Regrets And Forgiveness

Some Things Should Better Be Left Undiscovered

Summer. A time to relax, a time for fun and doing things one could rarely do at any other time of the year. One of these things was going on vacation, whether within the own country’s borders or abroad. On this fine summer day, a little girl was about to go on her very first vacation. Only she was still fast asleep in her bed; it was not even six o’clock yet. However, she would be gently pulled out of the land of dreams in a few minutes’ time. The door of her bedroom silently opened and, with feather light footsteps, her adoptive mother entered the room. On the wall, above the bed, hung countless embroidery, all of them made by the little girl sleeping peacefully. These embroideries were not the most beautiful or handsome, in fact the oldest ones were only crosses and lines but it was easy to see that she was slowly but surely improving.

“Lilli”, her adoptive mother softly whispered, gently shaking her. “It’s time to wake up.”

She fluttered her blue eyes open, looking groggily at Susan’s kind face. The girl covered her mouth as one huge yawn escaped.

“Breakfast is ready, come down to eat”, Susan told her daughter. “We’ll be off in an hour and a half.”

She left the room as her daughter sat up. Lilli needed a moment to fully wake up; she was not used to be getting up this early when it was not a school day. She yawned once again before getting up and taking a look at herself in her mirror. Not happy with the way her blond hair looked, she tried to tame it with her hands. It was not much but it was better than nothing and she would be taking a shower after breakfast. So, she put on her slippers and went downstairs to the kitchen, where her adoptive parents were already eating.

“Good morning, Lilli”, Stefan greeted the little girl, looking up from his newspaper. Lilli gave her words of greetings and sat down. She filled a pink bowl with cereals and milk while her mother made her a mug of steaming hot chocolate. She opted to let the hot brown liquid cool off for a few minutes, if she would drink from it now, she would just burn her tongue. She usually preferred her hot chocolate to be cooled off but still warm, though she would rather have cold milk mixed with cocoa powder in summer. Normally, Lilli was not very fond of hot drinks in the hottest time of the year but her mother always forgot this. Still, Susan meant it well and Lilli could not be mad at her.

Ninety minutes later, after having consumed their breakfast and having taken care of their personal hygiene, the small family sat in the trailer and drove north in the direction of Denmark. They had already packed their stuff the day before, so it did not take long for them all to get ready. Stefan and Susan were in the front, with the former driving, while Lilli was in the back, taking a nap. She was still tired and since the ride was quite long, she opted to return to the land of dreams.

At exactly the same moment, two employees of Doctor Marcel stood in his office under his penetrating, one-eyed glare. Neither of the two knew why they were in this room and not where they were supposed to be. But whatever the reason, the doctor looked so mad that he might as well be a Basilisk, considering the way he was glaring at them.

“Why”, he began in a low growl, “have you two incompetent fools not caught Edna yet? You know where she is and if you use Anes’s anesthetic darts, you’d have no problems catching her.”

“We couldn’t catch her yet because of our inconvenient working hours, boss”, René replied. “If we and Bladder could just get a day off, we could –”

“I can’t afford to give you a few days off. Not until Anes has returned from his vacation with his wife!“, Doctor Marcel snapped, hitting his desktop with his fist. René and Babbitt flinched. Their boss groaned and turned his wheelchair around, so that we would not have to look at those two incompetent fools but at the landscape instead. Why were they his most trusted minions again? Oh yes, these two would not ask any questions when he gave them an order and they would actually execute it. Others would ask question or not do the task they had been given or both. Doctor Marcel would long be jail because of his questionable therapy methods, especially those regarding children, if he did not have so much influence around here... and his son Ruben, who got him out of jail. Unfortunately, the police officer who got him arrested still worked in this village. Doctor Marcel had tried to get him fired or to get stationed somewhere else, at least. But apparently, this particular policeman was needed here. If only he, Doctor Horatio Marcel, could get his hands on him, he would make sure he would never get out of this asylum ever! Same would go to Edna and that little girl he hypnotized a few years ago, this Lilli. Only if all those responsible for his current misfortune in life were locked in padded cells, he would be happy.

“Uh boss?“, Babbitt spoke up. Doctor Marcel grunted in response. “Does it mean we get a day off when Anes gets back?”

“Yes”, the old man growled. “And you two can go now.”

He heard René and Babbitt leaving his office. Did they not realize they could just drove to Edna’s location before or after work, depending on when their shift started? They knew where she lived and who she was friends with and they had access to the anesthetic darts Anes created; it should not be so difficult. René, Babbitt and Bladder surely could afford sacrificing a few hours of their free time to get Edna, or her friend. But perhaps it would be better to wait until Anes was back; he was the only one who was actually competent. He would not even be on vacation if his wife had not bothered him so much that it was their fifth wedding anniversary and that they should do something special. Neither Doctor Marcel nor Anes could understand why a married couple would want to celebrate the day they tied the knot. The doctor remembered, vividly in fact, how it was like when Mattis and Vivian, when she was still alive, had their anniversary. He had to keep watch on little Edna while they were out for dinner, a task he only reluctantly did. It only got worse when Alfred came to live with him and he was forced to have the two children under the same roof that particular evening. Never had it been any louder in his house. Fortunately, it stopped about two or three years after Alfred moved in with him when Vivian was murdered. It was a pity the murderer did not manage to get to Edna and that Mattis was not home at the time. Otherwise, all of Doctor Marcel’s problem would be gone or nonexistent.

Edna, unaware of Doctor Marcel’s plan, leaned back in her chair, saving her file with a satisfied smile on her face. She had kept her word and taken care of the Key Master and she had started going to work again. At first, Tina and everyone else, bar Anika, were surprised she was going out again, until Anika explained the situation. Edna recalled the day her half-African friend treated the Key Master’s arm. She had been too lazy to wash the used dishes, which led to a rather awkward conversation with Tina.

“Two plates? Did you have a visitor, maybe your crush, here?“, Tina had asked.

“Hey, I didn’t even know he would be coming over”, Edna had defended herself. This had led to her housemate trying to find out what actually occurred. The young woman with purple hair had refused to say anything but Tina had found it out the following day, thanks to Anika.

Her relationship with the Key Master was slowly but surely getting back to the way it was before, though there was still a barrier between them. However, she had realized she felt much better if she saw him at least once a day. She did not know if it was because she had a crush on him or she wanted to be assured he had not been caught by the authorities yet or because she was afraid he would do somebody in again. Her friends were glad she was not isolating herself anymore, even if it was only because she had to take care of the Key Master. His arm was healing quite well; maybe he would not need her in a few days’ time. For some reason, the thought both cheered and saddened Edna. Was she so accustomed to his face that she could not bear not seeing him? But she had to get used to the thought that she would not be seeing him everyday. He was going to flee the country sooner or later and the sooner she got used to not seeing his dark green eyes, the better. Even if she would miss him immensely and she knew she would. Still, before she could distance herself from him, she had to keep playing nurse.

“Come on, Harv, we have a patient to take care of”, Edna said after she turned her laptop off. No response from her lagomporph friend. She swiveled around and frowned at him in confusion. “Harvey?”

“You have to take care of him, not me”, he retorted defiantly. “For all I care, he could hole up and die piteously.”

“Harvey!“, Edna exclaimed indignantly. “How can you say this!?”

