Expecto Patronum


delia2_icon.gif huruma2_icon.gif lydia_icon.gif

Scene Title Expecto Patronum
Synopsis Too late to make it home for curfew, Delia and Huruma stay with Lydia.
Date August 20, 2010

Ichihara Bookstore

Nestled in the heart of the main street marketplace, the Ichihara Bookstore is an old and crooked structure pressed between two newer high-rise tenement buildings. The old glass windows and creaking wooden door on the shop's front give it a rustic and old-world feel. Catering to both antique books and newer prints, the narrow aisles and tall shelves are packed full of literature. A single shelf for periodicals lies near the front counter, while signage both out front by the register and in the back of the store indicates that tarot card reading is done on-site at request for ten dollars per reading.

Behind the old and weathered wooden counter that contains the register and a small stack of reserved books, a narrow wooden staircase leads upwards to a black wooden door with peeling paint, revealing red paint in narrow strips beneath, a rope crossing in front of that door hangs with a small sign that reads, "Private".

Darkness is quickly approaching and between lollygagging while putting books up, watching a ball game on television, and doing a bit of homework, Delia is running very late. Still the lights in the store have kept her unaware of how late it's gotten. She's tucked into a far corner of the store, Gabriel is sitting in his usual spot on the counter, right on top of her laptop, and at the moment the boss is nowhere within the redhead's line of sight.

"Hey Gabriel~ Kitty kitty~ Oooo~" Delia sings her made up song to the cat while she places romance novel after sickening romance novel into the shelf. Who actually reds these things and why would a good bookstore sell them? Probably because they fly off the shelf by the suitcase full to bored housewives looking to make their lives a little more bearable.

The stairs creak announcing her presence before Lydia actually comes into sight. And with the creak? "Mrowwwww," Gabriel complains loudly. How could his new owner not have fed him yet?! Where is the food, woman?! Opening a small can of cat food, she knocks it into a small cat dish designated for everyone's favorite cat. "I'm sorry," she apologizes softly before scratching behind the cat's ear and glances at the door. Meanwhile, Gabriel munches down on that food as if it might be days before he's fed again, even if this isn't the case.

Once the cat is fed, Lydia's attention turns to her employee, "It's dark — " she lost track of the time between her attempts to organize the loft and her supervision of the activities down here, she hasn't exactly been paying attention to the time. Her lips press together into a thin line. "How is the organization coming?"

Maybe it is the door opening, or maybe it is the person sidling in- but whatever reason, Gabriel the cat glances up while nose-first in food, edging sideways so that he can look at the front. Delia will know who it is at first scan. It's hard to mistake Huruma, as she both fills the frame of the door and looks quite fantastical while doing it. Somewhere out there, a writer is missing an urban fantasy heroine. That, or a movie set is missing one. Leather pants, boots- a long sleeved bolero jacket, doing very little to disguise a black lace top. Decidedly placed patterning, too. Under one arm is a full face bike helmet, rustling idle against one hip. The movie set part is most fitting with the twinkle of gold at her limbs and neck, and absurdly large hoops hanging from her ears. What real action hero does that? Huruma, apparently.

It doesn't take long for chestnut brown eyes to find Delia's mane of red hair, provided that she takes a step or two further inside.

When Lydia makes her entrance, Delia almost drops an entire stack of paperback smut all over the floor. Instead, she teeters forward and falls into the shelves, drowning out the sound of the little bell announcing Huruma's arrival from her position in the corner. "Ow.. ow… son of a … ow… mother goat lickers… ow… sweaty baseballs.." Yes, that's Delia's version of swearing.

The pile of books gets placed on the floor along with the mountain of other pastel colored books featuring men and women making out of on the front then the redhead stumbles out into view. She's rubbing her head lightly as the egg slowly forms underneath the curly mane of red hair. So much pain. The young woman stops as she spies the booted feet and her eyes slowly rise to take in the fantastic ensemble and she gasps, at the same time giving the woman a weak smile. "Hi Huruma, welcome to the bookstore!"

