Thursday, January 21, 2010


To begin reading this sci-fi novel or for background information, go to my Chapter One post here. To read about the background of the first novel, read my post here, which will also direct you to appendices.

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)


When Pyosz arrived at the Lofthall, holding Thleen's hand, she was taken aback by how small the crowd was. Mostly it seemed to be folks with a direct connection through family or occupation to the Lofthall itself. She was glad to see Nioma, and Ulcha. Not even all the Sheng Zhangs were present. Maybe it was too short notice for folks to make it she thought.

Maar came over to kiss her and the rest of Owl Manage, but she returned to sit next to Mill at the table heading the room. Oby and Api were on the other side of Mill. All the pilots were in rows near Maar. Abbo looked emotionally shredded, and Pyosz made the sign of shared sorrow at her, which Abbo responded to with a thank you sign.

Thleen whispered that she wanted to go sit with Ziri. Pyosz murmured in her ear that they were members of a Lofthall family, in fact kin to Lofthall leaders, and others in the community would be watching them to see how seriously they reacted to the current issue. She said it would be better if they stayed together and listened with concern, since pilots just like their kin had died in a terrible way. Thleen looked at her wide-eyed and slid into her lap. Pyosz held her close.

Mill began by indicating a radio receiver on the table that Pyosz recognized as the same type that Halling had. Mill said this meeting was going to be on two-way speaker with the former Sheng Zhang of Skene Lofthall, the retiring Archivist of Skene, and the Genist of all Skene. She dialed the radio and Pyosz heard beloved voices say hello. Thleen twisted around in her lap to grin at Pyosz.

Pyosz wondered why Danaan was not part of the Skene end of this conversation. Perhaps it was simply too early there, or she was overwhelmed with current Lofthall duties.

Mill told the story of the leviathan attack in Skene, which was essentially as Maar had related to them except Mill gave full lineage names of the dead and injured, with a reverent "Carynn bye". Maar reached over to squeeze Abbo's hand. She asked if anyone wanted to add to her report, and Halling, sounding like the Sheng Zhang of historic broadcasts, gave a succinct account of the two known previous attempts at similar leviathan sabotage in the past year. Pyosz saw this news come as a surprise to a few non-Lofthall folks present.

Thleen turned to whisper "Like that lev who tried to hurt siba when she sinned in Skene?"

"Yes, that's one of the instances abba is talking about."

Thleen seemed to just now make the connection. "So if that lev had done what this one did, siba would have died?"

"She very well might have." Pyosz felt the fear travel through Thleen's body. "And that's why all of us smart, committed people are having this meeting, to keep it from happening."

Maar glanced their way before saying "We have not witnessed identical leviathan behavior in Pya, but we've had unusual activity, as you all know" -- That you've dealt with directly, my love thought Pyosz -- "and I've seen shifts in fish migration, leviathan concentration, and morrie strati borders whose meaning has remained so far undecipherable."

Nioma said "Are you quantifying these shifts?"

"To the best of my ability" said Maar.

"I'd like to look at what you've got and suggest ways to perhaps track it more usefully" said Nioma. "My degree is in animal behavior, and I want to be of help here."

"Glad to have it" said Mill.

Uben, Ziri's abba, said "Is there any reason to expect leviathan assaults on what is now morrie vaseo here?"

Api said "We have no expectation of such." After a pause, Halling said with a slight crackle "But we don't have enough information to rule it out." Pyosz saw Api frown and Mill hide a smile. Halling continued "Clearly we were caught off guard in Skene, despite almost a lifetime of studying their behavior. Something has changed. Are you seeing higher leviathan presence around open-water ferry lanes?"

Mill answered "None has been reported, but we're instituting daily flyovers and counts tomorrow."

Maar spoke again. "What I can say with evidence is that their presence at sinning fluctuates noticeably, and they have twice demonstrated group interest in the Pea Pod area, not other regions around Dvareka."

The tension from the Kacang family was palpable. Mill said "Therefore, we're asking those on Pea Pod islands with line of sight view of levi zones, namely Teppe and Saya, to also do a daily survey and data collection for us. Spotters, as it were."

"Count me in" said Vants. "Same here" said Lawa.

Halling asked "What about your sinning procedures?"

"We're revising those as well" said Mill. "It's a difficult line to walk, because we're aware Skene has just lost four sinners, craft as well as valuable pilots, so we intend to ship frozen fish to Skene for as long as it takes for you to get back into production. Which may mean two sins a day for us."

Maar and Pyosz's eyes met.

