Things were quiet when I returned to the tavern later in the morning. The children seemed none the worse for their ordeal the night before and were concentrating on their homework. Kale promised me that he was working on a picture of Alice and the White Rabbit, as I had requested a couple of nights ago, when I gave him the diary. He had already drawn a picture of me with my sword, he told me. I told him I was looking forward to seeing it. Meanwhile, Aoibheann, doing her best to look cheerful for the kids’ sake, offered to make breakfast. Jada asked if Aoibheann knew what pancakes or waffles were, which she clearly did not, but she decided she could probably work it out from her recipe book. Jada offered to go and help prepare breakfast. As usual, I declined, claiming I had already eaten. I was just relieved that Kale and Jada were well and seemingly unaffected by the excitement of the night before. Children can be so resilient sometimes.
I returned later in the day, to some small semblance of normality. It sounded like Aoibheann was I the kitchen, cleaning, as is her wont when she is stressed. I was about to go and talk to her when Sophia arrived. I had been right about her. She did not look at her best and when I asked, claimed she had not slept well and was feeling dizzy and on edge. At first I thought maybe she was suffering the after effects of her withdrawal from the vitae her mother had given her, but then she alluded to the same feeling back in London, before the end happened there. She was trying her best to put on a brave face, but I could tell she was worried. I offered to make her one of my Irish coffees, which offer she gratefully accepted. As I suspected, I found Aoibheann in the kitchen, cleaning. She did pause, however, to watch me use the espresso machine, perhaps hoping it would assault me with foamed milk again. Not that I was using that part. No, this time, it was just for the coffee.
Bringing her the drink, I told her I had felt the tension in the air and opined it might be something to do with the consorts that keep this place where it is. I also mentioned I had met the King of the Seelie Court a few nights earlier, thinking that perhaps his presence had something to do with whatever was going on with the consorts. She was still worried, so I reached across and held her hand for a moment, which made her blush, but in a good way, I think. I promised her that I would be close by and if anything happened, she should try to find me, or I would find her. I don’t think I needed to add how I had few close friends, so took care of the ones I had. It was a moment, I think, but we both let it pass. Instead, I found her some headache pills under the counter and something for her stomach. She took these with her coffee, although she was not impressed with the stomach pill, claiming it tasted like chalk. She finished her drink and headed out, thinking that she might try to rest to ease the headache. I wished her a pleasant nap and repeated that I would be around if anything happened.
Aoibheann emerged from the kitchen, having, I think, been lurking, not wanting to disturb my conversation with Sophia. I commented that she had done a sterling job looking after the children, but she disagreed. She said she was a total mess who could barely keep herself alive. While that self-assessment concurred with my opinion sometimes, I kept it to myself and told her that she was a good person. Sure, she goes to pieces sometimes, but when it mattered, she held it together and took care of the kids. As ever, she tried to shrug it off, admitting she did not take compliments well, and that she did not know why I told her such things. All I could say to that was that she had better get used to it. I thought that was sufficient and to spare her further embarrassment, I took myself off, telling her I would patrol the courtyard a while.