Chapter 14

01 ( 14: If You Only Knew

After the peculiar revelations from Ligeia, we decided to put all training on hold until morning. We’d left the warehouse and got settled at a very nice hotel. It felt like a reward for our uncomfortable nights in strange places. My father had left an emergency fund at our underground safe house; I’d made sure to take every coin with me. I wasn’t able to check in due to safety concerns so Norio made the arrangements on our behalf. Thanks to my family’s unfortunate situation, I could never put my real name on anything.

Nyah and I shared a room with double queen beds while Norio and Ligeia got separate rooms. We were laying in our beds facing each other. I was laying on my stomach with my arms tucked under my pillow. Nyah was laying on her side with her head propped up on her left hand. I was so upset about Ligeia attacking Nuah that Norio took us shopping for new clothes to appease my anger. Fresh clothes and a good night’s rest in this place was a decent apology, considering. Our hotel room was very spacious but still managed to feel cozy. The carpet was red and gold with circular patterns throughout it. I loved how they matched everything in the room to the theme of the carpet. The curtains were dark red with gold tassles on them, the two love seats on the west side of the room were a gold color and decorated with dark red throw pillows. There was a forty two inch flat screen TV mounted on the wall across from our beds. Bellow it stood a beautiful, dark red polished dresser. On it’s smooth surface sat a small glass vase with white and blue Dahlia’s in water. Next to the vase was the hotel phone, hotel pamphlets, a notepad complete with a hotel pen, and a small bowl of chocolate mints. We kept the TV off so that we could enjoy the peacefulness of the room.

Malaika- Are you sure you’re alright?

She nodded with a smile.

Nyah- I’m fine, thanks to you little sister.

Malaika- I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to…

Nyah- But you did. Think of what happened as a lesson. You learned one of your triggers for magic, which is amazing! We can’t afford to take revenge on the only person trying to teach us magic. We need all of the help we can get.

I sighed heavily before burrying my head into my pillow in frustration. I hated to admit it to myself, but Nyah was right.

Malaika- This isn’t right!

I shouted into the pillow.

Nyah- I feel the same way as you do, I really do. I’m not saying that we can trust her, but we should make good use of her knowledge.

Just as Nyah finished her sentence, we heard a series of gentle knocks on the door. I raised my head up from my pillow, frowning at the door. It was the middle of the night so I was a little reluctant to open the door. Nyah got out of her bed and her pastel purple nightgown slid off of the bed behind her. She’d pinned her long, coily curls up on top of her head and tied a silk scarf around her head. Our night maids often did this for me and my sisters, now we do it ourselves.

Malaika- Wait! Don’t take the latch off of the door, just in case.

I warned her as I quickly sat up in bed. Nyah nodded to me as she went to the door. I quietly watched her as she unlocked the dead bolt and opened the door as far as the little gold latch would allow. I could see half of Norio’s face in the doorway.

Norio- I deeply apologize to your hignesses for disturbing you at such a late hour…

Nyah laughed a little, waving her hand at him as if to say he was being silly.

Nyah- It’s alright, we’re wide awake. One sec…

Nyah closed the door briefly to unlatch the door before opening it again. Norio looked into the room, directly at me. His expression wasn’t joyful. In fact, he looked sad.

Norio- Malaika, can we talk privately for a moment?

My heart began to race as I got out of bed. My nightgown was a pastel green with sheer sleeves and ruffled cuffs that partially covered my hands. It had a small train just like Nyah’s nightgown. I avoided Norio’s gaze as I slipped my bare feet into one of the two pairs of hotel slippers. They were black with a gold elephant sewn into the top. I walked out of the room and stood next to Norio. I saw that he’d gotten comfortable as well. He was wearing one of the black hotel robes that looked to be made of thick, high quality cotton. The gold elephant logo was sewn onto the right breast part of the robe. It was long enough that it hid his ankles, but I could see that he was also wearing a pair of hotel slippers. It was a little strange seeing him outside of his battle attire. I looked over at my sister before bowing my head to her.

Malaika- Nyah I-

She raised her hand and shook her head no.

Nyah- Go on, I’ll be fine. I’ll let you back in so you won’t need your key.

I returned her thoughtfulness with a smile and a grateful curtsy.