Lydia winces as Delia falls and loses her stack of books. Her chin drops slightly as her lips frown. "I'm sorry Delia," the apology is sincere, but it's that same even tone as most else she says. "I didn't mean to startle you." Gabriel earns another ear scratch before Lydia backs up to bring the new customer into focus.

A vague glance is given to Delia at the greeting before her eyes flit back to Huruma. Her eyes narrow slightly as she leans back against the counter, resting her elbows behind her against it. With a single hand, she tucks a loose strand of hair behind her ear before her lips quirk upwards. "Welcome. Is there something we can help you with?"

Huruma watches Delia with hooded eyes, jaw shifting as if she were chewing on something for a few seconds. In essence, it is thoughtfulness that she pauses with, gaze gliding over to Lydia, nails rapping in succession over the plastic visor of her helmet. Her breath sighs out through her nose, and the dark woman looks back to Delia.

"I'ave enough books, I think- It is nine-thirty, Delia. There were quite a lot of late-goers in traffic, but, I can still take you home, if you woul'like." Apparently, Huruma has great confidence in her dodging prowess. Whether Delia does is another story entirely.

"Nine thirty?!" The blue orbs in her head are surrounded by wild whites and the redhead starts breathing rapidly. "Oh god… oh god… after curfew… What am I going to do? I can't get caught out after curfew!!" A panicked expression get turned toward Lydia and it almost seems as though Delia is going to burst into tears. "I can't get caught after curfew!"

Turning back to Huruma, her lips form a sharp downturn and hew chin quivers, "And you especially can't get caught after curfew!! My dad isn't home!! He can't help us!!" Apparently Delia's confidence in Huruma's dodging isn't as great as her confidence in them getting caught.

Nine-thirty. Wow the time certainly flies. And Gabriel barely complained about his late dinner. Lydia takes a deep breath before padding towards her employee, "Just take a deep breath," her tone is soothing, non-chiding, and attempts to be, reassuring. A gentle smile edges her lips as she shuffles towards the younger woman, a hand held out to squeeze her shoulder.

Thoughtfully, silently, she glances towards the stairs. A moment's hesitation passes between the gaze, but it fades as quickly as it came. With that same soothing tone she observes, "There's plenty of room between here and the loft. And while I don't have extra beds, I have lots of blankets and it is quiet. And I am, after all, the reason you're here so late." She doesn't know Huruma, but Delia's panic is enough to bring forth an offer, "You are both welcome to stay the night. No getting caught after curfew."

Huruma's eyebrows lift up onto her forehead, barely having had seconds to register the sudden warp in Delia's emotions. They dive and roll like a downed jet, exploding into this- this fit of paranoia, of fear. She is tempted to hail it manually, but no influence comes to Delia yet. Especially not as Lydia moves in to field it. It seems as though the older woman has something of a manner with fits like this, with how she handles it so quickly.

"I'ave avoided being accosted f'years without your father, Delia." Huruma begins, curbing her words and pursing her dark red lips. It is not like she cannot take care of herself; Delia's apparent concern, however, makes a difference in that if Huruma turned around and left- it may agitate her more.

"I will stay if you feel that I should." For you, implied.

Flitting her wild stare between Lydia and Huruma, the pattern repeats itself at least three or four times before Delia actually calms down enough to give them both a quick nod. "Uhh… yeah, I … Yeah, that seems best. Huruma, you have to stay." There's another strong feeling of paranoia, a new one this time. It's accompanied by a pointed look in the giant woman's direction. It seems to say don't leave me here all alone… just in case.

"It's not.. not that I don't trust you not to get caught. It's just that there's almost no traffic here." Foot, peddle, motorcycle, all of those but there's barely any cars that Delia's been able to spot. "If you're seen, I mean, it'll just end really badly. I can't get caught out after curfew. I can't."

"Good. It's decided then," the words are smooth, even-toned, and all-too-calm almost like she's accustomed to negotiating complicated situations.