“It’s not me who’s thinking this, it’s you. Remember, I am a figment of your imagination, a projection from your subconscious”, Harvey explained. “Therefore, a part of you is actually thinking this.”

No, it could not be true. The last thing she ever wanted to happen to anyone was for him to suffer a slow, painful death... or death in general. But even as she thought about this, she realized there was still a part of her – that sounded a lot like Harvey – that hated the Key Master. Could she ever get over this? She had to get out of here, fast. So, she shut her laptop, picked up her bag and without further ado, without sparing another glance at Harvey, she was out.

This was probably a new record for Edna, having arrived at the Key Master’s hideout in less than thirty minutes after she left. Did she want to see him so much, so desperately, or did she just want to get away from Harvey as fast as possible or was it a combination of both? Whatever the reason, she was here, right in front of the door that led into the four walls that the Key Master called his temporary home. She inhaled and exhaled deeply and knocked. A moment later, she gained the permission to enter, thus she stepped into the house, where she found him lying on his bed.

“What? Still asleep at this hour?“, Edna made a half-hearted attempt to tease him but the things Harvey told her still did not leave her mind. The Key Master seemed to sense there was something on her mind, for he got up and walked over to her, putting his healthy arm on her shoulder.

“What’s on your mind?“, he asked, green eyes meeting purple. Edna averted her eyes and bit her bottom lip. Should she really tell him? He would most likely hate her even more than she did him... Why did a part of her subconscious still loathe him? Why was it so difficult to just forgive him? He had never asked for forgiveness since the day he came to her apartment but she knew he was hoping she would say she would forgive him.

“I... I can’t tell you”, Edna replied, worry and sadness layering her voice. “I just can’t bring myself to tell you. At least not yet. I hope you understand me...”

“I do understand you”, the Key Master admitted. Edna stared at him, open-mouthed and her eyes becoming even larger than they already were. The Key Master went on to explain: “I wanted to tell you of what I did but I couldn’t bring myself to. Every time we were together, you were in such a good mood or worried about your own things that I could not find it in my heart to tell you this.”

Edna was astounded. It would have been better if she had just stayed and listened to him instead of running away. She felt really bad for overreacting the way she did – she blamed her period, which she got only two days later, for her reaction.

“Sorry”, she apologized in a tiny voice, bowing her head.

“For what?“, the Key Master asked, sounding genuinely confused.

“For the way I reacted when I found the tie...”

She felt the pressure of his hand on her shoulder increase slightly as he gave her a squeeze. She never expected him to be understanding. Was that really the same man she met in the asylum all those years ago? The same condescending, sarcastic man who did not care how urgent and important it was for her to find evidence that could exonerate her father? What made him change? Was it because he was not confined in a solitary cell anymore? Edna knew she would feel like that, she did feel like that, in fact, for she also spent years in solitary confinement. It was easier to be understanding and not be so sarcastic when one did not have to expect therapies that were not likely to work. Speaking of which, what kind of therapies did he have to go through? It had to be something involving his memories, this was the only reason she could think of why he could not remember certain things about himself. She was the same but started to remember because of Harvey and because she visited locations of her childhood. Also, she was sure she would regain more memories the more she read in Mattis’s diary. Edna figured it was kind of the same with the man, whose hand attached to his uninjured arm was on her shoulder. He could have, whether intentionally or unintentionally, gone to places he had been at over the course of his life and that awakened his memory. But why could the Key Master still not remember his name? Her own name was among the first things she remembered when she woke up in her cell. Was there something blocking his memories? A trauma perhaps? Were the memories so close and yet so far, like an object behind safety glass – visible but unreachable?

“It’s in the past, Princess, we can’t change that”, the Key Master stood up straight. “But when are you planning to help me get dressed? Or should I walk around in pajamas all day long?”

There was not much for Edna to do to help him out. The only things he needed assistance with were things he needed both arms for, like changing his clothes. Edna had no problem helping him to get a shirt on or off but helping him with anything below his upper body made her feel awkward. She was lucky the only thing she had to do was to button his pants and fasten his belt; he was perfectly capable of putting them on and off and fastening and unfastening the zipper on his own. If she had to do this too, she doubted her face would ever regain its normal color.

“How’s your arm?“, Edna asked after she helped the Key Master getting dressed.

“It’s much better, it doesn’t hurt as much anymore”, he replied while opening the ice box and taking out the ice bag.

“Anika mentioned she would like to check up on you tomorrow”, Edna announced, watching him closing the box and putting the ice on his injured arm. “She would be coming over to my place around three in the afternoon. If you want to, you can spend the day in mine and Tina’s apartment and, I dunno, watch some movies or whatever you like.”

The Key Master raised his eyebrow at her.

“I’m surprised you allow me to spend a day in your humble abode. Last time I was there, I did not get the impression you wanted me there”, he commented.

“Well, people can change their minds”, Edna replied with a shrug.

“Only if you could recommend a good movie then and have some snacks available”, the pale green-skinned man answered. “I’ve been missing the latter in particular whenever I watched a movie at your place.”

“I think I can arrange that. Uh, popcorn or chips? And would the gentleman also like a drink?“, Edna put on a British accent upon asking the last question. She somehow thought it was appropriate, seeing that the butler of some rich man in fictional works was almost always British, regardless of their employers’ nationality. Now that she thought about this, why were most butlers British? Was there somewhere in Great Britain a butler factory? If so, where exactly was it? And who did all the maintenance? Who adjusted all the settings? Would they repair the butlers if they were to malfunction? What about those who kill their employer? This would be happening sooner or later because it was always either the butler or the gardener.

“I take whatever you can get”, the Key Master’s voice stopped her train of thought. For a split second, Edna was confused what he meant before she recalled her question.

“Okay, but no complaints, mister”, she replied, poking his chest with her index finger.

“Do you really think I would be that picky? I would be glad if I could eat a larger variety of food. At least sandwiches are better than spiders and moths”, he said, with a slight sarcastic note in his voice.

“I never know whether you’re serious about having eaten spiders and moths or not”, Edna commented dryly.

“I haven’t, Princess”, the Key Master assured her. “Though there is the possibility that I might haven eaten some, more than once in my life, in my sleep. You do know that humans eat thousands of little insects and such in their sleep, don’t you?”

“Yeah, sounds very appetizing...”

“Yes. Yes, it does.”

Late in the evening, almost night time, found Edna back home in her room, sitting at her laptop once again. Like all the previous days, she kept working on her story. A lot had come together over time; she had the main character, her love interest, her companion, the villain, and a rough story outline. The refinements would come in time; it was not like she had a schedule to keep. Besides, it was a fun hobby to distract herself from the serious on goings out there in the real world. The world could be a much better place if people would just loosen up and stop declaring wars for stupid reasons. Could the Earth not be more like in Star Trek, where people had overcome their greed and lust for power, where there was no more poverty and starvation and maladies had been defeated? A world like that sounded much better to Edna than a world full of greed and hate and war. But Star Trek took place in the far future; therefore the only way for her to experience the Earth like in the shows would be to time travel. If only she had a DeLorean, then she would retry her failed weather experiment that she attempted in the convent school a few years back.

The sound of a fist hitting wood resonated through her room, startling Edna out of her thoughts. She glanced towards the door and, already knowing who it could be, replied:

“Come in.”

