For more detailed information, posted elsewhere on this blog are:
Pya Dictionary from Skenish to English (complete up to present chapter), with some cultural notes included
Pya Cast of Characters (complete up to present chapter)
Owl Manage on Saya Island, original plans
Saya Island Eastern End After Development
Map of Pya with Description of Each Island
Map of Skene (but not Pya)
Map of Saya Island and Environs When Pyosz First Arrived
Map of Saya Island, Teppe and Pea Pods Environs After Development
Skene Character Lineage at Midway Through Pya Novel
Skene, Chapter One (With Cultural Notes in Links)
It was a week before Qala ventured outside, but on a sunny morning she declared her intention to visit the greenhouse. Leaning heavily on Pyosz and accompanied by Lawa. she made it to her bench, utterly out of breath and sweating. Pyosz left them alone, Lawa starting to weed and Qala's face upturned to the shafts of light speckled with warm moisture. She returned after half an hour and Qala said she had to go lie down again. She slept until noon but looked better the rest of that day.
She would shuffle to the hearth chair and work on quilts, listening to one of Yoj's tapes, or sit in the kitchen while Yoj and Pyosz baked, Cha in her lap. After two weeks, all her old alertness had returned and she began joining the extended argument which occurred every spring about how best to rotate the tillage. She was still not strong enough to hold Qux for very long, but once she was deemed fit to venture to the porch for singing, on milder nights, she'd take the wide chair and pull Thleen to sit beside her, the two of them ankle to chin in quilts.
After two more weeks, she borrowed Halling's scooter one afternoon and went to the hot springs with Lawa, Tu and Pank. She had lost a lot of weight, and her appetite did not spring back but she ate what Lawa urged on her, at least some of it. She wasn't able to attend Vote Day or the Tasting, so Lawa stayed home with her. The rest of the family carried their proxies and brought back treats for them to sample.
Dodd was also absent for Vote Day in Pya because she spent her week off in Skene. She announced her intention at a Shmonah gathering, and Pyosz asked "Why are you going? I mean, the family you're close to is all here."
Dodd looked briefly at Prl before answering "I'm visiting the four children I have out there I've only learned about this year. Well, three of them -- the fourth has indicated some ambivalence about meeting me."
Into the thick silence which followed, Thleen of course asked "Four children? Who besides Qoj and Mruch?"
Prl began explaining as Pyosz went over the names in her head. She had of course been able to find out who they were in the green directory. She'd gone to school with two of them, though they were several years younger than her. Without thinking, she said "Did you wait then, emma, til Dodd and Briel were done having children -- so none of us would be in sui?"
Tu looked scandalized. This time, Dodd answered. "Yes, she planned ahead. You'll note they all live in Skene as well, to keep us from tripping across one another." Pyosz realized Dodd and Prl must have discussed this at length: All those lunches together.
Still focused on Prl, she said "But four, emma...is that typical? That many?"
Prl met her eyes, blue on blue. "I'm out of office now, I can say this much. I saved Dodd for the very best. We're not supposed to play favorites, but I did with my line. I think we're extraordinary, Dodd especially. As I think all her children are about to discover in person."
Pyosz now thought to look at Briel. She seemed unruffled. Qoj, however, was faking equanimity, Pyosz could tell, and that was backed up by a slight frown on Uli's face.
Frank said "I suppose these odd reunions are happening all over the pace right now."
"Not that I've heard about" said Prl, and Nioma nodded. "People don't want to accept all the implications of this new information. At least, not the adults. But Thleen's generation will take it in stride and reconfigure their families accordingly." Pyosz felt a small jolt of fear without knowing why. She squeezed the hand of Yoj beside her.
Two weeks after Vote day, Maar came home on Roku to find Pyosz still putting away their market acquisitions. She handed a small cloth bag full of something to Maar and said "Sniff that. Through the fabric is okay."
Maar obliged and widened her eyes. "I don't know what that is, but I like it."
