August 31, 2015 by Lyn
I can’t control…
Control your temper
She doesn’t see
“I don’t understand,” Kailani complained. Mabina was doing her fairy godmother routine again, placidly modifying a dress that she’d pulled, improbably, out of her closet, using Kai as a dressmaker’s dummy.
“What’s there to understand?” Mabina asked gently. “Hold still, I need to fit this part a little better.” She pinched the dress between two pale, iridescent sequins, and the extra fabric melted away. “It’s a dance, honey. People go to have fun and show off.” She stepped back and surveyed her work. “And you have plenty to show off.”
The furnaces were burning in her cheeks again. They seemed to be on almost perpetually now, but the low-cut dress with the tiny little push-up lace bra Mabina had produced did nothing to cool the flames.
“But I thought dances were about ‘hooking up,’” she protested, more confused than upset. She had thought she was learning everything she needed to know in high school. “I already have a… um,” she frowned, and trailed off. “Is dating always this complicated?”
“Dating is always complicated,” Mabina answered. She lowered herself to the floor, sitting cross-legged with surprising limberness. “It’s a matter of what sort of complication. Addergoole adds its own flavor, and takes away a lot of the normal drama – parents, disapproving teachers, and so on.”
“Parents are a complication?” Mabina’s ears were fascinating from this angle, thicker than they looked from the side, with a groove as if someone had run a thumb down a line of wet clay. It looked very touchable; she folded her hands firmly behind her back.
“Well, yes.” She looked up from the hem of the dress, where she was fussing around. “What would your mother say if you told her you were going to a dance tonight, with a date? Or, worse yet, that you were sleeping over with him afterwards?”
Kai gulped. She’d been writing a letter home last night while they all watched TV, and had danced around the subject of Conrad in general and even more so the specifics of whatever it was their relationship was. Her mother would be displeased with the idea of Conrad, much less the reality.
“I see what you mean,” she admitted. “If I were living at home, still, my mother wouldn’t like the idea of me going on a date.” She bit her lip. “She’d probably find a way to talk me out of it altogether. Mabina, is this whole thing a terrible idea?”
“What?” She looked up again, startled. “Honey, no! Just because your mother doesn’t like something doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea!”
“It doesn’t?” Rationally, Mabina’s comment made sense. She’d been in any number of situations that her mother’s advice was poorly-suited for. But she’d always relied on her mother’s judgment.
“I’m not saying go out and ignore everything your mother ever told you or anything.” She smiled wryly, and cupped a hand over her round belly. “That sort of advice would certainly come back and karmically bite me in the ass. But you’ve described your mother as a man-hater. You don’t strike me as the sort of person who hates men.”
She might as well just give up and accept the blush as permanent. “I don’t think I hate men,” she admitted. “Cassidy is very nice.”
Mabina laughed at her, although it was good-natured-sounding enough to not be very offensive. “Only here three weeks, and you’re already learning to dissemble. What are you going to learn next?”
She grimaced, her pride still feeling a little raw around the edges. “Hopefully, how to deal with a Kept.”
“Ah, yes.” Mabina finished the adjustments to the hem and stood slowly. “He did get the two of you into a bit of a predicament, didn’t he? How is that working out for you?”
“I’m learning a lot,” she answered truthfully, and then, feeling a little wicked, she added, “and I think he is, too.”
Mabina chuckled. “Oh, I bet he is! He’s lucky that you’re such a good person, Kai, and that you like him.”
“Some days he drives me bonkers,” she admitted, feeling a little guilty about it, “but I said I’d take care of him, even when he’s driving me nuts. Even when he keeps telling me I don’t need to take care of him.” She made a face, sticking out her tongue at the closed door to the suite. It was childish, but it felt good.
“Just between you and I,” Mabina whispered, “sometimes Cassidy drives me bonkers. And we live in each other’s heads!”
“Really?” She blinked at her. “But you two seem so happy together!”
“Oh, we are,” Mabina smiled. “We’re wildly, blissfully happy. Sickeningly so, I’ve been told. But we’re still human, or at the very least, humanoid,” she grimaced, tugging on one scrolled ear-tip, “and as such, we’re prone to our share of failings, and pretty ears doesn’t exempt you from the normal human scope of stupidity. Mood swings, silly arguments, getting under each other’s skins in exactly the wrong way – we’ve had it all. And on top of all that, I’m pregnant, which bring with it its own madness.”
“So… you’re happy together, but you still fight?” She wanted to understand – and wanted to know that the way she sometimes wanted to shout at Conrad wasn’t weird – but it seemed counter-intuitive.
“Exactly.” Mabina patted her shoulder. “The dress is all ready for you for tonight. You can take it off now.”
“But…” she frowned. “I thought that fighting was bad.”
