The House of the Seventh Minuet LXXV

Esperanto: La Domo de la Sepa Menueto

Once I had the first aid kit cleaned up and put away, I grabbed a roll of packing tape from one of the drawers in the entryway table and headed into the kitchen to check on my friends. They had pulled out the balls of dough and placed them on floured pans to rise, and were now sitting together at the counter to prepare toppings. I took a seat in the breakfast nook so as to not mix my mess with the food.

“Uh-oh, ye’re here without Stefan?” Killian teased. “Is the man all right?”

“He’s fine,” I laughed as I pulled out a length of tape and pressed it back on itself like a sort of sticky wheel. “I got all the splinters out, and now he’s taking a shower.”

“You’re not going with him to make sure he doesn’t pass out from his injuries?” Larsa asked.

I looked up at him and raised a brow. I knew he couldn’t possibly believe that Stefan might actually need supervision, but it was a lot harder to tell whether he was still teasing or–

“One o’ these days, lad,” Killian said before I could finish the thought, “ye’re goin’ tae make her choke, or trip, or somethin’ from all this teasin’. Don’ pay him any mind, Leila. He’s just excited.”

“Heh, so I see.” I laid Stefan’s shirt out and began rolling the tape over it; it caught a lot of the extraneous splinters. Then I said in my own teasing tone, “Well, if your teasing didn’t annoy Stefan so much, maybe I would have let you put sardines or anchovies on your pizza. I suppose the truth of the matter is that you like goofing off more than you like fish.”

“What?!” Larsa squawked. “You would have let me have fish on my pizza?”

I glanced up at him before I prepared another round of tape. “‘Would’ is the operative word there. But it’s too late now.”

Larsa pretended to be upset by that. “You really won’t give me another chance?”

“Would Stefan?” I asked pointedly.

He pouted. “No.”

I smiled at him as I got up from my seat. “You guys have gotten a lot done really quickly,” I noted. “I’m going to put this into the laundry with a few other things and then get cleaned up.”

“With Stefan?” Larsa asked, grinning again. It seemed that if he couldn’t make his pizza his own way, he might as well keep playing.

“Oh, geez! No, I took a shower earlier. Besides, if I show up in the shower with him, I think he’d just explode.”

“That’s the point,” Larsa muttered under his breath, earning himself a scandalous look from Killian.

I chuckled and shook my head. “I couldn’t do that to my best friend. I swear, he’s right about you needing to spend some time where it’s just the two of you and get it out of your system.”

“I’m startin’ tae think it’d just get worse the more we encourage him,” Killian noted.

“Okay, okay,” I laughed. “Tell you what, if you can handle not annoying Stefan for the rest of the week, you can pick which movie we watch tonight.”

“A week?” Larsa groaned. “I can only promise tonight.”

“And tomorrow,” I added. “Deal?”

Larsa gave me another look pretending to not like the compromise, but ultimately smiled at me. “Okay, Leila!”

“Great. I’ll be back to make the salad in a bit.”

I took the shirt with me and headed out of the kitchen. I stopped by the laundry room on the second floor, threw Stefan’s shirt into the washer with a few other things, then started the load. Then I headed up to the third floor, to the secondary bathroom up there, and got myself a little more cleaned up.

After that, I headed to my office. I was checking messages, making sure there was nothing urgent in my email, when I heard Stefan exit the bathroom and head down the hall to his room. His door closed, and I gave him a few minutes to dry off and start getting dressed before heading down there. I knocked on his door; Stefan was still trying to dry his hair with a towel when he answered the door, wearing only a robe with some thin pants underneath.

“Hey, Leila,” he said in greeting.

“Hey yourself,” I replied. “I came to see if you needed any help with the ointment or bandages or anything.”

“I don’t think I’m going to put any bandages on it,” he told me. “It stopped bleeding a long time ago. I should be fine if I just put some of the medicine on it.”

“I can check on it for you, make sure there’s no splinters left. Did you find the first-aid kit?”

