That cocktail had seemed endless. It was well past midnight when Risa exited at the last metro station at the outskirts of the city.
She wondered if it was worth calling a taxi, but the air was agreeably cool and she opted for a walk. She stopped briefly to text Julian that she would be home soon.
That’s when she heard a horse whinnying in the darkness. Frowning, she could distinguish a black silhouette below the trees.
Suddenly the unicorn rushed out of its hiding place towards Risa.
“So it was you! For how long are you going to come in and out of my life?” But the animal acted strangely. It was shivering all over and its eyes were wide open.
“… What’s wrong?”
The unicorn let out a loud neigh and stamped angrily its feet on the ground. Risa stood back and put her hands to her ears.
“There is some danger somewhere… is that what you mean?”
“Obviously that’s what you mean…”
The unicorn adopted a more relaxed stance and snorted. “It’s gone, isn’t it? Whatever it was…”
“I’ll never know why you have decided to put me under your protection, but I’m lucky to have you.”
“There are things out there, aren’t there?… And he probably knows about them too. It’s twisted, how it makes me feel as if I’m getting closer to him.”
“Hey, don’t push me. I have to go home or Julian will get worried.”
“Will you walk with me?”
“That’s… not… what I had in mind!”
“I don’t know what kind of death I’ve escaped from at that metro station, but it’s scaring me and attracting me at the same time… What’s wrong with me?…”
“Erm…. Thanks. I guess.”
“W… wait, I’ll be down in a moment. Just… God, it’s so high…”
“Parting gift from you? Further protection?”
– Mom? You’re still awake?
– Everybody’s awake in this house. Come and sit down for a bit.
– You work too much.
– You’ve told me that already. Where’s Julian?
– Gone for an urgency. A cow giving birth or something.
“But the one who truly worries me is Ash. Risa, he’s insomniac. So young, can you imagine? I know you must be very tired yourself, but please go and see him. He promised me he’d go to sleep after he’s seen you.”
And indeed, Ash looked very much awake. Fighting back tears of exhaustion, Risa headed towards his bed. “Why aren’t you asleep, Ash? You’ll be very tired tomorrow if you don’t rest.”
“But I can’t sleep, mum… I tried to, but I can’t.”
– Is there something bothering you? Something you want to tell me?
– You won’t get angry, or sad, or… think it’s stupid?
– That’s a promise.
– Is it that difficult to say?
– … A little bit. Even now, mom…
“… You never look straight at me.”
There was a silence during which Risa stared at her son, dumbfounded. Then she raised from the bed.
– Ash, get up please.
– You promised you wouldn’t get angry…
– I’m not angry.
“You… you’re looking at me now, but… it feels weird.”
“For me too, my darling! I’m so sorry… I love you, and that’s not a lie, I can assure you.”
“Don’t cry, mum! You’ve also promised you wouldn’t be sad…!”