Despite the news she just relayed to her group of impending doom, Candy Quakenbush felt the familiar crushing fingers of hunger stretch along her stomach and squeeze without mercy. She unconsciously hugged her stomach close as if cradling it like a child would comfort the organ. Tazmagor was an empty crustacean shell, lacking the rich white meat meant to sustain a tourist's true reason for visiting—food. There was nothing here that the seaport could offer to Candy's complaining anatomy. As the shops told her, there could be no food if the food itself had not arrived.
But this should have been of no importance. The lack of food was old news. Candy scolded her stomach for such a trivial issue. The world as Abarat knew it, perhaps even the worlds beyond the islands as well, was about to change and do it in a drastic manner at that. If she could trust Christopher Carrion's advice, to flee to safety or flee to death, then there was no time to dilly dally in the streets of Tazmagor staring at the empty stands tended by people with empty expressions.
"If what you say is true, Candy, then we have to get to a boat and fast." John Mischief placed a red hand on the girl's shoulder, waking her from her trace. She shook her head, freeing herself from the numbness that only the news of suns, moons, and stars dying the death of absolute midnight could bring.
"Yes. Yes, of course." All thoughts of meats and fruits were dashed out of her brains. By the way Carrion's blue eyes flicked from her eyes to the edge of the alley way as if he was in a hurry and could only spare a few seconds more, there was not much time left.
Pull yourself together, Candy. You were born for the Abarat, so dying in it won't be too bad. She gulped. Living would be better, though. So get going!
So immersed was Candy in her own thoughts, a habit she soon recognized from the multiple years of living with an internal roommate, that she missed vital pieces of the conversation around her.
"We'll go to the docks and split ways from there. I have to find Finnegan, but I won't ask others to come along this time. We all have our places in this." Geneva announced to the group. Everyone nodded including all of the John Brothers, and Candy joined in after she finally caught onto the plan. But why was she so out of sorts, thinking of food and other nonsense when what she needed was a way to…a way to what, exactly?
"Candy, we have to go now."
She jumped at the much gentler voice right next to her and smiled when she saw Malingo by her side. Just like that all scattered and unwanted thoughts were banished and she was set right on track. Malingo grinned at her, trying to comfort Candy as much as he could. He somehow knew all of her movements and random ticks meant something more than just meaningless motions. In fact, he knew more about her than she did.
"Thank you, Malingo. You're right. We should be going." Before Candy could make good on her newly restored gusto, she caught sight of something in Malingo's orange hand. He saw her glimpse at the item and tried to hide the thing behind his back sheepishly. Candy was having none of that. After finding her new line of focus, secrets were going to be found if they were foolish enough to be exposed to her. Candy danced over to her left, dipped down, and plucked the thing from Malingo's palm. He let out a strangled yelp, but there was no use. Candy was triumphant.
"I can't read the title of this. It's not in English." Candy turned the brown bottle around, trying to acquire a better idea of what this could be by scouring the library of memories she stolen from Boa, but to no use. "What is this, Malingo?"
"It's a geshrat lotion for sunburns." That explains Boa's lack of knowledge on this particular substance. She would have thought geshrat lotion to be underneath her status.
"Geshrats get sunburns?"
"But, I don't think you're burned." Candy just saw orange, orange, and more orange.
"I know, I…well."
"I got it for you."
"I noticed you were burned pretty badly while we were on the boat to here. You always look out for others, but never for yourself. I thought I could, you know, help." Malingo twiddled his thumbs, looking anywhere but at the girl in front of him. They were still walking through twisting streets and stalls, but Candy stopped when Malingo finished. The others continued on, leaving the pair behind.
Candy blinked and observed the skin on her limbs. Oh yes. She was burned to the point where her skin resembled a fading Yebba Dim Day sunset. Now that she saw the worst of her burns, the pain was able to reconnect with the nerves to her brain. She winced and opened the bottle of geshrat lotion whose label she still could not read. Unfortunately, the content was like a thick layer of yellow snot, but it got the job done. As quickly as the pain greeted her was as fast as it said its goodbyes.
"Thank you, Malingo." Candy raised her eyes to meet shinning green ones to show the sincerity of her thanks. However her eyes roamed, as eyes usually tend to do. Malingo was smiling, this was true, but he looked worn. Everything on him expressed a state of weariness and pain.
Malingo had long ago shed his yellow suit leaving a dirty white piece of cloth that could resemble a tank top. Maybe. Chunks of the cloth were missing, and his yellow dress pants were so used that they were more like yellow dress swimming trunks that Abaratian moths decided to feast on. There were purple bruises on his arms and legs with his right eye only now healing from a black eye. The geshrat was hunched over, no longer standing straight because of a wound he sustained while battling on the Wormwood.
He could have retrieved new clothes, watched the puppet show she could have sworn he disappeared to, or simply went on to enjoy himself, and yet Malingo was still smiling sweetly at her because she felt better!
Suddenly, Candy had the urge to just pull him down to, to…well to do whatever the hiccup in her stomach and the strange melody in her heart to her to do with him. The combination of sweaty palms and a pounding head meant this: Candy reached out, grabbed Malingo's two ear flaps, and pulled the geshrat down to her level. There she thrust her head forward and kissed him. Well, if one would call that a kiss. It was merely a crushing of lips and a moment of utter confusion. All in all, a clumsy first kiss for both. Candy pulled away, blinking her eyes.
"C-C-Candy?" Malingo breathed out. There was a fine layer of purple geshrat sweat on his brow, but he was too petrified to brush it away. "What, I mean, it was nice but, why, well..I…" He squeaked as if he were speaking another language. Candy chuckled, still holding onto the fluttering flaps.
"I figured that if the world really was going to end, I would much rather spend the rest of the time we've got like this."
"But, Candy," Malingo said in a forced steady tone, "With you in it, how can the world possibly want to end?"
Candy grinned from ear to ear, veering dangerously close to masking the ever present smile of the Commexo Kid, but nothing all that terrifying. The girl let go of the geshrat's ear flaps and instead encircled her arms around his strong neck. He gladly bent down to meet her for another kiss, but this time with more warning. Candy began to have a better idea of Malingo's kisses. Yes, geshrat lips were not made to kiss that of a human's, but then whoever created geshrats and humans never knew Candy and Malingo. They kissed many times. Malingo placed his shaking hands on the small of Candy's back, pressing her closer to him until their bodies met. Heat sizzled like electric fire off of their bodies, swirling into something akin to fireworks. All the while Candy would open and close her eyes and Malingo would catch flashes of color.
Blue and brown.
Blue and brown.
Malingo and Candy flew apart more out of instinct to defend themselves rather than out of embarrassment. Somehow, their hands had become entwined.
"Thanks Slop, Drowsy, and Serpent. I don't believe we could have broken them apart without a combined effort." Mischief stared at Candy and Malingo, a sense of urgency as well as a sly understanding captured on his face. "My brothers and I don't mean to break up such a lovely moment, but we have to get going. Remember, a knife for every heart? I think we should avoid that."
"Let's go then." Candy beamed and tightened her hold on Malingo.
"Just lead the way, Candy. I'll follow."
And in the heart of impending Midnight shone two everlasting smiles.
Much like flashlights.