Just as she suspected, it was Tina who knocked at her door.

“Is it true what I heard from Anika?“, she questioned, leaning against the doorframe.

“Could you elaborate, please? I can neither confirm nor deny anything Anika said when I don’t even know what she said”, Edna pointed out.

“I mean that she’s gonna do a check up on your crush here in this apartment”, Tina elaborated as requested. “Why can’t juicy things like that one happen when I’m around? I’d like to meet him too, y’know.”

“First, yes it’s true. Second, what’s so juicy about this? Third, I thought you would be home tomorrow at three”, the girl who once spent ten years stuck in a solitary cell with padded walls responded.

“Normally yes, but I’ve got a dentist appointment around that time and afterwards, I’m helping Bianca with the preparations for the party”, her housemate explained.

“Huh? I thought it was cancelled?”

“Nope, it only got another date.”

The party that was supposed to cheer Edna up was supposed to have occurred two days ago but had to cancel it for that night because Luca had his friends over and the trip he and his parents and grandmother were going to make would actually be happening the following week. Edna thought they would cancel the party altogether since she was not that depressed anymore but she was kind of glad they were not.

“D’you reckon you could ask your friend if he could join us at the party?“, Tina asked. Edna thought about this, recalling the Key Master’s reaction when she played loud music with an organ and an electric guitar. He was yelling at her that it was unbearable and to shut it off. But was it because he genuinely disliked this kind of music or was he just annoyed because he needed silence to mull things over?

“I suppose I could ask him but I can’t guarantee he would be joining us”, she replied.

“Well, that’s acceptable”, Tina shrugged. She tilted her head, looking at Edna with a curious expression on her face. “Have you told him yet?”

“Told him what?”

“About your feelings for him. He won’t be single forever and what if he finds a girlfriend and you never told him?“, Tina stretched out her arm and stared straight ahead with a somber expression and spoke in a dramatic voice: “And you will just sit there, wondering what might have been. Wondering if it could have been you being kissed by him passionately instead of the other girl? Wondering if there was a chance you’d be having an intimate moment with him and not the other girl? Wond’rin’ and wond’rin’ all because you never told him...”

Edna, whose face has taken a deep red color when Tina mentioned the parts with the kissing and intimate moment, stared dumbfounded at her housemate. She felt like her brain stopped working. This was all ludicrous and Edna did not hesitate to tell her so.

“Oh? You really think so?“, Tina asked, having dropped her ridiculous pose and face. “Just you wait, Edna Konrad, just you wait. You’ll be sorry but your tears will be too late.”

“But there is also the possibility that your prediction won’t come true”, Edna said. “And what if I tell him and he doesn’t reciprocate my feelings? What do I do then?”

“Move on, I guess. The worst he could say is that he doesn’t feel the same way and doesn’t want to ever see you again”, Tina said in a voice full of calmness and seriousness. “But nothing could change and you two remain friends.”

Tina swiveled around and, without looking back, added:

“Carpe diem, Edna. Oh, and –” She turned her head to glimpse at Edna. “– I bought two packs of chips. Hope you’re okay with the flavors.”

Edna nodded in acknowledgement and watched her housemate leaving her room, closing the door behind her. Alone once again, she leaned against the back of her chair and stared up to the ceiling. Ever since Tina learned that she, Edna, was crushing on someone, she had not stopped trying to convince her to admit her feeling for him. Edna guessed she watched too many movies. Still, there was some truth in what her housemate had said. There was no reason for her to not tell the Key Master how she really felt, except maybe that she still had not quite forgiven him. She could really need an advice from her mother...

“Why are emotions so complicated?“, Edna muttered to herself. “If life forms, whether humanoid or animal, are supposed to preserve the species by reproduction, then why is it so difficult for humans to have a relationship?”

“Don’t know but I know you can preserve your species with a man other than the Key Master”, Harvey commented, speaking for the first time since that morning. Edna turned to look at her blue rabbit:

“Harv, one can’t control who they fall for. Besides, I’m not even ready to have kids yet”, she sighed and turned away, now looking at the laptop screen. “I don’t even know if I want any...”

She heard Harvey saying something but did not listen. Her attention was back to the story. However, she found she was not in the mood to write anything at the moment and thus, she saved and turned her laptop off. She changed into her pajamas, took her parents’ diaries and made herself comfortable in bed. As always, Edna opened Vivian’s diary first and read an entry, then took Mattis’s diary and read the entry for the same day. It went on like this for at least an hour until she noticed there several days were missing in Vivian’s diary. The last date was the seventeenth of September, where Vivian mentioned going on a car trip with her parents and sister, but the next one was almost a week later, on the twenty-third. Puzzled as to why there were several days missing when she meticulously wrote in it every day, Edna took her father’s diary to check if the dates were missing too. They were not but the entries were quite short. The one dated on the seventeenth of September was just a mention of the trip Vivian and family were making and he could not join because of work. The next two days were only about his regret of not having joined them but the one on the twentieth gave Edna a shock:

September 20th, 1988

I got a call from the hospital. Vivian, Angelina, Raphael and Maria were involved in a car accident. A drunken driver crashed his car right into theirs. The drunkard died at the crash site but, luckily, Vivian and her family were still alive, though in a critical condition. I’ll be going to the hospital now; I hope they all are going to survive...

Edna could already see where this was going and she really did not like it. Nonetheless, she read the next few entries, hoping her premonition was wrong.

September 21st, 1988

Raphael, Angelina and Maria didn’t survive... Maria died shortly after I was informed of the crash, her parents died after receiving surgery. Only Vivian is still alive, albeit in a coma. Please, let her live...

Edna hung her head in sadness, finally knowing why she never met her aunt and maternal grandparents. She lost a part of her family before she was even born, all because of some drunken driver. Why did so many people have the urge to out drink each other and drive a vehicle when they were not in the state to tell the differences between lions, tigers and bears? Edna was incapable of understanding this. She did not mind the occasional glass of alcoholic beverage herself but she knew her limits, though she did step a toe over it once or twice. At least she would never drive when drunk, she liked being alive and well a little too much to die and be injured.

Edna resumed reading. Her father mentioned that Vivian woke up from the coma and that the doctors told him she would be fine in a few days. Maybe physically but emotionally, the healing process would take much longer... Edna could relate to how her mother was feeling at the time; it had taken for her a long time to accept that her father was really dead as was Alfred and that she was responsible for both their deaths. Still, even after her acceptance of their passing, she could not get over this. She often thought about how her life would have turned but if they were still alive. Edna had overheard her father saying she and Alfred would make a great couple the day the latter died. Perhaps he would have been right and it did come true in a parallel universe or nothing serious would have developed between them and they would have remained nothing more but close friends. Anything could have happened if she had never pushed him down the stairs and all she could do was to either speculate the what-ifs and might have beens or not to think about it at all and, at the moment, she would rather do the latter.

September 22nd, 1988

Vivian has been released from the hospital; she rarely spoke since the day of the car crash. I can’t blame her; she lost her whole family in just a few short hours. I hope that things will get better soon...

Edna spent the rest of the evening and night reading about Vivian’s emotional well-being and how she and Mattis slowly got back to their everyday life and how they mourned the deaths of Raphael, Angelina and Maria.