An almost knowing glance is given to Huruma before Lydia treads upstairs to retrieve blankets, air mattresses, and pillows. Fortunately, she's mostly lived on an air mattress since the break-up of the Carnival thanks to her nomadic tendencies and strangely she owns several — mostly for times she didn't feel much like patching the mattress that day (although, eventually she normally got around to it).

With the creak of stairs, she returns with her arms full of supplies in time to hear another loud "MROW" from Gabriel on the counter. "Alright. You're welcome down here … or upstairs if you really want…" in which case bringing everything down was a waste. Regardless, she places the items on the ground before treading back to the door and bolting it shut. No more customers; she really needs to get used to locking up when they're actually closed.

As if to accentuate Delia's look, Huruma sets her helmet upon the counter and moves closer to the redhead, offering one arm out, one hand to perch firm at her shoulder. Her other hand makes a vague motion towards Delia's jaw, a somewhat yearning move to get her to look up- both literally and figuratively.

"It will b'fine. I will stay here with you. I made a promise." That, and Huruma does not find the girl to be terribly awful company. Her eyes trail off to the supplies that Lydia brings down- and really, down here is likely better. More room, less likely that Huruma will turn into a spider and kick someone's face off with all those legs. "Come now." A dark hand motions off to a pump amidst the mattreses, and she does not hesitate in moving to take up the first rubbery inflatable. "Pumping is very zen, Delia." Or something like that.

Over an Hour Later

Lydia was, unfortunately, without a pump to fill the air mattresses. Somewhere along the line in all of her moves, it had either been misplaced in one of the many boxes or lost completely. Delia is sacked out on one of the cushions of air, dressed in an old t-shirt and a pair of gym shorts that were in her backpack. She's on her back, arms flailed out to each side and snoring. The covers that she'd oh so carefully positioned under and over her are twisted around her waist and legs.

Her eyes are moving wildly behind closed lids and every once in a while the snores are interrupted with… "No.. the blue peg goes on the apple… doesn't fit in the ocean… Pull the plug before the mongoose eats the acorns…" Whatever she's dreaming about, it must be pretty good because she's emitting a low toned chuckle at odd intervals. Pretty good or pretty sinister.

Huruma can sleep anywhere. One of the pros of being her, perhaps. Not to say that it is always a comfortable sleep, or deep. This time, it is somewhere in between, the tall woman is propped against the bottom of the counter, legs outstretched, crossed at the ankles, and arms folded over one another. She takes up mush less room, incidentally, than Delia beside her, who is smaller. That is because the girl is everywhere.

Her bolero sits folded aside, wrapping all the various bits she pried off of herself. Her boots- which off her feet look like drag queen boots- are over there too, though her sheer socks are still on her feet. If she is dreaming, it is silent dreaming. Her eyes move only slightly under the lids, her exotic features half-lit by the dim streetlight that somehow makes it past the blinds.

After leafing through box after box of bedding, pillows, air mattresses, and the like, the upstairs loft turned to a mess and was inhospitable for the owner to even sleep up there. She'll need to clean it up tomorrow. But such is life. Distraction isn't necessarily a bad thing though, it keeps her from thinking.

Her head is only inches shy of Delia's — her mattress matching it lengthwise, end-to-end lining up.

She'd settled in relatively well to her own air mattress fairly quickly and dozed off, thinking only of her past and everything within it. In her own dream state her arm raises above her own head, barely grazing the red head.

Delia's leg kicks out to the side and hits the side of Huruma's leg before settling. There's another interruption of sinister chuckling from the young woman and then she's snoring again.

Sitting at a small table in the middle of the bookstore surrounded by a plethora of scattered boxes, Delia is playing Monopoly. The board is a normal, old school variety board with pewter pieces and little wooden dice. The cards are old and worn at the corners. Redhead shakes the dice, getting a three and a one. The wheelbarrow, her piece, is tipped upside down and when it moves, little jets of fire come out the handle bits.

"Houston, we are a go for launch. On to Connecticut… Let's claim it in the name of Ryans!" She's having fun. The little piece jets off toward its destination and swirls to a stop where she grabs the blue real estate card.

