In Edna's former cell sat four people, three men and a woman, working on tiny darts. They were all unexpectedly brought here a few days ago. Since then, they had not left the cell and had been working almost nonstop on the darts. Only once a day, they were permitted to eat and drink and use the bathroom facilities. Each one of them was tired; they did not even know why they had to embed these darts with some kind of chemical, like Anes instructed them to.
"How long do you reckon we have to do his until we can return to the others?", the Washing Maniac suddenly asked. His tanned skin was getting paler and paler by the day, or at least that was the other three thought they saw.
"I don't know if or when we will escape from this excruciatingly dull task", Peter depressingly replied. "We might as well do this until the end of our pathetic lives... OW!"
Tiger Head had kicked him while he was talking and looked at him reproachfully. The Washing Maniac chuckled at this. The little panel behind the grate of the door slid open and Babbitt's voice rang out:
"What's going on in there?"
"Nothing! Everything's peachy keen", the Washing Maniac called back in a singsong voice.
"Then do your task and be quiet!", Babbitt retorted and slid the panel back to its place. Tiger Head rolled her eyes and shook her head. They all agreed that Babbitt was annoying, though their dislike towards him was not as great as towards Anes. It was, after all, him who forced them to do this. Regarding his treatment of patients, he could be a relative of Doctor Marcel. If he were, it would explain why the doctor tolerated everything Anes did then. Not that the patients were even aware of everything he did. They might be able to get to other floors with the laundry lift system – unless they were locked in a cell – but this did not mean they were knew of every single detail in this asylum. If they happen to hear something, which was quite likely since most guards were as bad, if not even worse than gossiping middle-aged women, they would tell the others about it. This was a good way to be a little more informative about the asylum and to speculate if they only knew bits and pieces.
The golden sun shone brightly upon the lush green grass and the tall trees, warming everything the ray of light touched. The pond looked cool and inviting, as if it was not just a simple dug up hole with a tiny tributary river leading to the actual river. Close to the water was a giant beach towel, upon which the Key Master sat, clad only in a pair of navy blue swimming trunks. Edna had placed the beach towel there right after they arrived at the hideout before going inside to change in the bathroom. The Key Master had changed in the main room but Edna had not reappeared yet. He wondered what took her so long; it could not take a woman more than ten minutes to get undressed and change into a bikini – unless she was wearing layers and layers of clothing, which he doubted in Edna's case. The door opened at last and Edna stepped out, wearing only her purple bikini. She walked over to the beach towel and sat next to the Key Master, who was busy admiring her... and now probably planning to kill the author since she referred to the way he was gawking at her as "admiring". It seemed that Edna tried to ignore his stare but it was apparent she felt his eyes on her body, as indicated by her blush. She took a bottle of sunscreen and applied it to every centimeter of her skin she could reach.
"Could you do my back, please?", she requested, holding out the sunscreen towards the Key Master. He took it and squished some on his hand while Edna was turning her back towards him and moving her hair out of the way. Suddenly feeling awkward about touching her bare skin – since every other time he touched her was either her hand or was covered by her clothes – he applied her sunscreen.
"Thanks", she smiled at him while moving her hair back over her shoulder. "I can do your back. Well, there's no one else here who could do this, unless you're an exceptionally good acrobat."
"Since I never dreamed of a career in a circus, I have to disappoint you in this case", the Key Master retorted with an arched eyebrow and half a grin while applying his own body with the sunscreen. Like Edna offered, she helped him with his back.
"You know, we never finished our game of twenty questions", she suddenly pointed out. Wondering why she thought of that as if only an hour had passed instead of a day, the Key Master stared at her. He had actually completely forgotten about it and could not, in fact, remember whose turn it was to ask a question or how many each had asked so far. He was quick to tell her this, also adding:
"But feel free to ask a question or more."
"Well, there's something that occurred to me on our way here", Edna started, shifting a little to get into a more comfortable position. "You knew things about Doctor Marcel's asylum I didn't even know of despite you having been held in solitary confinement. You knew about King Adrian, how I could get clay, about Doctor Marcel's trophies and about me. How did you know all of this?"
"That is kind of a loaded question, Princess. I'm not sure I can even remember how I knew all this but let me try to recall my memories", the Key Master answered, looking up to the skies above. He heard Edna changing her sitting position and her letting out a relaxed sigh. A brief glance told him she lay down on her back, also looking up to the endless azure sky. The Key Master closed his eyes in an attempt to visualize his memories. It seemed to work because he saw a younger version of himself – approximately seventeen years old – in an office. His skin complexion was much healthier, he was even a little tanned. There was no beard in his face and his brown hair was cropped short. His back was turned to a fireplace; a few photos are displayed on the mantelpiece and an article of an old issue of the local newspaper hang on the wall above the fireplace. If he were to look to his left, he would see a diploma on the wall and above it a collection of trophies, made of genuine gold, behind safety glass. Straight ahead of him was the view out of the window, showing a spectacular view of the landscape surrounding the village on a fine summer day, not unlike the one in the present. Tilting his head slightly down, he saw Doctor Marcel sitting behind his desk. This was when the memory ended and the Key Master was back in present day. He moved his hand to his forehead and frowned at the lavender colored beach towel while one question floated through his mind. Just what the hell was he doing in Doctor Marcel's office? It did not look like he was a patient yet; it looked actually more like a job interview... The Key Master thought of the possibility of having worked there as an intern or, alternatively, having a summer job there once. Why he ever wanted to work there, he could not tell; perhaps it was the only post available at the time. He tried to remember some more... It was around this time he started to go to driving school. Of course! He was already saving up money so he would be able to afford a car when he has the license and there was an offer for a summer job in the archives to sort files and documents. The memory of how boring the job was returned to him as well as the memory of how he would sometimes walk around the halls during lunch breaks. Well, at least he had earned some money, it could have been worse. But this would perhaps explain how he knew of the asylum's layout, the clayey soil the building was constructed on, and of Doctor Marcel's trophies. Still did not explain how he knew of King Adrian and his gold medal or Doctor Marcel's obsession with Edna. The Key Master's gaze fell upon the young woman lying next to him. He wondered if he ever met her during the few weeks he was working in the institution. As if feeling his stare, Edna eyed him with curiosity.
"What is it? Is there something on my face? Or do you just like my body?"
Her cheeks were tinted pink while she asked the last question but her expression remained the same. The Key Master wondered how often she blushed on a daily basis.
"While I can't deny you have a nice body –" Edna's cheeks turned from pink to red and he asked himself why he just said that "– I was thinking about something else."