Mill continued "We won't let you go hungry." There was a sudden tender pride in her voice, and it was mirrored in Halling's tone when she said "Skene thanks you, Sheng Zhang."

Udek, Uli's aggie, said "What about the idea of reinstituting lighters with song patterns to protect sinners? We have someone capable of being dichter." She looked at Dodd, who was taken aback. As if Dodd doesn't already have a more than full-time job thought Pyosz.

Yoj's voice came from the radio. "The kinds of attacks our pilots are facing now wouldn't be helped by a dichter, I'm afraid. This isn't simple predatory reaction or flight response on the leviathan's part. This is premeditated."

"And being implemented by their elders, a far more ominous sign" said Nioma. Udek gave her a glance full of despair. Dekkan shifted in her chair, embarrassed.

Mill said "But I appreciate your putting your mind on the problem, Udek. I believe it will take a collaborative effort and some sort of breakthrough to restore Pax Piscata, and I encourage you all to not leave this merely to the Lofthall."

"I second that" said Halling. "Skene, as you can imagine, is reeling from our crisis. If we didn't have Pya's assistance, we'd be in serious trouble. We will be pooling our creative resources to address this unsettling change, and I assure you, if we have any ideas at all, I'll make sure your Lofthall is notofied instantly. But the fact is, it's more than likely your Sheng Zhang and those of you in collaboration with her will find a solution before we do here. I want that to occur before you have any losses of your own."

Pyosz suddenly wondered where in her abbas' Manage this call was taking place, and if Tlunu or Speranz were overhearing it. There was no newspaper reporter from Pya present, and Pyosz thought it possible that Mill had neglected to invite them. She wished she had been able to overhear the conversations between Halling and Mill must have gone on earlier today.

Thleen whispered to Pyosz "Is Halling my habibi now, too? And Yoj?"

"Yes" said Pyosz without hesitation. "They came up with the original Pax Piscata to save Halling's life, and all their pilot friends. They're going to help your siba create a new Pax Piscata."

"Me and Ziri will try to come up with ideas, too" said Thleen.

"Good" whispered Pyosz.

When the meeting adjourned, Maar came to tell them she'd be home later. Pyosz kissed her with restraint. They were still in one moon dark, one moon crescent, and the ferry ride was silent. Pyosz began drawing Thleen's bath with scented bubbles, but before they were done, Qala took over, saying Prl was on the radio for Pyosz.

"How are you doing?" asked Prl.

"I'm not sure, emma. I'm so focused on keeping Thleen reassured, I haven't gone into my own fears yet. And I need to hear what Maar thinks."

"I'd like that myself" said Prl. "Which reminds me, that woman making the extremely astute observations during the call, was that Nioma?"

"Yes indeed" said Pyosz.

"I wish I could have a long meal with her and plumb the depths of her thinking, she's even more interesting than I remembered" said Prl.

'Emma, how is Tlunu doing? Since she was the only sinner rescued without serious injury, but she's crew head?"

"She's in a simmering rage that's completely nonproductive" said Prl. "Halling tried to tell her that survivor's guilt had to be faced head on, but what Tlunu heard was Halling somehow blaming her. She began screaming at emma, and I had to intervene."

"I'm glad you were there" said Pyosz, feeling anger quickening her own pulse. They talked until the 15 minutes of the private line was up and agreed to call often. Qala had washed Thleen's thick red hair, and Pyosz combed it in front of the hearth until it was dry before they went out into an early summer coolness to sing on the porch.

Thleen heard Maar's lighter before the rest of them, and leaped from Pyosz's lap to run barefoot to the edge of the jichang. Qala said "I had to scrub her feet twice, they were so grubby." Maar held hands with Thleen walking to the porch, swinging their arms back and forth, and settled with a long sigh against Pyosz on the steps, grabbing a kiss before Thleen sprawled over both their laps.

"Siba, will you sleep with me tonight?" the child asked, a flicker of anxiety in her voice. Maar paused, giving another sigh and looking at Pyosz, before saying "Yes, of course."

Pyosz said "We could all squeeze into the shiny nickel bed, if you'd rather."

"Really?" said Thleen excitedly.

"But no katts, then" said Maar. "Those big katts take up an astonishing amount of room."

They went to bed early, taking mugs of warm milk with them. The novelty of sleeping between Maar and Pyosz left Thleen wriggling, keeping herself awake. Pyosz offered to share a riddle story Yoj had often told her at bedtime. She swiftly altered it to fit Pya. "There's this maple sugar maker on Mti, see, who needs to cross Caj Creek when it's swollen wih flood. She has a tiny wooden boat that's only big enough to carry one thing besides her. The problem is, she has three things she needs to carry across the creek: A katt, a basket of figs, and a shu. What is she to do?"