The ground rumbles all around and Delia looks out the window into the darkness to spy a building collapsing in on itself and shuddering to the ground.

Something else materializes on the Monopoly board- a miniature pewter battleship blinks into place on the start square. Moments later a voice materializes nearby, behind Delia.

"Such a negative game. Waiting around t'take everyone's money…" Huruma is unmistakable, even though it takes another breath for her to sidle into view. She sits down on the other side of the table with a flutter of wafting, spidery, sheer black fabric. Her eyes seem blind, even the pupils taken by moon-colored white. Her presence seems to seep out of the dark, rather than stand within it, tall and looming. "I suppose tha'one is mine…?"

The stairs creak announcing the proprietor's presence as she seamlessly steps towards the table in the middle of the room. An object in her hand glints in the light. Carefully she sets it on the table — it's a knife, larger than one used at a dinner table.

Taking a seat next to Delia, Lydia plucks the dice from the table. Dressed in her red silk robe and a long skirt, she wore specifically for her time at the Carnival, she rolls up her sleeves before rolling the dice. In doing so, she exposes her tattoos, swirling along her skin in a collage of texture and colour. A vague glance is given to several of the faces accompanied by a knowing smile as she lets the dice drop.

"I haven't played this since I was fourteen," she observes as she nods at the battle ship. Lydia's piece which also, seems to appear from nowhere, is a figure of a miniature sized man — detailed with every line and etched entirely from memory. But she doesn't move it, instead her gaze turns to the building outside. "What is that?" her tone is quiet.

The cloud of dust from the fallen building hits the window, sounding like a rush of sand against the pane. Delia lifts her eyes to Huruma and seems confused for a moment before pulling a card from her own stack and arranging them by color. Blue and purple and red and yellow… Four little properties all in a row. "Isn't that what it's all about? Taking things?" The redhead's eyes drift over the frabic covering the giant woman and then down to her own ensemble, a gray t-shirt, gray jersey shorts, and a pair of olive green socks with little monkeys on them.

She wiggles her toes.

The monkeys dance.

Lydia's arrival prompts a small smile from the young woman and her eyes drift to the knife. "What were you doing up there? Do you have a secret butcher shop that you're hiding? A little bit of Sweeney Todd?" At that moment the door bursts open and a woman outfitted in a black Victorian era dress runs through being chased by a knife wielding man, also in black.

Her eyes move toward the door and it slams shut, the lock turning on its own. "It's the outside," Delia utters in a rather monotonous voice. "Don't go out there… They're out there."

"Who? You? Your father?" Huruma bridging gaps in dreams is not totally unheard of; she has had practice. She does not acknowledge the dream- so perhaps it has yet to stick. Regardless, it seems like she knows how Delia feels even here. "Todd had no class. Killing out of revenge is worthless. You must make revenge last. Make them suffer for it. However, I can appreciate his artistry in using th'straight razor. Rather beautiful."

"No. Not a butcher shop. Although~" Lydia virtually sings with a slick smile as she glances from Delia to Huruma and then towards the stairs. Her fingers creep behind her hair to graze the back of her neck as a contented sigh escapes her lips. "Just practicing, one day I'll be better. He thinks I will," the selection of her words yields an unusual delight — the tone itself almost sticky like honey and twice as sweet. While her words are generally weighty with something other than joy, these ones are far happier, akin to a delicious secret. "And you're right," she states to Huruma, the tone changing to a bitterness generally undetected in Lydia's waking voice. "Revenge has to drain a person's very life force. Especially to those that steal everything. Those who take everything deserve to have everything taken."

At the commotion, however, her hand is returned to the table to grasp the knife, that Victorian woman clearly needing her help. For whatever reason, the risk isn't even calculated as she connects with it and throws the silvery object at the man in question, hitting him squarely in the shoulder, or it would have if it hadn't gone through him. Curiously, the man disappears in a creeping swirly of mist, akin to smoke, like he was never there in the first place.

