“Good morning, rise and shine! The early bird gets the worm and all that other jazz.” Destiny slowly opened her eyes to see a hyperactive Liliana standing at the foot of the bed, a huge smile plastered on her face. Her highlighted brown hair was down, still wavy from sleep. In her arms was a huge tray covered in a variety of food. Fresh cut fruit, sizzling bacon, juice, scrambled eggs and toast, and a large stack of pancakes.
“And good morning to you too, I suppose. You sure are chipper for it being so early.” The Fate raised an eyebrow at the shopkeeper. That was odd. From all she had learned about from humans through her books, they all seemed to hate waking up. But not this one. Then again, this was probably better. Destiny didn’t want to deal with a grumpy Liliana during her first day here.
Felix came running down the stairs, angrily whispering to his sister. For a grown man who just woke up wearing blue flannel pants and an old shirt, he pulled off the offended look rather well. “I thought I made you promise not to wake her up. What happened to that? You have dishonored the sacred pinky promise, and by doing so you have dishonored me.”
“But our guest needs breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day.” Liliana pouted and put the tray on a table and gestured for the redhead to help herself.
Felix rolled his eyes affectionately at his sister. “Sorry ’bout her. But I did warn you that she likes company.”
“I can see that.” Destiny laughed lightly in disbelief, taking in all the food. There was far too much. She was an Infinity; she didn’t need food. And even if she wanted it she never ate so early. “Thank you for all of this, but you didn’t have to go out of your way for little old me. There is no way I can eat all this.”
Liliana pointed to the table where she had placed the food tray. She must have come down here before Destiny woke up because there were paper plates and plastic utensils already set up. “Lucky for you I came prepared. There is plenty for all of us.”
Indeed, there was plenty of food for the three of them. But even after it had all been divided onto each of their plates there was still far too much left over. The remaining food was put away into plastic containers in the fridge.
Felix disappeared to get ready for work while the women stayed behind to clean up. Liliana was wiping down all the counters and putting everything back in order while Destiny washed the dishes used for cooking.
“I honestly can’t thank you enough for giving me a place to stay last night. I’ll pay you back somehow.” Destiny didn’t know exactly what she could do, but maybe she could convince Fortune to help them out somehow.
Liliana simply waved her off. “Nonsense, happy to help. Now what would you like for dinner?”
“Dinner?” Destiny was dumbfounded. Did the shop owner honestly expect her to stay that long? She had a task to do, a job for a Fate. She had stayed last night simply because Felix had insisted.
“Well, yeah. Felix said you didn’t have anywhere else to go, so you can stay as long as you need. Or at least until the holidays are over.” Liliana responded as though it were the simplest thing in the world, hardly even thinking twice about it. Then the shop owner went to humming a chirpy tune, leaving no room for arguments.
Destiny felt her heart swell with affection for the human. Such idle beings, yet such kind hearts. Perhaps she had made a friend after all. But then the Fate remembered basic human necessities, like food and money. Back in Òrìsà everything was provided for Infinities. But here in Ineôcâ the humans had to work for what they had. She simply couldn’t let herself take advantage of their hospitality. “I can’t, it’s not right. I can’t use up all your resources. How can I pay you back?”
Liliana pondered that issue for a moment, biting her thumb in thought. “Well, if you are that broken up about it we could have a compromise. Old Stuff is a bit short-staffed. I could give you a job in exchange for living arrangements.”
It certainly sounded fair, if she was a human. But it just so happened she was an Infinity. She still had a home at the Fate Mansion, there was no need to live with humans. And her sisters had given her a special task. But she had no idea where to begin. But it was Demise that had said it could be used as a weapon, and that was bad. But it couldn’t be used unless it was in the right hands.
Destiny turned back to Liliana, she had made up her mind. The human’s dark blue eyes sparkling in anticipation, waiting for an answer. “Sure, sounds great. When can I start?”
Felix came bouncing down the stairs, hair still wet. He was zipping up a grey hoodie over a red plaid shirt when he heard the news. A huge smile spread across his face, showing off his perfect teeth. “So you are gonna be working with us eh? Welcome to the team.”
Liliana smiled kindly, trying to hold in her excitement. “Okay then. Shop opens at ten, be in the car in half an hour.”