"It's kavvy. We had sips of it at the Tasting" said Pyosz.
"Oh, yeah. Made my pulse race" said Maar. "You using it as a flavor additive for your pastries?"
"Not yet" said Pyosz. "That pound, already roasted and ground, cost half an ek."
"Thunder me down!" exclaimed Maar. Pyosz took the bag from her and placed it in a glass freezing jar before setting it in the frozen section of the cold box. Maar asked "What is it for, then?"
"You" said Pyosz. "Pank got that from her source at the ejida, it's not publicly available yet. She says the folks who drink a brew of it first thing in the morning have marked alertness and energy for hours afterward. You need it. I learned from her how to steep it, so you can have a cup of it each day before heading off to face levs." Her face brooked no argument. After a few moments. Maar said softly "Thank you."
"It's a powerful stimulant and, according to Yoj's records, somewhat addictive" added Pyosz. "But not problematically so. Also good as a purgative, she said. I bought a hundred seeds as well. Lawa and Qala think they can grow it in our greenhouse. If they're right, we can have enough to supply you and sell the extra. We can pulp and dry the fruit ourselves, but the washing and roasting will have to be done elsewhere, it creates contamination. They're sowing it all over Tetama because it doesn't need close cultivation, will be a crop to extract from the earthquake zone. Still, we can sell ours to the processor for serious coin."
Maar remarked "Saya went for 20 years with just a cabin and a goat barn. Now it has a mini-town and the tallest structure on Skene. You've been like an act of nature here." Her tone reassured Pyosz this wasn't criticism.
Pyosz said "That greenhouse is worth it for Qala's sake alone. Oh, but that reminds me -- emma found a possible insurer in Pertama who's quoted us a rate for all the buildings on Saya which wouldn't be covered by the ejida contract. It's quite high. After dinner, will you sit down with me and Qala and help us decide if we should go that route or simply bank savings against possible fire and storm damage?"
"Yeah. Listen, I bartered fish again today for red crabs, two buckets on the porch drawing katt attention, I came in to start water boiling for them." Maar lifted a giant copper stock pot from an overhead hook.
"Oh yum. Put on a second pot of water and I'll dig new potatoes to go with it. Wish we had corn to harvest." said Pyosz.
"I'll make a relish from some of what you canned last fall" offered Maar. "Listen, I think the baby's waking up. She'll love watching me set a crab loose on the porch."
"Don't let her get nipped" Pyosz called after her. But of course Qux will venture too close, and scream for a while, and next time maybe she'll be more cautious she thought, grinning to herself. She decided the rest of dinner prep could wait a while and headed for the porch herself.
It was a clear, still day, and Pyosz thought she could hear the distant sounds of power saws and hammers, although it could be her imagination. Koldok was in the grips of a building boom as a result of various zoning changes and funding approvals which had gone through at the last Vote. With consent being granted to at last give Pya a hospital and surgery, the expectation had been this would need to be placed on the Pertama-Koldok road. However, when Dodd and Briel had added the expansion to their Manage the previous year, they had quietly requested a zoning change for their property and the municipal road adjoining to allow for Uli's cartography and Qoj's astronomy to be conducted as businesses from their residence.
Even Pyosz had not realized at the time the loopholes this would create -- although in retrospect she was sure Dodd and Briel had, and assuredly Mill and Api. Once the hospital was approved, Api converted the extra-wide street adjoining Dodd and Briel's Manage into municipal construction territory, with their approval which was given in exchange for allowing a small store to be built adjoining the rear of their Manage. Dodd was at last going to have her music business, a place to sell instruments, give lessons, and draw musicians from all over Pya. The banjo player from her band was retiring from the sugar mill and would staff the store during schooldays, making banjos and other string instruments by hand.
This left enough land abutting the clinic, now filling the street, to construct a two-story hospital with a surgery on the ground floor. The small tree-lined bluff behind, overlooking Koldok Kuono, would be turned into a public park for patients and visitors. With the hospital, polytechnic, and flight school added to the Lofthall and public school, Koldok was now the civic hub of Pya.
