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 can’t settle down when she gets back home. She puts down the bags, takes out some of the things she bought, and can’t focus long enough on anything beyond that. She wanders the house, in and out of rooms, sits on the couch, gets up again, looks at her handheld for a minute before putting it back, wanders the rooms again.
This is ridiculous, she thinks, then goes to her own room, lays down on the bed, and takes deep breaths to try and soothe herself. She thinks it’s working. Maybe. The breathing feels good, anyway, even if her brain feels like it’s spinning in her skull. Why can’t she remember the beekeeper’s name? Why can’t she remember the name of his island? Things from there are all the rage, always have been. They guard their exports like state secrets. Maybe their chairs and mugs are state secrets, who knows. She could ask Trini.
Tace still can’t remember his name.
She gets out of bed. She needs to put the rest of the groceries away. One thing she needs to do. If she does that, then she can think of the next thing to do, and do that. “One thing at a time,” she says out loud, hoping speech will ground her.
The kitchen is … not a mess, but she’s got jars set on the counter, a half-emptied bag, and the net of onions broke so half of them rolled into the sink. For a long moment she stares, her brain gone blank–she’s tempted to leave the room and sit on the couch until her mind comes back online, but One thing at a time, she thinks, and crosses to the sink.
First, the onions into the bowl they keep at the corner of the counter. She takes out the three older ones and puts them on top, feeling their skin and flesh in her hands, staying focused on their flaking feel and texture. Mindfulness, the psych techs called it. They’d had classes in it during Basic.
Focus. Onions in the bowl.
Onions done, empty the half-full bag. Fruit into the other bowl. Flour onto the shelf over the counter. Soap set aside to go into the bathroom later.
Honey onto the shelf.
You have memory loss; it’s not surprising you can’t remember his name.
She can remember the way his eyes lit up with hilarity when he finally put it together that there were three of them together–laughing at himself, sweetly delighted with them. They weren’t polyamorous on Homshoi, aside from odd pockets of it in isolated places and Roeschist immigrants. She remembers him nagging Javi into giving him the name of his book, and Javi’s face when the beekeeper saw them next, took him by the forearms, teary-eyed, and told him he had a gift.
“Tace? Are you okay?” Lin’s voice, alarmed, and Tace wipes at her eyes. She’s on the floor of the kitchen with nomemory of sitting down. She’s crying steadily but silently; the jar of honey slips from her we hands, lands on the floor with a cracking sound, doesn’t shatter. Green honey seeps from under it.
“Oh, dammit, I’m sorry,” she says. Lin kneels next to her, hands on Tace’s shoulders and a knee in the honey puddle.
“What–I thought we were out of honey.”
Tace takes a deep, shuddering breath. “I went to the market–”
“You–Tace, did something happen–”
“No, I–it was fine, I just–”
“Why would you–you’re not good with crowds, we know that, why would you go to the market?”
“I wanted to …” The words are gone, though, and as she gropes after them Lin keeps talking.
“Did you have a panic attack? Or a flashback? Tace, you’re supposed to take things easy, you have brain damage, you can’t do these things anymore–you’ve never had the most common sense, but you’re crying on the floor, what the hell–”
Tace’s head is a wide, roaring white space; her mouth shuts and she pushes herself up, forcing Linea’s hands off of her shoulders as she goes, walks out of the living room–spine inspection-grade straight–down the hall to her own room. She shuts the door, sits on the floor next to the bed, and forces herself to feel the wood floor under her hands and legs because it’s fine. It’s fine that Linea moves to do things when Tace is too slow. It’s fine if she wants to do all the housework, all the shopping. It’s fine; it’s all fine, her knee making it difficult to kneel is fine, the holes in her memory, the words she loses, the beekeeper’s name, the fear that hovers just at the edges of her brain all the time, it’s all of it fine because there is a nebula in her head, whenever she reaches for it it’s there, the silent spinning depths of Tace Flogyston, and it is (surely it must be) ample compensation for her wit, her bravery, her charm and steel-braced nerves.
And it is fine if Linea can’t see it behind her eyes.
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.