Wednesday, January 9, 2008


(Second chapter of a double, interrelated post.) This is draft one of my sci-fi novel Skene. To read earlier chapters, go to LABELS in the right-hand column on this page, scroll down to the Skene tags and click on the one you want to read. Skene is set on a human-habitable planet in the Alhena star system at least 500 years in the future. There's a considerable amount of appendix material and diagrams also available here as needed:
Map of Riesig (the main island)
Map of The Manage on Riesig
Skene Glossary (Skenish to English)
Skene Cast of Characters
Skene Culture, Calendar, Clothing, and Islands
Map of All Skene
Map of The Lofthall on Riesig


After baths, Bux, Halling and Yoj all gathered in the living room to play "On the Ferry to Inish", Skene's parlor favorite game which included math, alphabeticization, knowledge of planting cycles, and ferry routes as well as short-term memory skills. Speranz, realizing she needed help, wheedled Yerush to join them, and eventually persuaded her to come sit in a chair on the edge of the circle, Speranz in her lap openly cheating. Yoj and Bux took turns giving hints to the others, but Halling refused all assistance, her high smooth brow eventually creased in effort. As they played, the adults combed and rebraided the children's hair, slowly lulling them into drowsiness despite the fun.

When it was bedtime, Qen came to Yoj and whispered "Are you sleeping with the little ones tonight?"

Yoj understood the question behind her question and said "No." Qen put on her schmatta and got her pillow, leading Prl and Speranz to their bedroom. Bux watched with a mixed expression. After climbing down from the older children's loft, Yoj said to Halling and Bux, "Do you two feel like talking a little?" Bux's gladness gave Yoj a pang.

Halling walked with Yoj to the privy and asked "What're you going to do about your degree work with Yerush?"

"I don't know, Hall. I mean, I don't want to give up on it, and anyhow if I drop it, Bux will be suspicious. But working alone with her feels -- dangerous."

"Well, there's always keeping doors open, or being at the kitchen table" suggested Halling. "I don't want you to give up on it, either. Still, after you get the degrees, you'll be working with her at the U."

"I'll ask Veida what she thinks. Or -- is it okay with you if I talk to Qala? You know she'll tell Lawa."

Halling thought for a minute, then said "They're family. They won't gossip, and they protect those children as much as we do. I'd like to hear their take on it, too."

Before they reached the back door, Yoj said "I'm not ready to be intimate with Bux yet. No kissing. And I'd rather not be around your lovemaking. Is that going to be a hardship for you as we resume sleeping together?"

Halling laughed. "No, she and I've not found our way to that, either. Although I'm ready to have a 'nap' with you tomorrow, if you're interested. Can you cuddle? With her, I mean."

"I want to" said Yoj.

In their bedroom, Halling sat with her knees pulled up, her schmatta around her waist and her ginny exposed. Yoj thought it was adorable how un-self-conscious Halling was when she was with her lovers. Speranz had the same happy exhibitionism; Yoj hoped she held onto it as an adult. Yoj sat at the foot of the bed, and Bux leaned against the headboard.

"Well" said Halling with a drawl, and they laughed nervously. Bux clamped her hands together and said "I'll start. I want you both to know, I regret the way I did things more almost more than I can bear. I -- I still don't know what happened to me. I've figured out pieces of it, not all." She paused, releasing her hands for a moment, and Yoj could see she was trembling.

Yoj said gently "I'd like to hear the pieces you do know."

Bux's eyes searched her face. "Okay. But if I say something that makes you mad -- please, let's keep talking. I won't walk out, and I want you not to, either."

"Fair enough" said Yoj, and Halling nodded.

"I was feeling -- no longer valued in this partnership. Or, wait, that's not exactly it. I was valued, but not for all of who I was. I -- was your entry to this Manage, my emmas are now your emmas, which -- " Bux's voice broke -- "Since you're an orphan now, Halling, and Yoj, you might as well be, I am grateful daily for having given you replacement emmas. I'd be in pain if you didn't have them, please don't think I'm resentful."

"I'm grateful daily as well" said Halling, reaching out a hand to touch Bux's knee.

"And I'm the aggie, I gave us our children, and again, I know you two -- nobody ever loved their kids more than you do, and you both do more than your share. I see that, I always see that But -- I'm more than that, you know? I -- I'm ambitious, I'm the child of three powerful women and I want to do other things besides raise children and love my emmas. Like you both have. In the last couple of years, you both have starting coming into prominence, and -- you have to admit, I've supported you and believed in you and never once wanted anything but what you wanted for yourselves." Bux's voice was pleading.

