On Edna's Trail
It was Monday, around early afternoon and, with the week having already started, it felt like it would only be a moment until summer vacation began. Normally, Edna would have German class but since Missus Rosefield had an appointment, they had Art class now instead and the class would be cancelled on Thursday. Miss Moore had given the students their homework back at the beginning of the lesson after having forgotten them at home on Friday. Edna was elated to see that she got an A for her Art homework. Bianca, who designed a necklace, also got the same grade while Sebastian, who also drew a CD cover, got a B. Their teacher gave them a few minutes to quietly discuss their grades with each other before she clapped her hands twice to gain their attention.
“Now then, I know there won’t be any grades given for the next two weeks, this one included”, Miss Moore began. “But nevertheless, I want to start something that we will finish at the beginning of next school year. Yes, Emily?”
“Can I go to the toilet, please?“, a girl, who had her hand raised, asked.
“Oh well, alright”, Miss Moore allowed her to go. Emily stood up and left the classroom while Miss Moore continued speaking: “Now then, I want to go to the park with all of you and I want you to draw something, like the plant life, the playground, anything you see. Finishing your drawing will be your homework for over summer vacation. What is it, Robert?”
“Can I go to the toilet too?”
Miss Moore wordlessly indicated at the door. Robert stood up and went through the door, with his teacher glancing after him with arched eyebrows.
“He leaves two minutes after Emily left just so we won’t think that something’s up... But I think something’s up”, Miss Moore commented, to general amusement. “Well, now you know what we’re going to do today, we will only wait for Emily and Robert and then, we can go. Please, pack your things.”
There was quite some clutter as everyone packed their pens, rulers, pencils, erasers, folders and so on in their school bags. A boy named Tobias packed for his friend Robert while Gabrielle did the same for Emily, much to Heike’s annoyance. Once everyone was ready and the two students with the weak bladder were back, they left the classroom and the building for the park.
Students scattered across the park like children looking for Easter eggs, all in search for the perfect spot to sit on and draw. Edna took it easy; it was not like they had to finish their drawings at the end of the lesson. Thus, she leisurely sauntered through the park until she found an unoccupied bench underneath a tree on a small hill. It sure was a nice place to relax at but if she had a nice view from there, then she found a seating accommodation. If not, she would either draw this tree or find another place. But first, she headed towards the tree and took a seat on the bench. Edna was met by a gorgeous view of the pathway, flowerbeds and pond, along some trees and bushes. She noticed how some of her classmates were still looking for a subject. Shaking her head with a good-natured smirk, Edna took out her sketch-pad and pencil, as well as an eraser. Letting her pencil lightly glide over the paper, she began with her sketching.
“Hello Princess”, a voice sounded from her right hand side, making her jump.
“Key Master!“, Edna exclaimed, half-laughing, half-scared. “Don’t scare me like that!”
“Sorry Princess, but I saw you sitting there and wondered what you’re doing here when you still have school”, the Key Master said in a matter-of-factly voice while sitting next to Edna.
“Well, I should have German class but our teacher’s not there, so our Art class was moved up from Thursday to now”, she explained. “Being here is just part of the lesson, we’re supposed to draw whatever we see in the park.”
“I see. And what if you’re not finished by the end of the lesson?”
“Then it will be homework due on our first lesson after summer vacation.”
“Not next lesson?”
“This school year’s almost over. We won’t be getting any grades anymore.”
Edna was done with her sketching and now proceeded to do the line art, drawing with more pressure on her pencil now. She sensed how the Key Master was silently watching her; she did not let it bother her. It was not like he was stopping her from drawing.
“When does the vacation start?“, the Key Master asked.
“The week after next”, Edna responded as she did the line art for the trees. “And our drawings are supposedly going to be graded; otherwise our teacher would not demand we finish them.”
“And when do you plan to finish yours?”
“Hm...“, Edna paused, looking up to the skies in thought. “I reckon I’ll finish it today, so I won’t forget it.”
“Then I’ll meet you here in a few hours time”, the Key Master responded and stood up. “Well, I’ll be on my way. See you later.”
“Bye”, Edna waved at him and then went back to her drawings. Nothing else and nobody else distracted until the line art was for about three quarter done. This time, it was Bianca who approached her:
“Edna, it’s time to go back to school.”
The oldest student in the whole school nodded and packed her things before walking with her friend back to the others and to the educational establishment. Several students spoke about their drawings but their many, simultaneously speaking voices were mixed into one unintelligible murmur with only a handful of scraps being audible. Nonetheless, she reckoned no one was able to completely finish their pictures; there just was not enough time.
“Miss Moore!“, Bianca piped up over everybody else. “We still have one last lesson next week, so why don’t we finish our drawings then?”
It was like somebody pressed the Pause button on a DVD remote. The whole class fell silent, alternatively staring at Bianca and Miss Moore. Their teacher could not possibly plan something else for their final lesson now, could she?
“Normally, I would agree with you, Bianca”, Miss Moore responded. “But there might be a possibility I won’t be there next week. Only on Friday for my class.”
Edna thought to herself that she was a little saddened to hear that this day was the last time for two months until she would have one of her favorite subject again but at the same time, she was overjoyed at the implication that school would be over an hour earlier this Thursday and next. Her classmates’ voices all mixed up in a confusing clutter of conversations, like several movies were being played at once. The noise only stopped when they arrived back at school.
The moment he arrived to work, Babbitt was summoned by Doctor Marcel. The mini golf enthusiast knew why his boss wanted to see him and this was the reason why he stood in front of the doctor’s office door, shivering like a naked Latino in Antarctica. He moved his fist up to the wood of the door several times but stopped approximately a centimeter before touching the material as if some kind of invisible barrier prevented him from knocking. Babbitt knew there was one in a way, his own fear of what Doctor Marcel might say if he learned he failed at his task of catching Edna. But he could not afford to hesitate all day long. So, taking a deep breath and readying himself to expect a death glare from his boss, he knocked and entered the office after receiving the permission.
“Ah Babbitt”, Doctor Marcel said, his single eye fixed on the little man. Babbitt gulped. “Tell me, did you capture Edna?”
“S-sadly no, doctor”, Babbitt replied, gulping once again. “I lost her when she walked through the woods.”
As expected, Doctor Marcel glared at him so much Babbitt could drop dead any second. The old man grumbled like a dog and a vein was popping on his forehead. If he had something in his hands, it would be broken into bits and pieces. Babbitt had the sudden urge to run for his life.
“Babbitt”, Doctor Marcel struggled keeping his voice calm, “is there some truth that René found an Internet video where a person who looks just like Edna is seen in the background?”
Babbitt was confused. How did Doctor Marcel know this? Did René tell him after all? Nonetheless, the mini golf fan nodded in affirmation. His employer took a little piece of paper and pushed it towards Babbitt, who took it in his hands. It was a small series of letters and numbers, like a license plate number.
