Tigrinya: ቤት ሻብዓይ ሙዚቃ
I didn’t stay up late my first few nights back home. The first night was because I had a meeting early on Monday– which went fairly well, I’m thankful to say. The company was pleased with my past work and they liked my new idea, so they were going to review it at their next meeting and see about moving forward with it. That’s just about as good as one can expect when there’s bureaucracy involved.
By Monday evening, I was too tired to stay up late. Tuesday I did some things around the house after work, then watched a movie before turning in. Wednesday I went on a hike in the woods surrounding my house. It was nice to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. I found a couple spots with beautiful views of the mountainside. I could see patches of gold and orange among the sea of greens and grays; the colors are one of the things I love about autumn.
The sun was setting sooner, the weather was cooler… Maybe I could even come out with my portable easel next time and do a little painting. I’m not much of an artist, but I still enjoy being expressive. Sometimes sketching or painting helps me think about my stories and get even more ideas for them; it’s a great activity to try in the case of writer’s block or even just fatigue. Oh, and I sent Stefan and the others some pictures of the view, and they replied that they wanted to hike with me, too. They would have to put their heads together and see when they could all come up at the same time.
It got windy in the evening, and I had to close the windows I’d opened earlier for fresh air, just in case an opportune gust blew in leaves and dirt. I browsed through some old recipe books, some so old that they were hand-bound and the pictures were inked sketches. There was a shelf above the kitchen sink with latticed doors that had glass so old that it had tiny bubbles and ripples here and there; a sure sign that it had been made the old-fashioned way. I really did love the mix of old and new in this place.
Anyhow, that shelf held the old cook books, even the newest being at least three decades old. And there was a tin box of hand-written, browned recipe cards. These days, it was too easy to look up recipes online– not just in text, but also as videos. Watching someone’s technique is priceless, I’d say. Still, old recipes were valuable, and plenty of people were bringing them back to life online. Maybe I could contribute something of value from what I found in my kitchen. That’s not to say that I’m an expert cook, but I can follow directions easily enough.
I found a couple recipes I wanted to try and set the book they were in aside. One was for stock, which I thought would be great to make in bulk and store. The other was for roast beef, which had my mouth watering just to read about. I should be able to make a smaller one and set a couple portions aside to freeze for later; most recipes end up with enough portions for a small family, so I would constantly be scaling them down.
The week went on like that, with me living a fairly normal life of writing, gaming, exploring the outdoors, and generally taking care of domestic things. The rain came, and I spent time on the back porch enjoying the smell and the ambiance. I had my tablet with its stylus, my tea, and the sound of the rain nourishing the forest. It was warm inside, rustic-smelling as the stock cooked slowly in the kitchen, and outside it was cool and damp. I found a light blanket to keep warm with while I wrote. It was all-around wonderful.
I don’t think Chopin appreciated the patter of the rain as much as I did, though. She came to the house Friday, and hour or three after sunset, and perched just under the patio’s awning. When I looked over at her, she hooted at me several times and shook out her wet feathers.
“Long time no see,” I told her.
She hooted back at me.
“I hope you’ve eaten,” I added. Not that she had a way of confirming or denying it; I still didn’t speak owl. I wondered whether that was a gift I’d pick up if I visited Tierny Ríocht more.
“So… do you know everyone from that other world?” I asked, not really expecting an answer back. “Jean-Marc and Brom know you, and it sounds like Evander knows you.”
She hooted now and then as I spoke to her.
“What about the others? Who’s the missing cellist… Brielle?”
That had Chopin hooting and cooing and ruffling her feathers.
“You’re either upset at her or worried about her.” I sighed and hit save on my document, then tucked away the stylus. “Well, if you know anything about what happened, I hope you were able to share it with Jean-Marc and the others.”
We headed inside, Chopin pausing one more time to make sure her feathers were dry, and I locked the door behind me. She followed me to the kitchen, where I checked on the stock, then the roast, which was ready to come out of the oven and cool for a bit. I grabbed my salad from the fridge and headed into my entertainment room to put on a movie.
Chopin sat on the side-table and poked at the various remotes while I skimmed through the lists of what I could watch. I settled on the next episode of “The Witcher,” which I was about half-way through.
“If you get scared, just remember that it’s only a show,” I told the owl. “But the door is open and you can fly out whenever you want.”
She clawed at the remotes, causing me to raise an eyebrow.
“What are you up to? Channeling your inner cat and planning to knock things off the table?” I giggled to myself and decided that the least I could do was keep the volume down; some of the battles in the show got really loud.
I wondered what Stefan would say if he knew I’d invited the owl back in. I know he doesn’t like the idea, but he doesn’t know this owl. And besides… Athena liked owls, and the Greeks respected them as symbols of wisdom and prudence. Other cultures believed they represented prosperity, luck, sorcery, and so much more. Owls could do good things. It was just an unfortunate coincidence that the Celts associated them with darker themes.
Chopin followed me when I went back to the kitchen to slice the roast. I’d cooked plenty of vegetables to go along with it, so each portion I placed into a container had carrots, potatoes, and pearl onions. I gave the stock a good stir and turned the heat down, then went back to the couch to eat and watch my show.
I was nearly done when my phone dinged.
You have to save me!
Hallå där! Larsa sent me in the group chat.
I decided to take my reply there. Stefan, what’s going on?