Thleen kicked her ankles around as she said "I know, she can make three trips!" Pyosz reminded herself to wash these sheets tomorrow.

"Well but think. if she leaves the shu alone with the figs, it will eat the figs. And if she leaves the katt alone with the shu, it will eat the shu. So how can she make three trips and still have everything uneaten on the other side?" Pyosz could see Maar grinning, but her eyes were drifting shut.

"Is this a trick riddle?" demanded Thleen.

"No, there's a real answer" said Pyosz. Thleen began laboring through the possibilities. When she finally declared "Okay, she takes the shu and leaves the katt with the figs, then takes the katt and brings back the shu, then takes over the figs, but then she whistles for an owl and goes on with her katt and figs because who wants to take a stinky shu anywhere?", Pyosz laughed delightedly. Maar, however, was fast asleep. Pyosz spooned Thleen and whispered "We need to drop off before your siba's snoring gets too loud", sending them into further giggles.

In the morning, Maar and Pyosz slipped out of the room together, Maar washing naked at the downstairs sink while Pyosz made tea and toast. Maar came to the kitchen in clean bright knickers and maillot, and Pyosz pushed her against the larder door for long, yearning kisses.

"Missed you last night" she murmured.

"You were so sweet to take Thleen in with us" replied Maar. "I kept thinking about if she still lived on Chloddia when this happened, how frantic she would be. I called Su yesterday, only had a few minutes but had a chance to reassure her. She said she'd pass it on to Adon."

"And what did you say to reassure her?" asked Pyosz, finally moving to a chair.

"That I'm in charge of the sinning crew and my vigilance is unimpeded by either Lofthall concerns or complacence" said Maar. "That I assume every leviathan's primary goal is to kill me and they conspire across the expanse of Skene's oceans to do just that. And that the mezi ray was a polite artifice, a temporary obstacle they are finding their way around."

Pyosz felt unable to finish her toast. Maar said "You and I need to talk. I have to do a double sin today, and although I'll have two hours between, I need to spend it sleeping. So, after dinner?"

"Yes. And I'll sleep with you, too -- sleep, hold you in slumber, nothing else."

When Pyosz made her deliveries, she brought frozen lobster at Gitta's and brought it home to make a gratin with potatoes, Maar's favorite. She made brownies with Thleen's messy assistance and wrapped two to send with Maar on her afternoon sinning. She hadn't changed the sheets yet as they lay down for a nap, which was just as well because the smell of ketone and sweat from Maar was strong. "Thick today" said Maar tiredly as she lay her head on Pyosz's shoulder. "Juveniles kept to the perimeter, big 'uns deep below, not good."

Pyosz did her baking and laundry in the afternoon while Qala and Lawa took Thleen to the orchard. Thleen trailed Vants back to the barn for milking as Pyosz made dinner and began processing cherries and almonds. They all ate as soon as Maar arrived home. Afterward, Maar and Pyosz excused themselves upstairs for an hour. When they returned, Thleen had held off her bath by asking for Maar to do it with her.

"That's a good idea" said Maar, and Thleen grinned at Qala smugly. "But first we need to have a family discussion." Pyosz had clearly been crying, and Lawa put a pot of tea on the table before joining them all.

Maar ran her hands through her hair, which stuck out in gummy spikes now. "I need to consult with you, my immediate family, about what course to take. With these recent developments, the risk of my chosen career has increased dramatically. I have to consider the impact of that on not only my own mortality -- that means how long I live, sibu -- but also your well-being. To begin with, I just asked Pyosz if she would become your official emma, Thleen, should anything happen to me. I have an appointment in two days to revise my will, and I can create documents which will ensure she assumes raising you, if need be."

The furrow in Thleen's brow was identically deep to Maar's at the moment. Pyosz said "I told her yes, absolutely, as long as that is what Thleen wants and my abbas raise no objection."

"I thought you said you were my other emma already" said Thleen.

"Yes, I am, in heart and spirit. But this will make it so in the eyes of the law" said Pyosz.

"That's what I want" said Thleen. "I want to live with you all here, on Owl Manage on saya, for the rest of my life. Except when I go exploring with Ziri, but that won't be for a few years."

Pyosz laughed through new tears. Lawa said "An excellent plan, and I say yes."

"Me too" said Qala, taking Pyosz's hand. Pyosz could tell Qala was trembling. She wondered if Qala had trembled when Prl asked them to become abbas before she was born. Thleen slid into Maar's lap and said "I don't want you to die, siba."

