My mother looked different somehow. I wasn’t sure what it was. There was no sign of the mother stone but I did not expect it. She might never wear it, for all that she had accepted it. She was, as always, dressed in her Mahid black and greys, but Grandfather had decreed that other colours were mandatory for the new Mahid. So she wore a fichu of a rich burgundy with a tiny bright thread in it, a gold so fine it was almost silver. That must be the change.
“Did you make the shoulder shawl, mother?” I asked as I saw her properly seated in her chair.
“No, my son. This was a gift from Serina Liren. She and I exchanged several pieces of fancywork. I made a cascading shawl of Mahid and Phoenix roses for her.”
“Oh. That’s nice.” I swallowed a little harder than I wanted to. The idea of Kyriala and my mother sitting and sewing fancywork together and exchanging gifts unsettled me. It made me feel as if there was quite a bit going on that I was just not seeing. But it made me happy that they liked one another. That was good.
She sat with me and we ate together. I still hadn’t managed to find out what her favourite foods where, since Mahid were not suppose to have favourite anything, so I had bespoken a lot of the same things that had been served at my party, from the Marble Palace kitchens. The fish and rice rolls and the spoons of black roe and spiced cream she seemed to like. Then I escorted her in her walking circuit around the edges of her confinement. I admit I was somewhat startled at her brisk walk and I was reminded of the pacing of the big tigers pacing in a too-small a cage. Less than two eight-days, mother, and you will be free, either way.
“Gannara, I hate to criticize you...” ...but, he thought. “...but, aren’t you spending too much time on that Aan boy’s campaign? I thought you said you wanted to work more in the family business? And I’m happy with how much you and Fara have been here...” but, he thought again. “... but perhaps you could overnight with the family a little more?” And not be sleeping with that Aan boy, he thought patiently.
“Shadowmama.” Gannara got up and hugged her, answering what he thought her fear was rather than her complaint. “I thought you said Minis wasn’t so bad.”
“Well... I worry. I worry about you and about him.”
“It’s all right shadowmama. I’m still seeing healers about what happened to me and I’m not... fixated... on Minis, all right? I mean we saved each other over and over when we were with the Mahid. It was us against them and we got to be close that way.”
She sighed. “And if he wins this... you’re going to want to stay with him?”
“Probably. Fara and Min and I have talked about it and decided that we cannot rush into any kind of decision. After all, we all had wonderful teachers in how to be careful.” He grinned at her and she huffed and crossed her arms at the compliment.
“Pff. Don’t try to put me off with flattery young man. I am simply trying to look out for your good, for your blood-parents’ sake and for yours.”
“I know that mama.” She softened and patted his cheek.
“Good. Then will you and Fara be staying over tomorrow night after dinner?”
“No, mama. We’ll be going up to the Diamond on the Earthsphere. There’s another gathering there. We’re in the last days of Minis’s campaign so we cannot slow down now. Besides, Kallijas offered to show me a few things.”
“Just like my mama.” He grinned at her again. “And I did promise to balance these accounts for papa before I left today...”
“So I should leave you alone. Pff. Well. I did say I was going to say my piece. And I’m keeping an eye on Minis Aan, believe you me.” Like all of Arko is watching him, mama. I know. You’re afraid he’ll turn out to be like his father, deep down.
I miss Minis. Even if he is being a big poop again. Do all the grownups think Nuni and I can’t hear them when they whisper like that? I mean... it’s about the elections and its got something to do with sex and they don’t want Nuni and I to be ‘co-rrupted’. So of course we had to try and find an uncensored copy of the Pages.
We tried the house copy but there was a big hole where there was supposed to be a picture and the butler gave us the ‘you two are being naughty’ look. So we went out to Nuni’s friend’s place. That’s Forever Faithful Manor and his friend’s named Metmondias, but even though he’s older and more mature than us, nearly second threshold... enough that he says he’s more ‘so-fisticated’ than us kids... the copy of the Pages that he had, had a big hole in it too.
So the three of us went to the Great Library and Metmondias tried to make like he was a lot older but they wouldn’t let him in past the Portal of Propriety. “Young Serins,” the librarian said, staring sternly over the top rim of his spectacles at us. “I am certain that there is nothing absolutely necessary for such young men to see. Good day.”
We tried to buy a fresh copy of the Pages ourselves, but the vendor took one look at us and did sell us a copy... that had a hole in it on that page. A couple of men we asked to buy us fresh copies of the Pages, laughed and told us we needed to ask our father’s permission first... and when we said we didn’t have fathers – ‘cause only Met did -- said we should go home.
We sat down on a park bench and talked about it. Grownups were so poopy. I was going to go skate and tried to talk Nuni and Met into a pick-up faib game but they really wanted to see the sexy picture all the grownups were hiding.
So we tried a few trash barrels but people were conscientious about being legal and all that and tore that page out before tossing their papers. It was really frustrating.
We talked about it and figured that we made a mistake in trying to ask some Aitzas to buy us a Pages. “How many coppers do we have left?”
“What with all of us? Enough to buy another Pages... but that didn’t work.”
I don’t remember who thought of it but we figured out that we had enough to hire an okas to buy us a Pages and that’s what we did. He grinned as he walked around the corner of the building and handed us the roll. “Hev fun,” was all he said and kept going, casual-like, pocketing the chains we’d given him.
We giggled to ourselves and each other and ran back to Met’s place and went back into the back garden bushes and didn’t open the Pages until we were all under a big bush that had lots of droopy branches all the way to the ground.
We opened to that page and at first we were kinda disappointed. It looked kind of like a really fancy Jitzmitthra costume on a naked man. Then I asked, “do horses do sex like dogs? I mean I’ve seen dogs jumping on each other and I asked Minis what they were doing and he turned bright red and Gannara just said they were a bitch and a dog making puppies.”
“Yeah, they do...” Met said. “I saw my dad’s stallion get up on a fence and the mare kinda helped him by backing up. I wasn’t supposed to see and she wasn’t supposed to get... um... poked by that stallion but...”
“So...” Nuni said and put his finger on the picture. “That hole there... leads to his...” We three stared a little more and then we just had to giggle it was so silly. “That hole is for the horse...”
We fell over laughing then till we peed our kilts and then we had an argument over who should get to keep the picture. I lost because I didn’t really have a good place to keep it and Met’s dad inspected his room regularly so Nuni got it. His mama and his sister don’t snoop in his treasure box. He said we could look at it any time we wanted to.
It didn’t make me feel anything looking at it... except it was funny. I guess because I couldn't think of what sex with a horse might be like. I couldn't think of what sex with a person might be like. I wonder sometimes about all this sex stuff. It’s pretty important to grown-ups, but right now it just makes life weird. I can’t even think of sex and me together... it doesn’t fit in my head like there's only enough space for fun stuff. I guess I’ll find out when I grow up myself.