Larsa will not stop pestering me!
You said his intentions are always good.
I was wrong! So wrong!
Killian, what is going on with them?
Larsa told him he wants to play Little Big Planet with you.
Awww, I’ve been wanting to play!
He learned how to blackmail! Stefan complained.
Really? As in, “Play LBP with me or I’ll tell all your secrets?”
He didn’t tell you, did he?!
Tell me what?
It took a few minutes for anyone to respond. They might have been arguing between themselves, and I was curious what it was about. Stefan might have been playing around, but I couldn’t be sure. He doesn’t usually get upset over things…
Can we play now?
Yeah… Sure, I have time. Let me get set up.
I took a couple minutes to finish eating and send Stefan some messages on the side and make sure he was okay. He ended up calling me.
“Sounds like you three are having quite the party over there.”
“Yeah… Larsa wanted to celebrate getting a nearly perfect score on his first test of the semester,” Stefan told me. “I think he got a little carried away.”
“Is he all right?”
“Ehh…” He paused for a moment. “He’s got Killian looking out for him, so he’ll be fine.”
“Did he really blackmail you?” I asked him.
“Oh, don’t worry about it,” Stefan replied. “He was playing around and got a little carried away.”
I started setting up the game while we talked. I wasn’t sure how much Larsa really crossed the line, and I wondered if maybe Stefan was a little more annoyed by it than he was willing to let on. I thought maybe I could test the waters a little bit.
“That’s funny how he thinks there are any secrets between us,” I said.
“It’s about your birthday present,” he replied.
“Oh, is that all?” I laughed a little. “You know I don’t need any gifts.”
“Is that Leila?” I heard Larsa say in the background; he sounded excited. I think he’d just burst into the room. “Du borde berätta för henne.”
“Gå ut härifrån!” Stefan snarled back at him.
“Are you guys really okay?” I asked him.
“Ja– yeah, it’s fine. He just thinks he’s funny.”
“I know what he wants to give you for your birthday, Leila!” Larsa shouted. Then he giggled almost uncontrollably.
“Sorry about him,” Stefan sighed. I heard a door close. “I don’t know if he meant to get this drunk, but he’s been celebrating and playing that game ever since he got home.”
“I see… you think he’ll stop pestering you if we play a group game?”
“Yeah, I think he’ll chill out a little. You sure you don’t mind?”
“I was the one who suggested it a few weeks ago,” I told him. “I’ve actually been looking forward to this.”
“All right, then. You’re the best, Leila! They have the game loaded; I’ll get the team chat set up.”
It didn’t take too long for me to get my headset on and join the group online. I had already customized my little Sackboy with the penguin costume, and Stefan had his looking like a bear.
“Look, Leila!” Larsa giggled. “Killian is foxy!”
“He sure is,” I said as I noticed the little red fox that Larsa’s character was running circles around. “So you chose the cat, huh?”
“He’s so cute!”
“Cuter than the penguin?”
Eventually, we had the first level loaded, and we were jumping and climbing all over the screen. Larsa wasn’t half bad at the game; it sounded like he’d been practicing over the past few days. Chopin watched the screen as our characters ran through the level, and she hooted when we got to the end.
“What was that?” Stefan asked.
“Ooh, it sounded like an owl,” Larsa said.
“That’s not part of this level,” Killian noted.
“Did another owl sneak into your house?”
Uh-oh. I looked over at Chopin.
“Or maybe the same one as last time?” he suggested.
Double uh-oh. “Well…”
“Oh!” Larsa interjected. “That’s good luck!”
“No, it isn’t!” Stefan told him.
“Yes it is,” Larsa countered.
“Okay, children,” I interrupted before they let things descend any further into nonsense. “It’s just an owl, and she’s nice.”
“I know you’re worried about their symbolism, Stefan, but it’s okay. She’s not going to lead me to the underworld or anything.”
I heard him sigh. “Okay… if you’re sure. But before you wander of to any other worlds, you take me with you, okay? You don’t have to go alone.”
“That’s sweet of you to say,” I told him. It really was nice to hear him say that.
“Du är söt mot henne,” I heard Larsa giggling.
“What is he saying?” I asked.
“He’s about to be cut off from alcohol,” Stefan said with a laugh that didn’t sound all that genuine. “We should get back to playing before he can’t use the controls anymore.”
“Sounds good to me,” I said.
We ended up playing well into the night. We got a lot of levels completed before Larsa got distracted with kissing Killian every time they beat a level… and when they executed a tricky maneuver in a difficult part of a level– oh, and when he lost and ended up giggling until Killian got him to drink water.
Once we said our good-nights, I got the game and everything turned off and headed over to the kitchen to clean a few things up. The grandfather clock in the hallway chimed as I passed by, and Chopin flew up to perch on top of it.
“Don’t tell me it’s midnight,” I whispered to myself, freezing in place. I had to make a conscious effort not to drop my plate. “I can’t go tonight.”
But it was just a single chime, just the indication that it was half past the hour.
I turned around to read the clock face. “Twelve thirty,” I murmured.
And the house hadn’t changed. Chopin hooted– calmly, almost curiously.
“How long is it even supposed to look different?”
She cooed and flew past me into the kitchen.
“I’ll just have to ask Jean-Marc next time I see him in person again,” I sighed.
Although I would much prefer to be seeing Stefan in person again.