:: previous – Good Mourning
“King Resolut and his expedition team returned from Earth yesterday evening, as hazardous weather in the Mid-Atlantic region of the old United States prevented them from completing their journey. While the King and his team are in quarantine, they have expressed a great eagerness to reconnect with their loved ones soon. So, we will be respectful of their personal time.”
“Winter, when will we hear from the King? Can we expect him to speak about the Hourglass? Or visit Black Mountain?”
A man walks aimlessly into my line of sight of the TV in the lobby, focused on the crown press briefing.
“Grim?” I inquire.
He turns around fast with a look of surprise.
Emilian’s voice is foreboding with a powerful strength in his grip as we shake hands. I glance at the small black square floating above his wrist and check the time.
“Four on the dot. You’re here for Misa, I presume?”
“Ah.” I motion to the spiral staircase. “She’s in a briefing upstairs. Shouldn’t be much longer. They’re finishing up.”
He nods and turns back to the TV where the Crown Secretary previews the King’s findings from Earth.
“Plans are underway for the King’s visit to Black Mountain. More to come on that…”
“Emilian?” He gives me a sideways glance. “While you’re waiting, can I help you with anything? A hot or cold beverage, perhaps?”
“Actually, you can…” His attention drifts back to the TV.
“Yes, I can confirm the network outage. It was a temporary disruption to the Void during routine maintenance…”
“Hm.” He turns around to face me. “I’d like to check out a book, Redemption of the Accountant. Does this library carry it?”
“Oh yes, an excellent read. It’s in the mystery section. Please, follow me.”
We walk among the calming paperback scents and the smooth flipping sounds of pages turning, brief respites from the various worlds everyone has escaped to. All equipped with the standard heads down, eyes peeled poses.
I glance at the business professional behind me. Tall and dark. Handsome, according to Misa.
“Never took you for a fiction lover, Emilian.”
“I’m trying new things.”
We turn a few corners and reach the dimly lit noir section of the library.
“This is the adult mystery section. And…” I trace my finger across a display of featured books sitting beneath a seductive red spotlight. “Here it is.” I pull out the paperback.
Emilian takes it, his eyes fixed on the exotic pink passionflower on the cover for a long moment.
“I take it you’ve seen the movie?” I ask. “Reviews say that reading this book can answer the plot holes in it.”
“No. Assuming this is a good read…” He reads the author biography on the back of the book. “Maybe.”
“Thanks for finding it.”
Without speaking, we move towards the front lobby.
“Catch the last game?” Emilian asks out of nowhere.
I forgot he’s a basketball fan.
“Couldn’t miss it. Yourself?”
He stops and stares. We’re eye level with each other.
Silence, as if everything is dead.
“I know who you are.”
Emilian’s voice is cold, low, and certain.
I gaze into his murky brown eyes.
“Who am I?” I play along.
Slowly backing away, he maintains his intense gaze and a wicked smile creeps onto his face.
“You’re a Southern man.”
I find myself grinning. “I take it you are as well?”
He glances at his square, then walks ahead. His easygoing demeanor drops into that of a serious man once again, with no time for small talk. Like night and day.
“Southern versus Eastern game is tomorrow.” I announce. “Any plans?”
“Headed for Grim Ranch tonight, my father’s place. Family thing. Then we’re driving down to see the game live.”
“Family. That’s important.”
“How about you? Plans?”
“Only a quiet evening at home watching the game. Maybe I’ll see you on TV.”
Wouldn’t be the first time. The SkyGrim incident brought heavy media attention to the neighborhood, especially after Misa almost got hurt. Luckily, things have settled down since then.
“It’s likely.” Emilian says with pride. “We got third row seats.”
“Hey now… Nice, you won’t miss anything.”
“Mili!” Misa yells and waves from the spiral staircase, forgetting herself.
She slams her eyes shut, then reopens and walks down with a bashful, quick pace.
“There she is… Thanks again, Paper.”
His admiring eyes never part from Misa, watching every step she takes.
“Mili…” Misa’s feet lift off the floor when they hug. “I missed you.” She whispers something that makes him smile ear to ear as he puts her down. “What’s that?” She motions to his hand. “You’re checking out a book?”
“Yes…” He shows her the cover. “Thought I’d give this a try.”
“Something about it caught my attention.”
He looks over and our eyes meet.
“Oh!” Misa smiles big. “Now we can watch the movie when you’re done reading it.”
His raised eyebrows say otherwise.
“Come on, I’ll check you out. It’ll be fun.” She seizes his hand. “And you can’t forget to return it on time.”
“Can’t I just give it to you?”
“Oh, yeah!” She giggles. “I forgot I work here.”
They walk away, their voices fading, but their smiles remain.
Only mine is Grim…