Chapter 5: Angels at Dusk
“Neliel. Hey, Neliel! I brought you some tea and cake. C’mon out and eat with the rest of us sometime, wouldja?”
I know it’s a waste of time, but I tried knocking on Neliel’s door anyway. I mean, I came all the way there to deliver the sweets, so I kind of want to make it my business to make sure she actually eats it. I want to watch her stuff it in her mouth, smile, look up at me, and tell me how tasty it is. But we can’t always get what we want, y’know?
A soft voice can be heard through the sturdy door. “Leave it there, please. Thanks.”
See? Here we go again. How much longer until she’s sick and tired of holing up in there all by her lonesome? Like, when did she start doing this? How long has it been going on? I hope she isn’t depressed or something...
Anyway, I placed the tray with the cake and tea in front of her door. Feeding someone like this makes me feel kinda empty inside.
“Hmm. All right, then...” I decided to lie in wait and yank her outside by her ears the moment her head pops out of that room to collect her goodies. I slumped down next to the tray and waited. And I waited for what must’ve been thirty minutes, Earth time. I guess I’m still naive. I thought she’d open the door and eat the cake right away. But now...
“The tea’s cold...”
This sort of complete and utter neglect is exactly what gets me down in the dumps. But I waited long enough, so what’s a little more waiting? I won’t give up now. I won’t let her beat me. “Yeah... We’ll see who can sit in one place longer...!”
Forty-five more minutes, Earth time, passed. There was no sound from within the room. Isn’t that pretty worrisome? I mean, maybe iced tea would’ve been a better choice... No, no. That’s totally not the issue here.
“Man... What’s your deal, Neliel...?”
I tried my best to hold them back, but my eyes welled up with tears. For some reason, this sort of stuff gets to me. Ugh, and this is totally not the time for me to cry... Just when I thought I was gonna break down, I heard footsteps from the other end of the hallway. I tried to wipe the tears from my eyes, and before I knew it, two shoes had stopped in front of me.
“Hello there, Kuroiel.”
It was Galtion. And he was as easygoing as ever.
“What, pray tell, are you doing slouched down in such a place?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” I pointed at the untouched tray of tea and cake in front of the door. The tea was cold, and now even the cake started to lose its shape. The icing was starting to run, and some of the bigger clumps of decorative icing had fallen off completely. Just lookin’ at it hurt.
Galtion shook his head slightly. “I see. I am truly sorry.”
“Why’re you apologizing?”
He smiled again. “It feels like the appropriate response.”
I rolled my eyes before looking back down at the floor. “Gimme a break, man...” I sighed. It was all I could do, really. Galtion bent over and picked up the tray before speaking again. “Neliel often tells me how delicious your desserts are. Please believe me when I say that.” “She should say it to my face...”
“Unfortunately, her work keeps her far more occupied than anyone else realizes. Please try to understand.”
He rapped softly on her door. After a moment, I heard a deadbolt retract back into the door. He opened the door just wide enough to let himself in, and he closed it behind him. A locked door opens without question when Galtion’s around...
“Ugh. I can’t deal with this crap.” I stood up, brushed the floor dust off my skirt, and headed toward the shrine courtyard. As I crossed into it from the garden, I saw Lilliel, Lanael, and Cheriel sitting at our usual table, having a chat. Lanael beckoned me to her side. “What?” Maybe I sounded curt, but I wasn’t really in the mood.
“A second pot of tea, if you would.”
“One should be enough...”
Lanael smirks and stares directly into my eyes. “You seem disheartened. Did I not warn you? Drawing Neliel out of her precious safe haven is an impossibility.” “Sh-Shut up.”
“Well,” she waved me off, “I would not worry about it. She does not dislike you. She has simply always been that way since the beginning. Toward everyone, save Galtion.” That almost sounded like...she was trying to lift my spirits. Is Lanael being nice to me? Maybe she does have an angelic side, after all. “If that concept has managed to find its way into your shriveled, raisin-sized brain, I do believe I asked for another pot of tea.” Never mind. She’s a jerk, through and through.