I thought I heard a bit of a whistle as I closed the door behind me.  Not a musical one, but the kind of whistle of wind or a child’s breath upon a kazoo.  I don’t know why that analogy came to me, but it really was a particular kind of sound. Not that I’d heard a baby play a kazoo in a while, but it was exactly that sound.  I didn’t know what it portended, or even if it was my imagination.

I shuffled into the back of my closet, looking for things I had that weren’t black t-shirts or work clothes. I had a dark red velvet blazer that was almost black that still mysteriously fit. I thought about the last time it had been worn, and decided it had been long enough.  A nice black button-up shirt.  Black jeans because I live in Colorado.

Another sound.  “Tinkerbell, are you there?” I asked, because it sounded no less like a shaking of tiny little bells.  Tinkerbell did not deign to answer or light up somewhere.  I felt around my chin to make sure my morning shave hadn’t done more than leave me rugged.  Not that “rugged” really worked on my face.  There was a little plumpness that was disturbingly headed towards my chin. I resolved again to maybe start exercising or eating better, knowing it wasn’t really going to happen.

I washed my face again with this week’s faintly herbal rinse. Smelled faintly like sandalwood with a little tiny touch of bourbon.  I didn’t ask, but I felt it was more Rayya’s suggestion than Nen.  I think they switched off, and Rayya was somehow less floral. As much as her name song talked of ice, I found her warm.  Maybe I was actually fond of them.

Of course, that way lay madness. They were not human, something that smacked me in the face multiple times a day.  Okay, multiple times a week; I wasn’t that dense, but every time I got comfortable with them, they managed to pull that out from under me.  Maybe not so much while shopping today, but then I came home and my place was transformed. Well, at least the bathroom was pretty much my own.

That inspired me to pick up my room a bit. There was only so much I could do, but stacking, and making the bed, and remembering that creatures that needed to excrete would probably be on their way through and would judge me, I spent some time on it.  I found an old silver ring that fit my finger well and put that on. It wasn’t pure silver, but it was lovely and made my hand look more elegant.  I matched it with a hematite one on the other finger, and then spent some time looking up the magical properties on my phone. Emotional stability, anchoring people from daydreaming which meant it was pretty bogus, dissolves negativity, well, it looked nice at least.  Magda told me that it would split if it reflected something negative from you, but hematite was pretty fragile in my experience, or I was the target of a lot of wanton negativity.

I brought out a bunch of cups, to see Rayya speaking with someone out in the living room.  I recognized the Questor and his wife. The Questor’s wife smiled and got up from the couch, offering to help. “Rules,” she said. “If you show up early, you have to help clean or set up.  What can I do to help?”

I noticed she had a cane with a dragon’s head on top that she had grabbed while getting up.  “No, no, I’ve got it. Really, it’s,” I thought for a moment how to name them, and Nen came to the rescue, “My sister Rayya and I are doing the heavy lifting,” he smoothly inserted.  It was a relief, meaning those names were going to be the primary use names for the evening.  Of course, I always referred to the Questor’s wife as if she were some kind of possession of the Questor.  I would have to consider that, but her name was not mine to give.

Nen did as described, taking the cups into the kitchen, where he put them smartly away into the dishwasher.  It showed a lot more confidence than he had originally showed towards the machine. He was wearing a vest with black sequins, a white shirt that billowed out like Rayya’s cowl, and a pair of white slacks that looked almost made of some kind of vellum.  I don’t know why his pants made me think of books, but they did.  His hair looked a little longer than usual, in a kind of style that made me think of anime heroes, and he wore an ear clip that looked a bit like a little blue bat.  I tried to think of what those were originally, but it didn’t come to mind.  Maybe they were Nen originals.

“The children?” I asked, trying to make conversation.

“Old enough to stay home by themselves,” she said, smiling. “I am pretty sure together they’re a match for whatever might try them past my defenses, and past the threat of losing the Questor’s services, even though I do worry about that ‘together,'” she grinned.

“Eh, my sister is still terrible and foul, but I kind of like her occasionally now,” I offered.

She chuckled. “Yeah, I’m the oldest of several, and I like them all now… but each of them was an insult in the beginning. And maybe a few times since, but I’m willing to pretend to be the better person.”

“Isn’t that how all of us are?” I asked. “Willing to pretend.  Speaking of which,” I referred to the cane.

“This?” She sat herself down, holding it. “It was my father’s. There’s many stories about it, not any kind of Excalibur, but definitely an oddity.”

“I don’t know how to ask,” I said.

“Oh, was I injured? No, at least only by my own foolishness.  You know that little voice that says you can start exercising tomorrow? Tell it no, today.  And tomorrow.  I see the writing – I’ve got maybe a decade.”  She shrugged. “I can change the world, but it’s up to me to change myself.”

“Oh.”  I didn’t know what else to say.