Api had in fact run for office again as Ethicist and won, but only because the chief rival had been manifestly unsuited. She maintained to family this was her final year, she was staying on only to see Pya through the transitions. Pyosz wasn't sure whether she believed her. She thought the main variable would be if Oby decided she wanted to become Ethicist, after all, instead of second-in-command at the Lofthall.
Two more high degree holders from Skene had applied to immigrate to Pya in order to become gakushas, one in chemistry and one in education. The latter meant Pya could train its own teachers. Housing in Koldok had become a critical issue. The bucky was chronically full of single workers, so visitors either had to bunk a night or two in dorms, at the Lofthall, or with a Manage which had a spare bed. Influential folks or those with families usually opted to stay at Pertama's hostel and commute. Api somehow pried the rocky legume field between Koldok and the school loose from the ejida and assigned this triangle of land to Koldok jurisdiction.
Naki was the first to request a parcel. She turned over her small shop to the djostiker's next door, so Kolm could expand her aging shelves and yogurt-making enterprise. Naki's new enterprise at the top of the triangle would be on the main road, with double her old space. She was opening a bookstore specializing in the college trade in addition to her cartagen services. She also constructed a second small structure to hold a hot press and offices for a second weekly newspaper for Pya. Her launch of the Koldok Clarion rattled not only the Pertama-based paper but, even more, all of Skene, mostly because it implied Pya would soon equal and surpass Skene in population, an incontrovertible reality now in black and white.
A pair from Talaba were next to build on the new land, creating adjoined eating establishments that were half fine dining, half teahouse. The restaurant had cloth-covered tables and a string quartet who played on weekends. It was named Abiman, which translated to pride, a term used guardedly on Skene. The teahouse was named Garamahav, which meant "a small warm breeze on a cold day" in Skenish, and sold kavvy as well as tea. It stayed open past midnight, catering to the college trade, and scheduled readings, music, or presentations several nights a week. If your adolescent went missing, Garamahav became the first place to look.
Next door a new hostel was underway with well-apportioned private rooms, a few with their own baths and indoor privies. On three streets into the triangle construction was planned eight Manages to house new residents. Api also opened construction on former parkland north of Koldok, adjacent to the kickball field and reservoir area, for another eight Manages.
An enterprising trio from Riesig took over the premises of the former distillery. The fermenting tubs and stills had been bought by The Heaps for their winery. The newcomers split their space between a lens-grinding and spectacle making shop, and an apothecary. Briel said the latter was no competition for the clinic; she was glad to turn over trade to them because of the addition of a surgery and hospital to her supervision.
These new immigrants brought three adolescents with them who complained about how much harder studies were at Koldok School and the loss of their friendship network. Dodd predicted the teenagers' grievances would dissipate with the arrival of summer, swimming and new friendships at the reservoir, biking and hiking adventures, and especially river sailing.
The impact on Koldok School was intense. Dodd told Api it would be necessary in the next few years to either construct a second building or allow Trumpinne to create its own school, a request which had been coming to vote and defeated for almost a decade. The idea of allowing another island to teach its children -- of Pyans not having the socialization from shared schooling -- was extremely volatile and explicitly forbidden under Skene's old contracts except by common vote. Api said "If Trumpinne get a school, then the rush will be on to settle Hamsa since they, too could have their own school and sidestep the issue of commuting such a distance."
Dodd had replied "Sooner or later...Pya is too big to live by Skene values. We have to face what will happen when our own archipelago develops diverse geographical identities within it."
Expansion pressures from a different source began innocuously enough with the opening of a cyclery just south of the Lofthall and on the western edge of the newly opened field. The trio launching this business had backgrounds in woodworking, metallurgy and electricity as well as machinery, and within a month of establishing a machine shop to craft bicycle parts next to the salesroom, they also offered small engine and appliance repair. They were a welcome addition to Koldok's commercial array.