He smiled down at me. “There you go again, doting on me. I did find it actually.” he opened the door wider and gestured for me to come in. “You did a really good job getting all the splinters out, Leila. Nothing hurts at all. Just a little antibacterial gel, and I’ll be completely fine.”

I saw the first-aid kit on the nightstand, and had him sit down and show me his belly so I could put some of the medicine on it. The thing is, Stefan sometimes minimizes how badly he’s hurt; he could have a big gash on his belly and still tell me that he was completely fine. He’s tough, and he knows how to take care of himself when he is hurt, but I felt bad for getting in the way and distracting him so that he ended up with chunks of wood stuck in his skin. I had to make sure he really was fine.

“Do I get a lollipop after this, Nurse Leila? He teased as I spread the medicine over the tiny wounds.

I giggled and shook my head. “No lollipops for you, but you do get to make your very own pizza.”

He was grinning at me, and I had no idea what was going through his mind just then, but he must have been thinking something funny. Anyway, I smiled back.

“Pizza sounds great,” he said after a little more time grinning at me. “By the way, he said, taking my hand when I went to put the tube of medicine away, “I’m sorry I didn’t let you help. It’s your own house, and I know you wouldn’t have moved all the way up here if you couldn’t handle it.”

“Don’t worry about it. I appreciate your help, actually,” I told him. Truth be told, it was also fun to watch him chopping wood, his muscles flexing, the way the tattoos seem to move with his skin. He was truly a sight to see. I couldn’t possibly tell him that though; my cheeks would have turned completely red if I even tried. So I changed the subject. “Well, now that that’s out of the way, let’s head downstairs and get some food, okay?”

He was grinning at me again.

“Okay, Stefan, what’s on your mind?”

“Should I follow you downstairs as I am now, or are you going to let me get a shirt first?”

I giggled again, and then looked around to see where he’d put his suitcase. then got up and walked over to it. “I put your other one in the laundry by the way,” I informed him.

“You didn’t have to do that,” he replied. “Hey, I can get a shirt Leila.”

He got up and hurried over to the suitcase, as though worried about what I was going to see in there. I was tempted to get in there anyway and grab him a shirt, but if he didn’t want me to see his other clothes, I had to respect his request. I stopped and waited for him to fish his own shirt out of his suitcase, but he still smirked and shook his head at me.

Larsa ended up picking the first “Aliens” movie to watch that evening. We each had our own personalized pizzas to snack on as we watch the movie, plus salad, and then sorbet for dessert. The boys had brought a bunch of different ciders and beers for us to share as well. There were a lot of different flavors to choose from, although Larsa seemed a little bit disappointed that none of them were lingonberry or cloudberry flavored. That was when I paused the movie and took him to the kitchen to explore some of the ingredients I had on hand. There was a bottle of lingonberry syrup I’d gotten at IKEA a while back, as well as some rum, seltzer, and a few other ingredients that would make a good mixed drink. I hadn’t really intended to have a full in-home bar, but I had a few things here and there that I could cobble together.

The first drink I made him was just lingonberry syrup as the flavoring, rum for the alcohol, and a couple other basic ingredients. Larsa kind of liked that one, but when I made something with lingonberry, cherry, and cranberry mixed together, that was even better. He was eager to try mixing a lot of other things together, but he was a little tipsy by that point, and Killian warned me not to let him have too much; all the sweet stuff would make it hard for him to know when to really stop.

After the movie was over and dinner was cleaned up, we played video games together. It was kind of funny playing drunk, since none of us were good at anything in the games, and we could just laugh at one another. Stefan won a lot of the rounds, and Larsa usually lost first and ended up giggling on the floor at how badly he’d done so. Now that I think of it, it was kind of ironic that one of the games we played was Mario kart, although none of us would have driven after having alcohol in real life. Eventually, we started playing a cooperative game, and managed to get a little bit further into it by helping each other, but still not very far. It was fun, at least.

Larsa was the first person to yawn that evening. I think he wore himself out more from giggling than anything else.

“What time is it?” Killian asked when he saw how sleepy Larsa was starting to look.

“Probably time for Cinderella to return home from the ball before she turns into a pumpkin,” Stefan commented.