Halling said "You've been an incredible partner, Bux." But Yoj was hesitating, then asked "So, you slept with Ried because you can't run for Sheng Zhang right now?"

"No!" said Bux. "I mean, not directly. It's just -- we've all been stretched thin, I know, and grieving, but -- you two seem to have gone on talking in the way we used to, sharing your thinking as we go along. But it hasn't felt like I've been included as much, and I haven't had anything of my own to offer, just -- hey, that sounds good. It's like I stopped having my own sphere of influence, now that I'm not at home with a baby. I'm just a secretary. And -- don't hate me, but Ried thought I was fascinating. Or, at least, I thought she did. I guess it was all just an act, to get me into bed -- Jaln said I was the last of a long line of shallow, easily flattered nobodies that Ried like to steal from under the noses of important women." Bux's voice went dull at the end.

Halling sucked in her breath, outraged. "You're NOT a nobody, you're not shallow, you're -- one of the most amazing women to ever walk Skene!" Yoj simply moved down the bed, in a single motion wrapping herself around Bux, saying "We did stop talking the way we used to, you're right, you must have been so lonely". Bux burst into tears, and Halling came to wrap her arms and legs around them both as Bux wept.

"I can't believe I was that stupid, I can't believe I thought she was attractive!" wailed Bux. "I just wanted somebody like Szebel, I wanted to be idolized again! But she wasn't, she was -- oh, will Speranz ever forgive me? If Jaln hadn't come home when she did, I was about to pick up something heavy and smash Ried in the face with it, I would have wound up on Peisuo with Z'bef."

Yoj felt a chill run through her. They'd all been in trouble she hadn't noticed. She reveled in the delicious feeling of the three of them connected again, her love for Bux finding an outlet again. After a while, she wiped Bux's cheeks with her open palm and said "We've been out of balance." A term Skeners understood on many levels.

Halling scooted over to face them both. "Listen, if my becoming lovers with Szebel is what set us akilter, I'll stop. I won't see her again."

Yoj said "I can't speak for Bux, but that's not necessary for me. This may sound crazy, but I think it was more the shift of not facing your death every single day, the incomprehensible relief of it, followed too swiftly by Ng dying. And -- I got out of the habit of going deep with Bux, I did, sweetheart, but it wasn't because you stopped being interesting. I think -- I don't know what happened."

Halling said softly "We're all growing up. We're the emmas now, and all too soon, we'll be abbas. And you two -- you need to be as sure of Bux as you are of me, Yoj. It's something about Rosz, seems like it always is. And Bux, you need to stop ever going to the place where you were waiting on us, waiting to be chosen. I've wanted to tell you both something for a while now, and, well, it's my fault for not getting around to it. We have this myth between us that the great love of my life was Xaya, that she's the grand passion I've learned to live without. Don't get me wrong, she was a grand passion and I'm eternally sorry she died. But -- what I have with you is more, and if she'd lived, I wouldn't have as much as I do now. I'm certain of it. And Bux, it's not just Yoj, it's you just as much. I'm crazy in love with you both." Her voice was thick with emotion.

Bux whispered "I want to kiss you -- are we able to do that, yet?"

Halling looked at Yoj, who said sadly "I'm not. Not yet at balance. But if you two want to, please, go ahead."

Halling said "I'd rather wait." Waiting on balance was something Skeners learned early -- waiting for seeds to germinate, fruit to ripen, skies to clear, leave to be given, morrie vaseo, sister citizens to change their minds. While you waited, you busied yourself with other things.

"At least we get to all sleep together, close" said Bux gladly.

"Can I have the middle?" asked Yoj. Halling and Bux looked at each other, then nodded at her.

"Are we done talking for tonight?" said Halling.

"I guess" said Yoj. "But more tomorrow night, and on until we're clear again, please."

They lay down, and Bux reached over to turn off the light before pushing herself into Yoj's arms. Halling was fitted along Yoj's back, and Yoj felt every cell in her body relax.

Halling whispered "If you'd split Ried's head open, we'd have sworn up and down you were with us at the time."

"And baked a cake in celebration" added Yoj. Bux laughed wildly. "Good to know" she said.

Copyright 2007 Maggie Jochild.

1 comment:

letsdance said...

Deep sigh..... Thank you, Maggie.