Edna sat up and turned her every being towards the Key Master, looking at him with great interest.
"What were you thinking about?"
"Whether we ever actually met, long before our successful breakout", the Key Master replied. After noticing Edna's confused look, he added: "I remembered I once had a summer job at the asylum."
"You... you had a summer job there once!?", Edna repeated, barely managing to get the words out. She put on a thoughtful face and continued: "That explains how you knew some things despite having been in solitary confinement."
"You didn't happen to have tried to escape and happened upon me, did you?", the pale green man wondered aloud.
"I'm afraid I can't remember unless you tell me the dates you worked there and even then, I don't know if I can tell whether I saw you or not."
"It must have been the late Nineties, I was old enough to attend driving school" the Key Master told her. He watched Edna as she tried to recall her memory; she closed her eyes, scratched her chin and even stood up and walked around in circles. Eventually, she sat back down and shook her head:
"Nope, can't remember. Perhaps I would if you've been green-skinned back then but I highly doubt it. Doesn't help that not all of my memories have returned yet."
"Yeah... if only we hadn't lost our memories...", the Key Master sighed and stood up. He walked to the pond and jumped in, with Edna joining him a minute later. The cool water felt great in this heat, it was just what he needed. It had been too long since the last time he was swimming like a fish. There were some things one could not forget and swimming was one of them but he had forgotten how enjoyable it was too be in cool water on a hot summer day.
"It's great, isn't it?", Edna beamed, moving her wet hair out of her face.
"Yes, it is", he agreed with her, though his voice sounded anything but enthusiastic. He was still thinking of the brief time he worked for Doctor Marcel. It just felt wrong, like he was once a member of an evil empire. For all he knew, he might still be working for him if he had never ended up in there as a patient. Then again, his job in the archives was dreadfully dull, so he doubted he would have wanted to work there. If anything, he always had the desire to do satisfying work, something he knew he did something at the end of the day. The Key Master could only imagine himself doing manual work, perhaps even something that involved creativity. His train of thought was suddenly interrupted by a small wave of cold water hitting his face.
"Hey!", he exclaimed while Edna was laughing out loud. His eyes glinting at her, he swam towards her and she tried to escape. The way they swam in circles, with him chasing her, had reminiscences of cat and mouse. It seemed like it would go on and on until the Key Master dove under the surface. Edna stopped swimming and looked around, calling out for him:
"Key Mas- AH!"
During the short time he was under the water, he had come closer, so that he was just centimeters away from her. When she began to call his nickname, he resurfaced and grabbed her around the waist. After her initial shock had subdued, her joyous laughing filled his ears.
"Y-you got me... ha ha ha! I... I... hee hee... give uhahahap! Let me... hee hee... go!", she gasped between her laughter. The Key Master pretended to think about this.
"Hm no, I think I'm holding you captive for a little longer", he smirked. Even though he would never admit it to himself, he actually liked holding her. It had been so long since he held a person in his arms he forgot how it felt... like home. Edna did not seem to mind it. Quite the opposite actually; she turned around in his arms so that she was actually facing him and placed her hands on his shoulders.
"Are you holding me captive now?", the young woman grinned.
"What would you do if I confirm it?", he answered her question the one of his own. She shrugged.
"You won't try to hurt me, will you?", the Key Master's face came closer. Edna gazed at him with mesmerized eyes.
"No, I couldn't forgive myself if I did", she said in a low voice, also coming closer.
"Then yes, I am holding you captive... but only if you don't mind..."
He was only a few centimeters away from her.
"Somehow, I don't mind it..."
Their foreheads were now touching but it seemed they were still coming closer. Neither of them seemed to realize this, they were lost in their own little world. The Key Master's heart pounded so fast and loudly, he would have wondered if Edna could hear it if his thoughts were not clouded. Their lips were only separated by a few mere millimeters when they realized what they were about to do. They jumped apart, their faces as red as a ripe tomato. What was the matter with him? Why did he almost force himself upon her? It was not like him to act so irrational – unless it involved doing someone in, but that thought had never crossed his mind all day long. He dared to take a good look at her. She had a hand placed over her heart, probably to calm it down, and she had her eyes closed. Her breathing was heavy and slightly irregular. She moved her other hand slowly to her lips and touched them, as if she could not believe what almost happened. The Key Master expected her to shout at him, to tell him to get out of her sight and that she would tell the authorities of his whereabouts but nothing came from her. Edna still floated in the water as silent as a grave... and mayhap even quieter than some of what one would find in a grave. The Key Master started to wonder if he had perhaps broken her brain.
She looked up at last with her mouth wide open; otherwise there was no indication that she had registered him calling her name. It was a pretty awkward moment; neither of them knew what to do or to say.
"Let's just pretend this didn't happen", the Key Master finished. Something flashed in Edna's eyes for a brief moment and, perhaps it was just his imagination, the corners of her mouth, which she had closed now, turned downward a little. Wordlessly, she nodded in agreement. The Key Master sincerely hoped things would not get awkward between them. He did not want to lose the friendship they shared, he valued it too much.
"Let's just keep swimming, okay?", Edna finally spoke up. "It won't be long until I have to get ready for work."
Without waiting for an answer, she started swimming around in circles. The Key Master could hear a little song coming from her lips, always the same three words: "Just keep swimming". He did not know this song or if she even just made it up on the spot but he nevertheless decided to heed those words and swam around.
Soon, he stopped thinking about the incident and concentrated only on swimming. He found himself wishing he were at an actual beach since he felt cramped in the pond, despite its size. But maybe this was also good for him, seeing it was the first time since the early Two Thousands he went swimming. Of course he was out of practice; who would not be? Maybe he should escape to an area close to the beach when it was time for him to flee abroad. But he could imagine he would tell the single person he trusted where he would be living once he had chosen where he would be going.
"Key Master, I think it's time for us to be going now", Edna spoke up after about an hour.
"Alright", he replied, getting out of the water, along with her. Edna had also taken some additional towels with her, which they used to dry themselves off before going into the house and changing clothes. Once again, the Key Master was done sooner than her, so he packed everything up and waited for her. When she appeared, they headed back to her apartment.
"Well, I'll be going to work now", Edna announced. They had hung up their swimming clothes shortly after they arrived at their destination.
"Alright, see you later", the Key Master acknowledged. "But don't you have to have to wear work clothes?"
"I always change at my workplace", she explained. "Anyway, maybe you could get some furniture pieces to your house... or you could watch a movie. Whatever you decide, I'll leave you the spare key here." She held the object in question aloft and placed it on the table in the living room. "See you later."
