A Home Away From Home
Follows Crashing Waves
Follows Crashing Waves
A month in Aridus passed more quickly than Lottie had anticipated. She had followed Gavio of the Cedar Circle to his sister-in-law’s residence. The man’s kin were just as warm as the enlil she had met on the Way Finder, accepting Lottie into their home and fussing over her like a chick. Xandria, Gavio’s sister in law, was covered in dark red feathers and had tanned skin from living in the Aridian sun for decades. Her round face often stretched into a smile, though it hadn’t the first time Lottie and Xandria met.
“You poor thing!” Xandria had exclaimed, promptly dragging Lottie into mid-sized sandstone house.
The smooth floors were cool under Lottie’s bare feet as the dark skinned spurii struggled to adjust to Xandria’s brisk pace.
“I just won’t have it! You’re getting a bath and fresh clothes. I can’t be known for having miserable guests.”
Lottie simply watched the red-feathered woman in quiet surprise as she was pushed into the bathroom, bullied out of her clothes and into cool, mint scented water.
“I’ll be back with something clean to wear.”
The agent blinked in response, staring at the closed bathroom door. She looked down at the cloth that had been pressed into her hands and decided that cooperation was in her best interests. The tub was made of polished stone, probably some sort of granite judging by the pink speckled with white and black. The shallow water was refreshing, but it made the stunned woman shiver. By the time Lottie made her way out of the bath, the water was muddied by all the dust and sweat she had accumulated on the ship.
Shortly after, Xandria was back, wrapping a towel around Lottie and handing her a grey robe with silver patterns stitched around the neckline and hemming the sleeves. The short woman was gone almost before Lottie could utter her thanks.
After that, the agent was able to settle into a guest room and get to know Gavio’s family. She and Xandria became friends, despite how much their first meeting unsettled Lottie. Gavio proved to be reliable, too, always kind and with good humor.
Being cared for and treated as a member of the family was something Lottie couldn’t have anticipated.
Xandria’s husband, Mercutio, was a quiet laicar fellow with olive skin and long, dark hair. He was often off at his shop where he made furniture. Several of the pieces featured in their home were made by Mercutio, Xandria had told Lottie with no small amount of pride.
Within a week, Lottie had found part-time work at a nearby bakery waiting tables and serving people a variety of cold drinks. She worked afternoons, mostly. People came in just before the hottest part of the day to hide from the heat and enjoy the cooling refreshments with their lunch. By late afternoon, most people had gone back to work. The lull in outdoor activity during the heat of midday meant that it was a good time to listen out for rumors. There wasn’t anything pertaining to Harper, as his escape had been only a month or so before the demon invasion began to take hold.
Some told stories of relatives that had fled the horror, others would kvetch about the weather. The excitement over the demon invasion was mostly impersonal horror and pity, both of which grated on Lottie quite a bit.
Still, managing to integrate herself into the Aridian coastal town so quickly was a stroke of luck the dark skinned woman couldn’t help but be grateful for.
When she went back to Gavio and his family for the night, Xandria would be cooking. Lottie gravitated towards the kitchen and often spent her evenings trading gossip with the shorter woman and helping prepare the night’s meal. As a botanist, Xandria spent most of her time tending to the greenhouse behind their home. She worked with various apothecaries and researchers around the area and from nearby cities to cultivate rare species. When she didn’t have meetings to attend to, the plump woman stayed home. Largely working from home had developed a large appetite for gossip in Xandria.
Somehow, even learning that some poor sop was on the outs with his girlfriend became more interesting when Lottie could tell Xandria about it. The scandalized look on the woman’s face as she excitedly whispered back felt rewarding.
“You don’t have to whisper, it’s not like anyone can hear us in the kitchen,” Lottie told her with a laugh one evening.
“Oh, you.” Xandria playfully whacked the agent with a towel.
“Alright, alright, I’ll behave,” Lottie lifted her hands placatingly.
“You’d better,” the maternal enlil replied with a satisfied nod.
Somehow, Lottie had melted into a routine and this had become her new life. Without noticing it, the half-velen had melted into this enlil-laicar family to the point that the members acted as if she had been there for years instead of a short month. She sat on the roof of her host family’s home one night, gazing up at the stars.
This life she had fallen into was temporary, Lottie tried to remind herself. She had to find Harper, or eventually give up looking so that she could go back to Terminus and deal with Eden. The mere thought of leaving behind her new life ached. Staying here had become a sort of balm for the pain the lost of her former home had caused. Another such loss was not ideal, perhaps even intolerable.
Still, living in this house with these people would hinder any progress. Lottie had saved up enough to move into a cheap apartment. Establishing some distance from this family was probably a good thing, the spurii admitted to herself a bit sullenly. Leaving would be less painful if she got used to a little distance. Lottie tried to forbid herself any silly daydreams of staying in Aridus forever.
“Admiring the stars?” The question pulled the agent from her thoughts.
Lottie twisted to look over her shoulder and see who had spoken.
Xandria stood there, holding a kerosene lamp, lighting her kind features.
“Yeah. Thinking about the future.”
The enlil approached, sitting near Lottie. “What do the stars have to say about that?”
The agent turned her head to examine the night sky once more. “I’m not sure. On the one hand, I need to move on with my life, see if I can find Harper. On the other, I like it here.”
“Sort of. He got into some trouble back in Terminus and ran. He’s hiding out somewhere here. Catching up with him has been such a pain. He’s a bit of a troublemaker. Fell in with the wrong crowd, I think.” Lottie wrapped her arms around her shins and rested her chin on her knees.
“A rogue then. It might be tricky finding him. He could be anywhere by now.”
“Yeah.” The agent sighed quietly. “I don’t even know if I want to find him anymore.”
“If he doesn’t want to be found, it may be best to just say your prayers for him and move on,” Xandria advised, not unkindly. “The Vis will watch over him. You don’t have to be the one that looks out for him.”
Lottie remained quiet, thinking about the enlil’s words.
“Moving on doesn’t have to mean skipping town, but for some people that’s what they’ve got to do and you should respect that. For you, getting on might just mean a change in goals.”
Or a change in career, Lottie thought. She nodded and scooted a bit closer to Xandria. The enlil wrapped an arm around the agent’s shoulders and gave her a comforting squeeze.
“I know you haven’t talked a lot about what your life was like before you came here, and we haven’t wanted to press, but do know that you’re welcome to stay here while you figure out what to do next regardless of what you were doing before you came.”
“Thank you, Xandria,” Lottie said quietly, almost whispering. Her eyes watered. When had the desert begun to feel like home? When had the thought of losing this family become so painful?