Delia watches fascinated as Lydia throws the knife, her own feelings about revenge and the movie itself unspoken for the moment. The knife hits the side of one of the book cases and sticks in a good inch, apparently the force of the throw was fairly hefty. A pair of red eyebrows furrow and she grabs the dice and shakes them between her hands with a little rattle.

"You should forgive," a disembodied voice wafts through the air, sounding as wispy as the cloth that Huruma wears. A middle aged redheaded woman rises from the inside of the stairs and jerks to a halt when she is able to stand upon them. Then she steps lightly down to the floor. "Delia, don't listen." The voice seems to come from all around them as woman circles the board, looking at the pieces and then players.

Delia's eyes mist over and her frown grows. "Be quiet," she growls, throwing the dice onto the board with such force that they ricochet and spring toward the older woman. They disappear in midair and reappear on the board, a three and a five. The little wheelbarrow slash rocketship fires up and swirls around the board a few times before landing on Community Chest.

"Hah! The hooker's tits!" Delia exclaims and grabs a card, reading it.

The room whirls around and around in a dizzying swirl before Delia sinks through the floor with a scream. The older woman runs toward the window and presses her hands against it. The young redhead lands in a heap of dust on the road outside, laying there for a few minutes. When she finally picks herself up, she looks around in a panic and races back toward the door of the store. It jerks when she pushes and pulls on the handle, but it stays locked tight. "Let me in!! PLEASE!! Don't leave me!!"

"I neve'told her not to."

Huruma's voice is like distant, rumbling thunder, feet carrying her in silence up towards the window- she is considering the older of the two- the one with her hands to the glass. Somewhere, it occurs to her who this is. Arched brows knit on her forehead, upward tilt betraying something forlorn inside of her mood. Her hand lifts, fingers faint on the woman's lower neck. Quartz eyes find Delia on the other side of the glass, and when she speaks, Huruma's dusky whisper is still in her ears.

"It is hard f'me too." To truly forgive- easier to do so for someone else- but herself- even now she has not quite gotten to the latter. Someday.

"Hard. Never impossible."

A vague glance is given to the older redhead before the painted lady just shakes her head. Her own thoughts on the matter opposite. "Forgiveness can get you more damaged. Sometimes the only thing to do is fight and reclaim what yours." Her cheeks flush lightly even as Delia sinks through the floor. Yet something obligates her to keep playing — to finish that turn she'd never completed before throwing the knife.

Oddly, Lydia finally moves her piece and lands on Chance. Her eyebrows furrow as she plucks the card from the pile. Her eyes gaze over it, but as she does so, she disappears — not absorbed by the floor, but teleported away, no where to be seen.

Lydia's passing goes unnoticed by the older redhead, Mary, who is focused on the young woman outside. The hand on her neck gives cause to turn toward the taller black woman at her side. The expression on her face is something between regret and despair, the lines of age etched around her mouth and eyes making her look older than she is. "I can't help her anymore," Mary whispers, "She's so angry and afraid, nothing I say reaches her."

The room shimmers and fades to a dull dark color until it's just the two of them. Delia's frantic pounding and screaming at the door is the only thing cutting through, though she can't be seen. "Don't leave me here!! Mommy!! Don't leave me all alone!! PLEASE!! HELP ME!!" The young woman's voice cracks and then draws out into a long wail that's muffled by the heavy wood of the door.

Mary's dark eyes flit toward the door and then back on Huruma's face. "I can't help her anymore," she repeats, "she needs you." The orange glow of the dimming light around them highlights the pockets in the graying redhead's cheeks and eyes. The shadows grow longer as the light slowly dies and Mary fades to nothing but a translucent specter.

One of her hands reaches out toward Huruma, attempting to touch the other woman's cheek. A single crystalline tear drops from the corner of her eye and falls with a splash just as Mary disappears completely.