Thus, when they asked to build a row of slips to moor sailboats and a small boatyard, Api assumed it would likewise be focused on repair of craft used on the river. Once their lease was signed, however, a notice went into the Clarion that "Pea Pod Waterships" would build boats to order, not only for sailing but also those powered by engines for "cruising the safe waters of Koldok Kuono as far as Hamsa". This was immediately the talk of Pya, and legislation to curb or control "motor-boating" would not come for a vote in nearly a year.
It turned out that a working model of a small, sleek motorboat had already been constructed by these entrepeneurs. It was docked prominently at their new boatyard, with polished mahogany and brass fittings beneath colorful pennants and a shiny, throbbing motor at the stern. Cutrate rides were available to the public. Bowing to the inevitable, Maar picked up Thleen from school one Ot and they met Prl at the pier where she'd already paid for an hour's excursion. As they passed the southern cliffs of Saya, the rest of Owl Manage waved to them exuberantly, while Ziri and her sibs watched with sick envy from Kacang.
Maar later reported to Mill and Oby where strong currents in the Kuono all but overcame the motor's power to control the craft. They examined charts closely to predict where inexperienced boaters were assuredly going to be swept against the reefs or island rocky shores, and all the pilots were given a refresher course in civilian marine rescue. Oby added a clause to the regulations Api was drafting which would allow the Lofthall to charge a hefty fee for such rescue. But orders at the boatyard poured in, and one ferry-sized powerhouse was intended to run as a fee-based transport between Hamsa and Koldok or Dudor. Once it was in operation, settlement of Hamsa would accelerate, Mill predicted.
For Qux's first birthday in Lamminsade, the outpouring of gifts her way didn't overwhelm Thleen because Maar had located a miniature motor boat that actually ran on a solar battery, with an adjustable tiller, which they gave to Thleen that morning. She and Lawa left right after breakfast to play with her toy at the hot springs. When Su arrived for an indeterminate visit a week later, she begged Thleen to allow her to take the motor apart. Thleen hid her toy under Maar and Pyosz's bed, which Maar said was probably a wise idea.
Su went to the boatyard the following day and landed a job for the summer which paid a pittance and mostly consisted of sweeping or running errands, but she soaked up all the technology, talking about it at dinner every night. Maar and Pyosz opened a credit account at Taamsas's in Su's name that was restricted to tools and raw supplies, and half of Su's bedroom became a workshop. Dru and Adnes weren't happy about her visit being extended for the entire summer, but allowed her to stay because she assured them she was saving her earnings. Maar made sure she had enough pocket money to keep this promise. They gave her any chore that involved repairs or a puzzle, and she slowly developed a sweet relationship with Qux. Maar's happiness at Su's addition to the household was visible daily.
The week before Mchele Fair, Pyosz nursed Qux to sleep and settled her in the Isola Fling cradle. "This is going to be too small for her very soon" she remarked to Maar.
"Yeah, we need to reach a decision about moving her into her own room" said Maar. Pyosz looked at her in surprise and said "You ready to consider that?"
"Well, Thleen doesn't want to share. And while the elders all welcome her for special occasions, they have their own bed partners they want most nights. And -- I'm approaching ovulation in a few days, I can tell. Are you back on cycle?" asked Maar hopefully. Pyosz felt a flutter of desire.
"I think so. You know, we could move the cabin bed back into the bedroom next door, have Frahe make side rails and a stepping stool for it, and she could use that. If we let her help paint it and move her toy basket in there, she might see it as a gain rather than a loss" mused Pyosz. "I regularly think about how much difference it makes to who we are in Pya because we have some chance at privacy, we live in Manages where we can take a little space from each other, especially at night."
"Thleen seems to have a mixed reaction to it" said Maar. "She'd have me come in there every night, I think -- or you -- but it matters that it's her space, not partly ours. I notice that when Xoan spends the night, Thleen sleeps as far over on her mattress next to Xoan's as she can get. But Xoan, who has to share a bed at home, scoots over on her mattress all the way away from Thleen."