"Well, that brings me to my second question. In my job, I'm responsible for all of Pya. I'm responsible for my sibaste of pilots, and at the moment, I'm also helping to feed Skene." Maar flexed her shoulders unconsciously, as if rearranging a burden on them. "I feel -- a sense of purpose. I think I'm perfectly suited for what is asked of me, most days, anyway." Some of her overwhelm showed briefly. " commitment and sense of purpose to you, who have made family with me, is more. And if you would rather I change careers, find a meaningful line of work that does not risk my life so much, then I will. I put it to you now."

Qala and Lawa looked flabbergasted. Pyosz thought Halling must never have entertained the question, at least not since recovering from Xaya's death. Halling may have cleared the path for pilots to make their own families, but Maar was perfecting that possibility. And she's mine.

Thleen said "You mean you'd stop being a pilot, because we're so scared you'll die?"

"That's it exactly, Carrot-Top." Thleen grinned and reached up her hand to muss Maar's hair, repeating "Carrot-Top."

Lawa said to Pyosz "Did you already give her your answer, then?" Pyosz nodded. Thleen asked "What did you say?"

"I don't want to influence any of you, I want to hear what you think first" said Pyosz. They all looked at Thleen, who squirmed uncomfortably and said "I don't like thinking about this."

"I'll go" said Qala. "Will you be truly happy not being a leader at the Lofthall in the way you are?"

Maar turned pink. "I can find other routes to leadership, as you put it. I think of it as service and stewardship. And I have the ability to find goodness in any situation."

"You do make your own happiness" said Qala. "I'm not sure I want to be part of this decision for you. I'll support you with everything I've got whatever route you settle on, that's the best I can say." She and Maar looked steadily at each other. Pyosz's chest felt full, as if she weren't breathing enough out.

Lawa said "I think more folks will live if you keep doing what you do than if you switch. I trust you. That's my take on it."

Thleen said to Maar "Why don't grown-ups give simple answers? Like yes or no?"

Maar laughed. "Well, I guess being taller must cloud our brains. What about you, yes or no?"

"I want you not to die" said Thleen,

"I can't promise you that, no matter what I do" said Maar, suddenly solemn. "Someday I will die. I hope to reach 100 years before I do, but it's not in my power to know for sure."

Thleen burst into tears, which as Pyosz said later was a brilliant response. Maar said "I know, I know. I never want to be separated from you, either, baby sibu. I will do everything I can to stay with you, and so far I've had a lot of success, hey? Things keep getting better. So you let me handle this, it's not up to you, it's my job to figure out what's right for me. It's not your work, it's mine."

"We're part of your team, too" reminded Qala. Thleen looked at Pyosz and said "What did you tell her?"

"I told her to keep doing what she's doing, it's part of who she is and I'll honor her best by believing in her as much as she believes in herself" said Pyosz.

"Okay" said Thleen. "I'm on the team, too."

"You are at the center of our team" said Maar, wiping her face. "Okay, I'm stinky, I need a hot bath. You want to go get your schmatta and sailboat?"

"Pyosz made bubbles we can use" said Thleen, sprinting for the stairs.

While they bathed, Pyosz called Prl. "Emma, I know you're just waking up, but I have some important things to tell you and ask your support on. You have tea already? Good. First, Maar asked me to become Thleen's legal guardian if anything happens to her, and I said yes...She's signing the papers day after tomorrow, I'll send you a copy...I know, I'll get mine drawn up, too, but I need to consult with that person whose name you gave me, I'll talk to you about their recommendations before I make mine final...Second, Maar asked me to partner with her...Yeah, it's not news except we've decided to do it at Mchele Fair, two months from now...I don't know, we may have to have two ceremonies, one here and one in Skene, we can work out those details later. You may be the only emma present for either of us, however...Yes, there's a third. I told Maar I want to have her baby, as soon as we can get our cycles in sync and produce eggs together that Briel can fuse...Emma, don't cry, you're happy for me, right?" Pyosz saw Qala and Lawa break into a jig in the great hall. "Yes, we have moved it up because of current -- circumstances, but it's been my intention for over a year now...We have all these empty bedrooms, I intend to fill them with children, I told you that...No, let me be the one to share it with the abbas there. And we haven't told Thleen yet, either...My guess is she'll see it as another competition with Ziri and want us to rush things along so she can wind up with more sibus than Ziri has. She'll be out of luck with that ambition, though, the Heaps are out of my league...I need to go, we're about to run out of time and I have to go change sheets on beds...Love you back."