Benjamin was so much bigger than Mary was- and even in this scape, Huruma towers like a dark wraith, pale eyes moving down to the older specter, lids hooding and browline flattening. This woman- this shade- is part Delia's subconscious, part Mary- a face and voice created by memory and pure maternal influence. It is part of her- and part of what the real one might actually want. Huruma's line of reasoning could be close, or it could be far off. No way to tell. Mary is dead in life.

When she registers what has been said, Huruma cannot help a look of question. For her own sake. There must be better choices than her to help Delia. But if the girl's mind wants it-

Huruma's hand envelops the one drifting over her high cheekbone and the dark skin stretching down from it. Her fingers blend through the other set, and she is left, for a few seconds, touching her own face.

"Delia." Huruma turns, to face where the door had been just seconds ago, the fabric hanging from her whipping sharp in the black.

As if Huruma were on center stage in a theater, the door appears within reach, basked in an orange glow. Before she has a chance to grip the handle, it draws back further and further until it is on the opposite side of the room, right where it originally was.

"Huruma?" Delia's voice sounds small and childlike as it pierces the darkness all around the woman. "Huruma I'm s-sca— " Whatever she was about to say is interrupted by hiccups and sobs mired in grief. "I'm scared of the dark… Help me." Slowly, the orange glow expands, not getting any brighter, until the entire store is basked in a soft and dim light. Shadows from the shelves and stacks of books on the floor stretch out across the floorboards, marking it in something of a zebra pattern.

Three knocks sound on the door but behind the glass there is only the inky black curtain of night. The shade pulls down by itself and the thin cord winds around the little nail at the bottom of the window.

"Don't let them in." Delia's whispered voice sounds around the large woman again. She's no longer crying, and her breathing is audible. One by one, the roll shades drop down on their own, hiding Huruma's view of the outside and whoever might be out there's view of her.

Huruma's response lacks verbosity. It is purely instinct that seems to move her. Even as the door shrinks away and she can hear the girl stuttering for air, the dark woman is baring her teeth in a snarl, that drape that curves down over her from her shoulders whipping harder in the air, slapped at by an inaudible wind. Her throat breaks an audible growl, the ivory teeth in her mouth pointing into a cat's mouth.

When she can hear Delia's voice nearby, entreating her for something as simple as this-

Sharp teeth lengthen, her mouth widening, features flickering into something else under the striped light. An ink black creature- cat- with teeth like knives, wild, colorless eyes- claws like sabres-

It lets out a hellish screaming roar, mouth pinioned wide, pooled in dark red.

Nobody's getting in.

Again there are three knocks at the door and whispers all around Huruma begin again. "Don't let them in. Keep away. Don't let them in. Get out. Don't let them in. Stay away. Don't let them in." They mix together into a virtual symphony of hushed little voices, all belonging to Delia. Again, three knocks.

"Huruma?" The voice on the other side of the door belongs to Delia as well. Three more knocks, this time a little quicker. "Huruma? Let me in, don't leave me here… I'm scared." More knocks, over and over again until the constant rapping sounds like a drum in time to the whispers.

"Don't let them in," the little whispers warn. "Keep them out, keep them away. Huruma stop them."

The door begins to rattle like it did when Delia first got to it. Shaking as though someone is trying to force the lock and break in. "Huruma! Why are you doing this to me? Let me in!! Please!!"

Pinned ears cup forward, teeth clamping. Whiskers bristle from out of black fur, shining like velvet in the light. What is this? No- there is something wrong with this. A stiff tail wags from side to side like a mamba, swishing hard at the air. Red seeps from the cracks between teeth, between hisses of air. Huruma has enough experience with dreams to try and make better guesses.

Delia is shutting herself out?

Maybe it is high time that she stop purely relying on others to protect her. Not that Huruma is abandoning the thought.

The cat crouches, spine curving and shoulders rolling. Huruma growls again, teeth baring before she lunges up for the door. Hooked, razor sharp claws dig into the top of the wooden door- the panther's barrel chest expands once- wide- and she pulls down, sinew beneath fur twisting and coiling to rend through the rickety door.