Edna left the building and walked to her workplace at a moderate pace. Her thoughts kept drifting back to that one moment in the pond earlier. The fact that he wanted to pretend nothing happened between them disappointed her and she could not even tell why she felt this way. Although she tried not to think about it, she could not help it and she could not need a distraction. The only reason her boss did not fire her was that Tina, who was conveniently his niece, convinced him to give her another chance. But Edna had her doubts it would work a second time. She would need to find a new job if she were to be fired but who would want to employ a woman in her twenties who could only work on weekends and during school vacation because she was attending school? If one thought about it, it was quite pathetic that a person, who should already be actually employed somewhere, still attended an educational establishment that was not the university. Edna looked at the people around her, all who had both their feet on the ground or who were about to. Seeing them made her feel isolated from the world around her. She was just one dirty little spot in a well established society. Only her friends kept her from ever becoming as depressive as Peter and they helped her finding joy in her life when she was feeling down. She remembered that one song from The Sound of Music, it was called My Favorite Things. If she were to sing her own version of the song, she would change the lyrics so that her friends were mentioned first, followed by dessert, being outside, art, mayhem and besmirching Doctor Marcel's worldly goods. Not that Edna thought she had a great singing voice, she did not really like the way she sounded when she sang. That was why she only rarely let a song escape her mouth and rather listened to music. And now she was wondering why she was even thinking about music at all. It was time for her to focus on her work, unless she wanted the orders to get mixed up or even decorate a patron with food. While it would be hilarious, it would do her as well as the restaurant no good and she preferred not to see her boss when he was mad at her. Well, she saw him very seldom anyway but if she did see him she would want him to not feel any negative emotions towards her.
Edna arrived at her workplace and quickly got changed. She tied her hair together in a loose ponytail to avoid it falling in her face and then went to the main area, where she started her duty as a waitress.
It was hard to believe it was already evening as it did not look any different than it did in the afternoon. Still, it was time for Doctor Marcel to return home. The guards who were currently responsible to watch over the patients during the day were already home or about to and his employees for the nightshift had taken their place. They had instruction to only call him if there were any severe problems, like patients escaping the premises, which only Edna and four others managed so far and no one else since then. Nonetheless, it was better to be safe than sorry, as Doctor Marcel had learned from the incident. The old man rolled down to the ground floor, already thinking of the pipe he would be smoking and the book about psychology he would be reading at home. His driver was already waiting for him at the foot of the ramp. Doctor Marcel acknowledged him with a nod and rolled down, so that he was next to the blue clad man. They left the institution together and, like earlier the day and any other day, the driver helped the doctor into his limousine. He hated being disabled, it made him feel like he could not display power towards his patients and suppress them. He was just an old man stuck in a wheelchair, only able to see with a single eye. Edna was going to pay for this and everything else she ever did. He wanted to make her suffer, to take everything and everyone that was important to her away from her. If only there was a way to find all these things out...
The vehicle stopped and Doctor Marcel heard his driver getting out of the car. A moment later, his door opened and his driver helped him out. His driver accompanied him to the front door and opened it for the doctor.
"I'm going home now", he announced, to which Doctor Marcel only nodded in acknowledgement. The old, disabled man rolled into his house, hearing his driver closing the door behind him, and made his way to his study. During the ride home, he remembered he had to type up the registration form for an upcoming therapy session. He opted to first write a draft before relaxing with a pipe and a good book. It was not easy to maneuver through his study as the majority of the space was taken up by file cabinets, therefore he only moved slowly forward. Just recently, he accidentally bumped into one cabinet, causing several files and documents to be scattered all over the floor. Fortunately, his driver had cleaned it all up and put them back into their respective places on the evening after work hours that day. Perhaps he should get rid of some of the files here, at least the unimportant ones, but, like with the archive in his institution, he did not see why he should. A better alternative would be to move his computer, or even the whole study, to a bigger room, like the basement, where Ruben used to live in. Doctor Marcel had pretty much banned his oldest son from living under his roof when he turned eighteen. Still, he allowed him to live underneath his asylum as long as he did not expose his identity to anyone. So far, only a policeman knew of Ruben's existence. Well, his old neighbors too but Doctor Marcel told them all that he sent Ruben to a boarding school when they asked about his sudden absence. The questions eventually stopped and most people seemed to have forgotten that Doctor Marcel had more than one son. Not that it was any of their business.
The doctor opened a document on his computer. What was the therapy session about again? Oh yes, superiority complex! Wanting to finish the first draft as quickly as possible, he began typing up the form. He did not particularly like the idea of having therapy sessions in his establishment; it was easier to just keep the patients in the asylum and let them go to a therapy once every few months. Only special patients had regular therapy session and that was only for his own gain. Doctor Marcel did not care at all whether his patients were ever cured or not.
While Edna was at work, the Key Master had done what she suggested and brought some parts of the new closet to his hideout. It was not much since he had to make sure no one was following him and the streets were still filled with people. Thus, he only took small parts, which he could hide under his jacket, to his place. He would carry the bigger parts with Edna's help later when it was dark and no one was out. Until then, he would be passing the time doing something else, maybe watching a movie. This was the reason why he stood in front of the shelf filled with DVDs and Blu Rays. Some of the motion pictures, he knew but others were completely unknown to him. A third Toy Story movie? When did that come out? Eight Harry Potter movies? He always expected there to be seven. Why was there an eighth movie? And why was he expecting seven movies? Since when does a film based on the seventh Final Fantasy game exist? He had vague memories of seeing the game in stores but never played it. The Key Master wished he knew what to watch as he was unable to decide. It did not help that most were either musicals or animation or both, which were not exactly his cup of tea. But for all he knew, some of the motion pictures could be really great.
"Aw the hell", he muttered and closed his eyes, blindly taking one. Opening them, he found a blue DVD box picturing two fish and a turtle. The title was Finding Nemo. In hopes it would be an enjoyable way to pass the time, he placed the plastic disc into the movie player and started the movie when the main menu popped up. Already after a few short minutes, he realized it was not going to be a boring movie. The Key Master did not think he would call it his favorite film but it was definitely not the worst he had ever seen. No, he remembered having seen Titanic and that was awful. He never understood why women love it... and Dirty Dancing. These two got to be the most boring films he had ever been forced to watch. The memories of them were the only ones he would gladly forget for the rest of his life. But so far, he found himself liking Finding Nemo. It had charm and beautiful visuals... and he found himself chuckling when a couple of kids called a boat a "butt". The Key Master could not deny he kind of admired Marlin for swimming through the ocean in search of his son, despite being afraid of about everything and having a companion, who could not remember anything for more than five seconds. That was the definition of father's love and determination.