While Liliana got ready for the work day Felix gave her a tour of the house. Upstairs there was two bedrooms, an office with a bay window from floor to ceiling, and a bathroom. Downstairs was the kitchen, a living room, dining room, and a second bathroom.
It was a pretty basic basement, nothing too exciting. Storage tubs were stacked along the back wall and hidden by curtains. Destiny couldn’t help but notice a cardboard box in the corner. Along the side, written in neat sharpie, it was labeled PROMISE TO SELF: WILL USE THESE SOMEDAY. Peeking inside, Destiny found many picture frames in every size, ranging from basic to decorative to quotes along the side. All the frames still had the pictures that came with them of models pretending to be a family and doing family things. Apparently Liliana wanted picture memories, but she didn’t have enough people in her life to fill up the frames. She hadn’t seen her brother in fifteen years and her parents died when she was young, so she didn’t have any family photos. Considering she worked six days a week, she didn’t have much time to take pictures with friends if she even had any. Destiny frowned, what a sad life indeed. Fates were known for being workaholics, but even then they always made time for each other.
The house had just enough space for a typical family to live in. Destiny figured it must be the average size of a human’s home. Unlike Infinities humans actually had to work for their home, it wasn’t given to them. Destiny remembered at her Test of Classification how Liliana mentioned she had a roommate to help pay rent. So while they had enough money to survive, they weren’t as well off as some other humans.
Destiny had her fiery red hair pulled back in a bun, courtesy of Liliana. Though the brunette girl was a bit smaller, Felix had managed to rummage through the closet until he found something that would do for today. She would have been much happier in her own clothes, but it wasn’t as though she could exactly say ‘hey lemme just pop back to my home dimension really quick.’ So she borrowed for today, with the lie that her sisters would drop off her stuff tomorrow.
“Red one!” Felix hollered, running out the door first and playfully punching his sister’s arm. The family car was a red Volkswagen with black wheels. Liliana had nicknamed it the Ladybug. They all piled into the Ladybug and were off to work, no more than a fifteen-minute drive away.
They arrived a few minutes before ten, giving them enough time to give the newbie a tour. Liliana blabbered on about the historical significance about almost every large item. Most of their stuff was imported from Virginia, the home of history. The rest was donated from people getting rid of things their family members left behind when they passed away.
The Fate had been in the old antique shop a couple times before, but she had never really paid attention to the layout. An old blue painted door was set in the red-brown brick. Inside, up by the register there were the display cases with polished jewelry and knick knacks made from glass or painted porcelain. Behind those were the shelves with wooden clocks, typewriters, gramophones, and the like. In the back the dressers and china cabinets and chairs were set up over lovely rugs. Old tables were decorated with bronze kettles, silver spoons, and fine china dishes.
The first half of her shift was spent following the humans around like a shadow, learning what to do. But the Fate was a fast learner. Soon the siblings assigned Destiny a register of her own and Felix took the second one. Cashiering was easy, just ring up the merchandise and place it carefully in a bag so it didn’t break. The worst part was dealing with the customers. They were understanding and polite for the most part, everything a good customer should be. The problem was with Destiny. After an infinity of only being around her two sisters, this shop seemed far too crowded. She was fine during her test; she was fine when she was waiting for the case. But she was not required to talk to the people then. Now, having to communicate with each of them, it was overwhelming. All those beady little eyes from those in line, staring and wondering what was taking so long.
Destiny could feel her heartbeat quicken and her breath began to come out in shorter huffs. This must be that thing she had read about, anxiety. It was horrible, all she wanted to do was run away or throw up. But Destiny did neither, these humans were depending on her. She couldn’t let Liliana down, not after they had offered their home to her. So Destiny plastered a smile to her face and thought, what would Fortune do? So the Fate tried to keep her cool, stay pleasant.
To calm down she had a quick conversation with her sisters. Fortune was in Paris, helping out an aspiring chef. Demise was in Japan; a hurricane had just hit. It eased her, hearing her sisters’ familiar voices drifting around her head. She told them her situation and they told her to keep it up.
It was more busy work than it was hard work. A bit stressful at times, but what job wasn’t? It was far easier to this than it was to alter people’s lives like she had been doing the past week. This was a nice break. Old Stuff was fairly busy, so that made the day go by pretty quickly. At seven sharp the doors were locked and the sign was flipped to close. Though the nine hours had seemed like nothing to the Infinity, the two humans seemed rather worn out.