“I want you and René to find out everything you can about this license plate number. Visit the town it belongs to and try to find the restaurant”, Doctor Marcel instructed. “Find out if there really is a girl named Edna Konrad employed.”
“Yes sir. Is... is that all?”
“Yes Babbitt. You are dismissed.”
The mini golf fan left the office with the little piece of paper clutched in his left hand. He sighed in relief, thinking to himself it was not as bad as he thought it would be. Still, Babbitt stopped and stared at the note. Where did Doctor Marcel get this license plate number from? Whatever, he had a task to fulfill, so he pocketed the piece of paper and descended the stairs one floor down. Most of the time, René worked with Bladder in the surveillance room and this was where Babbitt was headed. However, when he entered the room, he only found Ben sitting on one of the chairs. Ben turned around when he heard the door open and close.
“Oh hi, Babbitt”, he greeted his colleague. “What can I do for you?”
“Uh where are Bladder and René?“, the small man asked, his eyes wandering around the room.
“Oh, their shift won’t start until later. Shall I give them a message?“, Ben offered, briefly glancing to the monitors.
“Yes, tell René to come and see me”, Babbitt said before leaving the room and going to his usual spot – the door to the solitary cell, where Peter, Bruce, the Washing Maniac and Tiger Head were currently kept in.
Edna walked home with Bianca and Sebastian accompanying her. She did not even plan to let them come with her, but they simply invited themselves along. Well, it did not bother her, they were her friends and if they wanted to spend time with her, she would not tell them to go away. The only trouble was she did not know how she could tell the Key Master she might not be able to visit him until it was late without any way for contacting him.
“Edna, do you have any plans what we’re gonna do when we all hang out? Girls only”, Bianca added to Sebastian, who was looking at both females in curiosity.
“Uh, actually, me and Tina discussed this just yesterday”, Edna began. “We thought of going to the beach and then have a slumber party at one of us girls’ homes, perhaps our apartment but we’re not really sure.”
“How about we all sleep at my place? It’s big enough and we won’t be bothering any neighbors”, Bianca offered.
“Sounds good. You could tell Tina about your suggestion, if she’s home that is”, Edna answered with a smile.
“Hey gals, I’m still here too, ya know?“, Sebastian commented with a big grin. He got a light punch on the shoulder by his two friends. He twisted his face in mock pain but could not keep it for long before he started laughing. Both girls attempted to look serious only to burst out laughing too. People stopped and stared at these three crazy individuals, some chuckling, other shaking their heads in disapproval. None of the three friends let these people bother them; it was their business if they wanted to have fun. Too many adults were too serious; they did not allow themselves to have any joy in their lives. They needed more reason to smile and laugh and not walk around with a face that would suggest a never-ending snow storm.
A minute or two later, after having calmed down and continuing their way to Edna’s place, the three friends entered the living room, where they found Tina reading Treasure Island and listening to Harry Belafonte. She glanced up from her book when she heard them entering the room.
“Hi guys!“, she greeted them. “If y’all hungry, I got a Spanish tortilla in the kitchen.”
“Sounds good to me, I’m starving anyway”, Bianca commented.
“Did you really make enough for all of us?“, a rather dumbfounded Edna asked her friend and housemate.
“Well, I thought you wanted some too and I also thought one of us could eat the leftovers tomorrow”, Tina remarked with a shrug. “But you can all eat it now if you want. I can make something else tomorrow.”
“Well, how about it, guys?“, Edna asked Bianca and Sebastian.
“I already said I’m for it”, her pale skinned, black haired friend replied.
“Sure, why not?“, the only rooster at a hen party responded.
“Alright, but follow me”, Edna said and headed for the kitchen, being followed by her two friends. She took out three plates from the cupboard and a spatula from a hook on the wall. Using the spatula, she put a medium-sized portion of the Spanish tortilla on one plate, asking Bianca whether it was enough or not. Bianca told her it was enough. Edna placed the plate in the microwave and let the food heat up. She did the same procedure with Sebastian’s portion and her own.
“You know, I just realized we never took off our school bags from our backs”, Edna suddenly remarked. Her friends’ response was to look behind themselves and forming an “O” with their mouths, in such a synchronized way that one could be the mirror image of the other.
“We better go and put our school bags in your living room”, they said at the same time before staring at each other with incredibly big eyes.
“I’ve seen in TV shows how twins can communicate telepathically”, Edna commented, “but this is ridiculous. I mean, you two aren’t even related.” She tilted her head and tapped her chin while pondering aloud: “Maybe it works with lovers too?”
Her friends’ cheeks took on a pink color and they determinedly avoided looking at each other while leaving the kitchen. Edna chuckled and followed them with their portions while her own was being heated up in the microwave. She made a quick detour to her room, where she quickly greeted Harvey and deposited her school bag. Then she rushed back to the kitchen and got her lunch before joining her friends in the living room for eating.
“How about we all hang out in the park?“, Sebastian suggested.
“I like the idea... but don’t you think you two should bring your school stuff to your respective homes?“, a fast-thinking Edna replied. That way, she could explain the Key Master why she would be unable to see him.
“I would like to but I have to watch my little brother in two hours”, Bianca declined in a displeased voice. “Hm... maybe I can convince him to sleep at a friend’s house when you, Tina and Anika have the slumber party at my place.”
“At your place?“, Tina called from her place on the couch.
“Yeah, we could have the slumber party at my house”, the youngest girl in this apartment explained. She finished her portion. “Anyway, I should go now. See ya.”
Thus, Bianca was gone, along with her stuff. Edna found Bianca’s sudden departure weird; her friend told her she had to watch her little brother in the evening and the day was still far from the hours of the sun lying down to sleep and the moon and stars watching over the fleeting mortal life. Perhaps it was what Edna said earlier in the kitchen.
“Well, looks like it’s just the two of us now”, Sebastian, who did not seem to find Bianca’s behavior odd, remarked. Edna was amazed at how dense he could sometimes be.
“Actually, I’ve got no time either”, she looked around the living room in hopes of coming up with an excuse. “I... uh... I have to wash my hair.”
Edna was aware of the curious way Tina stared at her. It burned unto the side of her head like the rays of sunshine through a magnifying glass. Fortunately, Tina made no comment at all; Edna was still worried Sebastian might notice something, though.
“Oh... well, maybe another time then”, he said in a disappointed tone. “I guess I should go home too.”
He also finished his Spanish tortilla and then went home, after saying good bye, of course. Edna, who was also done eating, brought the plates to the kitchen and, being too lazy to clean them, put them into the sink. On one hand, she was glad she did not have to cancel her meeting with the Key Master but on the other hand, she felt bad she could not hang out with her two friends. Well, she could have gone with Sebastian but she also knew of his crush on her and she really did not want him to feel anything other than friendship towards her. When she returned to the living room, she came face to face with Tina, who gave her a scrutinizing look.
“What was that about?“, she inquired.
“What was what?“, Edna retorted a little defensively. Tina crossed her arms over her chest, raising an eyebrow.