"I'm back!", he suddenly heard Edna call during the scene with the jellyfish. A moment later, she appeared behind him and watched for a few minute before climbing over the backrest. The Key Master glanced at her, noticing she wore a different outfit than a few hours ago. When she left for work, she wore a dark green shirt and blue jeans but now she was wearing pale blue dress that ended just above her kneecaps and a white apron. He presumed those were her work clothes.
"Um, how come you haven't changed back into your everyday clothes?", the Key Master asked.
"I was too lazy to", Edna replied, grinning sheepishly. "Just let me rest for a while, before I change my clothes."
"But not into your pajamas, please. I would like to bring the materials for the closet to my hideout and I'm gonna need your help."
"Alright", she agreed. The both of them continued watching the movie, with Edna eventually leaning against the Key Master. He gave her a puzzled look but did nothing else; he just let her be close to him. He assumed she was not angry because of the incident earlier in the pond or that she had already forgotten about it... His non-existent money was on the former. But her action caused his mind to run a thousand miles per hour. He considered putting an arm around her. How would she react? Would she be mad? Or not mind it at all? And why was he even thinking about this? Edna was just a friend to him, nothing more. Perhaps she was tired from work and wanted to get comfortable. Yes, that had to be it, he thought during the scene where the dentist decided to clean the tank. Both he and Edna laughed when the dentist wiped the dirt on his finger off on his patient. He was glad he picked out such a funny film, he needed a good laugh and he got plenty of amusement from this movie.
"Did you like it?", Edna asked when the credits started rolling.
"It was good", the Key Master replied while the young woman next to him sat up and stretched. "It's certainly one I wouldn't mind watching again."
"I know what you mean", Edna nodded while standing up. "I feel like this towards most of the movies from the Pixar Studios, weirdly enough. Well, I'm getting changed now."
She took her bag she left on the floor behind the couch and left the room. The Key Master pressed the stop button, opened the player and took the DVD out, putting it back into its case and into the shelf. While he was turning the television off, Edna returned, clad in her everyday clothes. It was dark outside; less likely people would be walking around and seeing them carrying large wooden pieces towards the forest. The strange looks those people would give them was the last thing they needed. Putting on their shoes and jackets, since it was still cold at night, they left the apartment and took the elevator to the ground floor. The moment they stepped out, they took the stairs to the basement and took the materials for the closet after turning on the light. They Key Master noticed the uncomfortable expression on Edna's face. He pondered what this was about while turning off the light and leaving the basement.
Quietly, they stepped out into the night. The streets were empty, not a sound was to be heard. A gentle breeze caressed both the Key Master and Edna's faces. He looked up to the skies above, seeing countless stars twinkling in night. His eyes fell to the streetlights and he just remembered something:
"How can we go through the thick forest in the middle of the night without a light?"
"I know the way by heart", Edna responded. "Just keep close to me; I'm sure I can find the way in the dark."
"Okay", the Key Master said slowly. He was still unsure about this. He was of the opinion that they should have taken a flashlight with them. Apparently, Edna heard the uncertainty in his voice because she added:
"Just trust me; I walked the way so often I could go the way with my eyes closed."
"Still doesn't reassure me", the Key Master retorted. Edna sighed.
"Just trust me, okay?"
The Key Master wondered if she really had memorized the path to his hideout that well over the course of one week. Nonetheless, he decided to trust her. After all, he had no reason not to. He never had a reason not to. With their minds set on bringing those big, heavy parts to his house and get back to Edna's home, they kept their trek trough the town and woods on.
"You know, if we would be in the skies right now, we'd be trekking through the stars", Edna suddenly pointed out when the Key Master had the feeling they were almost there. He raised an eyebrow at the shadowy form that was Edna:
"And you're saying it because..."
He saw her shoulders moving up and down in the dark and heard her response:
Without further ado, they kept on walking. Maybe it was his imagination, but the Key Master felt the rest of the way was quite short, like they only walked for five minutes. Then again, it was not like they just leisurely sauntered through the forest but kept a constant pace. He noticed how the trees thinned out until the hill came into view. At the foot of the hill, he could barely make out his house in the dark. Out here without any artificial light, they had a better view at the stars than in town. However, none of them really noticed it since they were too occupied with carrying the materials. The Key Master put the parts he was carrying down when they reached the house to open the door. He let Edna enter first, like a gentleman would, and followed her.
"Just lean everything against something. I will tidy up tomorrow", the Key Master instructed while leaning the materials against a wall. He could see how Edna did the same and then turned towards him:
"Should we stay here tonight or go back?"
"Let's go back, it would be inconvenient for various reasons to sleep here tonight", the Key Master replied.
The way back was quick and quiet since both were exhausted and just wanted to rest for the night. Edna thought of taking Harvey back to her room. She was still a little mad at him but it was not as bad as it was the day before. Maybe the bath and hanging in the bathroom all day long was enough to make him understand he should not talk to her about the Key Master the way he did. The hatred and jealousy in the rabbit's voice was just too much for Edna, like she barely knew him anymore. It still confused Edna why Harvey only behaved like this towards the Key Master and Alfred but not towards any of her other friends. Well, he made a degrading comment or two about Tina shortly after moving in with her but stopped when both he and Edna got to know her better. There were often times when Edna pondered if the time they were separated had more negative effects on him than she initially thought. Harvey never told her what happened; she only knew he was used by Doctor Marcel as a hypnosis tool. But over the last week, Edna realized how much a person can change over the years. The Key Master had changed, for example, because a few years ago, he would have derided her and treated her like a small child. Now he saw and treated her like an equal and actually depended on her help. Not that he had many options for the latter.
"I'm getting ready for bed now!" Edna announced after entering her apartment and taking off shoes and jacket. She let out a loud yawn while heading over to the bathroom. While brushing her teeth, she kept glancing towards Harvey, who refused to look at her. Ostensibly, he was still angry at her. Edna refrained herself from sighing in exasperation; he was obviously an immature figment of her imagination. Maybe she should just talk to him.
"Oh Harv, you can't still be mad about yesterday and today, can you?", Edna questioned while releasing him from the clothesline he hung on with his ears since that morning.
"Oh yes I can. You forced me to bath and hung me up by my ears!", he responded dramatically, raising his voice.
"You know it was time to wash you and you never complained when I held you by your ears", Edna pointed out.
"That's an entirely different matter!"
"Do you want to keep hanging around in the bathroom?"