It was the following day, around early afternoon. A few hours ago, Edna had gone to the Key Master and picked him up. Now he sat in her living room, reading a Captain Useless comic. She sat across from him, also with a comic in hand and staring quietly and sadly at the panels as though they were telling her a depressing story. Every so often, the Key Master would glance at her in concern. She certainly was not like this the day before when he had last seen her. Something must have happened since then but what? He could say for sure it had nothing to do with him, as far as he knew.

“Edna?“, he decided to question her about her sudden return of her depressive state. She moved her eyes up from the comic panels to meet his. “What’s troubling you?”

The young woman looked away again, not saying a single word. She just sat there like a sad statue. The Key Master was close to thinking she was one if he would not see her breathing. Was she like this too the days following her discovery of his being the culprit of the murder of Helmut Diener? The Key Master watched her suddenly getting up and pacing around the room. She had her arms crossed under her chest and her eyes cast downwards. He noticed her brows were furrowed as if she was contemplating something.

“Do you know what’s it like to discover you might have some relatives, like an aunt or grandparents, left in this world only to learn that they shuffled off their mortal coils because of some stupid drunkard?“, she asked angrily in a choked voice, her back turned to him. The Key Master had a hunch what she was talking about. During the countless hours they spent together, she mentioned at least once or thrice her aunt and maternal grandparents she never met and her intention of finding them. Well, it seemed this was not necessary anymore...

“You lost them in a car crash...“, he stated in a low voice. No wonder Edna was depressed. Who would not be if their last glimmer of hope was gone just like that?

“Long before I was even born!“, Edna confirmed in an exclamation. She let herself drop on the couch and then fell on her side, so that the Key Master could not see her from his current position. He stood up and walked around, finding her lying in fetal position and staring straight ahead to the empty television screen.

“Tell me one thing”, Edna requested, gazing in his direction, “why did you commit the murder the other day?”

“He said some things that made me snap and caused me to act uncontrollably”, the Key Master confessed. Upon seeing the confusion in Edna’s face, he elaborated: “Last time you let me spent the night here, I went home early the next morning, remember? On my way, I happened to walk past one of that guy’s whores’ house just when he was leaving. I didn’t want to have anything to do with him but he thought it would be a good idea to join me and talk about women like they were only good for sex.”

“And that’s why you killed him?”

“It made me angry enough to punch him and to rip off his balls but not angry enough to kill him. It was only when he mentioned you and his intention of having you join his ranks of whores that made me snap. It was like I wasn’t myself anymore; I had no control over me. By the time I realized what I was doing, he was already as dead as a doornail...”

He noticed that Edna, who was staring at him with large eyes, had her jaw dropped. Slowly, she stood up and walked, like a sleepwalker or zombie, towards him.

“So, you basically killed him to save my honor?“, she questioned.

“Pretty much.”

The Key Master could see in her face that she wanted to say something about this, maybe reprimand him. But she was only able to open her mouth without the chance to utter a single syllable when she heard the doorbell ring.

“Uh, is it already three o’clock?“, she wondered aloud. The Key Master, having no watch and therefore not knowing the time, shrugged. He watched Edna checking the time in her phone, which she carried in her pocket, and heard her mumble it was half past two.

“Maybe Anika decided to come early...”

Edna left the room to let the still unknown guest enter her humble abode. The Key Master, meanwhile, decided to sit down at the dinner table again and waited for her return. He returned to reading the comic but he barely registered the words or panels. He thought about his conversation with Edna from a few minutes ago. Her reaction upon learning why he killed a man was, frankly, unreadable as though she did not want to show any emotions. Perhaps she still had to digest this new piece of information. The Key Master opted to give her time and not bring up this topic for a while... least of all now, since she returned with Anika in tow.

“Let’s see how the patient is doing.”

She took a seat next to the Key Master and removed his sling before examining his arm with a critical look on her face – Edna did not stay in the living room. She moved her hands around his arm, humming to herself in such a way that it fit perfectly to the face she was making. Her touch still hurt him but not as much as it did when she first examined him. If anything, the pain was more like the kind of pain one briefly felt when they bumped against a table.

“Hm, from what I can tell, it’s almost healed. Just a few more days – five I would say –and you can remove the sling”, Anika stated a few minutes later. “Do some exercises with your arm, five minutes per day and increase the amount as days pass. But don’t overexert yourself.”

“Alright, thanks”, that was all the Key Master said in reply; he did not know what else to say to her. After all, this was only the second time he met her and he was still unsure about her. However, from what he could have gathered, Anika seemed to be a splendid friend to Edna; one who would help her and her other friends, no questions asked. He was quite grateful for that.

Edna had retreated to her room to mull things over after she led Anika to the living room and to the Key Master. Ever since he mentioned why he committed the murder of Helmut Diener, she could not stop thinking about what he said. He did it to prevent that she would end up as some old guy’s slut but was there not another way? If she was honest with herself, she was glad she was spared such a life. Still, she would feel much better if the Key Master had solved the problem differently. The thought that another life had ended because of her was unnerving. Why did death seem to follow her around? What was she, an angel of death? Why could she not be the goddess of fun and joy? Or an Incan goddess? It would certainly be a position she would prefer, just as long as it did not involve death. Edna did not know how long she lay on her bed, except that Anika apparently was still not done examining the patient – Edna knew this because she peeked into the living room. Feeling bored but not in the mood for writing, she took out her sketch-pad and pencil and just started drawing while sitting in tailor-fashion on her bed. Her pencil glided across the white surface, leaving a gray trace that indicated its path. At first, the lines seemed to be random and noncontiguous but over time, it took shape and form. An unexpected knock startled Edna out of her reverie, accidentally causing her to draw line she did not need for her picture.

“Come in!“, she called while erasing the line. She glanced up when the door opened to see the Key Master and Anika enter her room.

“I’ll be going home now. See you at the party, unless my medical knowledge is required again”, the latter said. “Bye, you two lovebirds.”

So, Anika left, ignoring Edna’s indignantly calling her name and the Key Master raising his eyebrows at her.

“What did she mean with lovebirds?“, the Key Master questioned. It is something that should be translated as ‘I want you to kill me, Edna’, the young woman thought fumingly. However, out loud she said, somewhat wearily:

“Nothing, it was just her being silly...”

“I’m surprised, Edna, I thought you like silliness”, the Key Master commented.

“Not that kind, though”, she replied, having gone back to drawing. “By the way, are you planning to cool your heels? Take a seat.”

She nodded towards her chair in front of her desk. She watched the Key Master walking towards it and sitting down. Once he sat with his derrière on the chair, she went back to her picture, though she was somewhere else with her mind. This was her chance; Anika mentioned the party and, since she and all her other friends would really like to meet the Key Master; this was a great opportunity for her, Edna, to ask. She felt his eyes on her, his green, penetrating ocular organs watching her every movement.

“Something on your mind?“, Edna questioned, looking straight at her guest.

“Just wondering what you’re drawing”, he replied with a shrug.

“Dunno myself... By the way, about the party Anika just mentioned...”

“Yes, what about it?”

“Would... would you like to come along and meet my friends?”

“I’m not sure, Princess. I was actually planning to have a quiet night as long as my arm’s still injured. When is the party anyway?”