“We both know that was just an excuse. So, what are you really planning?“, her eyes widened. “Don’t tell me you have a date and you don’t want anyone to know.”
“How should I have a date? I’m single, remember?“, Edna reminded her and walked past her to the direction of her room. However, Tina did not give up and followed her.
“Yes, but you’ve been gone almost every day for the past two weeks and only returned home when it was time for you to go to work. Therefore, my conclusion is that you’re secretly seeing someone”, Tina deduced while Edna got her drawing from Art class, pencils, eraser and sharpener.
“It could just be a friend, without any kind of intimacy between me and him”, Edna said, pocketing her phone and money and taking Harvey. The thought of how she wished it would be more than friendship crossed her mind while she was still talking.
“So, you’re seeing a male but you’re not in any kind of relationship?”
“When did I ever say I have a male friend?”
“You used the word ‘him’.”
“And why does it matter? I might as well have meant it in a general way.”
“Then you would say ‘him or her’ or simply ‘them’ but you didn’t, which would suggest you really do have a male friend.”
Edna sighed in exasperation, wishing she could just end the conversation. She could not remember Tina ever being so pushy, not even the time when she forced her to tell her why she, Edna, would still need to go to school despite being old enough to have both feet on the ground.
“If I promise to tell you another time, will you not bother me anymore today?“, Edna offered.
“Promise?“, Tina counter-questioned.
“Promise”, Edna confirmed, offering a hand. The skeptical face Tina made turned into a kind one and she took her friend’s hand:
The Key Master wandered around the park, near the tree he spotted Edna at earlier that day. It was quite a surprise to see her when she was supposed to sit in stuffy classroom and he actually thought she was playing hooky until she explained why she was here. He could barely remember his own Art classes back when he was an adolescent attending school. His teacher tended to take classes outside when the weather was nice. It was much better than being stuck in a classroom and it was without the entire stress factor from Physical Education.
He noticed the amount of people, especially children, increased the more time passed. Well, it would not be long until Edna’s arrival. The Key Master walked to the bench he saw her sitting on and took a seat and waited... and waited... and waited...
While waiting, he watched people passing by, either for a date with the partner or to hang around with friends. Children ran around and played with their parents being nearby and watching but also holding conversations with each other. However, there was one kind of person he was unable to spot, no matter how hard he looked, and this was the rare species known as ‘female escapee from an asylum’. Granted, he did not know when school ended for her and he had no watch, so he did not even know what time it was. He simply assumed it was around the time she would be at his place. The Key Master started to wonder if she went to his hideout when he spotted her at last.
“Hi. Sorry, I’m late”, Edna apologized, sitting down next to her male friend. “My friends invited themselves along when I went home and after they went to their own homes, Tina pestered me about where I was always going.”
“And did you tell her about me?“, the Key Master questioned.
“I told her I’m seeing a friend... a male friend”, Edna replied and took her art supplies out. She let out a short chuckle. “For some reason, she thought I had a secret date. That’s ridiculous, isn’t it?”
The Key Master silently asked himself if she was perhaps insinuating something. He noticed how her mouth was formed into a nervous grin but her cheeks were as red as a strawberry. She played with her hair and kept glancing at him with shy eyes. The Key Master thought to himself that she actually did not think it was ridiculous but only pretended to think it was. Why, though, he could not fathom. Nevertheless, he decided to agree with her:
“Yes. Yes, it is.”
Edna’s face fell, ever so slightly. He could see she attempted to hide it and she might have been successful if she had been talking with a person who did not know her well or who was incredibly dense. Even before he saw the disappointment on her face, he felt bad about his answer. Should he have said something else instead? Maybe he should say he really thought differently but something held him back. What if he was misinterpreting her reactions? The Key Master was not the kind of person who could call himself a ladies’ man. Edna was the first woman he interacted with since the early Two Thousands. It was not like he did not have any contact to any females but those were usually either the psychologists coming to check up on him or his victims. Admittedly, it was usually the latter, since he was visited by more male psychologists than female... and they suddenly stopped coming to examine him one day. But he could hardly remember anything about their examinations, only that they diagnosed different psychological issues, like schizophrenia or split personality disorder. However, of the few things he could remember from his life before the asylum, he never had any disorders, as far as he knew. Something must have happened for him to become the way he was. But what? And was this even possible? No matter how hard he tried, this was one memory he could not recover.
“What do you think?“, Edna asked, pulling him out of his reverie. She had been busy drawing while the Key Master was lost in his thoughts. He eyed her sketch of the park, finding nothing to complain about.
“You’re a true artist”, he complimented her. Edna beamed like the sun at the Key Master. But instead of continuing with her drawing, she put her things away.
“How about we two just hang out? Like a d- um, like friends do”, she proposed. The Key Master had an inkling what she actually wanted to say, based on her near slip of the tongue. But to spare her from any awkward moments, he made no mention of it.
“Sure, we can”, he replied. “Do you have anything in mind we could do?”
“How about we go swimming? It is warm enough after all. Or... hm... have you already assembled the furniture you took with you last night?”
The Key Master shook his head. He was too tired and it was too dark to actually work. His plan was to assemble the table he had taken the previous night some time during the day but he was a little too lazy.
“Then we do this together now before we go for a swim”, Edna decided. “But first, let me get my swimming stuff, okay?”
“Okay”, the Key Master agreed and stood up. Like a gentleman, he offered her a hand, which she took with a grin. He decided to take her art supplies for her so that she only had to carry Harvey in her arms.
“You’re quite the gentleman, aren’t you?“, Edna grinned.
“I’m just being nice”, the Key Master smirked as he accompanied her back to her apartment.
When Edna returned to her apartment, she found it was lacking Tina. Perhaps her housemate was hanging out with her own friends? Nevertheless, Edna did not let it bother her; she and Tina were both adults. It was not like they had to tell the other where they were going, although Tina’s earlier behavior suggested something else entirely. But Edna assumed she was just curious. After all, before her reunion with the Key Master, she spent her free time in the park or at home, now she was usually at places the Key Master was at too.
“What do you see in that guy anyway?“, Harvey questioned in a tone that would suggest he was looking at a bubble bath.
“And what do you have against him, Harv?“, Edna counter-questioned. “He had not done anything to us... at least not since the incident in the church all those years ago.”
“And who says he is not waiting for the right moment to ambush and kill us?“, a frightened blue terry cloth rabbit asked. He hyperventilated. Edna, who was gathering her swimming stuff, stopped looking through the closet and took Harvey in her arms.
“He’s not going to, I just know it”, she calmed her oldest friend down. “I won’t let him, I promise.”
“Well, I’m gonna trust you on that”, Harvey responded, sounding doubtful.
“And you won’t regret it”, Edna assured him before putting him back on her bed. She turned her attention back to her closet, where she got her bikini out. She put it in a rucksack and took Harvey in her arms and went to the living room, where the towels were kept in a closet. These landed in her rucksack too with a mental note of buying a beach towel for the Key Master. Last on her list was sunscreen. Now with all the items in her rucksack, which was strapped on her back, and with Harvey in her arms, she left the building and met her green-skinned crush, who was waiting at a nearby corner store.
