Under the weight of her sister’s scrutiny, Tavia could only give a lame excuse.
“I’ve just been busy,” Tavia said.
“Is that really it? We both thought you were angry at us too.”
“Uh,” Tavia ran a hand over her face, and then shook her head. “No, it really has nothing to do with you two.”
“I guess,” Melora replied, though she didn’t seem convinced.
“Is Erent doing all right?”
Melora’s eyes turned sharp and cold again. It was almost chilling how much she looked like their mother, but the truly chilling thought was how that meant how much Tavia also looked like that woman.
“You’ll have to call him and ask yourself,” Melora said. She clamped her mouth shut, as if she was refusing to say anything further, but her restraint lasted only a moment before she added, “But I think he’s busy now, so it might be hard to get a hold of him.”
“Busy? Isn’t this going into the quiet season?”
During the fall and winter, most Scarvers retreated to their nests, hive-bound Scarvers strengthened their guard while the queens laid eggs and raised young. Though they were still aggressive if approached and attacks on the nearest cities still happened on occasion, there was generally less for the Knights to do. Raids on nests were impossible, due to the larger concentration of Scarvers lurking in them, and so other than the few Knights needed to handle rogue Scarvers, most of the Knights were able to take a break during the winter months.
“He said there have been some weird things going on with the Scarvers this year,” Melora said. “That’s partly why they sent me back to Edelheiss.”
“Um,” Melora tilted her head to the side, and scowled up at the ceiling. “I wasn’t really paying attention since I was mad they wouldn’t let me stay, but I think he said something about them being in strange places and attacking in strange ways.” She then shrugged. “If you’re curious, you’ll just have to talk to Erent.”
It wasn’t as if she was that curious, but Melora had made her point. Tavia was going to have talk to her brother at some point. The conversation lapsed into silence, a heavy weight that hung on Tavia’s shoulders like a burden she couldn’t shake. Evos was remaining silent, but when Tavia looked back at him, she found he was now watching her, his silver eyes serious.
“Mel, why are you really here?” Tavia asked.
“I really did come to invite you to the museum,” she said. “It was Khristi’s idea, and she wanted to meet you.”
“Mel, that’s not—”
“She’s kind of like you, you know? We met in the hospital when I came to visit you a long time ago,” Mel continued in a rush of words.
She looked down at her lap, hands gripping the edges of her jacket, but she soon fell silent, only staring down as Tavia looked down at her.
“Mel, you wanted to ask me something else, didn’t you?”
Melora flinched, and she continued to look down, as if afraid to look at Tavia’s expression. Tavia raised a hand to her face, feeling the tension in her brows. She tried to relax, but the conversation had gotten her worked up, and she just wanted to get it over with.
“You’re not going to come home?” Melora finally asked.
“Leaving wasn’t really my choice, I’m sure you’re aware of that,” Tavia said.
Melora shook her head, and then finally looked up at Tavia. A frown, almost a pout, ruined her features, and her eyes glistened with tears held back by force of will.
“But Mom doesn’t care, you could come home any time,” Melora said.
“It’s definitely not that simple,” Tavia replied, “and I happen to like living away from that house.”
Melora stood, staying silent as she made her way around the couch to stand before Tavia. She didn’t speak, her jaw flexing as if she wanted to, but couldn’t find the words.
“You know I’ve wanted to leave that house for a long time now, and this was finally my best chance,” Tavia said.
She reached a hand out to rest it on her sister’s shoulder, but Melora flinched away before glaring at Tavia.
“Are you saying there’s nothing at home you care about? Nothing at all?”
As Melora’s dark eyes narrowed, Tavia could only return the stare in confusion. There really wasn’t any reason for Tavia to go back, and Melora knew that just as well as Tavia, so why was she acting like this?
After a few moments, Melora shook her head and stepped back. Her gaze moved to Evos for a moment, and for the first time, Evos reacted, flinching before looking away.
“Never mind,” Melora said. “I hope you’ll come. Your boyfriend can come along too if he wants.”
“Ah, he’s not—” Tavia stopped. Even she could realize this wasn’t the right time to clarify her relationship with Evos.
“I’ll walk you out,” Tavia said, but Melora shook her head.
“No need, I need to get Khristi first. I’ve already visited Alvis a few times, so I know my way around. You can just… stay here.”
Melora stepped around Tavia without another word. Tavia watched her, wondering if she should stop her sister, seeing her leave in such a bad mood was souring Tavia’s own mood, but her hesitation last too long, and Melora was already stepping through the door before Tavia could even begin to form words.
She reached out toward Melora’s back, “Wait, I’ll—” the door closed and Tavia’s words went unheard by the girl on the other side of the door.
Tavia lowered her hand, watching the door for a moment, before a soft cough drew her attention.
“What?” she snapped as she looked at Evos.
“N-nothing,” Evos replied, shaking his head, but the frown on his face put the lie to his words.
She could press him about it, but if Evos didn’t want to talk about it, she probably didn’t want to know. Tavia put a hand to her forehead and sighed, her sister’s two invitations weighing heavy in her mind.