Beauty of the Snow: Part Two
The white Aisha followed Inga obediently through the streets
of Neopia Central, her bootlaces trailing behind her. Occasionally she tripped
on one or the other, and Inga would move to catch her, but the Aisha always caught
herself before she fell, with unnatural grace, and would give Inga a shy smile
before moving on.
Inga shook her head at each occurrence of this
routine, and resolved to not attempt to catch the Aisha the next time she tripped.
Each time, she broke her resolve and darted over, only to back away, humiliated,
as the Aisha regained her balance and her composure--which, Inga reflected,
had never really been lost.
Shaking her head, the Techo led the way down
the next block, steadfastly ignoring the bumbling progress of the Aisha behind
her. She glanced up at her two-story apartment building, shook her head, and
turned to step into the doorway. Glancing back, she watched the Aisha nearly
trip once more; but, with a quick step and a flick of the bootlaces to the other
side of the shoe, the fall was avoided.
Inga glanced back at the door and drew a keychain
out of the pocket of her coat. Sorting through the keys, she straightened with
a triumphant, "Ah!" and inserted one into the keyhole. Twisting it, she pulled
the door towards her and stepped backwards to let it swing open. With a glance
backwards to make sure the Aisha was still there--she was; she was crowding
up against the Techo, in fact, and watching the process of unlocking the door
as if it were great magic--Inga stepped into the front hall. Stepping quickly
away from the doormat to let the Aisha in, the Techo pulled her cap off with
a sigh and then unwound her scarf from around her neck. The Aisha stepped inside,
glancing around the entrance hall with a faint look of puzzlement.
Striding over to the door, Inga pulled it closed
quickly to keep the cold air out. She glanced back over at the Aisha. "Welcome
to my place," she said with an attempt at lightheartedness. As the Aisha tentatively
poked at the doorknob to the broom closet, she added hastily, "It's just up
Glancing back at Inga, the Aisha nodded solemnly
and followed the Techo through another door and up a flight of carpeted steps.
The floral pattern of the stairs was evidently of great interest to the Aisha;
as Inga stepped up onto the landing, she glanced back to see the other still
halfway up and staring down at the carpet with a look of great concentration.
"Come on," the Techo said, impatient merely
from a desire to be in her own apartment and to be able to relax. She tapped
her keyring against the railing.
Jerking her head up, the Aisha quickly ascended
the rest of the steps with lithe grace. Inga noted sourly that somehow the other
avoided tripping once even on the stairs. Turning quickly back to her apartment
door, which was just off the landing, the Techo flicked busily through her keychain
again and selected the key to that door. She unlocked the door and pushed it
open, standing aside to let the Aisha step inside first.
She did so tentatively, sliding her paw along
the grain of the wooden door as if it was liable to bite her; her boots left
tracks of mud and half-melted snow on the off-white carpet of Inga's apartment.
Grimacing, the Techo stepped in after the Aisha,
shedding her own boots just inside the door. She followed the tracks to her
living room, where the Aisha stood, her pale blue eyes wide with wonder as she
stared out across the room and through the clear windows that walled it on one
Inga made a disgusted noise, starting to get
fed up with her visitor. "Sit down," she said, "and take off your shoes." The
apartment was warm, after all, she thought as she turned away to go into the
kitchen. Surely an Aisha who stood in the freezing snow could bear to take off
her boots in the warmth of Inga's apartment.
In the kitchen, Inga rattled the dishes and
pots more than was truly necessary as she took out a saucepan and filled it
with Kau milk. She set it on the stove and turned on the burner to heat it up,
then fetched a container of hot chocolate mix down from a cupboard.
Stepping out of the kitchen as she waited for
the milk to warm, Inga glanced across the living room. The Aisha stood precisely
where she had been before, and the boots remained on her feet.
Inga clenched her fists in frustration. "Look,"
she said, striding over to where the Aisha stood, "you can't--eep!" The Techo,
distracted, had stepped precisely into one of the puddles left by the Aisha's
boots. Too annoyed with the water to realize that the Aisha had never stepped
there, she irritably shook her foot, withdrawing it from the puddle, and set
it on a dry spot of carpet.
