Chapter 34 - A Warm Welcome
Saraiya woke up to a dark room. It was to be expected though, after sleeping all day. She was just happy to finally get some rest. Even though she was able to quell her thoughts for those sleeping hours, her mind went straight back into a frenzied mode. However, she was able to repress it more than before; it was manageable.
She snapped her eyes onto her alarm clock and took a deep breath. Natch hadn’t got off of his shift yet, she could still drag him along back to Lyros.
Changing from her flannel pants and baggy shirt, she put on tattered jeans and a tank top and ran through her house and out the door.
Her car started up and she headed out onto the bumpy road. No one stood outside their homes and watched her today. She continued down to Nha-Stop, passing Lars’s truck coming back into the trailer park.
The N on the Nha-Stop sign flickered atop the building as she pulled into the parking lot. She parked next to Natch’s car and walked inside the establishment.
The too familiar scent of convenience store goods wafted through the air mixed in with an annoying overplayed pop song.
“Oh hey Saraiya, what’re you doing here again on your day off?” Natch stood, slacking off behind the counter.
“Did you already forget?” She frowned.
“...Oh, oh yeah. No, no, I remembered.” His smile wavered. “Yeah, I can head down to Lyros once I am off in, uh, fifteen minutes or whenever Byar shows up.”
“Okay good.” She walked through the chip aisle which was in front of the register. “Say, did you happen to hear anything odd today?”
“Odd as in…?”
“You know, like anything crazy. To the extent of things I talked to you about last night. Well, maybe not to that extent, but something to give me clues to help me make sense of last night.”
“Nope, the only crazy thing I heard was from Hage. He tells the wildest stories… Although you would probably know that already, as you work next to him all day.”
Saraiya rolled her eyes. Hage was a good person, but he came up with outrageous stories every day. He had said he wanted to become a writer, which was the same as her, but he only lived within his head, in a fantasy world. The complete opposite of her, at least until recently. Saraiya began to question her own reality to the extent that possibly conversing with him now might seem somewhat normal.
“Hage didn’t work today though right?” Saraiya asked.
“Yep, guess he is the same as you. Can’t get away from work.” Natch rested his arms on the counter, playing with receipt paper. “He said he had friends he was hanging out with today and wanted to stock up on some food.”
“Yvette and another friend he said.”
“Hmm, they must be going on some kind of road trip then. I can’t imagine him coming all the way out here from Montria just for discounts on food.”
“Yeah, who knows what he was up to. He was mumbling about some grand adventure that only he and his friends could accomplish.” Natch’s expression twisted in confusion.
“Ahaha. That sounds like him. He told me he has a few pet vultures that he cares for, and as soon as he finishes his grand goal they can be free like the birds they were meant to be.” Saraiya let out a sigh that turned into a laugh. “Pretty inspiring.”
“Is that supposed to mean something? Where could he possibly keep pet vultures if he actually owned some?” His eyes narrowed. “Also, that gets me thinking...’ Doesn’t that remind you of someone else?” Natch leaned forward. “Someone close to you.”
“No?” Saraiya’s head tilted slightly to the side..
“Kale.” He emphasized his name.
“Nah, Kale has no grand sense of wonder. The closest thing about Hage and Kale are their obsession with their animals, which even I obsess over animals sometimes. For different reasons though.”
“If you say so, I always got the same vibe from both of them. I’ve never been unnerved from either of them though like you have,” he said with a teasing tone.
“Hey. If you were around both of them as much as I am, you would understand me. And it’s not like they creep me out all the time, just sometimes they get serious about the weirdest topics.”
“And that’s why you are forcing me to come to Lyros, yeah? To learn to dislike the people there?” He grinned.
Saraiya stared at him, deadpan in expression. “Well, yeah I guess in a sense, but I don’t mean for you to dislike them. I just want you to get a feel for Ambri and Kale in their natural habitat.”
“Comparing them to animals too? Yikes.”
Saraiya was about to open her mouth when the door opening halted their conversation. Byar walked in giving a wave.
“Ah looks like I’m saved. Hey Byar, it’s been a slow day like always, you’re in for a snooze fest.” Natch slapped the counter and walked towards the door.
“My kind of night!” He said bobbing his head with headphones covering one ear.
“Okay Saraiya, you ready to go to your creepy village?”
“Oh, just you wait.” Saraiya said as they walked out the door.
“Now that we’ve got Lars back home safe, how about we start this fire!” Rhett said, hands outstretched to the sky.
“I’ll be back guys! You guys can start it without me, I won’t be gone too long.” Kale said as he ran towards his trailer, searching for Zair.
Grant followed Rhett to the fire pit, when Rhett spun around and focused in behind Grant.
“What is it?” Grant asked. “You too drunk?”
“No, Grant. Be still and look behind you. This is progress.”
What was Rhett talking about? Progress? What towards? Grant turned his neck and looked behind him. He froze.
Two cats stood only feet away, no longer with fear struck eyes. They hesitantly took steps closer to Grant.
“What the hell man? Why won’t the cats love me too? Not fair…” Rhett whined.
Grant bent down, getting closer. The cats froze and watched him.
“You know what?” Rhett said and sauntered up to Grant. The cats hissed and darted off in the opposite direction as soon as he appeared next to Grant. “Maaan, are you serious?”
“That does seem odd. I haven’t done anything more to make them like me either.” Grant said as his gaze focused on where the cats had run off to. “Oh well, let’s get the fire started.”
“Yeah, all right.” Rhett seemed a bit bummed. He had been trying to get close with the animals since he got here, and Grant hadn’t done anything at all to make them gain his trust.