Chapter Eight: Present
“Haiyk’s been hospitalized,” Kassie told me with a coy smile that didn’t match her tone. “Seems like the Unicorn chose him as his victim.”
“Don’t get too excited, Kasira. Don’t forget that there will be people who think Relle’s behind the Unicorn attacks. After all, they’ve all been targeting the help for the International Contest’s PopCon.”
Kass raised an eyebrow. “Well, are you, Relle?”
“Even if I were, I would, obviously, not tell you guys here, and have it broadcast it over national TV. But no, I’m not. Not that I wouldn’t do something like that,” I added in a conspiratorial whisper. “But I’ve been looking forward to this Contest. It’d be boring if half the PopCon were bawling over their losing their people.”
“And there’s nothing worse than a boring Contest,” she drawled.
“Of course.” Kass had been being slightly sarcastic, I knew, but despite that, I knew she’d hate a “boring” Contest just as much as I would, maybe even more. She was just that kind of person, and that was what I loved about her.
Lexxi prodded a hovering microphone. “Did you hear that, reporters? Relle has nothing to do with Haiyk’s death.”
The door creaked open, and Lexxi’s assistant, Molyia, crawled in. Literally, actually crawled in. The woman always got on my nerves. She insisted on doing everything her own, messed up way, and wouldn’t listen to anyone who told her what to do. Yes, in that sense, she sounded slightly like me, but I wasn’t a weirdo like she was. She was the type who’d randomly shout out the names of food because she had nothing else to do, because it felt like a fun thing to do.
Lexxi had actually rescued her years ago when her parents had been locked up in an insane asylum. Apparently, they hadn’t actually been crazy, but the government had wanted to get rid of them, and had decided to do so by shutting them into padded rooms. I often wondered, though, if Molyia didn’t belong with her parents, being the very possibly mad person she was.
“Molly, you need to talk to some reporters after. Don’t get your dress dirty.” Lexxi wasn’t at all fazed by Molyia’s strange behaviour. She was used to it, after all. Anyone who worked with me was, since Lexxi often “lent out” her assistant to the designers. Molyia was actually rather talented with putting together outfits, even though, as shown by what she was always wearing, she never used that talent on herself.
The young madwoman tore a piece of fabric from the curtains and poured water from a plastic bottle onto it, creating a puddle on the floor. If looks could kill, she’d be dead from the glare Kass shot her. My advisor was an extreme neat freak. I’d been there when she’d broken an arm and a leg of one of my more obsessive fans who’d decided to try to raid her room trying to find whatever, I didn’t even know.
“Lexxi, please make sure that if you bring a kitty with you, it doesn’t [removed] all over my room and rip apart my furniture. Otherwise the little kitty might find itself in a less-than-favourable situation.” It was a less-than-subtle threat towards Molyia. Kass never spoke to her directly. It’d ruin Kass’ reputation, she claimed, if people found out she even knew, never mind talked to, someone like that Molyia. That always made me wonder who those people were. Of course, though, I never asked. You didn’t ask someone like Kass any questions that could be thought of as personal unless you had a death wish.
Molyia pointedly ignored Kass, too – as always. Despite how she acted, she wasn’t stupid, and everyone knew it. “Yare’s here.” Yare Glinna, her boyfriend. Yes, she actually had a boyfriend, and yes, he was somehow perfectly normal. Except, of course, for how he was her boyfriend.
“And your point is? If you wanna go, go ahead. I certainly don’t give a (darn), and Lexxi’s too busy with important things to care.”
“Relle, I know you don’t like Molly, but can you please at least be decent to her?” No comment towards Kass – of course. Even Lexxi had a healthy respect of her, even if she wasn’t actually scared of her, per se. But my manager was the kind of person who preferred to be underestimated, so if she wanted to attack someone, she could do it out of the blue and have her mark be too astonished to react. And even if it weren’t for that, she was a complete and total pacifist, and she would willingly lose a fight if it meant that it would stop it. Despite that, though, she couldn’t be called a coward; so many things she’d done in the past told me that. While I could easily pick apart her personality and analyze it, I still didn’t get why anyone would act like that when they could just as easily be feared and admired.
Molyia pulled at the threads of one of the ribbons on her gaudily decorated dress. For every Contest I’d ever won, she’d added three cloth roses and a silk ribbon to each piece of clothing she owned, meaning she always looked like a girly freak with a horrible fashion taste.
“I said before that Yare’s coming earlier to pick me up today. You, Relle, told me to tell you when I left so everyone didn’t go looking for me. So I’m telling you.”
Now that she mentioned it, I did recall a conversation involving something along those lines. “Okay, then, you’ve told me. Hurry up and go now.”
“Actually, I also said that that was perfect, since there was something Yare wanted to give you.”
Right. Did she really expect me to remember all this? It wasn’t like it was actually important, after all. I didn’t care about her and her boyfriend, and she should have been smart enough to realize that. All the same, though, I was rather certain Molyia wouldn’t try to trick me, meaning I had agreed to meet her boyfriend. Meaning I couldn’t just give her the finger and tell her to get lost. If there was one thing fans hated, it was a PopCon who avoided contact with them. No matter how much they might say otherwise, it was everyone’s dream to meet and speak to their favourite PopCon. If I didn’t let Yare give me whatever he was going to, chances were that I’d find my popularity ratings at an all-time low, and that I wouldn’t be able to get them back up again. Not without years of effort, at least, and I obviously didn’t have the time for that.
“Where is Yare, then? He isn’t here, is he?” I didn’t know what he looked like; after all, while Molyia always rambled on and on about him and how absolutely wonderful he was, she’d never described his physical features. For all I knew, he could be one of the reporters who were at this moment this exchange of words, seeming enraptured by fascination.