“Ready to go?“, he asked the closer she came to him.
“Yup”, Edna nodded.
One walk through the forest later, they were at the Key Master’s hideout. Edna put both her rucksack and Harvey on the bed. Behind her, she heard how the Key Master dissembled the old table. She was pretty sure the parts would be joining the pile of old wood she noticed in a corner and pondered what he actually planned to do with the wood. It did not look like it could be reused as something else but at least he had some fodder for the fireplace when the cold seasons started. After the old table became nothing more than potential fiery consumer good, the Key Master took the materials of the newer one. It was the kind of table just like the one Edna had in her cell; one where they had to stick the legs to the tabletop. Not the most stable kind but the risk of it falling into pieces because of the rotten wood was lower.
“Done and done!“, Edna commented, beholding their achievement with satisfaction. She turned to the Key Master, who did not look as satisfied as she was but not severely disappointed either. If anything, he looked rather expressionless. “Ready for a swim?”
“Yes, and I assume you want me to leave the house just so you can change”, he replied in a matter-of-factly voice. Edna grinned and nodded, and gave him the beach towel.
“You can spread the towel out while I’m changing.”
She waited until he left these four walls before she exchanged the clothes she was currently wearing for her bikini. Then, clad only in her bikini, she followed her green-skinned friend outside, with her rucksack in one hand and Harvey in the other. The Key Master sat on the spread out towel, his eyes set straight ahead toward the endless horizon, only turning around when he heard Edna putting her rucksack down.
“See you in a minute”, he said and headed for the house. Edna acknowledged his words with a simple nod before taking the sunscreen and applying it on every part of her body she could reach without twisting herself in ways only a snake could. Fortunately, the Key Master was back by the time her back was the only body part still unprotected, so he helped her and she did the same for him.
“Hey Key Master?”
Edna lay on her back with her head turned towards the man next to her. He, unlike her, sat on his derrière.
“Do you remember your true name by now?”
She eyed him expectedly, the question having crossed her mind more than once among other questions. The Key Master, still not looking at her, shook his head. Edna felt sympathy for him but also disappointment since this was the one thing she was most curious about.
“Did you ever have a girlfriend?”
This time, he stared incredulously at her with his eyes as large as they were when they first met. Apparently, he did not expect this kind of question.
“Why do you ask?“, he questioned her, thoroughly puzzled.
“Curiosity”, was her one word answer. The Key Master scrutinized her for a moment, then gave his answer:
“Yes, I had one.”
Edna sat up, looking more curious than ever:
“And how serious were you two?”
“Do you really wanna know? I was a young man in his teenage years back then”, he retorted.
“I’m an adult woman, I can handle the details”, Edna assured.
“True, you are an adult but one whose memories were constantly erased”, the Key Master pointed out, earning a glare from her.
“Are you insinuating that I’m not able to handle the whole truth?”
“I have my doubts, yes.”
“Be assured, I can handle this. I’ve grown up since the escape and I know a few things about real life, even if I’m not as experienced as other people my age.”
The Key Master considered her a bit longer; she reciprocated his look with narrowed and determined eyes. Neither averted their respective ocular organs, neither blinked. It was like a staring contest none of them could win.
“If you really want to know... we were as serious as a couple in their late teenage years could be”, he replied after what seemed like an eternity.
“So, with intimate relations and a future together, right?“, Edna calmly inquired.
“Has she... has she ever visited you in the asylum?”
She wondered if this woman’s feelings for him were strong to even ignore his murderous tendencies. However, he shook his head.
“No, she was killed before I ended up there. I have a feeling her death has something to do my being stuck in a padded cell”, he replied. Edna opened her mouth, wanting to ask if he was responsible for his own girlfriend’s death, but was interrupted: “Something tells me that it wasn’t me who killed her. I can’t explain it, though.”
“You want to know the truth, right? More than anything you could think of and you don’t want to give up until you remember everything.”
The Key Master stared at her as if seeing her in a new light.
“Yes, that’s how I feel”, he confirmed. “How do you know?”
“That’s how I felt when I overheard Doctor Marcel talking with Hulgor and calling my father a murderer. That’s why I wanted to return to my father’s house the day I escaped. I knew I would find the answer there”, Edna told him. A forlorn sigh escaped her lips and she looked up at the sky, watching a little bird flying past. “But the truth wasn’t much better either...”
Edna hesitated. It was not like she did not trust him; she knew she could tell him. However, she was scared... scared of him thinking badly about her. The Key Master never held it against her that she almost killed him. Still, there was a possibility he would change his mind. She heard him moving and, a moment later, she felt his arm around her shoulder.
“If you don’t want to tell me, then it’s okay”, he said in a soothing voice. A tiny smile spread across Edna’s face. She rested her head on his shoulder, closing her eyes.
“It’s not that I don’t wanna tell you... I’m afraid... of you thinking differently about me”, she replied in a small voice.
“I won’t, no matter what you’re going to say”, he said. There was something in his voice that made Edna trust him. Maybe there was nothing to fear at all. Thus, she decided to answer:
“You know that Doctor Marcel had a son, who died under mysterious circumstances years ago, right?”
“Yes, I heard his death was the reason why Doctor Marcel became so bitter.”
“And you knew how obsessed he was in erasing my memories, right?“, she asked, adding after he nodded in confirmation: “Well, this has something to do with Doctor Marcel’s son. He and his son lived in the house next to ours and I had to play with his son, Alfred. When he died, my father took the blame and received capital punishment. Doctor Marcel had to promise to take care of me. But what really happened was something else entirely... Mattis never killed Alfred; he wasn’t even near him when he died. At least not until I cried and called for him...” Edna braced herself. This was it. Now she would be telling the man she had developed a crush on the truth. “It... it was me who killed Alfred...”
Silence fell over them. She waited for the Key Master to say something, anything. But all he did was frowning at her. Was he contemplating whether or not he should send her away and tell her to never come back?
“What... what made you do this?“, he asked, clearly shocked. Edna could not blame him.
“Mattis locked me into my room after I played a prank on Alfred – I put a lizard down his shirt – and Alfred kept watch at my door. I tricked him into letting me out and locked him into my room. Mattis caught me and, after reprimanding me, he asked me to be nicer to Alfred. I wanted to do as he said, I really did, but when I returned to my room and opened the door, Alfred ran past me and grabbed Harvey. He read my diary, where I called him frog and toad related names and only wrote good things about Harvey. I tried to tell him that I wanted to be nicer to him for now on but he wouldn’t listen. He threatened he would tell his father about me talking to a stuffed rabbit and that Harvey would be taken from me. I... I was scared... I didn’t know what... what to do... So... so I did what... Harvey told me to. I pushed Alfred down the... s-stairs.”
