“You’re not going,” Laurence said, grabbing her wrist. He shook it lightly. “Lenore. You’re not. What will our parents say?”
“They’ll wish me every happiness, the way they did when we left Earth,” she said, sliding her hand out of his grasp. “I’ll remind you, we both decided to go on this trip. Why do I have to be the one to come back? You go back, if you’re so eager to make them feel better.”
“I’m not the miracle daughter they never expected to have.”
She stopped, throwing her bag on the bed. “Is that what this is about? Again? About you being adopted?”
“No,” he muttered.
“They don’t love you any less because I came along after they thought it was impossible for them to have their own kids,” Lenore said, forcing herself to moderate her voice. It was so hard, though. She was done here. Jaran was somewhere over on the throne world, awaiting word from them. She missed him, missed the sanity of Kherishdar, missed speaking the language, missed touching fur softer than velveteen. She was going to lose a lot of that, of course—Jaran alone did not make an entire society. But he would carry some of Kherishdar with him wherever he went, and if she was lucky, they could turn that seed into a better society.
Even if they didn’t, it would be better than living here in an uncomfortable détente with the aliens she wanted so badly to belong to.
“Laurence,” she began, then sighed. She put her hand on his shoulder and pulled him over, hugged him. “Laurence, I love you, but you can’t protect me forever.”
She felt his hands rest on her back, but she could tell he was upset by how his arms trembled. “You want to go away. With people who tried to kill me.”
She pressed her forehead against his chest, pushing past her exasperation. “Laurence, you started yelling at one of their heads of state. If you started yelling at the President, getting in his face about something, you’d better believe the Secret Service would have done something about it.”
“Sure,” he said, angry. “They would have stepped between us. They would have tried to pull me away. But they wouldn’t have tried to kill me, like a rabid animal, like something they couldn’t reason with. Lenore, they’re not like us. They’re not just not like us, they don’t think of us as people.”
“Yet,” she said, and leaned away. “They’ve never met anyone like us—”
“How do you know?”
It was the first thing he’d said since she started falling in love with Jaran that gave her pause. Because… she didn’t know. And Laurence had grown up with her, the perfect baby sister, the miracle child he’d doted over, no less than their parents. He could see it instantly in her eyes, the uncertainty.
“How do you know you’ll be different?” he asked.
“Because,” she said at last. “I already am. He’s been with me, Laurence, and he loves me.”
“That’s what all the guys say who cheat on their wives. He’s got one, doesn’t he?” He folded his arms.
“It’s not like with humans—”
“Yes, exactly. It’s not. So how do you know that’s not going to turn around and bite you in the face? Right now, it’s all ‘they’re not like humans in a good way.’ What about when they’re going to be not like us in a bad way? What about when he gets tired of you and wants to go home?”
“It won’t matter,” Lenore said, quiet. “Because he can never go home.” She met his eyes, said the words, even knowing how little chance there was of his acquiescence. “You could come with us.”
He snorted. “Yeah, right.”
“I mean it, Laurence. This will be our world—”
“One given to us by the aliens? How do you know?”
More firmly, she continued, “Our world. To colonize properly, the way we can’t do this one. We can build something there. Maybe… maybe we can do the job we wish we could do here, there. By showing them that we can be civilized.”
“Why do we have to show them anything?” Laurence said. “They’re not any better than us, Lenore. They’re just different. Different isn’t always better.”
“It’s not always worse, either. And in their case, I don’t think it is.”
“Then you go,” he said. “Go… make this fantasy with your alien, for as long as that lasts. I’m going to stay here and meet the ship that’s coming after us.”
“If you come with us, there will be only one Ai-Naidari for you to hate,” Lenore said, frustrated. “Why do you want to stay on a world with an entire town of them?”
“Because there’s no question here about our roles,” Laurence said. “No lies. We know we don’t trust one another. We know where the lines are. I’d rather that, than go off to try to make some hybrid society where no one knows where anyone stands… including the people who ostensibly now “own” the world, but only because some aliens gave it to them.”
Lenore stared at him for a moment. Then said, “That’s… the most Ai-Naidari thing you’ve ever said.”
Laurence’s glance then was fulminating. He looked away to hide it from her and said, “You really want to go. Throw everything away. Never see your family again.”