Qala and Lawa swept into the kitchen and caught her in their dance. "Baby, baby, baby" Qala chanted.

Maar's genes thought Pyosz. Handed on for all time.

Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.



From PLoS ONE, an interactive open-access journal for the communication of all peer-reviewed scientific and medical research, comes an interesting study, "Democrats And Republicans Can Be Differentiated By Their Faces". The abstract reads:

"In Study 1, perceivers were able to accurately distinguish whether U.S. Senate candidates were either Democrats or Republicans based on photos of their faces. Study 2 showed that these effects extended to Democrat and Republican college students, based on their senior yearbook photos. Study 3 then showed that these judgments were related to differences in perceived traits among the Democrat and Republican faces. Republicans were perceived as more powerful than Democrats. Moreover, as individual targets were perceived to be more powerful, they were more likely to be perceived as Republicans by others. Similarly, as individual targets were perceived to be warmer, they were more likely to be perceived as Democrats."

The study was conducted by Nicholas O. Rule and Nalini Ambady, Department of Psychology, Tufts University.

So, power or compassion, that seems to be the binary. No wonder we're in trouble.

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]



(NASA's Great Observatories Examine the Galactic Center Region)

Every Thursday, I post a very large photograph of some corner of space captured by the Hubble Space Telescope and available online from the picture album at HubbleSite, followed by poetry after the jump.


by W. H. Auden

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Here's the weekly best of what I've gleaned from I Can Has Cheezburger efforts. There are some really creative folks out there.


Sunday, January 17, 2010


To begin reading this sci-fi novel or for background information, go to my Chapter One post here. To read about the background of the first novel, read my post here, which will also direct you to appendices.

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)


Maar called Owl Manage every night after she got to the Chloddia jichang office, which was mornings post milk delivery in Pya. Pyosz would walk upstairs with the radio and return an hour later, flushed and singing. Qala suggested Pyosz get far ahead on her baking and fill the freezer with her loaves, which Pyosz decided was a good idea. She was far too distracted to pot, anyhow.

She told Vants about having kissed Maar. Vants looked startled and said "What, you mean you hadn't before?" She also called Prl and told her she was in love with Maar. Being on the radio allowed Prl to keep from laughing in Pyosz's face. Otherwise, except for Qala and Lawa, she kept the news to herself: She didn't want to jinx it.

Qala discovered there were afternoon instructions in swimming and water rescue at the reservoir just east of Koldok. She signed up herself and Thleen for a week of these, and bought them the recommended swim attire which Pyosz found very entertaining. Lawa got a second fishing pole for Thleen, and created a little flagpole on The Saya where various pennants and messages could be run up during adventures. They laid in kitemaking supplies, watercolors, knitting yarn, and some new puzzles.

The huolon returned on Moja late afternoon. Vants gallantly took Pyosz's milking so Pyosz could be part of the crowd at the jichang meeting the young immigrant. Mill had arranged a dinner and party at the Lofthall canteen. Ziri was openly envious of the real pilot's scarf Mill tied around Thleen's neck. There was music and some dancing after the meal, which Vants was able to join. Finally at 9:00 the various Pea Podders began ferrying home.

Pyosz was on fire, and had mostly avoided Maar because she wasn't convinced she could exercise self-control while in close proximity.

Thleen had not slept on the huolon home and had ingested several desserts, so she was, as Lawa put it, more tightly reeled than a ferry cable. She balked at a bath, breaking into furious tears that she "just wanted to play with Clicker because she'd missed her so bad". Maar used steely patience to suggest they go to her room, then, change into schmattas and bring a ball of yarn to make Clicker happy. Kitten and child finally crashed together at 10:00, and Maar locked Pyosz's bedroom door against already banished Curds and Ember.

Pyosz would ever after remember that first night with Maar in flashes of pure sensation, not in clear chronological order. The most vivid was opening her eyes to the light of a half full moon silvering the wood floors around her bare iron bed, pooling through her generous Dvareka-facing windows. She was ravenously exploring Maar's melt with her wide mouth and vigorous tongue, but even the flood of her own pleasure could not keep her from looking to watch Maar's surrender. Maar's knees were bent so she could lift herself to Pyosz's demand -- as if that was necessary -- and cords of muscle in her thick thighs were visible in Pyosz's periphery. Her head was arched back to the mattress, her mouth open for one shrieking moan after another. Through Maar's red thatch, Pyosz could see that Maar had hands clenching the iron rails of the headboard for traction.

Later, they guessed this is how the headboard weld was rattled loose from the bedframe.