“It’s on Friday.”

“I might have said yes if it was to be held be at a later day but in this case, I have to say no. I’m not sure if it’s wise to go to a party with an injured arm.”

Edna sighed. She should have known he would say no and yet, at the same time, she could not blame him. She had her fair share of injuries and even a broken bone or two in her childhood. Dangerous escapades like jumping from trees or digging pitfalls that she would hide so good that even she would fall in them were the kinds of things she liked doing in her childhood and usually received an injury. Not that she ever learned her lesson, seeing that she kept doing those things as soon as she was healed. She always had too much fun doing hazardous things, especially if they involved hurting Alfred. Although, it usually ended with her either being locked in the basement or in her own room. Mattis really was not the best when it was about disciplining her. There were times when Edna felt a bit of loathing surging through her body whenever he locked her in the basement or in her room without actually telling her what she did wrong. The fleeting feeling was soon gone and they were usually on good terms when she was allowed to go outside again. Still, Mattis’s methods for raising her were not the best but she reckoned it was better than going through a character correction, even if he threatened her with it. Doctor Marcel did try to use his method on her after she ended up in his custody but Edna had her doubts that her father really wanted this to happen. If anything, she reckoned he just threatened her with it to get her to change her behavior on her own accord.

“Yeah, I guess I can’t blame you. Believe it or not, I was the same when I was severely injured when I was little; never did anything it could make it worse until it’s healed”, Edna grinned in a mix of amusement and nostalgia. “Never learned my lesson, though.”

The Key Master chortled.

“You were really a wild child, weren’t you?“, he asked, clearly amused, to which Edna only gave a broad smile in response. “I bet you drove people up the walls.”

“Oh yes, intentionally in case of Doctor Marcel and Alfred, unintentionally for my father... most of the time”, she confirmed, though not as broadly grinning anymore. She closed her sketch-pad and leaned against the window sill. “Mattis kept trying to discipline me but even I can tell the way he went about this... I mean, if you had a child and they would misbehave, would you lock them up without telling them what they did wrong?”

“I guess not, I’d tell them they shouldn’t behave like this if they didn’t want to be grounded”, the Key Master agreed with her. “Still, the way you’re usually talking about your father, you must have really adored him.”

“Oh yes, I did. He was a good man; he just didn’t know how to raise someone like me. I... I guess it’s easier to be dating a lively woman than raising one...“, Edna contemplated out loud. “At least, I think I come more after my mother...”

“Well, I can’t quite tell. Never had a child, I was too young for one when I got in the asylum”, the Key Master commented. “And, I don’t even quite know how I would raise them if I had one...”

“Me neither”, Edna admitted. “And I forgot why we were talking about children...”

She lied; she remembered quite well why they had this topic. It was just that she felt awkward talking about this with a man she had feelings for as if they were actually planning to have an offspring.

“We were talking about your childhood”, the Key Master casually reminded her. “But we can talk about something else if you’d like to.”

“I would certainly prefer it... Say, how did you even get your nickname?”

Ever since Petra first mentioned his name, she had been wondering how he got a nickname like that. From what Edna could tell, though, he received his nickname from the other inmates, seeing that he said to her he was called ‘the Key Master’.

“It’s just because I can copy any key perfectly after having seen one only once, nothing special”, he answered in a dismissive voice. “And, as long as I have something small like a pin, I can pick any lock. Like you, I tried to escape several times before but was caught too. Most of the time, I tried to alone, to no avail, but I had some assistance as well. Unfortunately, they weren’t exactly Einstein or Stephen Hawking. There was one, however, who almost managed to get me and himself out. It was him who gave me the nickname.”

“What happened to him?“, Edna, who listened attentively, questioned. She saw him opening his mouth to articulate an answer, only no words came out. His neutral expression turned into one of puzzlement as his eyes wandered around the room.

“I can’t seem to remember”, he admitted. “Doctor Marcel must have erased this from my memories...”

“What would he gain from doing this? But still, you knew an awful lot about the asylum despite being subjected to memory erasure”, Edna remarked. “Unless you were subjected to it far less than I was.”

“If I remember correctly, the last time this happened before we fled the institution had been several months before”, the Key Master pondered aloud. “Maybe that’s why I knew a lot but not everything.”

“And unless we find something that could trigger your memory, you will regain them either very slowly or not at all...“, Edna sighed. She decided to change the subject: “How about we go out for a walk and then, I bring you home?”

“Well, okay...”

Both stood up. As always, Edna took her rucksack with her. She took a brief glance at Harvey before deciding that she can listen to his deprecation about her relationship with the Key Master later. Instead, she packed a book and lot of Captain Useless comics. Thus, both members of the species Homo sapiens left the room and the apartment without a blue lagomorph made of terry cloth.

The Key Master and Edna strolled down the street next to each other. He had the hand of his uninjured arm in his pocket while she was holding the straps of her rucksack on her shoulder. No words were said for neither knew what to say.

“Can I ask you a question?“, Edna suddenly spoke up when they arrived at the edge of the forest.

“Obviously, you already did that. But fire away”, the Key Master replied, looking expectantly and curiously at her. They entered the woods. The trees blocked out most of the sunlight but since they were still not that deep in the forest, it was more like a green-tinted golden light shone upon them. Here and there were a few golden specks of light radiated through the trees.

“After you killed the reverend, you locked me and yourself in the church, like you exchanged one prison for the other... why? Why did you do that? I thought you wanted freedom...“, Edna trailed off as she watched a bird flying to its nest. The Key Master followed the bird with his eyes while trying to think of why he did that. At that time, he had not been thinking clearly that night and therefore, it was difficult for him to answer Edna’s question.

“I... I don’t know, to be honest”, he replied after several minutes. “I reckon I was mad at myself because the first thing I did after our escape was to murder an innocent person... and I guess I was also mad at you for letting me out...”

“You already know why I let you out but I also thought it would be unfair if I flee while I abandon the person who helped me to rot in his cell”, Edna admitted. She watched the bird fly away before looking at the green-skinned man. “But you knew how important it was to me to find evidence that would exonerate my father. Besides, sooner or later somebody would have come to the church and they might have had a key. And what would they have found if they managed to gain entrance? Two escaped loonies, as far as they were concerned, and a corpse dangling from the church bell. We both would have ended up back in the asylum or in prison, maybe a high-security one at that.”

“You may be right, Princess, but I was too enraged to care back then”, the Key Master responded as they got deeper into the forest. It got gradually darker and, therefore, cooler. The path was harder to see but not invisible, thanks to the bit of sunlight illuminating the way. Not that they needed the path that bad; they both walked it so often they could go down the path with their eyes closed.

“It was only long after you pushed me off the railing and left me there when I began to cool down, though it did took a while”, he continued speaking. “But even when I was still furious, I couldn’t quite blame you. I think I would have done the same if our roles had been reversed.”

“At least we both are still free, in a manner of speaking”, Edna commented. The Key Master stared at her in confusion and voiced his confusion:

“What do you mean with ‘in a manner of speaking’?”

“Well, you see for yourself no way to fit in society, even if you do try to, and I can’t stop blaming myself for the deaths of Alfred and Mattis”, Edna explained. “It doesn’t sound like real freedom to me.”

