Inheritance: Part Two
The sky was slightly cloudy as a young Ixi ran across the green carpeted lawn of her backyard, headed toward a scrawny shadow Lupe sitting against the garden shed. No pet was in sight—for at the moment the two pets were trusted not to get into any trouble. The young Lupe was well known for his love of books, and while the Ixi was more likely to get into trouble, when he was there, he calmed her down to the point of relative safety.
“Theo!” she shouted, a wide smile spread across her face and her long brown curls flying up and down as she bounced in place in front of her friend. “Theo, guess what?”
The Lupe, who looked thoroughly annoyed that his reading had been interrupted, glanced up and put his paw in the book to mark his spot. However, his sour mood didn’t last long when he saw the Ixi jumping up and down in front of him, and his expression quickly lightened as he gazed at her.
“What is it?” he asked.
“You’re going to get voice lessons from Mr. Valinix?”
“You heard Mom and Dad talking, didn’t you?” she accused, pointing a finger at him.
“Guilty!” he said, lifting up his arms and stretching. He laughed when she pushed him down playfully, and groaned when his book fell to the ground, place lost. “Mabelle!”
“Serves you right,” she said, turning up her nose at him and sniffing as she folded her arms.
“Oh, is the princess upset?” he teased, picking up his book and trying to find the spot before she had the chance to interrupt him. He didn’t succeed. While she wasn’t the one to say anything, somebody else was.
“Mabelle darling, it’s time to go!” said a soft voice from over near at the door. One of the adults stood there, and it was Mabelle’s mother, a pretty blue Ixi. This was where Mabelle had gotten most of her looks, having inherited the sparkling blue eyes and curly brown hair from her. “You do want to go to voice lessons, don’t you?”
“Bye, Theo!” she said, waving at him before she dashed off.
“Theo?” she said, gasping.
The last time she’d seen him was when he was giving her a farewell, right before her family arrived to take her away to this horrible place. He had been much smaller then, thinner than she had been and looking very nerdy. Now he was taller, more filled out, and his glasses gave him something more than just an awkward presence; they made him look handsome. He had grown out his hair as well, and now it was long and drawn back into a curly ponytail. Was this really the same Lupe she had left behind?
Her friend grinned, stood up, and hugged her. Mabelle couldn’t believe it. Her best friend was back in her life, at least for the moment! She hugged him back as hard as she could, and they separated, him holding her shoulders at arm’s length, which wasn’t too hard since he was considerably taller than she was.
“How have you been?” he asked, excitement barely contained in his voice.
“Fine,” she said. She couldn’t exactly let him know ‘fine’. “What about you?”
“I’ve been studying up at the castle,” said Theo, drawing her over to the table, where they sat down. “You should see the size of the libr—”
“Maybe I should leave you two lovebirds to yourselves,” said the Kyrii, joking. He held out his hand to her. “I’m Ambassador Borano.”
“Nice to meet you,” said Mabelle, shaking it. She jumped up; she couldn’t believe she’d forgotten about work! “I’ve got to go. I’ve got stuff to finish!”
“Maybe we can talk later...?” said Theo, his voice trailing off as he looked at his companion.
“We can stay the night,” said the ambassador. “We can’t pull this off every time you stumble across an old friend, though, Theodore.”
Theo nodded, and Mabelle quickly bid goodbye and fled, hoping that nobody had noticed her absence in the kitchen. She laughed when she got back there; she had forgotten to get their order.
The dishes clattered and bumped together as Mabelle dug her hands through the dirty water, completely disgusted. Remnants of leftover meals were touching her fur, saliva from those guests who actually liked to lick their plates clean, as well as whatever slimes and mixtures that must have grown on the plates while they sat in the sink until she could get to them. She had to do this for the next week! Mabelle groaned and sank to her knees. She contemplated just giving up on doing the dishes, but she knew she wouldn’t. Her aunt had ordered her to do them, and whatever punishment they would come up for not doing so would be worse than the one she already had.
The chef had not gone home early the day before. In fact, he had stayed here right until the time he was supposed to leave. He was the one who had forgotten, and Mabelle had received the punishment for his mistake, as she always did for anybody who messed up.
