The staff briefing the morning I returned to the office was one of the odd ones. Mr Messenger seemed to be the only one who was chipper, and there were a lot of angry grumbles about the graffiti. Doamnă gave us the information she could, what the investigators had released for general consumption, and the angry grumbles became confused murmurs. We understood why we were advised to travel in pairs, and the usual safety precautions for a city under Incident Log Watch. The request to report all out-of-norm dreams to Madame Kilta or one of her assistants was new.
The part where we were having similar dreams did cause me to stop and think. I don’t know what Miss Ama did to allow me to sleep, but I knew Perun had written to let me know he had returned late the night before. The note arrived while I was sleeping, and if this was affecting everyone, I needed to get help to him.
I found Miss Ama in the kitchen area. It was easier for me to talk to her there, with Mrs Parks making sure we had scones and tea in the nook by the door. “I - I don’t want to know how, really, as uncanny things don’t seem to stick in my head, but is it.. could you... can you make a ring for someone else?”
She nodded, adding more lemon to her tea, “You want to make sure your young man doesn’t wear himself out like you were?”
I blushed and nodded. I brought out the brass gas line fitting I had found in the lab reject bin, “I think it might be large enough, and I filed the rough spot out. It won’t be useful for the lab, but maybe...”
She smiled, then took the fitting and examined it closely. I had never noticed her eyes were a brilliant purple until she was focused on the fitting, then there was a flash of blue reflected in them before she took my hand and placed the ring in my palm. Covering my hand with hers, the brass seemed to warm suddenly, then she nodded. “That should do it. If it doesn’t fit him, have him keep it within arms reach, ‘specially when sleeping.” She added more lemon to her tea (I wondered if it was more lemon than tea by now) and downed it, pocketing a scone as she rose, “Must dash, have a few more people to catch. Good idea with the ring, though.” She was gone swiftly, the door almost shutting off her last words.
Mrs Parks was busy at the other side of the kitchen, and did not seem to notice I was there. The fitting felt a little heavier, now, and I caught a glimpse of engraving inside, where the threads had been before. The block script shone through the Damascus-like swirls of metal, Inima mea bate alaturi de a ta... well it was true, but how.... I shook my head, cleared the table for Mrs Parks and headed back to my desk.
After work, I joined the group of clerks lodging at the hotel as they headed home, listening to them chatter about the news from the docks with half an ear. Meeting Perun as he came from the telegraph office, I was struck by how gaunt he seemed. His smile could not hide the circles under his eyes, and I finally convinced him to join me at supper in the hotel. The other girls giggled, but I was worried enough I did not acknowledge their teasing.
He drank far too much coffee at supper, and though obviously fatigued, he seemed loathe to leave. When he suggested we continue our visit in the lobby, I was torn. It had been a very long time since I had seen him, but I did not want him walking alone late at night, not with the uncanny goings on. He seemed to have lost weight. I could not tell if it was lack of sleep or just not taking care of himself when he traveled.
“Not to worry, mo cridhe, it is only je- I am just tired from the last journey.” He smiled at my worry and asked about the news in town. When I began relating the incidents of the nightmares, he flinched, and I asked if he could take something for sleep. Shaking his head, “No, that is not a possibility, my heart, I have... not good results with laudanum, nor with the usual medicines... here.” He quickly changed the subject to next year’s calendar, I did not have the chance to offer him the ring Miss Ama had worked on for him. I was unsure of how to present it.
When I finally ran out of the news that had happened since I last saw him, we sat in companionable silence. I know I should have brought up the nightmares again, but just sitting with him, staring into the small fire the bellhop had lit when the lobby had gotten chilly, was very home-like. He had draped his arm across the back of the davenport, and I was seated perhaps a little too close for the customs at my home village, but it was very comfortable to snuggle with him, as I had done in my dream the night before. When I heard him snore softly, I smiled, and tucked the ring in his waistcoat pocket.
The night manager stopped by, checking to see if we needed anything. Weeks earlier, he might have chased Perun out as a visit this late was unseemly, but now it seemed everyone understood the need to have someone to watch while one slept. He nodded his understanding at my wish to not disturb Perun’s sleep. After pointing out that his desk was within shouting distance if we needed anything, he left us alone. I might not have slept as well as if I was in my rooms, but he seemed to need the rest, and I was content, snuggled into his shoulder.