Beauty of the Snow: Part Four
"Inga! You made it!"
The Techo grinned at the speaker, a young Kyrii
with tousled hair. "Of course I did," she said. "What, didn't I say I would
"Well, no..." He pouted and ran away again into
the crowd. Grinning, Inga divested herself of her coat and slung it over a nearby
"Just sit anywhere," she said to the white Aisha
following her, and gestured at the long rows of chairs spread out around the
walls. "We stand to sing, so you won't be in our way here."
The Aisha nodded obediently, but remained standing,
watching the many pets--and even owners--that formed the choir. They were chattering,
laughing, putting their heads back to the ceiling. It was a more vibrant form
of life than that of her woodland.
She had come out of simple curiosity, or at
least that was what she told herself. Deep within herself she knew that upon
her return to Neopia Central Park it would seem to her a dull place, divested
of all its magic and wonder, but she did not consider that. That thought she
buried deep, and her mind skimmed over it quickly when it chanced upon it.
Lia sat quietly on one of the plain wooden chairs
after a moment, still looking out and across the large room. The ceiling was
low, making it seem cramped, but the other pets and even the owners seemed to
find no fault with the space.
"So, you're Inga's mysterious friend." The voice
was light and softly amused.
Lia jumped and turned quickly, surprised out
of her reverie. "I--yes?" she said, perplexed.
The Eyrie grinned, mantling her wings. "Inga
never misses choir. For anything. We knew you had to be special when she went
off with you. So, what's the story?"
"I..." Lia paused. "What?"
A laugh. "Okay, okay. Let's start this over.
I'm Rachel. Who are you?"
"Lia Snow," the Aisha said, confidently. This
was one answer she knew.
"Lia Snow," the Eyrie repeated, musing. "So,
is your owner Snow?"
Rachel raised her eyebrows. "Guess not."
The choir director, an old Moehog with glasses
perched on the tip of his nose, rapped sharply on the top of the pianoforte.
"Come, come! It is time to begin!" he called over the noise.
"Aah, have to go." Rachel made a face and slid
out of a jacket, dropping it on the chair next to Lia's. She headed towards
the others, who were quickly forming a contingent much like the one of the previous
day in the park.
"Right," the Moehog said, and cleared his throat.
"Let us start with some warm-ups to loosen our voices..."
Lia regarded the choir solemnly, listening silently
to the voices running up and down the scale, repeating nonsense words and syllables
as they sang the exercises. She leaned carefully back in her chair, resting
against the metal and wood back, and watched.
The choir moved on from warmups to some of the
easier songs; Lia sat bolt upright as they began on a bell carol. Many first
snowfalls ago, a group of singers had sung this to her and to her woods... the
haunting phrases, the notes that slid into each other and yet did not collide,
washed over her, and Lia leaned back carefully and closed her eyes to listen
After a few minutes she opened her eyes again,
and watched the choir sing through the rest of their songs with an impartial
When the rehearsal ended, pets and owners quickly
spread out around the room, picking up their coats and piling belongings high
in their arms.
"Yeah, see you, Rache," Inga said, walking with
the Eyrie towards the chairs their coats were spread out over.
"Yep," the Eyrie responded happily. "And a merry
Christmas to you, too!"
"Merry Christmas," Inga said, grinning. "Rache,
we're going to see each other tonight, and tons more times after that, too."
"Well, just in case." Rachel grinned back and
plucked her coat off the chair next to Lia's. "So, how did you like the singing?"
"It was fine," the Aisha said, her light voice
"Good, good. Are you going to join?" the Eyrie
It was a perfectly innocent question, and meant
to be friendly. Nevertheless, the Aisha suppressed a shudder. "No," she said
after a moment, standing slowly. "I don't sing."
Rachel looked at Inga and raised her eyebrows.
"You'll have to train this one better, Inga."
The Techo gave her friend a quick smile. "I
"I do not wish to be trained," Lia said, wistfully.
Rachel looked at her, perplexed. "Ah... see
you later, Ing."
"See you." The Techo wrapped a scarf around
her neck and the lower portion of her face.
"Are you going to train me?" Lia asked as Rachel
strode away to the door.
"No... no," Inga said distractedly. "I... Rachel
was making a joke."
"I see," said the Aisha, but she did not. She
trailed thoughtfully after the Techo to the door, looking around at the other
singers preparing to leave. Then, with a sigh, she glanced down at the ground
and hurried to catch up with Inga.
She caught up with the Techo just at the door
of the building; Inga turned back and gave her a perfunctory smile.
"So, what did you really think?" she asked Lia.
"It was good," the Aisha acknowledged.
"You want to come next time we have a rehearsal?"