"Yeah, well, there's more than just space issues going on there, I suspect" said Pyosz.
Maar looked startled, then upset. "Do I need to talk with her, you think?"
"Lev, no, you'll mortify her. They'll work it out, it's only a first wash of feelings" said Pyosz.
"Well, speaking of washes of feelings" said Maar, sliding to face Pyosz in bed. Instead of touching Pyosz, however, Maar cleared her throat slightly and said "Not this cycle, but the next -- during the autumn -- I want to get pregnant. It's my turn."
"So soon?" asked Pyosz, feeling an unidentified dismay.
"Qux would be at least two when a sib was born, depending on how well it works with me" said Maar. "We'd have several months with a newborn and a toddler each day, then Qux would start school. I want to take at least three months off work, even desk work, to be home with them both. But this baby I get to carry and nurse." She couldn't help the possessive note in her voice.
"Three months off at half pay, plus at least three more months at desk pay, and what, three months before the birth also at desk pay?" calculated Pyosz.
"I figure round it up to a full ten months, a year, at half pay, just to be safe" said Maar. "But Adon has been hired at regular wages and doesn't need our stipend any more. And when Su graduates next year, I think it's high odds she'll move here and go to the Polytechnic if she doesn't get an apprenticeship locally. Living here with us will be only a slight increase in food expense." Pyosz thought wryly that Maar must not be noticing the quantity Su put away at meals. "You're producing a good income with ceramics, we're saving now, and that won't change because I'll be home to do the baby care this time." Pyosz could hear the longing in Maar's voice.
"It is your turn, and while I can't imagine loving another child like I do Qux, I know I will. So, yes." Pyosz kissed Maar tenderly, her mind already picturing Maar with a swollen belly. "But -- we need to talk it over with Thleen, somehow. Let her be part of deciding to add to our family this time."
Maar nodded, considering an approach. Pyosz thought We need to finish your childbearing well before you run for Sheng Zhang of the Lofthall. Then her mind returned to imagining Maar with breasts full of milk.
Ngall was pregnant with her third child, and Meko of the Heaps was expecting their fifth. Frank and Ulcha were "trying", and Qoj kept saying she and Uli wanted to wait one more year. Qoj's astronomy elective at the college always drew more students than her meteorology required courses. Uli had drawn a impressionistic star map of the skies over Pya throughout the year, based on Qoj's photographs, and printed a few copies as a poster. These immediately sold out at Gitta's store, and the next run of 300 sold out as well. Uli and Qoj were now planning to create a similar version for Skene.
Two more Pea Pods south of Saya were been built on, each of them large enough to hold two Manages. One of these, Grasak, was chosen by a young pair with a 3-year-old. They built a long freshwater pond and began raising geese. They had rotating fields of quinoa, peanuts, rhubarb and flax. One of them, Mlis, hired the Lofthall to drop rubble enough to create a reefed lagoon between Grasak and the other nearby Pea Pod, Borso. She began cultivating an assortment of clams and oysters in this protected water, as well as urchins and scampi. Her cousin, likewise with background as a mollusker, moved into the island's other Manage with her emmas.
Mlis's partner Jinya was a sculptor and before the Manage was even completed, she was carving the island's waterfront boulders into various shapes. One long series of jagged stones in front of their Manage, Jinya transformed into a reclining dragon which was clearly visible from Kacang and thrilled the Heaps children. Once Pyosz saw it, she bartered for Jinya to sculpt relief panels of bees, snails and lilies on either side of Owl Manage's hearth. She and Jinya became immediate friends, bonding around art and young emmahood. Jinya's child Rya joined the exploits of those who sailed The Saya around uncharted expanses of Skene.
