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!).
The trouble begins the next day, when her mother shows her the guest list. Tace is actually quite pleased that she can read it–she hadn’t completely lost the ability to read, but handwriting and certain fonts and, of course, words she’s lost have conspired to make it difficult. She takes longer to parse the meaning of the words, and then the sentence, and then the paragraph, and it makes her head hurt.
But these are clearly names, it’s a list, and she’s proud that she can read her mother’s old-fashioned handwriting. It’s enough to take away the uneasy feeling she has, sitting in her mother’s blue-draped receiving room at a red cherry table she’s quite sure she’ll scratch if she’s not careful.
“We have to invite Gower Lakshman and Aaliena Nos, of course, but otherwise I’ve kept it to people you know–” Her mother stops, frowns. “Why are you looking like that?”
“Who? On here–who is it? I know?” Tace asks. She turns the paper on the table so they can both see it.
“You–well, everyone, Tace, it’s a party for you, so–”
Tace isn’t happy about the holes in her memory, but she’s gotten used to them now. Today is even a good day, where none of the holes make her want to crawl into them to hide. The way her mother trails off, though, her voice breaking a little …
“Mum–” She takes as deep a breath as she can muster. “My brain is … it’s damaged. You know that. There are, there are missing bits.” She feels guilty, like she drilled holes in her own brain.
Her mother takes her own deep breath and lets it out, slowly. “All right,” she says, and the tremor is gone. “Well, we’ll see what we can do about the missing bits, then, shall we?”
The next afternoon she’s summoned back to her mother’s rooms–the Venae Cisara is kind enough to wait until Tace has finished her daily exercises for knee and brain, but Tace is well aware that she will not be dissuaded.
Tace’s mother pulls up vids and photos on the embedded console in her desk–they’re not in the parlor now, but her office. The chairs are less comfortable; Tace’s back hurts, but her mother shows no sign of any discomfort beyond the set of her jaw as she goes through the images: “This is my brother, Tophin, your uncle. Well, it’s no wonder you don’t remember him, he’s been in Nartherton most of your life. No love of public view. This is your father’s sister, Marella–she was in the Corps, too?”
That brings something back, a memory of her father–tall, so she must have been very young, listing the medals her Aunt Marella had been awarded. “For bravery, for valor, for her piloting skills–one day that might be you, Tace, if you decide to focus and actually work at it.”
“Oh, that’s Trini,” she says at the next one, relieved to see a face she knows immediately.
“Yes, that’s your sister.” Her mother sounds impatient and uninterested. “Do you know who she’s with?”
The man in the photo has Tace’s nose–the Flogyston nose, which Trini doesn’t share–and wears the Cisare’s circlet, so she guesses. “Grandfather.”
“Yes! Good! I knew it would just take a little push.” Mum pats her leg and Tace basks in the praise and tries not to let on that she still doesn’t recognize her grandfather. And then they go on to more photos, more guesses, and by the time her mother finally tires and sends Tace away, her head is full, buzzing in her skull so that she can’t settle, can’t calm, can’t sit even though her knee aches and her back hurts and her eyes feel raw.
Trini arrives for dinner and, once the server leaves, watches her pace, knuckles white on the head of her cane. “What did you do today?” she asks.
“Looked at … photos. Of the family. With Mum. To help me remember.”
Trini looks thunderous, which doesn’t help the frantic flutter-buzz of Tace’s brain, but she merely goes to the dresser and finds the pills they sent with her, the only ones Tace hasn’t touched yet. Trini also gets Tace’s painkillers.
Tace sits in one of the new, cushioned armchairs that are scattered throughout the room for whenever she needs them. Trini hands her the pills and pours her a glass of water from the carafe on the tray. Tace takes them, hands shaking, good knee bobbing up and down, as Trini gets her a plate of food to set on the side table.
Once Tace is served, Trini gets her own food and settles in the chair across from Tace. “So,” she says. “Let me tell you about my day–it was surprisingly similar to yours. The time has come for the distribution of our father’s papers to the University, and I am the lucky, lucky ruler who gets to oversee this tedious process.”
Tace listens to Trini’s voice–the papers their father kept, what their attorneys say needs to be redacted, the growing pile of things that perhaps should not be made available for public consumption for another fifty years and Trini’s fervent disgust at having to read them, herself–as the meds take effect. The pain ebbs away, as does the buzzing. Her brain calms, drifts to Linea, and it occurs to her that, for all the aftereffects, perhaps she should be grateful to her mother because here’s a memory, slipping back into its proper place.
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.