The Melted Statue Vol. 2
26th of Dec '17 @ 12:06 PM
The ice replica of the Dragon Statue watched over the town square like a new guardian. All that first day, every time Allie had reason to cross through the downtown block, she’d catch its shape out of the corner of her eye and jump before remembering what it was. Her daily routine had been disrupted by the need to return to the post office—a tiny, two-room building—to deal with the damaged letters. One of them, it turned out, had been intended for the very Firebreathing Ridix who’d damaged it.
She fingered the singed paper. The sender hailed from the Talytil lake region. Odd to imagine someone so miserable and fiery having anything to do with a region known for tranquility and beauty. Relatives, maybe? At any rate, this meant hiking up Bent-Tree Hill to his lonely cottage on the west side of town. She sighed at the thought.
On her way across town, she noticed a new admirer loitering around the statue. Orin, the striking Ice Novyn who ran the fur and beauty parlour, was wrapping himself into various poses while his assistant took photos.
“Turn it at an angle,” Orin said, manipulating the camera in his assistant’s paws. “Get my face from below with the dragon’s head over my shoulder.” His gaze caught on Allie. “Ah, my dearest mistress of the mail! How has your morning been, you gorgeous girl?”
Allie slowed and couldn’t help but grin. Orin swiveled around the statue’s base into a new pose, and the camera flashed again.
“I think you might have some competition for most beautiful dragon in town,” Allie said with a chuckle.
“You’re telling me.” He draped backwards across the statue’s base, throwing a wrist over his forehead like a fainting damsel. Another camera flash. “It’s all anyone can talk about. Between you and me, I think Snowdrift is going to go out of style. Good thing you’re already ahead of the curve, honey—Ice is going to be all the rage.”
He corrected his assistant again, which broke into an argument. Allie left them, still smiling.
The smile faded as she faced Bent-Tree Hill. This time of year, the scraggly old elm looked sad and tired, like the cottages it watched over. As the path wound away from downtown, the homes grew shabbier, the yards less well kept. The pets here got mail as much as anyone else, and it wasn’t that Allie minded the area, but… Rinx. Rinx never got mail, and never visited his neighbours. He lived in the darkest, scruffiest cottage on the lane, and other than their morning coffee routine, they never crossed paths.
Allie rounded a bend halfway up the hill, and to her surprise, found Linus coming the other way. His red eyes seemed puffier and he kept his gaze fixed on the ground in front of him, such that he didn’t notice her presence for several seconds.
“Oh!” he said when he saw her. “Good day.” His voice, which was usually on the timid side, seemed even quieter than usual.
“Linus, I didn’t know you lived over here.”
“I—I don’t. I was visiting a friend.” He glanced back over his shoulder.
She frowned. “Did something happen?”
“Just… a difference of opinion,” he said with a thin smile. “I’ve been away from the shop for too long. I—I should really get going.”
Allie held out a paw. “Hey, listen. I’m sorry about the ruckus I caused earlier.”
“It’s fine, it’s no problem. Forget it.” He waved her away and started onward down the path. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning, coffee’s on me.”
She watched him go. He seemed so… fragile. But what to do about it? She filed the conversation away and determined to check in on him later.
She dropped off a handful of letters along the hill, until she finally reached Rinx’s cottage. His was one of the few homes built of brick rather than ice, and under the bright sun, the windows looked dark. She pulled out his letter and the post office notice regarding its damage, and crossed her fingers that he wouldn’t be home. A quick knock, slip the letter into its box, and scurry back to the path—
The door opened, backlit by a faint yellow-orange glow.
“You again,” Rinx grunted. “Why are you here?”
Allie froze and fumbled a response. “You… have a letter.” She waved her paws vaguely at the mounted mailbox.
His nose wrinkled as if he didn’t believe her. He stuck his paw in the box, pulled out the letter, read the damage notice, and didn’t look up for a long minute. Allie wondered if it would be rude to leave.
“Sorry,” she said to fill the silence. “I would have given it to you earlier if I’d realized.”
“This must be a mistake.” He flipped the envelope over and inspected it. “She doesn’t talk to me anymore.”
“It has your name on it, doesn’t it?”
He scowled at her, then took the envelope between two claws and tore it into pieces. “Go away.” A moment later, the door slammed and he was gone.