Pyosz's second most intense memory was when the bed fell. She was on her knees, Maar behind her and in her, thrusting with a throaty yell at each push. Suddenly Pyosz was pitched forward at an acute angle, and she put her palms flat against the wall to hold herself back from it. She barely registered the crash, though later she would mourn the deep gouges left in her precious floor from the bedframe edge. She gasped only "Don't stop."

Maar closed the brief gap between her and Pyosz, and continued with measured abandon, trusting Pyosz's powerful arms to keep them both on the sloping mattress. When they both reached temporary release, they climbed out of their crevasse, laughing hysterically, and pulled the mattress flat onto the floor before flinging themselves back onto it, now flat but drenched in sweat.

Qala and Lawa downstairs and at the other end of the house, however, were awakened instantly by the crash. Lawa said "'Did a tree come down?" Qala pulled on pants as Lawa rushed past four curious katts to the front porch. Before she'd crossed the main hall, she heard the thumping from above and returned, scarlet-faced, to tell Qala "It was them" with a jerk of her head upwards. They decided to make tea and toast, talking over the intermittent sounds from Pyosz's part of the house. Clicker the kitten begged for a treat and Qala gave her a sliver of cheese as she remarked "She'll do the milking, nothing stops her from that, but they'll be worthless otherwise tomorrow."

"Not just tomorrow" agreed Lawa, grinning. "Good thing Maar has the day off."

"Remember that night in my little room off the Lofthall office?" reminisced Qala. "I fell off my cot more than once."

Giggling, they returned to bed for a few more hours' sleep.

When Pyosz's alarm rang, she and Maar had dozed off in a tangle of limbs only 15 minutes earlier. She struggled upright, then turned to meet Maar's kiss. "I'm going with you" said Maar hoarsely.

"You don't have to, my darling, you can sleep until -- " began Pyosz. But Maar was trying to find her otos, and Pyosz realized they could not separate, not right now.

Because of Maar's help, despite the heavy milk yield and the new lovers' easy distraction into passionate clinches, they were done before full light. As Pyosz led the swollen herd and frolicking kids to pasture, she turned to Maar and said "I've always wondered why this is called a kissing gate." They found a place to lean safe from Molars' reach, though not Killer's bewildered scrutiny. By the time they were done, the sun was over the horizon.

Pushing her cart down the streets of Koldok side by side with Maar was a thrill for Pyosz. Kolm took one glance at them and began laughing. "Finally" she said. They took extra cheese and butter with them, and stopped at the grocery only to deliver bread, no shopping. Still, it was enough time for Gitta and another customer to grin at each other knowingly about the new couple.

Qala was in the tillage when they climbed up from the dock. She called out "There's oatmeal and sausage on the aga." Lawa and Thleen were fishing to Thleen's narrative about kickball camp. Pyosz and Maar ate heaping plates but did not linger to even rinse them afterward. Qala had to scrub the oatmeal pot half an hour after lunch to get it clean. Her grumbling was mild.

The failure of Maar and Pyosz to appear for a midday meal was explained to Thleen by Lawa. "They, um, well you know how they care rather a lot for each other" she began.

"Siba said on the flight here that they had been best friends but now they were in love and would be lovers" offered Thleen. "Abbo said a bad word, two bad words really, and siba said the same word when she told her to shut up. So I didn't get to ask what being lovers meant."

Qala's giggling didn't help Lawa's composure. "It means, aahh, that they are sleeping together and, uh, kissing, and doing grown-up things together."

"Like sex, you mean?"

"Skene curriculum must be advanced from when I was in school" Lawa said to Qala.

"No, I heard about sex from Adon and Su and their friends" said Thleen. "Plus Ziri. So siba and Pyosz, they're doing things like that?"

"I don't know what things you mean and there's no guessing if Ziri is one of your informants" said Lawa a little severely. "I think questions about -- particulars -- will be easiest answered by Maar. Or Dodd. The point is, Maar and Pyosz are kinda silly about each other for right now, so we'll all need to carry on and have fun without them always being with us."

"Okay" said Thleen, "what fun are we going to have right now?"

They headed off to the reservoir, leaving a note on the table. Maar and Pyosz did not hear the front door shut below them because at that instant Pyosz was saying "Roll over, I need to suck you some more...Let me all the way in...I can't wait, darling, I need to keep going, is it too much?"

"Nooo...yessss" said Maar, which Pyosz was able to translate perfectly.