They piled into the Ladybug, sitting in silence for a moment before heading out. There were only three of them, so they had been fairly focused on the job and hadn’t had any time to socialize. They were all glad to be just the three of them again.
Liliana turned her head to the backseat as she started the car. “So that’s work for ya. Like it so far?”
Destiny shrugged and smiled, thinking back to when she had to stop that guy from jumping off a building because he was supposed to become the CEO of some cooperation. “It wasn’t that bad. I have had worse days. I actually liked this.”
Felix whipped his head around from the passenger seat and stared at the Fate in disbelief. “You are absolutely crazy, no doubt about it.”
“Probably. But life is more fun that way.” Well that certainly was not was she had expected to be coming out of her mouth. Great, now she sounded like one of Winchell’s creations instead of Ziarre’s.
The Ladybug pulled up to the taupe house in the cul-de-sac of Diamond Drive. They were eager for the promise of rest tonight, but not so thrilled about the same thing the next day. The three gathered around the small circular table for a quick pasta dinner.
“So tell me your story. What brings the two of you to own a shop in Middletown?” Destiny inquired between bites of food.
Liliana took a sip and dabbed her mouth with a napkin before speaking with eloquence. “Well I have lived here in Delaware my whole life. Our parents had a house up north, right on the edge of Middletown. But they died when I was eight, car crash in the middle of winter. Felix was twelve. My grandmother took me in, raised me up in this house. But she couldn’t afford both of us, Felix was sent to our aunt’s house. When my grandmother died she left me the house and the shop. I’ve been running it for a few years on my own now.”
Felix pretended to glare at his sister as he shook his head. “Yeah, she is the lucky one. Lili had it easy. I had to move all the way down to Missouri. And then to Michigan. Montana was beautiful, but Maine was far too rainy. I moved around a lot, Aunt Laelynn was an adventurous one, she never liked to stay in one place long.”
They were both just humans, but they still had a past, a story of their own. They had already opened up to her so much and given her so much. But she still had a job to do. If she just brought it up she should be perfectly fine.
“I can’t even begin to thank both of you enough. The job, the house, everything.”
Liliana stared at her as though the Fate had grown a second head. “Well yeah, of course we are willing to help. What are friends for?”
Destiny’s stomach clenched, the guilt was only growing. “I’m your friend?”
Felix shrugged, taking another bite of food. “Sure. I mean yeah, we haven’t known each other long. But considering you are living with us, I think it is safe to consider you a friend. Plus, there is a connection between the three of us, some force pulling us together. Liliana feels it too.”
Liliana smiled and nodded along to what her brother was saying. “Fate brought us together. I truly believe that. So might as well help her out and make it worth her while.”
Destiny almost choked on her food, quickly covering it up with taking a sip of water. She knew that some humans believed in the Concepts. But for her to personify them was shocking, Liliana didn’t know just how close to the truth she was. The Fate knew the connection they were talking about was just because she was the influence during her Test of Classification, but she was grateful for the kind words nonetheless.
She couldn’t stay here. It had only been a day and she was already growing attached. And they called her a friend. As much as she wanted a friend besides her sisters, this would not do. She could do an Infinity, they were immortal. Humans were weak, they could die. Demise was still hurting from her little roman friend; Destiny didn’t want to feel the same way. She had to do her job and get out of here, fast.
But how could she just abandon them after all this? She knew she would have to eventually; her sisters had left her a task. And she couldn’t disappoint them. But the longer she stayed the guiltier she would feel. Eventually she would have to tell them the full truth. About Being an Infinity, about her task, everything. But not yet. She had to do her job. And Destiny also kind of liked this simple life, a part of her wanted to hold onto it for as long as possible.
“So how is that pipe working out for you?” Liliana added as a side thought. Thank goodness, at least now her question would seem subtler.
Destiny shook her head and explained quickly. “Oh no, I do not smoke. I got it as a memoir. But I do have a question about it if you don’t mind.”
Liliana nodded slowly, internally debating on if she should be worried of not. “Okay… ask away. Shoot.”