The Key Master had to admit that she was right. He would always be on the run from the law, he would always risk being recognized or caught. Chances of him starting a normal life were slimmer than the bones of his fingers. As for Edna, as long as she blamed herself for the demise of two important people in her life, she would never be truly free. But he guessed she was unable to forgive herself if she did not know whether her friend and her father would forgive her or not. Funny how one could seem free but were actually not. Would they ever achieve real freedom, no strings attached? He looked at Edna and thought back of the first time he met her. He was alone in his cell when he suddenly had the feeling that someone was looking at him. When he turned to see if there really was someone, he saw this young woman with those large eyes and the dark purple hair hanging lifelessly from her head. Normally, he could not have cared less but there was something different about her. Everyone else, who looked upon him, had their eyes filled with either loathing or fear or a mix of both. However, it was completely different with her; her eyes showed curiosity, fascination, confusion and the determination to escape this institution. There was a lively fire burning in her ocular organs like he had not seen in years. Thus, he approached the glass and spoke to her. Never in his life would the Key Master have imagined that he would come to care for this young woman so much that he could not see himself without her in his life.

It was not long until they arrived at his hideout. He opened the front door and stepped aside to let Edna enter first before he followed her in. Edna took the book – Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson – and the Captain Useless comics out of her rucksack and placed them on the table.

“Well... I guess I better go now...“, Edna said in a quiet voice after she closed her rucksack. She started to head out when the Key Master called for her:

“Edna, wait!”

She stopped walking and swiveled around, looking expectantly at him.

“I... would like to know if you, well, if you have forgiven me yet”, he said, somewhat lamely. He mentally beat himself for the stupid way he articulated the question, almost missing the sadness in Edna’s eyes when she averted them.

“I... I don’t know...”

Before he could say another word, she rushed out of the door. The Key Master sighed and leaned against the closet, shaking his head.

No one was in the apartment when Edna returned, which she was grateful for. If Tina would be around, she would most likely ask questions about the Key Master and Edna was not exactly in the mood to be answering questions. It was infuriating; she could be gone all day long and Tina would ask no questions but as soon as the topic of conversation was the opposite sex, she could be worse than a mother hen. It was like Tina saw her friends’ romantic relationships as a real life telenovela, albeit without the cheesy moments every five minutes. The only thing missing was another girl competing for the Key Master’s affection. Edna considered herself lucky she had no rival in this case, although she kept thinking about what Tina told her. Just because the Key Master was single at the moment did it not mean he would remain so forever and since he planned to leave the country, it was very likely he would end up with a girlfriend. For all Edna knew, he could be married when she would meet him again a few years after he had gone abroad. The thought saddened her and yet, his wanting to leave the country was the reason she could not bring herself to tell him that she had forgiven him and what she felt for him. It was like a vicious cycle...

“Well, how was it with your Romeo?“, Harvey questioned with a mix of sarcasm and venom in his voice after Edna threw herself on her bed. She furrowed her eyebrows at him, not liking the way he said his question. In fact, she found the tone Harvey used when he spoke of the Key Master concerning. He did not even sound like this when he mocked Alfred. What was it that made Harvey hate the Key Master so much? Was it because she, Edna, had feelings for him? Or was it something else? Perhaps he represented the part of her that despised the Key Master’s psychotic, murdering side?

“Harv... won’t you ever stop talking about the Key Master as if he were Doctor Marcel? What has he done to you?“, Edna inquired.

“He’s a psycho! He would not hesitate to murder you! And he’s taking you away from me!“, Harvey exclaimed, flailing his arms around.

“Woah, calm down, little buddy”, she tried to pacify her blue rag doll rabbit. “If the Key Master wanted to kill me, he had plenty of opportunities. He’s not taking me away from you, neither by my demise nor through any other way. But if you keep behaving like this, you’re gonna lose me through none other fault but your own.”

This left Harvey silent for once. Edna left him to think about this and reached for the two diaries and kept reading them, in hopes Vivian’s entries would soon regain their cheerful mood. So far, they had the vibe as if she was in a catatonic state, alive but not really living. Edna could not blame Mattis for being worried that she might commit suicide. Perhaps Vivian would have really done it if it were not for her husband. She mentioned, more than once, that Mattis was the only reason worth living for. However, around late summer, early Fall the year following the car crash, Vivian noted nausea, especially in the morning, and the feeling that she could just keep eating and eating when she was not busy throwing up.

September 13th, 1989

Dear Diary,

The day didn’t start well for me at all. I had to throw up once again this morning and I was almost late at work because I needed so long for breakfast. Fortunately, Mattis drove me to the kindergarten; otherwise my boss would have a reason to chew me out. However, this was not all, I kept feeling dizzy and nearly passed out while the little ones had their nap. My colleague, Denise, suggested I should see a doctor. Well, I heeded her words and went to the hospital. I didn’t think I would feel this happy after the car crash a year ago. I am pregnant! Mattis was ecstatic when he heard this! He’s already making plans to refurnish one of the rooms into a nursery.

A smile adorned Edna’s face upon reading this entry. The thought that she made her parents happy again just by being a fetus in her mother’s womb filled her with joy. They deserved some happiness after all that happened the previous year. If only things had remained as joyous as they were at that moment. But Edna knew it did not last, everything would get a turn for the worse in just a few years... Just what did her family wrong to deserve one gruesome fate after the other? From what she could tell, her parents were good people and while she was not the easiest the kid to bring up, there still was a chance for her to change... if only she had gotten the opportunity.

A few days passed since Edna read the entry about her mother’s pregnancy. It was the day of the party, which was going to start in the evening. Of course, Tina had asked her if the Key Master would be there too, only to be disappointed that she would not meet the man who stole Edna’s heart. The comment left Edna with a face like a tomato. The Key Master had not asked her for forgiveness again, although she was aware he was about to more than once. She could imagine how he must be feeling; not knowing if a person he cared about would ever forgive him. She would tell him after the party, she doubted she could bring herself to say it yet. But it was more like she was delaying the inevitable. At least Edna made the decision to go to the Key Master and tell him that she had forgiven him. Still, she was not sure if she could ever confess him her feelings for him. Perhaps only when she knew he would reciprocate them and even then, only when she knew they could have a future together. If she thought about it, her restrictions and conditions sounded more like excuses to not to confess to him. Maybe she and the Key Master should be locked in a room and not get out until she told him everything she wanted to tell him.

“I certainly wouldn’t be able to escape him...“, Edna mumbled to herself while erasing the unneeded lines from her picture. It was the same drawing she started a few days ago, when the Key Master told her the reason why he committed the murder. When she first started drawing this picture, she had no idea what it would be but now, she realized it was a drawing of herself in his arms. Was her subconscious – the part that did not sound like Harvey – trying to tell her that this was where she wanted to be or even belonged to? Edna opted not to think too much about it, everything would make sense sooner or later. Besides, Tina just called that lunch will served in a minute and, boy, was Edna hungry! She set her things aside and went out to the living room, where her housemate was currently setting the table for two, though the plates were still missing.

“Hiya, Edna”, Tina greeted the younger woman. “Could you please put the Schnitzels from the pan onto the plates?”

