Below is the final 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’ve enjoyed 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!).
Oh my god, you guys, last post! Okay, you people who keep popping up in my stats each day or two (you know who you are)–come on in, virtual group hug!
I’ll post a wrap-up and actual thank you blog tomorrow, but for now … the epilogue!
Tace opens her eyes and sees Trini, chin resting on the mattress of Tace’s bed, grinning at her. Then Trini bounces a little, and the gel-inflated portable mattress she’s been sleeping on makes a squelching, sloshing sound that sets her giggling.
“You know doing that is why I needed a nap today?” Tace asks, smiling back. Every time Trini had moved, last night, they’d started laughing again. State of the art! Trini would hiss, and they’d lose it. It was supposed to hold its shape for at least seven days; it’s been three.
“We are six,” Trini agrees. She reaches out and runs a finger down Tace’s nose. “Come on, Sissie, dinner’s arrived. The Xiankin place down the street is probably going to call itself the preferred takeout of the Cisareiat at this rate.”
“It kind of is, though; you keep asking to order from them.” Tace gets out of bed, testing her knee–it’s not been bad for a while, but she still doesn’t quite trust it. And the dreams of it crunching when she walks because the nanites didn’t dissolve haven’t helped.
They eat out of cartons in the living room, a concert playing on the vid screen and Javi sitting on the floor, working on edits, while Lin and Trini, also on the floor, discuss the academic politics of making Lin the official Flogyston historian. “Look,” Trini says, “nepotism is an old and respected tradition of the Flogystons–you can probably just act aggravated by the appointment and it’ll be fine.”
“You clearly have not met my department–but I think the institutional prestige will go a long way to smoothing things over.”
“It’s a big job, our history,” Tace says, mouth full. She’s on the couch like a civilized person. “You’ll need other people to help.”
“Yes, I shall be Cisara of the history department,” Lin laughs.
“Make them kiss your ring before you award them any sort of access,” Trini advises, deadpan. “It gives you gravitas. No, really, though, I’d like to talk to someone there or at the Library about cataloging and getting some of this stuff we have out for the public to see …”
Tace drifts away from their conversation and watches the concert for a while–she thinks it’s old? Maybe from while she was deployed–and re-emerges from it to see Javi watching her, head propped on his hand, looking … disconcertingly dreamy. “Are you writing poetry about me, Yavee?”
The dreamy look sharpens as he grins and says, “Not just you. Lin. Honey. Sunshine and your sister.”
“I’m in a poem?” Trini’s voice has lost all sarcasm and silliness; she looks surprised and twelve years old again.
“Well, yes. You were at the market. It’s about the market. Sort of. Along the outside it’s about the market.” Javi shakes his head. “You can read it if you want. It’s not nearly done yet.”
Trini reaches over to the notebook on the coffee table and turns it to read. Tace catches a glimpse of one line, sun-soaked laughter, and, used to being in poems, stretches out her good leg to nudge Javi’s shoulder with her foot. “Did you get your edits done? Before the muse hit?”
“Of course I did. I’m a professional.”
“I do remember that you do not always do work before poems,” she says, and he grins at her, sunnily unrepentant.
Trini turns the notebook back around. “I’d like a copy of that when it’s done,” she says, voice still soft. Then, more like herself, “D’you want to be the national poet?”
“Gods and curses, no, how would I write scathing political commentary then?”
Tace puts her carton of food on the floor and reaches for her handheld. The market had been a much different type of outing than usual, with the Cisara and her security in tow, but it was the one thing Trini wanted to do during her visit. And Camwenne might be able to hold its composure in the face of the First Ardriyne, but the Cisara was an entirely different matter. The camera snaps and swooshing noises of messages sent followed them from stall to stall, had run under Tace introducing Trini to Mr. Pointilleuse, had punctuated his flustered response when Trini had taken his hand and asked for some honey–and then proceeded to haggle for it like a merchant until he forgot all his nervousness and hugged her goodbye.
The photos are, of course, all over the ‘nets. Politicians think it was all a stunt for approval ratings. Regular people seem charmed–photos of Trini and the beekeeper are particularly popular.
Another popular one is Tace and Trini laughing over a book that Tace knows is full of salacious paintings of various historical figures, including a number of their ancestors; it’s sitting on the floor of Tace’s bedroom right now. In the photo, Trini holds it in both hands, head thrown back with hilarity; Tace’s forehead rests on Trini’s shoulder as she laughs. There’s no mistaking either of them: Tace’s nose, Trini’s chin.
She downloads the photo to her handheld, makes it her background, thinks for a minute. Then she clicks the “share” button and the FamFriend icon, types, Thank you, whoever took this. I think it’s my favorite picture of us, ever.
She hits send, puts the handheld aside, and goes back to watching the concert. Javi writes, running his hands through his hair. Linea scrolls through something on her tablet, smiling. And Trini glances up from her own device, catches Tace’s eye, and blows her a kiss.
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.