Theo removed the wax seal like it was surgery, like he expected it might explode. Oboe sat on the other side of the desk, waiting for him to finish reading the letter.
“What’s up?” Oboe said, unable to wait any longer.
“Governor Farbend wants me to speak to a Dr. Stillwell at the University as soon as possible.”
“The university?” She was confused. “What’s that got to do with your job here?”
Theo looked disturbed. “It says there’s a strange disease spreading in the city.” He scanned the letter again in more detail. “It’s believed Red Caps may be involved. This sounds dire. I was hoping it could wait until tomorrow, but it can’t.” He pulled his grocery list off the bulletin board. “Not how I wanted to spend today, but at least I’ll be able to run my errands while I’m out.” He sighed. “I should get going. But before I go, there’s something I want to discuss with you.”
“Wait!” Oboe almost jumped. “I should go with you!”
“That’s not necessary,” Theo said. ” That wouldn’t be fair to you. It’s your day off, remember?”
Oboe screamed inside her head. Why did this have to be so hard?
“Anyway,” Theo said before she had a chance to argue. “I wanted to remind you that you still haven’t picked up your back pay.”
Opening a cabinet, Theo fished out a hefty drawstring purse and handed it to her. “Five thousand thalers. All the wages you earned for the last month and a half.”
Oboe sniffed at it with suspicion. “What am I supposed to do with this?”
“It’s money,” Theo said, exasperated. “You buy things with it.”
She frowned at the heavy coin-filled bag, feeling helpless.
“Please take it,” he said. “You can’t just keep letting this pile up. I made a point to budget for your salary. You’re a servant of the crown and entitled to fair compensation.”
Oboe tried to hand it back, but Theo was ready. He backed off, arms folded. She set the pouch on his head.
“You can keep it,” she said. “I’ve got nowhere to spend it. I just want to help you make the Whirlwood better.”
Grumbling, Theo rolled the bag back into his hand. “There’s plenty of things for you to buy in the capital.”
“But you’re leaving without me!”
“You don’t need me to go to the city,” Theo said, holding out the purse. “You have a visa. You know how to use the trolleys now. There’s a lot to see and do in the capital! Not all creatures make this kind of money. You should enjoy it.”
Oboe scowled at the bag of money. She thought about going to the city alone and it just felt sad. “I’ll make you a deal,” she said. “I’ll keep the money if you take me with you.”
“You’re being ridiculous,” he said.
“Why won’t you take me with you??” Oboe said, feeling hurt.
Theo pinched the bridge of his nose. “It’s just… we’re co-workers, right? I’m your boss. It’s not proper for us to fraternize during our time off.”
“Administrative guidelines say it’s a bad idea,” Theo said.
“But WHY is it a bad idea?” Oboe said.
“I don’t know!” Theo said. “It just makes things more complicated.”
“I’m okay with that.” He was the one making things complicated. “Please let me come with you! Laien is big and scary and I feel a lot better with you there. I like helping you. I don’t want to stop just because it’s the wrong day of the week.”
Theo’s arms sagged and his eyes softened. “Alright,” he said. “Fine. You can come. Just, please take your pay. I don’t want the Governor to think I’m embezzling.”
Oboe snatched the bag and looped it over her shoulder. Dancing out the front door, she could not wait to get started.