They got up in time to scrub hands and faces and help with the salad for dinner. Lawa had taken the camera to record Qala and Thleen learning to swim, and she used it now to document the swollen, languid joy on Maar and Pyosz's faces, Thleen shoving happily between them at the table, and even caught Clicker's crazed leap for the fish platter before dashing upstairs with half a filet, chased by a high-tailed Curds.

Mill sagely put Maar on short hauls around Pya her first day back at work, with lots of loading and unloading, and a long lunch break. Qala refused to allow Pyosz time to catch up on sleep without Maar, instead enlisting her help with Thleen. The new lovers still went to bed early but actually slept for four hours at a stretch between lovemaking. Thleen seemed to be fine with sleeping alone; she had Clicker, and she had story-telling plus a cuddle as she dropped off. The instant she woke up, she raced downstairs to hug Qala and Lawa in the kitchen, asking "What are we doing today?"

Their second dinner together, Thleen said through a mouth full of beets "Can I call you abba?" It wasn't clear who she was addressing, since her gaze shifted between Lawa and Qala. but Qala answered "Well. we're actually Pyosz's abbas, so if you'd rather, you could call us habibi. Whichever you like better."

Thleen's face lit up. "I've never had a habibi before!" After a loud slurp of milk. she said "And Tu and Pank?"

"I call them cousin, so you can say that or sibemma" said Pyosz.

"And Dodd can be my s'bemma, too, not just my leraar?"

"Absolutely. Dodd, Briel, Mill, Oby, lots of sibemmas for you" said Pyosz.

Thleen regarded her thoughtfully. "So, if you're with siba now, I guess that makes you my s'bemma, too."

"If you like. I'm certainly your Pyosz."

Thleen waved her spoon at Pyosz. " emma. I mean, I have two emmas but you're kind of like a new one..."

Pyosz wiped her eyes with the heel of her hand and said "I'd be honored to be your new emma."

"That way I'll have three, like Ziri" said Thleen competitively. They laughed, and Thleen swiftly asked if they could have dessert tonight.

"No, not till Roku."

Market Day was raucous. Thleen hopped on Moasi's cart to ride with her, which distracted Moasi's driving even more than usual. but people had already learned to dodge her path. After Maar joined them briefly for a stall lunch, Pyosz went with Qala, Lawa and Thleen to the reservoir for swimming, accompanied by the Heaps, Vants, and Moasi. Moasi stripped down to knickers and maillot, and leaning on Vants' arm, waded into the shallow end where she floated and paddled with much giggling. Pyosz took more photographs, knowing her letters home this week might entirely rely on images for substance.

The Heaps children had a sleepover, but dinner and singing afterward were on Teppe, where Lehen had brought her Talaba sibiyas. Only the newborns were missing from the pack of children roaming Teppe from end to end. At bedtime, Koben and Meamea were put into the old cabin bed next door to Thleen and Ziri, while Maar and Pyosz hastily retreated to their room. Maar took special pleasure in unlacing Pyosz's gilet and reaching under her shati to heft her breasts in either palm.

"I still haven't talked to Taamsas about getting my -- our bed repaired" said Pyosz. Maar pushed her back on the mattress and said "Right now, having this on the floor has been handy, if you know what I mean." Pyosz's further utterances were gasps.

On Sju. Maar loaded the pieces of the iron bedframe in her small sinner on her way to do a single run. Pyosz played goat tag with the children in the pasture until 10:00, when Thleen went home with the Heaps for several hours. Maar met Pyosz back in their bedroom, emerging for a late lunch.

After some hints from Lawa, Maar did four loads of laundry, Pyosz made sauces and vinegars, they both swept and washed floors, and Thleen's bed got disassembled for repainting in the color Thleen had chosen, grass green. Because Shmonah was forecast to be rainy, a dropcloth was spread in an empty room upstairs, and after dinner, Thleen painted her bed with Pyosz and Maar assisting. They finished the day with stargazing and singing on the porch, Thleen migrating from lap to lap. Clicker spent the next day with green daubs on her fur.

Later that week, Mill called Maar into her office and closed the door. Not looking directly at Maar, she said "I happened to be taking a jaunt over to Mti yesterday and I flew over your hot springs not long after lunch." Maar's face turned crimson.

Mill cleared her throat and continued "I'm happy as pie that you're in love with my sibiya, but I don't want to again have to witness you putting it to her in a public area. Nor do I want my pilots watching for it -- Dekkan would crash in a heartbeat. So, contain your ardor."

"Yes, Sheng Zhang,"

At the dance that weekend, the young pair partnered only with each other until Thleen threw a tantrum and Maar swept her into a reel. Uli, now out of her cast, seized the opportunity to quickly work up a sweat with Pyosz. "I'm out of shape" she finally said, asking they sit down before it was over.