The main building at Pya Polytechnic, housing a vast auditorium as well as administration and the library, was finished on the front with pale marble excavated from Uscat. A secret meeting of faculty and other staff resulted in a proposal that this hub of the school be named Yoj Hall. Yoj was stunned when she was told, then wept. "'Bout time" said Halling.
Prl hired Jinya to carve the building name in old script above the ornate entryway. Pyosz stopped by during this process to watch Jinya's technique and compare notes. They hatched a plan to cover the front expanse of Yoj Hall with a frieze of Skene and Pya history. The college had no money to pay for such decoration and Jinya said she'd volunteer it, since it would likely make her famous. But Pyosz insisted on barter with the best of Saya's products in an amount that equaled a full artist's fee.
Jinya began at the western corner and worked her way toward the central doors, depicting Skene's early days and milestones, until at the door appeared Halling standing in her Sheng Zhang uniform, cradling a mezi ray in her arms and staring down a leviathan in the waters at the base of the wall. The mezi ray caused a storm of controversy in Skene when a photo appeared in the newspapers -- which made Pya all the more adamant about keeping it as part of their frieze.
The second frieze, on a slightly longer stretch of wall. began with the first discovery and exploration of Pya. Owls, turkeys and songbirds ran riot through background woods. Before she finished, Jinya worked in squirrels, deer, and a lonely rabbit as well. Corn, wheat, cotton and vineyards stretched to the horizon, and a few symbolic goats trailed behind a capriste wearing a familiar cap, which Pyosz said was hardly fair to Ferk but Jinya claimed artists' prerogative. Sailboats and bicycles zoomed around, a torchlit procession spiraled up Pertama Peak, and Thleen's favorite part was the carnival on Trumpinne with its giant wainwheel and a whirling chicken ride.
Approaching the doors was a small panorama of the Polytechnic itself, with athletic field and parachute tower. Jinya demonstrated her prowess, and sense of humor, by carving into the front of this replica of Yoj Hall a miniature frieze which, of course, had its own miniscule Polytechnic. Koben and Ehall trampled flowers in the adjoining bed to peer closely at this portion of the carving, trying to spot how many friezes within the frieze they could identify.
Jinya then angled her chisels deep into the marble, as deep as she could go, so the next figure seemed to be stepping right out of the stone. It was Yoj in her Archivist robe, a stack of volumes topped with music scrolls under one arm, her other arm reaching outward with an upturned palm. To her right in half relief was a smaller form of Bux in Ethicist attire, one hand on Yoj's shoulder but her head turned to gaze across the entryway at Halling on the other side. When the sculpture was unveiled, it was Dodd, Mill and Prl who cried the hardest at the portrayal of their emmas. Pyosz lifted Qux so she could grab Yoj's marble finger, grinning back and forth quizzically between the flesh and frozen versions of her habibi.
After that, Jinya never lacked for commissions. She and Pyosz visited back and forth several times a week, transferring their carving skills and brainstorming ideas for projects.
Mlis had a battered old aluminum raft she poled around her lagoon to seed or harvest her underwater tillage. In short order, however, Grasak Island pooled their money with Herne to buy a zippy motorboat which they shared for trips back and forth to Dvareka. Pya had installed a cable ferry to the new Pea Pods, hopscotching it with more pylons to the existing ferry, but Mlis said it was 20 minutes each way by ferry on a clear day to accompany Rya to school. And Frank could respond faster to birthing calls. Pank said it was just a matter of time until every Pea Pod had its own motorboat. Thleen turned to look at her elders importunately, and Halling said "A matter of time doesn't mean right now. I think we better see if all this motion and engine sound persuades the levs to assault one of the protecting reefs and charge in for easy pickings."
When autumn began shortening daylight again, there was a mass exodus each morning from Owl Manage of students, gakushas, and workers, leaving only Lawa and Qala to be with Qux while Pyosz threw herself into a final harvest. Boulder stopped producing milk and failed to get pregnant. Pyosz set her jaw and said "Well, she's still leader of the herd and she's more than earned a quiet retirement."