“Oh, bah, there you go again,” she laughed. “Look, did you ever get mad at your mother? Wasn’t there a time when you shouted or threw things or ran into your room crying because she was just that stubborn, or were you the perfect child, then?”
She hesitated, embarrassed. “I don’t think I ever threw things,” she hedged.
“So you did shout, then.”
“Well, yeah.” She bit her lip. “I’m coming to realize that I’ve got a bit of a temper.”
“That’s all right, dear.” She held out her hand for the dress, and Kai began stripping it off. “Realizing it is the first step.”
“The first step?” She handed the sparkly thing to Mabina and slipped into her old, familiar, “hippy” clothes.
“Yes indeed. Having a temper is a fine thing, but you have to be careful.” She directed a very firm, intent look at Kai. “It’s all well and good to be fed up with him once in a while, but you’re in a different situation with him than Cassidy and I are – and certainly a different situation than where you were with your mother, yes?”
“Well, yeah,” she blushed. Mabina nodded solemnly.
“In our years here, we’ve seen a lot of couples muck up the Ownership thing pretty badly, even when they were trying to do it well. One of the worst mistakes is self-centered blindness.”
Realizing slowly that Mabina was working around a warning to her, Kai frowned. She didn’t think she was either self-centered or blind. Mabina continued, unheeding of her concern.
“Everyone has a bad moment now and then. They get caught up in their own drama and they don’t see nor care what’s going on around them, right? Some people – you’ve met Megan, right? – some people just go on their whole lives so stuck in their own story that they don’t see anything around them.”
Kai’s frown and her discomfort grew. She didn’t like being compared to Megan at all, and she was beginning to understand that the pushy girl had somehow mistreated Taro last year.
“Now, every mood you have affects those around you, especially your near and dear. Are you with me?”
She nodded, although that sounded more like the new-age nonsense her mother sometimes spouted than anything based in fact or reason.
“People like Megan – or like Shadrach, who you can thank your lucky stars you never met – just don’t care about other people. Their only reason to keep their so-called friends around is so they can use them for all they’re worth. I’m sure you can imagine what life is like for their Kept.”
Use them for all they’re worth. Where have we heard that before? Her senior year of high school, Darryl Allington, the handsome boy with the chocolate-colored eyes and the slightly off-center smile, long after she’d given up any hope of having friends. She’d done everything he asked of her of her own volition, just so that he’d talk to her again. If she’d gotten tricked into some sort of ownership like that which existed here in Addergoole… she shuddered. It had taken her long, exhausting, depressing months to see the light with Darryl, but when she had, she’d been able to walk away.
“I can imagine that it would horrible!”
“I get the impression it’s downright awful. People like that, they have a bad day, they just scream at their Kept, just because they feel like screaming.”
Kai shuddered. “I don’t think I’d like that at all. I don’t like being yelled at.”
“Most people don’t, honey.” She sat down on the edge of her bed and patted the quilted coverlet next to her. “Now, no-one’s really worried that you’re going to turn into Megan. You’re a good girl, and Megan had some trouble before she met Taro.”
No-one’s worried that you’re going to turn into Megan. “That sounds,” she said slowly, sitting down next to Mabina, “like you’re worried about something else.”
“Well, we were talking about your temper, were we not?”
“I mentioned my temper in passing, yes.”
“Well, we may have noticed you had one before you mentioned it. And we understand, this place can be more than a wee bit aggravating, what with the secrets and the lies and the completely rearranging your life, not to mention the monsters trying to kidnap you. But…” She took a deep breath, and caught Kai’s eye again. “There are people with tempers, who will have a good blow-up every once in a while, and they can afford that. They can see when they’re going too far.”
“They can see it?” She pulled her knees to her chest, beginning to grow afraid.
“It echoes, if you will, in the people around them. Nothing magical about it, Kai, just watching people faces and the way their bodies move.”
“I wish it were magic.”
“I know, hon.” She patted her back companionably. “I think it will come for you, with time. But in the meantime, you don’t have that buffer that other people have, so you’re not going to be able to tell when you have gone too far. And Conrad can’t get away from it, and he can’t really holler back.”
“So…?” She didn’t want to lose Conrad, and she wasn’t sure he’d let her free him if she tried.
“No more tantrums,” Mabina said succinctly. “It was both fine and reasonable when you didn’t Own someone, but now that you do… rein it in.”
Kai wanted to be offended at that. She sputtered a little bit, trying to come up with a reasonable retort. But…
“You’re right,” she admitted. “I said I’d take care of him. No more tantrums.” It galled her that it was so obvious how bad she was with social matters, but maybe Mabina wouldn’t hold it against her. “Will you… will you help me?”
“Of course dear. You’re crew, after all.”