure they perished together: “You’re not going anywhere, mate.” After that, Lilah woke and couldn’t fall asleep till dawn was creeping over the city.

And so she lay in the blackness thinking. It didn’t do her much good.

She had the feeling she was going to meet up with Elio very soon. She was not worried that he would seduce her. She was worried that she would kill him. She didn’t remember ever killing anyone before. She was pretty sure she had done it, occupationally, but if so, it was still lost in the fog that clung to parts of her brain.

And of course, when she remembered her dream, she thought of Garik, and what had happened to him, and she could not help imagining the same sort of thing happening to Rob, to Annelise, to: well, no, not George. She wondered about that. Not Zinnia. It was hard to imagine anything happening to Zinnia, to George, that Zinnia or George would not walk away from. But she had thought that about her boss, her aristocratic boss from way back when, and she distinctly remembered when she and Garik had found him.

It had been one of those moments when her entire understanding of the universe rotated sickeningly, lurchingly, through 180 bumpy degrees. It had been, if she recalled correctly, the first of those moments.

She thought through all of that, of how many separate times she had found herself realizing that the world was not the innocent place she had imagined after the previous time she had lost faith in it. Or was it more shocking that she had lost faith, seemingly completely, only to find she still had faith to lose the next time she lost it, again and again?

And then there was Marius. She could spend an hour of the night worrying about what he might be, or be doing. And then there was Lucy. And then there was Andre. And then there was the city. And the Violet Council. And the people who had tried to kill her, and whether she would ever remember who they were.

Lilah Bay woke well into the day and lay, utterly tired. She rolled over, slept some more, then lay staring at the ceiling, thinking. Then she smelled coffee. She smiled. She got up, got fresh clothes on, white shirt, dark riding pants, dark jacket, dark wood barrette in her hair.

She came out into the front office and there, around the table, were Annelise and Andre and Zinnia Rose. The samovar was still mostly full of coffee at just the right temperature, and the plates were half full of waffles. “Real maple syrup,” said Zinnia.

“Where’s George?” asked Lilah.

“Kicking around in his junk room,” said Zinnia. “Robert’s still in bed.”

“He’s young.” Lilah had a bite of waffle. “Other than that, we ready?”

“That’s what George is doing in his junk room.”

“He has some kind of method,” said Annelise. “He has a technical solution. It’s difficult, doing what he’s doing. Andre doesn’t have a past like a normal person, this Andre doesn’t.” She looked at Andre and said, “Does this surprise you at all?”

He thought a moment and said, “No, not at all.” He laughed nervously and gave a vague arm wave.

“George knows what Andre is, then?”

“George hasn’t the foggiest,” said George, coming in. He was holding a tray with a gadget on it, attached to the box George had made before. The gadget was mostly a crystal embedded in a sort of mother board, with a dozen smaller crystals attached to it by short arcs of glass wire. “But whatever he is, if he’s an amalgam or a ghost or some other thing, he’s effectively a normal human being right now, as long as Zinnia’s spell keeps him from fading out.”

“Yes, please don’t let that happen,” said Andre. He took a sip of coffee and said, “I like it here.”

“Living without Lucy?” asked Lilah. Andre’s face fell. “Sorry,” she said. “You know she was here. I think she sat on that ottoman two nights ago, in city time.”

“So you said.”

“Maybe you’ll get back together,” said Annelise.

“Last time you were together, that I know of,” said Lilah, “you blew up a big bank and destroyed one of the biggest panes of glass in history.”

“That wouldn’t happen,” said Andre. He looked into his cup. “But I don’t expect more than just to wake up every morning and have coffee with you guys. I don’t expect to get Lucy back, or whatever. I’m not real, or something.”

“You’re real as long as I say you’re real. So, Georgie, we should wake up Robert?”

“Andre,” said George, “can I get you to hold this metal bar in your left hand?” Andre took the bar, which was attached to the mother crystal by glass wire. “Yeah, by all means, wake him up. He’ll want some food in him before we throw him into Andre’s childhood.”

Advertisements