Tears ran down Edna’s face; she tried to hold them back but could not. She hated herself for crying, it made her feel pathetic and like she wanted people’s sympathies. But, worst of all, she hated herself for killing her only childhood friend and, indirectly, her father. She felt how the Key Master shifted his seating position so that he could pull her into his embrace. Her heart skipped a beat; she felt a little better knowing he was not pushing her away.
“I... I miss Alfred... I miss Mattis... I miss them both...“, she admitted through her tears. The Key Master soothingly caressed the back of her head, just letting her cry. Edna could not stop the constant stream of tears coming out of her purple eyes.
“I mean... Alfred was annoying and... and I teased him... but... but... he wasn’t so... so bad.”
Her crying continued on for a while; the Key Master comforted her by embracing her. She let it all out. All the feelings of sadness, regret and guilt. She hated crying but she also needed it. It was not wrong to cry, tears were necessary sometimes.
Eventually, her crying ceased and she leaned back to smile gratefully at him. His face was blurry through all the tears in her eyes.
“Thank you for being there for me”, she said. The Key Master lightly bumped his forehead against hers.
“You know I’m always there for you.”
Edna instantly felt much better. She was glad to know she had somebody she could count on, somebody to watch over her in a sense that made her feel safe and secure and loved. She had not felt like this since her father’s death and even then, it felt differently. Of course, she knew by now why it felt different for her. She loved Mattis like any daughter would love her father while she felt physical and emotional attraction towards the Key Master. Not that she would tell him until she was one hundred percent sure.
“Now then, still up for a swim?”
Edna knew he only asked this to take her mind off things and for this, she was grateful. The last thing she wanted was to feel miserable all day long because of the guilt she felt. That was why she replied with a “yes” before springing up and speeding towards the water. The Key Master followed closely behind her and they jumped into the pond.
“Cold”, Edna commented, rubbing her arms and shivering.
“You get used to it”, the Key Master retorted and swam around her.
“I know, it’s not the first time I’m in some body of water in summer”, the young woman replied with a small smirk. She started swimming around, right next to the Key Master.
“Really? I would have thought so”, he teased her, earning a punch on his shoulder. “Ow.”
Edna cheekily stuck her tongue out.
Babbitt sat on his usual chair at his usual spot and was bored to death. There was nothing to do for him but to sit on his behind and make sure no one in the cell behind him ran around freely. So far, the only persons he had seen since he started keeping watch were Hulgor and Anes, both going to Doctor Marcel’s office. However, his boss had not left the office all day long, not even to lock himself up in his secret room. Babbitt groaned in his boredom and leaned his head against the wall with its triangle patterned wallpaper, setting his eyes to the ceiling. What would he give to have some company... Anyone, he did not care who. Or for some noise in the cell behind him but they were as silent as a grave. Babbitt knew that one of them never spoke but the other three were usually more talkative.
At last some company! His prayers had been heard! Babbitt turned his head to his right to see René approaching him.
“Ben told me you wanted to speak with me?”
“Yes, I do. Doctor Marcel has a task for the two of us.”
“And what is it?”
Babbitt rummaged in his pockets and handed his colleague the note he received from their boss.
“He wants us to find out as much as we can about this license plate number.”
“Hm, we can do this with the Internet but...“, René gave Babbitt a quizzical look, “... um, can you just leave your post?”
“Not unless somebody else takes over for me...”
“Then let’s meet at my place tonight or whenever you have time.”
“Well, alright. But not tonight, I’ll contact you when I have time.”
“Fine by me. I go back to my post now. See you.”
Thus, the young man with the sideburns left the mini golf maniac alone. Babbitt could not wait until his shift was over. He really needed his rest after running for his life the previous night. Just why did Edna and her friend have to go through the forest? It made no sense to him unless they had their vehicle parked in there. Well, no wonder why Edna used to be a patient here and should still be. Nothing she said or did made any sense! And there was still the fact she talked with a rag doll rabbit.
A door opened and closed at the end of the hallway when a tall, muscular, unshaven, blond man, clad in blue clothes, pushed Doctor Marcel’s wheelchair, along with the old, sallow man, out of the latter’s office. Babbitt nodded at them and greeted them when Hulgor pushed their employer’s wheelchair past him. The small man followed them with his eyes until they were out of sight, guessing the doctor was being rolled to his secret room. Even after having been employed here for years and despite being one of Doctor Marcel’s most trusted minions, Babbitt was still unaware of what was behind the door. Once, he got a brief glimpse of the room but could only see that it was tinted in a red glow. Babbitt could make neither head nor tail out of it and knew as much about the room as he did before he could see in there. He sometimes pondered if one of his colleagues knew what was behind that door and he wondered if the cleaners had to clean this room too or if Doctor Marcel did so himself.
He did not know how but somehow, their swimming around next to each other had turned into a race. Currently, it was Edna, who was in the lead. What they were racing for, he did not know nor did he particularly care. The Key Master was just glad to see her joyful again after she had been so sad. Personally, he preferred seeing Edna happy instead of miserable; he liked her smile, even if he would never say it out loud. But there were a lot of things both of them thought but would never say out loud. If they did, who knew how their relationship would be like? Only one thing was certain, they would both know more about each other.
“Come on! You can do better than that!“, Edna taunted from her position. Smirking to himself, the Key Master increased his speed and soon overtook Edna, who made a dumbfounded face. But as he was swimming, his mind was filled with a single question:
“Hey Princess, where exactly is the start and finish line?”
“How about the shore, the spot where the towel lays on the ground?“, she called back.
Without anything else to distract him, the Key Master kept swimming his rounds. Edna overtook him now and then but he would only retake his position at first place. However, the longer and faster he swam, the more exhausted he felt. Still, he kept on, being too proud to admit he was tired, until Edna wanted to stop the competition. At the time she asked this, she was barely in the lead but she looked like she would fall asleep on the spot any second now.
“Okay”, the Key Master agreed. The last he wanted was for her to fall asleep and drown. They both swam to the shore, get out of the water and lay down on the towel. No one said anything, the only sounds emitting from them were their heavy breathings. Everything was calm and quiet, as if the whole world decided to rest in a sunny place and eat a turkey sandwich.
“So... who would you say won?“, Edna asked after her breathing turned to normal.
“Dunno. I didn’t even know we were competing for something”, the Key Master responded. He turned onto his side to look at her. “Besides, what would the first prize be?”
He watched her shrug, still gazing to the skies above. She had a faraway look on the half of her face the Key Master could see from his position.
“Actually, I have no clue”, Edna eventually admitted. She, too, turned on her side, so that she could look at the man beside her. “Do you have a suggestion?”
The Key Master thought about this. Technically, he could ask anything from her, should he be the winner, but it would be more difficult if Edna was the winner. He did not have much, only the things in the house, which he would not have if it were not for Edna. But perhaps he should let her decide what she wanted from him...
“How about we first clarify who won? If I did, I ask of something from you, and if you won, you can ask of something from me”, he suggested. “Sounds good?”