Molyia giggled. “Obviously not! If he were, you’d notice him immediately. His hair’s rather… noticeable. You’ll see what I mean when he comes. Which should be in about” – she glanced at her watch – “thirty-nine seconds. Thirty-eight. Thirty-seven. Thirty-six. Thirty-five. Thirty– ”
“No need to count aloud, Molly.” Even Lexxi, who usually had an endless store of patience when it came to her protégée, was clearly aggravated. Of course, that might have had to do with her extreme dislike for Yare. I had no idea what it was about him that made her hate him, but it had to be something huge. After all, she hated Kass’ ideals, and she still got along relatively well with her. What was it about Molyia’s boyfriend that pissed her off so much?
“Ahem.” The dozens of pairs of eyes in the room all turned to observe the man leaning against the doorframe. He was, I was amused to notice, at least three inches shorter than Molyia. Of course he was; how many times had she asserted, when asked, that she preferred to be taller than others? Not that that wasn’t difficult, since she was 6’2, and towered above everyone else present.
“Zero!” Molyia shrieked, running up to Yare and hugging him. Part of his huge afro got caught in the frame of her glasses, and she flicked them off, leaving them to dangle in front of his face. I made an odd noise, trying to contain my laughter at the sight.
In a strangely dignified way, Yare tugged out the disobedient strands of hair and handed Molyia back her glasses, before looking my way.
“Miss Relle.” He smiled politely and bowed, his hands clasped behind his back.
“I told you, Yarrie, you don’t need to be so well-mannered towards her! She definitely won’t be to you!”
I dismissed the barb with an eyeroll, to show that I thought that comment wasn’t even worth reacting to. “Yarrie” furrowed his brow, as if suddenly deep in thought.
Dancing in circles around him, Molyia waited for him to break out of the trance-like state he was in.
“Sorry,” she apologized, “this always happens when he’s nervous. But it’s better than me, at least. At least he doesn’t burst out laughing uncontrollably. That’d be bad. And awkward. But Yarrie isn’t an awkward kind of person. He’s too amazing to be awkward.” Saying that, she leaned down and kissed him on the lips.
Apparently, that jolted him awake. He began to kiss her back, but then realized where he was.
“Sorry, sweetie, but this just isn’t the place.”
“I suppose not,” Molyia agreed sulkily.
“Just wait a few more minutes, okay? You don’t need to stay here; my car’s outside. I’ll give you the keys and you can wait for me there, ‘kay? Oh, and I bought that book you told me you really wanted.”
She squealed in delight. “OhmygodIloveyou!” Yare chuckled and passed her a huge ring of keys. I briefly wondered what he did, that he needed that many keys. The ring looked like it weighed a ton, but she just stuck it onto her index finger and grinned, before skipping away.
“I’ll just apologize on behalf of my girlfriend, since she might not even realize how the way she acts appears to others. She’s just that kind of person. Although I’m rather certain that you would’ve realized that by now.”
“I have.” Even though I sounded on edge, waiting for him to get to the point, it wasn’t nearly as much so as I felt. Seeing as the media was here, though, I couldn’t screech at him to make him give me whatever he wanted me to give and get the (fudge) out. It took all the self-control I had not to pull out that curly afro of his and
“I’ll also apologize if I ever start to sound long-winded when speaking. If I do, feel free to interrupt me and tell me to speak on-topic. Although I would appreciate if–”
Well, that was handy, wasn’t it? I immediately interrupted him. “Molly said you had something you wanted to give me?”
“Right! I almost forgot.”
I almost lost it there, wanting to ask how the hell he could’ve forgotten when it was the reason behind coming to meet me. Instead, though, I calmly nodded.
“Get an electronic scheduler or something next time.”
“I probably will, thanks. Now here’s my gift to you… and I’d like to thank you for always tolerating Molly, even if she hasn’t always been the most tolerable person. It’s from both of us.” Something seemed to occur to him just then. “Right… it’s slightly… well, I’d just ask you to please not open it in public.”
I took the wrapped packaged and nodded a thank-you. It was surprisingly heavy for its size.
“Carry this for me, will you, Lex?” I sent the parcel flying towards her, and she only barely caught it in time. She glared at me when she realized why I’d put it into her safekeeping.
“Ahem. Molly’s waiting for me, so I’ll say my farewells now. It was a pleasure meeting you, Miss Relle.”
“Wish I could say the same about you.”
“Is that so?”
Before I could think of a reply, he’d left.
“Why do you hate that guy so much? He seems, well, okay to me.”
Lexxi sighed. “I just don’t trust him, okay? There’s something that just seems off about him.”
“You mean, other than how he’s Molyia’s boyfriend?”
“We’ve had this conversation before.”
In my peripheral vision, I noticed a few reporters inching closer to us, probably hoping to record “this conversation” or something. Not that it would really make a good story. No one but the people who worked for someone would care if they liked or hated one of their employees.
“Yeah, and I won the argument, obviously. Now, I’m gonna go open this thing, and if you follow me up, I’ll break your nose.” Because, of course, the one sure way to get Lexxi off of my case was to threaten violence.
“Go ahead.” She seemed about to ask if she could see what Yare had given me, or something like that, but when she finally spoke, I’d already left.
Back in my room, alone with the cameras, I tore apart the cartoony Christmas wrapping paper, to reveal a plain cardboard box sealed with duct tape. With a fingernail, I slit open the tape, and ripped off the flaps, to reveal a small, metal device that was really no more than a mass of wires. Immediately, warning bells began to go off in my head.
I stared at the contraption for a while, before the word I was thinking of finally registered in my mind.
It was a bomb.