Below is the next bit of my novella, Dropping Slow, which I am posting serially during the month of June, as part of the Every Single Day Challenge to raise money for Sharon the Light. If you’re enjoying the story, please feel free to donate via my Crowdrise page ($10 minimum donation) or directly, at this link (no minimum donation). Everyone who donates will receive an ebook copy of Dropping Slow, once it’s all posted (if you donate directly, please leave a comment to let me know!).
Trini is Cisara and therefore works a lot. But she comes to Tace’s rooms each night to talk, so Tace can practice.
There are places in Holtzdorrne House that make Tace nervous. Edgy. The hallways on the second floor, where her parents’ rooms are, make her angry and long for the base gym, where she could punch and kick and work out excess energy. Well, if she wasn’t stumping round on a cane, anyway. The formal dining room feels claustrophobic despite its arched ceiling and enormity.
“Why do I hate the dining room … downstairs?” she asks Trini.
“Probably because of the state dinners. Dad at the head of the table, bragging about us while simultaneously making us sound incompetent. Mum at the foot of the table with her current boyfriend–”
That brings back a memory, their mother and a man, her hand on his arm at table as they all ate, her eyes on her husband as he discussed Tace’s glorious–if she could get herself focused–future in the Corps. And she knows their mother was desperate for something from their father, knows their father was refusing to give it to her, but she doesn’t remember the context, how she knew that. She remembers wishing her father would start talking about Trini, who calmly ate her dinner further down the table while glancing coolly at the young man and young woman their mother had seated to either side of her. She wore a green dress, her hair smoothed into perfect ringlets that stopped at her chin.
“Your hair always looked perfect,” Tace says. “I hated that.” Oh, hell, that’s bad–that’s not what someone tells her sister, right?
But Trini grins, delighted, and says, “Nobody ever cared how you dressed. I was always told I’d be an icon and ought to dress like it, and you were going to end up in a uniform anyway so nobody cared–I was so jealous I could have spit.”
Tace frowns, chasing an image. “Did we have … coats? That were alike? With a big flower on the … the whatsis?”
“The pocket–yes! Yours was purple and mine was red. Big felt flowers. We wore them to … oh, god, some festival or something Mum dragged us to.”
“We played together.” Tace remembers a clearing in some trees, pretending pine cones were a tea set, eating candy Trini had snuck from somewhere.
“We did. Took off on all the other aristo kids. Mum wasn’t best pleased. Dad thought it showed we knew our place in the world.”
Their mother joins them one evening, looking strained and wearing a dress that is diaphanous and loose, falling from her shoulders. She’s been ill for most of their lives, but the nanites have kept it at bay, let her do her work and go to the opera and argue endlessly with her husband–the Flogystens are known for their passionate, earth-shaking, operatic love affairs; one set of Tace and Trini’s grandparents is the subject of an opera–but everything winds down eventually.
Tace asked Trini about another round of new nanites, haltingly and with many pauses to recall the words. The Venae Cisara has declined further treatment; perhaps new nanites would help, but perhaps not, and for once their father does not seem inclined to argue the point with his wife, or do what he wants and damn her opinion. “It’s her decision,” Trini said with a sigh. “The doctors don’t know how long she has without them, so. We just muddle along.”
The three of them, now, speak carefully of the weather and the food, their mother clearly trying not to wince at Tace’s slower cadence, before she finally says, “We should have a party for Tace’s homecoming.”
Trini looks skeptical. “Really?”
“Really. She’s home from the War, everyone knows she was wounded, and darling, I’m sorry to say it but you did not look your best when you came home–”
“Mum–” Trini’s voice is warning, but Tace isn’t offended–that many hours of space and planetside travel would make someone healthy look awful. She still doesn’t look great–too skinny, too shaky, scarred along her hairline; she has wounds, withdrawal, and trauma. But since what she doesn’t have are words for those flashes of thought, she looks at Trini and shrugs. She’s leaning on the cane less. She’s sleeping better.
“No press inside, just outside to see the arrivals. Old friends and extended family–people we trust to tell everyone how marvelously Tace is recovering.” Mum levels Trini with a severe look. “It will alleviate a number of fears, particularly given that you’re still not married and have no intention of providing an heir.”
“For fuck’s sake, Mum–”
The Venae Cisara waves a hand. “Yes, I know, you’re agamic or non-sexual or whatever the hell you call it now. Your sister has too many lovers and you have not a one, the gods sent you both to test me–”
“You’re really going to talk about ‘too many lovers,’ Mum? You?”
“A party,” Tace blurts, startling both her mother and her sister. “It’s fine. Call the …” She goes blank, words scattering like pebbles from a hand, and looks to Trini.
“The planner.” Trini raises an eyebrow, and Tace shrugs again. “Have at, Mum.”
The idea of a party makes Tace nervous, but it’s a familiar kind of nervous. She can lean into it.
copyright 2017 by Laura E. Price. Feel free to link to this story–signal boosting is welcome!–but please don’t reproduce it without permission.