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!).
“Do you remember this?” her mother asks, gesturing to the vid on her tablet.
She’d patted the bed next to her, and so Tace is barefoot and curled–so much as she can curl up with her still-healing knee–next to her mother in a way she thinks she might dimly remember from her childhood. More a sense of something–safety, perhaps, and light blue drapery–wrapped with a dawning pleasure of I remember this.
Tace glances at the vid.
Really, there could never be any confusing the nose; she’s the only one of them who got it; Trini has their mother’s Maddoxe chin instead. The little girl on top of the wardrobe singing at the top of her lungs–she can hear her mother laughing from behind the camera, so presumably she’s doing the filming–has the Flogyston nose and a mass of uncombed hair, bare feet and a nicer singing voice than Tace would have expected. Where did that go?
“I don’t,” she says, and whatever fleeting, azure-tinged pleasure she feels drains out of her as her mother shifts away, slightly.
“You were young then,” her mother says absently. The song reaches its crescendo, and the wardrobe shakes. There’s a buzz in Tace’s pocket as her handheld receives a message.
Their messages are careful and slow. Tace wonders if they’re conferring, collaborating on replies. She thinks hers out, types, then thinks more before she sends them.
They’re throwing me a party tonight.
Javi responds, Do you have a signal with Trini?
Lin adds, Scratch your head and yawn to be rescued from the Karningston MP?
Tace grins at the words, misses them both.
Her father is proud of her. He was proud before, too, spine straight and shoulders squared as he saw her off, she in her dress uniform, him in his full ceremonial garb. She thinks he was pleased that she came back from Camwenne and submitted to her duty, as though that had anything to do with him. But now he’s even more proud; she is proof that the Flogystons, like all Harekkanans, have sacrificed for the good of the galaxy. She’s a soldier. A pilot. No matter that she limps and is slow. She’s a hero.
She watches him at dinner tonight–she’s seated next to Trini at the head of the table, guest of honor. Trini is discussing polling numbers or new legislation or something political with the man on her other side; the young lady seated next to Tace hasn’t yet gathered up the courage to speak to her. She must be someone’s wife, and new. So Tace has time and space to watch her father.
He glances up at her and inclines his head before returning his attention to Marella. It’s frustrating, Tace thinks, because she knows that at one time she would have known exactly what he’s thinking, exactly how to read him. She doesn’t know how to read anyone, now, and it makes her feel more than half-blind.
There are benefits to being a wounded veteran, one of which is that she doesn’t have to dance with anyone. On the other hand, she’s forced to make conversation with people she doesn’t remember very well–she’s pretty sure she was never exactly good at politics and small talk, but she used to get the undertones. Is there something ominous going on beneath the small talk of the MP from Charlemantz, or is she imagining things?
The other benefit is an early exit pass. She makes her excuses to her beleaguered-looking sister and is on her way to the stairs with an aching knee and a headache from someone’s perfume when she’s grabbed by the elbow and hauled next to her father, where he and two of his friends stand in a knot in the curve of the staircase.
“Ah yes, Tace, our war hero,” says one of them. He looks crumpled; she can’t remember his name.
“Our war hero, but not our war,” sniffs the other one. Something about the way he says it, about how he stands, and the cloud of alcohol hovering around him makes Tace straighten into military posture.
Her father’s hand tightens around her elbow. “At least one of them knows her duty,” he says, and firm hand or not, her father isn’t too far behind his friend in drink.
“Is it true,” asks the crumpled one (oh, you’re all drunk, what a charming group of dignitaries you are; pride of the country one and all–she’ll think all of this later, in her room, knee and thigh trembling and tired. It will seep, word by word, into her brain), speaking carefully as if this were vitally important to get right, “Is it true what they say about Corps pilots’ shore leave? The sex on the stim drugs?”
“Are you fucking kidding me right now?” And Trini pries their father’s fingers off Tace’s arm, gets a firm grip on him–Tace can’t tell if he wants to hit the crumpled-looking man or is just trying not to lose his footing–“I mean, it’s not like you’ve a position for me to remove you from, Parrin, but really? Your wife told us bedtime stories, you pervert–and don’t even look at me like that, I’m absolutely telling her why I’m sending you home.”
Gentle hand on her back, turning her toward the stairs, and, “That’s IWT,” Tace murmurs as she goes, though she knows they’ve moved on. “Not the Corps. Javi told me, I think.”
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.