"Then don't be such a drama queen", the finality in Edna's voice made Harvey to keep quiet. Giving him one brief penetrating look, she left with him the bathroom. She did not want to be fighting with him anymore. There were things about her he had to accept as there were things she had to accept about him. The Key Master had already changed for bed. While he was waiting for her to finish, he read a Captain Useless comic book. Edna bade him good night and went into her room, where she placed Harvey on her bed. She joined him a minute later after having changed into her pajamas. For a moment, she thought about telling Harvey what almost transpired earlier at the Key Master's hideout but quickly decided against it. In the end, it would only lead to another fight and that was the last thing she needed.
The bright sun greeted the Sunday with a touch of its warm rays, announcing another beautiful day. It was hard to believe there had been a downpour on Friday night. Every single trace of the rain was gone; only the knowledge that the plants had plenty of water remained. It was a shame that it was Sunday, the next day meant to be going to work or school again, so only the fewest could enjoy the day at its fullest. Even though she was still asleep, Edna was aware she was not among those few. She groaned when she felt the rays of the sunlight and hid her head under her bedcovers, blocking it out. It was too early to be getting up, like she went to sleep only a second ago. The previous day was just too exhausting for this young woman; summer vacation could not come fast enough. Edna slept on peacefully, for a minute or an hour, she did not know how long. But sooner or later, she woke up with one long, loud yawn. She sat up, sleepily looking around her room as if to orient herself.
"Morning Harvey", Edna greeted the blue rabbit.
"Morning? We just went to bed", he replied sleepily. Edna decided to let him sleep for a little longer. She got up and went to the living room, where the Key Master was still sleeping on the couch. He was too big to lying on this seating accommodation; he had to curl himself up to lay there somewhat. However, he looked like he could fall off easily if he made the wrong move. Edna now wished she had insisted on her sleeping on the couch and him letting sleep in her bed. She was smaller than him and her bed as big enough for him. Crouching down in front of the Key Master, she took a good look at his face. She chuckled. In her opinion, he looked kind of cute when he was sleeping. His hair fell on his face. She reached out to move it away when his hand suddenly grabbed hers.
"What are you laughing about?", he questioned her. Edna's eyes widened in shock.
"I thought you were still sleeping!"
"No, I woke up when I heard you leaving your room", the Key Master replied, sitting up and pulling Edna up to him on the couch. "Now tell me, what was so funny?"
"I don't think you really wanna know", Edna responded, chuckling nervously and playing with her hair with her free hand.
"Not really...", Edna shook her head when she replied. "But if you really want to know..." A light blush appeared on her cheeks. This seemed to be happening often when she was around the Key Master. "... I chuckled because I thought you look cute when you sleep."
Even the Key Master seemed to be unable to give a response. He just stared at her in astonishment. Edna reciprocated his look with a nervous grin. The word "awkward" kept flying around in her head. Maybe she should not have said anything; the man next to her seemed to be speechless. The Key Master cleared his throat and looked down on his lap.
"That's, um, interesting to know", he mumbled, sounding quite embarrassed. Edna tilted her head a little, noticing he was blushing too. Awkwardness early in the morning, she was sure none of them expected this.
"Um... uh... how about breakfast?", Edna proposed in an attempt to break the silence.
"Fine by me", the Key Master responded, looking at her again. The blush on his face was gone. Edna nodded and was about to stand up when she noticed the Key Master was still holding her hand.
"Um...", she began, staring at their hands. The Key Master looked quizzically at her before tilting his head downwards and seeing what she saw. He released her hand. Edna suddenly felt disappointed about this but tried to not show it. She simply stood up and walked to the kitchen.
Breakfast was over in the mental institution, the guards escorted the patients to the recreation room or to their cells. Each and every guard had to keep their eyes on them, as they tended to sneak away and escape. The latter never worked but none of the employees wanted to be reprimanded by Doctor Marcel and some even felt sympathy towards the patients since the doctor's methods to punish them were not on par with their morals and ethics. Of course, some of them could not care less what happened to the loonies. All they cared about getting their wages, not the general welfare of the patients. These guards were only concerned about their job – some of them were loyal to only Doctor Marcel and not to anybody else – and not about the on goings in this establishment. However, most did not like their employer, which was why they had a photo of him attached to the darts boards in the break room.
"In with y'all! Come on, we don't have all day!", one guard barked at the majority of the patients as he let them into the recreation room. His colleagues, meanwhile, brought the rest of them to their cells.
"Another day in paradise", the Beeman noted with sarcasm dripping his voice after the guards were gone. Opting not to let it trouble him, he joined a few others playing one of the many board games they had here. King Adrian was in his residence, which was guarded vigilantly by Drogglejug. Professor Nock hid behind an armchair in the corner of the television room and watched with Petra, who was sitting on the couch, one of the many Land Before Time movies. On the next floor, in a solitary cell, was Miranya, still being forced to sew rag doll rabbit. She was sure she already made over a billion of them and still, the doctor was not satisfied. Just how many did he need and what for? The same question was simultaneously asked by four patients locked in a cell in a tower, although it was in regards of darts and it did not feel to them like they made over a billion. Unless one was among the few lackeys Doctor Marcel trusted, no one knew what was going on and why he enslaved at least five patients to manufacture a countless amount of two things. So, it was no wonder why many people close to the asylum, whether employee or patient, pondered how a man like Doctor Marcel could become a psychiatrist and run a mental institution.
"You know, it would do Doctor Marcel well if he were visited by the Phantom", one guard, named Benjamin, or Ben for short, casually mentioned. He was one of the few who hated his employer and felt sympathy towards the patients.
"If he can be scared at all, Ben", the only other person in the surveillance room, in which they were currently located, pointed out.
"Yeah", Ben rolled his eyes. "But you can't deny it, Amy. You think he deserves to be scared too."
"Of course, I do. Anyway, the therapy session starts in a few minutes and it would do no good if the therapist would not be there", Amy kissed Ben on the cheek and left the surveillance room, greeting René, who was entering the room, on her way out. Ben turned his attention back to the monitors, only nodding at his colleague in greeting. He did not know what to make of René and thus dared not to talk about his hatred towards Doctor Marcel when he was around. For all he knew, René could be among the doctor's inner circle and if he would tell him what he, Ben, thought of the doctor, he might as well pack his stuff. Still, René was more likeable than Hulgor or Babbitt or, worse, Anes.
"Anything unusual happening, Ben?", the man with the sideburns asked while filling a cup with water.
"No, everything is as normal as it can be in an asylum", Ben replied, still looking at the monitors. He turned around to René and added: "How come there are only a few therapy sessions around here? Amy spends more time driving to other institutions that are miles away than here."