Allie blinked at the empty space where he’d been standing. “That was odd.”
“Don’t let him bother you, hon,” said a female voice to her right. Leera, the Cobron ice artisan, repairing a damaged window frame on the house next door, a little downhill. “That’s about the greeting I got when he hired me to build that wall.” She pointed to the low ice-brick wall between the two homes.
“I’m used to him,” Allie said absently. “I run into him most days. It’s just… he doesn’t
get mail. Not ever. I didn’t think he had family.”
“Can’t be a coincidence it’s the same day as the statue unveiling. Think he has something to do with the behind-the-scenes?” Leera chiseled a piece of ice into shape, and glanced across at Rinx’s own sagging windows. “Maybe he’s the town’s largest donor.” She laughed.
Allie smiled without feeling. Something in his face when he saw that letter made her not want to joke about it. Who was the “she” from his past who refused to talk to him?
Leera must have sensed Allie’s discomfort. “Nah, but seriously, that’s some darn fine ice carving. Bet it cost a fortune. I missed the mayor’s speech, but I saw the statue later on, passing through. Gorgeous work. I envy the skill it takes to create something like that.”
“Yeah, should help bring more business.” Allie stuck a paw in her mailbag and flipped through what was left. Almost done with the morning route. A few more houses on the west side, and then lunch would make a perfect excuse to drop in on Linus.
The rest of the morning proceeded without incident, but when she stopped at the bakery, she found it closed for the day. She knocked, but it was dark inside, and it seemed Linus was nowhere nearby. On a day like this? The square was lively with statue admirers, and a line ran out the door of the town’s little café. Something had to be really wrong for Linus to be closed during lunch.
Allie attempted to finish her day like usual. It was difficult to ignore the statue looming over town, or the crowds flocking around it, or Orin’s new beauty special that opened in the afternoon—a large sign promising an Ice Statue Spectacular, surrounded by the portraits he’d taken of himself. The closed bakery hunched on the sidewalk like a bruise she couldn’t forget, but as much as she liked Linus, she didn’t know him quite
well enough to justify calling on him at home. So she resolved to get up early the next morning to talk to him. If he was still closed… she’d cross that bridge when she came to it.
She woke a solid half hour before sunrise and hurried to get ready. The winter chill was dry and biting, and her breath puffed in front of her face. Normally, Linus would have already been up for hours, baking the morning bread. She slowed as she approached the town square, worried what it might mean if he still wasn’t there.
The warm scent of fresh rolls gave her a rush of relief. Lights on, sign open, the backside of a Traptur moving around behind one of the counters. Allie let go of a sigh she hadn’t realized she was holding.
She welcomed the heat inside the bakery. Linus looked up as she entered, and she stopped short. He looked haggard, like he hadn’t slept, and his face was blotchy from recent tears.
“Oh, Linus!” Allie said. “Please tell me what happened.”
Just then, the door opened behind her. Linus’s face hardened. It was Rinx. Always here at the same time, even though she’d come early today.
“Get out,” Linus said, voice more forceful than she’d ever heard. “Not today.”
Rinx, for once, looked contrite. “I came to apologize—”
“I don’t want you in here!”
“Rinx,” Allie added gently. “I think you should leave.”
The Ridix opened his mouth as if to say more, but glanced between them and seemed to think better of it. He lowered his head and withdrew, without so much as a grumble.
Allie turned back to the counter. “What’s wrong, Linus? I’ve never seen you like this. Is someone sick? Is it news from your family?”
He shook his head. “No. They can all die of plague.”
He buried his head in the pastry cabinet, arranging displays. She chewed her lip.
“Your family lives in Glacia, right?” she asked, more rhetorical than anything. The statue had arrived with a caravan from Glacia. That had
to be it.
Muffled shouts came from outside. Sunrise had broken through the morning twilight and started to warm the square with pinks and oranges. Pets hurried about in the fading shadows, pounding on doors, yelling for the mayor or the police. Allie drew closer to the window, and her breath caught. It may have been a trick of the light, but the statue seemed lumpy and misshapen, its details eroded away.
A breathless Trido stuck her head through the door. “Come quick! Someone’s melted the statue during the night!"