“Sure”, Edna nodded and did what her housemate requested. The Schnitzels were East German Jägerschnitzel, one of the few things Edna knew Tina liked from the time Germany was still separated. Tina appeared right after Edna placed the meat on the plates. Instead of returning to the living room, she opted to wait here until the blond filled their plates with French fries, cucumber salad and ketchup. Each girl carried their respective plate back to the living room and happily munched their lunch while watching WALL●E.

At the same time, the Key Master was eating lunch too, albeit his consisted of sandwiches and nothing else. He was getting sick of only eating those every day but without a refrigerator and oven, he did not have much to choose from. He was lucky enough that Edna bought him an ice box; otherwise his food would spoil much faster. There was one thing the Key Master was sure of when he started a new life abroad, he would not eat sandwiches for several years, maybe even for the rest of his life. He would have one big meal with pancakes, roast beef, potatoes, sausages, cake and thousand other things he had not eaten for over a decade. He really needed to stop thinking about this; it would only make his stomach grumble like one giant, ferocious beast. The only times he could eat other things was when he had the opportunity to sleep at Edna’s place. But he had his doubts it would happen soon, not as long as she was still disappointed in him. The Key Master had already asked her twice for forgiveness and both times, she had this sad look in her eyes, as if she wanted to but could not for some reason. Whatever it was, he would find out, even if it meant he had to force her.

He finished his sandwich and washed it down with a swig of water. He wiped his mouth dry with the back of his hand. With his stomach full but not quite satisfied, he walked over to the drawers and got the clay figure he had been working on out. Once it stood safely on the table, he took his brushes, then the paint and, finally, a cup. He went outside and filled the cup with water. Back inside, he sat down on his chair and gave his clay sculpture color. The Key Master had wanted to finish it for ages but was not in the mood to after he injured his arm. But since he had nothing else to do and his arm was in a much better shape now, he decided finish the first clay figure he ever made. He worked hard on it, even if it was not the best and not instantly recognizable. However, should one look at it for a longer time period, they would notice it resembled an owl.

“Edna, come on! It’s time to go! The party’s going to start soon!”

It was evening, Edna and Tina were about to go... if only the former were not so busy staring and frowning at herself in the mirror in the bathroom. Tina had done her best to primp her for the party and Edna was not used to the person who stared right back at her from the other side of the mirror. Her hair was up in a ponytail, with a few curly strands framing her face. She wore purple lipstick and eye shadow and Tina had painted her nails purple too. The clothes she wore were a purple shirt with bare shoulders, underneath a black tank top and a black leather skirt with black, high-heeled boots. Two questions ran through Edna’s mind: One, how was she supposed to dance in those boots? And two, what would the Key Master think if he saw her like this? She had always been content with her look but seeing herself like this, she found herself liking this look, even if it scared her a little. Still, she already knew she would not walk around like this every day. She decided then and there that she would only clean herself up that nicely for special occasions; otherwise it would lose its effect of leaving others slack-jawed. Edna took one deep breath and left the bathroom to see Tina tapping her foot impatiently.

“About time”, she commented, a little annoyed. Her expression changed into a smile immediately afterwards. “You look magnificent, marvelous, and gorgeous and a whole lot of other adjectives. It’s a pity your man won’t be seeing you like this.”

Edna agreed with her friend mentally, out loud, however, she said in a weary voice:

“He’s not my man...”

“But you wish he were and there’s always a chance he would be your man, or not. It all depends on your actions... and his feelings towards you”, she added the last part like an afterthought. “How about I take a picture of you and you can show it to him next time you see him? I’m sure he would like it and you’d have something to remember this party by.”

“I don’t see why not. As long as I don’t have to act like a fashion model”, Edna shrugged.

“Edna, you are a beautiful young woman, who is neither too fat nor too thin. Models, in comparison, are just walking beanstalks”, Tina remarked before going to her room. She was back almost immediately, holding her camera in her hands.

“But could still do some poses, please? It would be better than you standing there like a pillar of salt”, she requested. Edna shrugged and put one hand on her hip and did the Vulcan salute with her other hand, all the while wearing a smirk. Tina grinned while she took a few pictures, giving Edna a thumb up when she was done.

“I’ll give you the pics tomorrow”, Tina said, putting her camera on the coffee table. “Now, it’s PART-TAY TIME!”

She raised her voice and her right arm. She grinned like a Cheshire Cat. Edna raised her arms too and exclaimed “whoo-hoo”. Both women looked at each other and broke into laughter. Edna did not know what made her laugh; she just knew she had the urge to. Not that she particularly cared; she needed more reasons to laugh in her life. It was a lot better than crying or being depressed.

“Come on, or we’ll never be going”, Tina said, still chuckling. Edna nodded and both women, after taking their keys, left the apartment and went to the car.

Tina parked her car in front of Bianca’s house and she and Edna walked up to the front door. Edna rang the doorbell, already faintly hearing the music from inside the house. Bianca opened the door not long after Edna rang the bell and permitted them entrance with a cheerful “Benvenuto!”

“Hey Bianca”, Edna greeted her younger friend while entering the house.

“Hi Edna, it’s good to see you again”, the half-Italian replied with a kind smile. She gave her a once-over: “Wow, I never knew you could look this awesome! This look really suits you. Sebastian, Gregor and Gabrielle are already there too. Anika called five minutes ago, she’ll be here in half an hour.”

“Wait a minute, did you just say that Gabrielle’s here too?“, a startled Edna questioned, not sure whether or not she heard Bianca correctly.

“She’s here, she actually asked me if she could come too”, Bianca explained. “Was pretty much surprised myself. But don’t worry; Heike and Daniel don’t know anything about it. It’s unlikely they’re gonna crash the party. At least I think so. Gabrielle’s not sure either.”

“Those two are the last people we need”, Tina commented. “They can turn even the best party in the universe into an assemblage of moody individuals.”

Edna and Bianca nodded in agreement while the latter closed the door. Bianca led the two women to the living room, where the males were talking and drinking. Several of their classmates were there, too. Gabrielle sat lonely on a chair, occasionally sipping from her own drink and looking around like she was feeling out of place. A song from the band Even Blacker Sabbath blared from the stereo. At a wall was a long table covered with a white table cloth. It groaned under the weight of all the party snacks and beverages.

“That was the only condition I was allowed to host the party”, Edna heard Bianca tell Tina. “I’m still underage, so no alcohol. Though I think a few might have smuggled alcohol in.”

“Some of us still have to drive when the party’s over, it’s probably better this way”, Tina responded while Edna headed over to Gabrielle. The lonely girl looked up at her with an unreadable expression.

“Mind if I sit with you?“, Edna asked. Gabrielle wordlessly shrugged and nodded towards an empty chair next to her. Edna took it as an invitation to sit down and did just that.

“I almost didn’t recognize you at first. Heh, so much for Heike saying you have no fashion sense. I bet she would never realize it was you if she were to see you right now”, Gabrielle commented.

“You’re not planning to call her, are you?“, Edna asked warily. To her relief, Gabrielle shook her head.

“Nah, I’m here because she was being annoying again –”

“When is she not?”

" – and she was busy with her boyfriend. I doubt she’d be noticing my absence.”

“How come you’re so different when Heike’s not around?”