“I like this suggestion”, Edna answered. “Now then, should the one who was in the lead last time we swam past the spot were this towel lies be the winner – in this case it would be you – or the one who was in the lead when I asked if we could stop – which would be me, if I’m not mistaken? How about we solve this with a coin toss?”
“As long as the prize is no medal made of genuine gold.”
“I take that as a yes. Wait here for me.”
The Key Master watched Edna standing up and walking to the house, only turning away after she went inside these four walls. Gazing up to the endless realm of the feathery life forms, he thought to himself that she was probably getting a coin just so they could clarify the issue as soon as possible. Funny how they decided to solve this with a coin toss instead of just swimming an additional round. But he was not going to complain as long as the whole thing would be cleared up. While he still thought this, he heard footsteps indicating Edna’s return behind him. A second later, she sat back down.
“Well then, heads or tails?”
The Key Master watched her snipping the coin up in the air. It flipped all the way up and down until it landed on the back of her hand.
“It’s heads”, she announced a second later. “Looks like I won. I get back at you for my prize, ’kay?”
Meanwhile, everything was the same in the recreation room of the mental institution. With that, it was meant that no other patients were taken away to someplace unknown. A small group consisting of King Adrian, Drogglejug and Petra sat in a round for their favorite tabletop role-play game Hoth Motigor. Since Peter’s disappearance, they asked the Beeman to join them... or rather, King Adrian ordered him to. The Beeman’s character was able to tame wild animals, especially bees, and sic them on enemies.
“You know, Lilligrimm could join us again. She hasn’t played with us for years”, Petra, whose character was a magician named Petrulla, remarked.
“Well, if she doesn’t want to join us, we cannot force her”, King Adrian responded in his booming voice.
“But you can force me?“, the Beeman dryly asked. No one took any notice of him.
“Yes, you’re right, Droggie. It would be hard for her to join us when she’s not even here”, Petra agreed with her friend.
“Can we start now without any more delays?“, King Adrian asked, rather impatiently. The three players started to pay him attention and he began telling the situation. The three heroes were about to infiltrate a creepy, old castle, where their friends and allies were being kept prisoners. Before sneaking in, they went over their plans one last time; they had to keep themselves hidden and take the fastest route to the dungeons. Luckily, two non-player characters in this castle, who were sympathizers of the heroes, helped them out. Of course, it came to a big fight between the heroes and the enemy, with the former emerging as the victors.
“Are we done now?“, a bored Beeman asked.
“Almost, we’ll be receiving experience points and then, we’re done”, Petra explained. Both she and the Beeman looked at Drogglejug, who was giving out the experience points. He had to decide between character dance, yodeling and the ability to use a vehicle. In the end, he decided for the last one.
“Am I permitted to leave now?“, an irritated man in a bee suit asked.
“Yes, you may go”, King Adrian said. The moment these words left his mouth, the Beeman was gone.
“No truer words were spoken, my good man”, their royal leader agreed, “We could indeed do with more players.”
“How about a royal announcement or decree?“, the perpetually cheerful woman suggested. Adrian gazed towards the ceiling, but it did not really look at it, and stroke his beard. He seemed to be giving Petra’s suggestion some serious thought. Well, it would surely be an effective way to gain more players and they would not be in need of so many non-player characters. At least, there had not been a strange one of unknown origins since the one time Lilli played with them. No one ever figured out where this particular non-player character came from. But enough of the tabletop role-play round. There were other patients in the recreation room.
One of them was the Ticket Inspector, who was in charge of the laundry lift system. It was because of the large, bearded man in a dark gray coat that three tickets – actually coat hangars – were in circulation. Years ago, all of the tickets had disappeared, which caused quite a riot. No one had been able to use the laundry lift at all unless somebody arrived with a ticket they got from somewhere. But one moment of carelessness on behalf of the guards and one quick visit to the laundry room, the Ticket Inspector was successful in retrieving new tickets. The three patients, who were the first ones to want to use the laundry lift, were fortunate enough to be getting these. Those three were Drogglejug, Washing Maniac and Maestro Frank, an unsuccessful musician who thought he was the reincarnation of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart after he was hit on the head with a guitar. Mister Frock wanted a ticket too, but by the time he asked for one, they were all gone. So, now he was literally hanging around the laundry room with the Ticket Inspector and a nervous guy, who always stood in a corner and shrieked whenever someone spoke to him. However, that guy disappeared one day too, an occurrence that happened several times over the last few years. Nobody knew where they all got to or if anyone would ever see them again. Petra once even asked Anes those questions, only to be threatened to be given electroshock therapy. That shut even her up. Nevertheless, the worry and fear of being the next one to be taken away to the unknown was present among every patient...
Evening approached fast, both Edna and the Key Master had changed back into their everyday clothes and hung their wet swimming clothes over a tree branch for drying. At the moment, they took a walk around the perimeter, with her telling him about the things she learned about her mother – minus the naughty parts, of course. He had asked her if she remembered more of her past and she mentioned her mother’s diary, proceeding to tell him about what she learned. There were also other things she told him about, like the private lessons she and Alfred had. Despite having been kids back then, their lessons had been far more demanding than it was to be expected from eight year olds. For example, Algebra was included in the curriculum for Mathematics and there was the fact that they had Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Edna recalled how Doctor Marcel insisted that Alfred should be far ahead of every other child and Mattis thought it would be a good idea for his daughter to learn on a higher level. It was hard for her but she did her best and she was actually good in some of the subjects. Nonetheless, she quickly knew science was not exactly her cup of tea; she knew enough of it, yet could not see herself working in the field of science.
“I never heard of any child having to learn things they wouldn’t until they were in sixth grade, at least”, the Key Master commented.
“Blame that evil doctor known as Horatio Marcel. Maybe everything would have been normal for me if it weren’t for him”, Edna responded.
“Yet, your father approved of this...”
“Mattis wasn’t exactly known for having a backbone. I guess that’s why he sometimes considered letting Doctor Marcel give me a correction of character...”
Edna fell silent, thinking back of the night she escaped and pushed the doctor down the stairs. As a child, she was not keen about the idea of having a correction of character. However, after she remembered what actually happened when Alfred lost his life and his father more or less offered to rewrite her personality, she actually considered letting him do this. In the end, she decided against it and never regretted this, despite the guilt never letting her go. Or was it her who clung to her guilt? If this was the case, then why would she do it? Would it not be better to just move on?
“You didn’t have the best childhood, did you?“, the Key Master commented. In his voice, there was something that could only be described as sympathy.
“Well, there were a lot of joyful times but it could have been better”, Edna replied. “Especially if you consider that I was stuck in an asylum since I was eight years old.”
“Yeah, that too”, the Key Master agreed. “You weren’t really given the chance to grow up, yet when I first met you, you were still more mature than other people who actually went through puberty. Believe me, I know what I’m talking about.”
That got Edna’s interest. What was the Key Master like in his teenage years? Was he the kind of boy who would not pay attention in school and always talk during lessons? Did he and other boys his age secretly look at pictures of scantily clad, perhaps even naked women? Or was he above it and always did what he was asked of?
