“So? Gonna tell me what that was all about?” Meela said with a grin.
“Nope,” Alessandra replied, sitting back down behind her desk. “How about you? Are you going to tell me what’s going on between you and Migdoral?”
“What? Nothing’s going on between me and Migdoral!” Meela exclaimed in a tone that was a little too indignant to be innocent.
“Uh huh,” Alessandra said with a knowing smile.
“Whatever,” Meela said, not meeting Alessandra’s eyes. She began rifling furiously through the folder full of papers that she’d brought in with her, and Alessandra chuckled.
“All right,” she said. “You obviously have more you want to talk about then just telling me that Mikaelo returned. What’s up?”
“Oh, just general status updates,” Meela replied, pulling a few papers out of her folder and laying them on Alessandra’s desk.
“Hmmm,” Alessandra mused as she looked over the papers. “Yeah, this all looks in order to me.” She flipped through the pages for a few more minutes. “Zansker’s team isn’t back yet?”
“Not yet,” Meela said with a slight frown.
“They were supposed to be back last night,” Alessandra muttered. Meela remained silent. “Well, let me know when you hear anything,” Alessandra said, handing the papers back to Meela. “Is that really all you wanted? These status updates could have waited until morning.”
“You’re right,” Meela frowned. “To be honest, I’m not sure that your Vanmorzen manor job is a good idea.”
“I see,” Alessandra replied flatly. “And why is that?”
“I think you’re obsessed. I think you’re trying to prove to yourself that you’re the best, when you don’t need to, and I think you’re putting your own pride before the good of the clan.”
“How do you figure?” Alessandra asked quietly.
“Oh, come on,” Meela said, exasperated. “You know exactly what I’m talking about. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone. You’re obviously the best thief in this clan. You destroyed Bezzum and Ilnorat in the arena, and you’ve brought in more booty in the past two months than Bezzum ever could have dreamed of in the same amount of time. Nobody questions your rule. Everybody respects you. There is no reason for you to do this.”
“Are you finished?” Alessandra shot back.
“No, I’m not,” Meela said calmly. “You don’t even know what’s in that vault. I’m not convinced Bezzum knew what was in it either. Sure, it’s valuable. It must be if it’s being guarded by the Storm Corps. But do you really want to bring the Storm Corps down on our heads? You may be able to get past them and steal that box, but do you think you’ll be able to defend the clanhouse if they decide to come get their box back?” There was silence for a moment when she finished speaking, and then she said, “Now I’m done.”
“I see,” Alessandra said. Her eyes flashed for a moment, and she puffed up for a moment, and then she deflated and sighed deeply. “Maybe you’re right,” she said, “but I still need to do this.”
“Why?” Meela demanded. “When everything is going perfectly for you, and for the people who care about you, why risk it all on this nonsense?”
“Because I lost something that night,” Alessandra replied. “I’ve always been confident. I still am. Some people would even call me arrogant, and that’s probably fair. But that night I failed, miserably. I need to prove to myself that it was a fluke. I need to know that I really am as good as I think I am.” There was a long silence after this, as Alessandra and Meela stared each other down.
“I’m never going to convince you, am I?” Meela finally said, her sigh matching Alessandra’s.
“You could always challenge me,” Alessandra said with a shrug and a small twinkle in her eye.
“Your death is one of the things I’m trying to avoid,” Meela said, rolling her eyes. “Besides, I’ve seen you in action. I know there’s no way I could beat you.”
“You’re right,” Alessandra said simply.
“Anyway, I’ve said my piece. If nothing else, when everything comes crashing down, at least I’ll have the satisfaction of saying ‘I told you so’.”
“Believe me, Meela, if this does end up in disaster, the last thing I’ll be worried about is your smugness.”
“So,” Meela said as she laced her hands behind her head and leaned back in her chair, “when are you going to do this?”
“Tomorrow night,” Alessandra replied. “I’ve poured over these plans long enough. It’s either going to work or it isn’t. I need to stop worrying about variables I can’t control.”
“Good idea,” Meela said with a grimace. “If you’re going to do this thing, might as well get it over with.”
“It’ll be worth it,” Alessandra said firmly. “I promise.”
“I don’t know how you think you can make that promise, but I’m still gonna hold you to it,” Meela said, standing up. As she did so, she yawned and stretched. “I don’t know about you, but I’m beat. I’m going to bed.”
“I’m gonna stay up for awhile,” Alessandra said. “Get some work done.”
“Fine by me,” Meela said with a shrug. “I ain’t your mother.” She started walking toward the door, but Alessandra spoke before she reached it.
“Meela,” she said, and Meela stopped. “Do you…do you remember your mother?”
“That’s a weird question,” Meela said, confused. “Of course not. My mother dumped me at the House of Vagrants, just like you and everyone else in this hellhole. Just like I’ll do with my kids, if I ever have any.”
“Yeah, I suppose,” Alessandra murmured.
“Why do you ask?” Meela said with a quizzical look.
“No reason,” Alessandra replied, shaking her head. “Good night, Meela.” Meela nodded, and left.
Why did I ask that? Alessandra thought. She shook her head again, and looked down at the papers on her desk. What are parents like? What would it be like to be one? For the third time, she shook her head, and dismissed those thoughts from her mind. She had work to do.
To be continued…