RECAP: “You’re asking… to come in?”
“Sorry, I was only trying to be polite.”
“No-one’s ever asked before…”
“I’ll sit on the sofa. You sit by the door in that chair if you’re afraid.”
“I’m not afraid of you.” She smiled, thinking of Death and Pain. “Come in.”
He passed her on her way to the chair and sat down on the sofa. From there he watched her as she sat. He could see she had a strange habit of keeping the door ajar with her foot. His eyes went from her foot to her forbearing face.
“Are you warm? This is a high floor…”
“I’m… fine. Why should you care?”
“Yes… you said that before. But are you alright?”
“Yes.” She pushed out the small word, and then more hesitantly “Thank you.”
Handsome – despite his parents’ tremendously ambitious pre-determinism about their son’s attractiveness – was also kind – and so he said gently:
“You don’t have to be polite Fine…. I realise that you’re alone. If you’d like me to go, I will.”
Then Pain appeared, this time conventionally waddling through the gap in the door and putting his fat hand on her ankle proprietorially. She flinched a little but didn’t let the door close.
“Who is this?” Pain sneered, but the woman’s soul kept its own counsel and her heart too was quiet. Pain walked to his customary place at her right side like some overfed cat.
“No-one.” She muttered.
“Hmm?” Handsome asked.
“My name… is Nightfall or Night. I’m leaving the door open for you, as I expect at some point you’ll want to leave.”
“Why is that, Night?”
“This is my sick-room. I have an illness.”
At the word ‘illness’ Death’s voice asked jovially. “Did someone issue an invitation?” He stroked the woman’s hair and noticed the pretty colours of the rope-plaited scarf in it.
She shuddered with a hiccup and a little sob at the cold touch.
“I’m sorry to hear that…”
She was sure that Handsome would behave nobly because that was what his name commanded that he’d be, but she was sure it was nothing more than the plain sympathy he accorded to all beings.
“What a visitor you have Night…” Death laughed “A handsome knight the both of you make with your names… Give or take. That’s the very thing you need, an adventurer in action and not just thought. God has such wit with epigrams… Am I to take him? How clever of you…”
“No!” She said.
“I am though,” Handsome said, “I’m sorry to hear it and I hope you get better.”
Handsome was moved by her sadness and she hated to be pitied… She considered saying nothing and then she told him the thought in her mind, instead of saving it to write on the wall.
“I’m keeping the door open because there will come a day when you will see how hideous I am and not wish to be here anymore, and I would rather help you to leave than give you reason to stay.”