Of course, the main third party must be faced eventually.
This is the third batch. Thank you for reading.
“Your problem is not with me, Melancho,” Beika said. “Your problem is her.”
Lan sighed and looked down at his mug of coffee. He knew as much.
“Considering the stuff that happened to us, it’s no big surprise that the hag thinks the world of him….no matter how much she tries to hide it. There is quite an amount of mutuality about it, of course. You can’t deny there’s an element of challenge in winning a girl of the capital. But between him and her, Marceau has it harder.”
Lan sighed again.
“Can I ask?” Beika said. “Why did you let it happen? You could’ve pushed him away.”
Lan looked up from his coffee. “I did. Ask him.”
“I…don’t know. I guess…a need was filled.”
“One I didn’t think about. But it was something I wouldn’t want to ask of you, to do for me. I wouldn’t ask it of Marceau, either. Or anyone, for that matter.”
“So it could’ve been anyone, as long as the need was filled?”
Lan shook his head.
“I don’t know how to explain it, either.” Lan stared again at his coffee.
She patted her friend on the shoulder. “It’ll sort itself out. But don’t worry about me,” Beika repeated.
“Yup, that was what we were chatting about into the night, when you found us,” she said. “You’ll always be my best friend. I will never regret coming to find you. Never. Soji is my favorite chatting friend. He’s always fun to be with and have cake with.”
She paused, and looked well at Lan. She reached over and took up his hand.
“If you don’t want it, I don’t seek a more formal relationship with you. But I will always, always, be your best friend, and I will have nobody say otherwise. If you will have me as that. I will always love you like that.”
Lan smiled at her. “Thank you.”
“But…” Beika raised a finger. “Your problem is with her.”
Lan gave another sigh.
Lan waited quietly outside the office. He stared at his lap. He took deep breaths. He listened without interest as voices were raised in the office. He watched silently as a member of the defence committee walked out and away. He sighed again. She would be in a fouler mood later.
“Come in!” said the voice inside.
He lowered his head and entered. He kept his eyes on the carpet.
He kept his head lowered while she said, “I didn’t ask for you.”
He glanced up and found Marceau behind a desk stacked with papers and folders. What he planned to say would ruin her concentration irreparably for the rest of the day. “I can come back, at a better time,” he replied.
He stepped out of the door.
Yet he could not bring himself to go back to his quarters, or to face anyone else. And there was one way to inform her, without disrupting her work, or directly facing her wrath. It was the afternoon, anyway.
He sat again just outside Marceau’s office. He sighed. He took out one of the pills, and swallowed it.
He hated himself and his cowardice as he let the hammers pound at his head, as he closed his eyes and let himself be pulled heavily into sleep.
Marceau found the firespark slumped on a chair outside her office. The paperwork was done, as she was heading home for the night, finally. It was already early evening, but the firespark was still there, when he said early that afternoon that he would just return.
She tried shaking him at the shoulder, then calling his name, but neither method worked. He was pale, but he always was. He breathed normally in sleep.
She took up her right hand, and placed it over his head. She quickly read the immediate timeline, and beside the fact that he swallowed a strong sleeping pill, found no problem.
But the last event before going to her office was Lan talking with Beika, and Beika saying that the problem was with her, with Marceau herself.
She read through the recent timeline, to know what was the problem with herself.
Soon she found out why.
She took her hand off Lan’s head. She stared at him, reconciling the image of the sleeping figure before her and the images she found in the recent timelines.
She left him there, and marched away.
Marceau marched through the door of the Harmony coffee shop. She stopped in front of the cashier. She tossed her hair back.
“I want to see the manager.”
Heads turned at all the tables. And a manager emerged from the kitchen, still with an apron and floured hands.
He took a deep breath. “Miss Marceau.”
She kept a heavy glare into his eyes. “The firespark was in my office.” She inhaled. She pierced him with her eyes. “Is it true?”
Soji dropped his floured hands to his sides. “Yes,” he said. “I am sorry.”
Marceau now stared at him, bewildered, stupefied. Her hands began to shake. She stopped it by balling them into fists. But her fists trembled.
She turned her back on him as she clenched her teeth.
“I….don’t care,” she declared. “It’s your life. It’s your choice. I don’t care. I don’t care!”
She marched out of the coffee shop as proudly as she came.
She marched straight home.
She marched past Claude and her parents. She marched past and ignored the dining room.
She marched straight to her bedroom.
There, behind the shut door, she hugged her knees and buried her head beneath her arms.
“No visitors! No appointments!”
Marceau shouted at anyone who dared knock at or open her office door. She wanted to focus on the paperwork. She did not want to think of anything else.
“No exceptions!” she added if anyone persisted to try.
“I said, no exceptions, Selati!” she screeched when she smelled cupcakes and fresh flowers waft around her office. “Especially you. I don’t want to talk to you.”
“I will…try anyway, Miss Marceau,” Soji said, haltingly. “I am sorry for last few days.”
Marceau clenched her teeth and kept her eyes onto the paper before her.
“It is not that I am sorry for what happened,” he said. “I am sorry I did not explain.”
The writing on the paper slowed.
“Miss Marceau. I am grateful, very grateful, for all you have done for me, what you still do for me. I am very, very thankful. I will not forget your kindness, always.”
“What I did then, I do not regret. What I still do, I do not regret. I am glad I helped you. I am glad you help us, you help me. I will keep helping you. I promise this.”
The pen stopped moving in her hand.
“But, I also see he need help, he need love. Kind that is felt.” His Pendika faltered and jumbled. “He need more, right now. So, I give.”
“And what does that make me, to you?” Marceau asked directly.
“Special friend,” he answered.
“Is that all I am to you?” she asked again.
“Friend, who is special,” he repeated.
“But you do not love me.”
“Yes, I love you.”
“You say it lightly.”
Marceau pounded on the desk. “Explain yourself, stupid foreigner icebox!” she said, controlling the forming tears.
He took a deep breath. “If you ask relationship, show partner to parents and brother, ask go with you to dance, show to friends, ask for promise to be husband….not yet, I cannot say this. I thought once. I want to think again. I want to consider again. But right now, I cannot say this.”
Marceau looked up at him, before dropped her head onto the desk in a heavy thunk.
“But if you ask, I go to war for you, fight on Pendi side for you, fight any person who hurt you…yes, I do that. Anytime, any moment. Because I do love you.
“I know you want relationship, show partner to parents and brother, and so forth. You think that is me. Is not. Or is not me, yet. Many other nice, rich, young men of Pendi. I cannot give what you know, how you grow up. Even if you say you do not need. Yes, you do. I cannot give. Do not think you need relationship with me, because I save you, because you give me shop. I am happy as your friend. You not bound to me. But I not your slave either.
“Give you time to think again. Give me time to think again. But let me show and give love to one who need it now. Is clear?”
Marceau bonked her head a few more times on the desk, before she lifted it.
“Get out, Selati.”
Soji sighed, and, leaving the cupcakes and flowers, obeyed.
Marceau immediately locked the door and proceeded to ruin her makeup with tears.
She understood. But she would forgive him tomorrow.