The Aisha turned to look at her, perfectly calmly.
Inga, wiping her foot on the carpet, gave out
a frustrated groan and stamped back into the kitchen.
The Aisha turned back to the windows; the snow
whirled past them in a silent charade of how it fell in the park. She bowed
her head silently, clasping her paws together and dropping her gaze to the carpeted
Inga, in the kitchen, just rescued the milk
from boiling over. Snatching the saucepan from the heat, she twisted off the
stove and set the pan down momentarily on the cooling burner as she reached
up to a high cabinet for two mugs. They were battered and had faint stains of
tea on the insides, and one had a chip taken out of the rim, but they were sturdy:
the Techo poured the Kau Kau milk carefully into them and measured out the powdered
chocolate necessary for each mug.
To her faint annoyance, when she carefully trod
out of the kitchen with a mug clasped in each paw, the Aisha still stared out
the window. Large puddles of snowmelt had begun to form underneath the soles
of her boots; Inga grimaced and maneuvered carefully around the other to reach
the coffee table. She set down the mugs and turned back to face the Aisha, who
had moved so as to always keep the window--and the snow--in sight.
"Look," Inga said, and grimaced, trying to think
of a way to put it. She glanced fruitlessly around her apartment, and then sighed.
Striding back into the kitchen, she snatched a dish towel from its holder and
stepped back out to toss it at the Aisha.
The other turned in time to catch it neatly,
and glanced down at it, then up at Inga with a puzzled look in her eyes.
"Use it," said the Techo, "to dry off your boots."
She made a vague scrubbing motion at the soles of her feet.
The Aisha gave her another moment's confused
look, and then knelt easily on the carpet to rub at the bottoms of her boots
with the towel.
Inga sighed, brushed her paw pointlessly over
her forehead, and stepped over to the coffee table. She picked up one of the
mugs of hot chocolate, sat down on the sofa to sip it, and gave out a happy
sigh. Glancing up at the Aisha, who held the dirtied towel in one paw, she nodded
to the other sofa. "Sit," she invited the other, and motioned to the steaming
mug of hot cocoa.
The Aisha didn't move for a moment. The Techo
sighed, looked back down at her own mug of cocoa, and took a sip. A few moments
later she heard the soft pad of paws on carpeted floor, and then a slight alteration
of the slope of the couch told Inga that the Aisha had, in fact, sat on the
same couch the Techo was on.
She glanced up from her mug, into the politely
confused and yet perfectly solemn pale blue eyes of the Aisha. She opened her
mouth to direct the other over to the extra couch, and then closed it again.
Shaking her head, she returned to her cocoa.
The Aisha watched Inga for a moment, and then
turned her head back to the window, her expression relaxing into serenity as
she watched the snow fall.
The Techo looked up a few sips later and followed
the other's gaze to the window. "So, I... take it you like snow?"
She knew it was a lame question before it even
left her mouth, and winced.
Without turning, the Aisha spoke. "First snowfall."
Inga jumped a little; she hadn't been expecting
an answer, after the Aisha's proclivity towards silence. The other's voice was
medium-range for a female's, and pleasant--though at the moment, she sounded
distracted. Well, that was obvious enough, the Techo thought, slightly amused.
"I, um... yeah. It's pretty, isn't it?" she
said after a moment, and took a sip of cocoa.
The Aisha's white head dipped in a slight nod,
though not deep enough to force her to take her eyes off the snow. "Yes."
Inga nodded, glanced uneasily around the room.
"So, ah... why didn't you talk before?"
The Aisha didn't answer for a moment, and Inga
glanced over, puzzled. The other's eyes were trained on the window and the snow,
After about a minute had passed in silence,
a small clock on Inga's mantelpiece counting away the seconds, the Techo nodded.
She drank the rest of her hot chocolate quickly, draining the mug, and stood.
She could take a hint, she decided, and took her mug into the kitchen to rinse.
To be continued...