That was something Edna had been wondering about for quite some time. When she first met Gabrielle, she was something like a copy of Heike – saying the exact same things as if she were a parrot and using the exact same voice; even her movements were the same. The only differences were their looks on their faces and intelligence quotients. Over time, Edna began noticing some more differences, very subtle ones that were easy to miss, like fleeting apologetic smiles from Gabrielle after another insult from Heike or actually showing concern for others, something the rich platinum blond was incapable of. When Bianca told Edna that Gabrielle used to be a decent girl, it took her off guard but when she thought about this girl’s behavior in retrospect, she realized that Bianca was actually telling the truth. Gabrielle was able to show remorse, unlike Heike, and the way she was talking about her, it seemed like she wanted to separate herself from her. Edna could not blame her and wished for her she would do so. She just could not imagine how anyone could stand being around Heike any longer than necessary – and even that was too long.

“Well, when I first met her, she threatened she would turn everyone against me if I don’t do what she says. I was barely a teen at the time and shy around others, so I thought I had no other choice”, Gabrielle explained gazing at her lap with half-closed, glassy eyes. She sighed and took a sip from her drink. Edna, meanwhile, thought about how she would have reacted. Right off the bat, she would say she would have handled it differently. But would she have really? Edna knew she had a completely different personality than Gabrielle but, like her, she liked having friends and after having had a childhood with only one friend, who also happened to be dead, she was glad to have a few more friends now. Perhaps she should not judge her for something that occurred in the past. Besides, it was not Gabrielle’s fault Heike was the way she was. If anyone was to be blamed, it was Heike’s parents’ fault for not raising her at all. She, Edna Konrad, might not have gotten the best upbringing from Mattis; she was certainly not as bad as Heike. At least Edna never threatened anyone that she would turn other people against them. Edna was about to tell Gabrielle that she should not worry about the choice she made all those years ago but was distracted when Bianca loudly exclaimed “Hey! You’re not invited! Get out!”

Everybody’s heads turned towards the living room door. A second later, Heike and Daniel entered the room, followed closely by a harassed looking Bianca.

“You better hide”, Gabrielle quickly whispered to Edna. She did not need to be told twice. She hid under the table while Heike, who was surveying the room with a contemptuous expression on her face, was looking in their direction. Edna watched from her hiding place what was going on, hoping Heike had not noticed her. However, she did seem to have noticed Gabrielle for she and Daniel walked right up to her.

“Well, well, well”, the platinum blond said, venom oozing from every syllable. “There you are! In this”, she gave the room a once-over and made a noise of disgust, “excuse of a house.”

“What are you doing here? How did you find me?“, Gabrielle questioned with a mix of fear and puzzlement in her voice.

“You were supposed to help me get ready for my date with Daniel. But since you weren’t there, I had to leave as underdressed like this”, she made a pose to show off her outfit, which looked hardly different than anything else Heike ever wore and that was, in Edna’s opinion, already overdressing – at least in everyday life. The blond once again looked around. “By the way, where is Nutty Edna? Wasn’t this excuse of a party meant for her?”

“She’s not here yet”, Gabrielle lied curtly. Edna noticed she held her drink so tight her hand trembled. Heike snorted.

“Typical! She just wants to be in the center of att-”

She was interrupted by Gregor, who put a tight hold on Heike’s upper arm as well as on Daniel’s.

“I think you two should leave”, he remarked and steered them out, with Heike loudly and shrilly protesting. Edna crawled out of her hiding place as soon as they were out of the room and returned to Gabrielle. Anika arrived at the same moment, looking behind her as though she was confused was to what was happening.

“Were those Heike and Daniel?“, she asked, pointing with her thumb behind her.

“Yes”, sighed Bianca. “They decided to crash the party. But anyway”, she put on a smile and walked over to her to give her a hug: “Ciao, Anika!”

“Looks like everyone, who should be here, is here”, Edna commented, while watching Anika and Bianca walking over to the boys and Tina. “Unless there’s anyone else coming?”

“Not that I know of”, Gabrielle shrugged. Edna stood up, it was time she greeted the others too. She offered the girl next to her a hand:

“C’mon, let’s go over to the others.”

She watched her averting her eyes for a brief second before the younger girl took her hand. The other party guests were busy dancing to the music, either on their own or with a partner. Bianca, who was dancing with Sebastian, was the first to notice them and waved at them to come closer.

“Enjoying yourselves?“, she asked them while Sebastian, who had at last noticed them, stared at Edna like he had never seen her before.

“Deafening music, snacks and dancing? How can one not enjoy themselves?“, Edna replied, having started to dance as well.

“Listen, sorry about the party crashers!“, Bianca apologized but Edna waved her hand dismissively.

“Nah, it’s alright. You couldn’t know Heike and Daniel would appear.”

“Even I didn’t think she would do this. I thought she and Daniel would be too busy with each other”, Gabrielle chimed in. Suddenly, Sebastian’s jaw dropped.

“Edna!? Is that you?“, he exclaimed, earning a reproving glance from Bianca.

“Who else did you think I was? Liza Minnelli?“, Edna retorted with a hint of sarcasm in her voice. She hoped not everyone would comment on her look or react exactly like Sebastian did; otherwise she would have to kill Tina. Just because her outward appearance was much different than from how she normally looked did it not mean she was an entirely different person. She was still plain, old Edna. Bianca moved lose to Sebastian’s ear and hissed something in his ear with a somewhat annoyed expression on her face. He just grinned at her sheepishly.

“Please excuse us”, the half-Italian said and dragged Sebastian to another, quieter part of the house.

“She seems to be the one with the balls”, Gabrielle commented nonchalantly. She and Edna joined the latter’s friends in the living room, who all joyfully greeted them.

“Hey, where’s our host and her boyfriend?“, Tina questioned upon noticing their absence.

“Boyfriend?“, a confused Edna repeated. “Are they together now?”

“Not yet, but as good as”, Gregor explained. Edna nodded in comprehension and told the others what happened not even five minutes ago. None of them decided to check on them yet, not until they had reason to worry about them.

Around two hours after the party started, Bianca lowered the music’s volume and tapped a spoon against a cup to receive every party-goers’ attention. Not that it was needed, for everybody looked around in confusion when it suddenly became quieter.

“If anybody’s up for a quick dip, they can change in the bathroom and go outside in the swimming pool!“, she announced. “And who’s up for pizza?”

“Bianca, none of us thought of taking their swimming trunks or swimsuits along! Or do you expect us to go naked?“, Sebastian retorted while some went outside to the backyard. Edna thought he had a point and she knew she was not going to go swimming in her birthday suit. However, she would not mind a pizza since she was getting hungry and she did not seem to be the only one; quite a few party-goers were vocal about their desire for food. Bianca ordered several pizzas before she turned up the volume of the music. The party guests continued dancing or they swam in the pool, either fully clothed or in their underwear. The ordered pizzas arrived some time later. Anyone who was hungry grabbed a slice or two. Edna enjoyed the party with dancing and socializing with other party guests, most of who were positively surprised at her outfit. She also noticed that some of her classmates were acting intoxicated. Seemed like Bianca had been right earlier. A few were doing ridiculous dance moves while others were making out either on the couch or in a corner. There were even some who snuck off to someplace unknown. Edna decided not to drink too much since she did not want to create any awkwardness between herself and anybody else. Still, she had a fun time at the party. She really had the best friends she could wish for.

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