That had Larsa bursting out into laughter. He mumbled something in Swedish, then got up from the couch. “I’m going to get some water for the little pumpkin patch we’re going to have pretty soon here. I’ll find out what time it is while I’m out there.”

“Should– should I go with him so he doesn’t get lost?” I asked as I watched him stumble out through the door.

“He’ll be fine,” Stefan assured me. “Half of what you see him doing is just an act.”

I still say it was because he didn’t want me to get up from the couch, where I was cuddled up close to him. We were sharing a blanket, mostly because I only had two in that particular room, and Stefan didn’t want me to go track down another one. Killian and Larsa were sharing the other blanket. Stefan kept threatening to take it from them if they couldn’t keep their hands to themselves under it, but I think he left it to just threats instead of action because he wanted to stay under our blanket with me. Then again, that could all just be wishful thinking.

A minute or so after Larsa left the room, the clock in the hallway started chiming. I paused our conversation to count the chimes. There were quite a few, so at least it wasn’t one or two in the morning yet. I heard footsteps out in the foyer, and then Larsa’s voice.

“Leila,” he called from out there, “you didn’t tell me your clock made a cool light show at midnight!”

“A what?” I muttered to myself, not knowing what he was talking about. But then it hit me, and my whole body went stiff. Midnight. Light. Except he didn’t mean light, I realized. Oh no.

“Is he talkin’ about the old clock Great Uncle Morrigan brought with him from Ireland?” Killian asked. “There’s definitely no light show in that thing.”

“No there’s not,” I agreed, barely able to breathe, let alone speak. My throat was tight, and I felt myself panicking. I knew better than to panic, but there I was. I didn’t know whether to yell at Larsa to just get back into the room and forget about what he saw, or… or… I just didn’t know what to do. Nothing I could do would result in anything short of him freaking out, too. Except the sounds coming from the hallway weren’t exactly freaking out as I would have defined it. I think the little rascal was actually excited about what he was seeing.

Larsa’s head peeked through the door. “Killian, come check this out! It’s really pretty!”

I have no idea if Killian saw how pale my face must have been just then. Either way, he was curious about Great Uncle Morrigan’s old clock, and he got up from the couch and started heading through the door.

Then I found myself almost too scared to look at Stefan. What was he going to think when he saw the panic look on my face? Also, could I just sit there like nothing weird was going on, that it was perfectly normal for an ancient grandfather clock to have some kind of light show at midnight, or would it be worse to run out after them and tell them, “no no nothing to see here”? I wasn’t going to do what the Wizard of Oz did when he said, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

“Something on your mind, Leila?” Stephan asked. “Come on, talk to me; your whole body went stiff when Larsa said something about the clock.”

I turned to look at him, still completely stunned, but feeling that I had no other choice. “It’s midnight,” I whispered. Looking back, it seems dumb to have just blurted that out, but what’s done is done.

“Are you going to tell me why that has you worried?”

I was staring up into Stefan’s eyes, my voice caught in my throat, when Larsa shouted, “Woah, everything’s golden!”

I could hear Killian tell Larsa that there must have been some trick of the light, and they were both tired and drunk. That didn’t quell Larsa’s curiosity, though. The next thing I heard was his feet on the old wooden stairs.

“But more of it is turning to gold!” Larsa was saying, as full of excitement as ever. “Let’s go check it out!”

That was what got me off of the couch and out of the room, leaving Stefan behind to decide on his own whether or (I hoped) not to follow me.

About Legends of Lorata

Eleanor Willow is the author of the high fantasy series Legends of Lorata, which takes place on a medieval-style world filled with elves, dragons, and faeries. There is also a fourth race, one that is rare and magical: the angelic Starr. Lorata is a distant planet watched over by four deities: good, evil, elemental, and celestial-- and there are plenty of legends about them all! One of the most important ones is the prophecy of Jenh's champion, Loracaz, who is promised to return to the realm whenever evil threatens to take hold. There are currently three books completed, and the first one can be read online. Book four is currently being written, and a fifth will most likely be in the future.
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