The door splinters and shatters and in the blink of an eye, Huruma is no longer anywhere that even remotely looks like the book store. The ground is caked and dry orange clay dust. The air, hot and dry, like a dessert in the middle of the day. It's stifling, the pungent odor of sulfur is everywhere, making everything smell like rotting eggs. What little landmarks there are around seem to be melted in pools on the ground.

"YOU LET THEM IN!!" The childish voices scream in unison, some of them going on to wail while others let out shrieks like banshees. "YOU LET THEM IN!! MAKE THEM GO AWAY!!"

One of the puddles closest to Huruma shimmers and a picture forms on its surface. It's Delia, all grown up, dressed in a lab coat and carrying a clipboard. She's smiling and talking, but there's no sound. There's a figure just in front of her and she's holding out a tongue depressor and a little light to look into its throat. The puddle shimmers again and repeats the same little vision. The other puddles seem to carry different pictures, all of them having the same theme. These are Delia's discarded dreams.

Huruma's inspection takes only seconds, nose wrinkling and breath hissing. She watches the pool for some moments, slits of black still on a blank canvas. The cat moves onward, a slinking gait that carries her silently over the ground, past other pools, those too garnering glances and a watchful eye. Ears pinned and tail curled into a long hook behind, she all but ignores the wails and cries going on in the air. Huruma is a master at putting such childish complaints aside in order to move on with something. Stop bellyaching.

Her slinking quickly turns into long, loping strides forward, paws carrying her heft over the baked, cracked earth with the grace and poise of a dancer.

The tiny little voices stop screaming at the command and quell to mere whimpers of fright. They follow Huruma in her trek across the parched landscape, muttering and whispering to themselves every time she looks into another pool.

A speck on the horizon grows larger and larger as the beast moves toward it until finally it takes shape. A woman, Delia, is standing alone in the middle of all of this. Beside her is a small tree, dry and dying of thirst. Two tiny gnarled branches quiver and shake in the acrid breeze until the last black leaf falls from its grip and twirls in the air toward Huruma.

As it brushes past her and rises in the sky, Delia opens her eyes to look at the cat coming toward her. She says nothing for the longest time. She's dressed exactly how she was in the bookstore, though a little dirtier. Orange clay dust covers her from head to toe. "Huruma— You came."

If Huruma enjoys anything even in dreams, it is feeling motes of fear. That means that she is making waves. Somehow. The cat approaches the single pillar- Delia- from afar, fur silken even under such a baked, dusty world. Unmarked. It is a quite large animal, coming to her thigh. All lean, twined muscle, and soft, plush fur. Contradiction at it's best. Even moreso when it blinks lidded eyes once, twice, before bringing one broad side up against the young woman's leg. A pointed feline nose leans out to inspect the tree, the gesture as gentle as can be.

"Of course I did."

The fear that Huruma enjoys so much abates as she approaches the young woman, disappearing entirely at the first touch against her legs. Delia's hand comes down between the cat's shoulder blades and the little tree beside them shakes a little before reaching upward, as though it had just received a big boost of water combined with magic miracle grow.

The tree stretches up and out, growing quickly. The trunk lightens from black to a healthy dark brown with leaves springing from the tips of its branches. Soon it is tall enough to shade a circle almost twenty feet across and the air underneath its canopy smells sweet like the rain. From the ground around its base and roots, a soft layer of cool green grass covers the dry ground like a carpet, rolling out and over the landscape as far as the eye can see. Tiny white flowers perk out and bloom around the feet of the cat and the woman.

When the land around them is fresh and new, Delia turns to the cat with a smile. "I can't believe you came…"

A long sigh echoes throughout the room as Delia turns over and curls up on her side. She's stopped snoring and stopped talking. Where her legs bend at the knee, Gabriel the cat pads over and curls into a little ball, nestling cozily with her. She stays that way for the rest of the night. In the morning, when the sun peeks through the dusky windows of the store, she stirs and yawns awake. The redhead looks much better this morning than she has in a very long time, actually smiling instead of scowling.

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