Belle stops at the front door and without looking up, yells, “Well, let me in, ya victos!”
“You’re as pleasant as you ever were, Auntie.”
“I’ll snipe you from here if you don’t open the door.”
I press my thumb against the top of my watch and announce, “Door unlock—15 seconds.”
I look at the projection; Fanto just came across the magical hund that carries her to the other side of Lemon Mountain. Ugh, Belle has the worst timing.
We’re both in the worker space. (Some call it the residential space, but on Riestovik we called it a worker space, which makes more sense. You’re defined by your job, not simply where you live.) I’m sitting on a yellow-striped chair, which used to conform to my body type before Jorge spilled ceren down the back and shorted it out. Now, it’s permanently stuck in his favorite position.
Belle stretches out on the fearh-skin kitanda with her arm draped across her eyes. Looking at the lines on her face and the yellowing of her fingernails reminds me how long it’s been since we saw each other. Also, that she never took particularly good care of herself.
“You look old now.”
“That’s fuckin’ rude, Sasha.”
“It’s the only thing I know about you.”
“Well, I was just tortured by your fan club so, ya hafta forgive me for not wearing my best face.”
“Do you want something to drink?”
Belle nods yes, as she slips her arm down to the side. “Man, that surgery of yours … You wanna ask how I’m doing?”
I thought that’s what I was doing, though in a roundabout way. Besides, the fan club thing has piqued my interest. “What was this about a fan club?”
“Yeah, a couple of real rudders. Brother-sister team, looking for you. Said they want to train under you.”
“The drink, Sasha. Can you get me a damn drink?”
“Yes, hang on.”
When I come back from the kitchen, I hand her a glass of water. Belle takes a sip.
“Ugh, what is this? Water? I said a drink. Ceren or stronger. Take this back.”
I return with something strong. She downs it in one gulp.
“That was … not cheap,” I say.
With a belch, Belle replies, “Yeah, tasted damn good.”
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