“What were you like when you were in puberty?“, Edna asked interestedly. No answer from the Key Master for several minutes. The young woman was about to repeat her question when he replied at last:
“Let’s just say I was quite interested in girls. A little too interested.”
Edna stared at him and was likely to run into something if there had been something to bump against straight ahead. But since the trees of the forest were located opposite of where she and he were walking, she was of no danger of making contact with any kind of wood. Anyway, it was hard for her to believe that the Key Master had such an interest in the female half of Earth’s population that he described it as ‘too much’. She could not see him as some kind of ladies’ man, no matter how she looked at him. He never came across as one but perhaps this aspect of his character had changed as he got older? Edna could not judge as she was still a child when he was an adolescent and she knew next to nothing about that stage of human life. She learned everything she knew about puberty was a hearsay account. And of course the changes of her own body.
“Why are you staring at me like this?“, the Key Master questioned.
“It’s just... it’s hard to see you being that interested in females...“, Edna mumbled her reply, not sure how he would take this or if he thought she was insinuating something.
“Oh? And how did I usually come across? As homosexual? Or perhaps asexual?”
“I don’t really know... the latter, perhaps. You didn’t seem like you would be interested in any romantic relationships...”
“I see... I guess it’s just hard for me to get back to this kind of things and not just because I haven’t attempted to talk to other people yet. I spent a decade in a solitary cell, with only therapists, and Doctor Marcel and his minions as my visitors. It’s not easy for me to get used to the thought I could perhaps start a relationship with a woman. Besides, who would want to be in a relationship with a guy like me?”
The Key Master asked this in such a nonchalant way that Edna was unsure whether he was being serious or just pretending. Still, she wanted to admit that she would not mind starting a relationship with him but her fear held her back. Thus, she said something else entirely:
“How about we change the subject? Summer vacation’s starting the week after next. Perhaps I could introduce you to my friends, if you would like to meet them, and maybe you could... well, you could... you could sleep in my place again?”
“I wouldn’t mind another sleepover, actually”, the Key Master admitted. “But perhaps while your housemate’s not home.”
“Well, Tina visits her parents for a week every year in summer... But why don’t you want her to be around?“, Edna frowned while asking her question. Several possible reasons ran through her mind. He wanted it to be just the two of them. Or he did not like Tina and therefore did not want to meet her friends at all. Maybe he was also just shy. There was also the slight possibility that he had been planning to kill her the whole time and was at last executing his plan. Edna doubted it was the last one. He had more than enough chances to do her in and he showed some affection towards her. Her belief that he was still the psycho he was the day she met him had vanished. She could see he had changed and that he attempted to live a normal life, even if the normal part was rather difficult. Well, she could relate with it, having been in the same situation. She was lucky enough to have gotten a lot of help while the Key Master had only a minimal amount of assistance.
“I don’t want to put you into any awkward circumstances”, the Key Master responded. “Unless she wouldn’t get the wrong idea about us.”
“Depends on what you mean with ‘wrong idea about us’“, Edna said, crossing her arms over her chest. Harvey, who she had been holding by his ears in her left hand, dangled lifelessly from under her right arm.
“She could mistake us for a couple”, the Key Master reasoned.
“I’d be surprised if she wouldn’t”, Edna replied. “Same goes for both Anika and Bianca. I wouldn’t even put it past them to play matchmaker...”
She trailed of, suddenly imagining herself and the man next to her having a romantic candlelight dinner while her three female friends provided some background music on the piano or, alternatively, on a Spanish guitar, despite none of them being able to play any kind of instrument. Personally, she would prefer no matchmakers at all, it would be too ludicrous. She could imagine asking her friends for advice but not to have them set up a romantic date.
“You know, I can’t blame you for not wanting anyone to get the wrong idea about us”, Edna remarked. “It would be worse than the time I brought Peter and Petra together.”
“How did you manage to get Mister Gloom and Miss Overly Cheerful together?“, the Key Master asked, his eyes widening in astonishment. “And when?”
“It was the day we broke out; that day also happened to be Peter’s birthday. Petra organized a party for him in the lavatory. So, I gave him her special bean dip and he ran to the toilets faster than you could say ‘Stinkydrink’“, Edna described with a grin. The male Homo sapiens chortled.
“That’s one way to get two people together. An unusual and silly way but effective. Still, I hope you don’t plan to do the same with me.”
“Don’t worry, that won’t happen.”
Edna added in her mind her immense dislike of the idea of the Key Master being with another woman. Thoughts like this one kept entering her brain ever since she had her epiphany in regards of her feelings for him. This side of her scared her; she did not know she could be like that. It made her think of herself as a clingy, jealous girlfriend. But maybe it was normal for people to hate the image of their crush being together with another member of the opposite sex; she did not know.
“It’s getting late...“, the Key Master suddenly remarked, pulling Edna out of her reverie. At first, she was confused what he meant until she realized the sun was slowly descending beyond the horizon. He was right with his remark and she could imagine he would want to go to sleep soon.
“And I bet you want to hit the hay soon?“, Edna guessed.
“Yes, but first, I want to get the chairs in your basement to my hideout. You could help me out.”
“Sure. Um, now?”
Edna nodded but before they headed off, they checked on their swimming stuff. When they found them to be dry, Edna put hers in her rucksack while the Key Master put his in the closet. Then they made their way towards Edna’s apartment. She left her things on the bean bag chair in his hideout for now. They did not have to walk for too long until they found themselves in the basement of the apartment Edna lived in. Anika and Gregor had given her four chairs back then; she and the Key Master decided to take one each and the other two the following day. It had gotten dark by the time they arrived at his hideout with the chairs. Edna took her things, bid the Key Master a good night and went home.
A few days had passed since Edna and the Key Master brought the chairs to his hideout. The only thing that had to be done was to find out what to do with the old woods, though he tended towards using them as firewood. But instead of Edna, who was suffering in Math class, and the Key Master, who created a little sculpture with the clay he got from his friend, this paragraph was about both Babbitt and René. It was one Friday morning when they met at the latter’s house for breakfast and to search for the license plate on the Internet. Their shift was not going to start until later that day, so they could take as much time as they wanted.
“Do you reckon it’s far away wherever the owner of the car with this plate lives?“, Babbitt asked, munching on a buttered toast with bacon. René took of his glasses and wiped them off his shirt and replied simultaneously:
“I don’t know. It could be but it could be closer than we think. I can never remember what the respective first letters on a license plate stands for.”
“Yep, me neither.”
