February 3, 2013 by Lyn
July 1, 1993
“Do they remember?” Gina and Douglass were watching the children play – a select group of six- and seven-year-olds from Regine Avonmorea’s Addergoole Project, their daughters among them. “Do you think they will remember their little friends?”
“If it were every year, or every two or three years, maybe.” Douglass shrugged. She was a lean woman, and something about her made Gina uncomfortable – too mannish, too haunted to be like the other mothers. Too wrong. But she was willing to listen to Gina’s questions, where the other mothers had blown her off, so it was to Douglass she kept returning. “Every five years? Probably not.”
“Then why? Why gather us all here?” Douglass’ daughter Timora was explaining something animatedly, her hands moving all over the place. Gina could catch a couple words: Hobbit, Elf. Dragon.
“Well, I imagine she wants to watch the progress of the children as they grow and grow up. And, quite frankly, considering her requirements for membership in the program, it gives her some sort of check that the kids aren’t being abused, neglected, that sort of thing.”
“You don’t think…”
“I don’t see why not. She enlisted businesswomen and soldiers in her project, yes, but she also had prostitutes and vagabonds. And a lot of them – like us – chose to raise their own children.”
Gina didn’t like being lumped in with prostitutes and hobos. “Why would she do something like that?” She frowned at the taller woman. She could usually lighten anything – anyone. Not this one.
And the woman pinned her with a look that made Gina pity her poor daughter. “Because she wasn’t looking for ‘ideal child rearing situations,’ she was looking for ideal genetics. And someone choosing to be a hobo or a prostitute doesn’t speak to their genes at all.”
“How do you know all this?”
“I asked. Didn’t you?”
Gina was getting tired of this woman’s tone. “It appears some of us got more direct answers than others.”
“Don’t feel bad.” A third woman, with short curly hair that looked like a sheep’s pelt, stepped up to their conversation. She thrust her hand in ahead of her. “Avril Thomas. The little boy over there who’s pretending to be a monkey is my son Porter.”
“Pleased to meet you, Avril.” Gina shook her hand, because that’s what you did. “Gina Larsen; my daughter Ceinwen is the one in the blue jeans.”
“Douglass Dark Water.” Douglass did not offer to shake. “And my daughter Timora is the one in the inappropriate dress.” For the first time, she smiled, showing true affection. Well, good then. Perhaps she wasn’t a total loss as a human being.
“Don’t feel too bad,” Avril repeated herself, after they’d made the appropriate your-child-is-cute noises. “Dr. Avonmorea played her cards very close to her chest. You had to ask very strange questions to get the proper answers. Otherwise, you got answers like I got: they’re looking for specific qualities, yadda, yadda.”
“That’s what she told me, too.” Gina tugged on her earlobe nervously. “They said…” She didn’t like talking about this part.
“People who saw things that weren’t there?” Avril offered. “Yes.”
“Hrmph.” Douglass shook her head. Gina cringed. “People who see things that aren’t there.”
“And I suppose you’re a big shot sort, then?” Avril was less than cowed. “You’re one of those that knows how the world really works?”
“Well.. yes.” Gina got the feeling not many people stood up to Douglass; the woman seemed completely lost.
“I find it interesting that Dr. Avonmorea wanted us as much as she wanted ones like you. Don’t you find that interesting?”
Ones like you. Gina had a feeling she was missing quite a bit. But she also felt like Douglass was getting what she deserved, and that made her smile.
“…and that’s how Bilbo got the Ring.” Timora did a little pirouette. “When I grow up, I’m going to be like Galadriel. I’m going to be a beautiful elven queen.” She sketched what she thought of as a queenly bow.
“That sounds fun.” Porter was pretty nice, for a boy. He hadn’t once tried to put anything down her dress, or pull her hair, or throw anything at her. “And if you’re queen, I can be your king. Or, I know, better yet. I can be your Knight Errant.”
“What’s a Knight Errant?” The other blonde girl was pretty, even if she liked dressing like a boy. Ceinwen. Timora liked that this picnic had other kids who weren’t named Taylor and Tyler and Skyler. It was nice to not be the only one with a flowery name. Cein-wen. It sounded like something out of a fairy tale.
“Can I braid your hair?” Other girls braided each other’s hair. Timora was good at braiding, although mostly she braided her own. “You have really pretty hair.”
“You can.” Ceinwen pulled out her ponytail. “What’s a Knight Errant?”
Timora wasn’t entirely sure, but she was fine making this sort of thing up. “It’s a knight who wanders around the countryside. Maybe because he annoyed the king?”
“But not the queen.” Porter bowed again.
“Can we play?” Two more kids wandered over – a tiny brown-skinned girl with her hair in pigtails, and a brown-haired girl with her hair in snail buns. “Pania brought a ball.”
The brown-haired girl held up a soccer ball. “I’m Pania. This is Miryam.”
“A pleasure to meet you, Ladies Pania and Miryam.” Porter had beaten Timora to the punch again. “These are Queen Timora and Queen Ceinwen, and I am their Knight Errant.”
“Ooh, I want to be a knight!” Pania dropped her ball and imitated the bow. “Like this? Want to be a knight, too, Miryam?”
