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!).
It’s the following day before she’s summoned to her father’s rooms. They’re decorated in greens and browns,dark wood, very masculine; her mother looks comfortable but also misplaced on the deep rust couch in her delicate, pale yellow dress. She’ drawn and exudes impatience. Tace is still struck by how much weight she’s lost.
Her father is at his desk; he stands and comes around it to usher her into a chair before sitting down next to her mother. He looks like he’s always looked: hair combed back, white dress shirt, gray pants, shined shoes. She’s rarely seen her father barefoot.
She was expecting to see her sister, too. “Where’s Trini?” she asks.
“We wanted to speak to you alone,” her father says.
That does not bode well. Tace realizes that she’s sitting with her spine straight, both feet flat on the floor, hands on her thighs–military posture–not the ankles crossed, hands folded way of sitting her mother taught her. Some part of her is expecting … something. Not a battle; this isn’t a battle stance. But some part of her thinks Lieutenant Flogyston is the mask she needs to wear in front of her parents.
“To speak to me about what?” she asks, slowly, more slowly than she needs to. If she starts them off thinking she needs more time to process, maybe she’ll have that time when she needs it.
“Your mother and I are … concerned, with the trajectory of your sister’s rule.” Her father speaks slowly, as well, more slowly than she requires. She waits. “We feel that Harekaanan might be better served with someone more traditional at its head. Someone who understands the importance of stability and duty.”
Her mother sounds testy, but also tired, and doesn’t slow down her speech. “We want you to challenge your sister for the Cisareiat.”
For a longer moment than she likes, her words are gone. She’s left looking from her mother to her father and back again.
“I am an awful choice to be Cisara,” she finally says, watching her mother. The lines in her mother’s face tighten, her arm strung with tension as she puts a hand out and onto the arm of the couch and leans against it, elbow stiff, face fixed. How much pain is she in?
“You poll quite highly,” says her father. “The people love you. You are a wounded veteran, but you’re persevering and overcoming your new disabilities. You understand your duties and responsibilities to your family and your people.”
“You do your own grocery shopping,” her mother adds; her hand grips the fabric of the armrest. “You seem like one of them.”
“I have two lovers,” Tace says. “I live with them.”
Certainly we do not persecute the faithful, but neither do we feel a need to encourage them. Her father said that at a state dinner, when someone brought up Roeschism. Back when Tace was a kid. Before she knew she could love two people at once, could need both of them, that they could all love and need each other this much. Did he ever ask her, later? About Javi and Linea? She doesn’t know–whether or not he ever confronted her is lost in orange pink green swirls, so she doesn’t know if he was just playing polite, playing politic on the front steps.
Her father waves her words away. “That’s part of the reason why your polls are so high. Roeschists love you because of your girlfriend. People on both sides of the IWT debate like you because of your boyfriend.”
She lets that roll around in her head, lets the nebula settle, lets her own words seep back into her mind. Her lovers are worth policital capital. Her wounds poll well. She’s not even surprised that they think of her this way, in terms of optics and factions. It hurts no more or less than anything else they’ve ever done.
It’s long enough that her mother pushes herself out of the couch and paces, the only indication of discomfort a harder-than-usual exhale now and then.
Tace takes a breath to speak.
“I am a soldier, Venae Cisare. And as such, my loyalty lies with the Cisara.” Tace stands, straight, her knee stiff but not sore. Her mother has stopped pacing and stares at her with her lips pursed. Her father looks at her from his seat. “Aside from that, Trini is my sister. She’s a good Cisara. She cares about her people. She cares about me. I’m not going to reward that with betrayal.” The words are right there in front of her like a gift, so she takes them. “You raised me better than that.”
They don’t stop her when she turns–Corps turn, though slightly less sharp than it could be due to the proximity of the couch. They both look … shaken. Surprised. Not as angry as she might have expected. Older than when she walked into this room.
She nods to them both, crosses to the door, then leaves them there.
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.