Nitesh stared at the
water stains on the wall. Their apartment was on the top floor, and
the roof leaked whenever it rained. This particular stain was his
favorite; he thought it looked like a leaping frog. A particularly
loud shout echoed down the hall, and he winced. Kaia was out there,
haggling over the price of their apartment again. The landlord kept
trying to jack up the price, but so far Kaia had kept the price down.
She had become very persuasive.
She hadn't been anything like
this, back in Alfheim. She had been quiet and reserved. She was firm,
but not forceful like she had become when they had come to Midgard.
She had never been one of the sweet, yielding maidens that he had
been so fond of, but she was dependable and strong. If the other
girls were roses, Kaia was an oak. But now, she had become stifling,
forceful to the point of violence. She had, Nitesh supposed,
flourished in her new environment, like a plant brought into a warm,
moist greenhouse from the desert. Meanwhile, Nitesh had relaxed,
become more laid-back. It was easier, he had found, to let Kaia
control things now, for the most part. They still disagreed far more
often than they ever had in Alfheim, especially about the apartment.
The disputed had escaladed to a frightening degree in the last
month, since Kaia had brought home tidings of Cain's death. Nitesh
had withdrawn, had become even more passive than ever after that,
hardly speaking at all besides goodbyes when he left for his job at
the thrift store. Then, Kaia had begun to talk about moving out of
the apartment. This, at least, had roused him from his despondency,
and they had rattled the kitchen drawers with their fighting. Then
the landlord had begun hassling them, and Kaia had pressed her point
more than ever, and Nitesh began to ignore her.
Now she was
throwing another fit downstairs, and he was sitting passively
upstairs, waiting for her to return so they could resume their own
fight. He was beginning to count the water stains for the umpteenth
time, when the door slammed open and Kaia stamped in, shaking her
grape hair out of her eyes. "Get up and start packing," she
"I assure you, I have no intent of leaving," Natesh
began, but she interrupted.
"HE said if we don't get out by
tomorrow, he's calling the cops. Start packing."
What in Loki's Aesir-forsaken name did you do? Where are we going
to go, huh? What if someone from Alfheim needs to contactus, what
"Like Hel they will," she interrupted. "You know
perfectly well that Cain was out only bloody friend in Alfheim, and
he's dead now, you hear me? He rests in Eljundnir, or Sessrumnir,
or Valhalla, wherever! He'll not come looking for us again, you
know well." Nitesh turned away at this speech, his cheeks burning.
She knew that he was harboring a secret hope that the guard had been
wrong, and the Cain could rejoin them some day. Her voice softened a
little as she continued, "I miss him too, you know. But you're
all I've got, and I'm all you have left. Neither of us can make
rent or pay the bills alone, and we need all our combined skills to
keep up any pretence of normality. We'll find someplace better,
okay? Someplace in the outskirts." Nitesh looked a little more
hopeful when she said that. They both hated living in the cold cement
heart of the city.
"Fine." He turned to the kitchen and began
to pull open drawers. "Whatever you say." Kaia patted his
shoulder, and left to pack their clothes.