The tiny girl – really, she was smaller than a kindergartener – frowned. “No.” Her frown vanished and she smiled, bright as day. “No, I want to be the sorceress.” She waved her hands in the air.
Timora wasn’t sure she liked this. She got to be a Queen, but everyone else got to be all sorts of cool things, too. “But sorceresses are evil.”
“Not me.” Her smile was so bright, it was hard to stay miffed at her for long. Miffed was Timora’s new favorite word. “I am going to be a good sorceress.”
“But everyone will think you’re evil.”
“I’ll defend her!” Pania waved around an imaginary sword, or possibly a light saber. “Whooosh! Pow. Shzooom.”
“That’s okay. They can think I’m evil.” Miryam sat down on the bench, still smiling. “I can wander around doing good behind their backs, then, and nobody will ever know.”
“That doesn’t sound so fun.”
“I think it will be wonderful.”
Timora’s new friends, she decided, were a little strange. But they liked her, so that was all right.
July 1, 2000
“My son graduated from Addergoole this year.”
Douglass Dark-Water had, Gina thought, not changed much at all. She hadn’t aged in the last seven years, that much was certain, while Gina felt like she herself had aged at least two decades, possibly three.
And if her child had already graduated from Addergoole…
“My niece started this year. She was the maid of honor in a wedding for another freshman, and came home with a girlfriend.”
“Then she’s doing two better than my son. He came home with a slightly bruised heart and a slightly expanded ego.” Douglass rolled her eyes. “It will be interesting to see how my daughter does, however.”
She gestured over at the teenagers cautiously getting a feel for one another, her daughter and Gina’s among them.
“They don’t really remember at all, do they?” Gina frowned. “I could get Ceinwen to remember flashes of the gathering –’that picnic thing when I was a kid’ was the best she could come up with.”
“Timora remembered playing queens and castles. But, then again, most of her peers won’t indulge her in her fantasy worlds.” The stern woman’s lip twitched. “It will be interesting to see how she fares.”
“Are you worried at all? How did your son do, aside from a broken – bruised – heart?” Ayla had come home full of secrets. Gina wasn’t sure how much of that was the double surprise that Ioanna had been – triple, if you counted her rounding belly and young daughter. “The, ah, requirements of the program…?”
“Aside from the damage to his ego? He came out pretty well. He talks to the second young lady once in a while – she and her girlfriend are getting along quite well, and she’s raising his daughter…”
Gina had growing suspicion. “His daughter Cecily? She’s a thoughtful young lady with very large eyes and her mother’s complexion?”
“Ah. So your niece’s girlfriend is my son’s former lover. Addergoole is, indeed, a very small world.” Douglass’s faint smile barely flickered. “Be nice to her, please. I don’t see my older granddaughter at all. And – be glad you’re sending a daughter to Addergoole.”
“Your son didn’t have to carry two children.” Gina was surprised at how tart she wanted to be.
“No. But neither was he given much choice at all about those children’s rearing. Our daughters will have that – and we will, then, have grandchildren to cuddle.”
“You don’t seem like the cuddling sort.” Gina slapped her hand over her mouth, but it was too late.
And not too bad, it seemed; the stern woman was smiling. “I am, but only with very small people. Children. Men.”
“Men?” She squeaked it out.
“The other half of the child-creating equation? They are useful to have around once in a while.”
“I.. I guess.” She was blushing.
“You don’t think so?”
“Oh, I like men. Man, I mean, or.. my husband, how do you do this to me?”
“It’s alarmingly simple. Perhaps it’s just that you’re not familiar with me. Maybe, since we are co-relatives of young Cecily now, we could get together for coffee sometimes? Or even dinner?”
Coffee? Dinner? “You’re asking me?” Gina blurted it out before she thought about her words. “I mean… really?”
“I don’t see why not. You’re intimidated by me. Most people are. Think, for a minute, what that might be like.”
Gina wanted to say how would I know what that was like? How could I even imagine it? But, being who she was, she could imagine many things she couldn’t experience – so she did. Thinking about everyone getting stuttery and nervous, thinking about everyone acting around her like she acted around Douglass.
It was only with a great deal of effort that she stopped her inner light from flaring off like the Fourth of July. “Our daughters start at Addergoole at the same time. Perhaps, if we enjoy a few cups of coffee together, we can talk about how we’re going to deal with that. And, of course, how we’ll deal with having grandchildren around the place.” She smiled cautiously at the taller woman. “And I’m sure there’s still a lot you know that I don’t, that you could explain to me.”
“There probably is a bit.” Douglass nodded slowly. “And I’d like that. Thank you, Gina.”
Gina shrugged. There wasn’t much to thank her for in this. “My pleasure. Tell you what… I know a nice place about an hour from here. We could start right away.”
“And the children?”
“The children,” Gina pointed out, “seem to be getting along just fine without us.”
This was inspired by the Seven Up! series of films; I was watching a TV article about those films when I started writing this bonus story. 😉
Addergoole updates every Wednesday evening EST.
For every $5US donated, I will write 300 words on the character or situation of your choice. In addition, every donation will bring you to a small snippet of story – a new snippet every Wednesday! Want more?