Lia paused. "No," she said after a moment, "thank
Inga nodded. "That's fine," she said, but she
was disappointed that the Aisha didn't want to come again. She busied herself
with putting on her gloves, and glanced back at Lia after a moment. "Ready to
The Aisha nodded. "Ready," she said lightly.
"Cool." The Techo pushed through the doors and
into a solid wall of cold air. Shivering a little, she held the door for Lia
and then started off up the street, the Aisha following.
Inga unlocked the door to her apartment and stepped
inside, stomping her boots on the mat to get the snow off. She moved away a
few steps to let Lia in after her, and leaned against the wall to slide her
The Aisha stepped cautiously in and pushed the
door closed behind her. She watched the Techo for a moment and then replicated
her movements, untying the laces of her boots and then slipping them off, one
at a time.
Inga was done first; she lined her boots up
precisely along the wall and stepped away from them, yawning. She stretched
her paws up over her head and then let them down with a sigh.
"So." She strode down the hall to the living
room and stood there for a moment, drinking in the sunlight. After a moment
she heard Lia's soft footsteps on the carpet behind her, and turned.
The Aisha stared past Inga at the uncovered
window, a faint note of puzzlement in her eyes, and none of the longing she
had previously shown.
"Something wrong?" Inga said, tossing her keys
up in the air and then catching them again.
Lia turned to look at the Techo, and shook her
head. "No," she said simply. Her gaze quickly returned to the windows; after
a moment she shook herself and strode briskly past Inga and across the living
room to pull the drapes across the window.
She turned back, to see Inga watching her with
complete surprise, and gave the Techo a slightly wistful smile.
"Right," Inga said after a moment. "Ah..." She
stepped over to the bookcase that stood against one wall, and ran her paw across
the spines of the books. "Do you read?" she asked, pulling a slim volume out.
"I... yes," Lia said, a perplexed frown on her
"Cool. Catch." The Techo tossed the book across
to Lia; she didn't think, for a moment, that the Aisha would catch it. Then
she stretched up, her paw met the pages, and it fell neatly into her hand.
"Good catch," Inga said, admiringly.
The Aisha shrugged equably and turned her attention
to the book. The title was printed on the dark cover in silver lettering; "Library
Inga pulled another book off of the shelf, inspected
it, and nodded. She crossed to the couch with the volume clasped tightly in
her paw. Motioning Lia to the other sofa, she plopped down and opened the book
she held, flicking idly through the pages.
Lia moved quickly to the indicated spot; sitting
docilely on the couch, she drew the cover open and flipped to the beginning
of the first story.
The few times that the Techo glanced up from
her own book, the Aisha was staring down at the book, frowning in concentration
and occasionally turning a page. After a while Inga ceased even that perfunctory
glance at the other, and looked instead at her own book.
When she finished the book, she sat silent for
a moment before closing the volume with a snap and standing up, tossing the
book lightly in the air.
To her surprise, when she turned back from putting
A Tale of Two Lupes back on the bookshelf, Lia was watching her. Library Tales
was open on her lap; one of the Aisha's white paws rested lightly on the page.
Inga gave the Aisha a slight smile. "Would you
like some lunch?" she asked, moving towards the kitchen.
Lia studied the Techo for a moment, and then
nodded. She ducked her head and returned to reading.
Shaking her head, Inga strode quickly into the
kitchen and prepared lunch, rattling the pots and pans more than was truly necessary.
When she emerged again, Lia was standing by the bookshelf, Library Tales half-open
in her paws.
Inga gave a sigh and set the tray quickly and
smoothly onto the coffee table. She hurried over to the Aisha and plucked the
book out of her paws. Closing it quickly, she gave Lia a stern look.
The Aisha bowed her shoulders meekly, ducking
her head, and moved away from the bookcase a little.
With an annoyed grimace, the Techo shelved Library
Tales. She hastened back to serve lunch to Lia, and only calmed after the first
few spoonfuls of the soup she had made for them. She set her spoon down after
a minute or so, and swallowed her last mouthful of soup before speaking.
"What would you like to do this afternoon?"
The Aisha stared down at her own bowl of soup,
her spoon poised halfway to her mouth.
Inga gave the other a half-smile. "You don't
have to answer right away," she said kindly, picking up her spoon again.
Lia nodded and put the spoon in her mouth. She
took another sip of soup before replying. "What is there to do?"
"Well," the Techo said, grinning. She set her
spoon down again and patted at her mouth with a napkin. "There are lots of little
clothes shops on Market Street; we could go there and get some better clothes
for you, a coat that fits for when it gets really cold and the like."
The Aisha opened her mouth, and then nodded.
"I would like that," she said.
"Okay. Well, finish your soup, and then we can
go," Inga said, feeling rather a fool for the maternal tone that crept into
Lia didn't seem to have noticed; she nodded
subserviently and dipped her spoon once more into her bowl.
To be continued...