She was less amiable when Api approached her and Vants with a request to produce two extra doelings next spring for settlers on Hamsa. "What, turn over our carefully planned lineage to folks who know shit about goats?" exclaimed Pyosz. "If they want to live on the levvin' frontier, they can make sure to load up on cheese and butter so they don't run out. I'm not giving one of my kids away to save someone a commute."
Vants grinned darkly and added "I'm with Pyosz."
Api said "They've made noises about asking Skene to sell them does if we don't come through." Pyosz and Vants looked at each other and burst into gales of laughter.
That night at dinner, Thleen announced "When I become the owner of Owl Manage, I'm going to paint it green instead of blue. Green like leaves of apple trees in the beginning of spring. It'll be visible everywhere."
Maar looked outraged, but Pyosz thought Thleen wasn't really imagining her elders dead, simply not running the show any more. She said smoothly "So, are you planning to become the capriste when you're grown, then?"
"Saya Island is contracted to the capriste. Living here means you're responsible for all its production" said Pyosz.
"And it's one lev of a burden" Maar had to insert.
"But...we all live here, but you're the only capriste" argued Thleen.
"She lets us all live here" began Maar. Pyosz signaled her to be quiet and said "As long as I'm capriste, you all have a home at Owl Manage. And once I'm ready to retire, I'm sure one of my children is going to jump at the chance to be capriste, which means Owl Manage will continue on our family. In the meantime, we're all contributing to the care of Saya, aren't we?"
Thleen was regarding Qux speculatiively. She said "Capristes have to kill baby goats."
Pyosz heard Maar breathe in and cut her off again with "Good ones do, yes. If you love an animal and they have to die, you're not going to make them face their last minutes being hauled away from home by strangers, frightened and confused." She saw Thleen consider several retorts but decide to remain silent, sprinkling more cheese on her soup. Qux, who adored Thleen with a painful passion, waved her spoon to get Thleen to look at her again. "Siba!" she shouted, flinging droplets onto Qala beside her.
The following day, Maar got home from work very early, using the ferry and leaving a sinner to Dekkan who would fly Halling home in the scooter before going to Teppe for a standing weekly dinner with that household. While holding Qux by her upstretched arms and letting the toddler ride the tops of her otos as Maar waltzed around the kitchen, she asked Pyosz "Where's Thleen?"
"Still in Koldok. Qala met her after school to go shopping for a few clothes" said Pyosz.
"Oh no" said Maar. "Between Thleen's penchant for garish and Qala's color-blindness, they'll come home with -- "
"Things that Thleen feels beautiful in" observed Lawa. "That's all that matters for children her age. There was a year in second grade when Pyosz would only wear black, even her undergarments had to be black. She looked like a shadow leaving for school each morning."
"I think I remember that" said Maar, grinning at Pyosz.
"Bara" replied Pyosz reminiscently.
"Bara, lived on a fling in the Eastern Tendril. She was two years older than me, wore black a lot. I was quite smitten with her and wanted to get her attention" said Pyosz. "Didn't you ride the same school sinner as her?"
Maar replied curtly "She smelled like the knickers of someone who never rinsed." Pyosz was taken aback, but Lawa began chuckling, joined eagerly by Qux.
Maar was able to conceive at the end of Kall. Thleen had been visibly moved when asked her opinion about the idea, and wondered if there was any way they could make sure this baby had red hair. She also occasionally asked Qux to sleep on her spare trundle bed, invitations which made Qux so excited she had trouble dropping off. Once it was definite that Maar was carrying another child, Pyosz regretfully weaned Qux so there'd be a memory-easing gap between losing access to the breast and seeing a new baby get fed by other other emma.
Maar was exuberantly happy about being pregnant, experienced only mild nausea and no loss of libido. At five months into the seven-month term, she stopped all sinning and hauling but continued flying the school sinner for another month, filling the rest of her hours with instruction, route scheduling, and even radio dispatch. She was home for the last five weeks, teaching colors and the alphabet to Qux, taking her on endless exploration of Saya together, and teaching herself to crochet.