Malaika- Thank you…

She nodded before closing the door and I could hear her locking up again as we walked away. I wasn’t sure where Norio was leading me to, but I walked with him down the long hallway anyway. We were walking at an extremely slow pace, matching each other’s pace in almost perfect sync. My eyes were fixed on the black and white carpet as the silence between us started to unnerve me. I risked a glance up at him to see his dark brown, almond eyes intently focused on me. The same sullen expression was stuck on his face and set deep into his eyes.

Malaika- Norio, this isn’t like you at all. Tell me what’s bothering you so much.

Norio looked away from me. I started to regret speaking at all.

Norio- Forgive me, I don’t know how I can begin to tell you how sorry I am for failing you today.

I could feel his guilt spilling out from his mind. It seemed that he’d been thinking a lot about what happened to Nyah. We reached the end of the hallway and then turned right. I could see four elevators facing each other on opposite sides of the wall at the end of the hall.

Malaika- …Do you believe Ligeia’s story?

Norio- Not even a little bit.

He said in a very dark tone as his eyes met mine again.

Norio- I’m pretty sure she knows that I don’t buy her story. I’ll have to find out what else she might know.

I started to smile with satisfaction before looking ahead to the elevators. We came to a stand still in front of the first one. I was pleasantly surprised that Norio wasn’t blinded by any affections or attraction to Ligeia.

Malaika- How do you plan on making her spill her secrets?

Norio- I’ll worry about the “how” my lady.

He said with a smirk. The elevator behind us dinged and we turned around to see two couples step out. The women were African and the men were Asian. They were dressed very fancy, like they’d gone to a dinner party fancy. The women were in matching long, black, evening gowns. The first woman had waist length locs that were almost as jet black as her dress. She appeared to be young to me because of her glowing baby face and flawless brown skin.

The second woman had her head shaved and cut into a perfect fade. Her head was adorned with a gorgeous princess cut diamond and white gold head piece. An oval shaped piece of opal dangled against her forehead and was set into white gold. As elegant as the accessory was, it didn’t steal the shine from her large, light brown eyes, full lips as plump as plumbs in the summer, and a small button nose. She looked as young as I was. Her skin was a deep, dark, rich brown and not a blemish nor a wrinkle was present on her features. What really caught my eyes about her besides her face was her perfect hour glass shape that made her dress truly compliment her. She looked how I “hoped” I looked in my dresses.

Their dates were around similar heights, somewhere between six feet and six feet ttwo inches if I had to guess. Both of them had short hair cuts, neither of their hair styles touched the tops of their ears. The man with the woman in locs and cherry red lips wore an all black tuxedo and a powder blue shirt underneath, complete with a black tie. His dress shoes were all black leather loafers. He was grinning like a fool in love as he looked down into his woman’s eyes,  with his large, rounded dark ones. They looked to be in their own little world as they passed by us.

The second man with the woman wearing a head piece fit for a queen, had beautiful hazel, almond shaped eyes and one of the most charming smiles I’ve seen. His hair was jet black and neatly combed back. He had linked arms with his woman like a true gentleman as they spoke amongst themselves. His suit was cream colored  and he wore a black dress shirt underneath complete with a cream and black tie. There was also a small black handkerchief peeking out from the right chest pocket. His shoes were black with cream at the toes and heels. Very classy and elegant.

Norio- (Clearing his throat) It’s rude to stare so hard you know.

I quickly looked back at Norio feeling absolutely ashamed. The embarrassment must’ve been plain on my face because he suddenly started smiling at me. I didn’t know why I was so mesmerized by them. I guess it had been a while since I’d seen anyone besides my sister that might have been of high status who was actually happy.

Malaika- I didn’t mean to, seriously…

Norio- Nevermind that…Would you come with me to the pool area for a little while?

I gave him a curious loook. Before I could answer, he pressed the “down” button for the elevator in front of us.

Malaika- Why did you ask if you weren’t going to let me answer?

Norio- Because I knew you would say yes…

I frowned at him hard as I crossed my arms over my breasts. He still stood there with a smug smile, as arrogant as you please. The elevator dinged and the doors opened to reveal an empty ride. Norio motioned for me to go first and I walked past him still frowning. I stood with my back against the railing and watched Norio come in and press the button for the first floor. We were currently on the fifth floor.