"How are you doing?" Pyosz leaned in to ask her.

"Much better. In all regards. I owe you forever" said Uli. She grinned at Maar and Thleen, adding "So that's what she looks like when she gives her heart away. I gather you're going to partner."

"Yes, but no date set. We haven't exactly rushed things so far" said Pyosz.

On Shmonah, Vants asked to speak with Pyosz and Maar privately. "I need your objective advice, if you can give it" she said. "Everyone else in the family will have an overriding agenda. Pava wrote me and asked me to take her on as an apprentice capriste, give her room and board for at least two years, until she can get taken on full-time in the ejida system. I think we could use a third capriste in the pipeline -- once my herd builds up, it'll be three times yours, Pyosz. And Lehen and I both have an emma feeling for Pava. But I want to know what you think."

"Pava's a legal adult now, she can live where she wants" said Pyosz. Vants' expression was a little exasperated as she said "She still needs help, she's asking for family, not just a roof over her head."

"Thava will probably never forgive you" said Maar more thoughtfully. "Even if it turns out this is the best thing for Pava and her emma eventually recognizes it, you'll still be the means by which her child left her."

"Yeah, that's what I think, too" said Vants somberly. "Will Pya public opinion be for this or against it, you think?"

"For it" Maar and Pyosz said simultaneously. Maar added "But it will split Pava from her sibs, and they seriously need her."

"So Lehen knows?" asked Pyosz. "What about Moasi?"

"I shared the letter with them both. Moasi wants her to come as well. All right, I guess I'll take it to Pank and Tu, Mill and Oby now. Thanks for listening" said Vants.

On Moja Maar returned the repaired bed, which she'd had nickel-plated at a plant in Cogio. They only had time to reassemble it before Maar had to leave again, but Pyosz kept finding excuses to go upstairs and look at its gleaming splendor.

That night at dinner, Thleen announced she and Ziri were going to pool their miniscule savings and buy a sailboat, a "real one", they could use to knock about the Pea Pods. Maar said "You most certainly are not."

"We'll get lessons, and it's morrie vaseo -- " began Thleen.

"You will never sail unchained boats on any ocean waters of Pya, morrie vaseo or not, as long as you live under my care" said Maar. "Which means until you are 16. No exceptions."

Thleen blew up. Her face was contorted as she literally screamed "You can't push me around like that, you're NOT my emma!" Maar was gobsmacked. Thleen shoved away from the table, knocking her chair over, and yelled "You're mean to me all the time, I'm sick of how mean you are! I can't stand this any more!" She thundered upstairs, and the slamming of her door rattled the framed pictures in the dining room.

Maar whispered "What the lev?" She stood uncertainly, asking Pyosz "Is this because I've been neglecting her? I guess I should go -- "

Lawa stood and said "No, let me. You need to not take this on." She buckled her broeks and went upstairs.

Qala motioned Maar to resume her seat and said "Congratulations. She just became secure enough to get mad at you. I bet she's never done that before."

Maar shook her head, her face still very pale.

"She's not really blaming you. You're just who got her to safety, is all, so in her child's mind you must be responsible for everything. She'll sort it out, don't get confused with her. Welcome to the world of full-time emmahood." Qala sliced a sliver of cheese to melt in her leek soup.

"Wow" said Maar, staring at Pyosz.

"I guess I'll be next" said Pyosz.

"If you're doing things right" said Qala. "I bet Ziri got the same ultimatum with her emmas. They'll compare notes tomorrow, talk about how stupid you all are, and move on to the next challenge."

"Wow" repeated Maar, looking thoroughly rattled. Pyosz wished Prl were here so she could apologize to her for any number of things.

The following day, a massive leviathan slipped furtively into the bottom of the sinning net deployed on Skene. Its weight stopped the lift and threw the grappled sinners off balance. Before they could release, the levi rolled in the mesh and dove. All four sinners plunged into the water. Two pilots were saved by lighters with parachute hooks, though one pilot was severely injured. The other two pilots, who also ejected in time, were swallowed alive in full view of the horrified lighters. One of them was Abbo's lover.

Maar brought them the news at lunch, after her own sinning run. She said there was to be a community meeting at the Lofthall that night. Lawa pointed her head at Thleen and said "Not everybody's going to attend, right?"

Thleen was opening her mouth to protest when Maar said "Anyone who's in a Lofthall family should be there. We have to face this together." She kisse them each, wrapped a sandwich and a handful of cherries in a napkin, and returned to the Lofthall.

Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.