Arthur shook his head. The girl’s proposal, although noble, did not appeal to him. He was against any unproven voluntary emergency doctor tending to him. “You really don’t have to do that,” he tried to make his voice sound confident and strict. Years of practice in questioning people allowed him to master this art to perfection. “I am kinda busy, so I probably don’t even have time to say for too long. However, thank you for the offer."
Arthur never had a way with young people. He didn’t understand them, and he often seemed to be the destroyer of fun - a wet blanket, if you will. The man could not adapt to new trends or rapidly changing fashion. That was why he was so surprised by the girl’s behavior. She was laughing as if amused by his answer. Arthur didn’t see anything funny about it. “I don’t think I’ll get used to this peculiar nickname,” he stated bitterly. Anastasia seemed to want to get to know him better. Already, it seemed as if she thought they would meet more often. Arthur didn’t want to be harsh, so the man ignored this assumption. He knew this meeting was their first and last. He had already had enough nicknames under his belt.
The past and people we had met define who we became. Undeniably, his new ‘friend’ seemed surprised by his kindness. Arthur, best of all, knew that the world wasn’t a bed of roses filled with bubblegum and cotton candy. He remembered many people who lost their direction, wasted their purpose, forgot themselves. They often committed shameful deeds for a specific goal. Sometimes, those reasons were mundane. However, others perceived their sinful actions as pure - entering the divine sphere of the sacred. ‘They are equal and more equal’ - that was their mantra. Arthur acknowledged, however, that there were not only lost people in the world. There were also those with genuine and good intentions. Strangely, Anastasia didn’t expect the worst of him. “I think there are many who do not look for any personal interest in their acts.” He said, smiling gently. He wasn’t going to ask what she specifically meant when she said she wasn’t used to people being polite. They weren’t at the police station, and besides, he already knew enough. At this point, he didn’t seem to need to understand more about her.
The girl laughed, and Arthur’s heart felt lighter. The joke worked - that meant, that he was not as anti-social as he thought he was. His interlocutor continued cheerfully - she was full of energy… which was maybe even contagious - however, Arthur did not seem to be affected by it. She stated that the ‘AA’ could also apply to batteries of this type. This actually would suit her energizing personality more - it could “charge” a person with optimism. Arthur joked - although it sounded like the bitter statement again, “Or AA for Alcoholic Anonymous.”
Arthur knew Anastasia was performing. She was a skilled actress. A budding policeman would believe her every word; Arthur, however, was skeptical. He took every word she said with a slight dose of uncertainty. Charming characters like her often hid poisoned secrets. In addition, he already knew that she was associated with magic shenanigans - another reason not to trust her. Unfortunately, despite her puzzling behavior, charms, and those deep pockets of hers, Arthur had no reason to suspect her of the worst. He was on the same team as her and played according to her rules. The man was pretending to be completely charmed by her intriguing person. Despite this, her façade fell - for a moment, for a second. Everyone had a weak point, their Achilles heel. In the case of Anastasia, it was her sister. The girl wilted; real tears filled her eyes. Arthur earned her trust, and she opened the veil of a hidden part of herself. It was not quite a success in the sense of knowing all her secrets, but it was certainly a small step towards discovering them. The man was silent, listening to her pained voice. The girl wouldn’t recover from the loss of her sister. Though Arthur had mixed feelings about her, the girl was still remarkably young. She may have been just over 20… losing her big sister (Arthur concluded she must have been older) would cause terrible pain. Scary… it was like losing a part of oneself. Arthur just nodded sadly, not entering into further discussion. By asking too many questions, he could lose her trust forever. And who knew … maybe the girl would be useful one day? Perhaps she acknowledged something about the disappearances, or she could recognize a person who could be responsible for them? Who knew if she wasn’t an amateur detective like Poirot? Arthur preferred not to risk and make such a culpable mistake. The silence was gold after all, and in this case, it really was.
Las Levendas was full of secrets hidden in the dark alleys of the city. It was a magical neighborhood with outlines of figures lurking in the shadows of lamps. Each of the residents had a past that they would prefer not to talk about. Arthur watched Anastasia allow herself to calm down. She sniffed the cold winter air. She served him the standard answer he had heard from many residents. He, too, decided to reply to her in the same way. The same he had answered to all those who held to hope. “We believe that thanks to our hard work, we will be able to maintain order and peace in Las Levendas.”