Malaika- Your arrogance is unnattractive…

Norio- Oh? Then does that mean your highness finds the rest of me desireable?

My eyes widened but I didn’t dare to meet his eyes. My level of embarrassment had sky rocketed.

Malaika- No I-That’s NOT…

I could hear his stiffled snickering and I simply closed my eyes, trying not to laugh at myself. The elevator chimed and the silver doors slowly parted. We walked out and headed to the pool area outside. The pool was an enormous, oval shaped, twenty feet deep pool made from grey marble and white granite. It was very light blue and well lit on the bottom. The strong stench of chlorine hit my nose hard making it tingle, and in the worst way. We sat a fair distance away from the pool on two outdoor lounge chairs. It was about six feet long with fluffy cushions laid on top that were as soft as marshmellows.

Norio- We haven’t really spoken since we spent the night in the mines…

I pretended to focus on the hotel staff coming in and out of the pool area from time to time. Some would bring more clean towels, some were sweeping the lounge chair areas, others wiping down tables and chairs at the small cafe at the end of the pool walkway. I had some idea of how awkward this conversation would be.

Malaika- Considering what you said to me that night and what happened to my sister, are you surprised?

Norio- No…However, I did let myself hope that you wouldn’t listen to me. I hoped you would risk openening your heart to a lowly vagrant like myself…

He’d caught my attention then. I slowly looked over at him to see his intense dark eyes locked onto me. He was slightly leaning forward with his hands clapsed in front of him.

Malaika- Why? Why would you hope for something like that? Do you enjoy playing mind games with me?

I couldn’t help it, I was getting so frustrated with him and his riddles. He looked down at the smooth conrete below us for a moment; trying to find the right words I think.

Norio- I’m sorry Malaika. I never meant to make you feel that way. I take my role as your guard very seriously.

I watched him get up from his lounge chair and kneel in front of me. I started to panic and look around for anyone who might be watching us; luckily we were alone for the moment.

Malaika- Are you crazy?! Get up! Rise before someone sees you!

I whispered urgently to him, but he ignored me if I’d said nothing.

Norio- I have something to say, please hear me out.

Malaika- Please, speak your mind.

I sat up a little straighter with my hands resting on my lap, I was going to give him my undivided attention.

Norio- You asked me why I would hope for you to ignore my warning, it’s because you’ve become special to me. I only tease you to make your difficult journey with me fun, because I only want to see tears of joy from you. If I’m ever cold to you, I’m only trying to push you away in order to protect you. You should know that my true feelings are the actually the opposite…

Malaika- Norio, what…

It was all I could utter as he confessed to me his true feelings.

Norio- Malaika I beg of you, please for being less than what you deserve in a personal guard. You and your sisters are depending on me to safeguard your bloodline and yet, I failed to protect Nyah yesterday. I swear on pain of death, that will NEVER happen again. If one of you should come to any harm on my watch again, I will give to you my life to do with as you will…

He bowed his head to me before looking me in the eyes again and I gave him a slow nod. My heart felt as though it would beat out of my chest in that moment. My skin was covered in little goosebumps because of his words. He actually opened up to me, something I never thought he would do. Though he offered me his life as payment for any failures, I would never take it. For if he died by my hands, I couldn’t possibly forget him then. I couldn’t live on knowing that I’d killed the first man I’d ever…Cared about.

Malaika- That’s enough, please get up Norio…

He lowered his head as he rose and returned to his seat. When our eyes met this time, I wasn’t afraid nor shy. I welcomed the connection.

Norio- Thank you for listening.

I smiled, a real smile showing my teeth.

Malaika- Of course. Thank you for your honesty.

Norio- One thing I’ll never do is lie to you. Well, since I’ve snatched you from your bed I should escort you back properly. Ready?

I shook my head slowly, making him grin.

Norio- No?

Malaika- You dragged me out of a very comfortable bed to sit outside poolside. I want to enjoy it, at least for an hour.

He nodded before sitting back against the lounge chair.

Norio- If you like.

He said sighing, looking up at the starry night sky.

Malaika- Tomorrow is going to be a long day…

I said laying back against my lounge chair as well. I was feeling so at ease as we relaxed under the stars. I would remember this night for the rest of my life. Tonight, I saw into Norio’s heart. Perhaps I was wrong about him after all…