Destiny reached for her coat pocket where the pipe in the case was hiding. She thought about bringing it out, but it didn’t feel right. Both Demise and Chance had said they felt the same pull to the pipe that Destiny herself felt. This pipe was for Infinities, not humans. “I was looking at that box after you gave it to me. I noticed in the corner it said MADE BY.”
Both siblings were staring at the Fate, waiting to hear the question. Liliana glanced to her brother and shrugged. “Well that’s not normal. But typos happen.”
Destiny nodded, slumping her shoulders. She tried not to let her disappointment show too much. What exactly was she expecting, for Liliana and Felix to have all the answers? They were only human after all. If even her sisters didn’t know then how was a human supposed to?
“Yeah I know. But do you by chance happen to know any history about it?” It was a fair question; the shop owner was a history buff. And Felix was the one who had actually sold it to her in the first place. But then Destiny just had to go about making herself sad by mentioning his name. The one Infinity she had met besides her sisters and she had blown the only hope of having a friend who wouldn’t die in seventy years or so.
Felix scratched his head and glanced down at his empty plate. “Sorry Des, Old Stuff is my sister’s shop, I just work there. I never was good at history in school.”
“And I’m just going to say what I told you when I gave it to you,” Liliana piped up. “I know it’s my shop and all, but I have no idea where that pipe came from. I had to run some errands, so I left this idiot in charge. When I get back he says he sold something that I have no record of. Then when we were grabbing things from storage he found the case and said that’s the one he sold.”
“So you don’t know where it came from?” Well this was at least a little progress.
“Nope. Wasn’t there when I left, and it was gone by the time I got back. Kinda weird, I probably just made a mistake with the paperwork. Sorry if you were looking for something more, but that’s all I know.”
No new information on where it came from or what it can do. But at least now Destiny knew she was meant to find the pipe. Someone or something had placed it there for her to find. It was her destiny. But Demise had hinted that this old thing could be dangerous, and Destiny didn’t understand that part. She didn’t consider herself to be a particularly violent Infinity. So why was this thing placed in her hands?
MADE BY. That was the only clue, the only thing to go off of. Whoever made it could have at least left a name. That would have made her task that much easier. How was she supposed to make the creator of the pipe destroy it if she didn’t even know who it was? Whoever it was was inconsiderate, making everyone’s job so much harder than it had to be.
There was no way it was a coincidence that the name wasn’t on the box. And now Destiny knew, it was all so clear. She couldn’t believe how blind she had been. Coincidence, that was her answer. And one specific one in particular.
“No worries, I was just curious.” Destiny brought herself out of her thoughts and turned her attention back to her hosts.
The mood in the room lightened immensely, the Fate hadn’t even noticed how dim it seemed until now. The lights reflected off the red walls, illuminating the small kitchen. Put that together with the black cabinets and countertops, and the lime green bar stool chair cushions, and the room resembled a watermelon.
“Well Miss Liliana Elysia Tavera, thank you for supper. It was miraculous as usual. But I am quite beat and must retire now. Goodnight ladies.” The girls rolled their eyes at Felix’s show.
Liliana’s lips curved into a half smile. “My pleasure Mr. Felix Gazali Tavera. You may join us any time.”
Destiny widened her eyes in surprise. “You are going to bed? But you slept not too long ago.”
Felix stopped, already halfway up the stairs. He tilted his head, staring at his house guest oddly. His chestnut head shook as he answered. “I have been awake for at least sixteen hours. It’s time to sleep.”
Liliana chuckled at the two of them as she gathered the dishes in the sink. “Well personally I think Felix has the right idea, it’s been a long day. That’s cool that you are a night owl, but do try and rest. Another big day tomorrow.”
Destiny smiled slightly. “And the next day and the next day.”
Liliana giggled and started walking away. “And then we get to close early Saturday and no work Sunday.”
And then she too went upstairs, leaving the Infinity alone in the kitchen. Good going Destiny, way to almost blow the cover. Humans existed in their bodies, they needed sleep every night. Infinity bodies existed over the essence, so sleep was not necessary. Human souls feed off the body, but Infinity bodies fed off the Abbaxa. How could Destiny have forgotten such a basic human thing?
The Fate returned to the human’s basement alone. Collapsing on the fold out couch she took the pipe case from her pocket and opened it, tracing her finger along the engravings and wondering what they all meant.