Mayumi luxuriates in being on the street, in the open air, in the slanting late-afternoon light. She is nearly dancing despite the nearly empty streets.
“Thank you,” she says, taking a deep breath. Her keen nose sorts out numerous scents, many of them unpleasant, but she enjoys them nonetheless.
Sky smiles at her pleasure, then frowns. “Mayumi, just promise me…”
Carelessly, she says, “I know, I know, ‘be careful’.” She freezes as he stops walking. She looks up and sees him frowning down at her, practically glowering. Her ears sink back. “I...I’m sorry. Of course...I will be careful. I really will.”
“If anything happens to you,” he says, his expression softening, “I don’t know how I would forgive myself.” He starts walking again. “More importantly, I doubt Alma would ever forgive me.”
They walk for awhile in silence before she asks, “Alma...you like her very much, don’t you?”
“I do,” he answers after a moment. “We got off on the wrong foot, but we seem to be doing well now. I think of her...as a friend, now.” He sounds rather surprised.
After a little while, Mayumi says, “I’m glad. She needs a friend.” After another pause, she says, “Sky? I wish...I wish I hadn’t lied to her about going outside, a week ago.”
“Then you should tell her the truth,” he replies.
“But you’ll get into trouble too!”
He shrugs, though to her he looks more concerned than he thinks he does. “If we’re really meant to be friends, she’ll forgive me eventually. I don’t want to leave that lie festering any more than you do. And now Kyri is having to lie as well…and Aliyah will have to eventually.”
Mayumi feels miserable. “Oh no...oh this is terrible. I’ll tell her, when this is all over...though she’ll probably never trust me again.”
“You know, Mayumi, what she really wants from you, needs from you, is communication. She wants to know you, desperately. I feel bad, telling you this – I feel I’m betraying her confidence – but I can’t stand to see both of you suffering when you both want to talk to each other but neither of you dares be the first to speak!” He sounds quite frustrated and embarrassed.
They walk in silence until they are nearly to the Copper Pot, outside of which is a long line of people bearing jugs and pots pitchers and jars. A cart bearing heavy barrels pulls up, drawn by patient-looking pachyderms, like small, short-trunked elephants with small ears. The people in the line cheer weakly, and a few Guardia who are policing the line come to help unload the barrels.
Mayumi finds herself sorting through her roiling feelings: resentment at his presumption, shame at knowing he’s right, even gratitude at this evidence that he cares. She opens her mouth to speak, but before she speaks, he says, “I’m sorry...perhaps I shouldn’t have said–”
“No,” she interrupts. “No...you were right. I’ll talk to her. I want to talk to her.”
He nods, relieved. “Well, let’s find out how things are going here.” He smiles at her, his face shadowed in the deepening gloom of the oncoming evening; then he goes to assist the unloading, lifting a heavy, sloshing barrel under each arm and carrying them inside.