René put his glasses back on his nose and sipped his cappuccino. He had been the newbie around the time Edna and four others escaped. He had even seen her and brought her to the recreation room, unaware she would escape the institution not long afterwards or that Doctor Marcel would develop an unhealthy obsession in both capturing her and ridding the world of childlikeness. Babbitt had told him about the conversation he had with Amy the other day and, just like with the mini golf enthusiast, it made René think. He had started to worry that his treatment of the patients was dreadful. Thankfully, when he spoke with Ben about this, he was relieved to learn he was among the kinder employees. He hated the thought he was possibly inhuman. René liked having friends but it was hard to have any if he had a mean personality. True, he might be working for a crazy and curmudgeon man, who some people considered as evil, it did not mean he was evil too, however. Even he had his doubts about the doctor’s plans and yet, he did not say anything about it. It had taken him a long time to find a job and the last thing he wanted was to lose his employment because of his doubts. Thus, he would still do his job, no matter how he thought about this.
“Done with breakfast?“, René asked after he finished both his cappuccino and rolls.
“Yep. We could now look for the plate number”, Babbitt confirmed. Both men stood up, René glanced at the table before deciding to clean that up later. He led his colleague to the room that he called his leisure room. In there was a desk in one corner with a computer, next to it was a shelf with several books about computers and trains. Another shelf, one with safety glass, showcased countless model trains. Babbitt took a look around while René started up the computer.
“I didn’t know you like trains”, the mini golf maniac commented.
“Gramps got me into it when I was little. He got me a toy train on my sixth birthday”, René explained while double-clicking on the Internet icon. “Do you have the note?”
“Yep”, Babbitt confirmed and approached him, fishing said note out of his pocket and handing it to him. René took it, glanced at it, and typed the sequence in the search bar. The results popped up almost immediately.
“This one looks promising”, Babbitt said, indicating at the topmost result. René clicked on it, finding at once what they were looking for. The car with this specific license plate number was registered to a certain Tina Kemmer, who happened to live not as far away as Babbitt initially thought.
“It’s just one hour away when taking the freeway”, René mumbled.
“That’s convenient...“, the smaller man known as Babbitt remarked. “We should inform the doctor about our find.”
The taller one of the two gave a single nod in agreement with the black haired man. Then he took a small piece of paper and a pen and wrote the name of the car owner and her hometown down. Hopefully Doctor Marcel was satisfied with this information for they did not find any more.
A few hours later, Babbitt and René were at work. They took the stairs up to the topmost floor of the tower to their employer’s office. As far as they knew, he should be in there; if not, then he was probably either in the village or in his private room. One knock and they would know. René raised his fist and bumped it thrice against the wood of the door. A second later, they got the permission to enter the office.
“Yes? What is it?“, Doctor Marcel asked the moment Babbitt and René stepped into the room. René pushed Babbitt forward and the smaller man proceeded to give account about their finding earlier that day. The old man listened quietly, smoking his pipe. He did not say anything for a while after Babbitt finished telling. Instead, he turned his wheelchair around and gazed out of the window with his single eye.
“Good work, you two”, a rare compliment from Doctor Marcel. He turned around again. “I want you two and Bladder to travel there and ask her about Edna.”
“But what if she doesn’t want to cooperate?“, René pointed out. The wheelchair bound man narrowed his eye.
“Then you kidnap her and hope Edna will rescue her!”
René opened his mouth, perhaps to contradict again, but Babbitt prodded him hard in the ribs. This caused the taller man to close his mouth and to simply nod.
“Now then, if this is all, then you may go”, Doctor Marcel said, once again turning around and looking out of the window. The two employees left the office and walked to their respective posts.
Not that far, but still some distance away, was Edna, who took a walk through town with both Anika and Gregor. Initially, she wanted to buy some things for the Key Master but on her way to the store, she encountered these two and they randomly decided to hang out for a while... at least until the movie Anika and Gregor wanted to see was about to start. It was going to start in two hours and they wanted to be at the theater approximately thirty minutes before their movie began.
“Edna, I talked with my sister about our day together”, Anika spoke up. “So far, she had no appointments that day.”
“Great. I would really like to meet your Sis, you know?“, Edna responded. “How much older is she anyway?”
“She’s five years older than me”, Anika replied just as they walked past a bakery. Her eyes fell upon an éclair through the glass door. “Excuse me for a minute.”
She entered the establishment, leaving Edna and Gregor outside to wait for her. Edna decided to start up a conversation with him:
“So, how’ve you been doing?”
“Not bad”, he replied. “We’re almost done with furnishing out new apartment, only a few small things left. But what about you? I heard about your hearing, are you nervous?”
“A little”, Edna admitted. “But I guess it could be worse.”
“It’s gonna be alright”, the pale young man replied with a reassuring smile. “And we’re all behind you.”
Edna smiled back; she liked Gregor, he was a great friend. She was happy for Anika to have found such a kind guy for a boyfriend and, to be honest, she thought those two made a cute couple. Should they ever get married, Edna hoped she would be invited to the wedding.
“Welcome back, Sweet Tooth”, Gregor said when Anika reappeared, happily munching an éclair and carrying a paper bag. She grinned at him and handed him the paper bag. Her boyfriend gazed into the bag and took out a donut, which he put back in, and then he took out a palmier in a tissue. He handed it to Edna:
“I reckon that’s for you.”
“Thanks”, she said and took the pastry. The three munched on their respective pastries while continuing walking through town. Most of the time, it was Edna and Anika talking, mainly about their day together with her sister and with Bianca and Tina. Gregor, who had finished his donut long ago, only listened to them.
“And what am I supposed to do that day?“, he asked jokingly. “Shall I die of boredom?”
“That’s one possibility, darlin’“, Anika joked. Edna chuckled. “Or you could hang out with some guys. Y’know, if every one of us had a boyfriend, you could have a men’s day with them. But only my sister has a boyfriend and I don’t know if he has time that day. Do you know more in case of Tina and Bianca, Edna?”
“Tina’s single and Bianca has a crush on Sebastian but they’re not dating”, she replied. “And before you ask, I’m also single.”
“And not interested in anyone?“, Anika asked casually. Edna felt her face heat up when she heard the question and thought of the Key Master at once. Both her friends stared at her with large eyes and their eyebrows made, respectively, two arches above their ocular organs.
“Wait a minute... do you really like someone?“, Anika asked. Edna bit her bottom lip, averting her eyes. Even though she could not see it, she had a feeling Gregor and Anika were glancing uncertainly at each other. She had never told anyone about her crush, she did not know how. At least not before she introduced the Key Master to her friends. Hopefully, they would like him and welcome him among them. The last thing Edna wanted was for her favorite people to not like each other.
“Uh, can we talk about something else, please?“, Edna requested, looking pleadingly at Anika and Gregor.
“Alright, we can talk whatever you want to”, the half African responded, though Edna knew by the way she was looking at her that this topic was not quite finished. At worst, Anika would want to talk about this later at work. Or on another day.
“Um, I think we have to postpone the Smalltalk. Our movie is about to start in forty minutes”, Gregor pointed out, showing them the time on his watch.
“Holy shit, are one and a half hours almost over already?“, Anika exclaimed. She turned towards Edna: “Well, we have to go now. See you later at work.”
She gave her a brief hug while Gregor gave her a friendly clap on the shoulder. The couple headed towards one direction, Edna to the other.