A big gulp got stuck in his throat; he tried to swallow it. Warm saliva clung to his palate. He rarely experienced such sincere compassion from someone. His healthy hand began to sweat, sticky water ran down the sleeve of his jacket. The girl’s words, though pleasant to the ears, made him even more anxious. Though the distance between them practically decreased, Arthur wanted to get away from her as soon as possible. Go back to his depths, distant from the outside world. And just wither.
The cold metal hand did not feel the warmth of the palm in which hot blood was flowing. Just like Arthur, it was deprived and numb to someone else’s goodness. He smiled sluggishly, trying to hide his embarrassment.
Anastasia stated that his wife was an intelligent woman. Though she didn’t know her, she was right. She was smart. Arthur had already cried out all the tears after her death (it didn’t mean that the sadness had vanished). However, the way Anastasia spoke of her as if she still was a living person made his heart twist. It contracted, making silent sounds of beating. “She was bright,” Arthur corrected her. He gripped the candle in his hand even tighter.
“I mean, who can say that their hand was made especially for them?” Anastasia continued passionately. “So f*ck every single f*cking person who thinks otherwise.”
Arthur let out an amused huff. It disappeared in the form of a tiny puff of steam. “Thank you,” he whispered. “But watch your language. I understand young people have to swear to express themselves, and it’s not my business, but … now, you are in the presence of little prone to everything, kids.” He glanced at the gang of young boys who stood extremely close to them. They pretended they were doing something else. One was kicking a pebble with interest, the other was watching the snow falling… but Arthur knew they were eavesdropping. “You need to set a good example for them. Maybe there is still hope for them." He stated, although looking at their behavior and ‘eloquent’ statements, their efforts would go to waste. Hope was the mother of fools.
Anastasia clearly agreed with his unspoken assumption. She had to take a deep breath to calm herself. The boys did not mind the fact that their actions annoyed them both. On the contrary, they chuckled between themselves every time Arthur had to count to five not to say what he might have regretted later. Fortunately, as soon as they set off, the children turned into meek little angels. They stayed close to them and didn’t even ask 'how much farther, which was quite a phenomenon. They were very focused on the ball, one wrong move, and they might lose the opportunity to get it.
Arthur did not know the limit of this childlike patience. He did not have to think about it because, after a few minutes, they were standing on the threshold of the store. The building was small, covered in twisting ivy. It seemed a bit run-down because of it, but maybe it was in vogue now? After all, perfection can overwhelm you. The flaws of something else lifted people up. Terrible but true.
After a while, they were inside. Anastasia moved steadily towards the counter - a black-haired girl stood behind it. She was not much older than her sister. Even though they clearly differed in style of clothing, posture, and appearance (at least at first glance), Arthur could not deny that they were related to each other. They had the same sparkle in their eyes, the same self-confident aura.
He looked around the room. The shelves bent with the number of vials and glasses full of all kinds of potions; Arthur felt a little claustrophobic, overwhelmed by the number of products. Little fluff of grey dust tickled his nostrils. At least the boys liked it here. They watched everything from afar, despite the girl’s warning. However, they did not touch anything.
Arthur hadn’t had to think about it for long. He knew he was not welcome here. Elise did not hide her annoyance at his presence. The man could check why. He could talk to the sisters, find out what they were hiding. However, at this moment, he had no way of doing it. Not with a few pairs of tiny eyes watching him.
"Well. I guess it’s all under control now,” the man noted. “I will not be needed anymore. Once again, it’s okay, and thank you for your words of encouragement.” He directed his eyes towards the red-haired girl. Despite her sister’s vivid anger, she remained calm. Although she would definitely be reprimanded for bringing unwelcome people to their shop. “It was nice to meet you. Goodbye!” he bowed by slightly tilting his head.
He left quickly, hoping that the girl wouldn’t run after him to stop him. He wished they would never meet again, but something in his soul told him those were only comforting delusions.