Flight: Part Two
It was about ten minutes to Khai's at a slight bustle. The rain came down in erratic amounts, plodding thick, sliding drops down my raincoat one minute, then smattering many tiny, watery missiles against it the next. Me myself, I reached Khai's place more or less dry. The small, cozy house sat sequestered just a bit away from the street, and I came around to its side and climbed up the trellis below his window.
What can I say? I have penchant for climbing trellises, and both Khai's door and window were announced as always open to me.
His window was, in fact, open, and I hoisted myself onto the sill, tossing my legs over onto the floor. The sounds of talking and light laughter that had preceded my entrance now stopped, and a gorgeous Faerie Lenny cast a disapproving look from where she stood, right next to Khai's desk. It reminded me of the look Mindi had given me as she watched me devour the waffles like a madwoman almost an hour before. I flashed an unapologetic smile back and removed my raincoat, tossing it over the back of the chair next to me as if I more than belonged here.
Khai is practically family to me. I did belong here.
"Well," she said as she refocused and turned her head back to Khai, "I should probably get going. Let me know when it's all finished up."
"Will do," Khai nodded without looking away from his desk, where he was probably adding some details to a drawing. The Lenny swept from the room, and I heard her steps trail softly down the stairs and out the front door.
I didn't say anything to indicate that I was here, but I knew I didn't have to. Khai knew I'd dropped in the minute I had, possibly even heard me coming up the trellis.
"Hello, dearest," he said with a smile as he finally looked up from the desk. "The festivities finally gotten the best of you?"
I half sighed, half laughed. "Oh, you know how it is. Big hullabaloo, Acara stuff everywhere, lots and lots of pink. Guess what Mother's surprise was."
Khai's mouth scrunched to the side in a look of mock-pensiveness. "Her very own carousel of Pink Uni in the backyard so she could ride any time." We both smiled and laughed, and I shook my head.
"Royal. The Royal Pain is a Royal Acara."
"Hm, Royalgirl or Royalboy?" he asked slyly, one eyebrow up and a smirk on his face. I laughed again.
"Oh man, I WISH Royalboy. That would've been a hoot, and she would've been so upset. 'I AM NOT A BOY. I AM A PRETTY, PRETTY GIRL,'" I mocked in my best high and screeching voice. Khai laughed and stood, coming over to me and brushing a lock of hair from my face.
"Well there now. At least you aren't as upset as you were when you first came in."
"You know I can't stay mad long when I'm hanging around you. And anyway, how do you know how upset I was?"
"Not hard to tell, Lo," Khai shrugged with a smile. "You just sort of emanate it in your presence. And the way you stood against that last client's look, well... you're not one to play nice when it's not necessary, but you don't normally steel up like that over just any attitude." I gave a slight chuckle.
"So, show me this wondrous portrait your client's asked you to draw for her this time."
Khai led me to the desk, where the visage of a noble looking Faerie Lenny gazed back from a flowery garden sort of background. I tsked.
"Lovely, nothing short of lovely, Khai, but I do believe you've failed to capture the essence of snobbery in her eyes."
Khai simply laughed. "Yes, well, snobbery pays well to be hidden." He slid the drawing into a folder, which he slipped into a drawer. "Anyway, not that I don't unconditionally enjoy your presence, but for what reason am I so blessedly graced with it on this drizzly afternoon?"
"Well," I began with a small sigh, "I was a bit caught up over the past weeks, you know, with the thousands of projects that I've launched myself into, and it wasn't until this morning that I'd realized that it was Mindi's birthday."
"Yeesh." Khai cringed for my sake, already guessing what had happened as a result.
"Yeah, you're telling me. Well, I went rushing around my room, trying to find something I could quickly wrap up and give her, and I ended up with a Luxury Acara Plushie with my hot pink ribbon tied in a bow around her neck."
"'Her'?" Khai's eyebrow went up. I blushed.
"Well, I guess I kind of took a liking to the plushie, and I figured that Mindi might just toss her my way, so yeah, 'her.'"
