After trying unsuccessfully to fall asleep in the apartment he had been furnished with, there was a quiet knock on Ralph’s door.
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‘Come in,’ he murmured, hoping the disturbance would be brief.
He heard the door, open, and someone enter the room, quietly. The curtains were drawn in an attempt to keep out the annoying daylight which seemed to draw his eyes open, albeit unwillingly. At the last moment, some instinct made him turn over, to see, in the dim light of his apartment, who had approached his bed, and was making rustling noises beside it.
She was just pulling off the last of her clothes, getting set to crawl into bed with him.
Before she could accomplish this, he got up, took one of his blankets, wrapped her in it, bundled up her clothes and placed them in her hands, and began propelling her towards the door.
‘If you do not take me,’ she protested, ‘I will start screaming. I will tell everyone that you have ravished me! Please, do not shame me like this-’
‘Nevana,’ he said, ‘I am simply too tired for this. Go ahead and scream all you like, but I am not going to sleep with you, just like that-’
‘For pity’s sake, Nevana, let me get some sleep! I can’t think right now, and I’m not going to be pushed into making any sort of decision while I’m this tired.’
‘Tomorrow, then,’ she pouted, leaning against him, looking disturbingly unflustered for a girl who was naked beneath a light blanket. ‘Promise me we will speak of this matter tomorrow.’
He sighed, holding onto the doorframe.
‘Right now, I need sleep.’
With an unsettlingly vindicated look, she smiled, and left. He closed the door behind her, and went back to bed.
The room, he noticed, suddenly felt very empty.
He no sooner lay back down again than there was a light knock on the door.
Deciding to head her off this time, now knowing how persistent she could be, he got up and went to the door, to prevent her entering.
It was Malina.
‘What the hell!’ he blurted. ‘Why are you crying-’
‘I can’t sleep,’ she said. ‘They’re so mean to me. They call me bad names-’
‘What are you talking about? Who are they?’
‘The ones who come to my room, and bang on the door, or yell at me if I don’t open it.’ she said. ‘They tell me to leave, to go away from Mirrindale-’
‘People here,’ she said, as though what she meant were obvious.
‘Those women, those wives of Merchants, and-’
Ralph felt a sudden surge of anger, but instead of saying anything, took Malina by the arm and drew her into the room.
‘C’mon,’ he said, drawing her towards his mussed up bed. ‘I wasn’t getting any sleep anyway. You lie down and get some sleep, and I’ll watch over you. Will that be okay?’
As though waiting for those very words, she quickly pushed past him, and threw herself prone upon his bed. Like him, she was tired, almost past the point of being able to sleep.
Sitting on the side of the bed, watching Malina in repose, Ralph mused tiredly, ‘While you’re here, I was thinking . . . some of those old stories Pran used to tell us at his house late at night, about people being taken from my world and brought here . . . I didn’t quite get it. Who did take the people from my world? The Elves or the Wizards?’
Answering brusquely, impatient for sleep and an end to conversation, Malina replied, ‘Don’t be silly, Rowf! It was Faeries who brought your people to our world. Don’t you ever read Faerie tales?’
By degrees, he too fell asleep, laying spoon-fashion at her back, all the time wondering if she was having it on with him.