"I don't know, sorry", René replied in his laid-back voice, although a hint of compassion could barely be heard. Ben sighed ruefully. He hated it that his girlfriend had to travel long distances just so she could do her job. Plans to move away to another location were in the making but, due to their inconvenient work hours and the distances Amy had to drive from time to time, it was an agonizingly slow process. But one day, they would find a better workplace, hopefully with a nicer employer.
After a nice long breakfast consisting of pancakes, which Edna had made, and coffee, it was time for the Key Master to leave for his hideout. He had his things packed soon after taking care of his personal hygiene and was now in the hallway, saying good bye to Edna.
"Thanks for the invite, it was nice to not be alone all day long", he said.
"Maybe we could repeat it soon? I liked your company", Edna replied. She held an cordless drill in her hand and gave it to the Key Master. "I think you're going to need it when you're assembling the closet together."
"Ah yes, I could really need this", he responded, taking and pocketing it.
"I might come visit you later, but I'm not sure if I can find the time", Edna said. She averted her eyes. It was difficult for her to say good bye to him, she had already gotten used to the thought he was living under the same roof as her.
"Well then, until later or tomorrow", the Key Master said. He turned around and opened the door when Edna suddenly and instinctively called out "Wait!"
He stopped and turned towards her again only for her to put her arms around him in an embrace. She felt him stiffen but he relaxed a second later and hugged her back.
"See you soon."
Edna let him go and the Key Master, with one last grin towards her, opened the door and left. She hoped he would get home without any incidents happening along the way. Quite a few people were out and about at this time of the day, so there was a risk he would be recognized by someone. Edna kept her fingers crossed that it would not be happening. Spending her time with him had gotten a part of her daily life over the last week; she would not know what to do with her time. It was weird, she thought while putting the leftover pancakes in the refrigerator, when she first saw him again, she expected she would want to spend as little time as possible with him. But now, it was hard for her to imagine not having the Key Master around.
Edna returned to her room and took the drawings she made the previous day, skimming through them.
"What are you doing there, Edna?", Harvey questioned from his spot on the bed. The purple haired girl looked up from her artworks and over to her lagomorph rag doll.
"Just deciding which one I should give more details and color for Art class", she replied.
"But Edna, it's warm outside and you're wasting your time in here!", Harvey exclaimed in shock. "You should go outside instead!"
Edna considered for a moment. It was indeed a beautiful day outside, a shame to be wasting it by being indoors. Yes, she should go and enjoy this day. She could always go through her drawings later.
"Okay, you convinced me", she agreed with her friend and put the drawings back on the desk. "Let's go outside."
She stood up and took Harvey and her cell phone with her. Technically, she could visit the Key Master, like she announced earlier, but he left not even thirty minutes ago. So, Edna decided it was better to let at least a few hours pass. A walk in the park was what she needed and maybe the fresh air could inspire her. So, with Harvey in her left hand, carried by his ears, with her cell phone in her pocket, she left the apartment complex.
Beautiful, lush, green – those were the three most appropriate words to describe the park. It was the prettiest place in town and a favorite location to hang out at. There was a playground in the park for children to spend their energy at, with several benches close by for the parents to keep watch. It was also popular to picnic around here, particularly near the duck pond, and one big meadow was perfect for doing sports or playing with the dog. However, the park also attracted weird and creepy types of people, like Heike or the old man who tried to convince Edna to go with him. She was fortunate the Key Master followed her; she shuddered to think what would have happened otherwise. People like that old man belong in a cell, unlike most of her friends she made in the asylum. They might have been loony, but at least they would not assault anyone – except maybe the bartender. Edna missed her friends from the asylum; it was actually fun to be around them. Not that she did not like the new friends she made over the years but it would great if all of her friends would meet. Perhaps one big picnic, though she would not let Petra take care of the food or anything else for that matter. Petra should actually never plan anything, especially surprise parties. Edna could still remember the birthday party she had organized for Peter vividly. Not something one would like for their own birthday. The only good thing about this was that Peter and Petra made a cute couple. Edna was the perfect matchmaker. Maybe Sebastian would heed her words and invite Bianca to his family vacation and they would end up together. Edna thought the two would deserve it; they would just be a sweet couple. Speaking of Bianca, Edna spotted her pale skinned, dark haired friend sitting on a bench not too far from her. She seemed to have noticed her too, since she was waving at her and calling her:
"Hi Bianca", Edna greeted back, approaching her friend and sitting down next to her. Judging from the big grin on Bianca's face, Edna suspected her to be in a good mood. "What's up?"
"Nothing except Sebastian invited me to join him on his family vacation", Bianca enthusiastically told Edna.
"Really? That's great!"
She was immensely happy for her friend. Bianca beamed at her.
"Yeah, isn't it?", the younger girl replied. Then she put on a rather curious expression. "Sebastian told me he saw you at Boutique de Vêtement and, according to him, it looked like you were waiting for somebody."
"Oh, I had an old friend of mine visiting and he needed some new socks. I was just waiting for him to finish his purchase."
Bianca had her narrowed eyes fixated on Edna for a good minute, making her feel a little uncomfortable. Edna wondered if she believed her. It was, after all, not the whole truth. But Bianca seemed to be satisfied with the answer and her smile reappeared on her face.
"Anyway, how's it going with your Art homework? What have you chosen?", she asked Edna.
"Pretty good, just needs color", Edna replied while stroking Harvey's ears. "I picked CD cover, though I did have trouble deciding for which bands and actually still have. What about you?"
Bianca nodded her head with an understanding smile on her face, though it quickly changed into a cheeky grin.
"Pity you didn't say you chose jewelry. That way I could have asked 'who are you and what have you done to Edna Konrad?'"
Edna chuckled at Bianca's little joke before quietly talking to her:
"Well, Heike tried to provoke me into choosing this. But I realized jewelry is just not my thing to design. I could try to but it wouldn't be me."
"Yeah I see what you mean. I would always choose something I feel more comfortable with."
"But of course, Heike just can't shut up. She's worse than Alfred."
Bianca stared questioningly at Edna.
"Just some frog face... and a friend from my childhood...", Edna sighed, suddenly feeling saddened. The knowledge of having killed her only friend was still a heavy weight on her shoulders. She never wanted this accident to happen.
"Let's... let's just talk about something else, okay?", Edna requested before Bianca could ask further questions, which she seemed to be about to do. "What are you planning to do during Summer vacation?"
"Well, I'm definitely joining Sebastian on his trip to France but that's the only thing I'm certain of", Bianca responded, looking up to the skies. "Guess I will decide spontaneously when the time comes."
