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!).
She has a hard time settling down that night, for all that it was a good evening. Sometimes even the good things are too much. She takes some painkillers for her knee but leaves the other meds alone, instead contemplating her handheld as Javi drifts through her mind like clouds of stardust. His crazy-curly hair, grown long to hide the ports in his head. He wore a knit hat even when it was hot out and thick brass rings on his right thumb and left index finger.
She’d met him in the Royal Library, too. Camwenne is the academic center of the demesne. It houses libraries the way that other towns house churches: there are university libraries, public lending libraries, archival and medical and museum and law libraries. As she thinks of them, they blossom in her head, books like flowers and fruit trees in her mind. And, of course, there is the Flogyston Library, which is the smallest of them all, a walled garden where an Ardriyne could hide from her title and her duty for a little while.
The young man had small paper notebooks and an actual ink-filled pen that he scribbled in them with. Tace wondered what he wrote and decided it was probably poetry. Maybe he read it aloud somewhere. His usual spot was in one of the few parts of the library that had no windows: along the wall between the collection and the archives and restoration rooms. There weren’t even pictures on the walls, just bare space behind him and shelves full of books in front of him as he wrote in his tiny notebooks.
Tace didn’t say anything to him for weeks after she first saw him; in fact, she found one of his small notebooks on the floor under his usual table one day and picked it up, flipping it over in her hands. It looked homemade, heavy card stock for the cover and decent-weight paper inside, staples to keep it together. His handwriting was nice and filled the pages from edge to edge, but everything was in Spanish, which was one of the languages she couldn’t read.
She gave it back to him, she does know that, but the first conversation she remembers is later–much later, she thinks, because she knows like she knows general history that she didn’t feel that initial need to touch, that same feeling of wanting Javi’s eyes on her, that she felt with Linea, but attraction runs all through this memory of the two of them talking. So it must have been later, after it grew.
They huddled on the floor under some windows in a corner of the library, the librarian disapproving but not willing to say anything to the Second Ardriyne. She could feel the warmth of him all along her side, forced herself to not pull his hat off like she wanted to, and said, “No, really, I also speak English and Bilali, but nobody ever made me learn Spanish–”
He grinned down at his notebook and said, “I am offended by this. I had to learn Harekaans to even get citizenship, you know–”
“Just translate it, all right?”
“The full meaning won’t come through unless you read it in its native tongue.”
“You’d have to teach me,” she said.
He glanced at her, his eyes shyer than his tone of voice, “I could teach you.”
In the end, that day, he read to her from his notebook in Spanish, and she felt the words run over her head like wind. He did teach her Spanish, eventually, and she did read his writing–poems, yes, but essays and political analysis and little bits of their life. (In the middle of a page taken up mostly with notes about the Homshoi coup she found I can’t tell if Tace is more thrilled that Linea and I love each other, too, or shocked that such a thing is possible and another paragraph describing the different textures of their hair, as if he were working out an equation.)
Her Spanish was never fast or fluent. He whispered it to her at night, his own poetry and older, ancient stuff; he and Linea had their own special things, but the poetry was Tace’s. The language was hers. It’s gone now, lost in the holes in her head, eaten by the nanites, maybe.
Javi told her, when she finally saw the ports, “They’re useless now. They used to hold all the knowledge of the system, and now they’re just … junk. Attached to my brain.”
She wakes her handheld and opens her messaging app. There are messages there from Javi and Lin–Saw you on the ‘nets, glad you’re home safe. and Our contact info hasn’t changed, if you need us. Both or just one. And, from each of them, Love you.
She creates a group, both of them and her, and sends out, Hi. I miss you both.
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.