Her delivery was very difficult, however. The baby was breech and could not be turned. After 30 hours, Frank said to Briel beside her "I can get a sinner here in five minutes. Do you think it's time we go for surgery?"
"No!" pleaded Maar, her voice weak from exhaustion. She insisted she could keep pushing, and they gave her another half hour because the fetal heartbeat was strong and Frank said the baby was small, obstruction was not an issue. Even so, Qala called Mill and Dekkan landed a sinner at the jichang, waiting with the engine on.
Maar whispered to Pyosz behind her "Give me all the extra you got, buddy" and Pyosz closed her eyes, willing strength into Maar's trembling body. Shortly before midnight, two days before Pyosz's 25th birthday, Maar gave birth to a perfect, tea-with-milk colored baby they named Merrl, pronounced with an lilting trill. Pyosz later told Maar that watching her give birth was harder than doing it herself. "Good thing I went second, then" Maar replied.
Merrl was bald for a long time, eventually growing fine hazel hair reminiscent of Dodd. Her round eyes turned smoky blue, and there was a small blue spot on her lower back that Maar said was like a new Pea Pod.
Unlike Qux, Merrl was a cryer. She wailed when she was the least bit hungry, the moment her diaper got wet, or when she was tired. She also tantrumed for no apparent reason at all. Qux watched her storms in disbelief, and was even more astounded at how all her coterie of adults now rushed around trying to please this interloper. Being sunny Qux, she tried to gently charm the focus of attention back her way, which didn't always work.
Pyosz and Maar were chronically exhausted by Merrl's crying spells, unable to relax and let her blow it out as the abbas advised. Pyosz felt guilty about the relief she experienced when going to milk, make delivery, or retreating to her studio. There was no putting Merrl in the cradle at night, she wouldn't tolerate being separated from them. Despite her fatigue, however, Maar's patience never faltered.
Maar returned to work after midwinter holiday, nursing Merrl before she left and returning at lunch for another feeding. In the afternoon she expressed milk into bottles that were stashed in the Lofthall coldbox for the next day at Owl Manage. Initially the separation from Babyland, as she thought of it, was more disorienting than painful, as if she had suddenly woken up with a new identity. Two afternoons a week she had desk duty and tried taking Merrl with her to the Lofthall, but Merrl's discomfort at being taken off island was voluble and Maar decided it was best to commute alone.
Once Merrl could stagger around the Manage -- she walked far earlier than Qux had -- and she acquired enough vocabulary to express her needs, her excessive crying vanished abruptly. She remained intense but was engaging in a new way. Maar said Thleen had done the same thing. It was all about communication and some measure of independence. Prl, who struggled not to show her favoritism for Merrl, declared her simply sensible.
Su had, as Maar predicted, opted to leave Skene as soon as she could after graduating Skene School. She said Adon wanted to move back into the Manage on Chloddia but had a sweetheart now to share her bed. Su stated her intention to enroll at the Polytechnic. Within a week, however, she got a job offer with the carnival on Trumpinne, including board and a dorm room. By summer's end she was being taught equipment repair and invited to help with grape harvest. She opted to stay on Trumpinne until the next term.
Su's days off fell midweek. so Maar began picking her up on Moja afternoon to fly her back for a family visit. After half a year, Su diffidently asked if she could bring a guest home one week.
"You mean overnight?" asked Maar, trying not to be shocked. Su still looked about eight years old in her eyes.
"Uh, yeah. Her name is Nalt. She, uh, her emmas have an olive grove." Su looked everywhere but at Maar.
"How old is she?"
"Year older than me. It's okay, siba, we really care about each other."
"Well, then, I'll be honored to meet her" said Maar with resignation. Thleen will go to college, no matter what she promised herself. And all my beautiful babies.
Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.