"I don't know what I'll be doing either. All I know is that I'll be glad when vacation starts."
Edna also looked to the blue skies and watched the clouds passing by, slowly but surely. She thought that one cloud looked like a frog balancing a key on its head; another one looked like a rabbit spitting fire. Usually, Edna was not much of a cloud watcher – she always preferred activities that would get her dirty – but these shapes amused her. She sighed in content upon feeling a cool breeze on her face. No matter how many years had passed since her breakout, each moment outdoors felt like a treasure she could easily loose. If only the deaths of both her father and Alfred were not constantly on her mind. She tried not to show it but there were times when she just wanted to cry in grief. The feeling had been stronger when she thought the Key Master was also dead because of her and when she still blamed herself for the reverend's death but it had diminished since the former revealed himself to be alive and she realized it was not entirely her fault the latter was killed. Sometimes, during quiet moments while she attended the convent school, she wondered if the Key Master regretted having these urges to kill. He did lock himself up after he killed the reverend when he could have just fled and taken more lives. Perhaps the fact he showed a tiny little bit of remorse ultimately convinced Edna to give him a second chance. Besides, everybody should have the chance to walk the path of redemption. The only question was whether they redeem themselves or not but it seemed the Key Master was on the right track. Unless it was a ruse, which was something that worried Edna. She did not want to be used by him or anybody else. Something bumped against her foot, pulling her out of her reverie.
Edna looked down to see a red ball at her feet. She picked it up the moment the owner of the ball came running up to her. It was a little boy around the age of eight, who reminded Edna a little of Alfred. She did not show it but she got a little depressed at the thought of the frog face.
"Can I have my ball back, please?"
"Sure, little one", Edna responded, gently throwing the ball to the boy, who caught it. He thanked her and ran off to rejoin his friends. Edna watched the kids joyously running and playing around. Seeing them made her miss her childhood and Alfred so much it hurt. Even if she was often grounded and she often teased him, life was still somewhat easier back then than it was in present time.
"Hey, isn't this Gabrielle over there?", Bianca whispered, pointing towards a girl around her age with a tanned skin complexion and dark brown hair, clad in a red dress. Edna looked over to the young girl. She could not see her face, so it was hard for her to tell.
"I don't know, could be", she whispered back, her eyes on the girl. The girl in red turned around, enabling them to have a look on her face. It was indeed Gabrielle, who seemed to have noticed Edna and Bianca and approached them. She stopped right in front of them, with her hands on her hips, as if trying to appear tall.
"Well, well, well, who do we have here?", Gabrielle spoke sardonically. Bianca gave her a dull look.
"Cut that out, Gabrielle, Heike is nowhere around here. You don't have to pretend you hate us more than a stain on your dress."
Edna was confused, she always thought Gabrielle really hated them more than a stain on her dress. But why would she pretend to hate both her and Bianca? Gabrielle sighed, letting her shoulders fall.
"I know, but you never know if or when she appears", Gabrielle complained in exasperation. Edna wondered if Harvey had tempomorphed her into the wrong story. Was her thought that Gabrielle was loyal to Heike completely wrong? Ever since Edna knew Gabrielle, the latter showed nothing but contempt towards her. Now it was supposed to be a facade? This was quite unexpected.
"Why don't you just turn away from Heike? She is nothing but bad for you", Bianca advised Gabrielle. Edna alternatively stared at the two of them.
"And risk her wrath!? No way, not until we finished school and she's going to a different place than I am", Gabrielle exclaimed. "I should better go now before Heike appears and sees me talking with you."
She rushed off. The moment she was out of sight, Edna turned to Bianca:
"Just what was that about?"
"Oh yes, you don't know it but Gabrielle used to be decent... until Heike corrupted her", Bianca explained, sounding displeased at the last part. Edna was astonished. So Gabrielle was not so bad after all... It was all just Heike's fault. It would have been nice to have met Gabrielle before her corruption, maybe she would be among Edna's friends too.
"Is this the same case for everyone who's friends with Heike?", Edna questioned.
"Well, not everyone. Some really do hate you but I think a couple of them just don't have anything against you."
This new knowledge confused Edna. All this time she thought only Bianca and Sebastian were her friends at school, now it turned out only a few of those on Heike's side had something against her. What else was also a lie? Edna did not want come to any conclusions without any evidence.
"Really, what is this? A play?", Harvey commented about all this but Edna ignored him. She tried not to think about this, it was too much digest.
"Calm down... Don't have a relapse. You don't want to be killing again... Just think about something else."
The Key Master paced back and forth in his house, talking to himself. On his way back to his hideout, he saw the old man who harassed Edna just the other day. The sight of him made the Key Master's blood boil and his fingers twitched, wanting to snake them around the old man's throat and cut of his oxygen feed until he suffocated. He wanted to see the life in his eyes fading away until they were like windows of an abandoned house. But he had to control himself; he could not allow himself to have a relapse. He had been able to hold himself back for so long; it must not be for naught. Just why did he keep getting these urges to kill? He was not like this until a certain point in his life, one he could not even remember.
The Key Master groaned and slumped into the bed. He needed a distraction... If only Edna had also given him some art supplies. This would have been a nice distraction and his hideout would not look so empty. He let his eyes wander around the room. Even a university student had better looking accommodation than he did. His ocular organs fell on the materials for the closet he and Edna had brought here last night. She had given him an cordless drill. Perhaps he could assemble it together. The old closet was in such a bad shape, the wood could probably be used for the fireplace when it would get colder. That was, if he still lived here and had not gone abroad yet. He still had to decide where he would flee to, though he was tending towards one of the neighboring countries. However, it might be better to go to a country farther away. But it did not really matter, just as long as he could start a new life, one without the need to hide from authorities. The Key Master was getting tired of hiding letting the world pass by but he did not want to be locked up in a cell and he was not that desperate to commit suicide. Besides, there were always better ways to deal with life's struggles.
Opting to assemble the new closet, he stood up and took the manual, studying it. Afterwards, he first disassembled the old one and stacked the wooden parts up next to the fireplace. With the manual on the table, the Key Master took the materials and started assembling his new closet.
Edna and Harvey returned home around lunchtime. She had bought a lahmacun at a nearby kebab stand, which she intended to eat before finishing her Art homework. Harvey kept protesting she should not do her homework but instead buy a polo mallet and use it on everything she would see. Edna declined, though, for various reasons. Her lagomorph friend did not take it well and sulked since then.