How did anybody live through doing this chore, anyway? She’d heard of people who actually loved doing it because it gave them time to think, but she was so focused on getting the dishes clean that she had no room left over to think about anything else. Maybe if she sang? That always helped when she was stressed, and seeing as how nobody was in the room with her...
Theo was standing in the doorway that led to the guest rooms of the inn, and even though he was dressed just the same as he had been when he arrived, his hair was tussled as if he had been sleeping, and he had bags under his eyes. Mabelle sighed, giving a quick polite smile, and stood up, picking up a plate from the tub she had set on the counter and scrubbing it with a sopping, dirty rag.
“Why are you up so late?” he asked, walking toward her.
“I ‘forgot’ to lock up the silverware, and some of it was stolen,” she said, her ear twitching. “This is my punishment.”
He rolled up his sleeves and stuck his hands in the disgusting water, pulling out a mug. He picked up an extra rag on the counter and began scrubbing it.
“It’s alright,” he said, flashing a smile at her. “I’m doing this of my free will, and besides, I haven’t gotten a chance to talk to you all day. You’ve been too busy.”
“But how do you know how to wash dishes?” she asked, bewildered as he put down the polished mug and reached for another dish.
“Let’s just say I’m incredibly clumsy around the library books in the castle...”
“Ah,” she said, nodding. “You were always a tad unsteady on your feet. How was the castle, anyway?”
“It was wonderful!” he said, enthusiasm filling his voice. “There were politicians, nobles, and knights everywhere, Mabelle! I got to watch several matches between some of the warriors, and the library—it’s huge! Of course, I heard it doesn’t even hold a candle to Brightvale’s, but nobody could read all of the books in there in one lifetime.”
He stopped, the energy that had flooded him dying. “It just felt so wrong, when all of this was torn away from you because of the fire.”
“It’s alright,” she said, stopping the scrubbing of her plate. “I still sing, and it’s not like every day is like this, being so busy.”
“You sing still?” he asked. “Can I hear it?”
She blushed, and with the surprise she dropped the plate. It fell to the ground with a loud clatter, and split in three places. After the initial shock, her heart sank.
“Bomberries,” she said, bending down and picking up the pieces. “As if doing the dishes weren’t bad enough...”
“What if you don’t tell them?” he asked, bending down and helping her.
“It’ll be worse if I don’t,” she said.
“Do you want me to come with you? Tell them it was my fault?”
“One of the guests helping the worker with cleaning up? Are you kidding?” she asked, her jaw slightly slackened.
“I’ll stay here, then,” he said, turning around before resuming the washing of her dishes.
She shook her head. Theo was so different now. More mature. She supposed that would happen, with more than four years passing since their last meeting, but she hadn’t expected him to be like this. In truth, she hadn’t expected to ever see him again.
She walked out of the kitchen and down one of the shorter halls, where her aunt and uncle kept their office. They usually didn’t like to be disturbed after everybody was settled in their rooms, but this was one of the things she hated waiting and show them in the morning. They were a bit overzealous on the count of things in the inn, and unfortunately, they tended to wake up before she did in the morning, not for lack of trying.
“Why did we adopt that stupid girl?” asked her aunt’s voice, suddenly echoing through the hall, and Mabelle cringed. They were obviously not in a good mood to receive her right now.
“I told you, we need the money. Do you know how much she’s getting when she turns sixteen?” her uncle asked, his voice gravelly as always.
“Yes, I’m well aware. You’ve pointed it out to me every single day for the past six years.”
“Well, next month when she finally becomes of age, we’ll finally be able to get it.”
“I hate that stupid thing about not being able to get it from her unless she dies when she’s an adult.”
Mabelle’s heart stopped. What?
“How did you manage to convince her caretakers that we were her closest relatives, anyway?”
The Ixi took a couple of steps back.
They were going to kill her? They weren’t really related? Of course, she’d always known that they hadn’t exactly looked a lot alike, but her aunt had married into the family, and her uncle hadn’t exactly been immediate family. But... kill her?
She dashed away, hoping they couldn’t hear her hooves as she ran away from them as fast as she could. Theo looked up from the nearly finished pile of dishes when she came back into the kitchen, and looked completely shocked when he saw the panic on her face.
“I need to get out of here,” she said. “They want to kill me, Theo! Literally!”
To be continued...