“There’s no reason you can’t change your mind and come see me,” she said. “I’m not giving up communicating with my family just because I’m going somewhere else. But Laurence… this is why I came. To learn, to explore, to do things and be things no one’s ever done or been before. I thought it was why you had come too.” She paused, bit her lip. “Come with me? I’ll miss you if you stay.”
“Then I guess you’ll have to miss me,” he said, and quit the room.
Lenore sat on the bed and covered her face until the urge to shake stopped. She loved Laurence. Had loved and looked up to him since she was born. But she could not, would not check her course for him. In that, she thought ruefully, she was still more human than Ai-Naidari, for all her desperate desire for ribbons of her own.
Heartsick but resolved, she returned to packing.
Old drawings of these two from way before I wrote anything set in Kherishdar, when I was still trying to figure things out. It was that second picture that made me realize about the ink in Black Blossom:
I feel like I’m lining myself up to understand how to get my arms around the sequel. This could be very good (hooray, for fans of Kherishdar!) or very bad (boo for people waiting for the conclusion to Reese’s story!). But I really wanted to understand how things ripple out into the human community on the colony world. Which the Ai-Naidari call the colony world because it’s their colony world. Not ours. So I am getting into everyone’s head.
Morning project - re-imaged all four Squeezeboxes to UE. Another day of Waiting at work, the feared all-hands meeting was not attended by nearly all hands. I think vacations account for some, but not most. It was better than expected, for once they talked engineering instead of marketingpseak, except for one bozoid salesperson in the back of the room asking inane questions. He sounded like a plant. But there were no slides to show, just two execs talking off the cuff, and doing a fine job of it.
Though the room was set up for snacks, none appeared.
I was hugely pissed off, because the big exec started the meeting by praising the vast amounts of Christmas decorations. He's from Massachusetts, where they actually do have snowmen and mostly Christian staff. Note to exec: quantity is not always commendable.
Went for Pho with Automation Guy, the meeting spanned lunchtime. Grrrr.
Spent the rest of the day reading the specs, and having the most amusing mini-dreams when I dozed off for a few seconds at a time.
Stopped at 7-11 for cash, thinking I might get a massage after the manicure, but I ended up waiting a bit more than an hour for my nails to be done (did not know they were appointment-only, but they had one opening at 7 which turned out to be 7:20). Sassy Nails. New place not far from work, friendlier and more organized than Michelle's. It will be my new regular place.
Next stop, Costco, which I thought was open till 10, but turns out it closes at 8:30, so I had 15 minutes to go to all four corners of the store collecting stuff on my list. Could not find the loperamide or booze-filled dark chocolate bottle-ettes, forgot the string cheese, but got everything else. $140.
Home, 9 pm, fed myself a thing of cream of chicken soup which has been the in fridge for about a year. Domino liked the bits of chicken. Watched the finale of The Voice, which for a change picked the only winner possible, as they had narrowed it down to two mediocre singers and a ringer. First week when I heard her, I knew it had to be her. Not really fair because she was a well-established pro before she entered the contest.
Lady Gaga and Christina Aguilara did a duet, which showed that Gaga is flashy with a decent voice, Christina is a diva with some flash.
In local news, the house is getting there. This weekend will feature another cardboard recycling run, and if it doesn't rain I'll empty the shed. pull out most of the shelves, and stack things back in to make much better use of the space. The shelves are too deep and prevent the inward-opening door from opening all the way. Have to get inside and close the door to do any work in there, which is rude because there's no light. Or I don't remember one.
Except those three ships are now being replaced with 32,000 ton ships that carry 450 passengers. So, a periodic doubling of passenger capacity and a concomitant loss of intimacy.
Seabourn’s original two ships are now owned and operated by SeaDream. We love them. Sure, it’d be nice to have something a bit bigger, but their ships are really great, though designed before good wheelchair-friendly designs came out. (As a mobility-impaired person, it’s a bit challenging at times, but I manage just fine.)
When we first arrived on SeaDream, they knew our names, knew I needed gluten-free food, and so on. On our second cruise, most of the crew was the same, and they all remembered us. You can’t get that kind of intimacy on a large ship, and every time Carnival goes through another iteration, it’s to make things bigger.
Another point about gluten-free food and SeaDream: they mark every menu with what is gluten-free and what is not. They are very careful with it; I’ve never gotten sick from food aboard. Their food is truly world class.