Khai smiled. "Interesting choice for a present, but alright, I'm with you. I know what those look like, and they're definitely not Mindi's taste, but they're just unique enough to catch your eye."
"Yeah... so anyway. I get downstairs and into the kitchen, where Mother's serving up hot plates of Acara Day Waffles."
"Sounds like something she'd do."
"Right," I continued, "and after that was through with, we go into the living room to open presents, right? Well, Mindi gets to mine, and yeah, I could tell she didn't really like or expect it, though I suppose she's learned to expect little much from me..."
"Especially after the portrait incident."
"Of course. Well, she looks at the thing, and she decides to keep it! Can you imagine? Mindi, playing with a Luxury Acara Plushie, or even letting it just SIT next to her precious little Faerie Dolls?!"
Khai stared at nothing on the floor in silence for a moment. Then he shrugged. "Maybe she actually likes it."
"Actually likes it?! Come on. There's no way that it was anywhere near her taste."
"Maybe not, but, well, everyone grows up and changes and decide on different things that they like, don't they?"
"Everyone who's sane, yes. But Mindi?!" I stared at Khai like he was crazy. He just shrugged again, finally looking back up at me.
"I dunno, Lo, you're seeming a bit fanatical at the moment to me." He let the comment sink in for a moment before the corner of his mouth came up into a small smile. I had to laugh.
"Yeah, I guess I am getting a bit crazy over this, but it just doesn't make sense."
"Well I'm guessing that's not where the story ends. You don't seem like one to abandon ship simply because your preconceptions about an event were disproved."
"You're right, it's not. I go up to my room," I continued with a sigh and a disinterested voice, flopping back onto Khai's bed to stare at the ceiling, "and then Mother storms in and does her routine of screaming at me for doing such a horrid, horrid thing to my wonderful and charming and adorable little sister, spews some of her usual nonsense about the whole 'family' situation, and then knocks my picture of you off the wall in some pathetic venting of her fury."
Khai's face dropped into a look of compassion and pity. "I'm sorry, Lo. That's rough. I'm really convinced that if it were just you and Mindi, things would be fine, or at least tolerable, but your Mother is really the one that makes things less bearable than they should be."
"You're too nice to me," I sighed. "I'm sure she's right to a certain degree, on some things..."
"Maybe, but that doesn't warrant for acting out and doing things like knocking things around."
"Hmm. Perhaps. So will you help me look into properties in Altador?" I asked with a grin. Khai laughed and accepted the change in tone and topic, but not without coming to my side and throwing his arm around me in a half-hug.
"Why so far away? I heard Mr. McDoogerie next door is about ready to move out. Keeps muttering something about a mansion in Faerieland. Maybe you can move in and we can be neighbors!"
"Hah, that'd be neat. And that would be fun, being just next door to my best friend..."
A short pause and silence. Khai broke it.
"But I think I could use the change of scenery."
Khai looked down and smiled. "Makes sense. I don't blame you. But you know, it's funny you mention Altador, because my connections have landed information about some pretty nice and affordable houses into my lap."
I giggled. "You and your connections."
"What can I say?" Khai boasted as he threw his arms up. "When what you do is this lucrative, you can't help but find 'connections.' People like to be friends and help you out when you're doing it right." He was only half playing around, because what he was saying was true.
And that's how I ended up living in a lovely little villa on the Altadorian coast, painting gorgeous views and basking in the lovely sun and balmy weather. After Khai helped me research some properties and settle on one both nice and close to his own summer villa, I'd simply packed up all of my things and left, saying only one word as I was questioned on my way out.
Mother had blustered and stammered and thrown out all sorts of crazy demands that I couldn't leave, but I was long through with listening to anything she had to say. Mindi had merely sat and watched somberly from the couch, didn't say a word to me. I left that house, left that street, boarded a ferry, and sailed to a beautiful land on the other side of Neopia. And that's how the story ends.
Or at least that's what I'd thought.
To be continued...