"Oh Harvey, don't act so immature", Edna reproached him while entering her apartment. No answer. She sighed while shaking her head; he would probably never change – unless he would get those red eyes that, now that she thought about it, reminded her of Poozie's eyes. However, she had no time to dwell on that as a voice greeted her:
It was Tina, sitting in front of the television set and eating a Subway sandwich while watching Edward Scissorhands.
"Hey, how was your trip?", Edna greeted her housemate, joining her on the couch.
"It was nice to see some old friends again. Wish you could have come too", Tina responded before taking a bite from her sandwich. Edna simply shrugged and unwrapped her lahmacun. Tina made no other mention of it, probably because she was too busy eating and watching as was Edna. They could always talk after finishing these two things, without the distraction of Johnny Depp having scissors for hands. Well, at least the chubbier one of the two was distracted, while the other one was actually deep in thought. Edna knew Tina liked other music genres than she did and actually collected CDs with the soundtrack of movies as well as video games. Perhaps she could ask for help with her Art homework. Although Edna had already drawn various CD covers, she nevertheless wanted to ask her housemate for her opinion before she would ultimately decide on one. She thought of Heike and how this annoying person, who looked like she fell in a paint bucket, filled with every color in the world, could at least shut up about her having no fashion sense. In fact, Heike could shut up about everything. If it were not for the fact her parents were rich, the possibility of her having no friends would be great. But that was how life worked, money ruled the world. Still, Edna rather had just one true friend than a thousand false friends; she would always have someone to count on, Heike not.
"Um Tina, I need to ask a favor of you", Edna spoke up, after they both had finished eating and the movie was over. The credits ran on the television set, which the blond muted, so she could turn her full attention towards Edna.
"Well, our homework for the next Art class was to draw either a piece of jewelry or a CD cover", Edna began. Her housemate nodded to indicate she was with her. "Now, I decided for CD cover and I've already drawn up a couple of sketches but I can't decide which one to finish and, well, I thought I could ask you for your opinion. I know my kind of music is not your kind but you're not biased when it's about designing... except maybe fashion..."
Edna, who bit her bottom lip, looked with big eyes expectedly at Tina, who just hummed once but gave no other response. The latter pressed the Stop, then the Open/Close button on the remote and stood up to remove the DVD from the player. She put it back in its cover and to its place in the shelf. Only after doing all these things, she turned towards Edna and gave a response:
"Perhaps you could also draw up some for the kinds of music you don't listen to for a wider variety. Nevertheless, I would like to see what you have so far."
"So, you're going to help me?", Edna elatedly asked. Tina grinned and nodded with a simple "of course". She instructed Edna to get her drawings, empty sheets of paper, a pencil, a sharpener and an eraser while she was throwing the trash away. Edna compiled, leisurely sauntering into her room to gather all the items and returning a few minutes later. Both women took their seats at the table and began looking at Edna's designs, with Tina contributing her comments:
"This one looks awesome... could be better... beautiful... I just can't think of an adjective to describe this magnificent design... not quite... looks good, could be better... nope... oh, I like that one... nah... oh holy shit... no... this is great... beautiful... absolutely stunning."
Edna piled her designs onto two piles, based on Tina's reactions. The left pile were the ones Tina was not fond of and were therefore discarded while the right pile were the ones that would make it to the next round. This kind of sounded like a casting show... But the question remained, what other kinds of music could Edna draw CD covers for. A question she quickly asked her housemate, who suggested video game music or classical pieces of music. Well, the former in this case... Besides, they had a nice collection of video games, even though the majority belonged to Tina, so it was easier for her to think up a couple of designs. But she would rather listen to the soundtracks to make it easier for her. Edna voiced her request out loud and Tina was quick to put on some of her video game music. The young woman with the purple hair took a moment to listen to the music before taking the pencil and letting it glide over a piece of paper.
After spending several hours sketching, it was time for Edna to go to work. She would choose one either after her shift or the next day which one she would color, depending on how exhausted she was going to be. Edna took her time to get ready by taking a quick shower and then changing into her waitress clothes. Tina promised her to drive her to work and back, so Edna was not in such a hurry like she would usually be if she was running late. She wished she had a driver's license but she had decided not to attend a driver's school until she finished school. It would be just stressful for her, especially now with school, work and her daily visit to the Key Master. Besides, it was good to be walking around and not being confined in just one place, although she did not mind taking a ride now and then.
"Ready to go?", Tina asked after a refreshed and dressed Edna emerged from the bathroom.
"Just let me get my stuff", she replied and rushed to her room, returning a minute later with her items. With a "see you later" to Harvey, Edna followed Tina out of their apartment and the building and to the car. The ride to the Mare de Sol was short but filled with a conversation.
"Oh yes, Anika mentioned just yesterday it would be great if we all would hang out together in the near future", Edna told her housemate and driver.
"I'd like that. Hey, maybe you should invite Bianca too", Tina responded happily, keeping her eyes on the road. "We just need to agree when we hang out together. Personally, I think some time during the Summer vacation would be a good time."
"I could talk with Bianca and Anika about this", Edna said as the restaurant came into view. The moment Tina parked in the parking lot and Edna got out, the owner and Edna's boss came out of the building. He walked straight towards them while Tina left her car too.
"Tina, how's my favorite niece doing?", he greeted her.
"How many other nieces do you have, Uncle Manuel?", she retorted cheekily. It was only because Tina was Edna's boss's niece she got the job in the first place and could keep it.
"I just talked to with Nicole via Skype", Manuel told his niece. "She sends you her best regard from Vladvakistan."
"How is she doing over there?"
"Not bad, she just wished they would be more hygienic. They're not really known for being the cleanest folk in the world, you know."
"Yeah, I once read about this", Tina shrugged. "Anyway, send her my regard, too. I gotta go now. See you, Uncle. Until later, Edna."
She waved at them and went back into her car, driving off. Edna, who waved back, entered the restaurant, while her employer left for a short walk. She met a couple of colleagues in the employees' only area. One or two of them wrinkled up their noses, others just nodded at her in greeting. Only Anika did not greet her non-verbally. She approached Edna and gave her a one-armed hug:
"Hello, Edna. How was your day? Did you talk with Tina about our girl's day out?"
"Hi, Anika", Edna greeted her back. "To your questions: yes, I did talk with Tina. She suggested inviting Bianca too. And I had a nice day. How about you?"
They walked towards the main area while holding their conversation. So far, there were not that many guests yet, though they knew it was going to change soon.
"My day was great too. By the way, what does your friend say about the furniture he got from me and Gregor?"
"He's grateful you guys willingly gave him your furniture."
"Well, there wasn't enough space for it in our new apartment and no one else in our family had any need for them."
The two friends smiled at each other for a short moment before starting to wait on their patrons.