In Which Two Sees A Good Deal

I’d been relieved when Two immediately began to formulate a new route after taking Hazel’s suggestion. If anyone could have knocked Two’s carefully laid plans for the day off course, it was Hazel… not that this was a bad thing, necessarily.

As much as anyone could, Hazel had been able to teach Two the value of things like spontaneity, and going with the flow. It was probably the way she managed to sound authoritative about it. Hazel had so much confidence in the nuggets of down-home, folksy wisdom that she frequently made up that she could state them with the force of being a rule, which was exactly the sort of thing that Two needed to hear. It was enough to get Two to accept other ways of doing things as valid, even when she still clung to her own.

That was probably the only way the two of them could work together in their cooking classes, since Hazel preferred to do things by feel and intuition where Two by her nature required precise measurements and exact recipes.

There were artistic golems who had been instilled with the spark of creativity and the essence of intuition needed to be naturally comfortable with those kinds of leaps. Probably some of them even worked in kitchens. For that matter, some of them probably worked as enchanters… if Two’s creator had intended for her to to assist more directly in his enchantments rather than providing spare energy and supporting him by taking care of the practical matters, he would have needed to give her a much different mind.

In any event, it wasn’t that I was in love with the idea of having my day micromanaged, but I really did prefer following a firm plan of action to drifting aimlessly through the market following Hazel’s much more leisurely lead. I had nothing against wandering around and browsing, when I was looking at things that interested me. When the aim was fashion, I really preferred to have a definite beginning and end to things… an efficiently plotted path through the marketplace, a route from Point A to Point Bookstore with no room for misunderstandings along the way.

The stall we began with was a square canvas tent with the sides rolled up, making an open air pavillion of sorts. Upon closer inspection, the tent was actually made of denim, as were most of the goods on sale. Two started by going to a rack of jackets and pulling out a few dark denim ones for her inspection.

They looked small to me… not in the sense that they wouldn’t fit me, but I was used to bulky coats that had a loose fit. My mother had always bought them in larger sizes when I was a small child, to give me room to grow into them. My grandmother had always got them secondhand, and had also erred on the large and shapeless side.

The jacket didn’t look like it wouldn’t fit me, though… it just didn’t look like what I expected a jacket that fit me to look like.

“Are we really shopping for outerwear?” I asked Two.

“We’re shopping for outfits you can wear,” she said. “Removable layers will make the ensembles more versatile temperature-wise, which means we will be able to buy less new clothing overall.”

I couldn’t argue with that… or rather, I wouldn’t have wanted to argue with that. The temperature range even within a season in Prax could be fairly extreme. A single wardrobe that would work for everything but the depths of winter would be preferable to a new set of clothes for each season.

I tried on a couple different styles of jacket, to varying levels of approval from the rest of the group. Hazel seemed the most skeptical.

“I can see what you’re going for,” she said. “But Mack… she’s got a belly like a balloon, you know?”

“Excuse me?” I said.

“I don’t mean big, I mean… well… inflatable,” she said. “That is, you’re small enough in general that it’s noticeably bigger or smaller depending on what you’ve eaten and when. If we put you in something that’s tight across the middle now, you’ll be sucking in your tummy to fit into it later.”

“That is a good point,” Two said. “Oh… I know!”

Then she pulled out a black denim jacket of a type that seemed more ornamental than anything else… it was like someone had taken an actual functional coat and thrown away everything but the shoulders and sleeves. Though it had buttons, there was no way to close it, and it wouldn’t have covered much even if you could button it up.

“Put this on, Mack,” she said.

“Where’s the rest of it?” I asked, and she turned it around and showed me the back.

“Oh, that’s a bolero jacket,” Nicki said. “It’s supposed to look like that.”

“I think that might be going too far in the other direction,” Hazel said.

“What’s the point of a jacket that doesn’t cover anything?” I asked as I took the alleged jacket and slipped an arm into the sleeve.

“Well, it helps create a look?” Nicki said, helping me get my other arm into it.

“Hey, if nothing else, it’ll keep your arms warm when it’s a little cool but not cold enough for bundling up,” Steff said.

“What is this ‘little cool’ you speak of?” I asked.

“Come stand here,” Two said, taking me by the arm and guiding me in front of a three-piece folding mirror thing.

“Do I really need to know what I look like?” I asked.

“No, but I do, and now I can see you from multiple angles,” Two said.

“Oh, that’s a good look,” the stallholder said.

“Thank you,” Two said.

“My cousin sells hats that would go with it perfectly,” she added.

“I don’t think we will be needing any hats, thank you,” Two said. “Mack is pretty rough on accessories.”

“Yeah, she has enough of a problem with clothes that fasten onto the body somehow,” Steff said. “Giving her a hat to wear would be a bit like attaching a great bit sail to a couple of coins, just to watch them blow away.”

Nicki giggled and the merchant laughed while I sputtered and tried to think of a response that wouldn’t lessen my chance of seeing the inside of a bookstore. Yes, I had on a few memorable occasions had a wardrobe fumble in places that could be described as public settings, but Steff was making it sound like I couldn’t go a whole day without my clothes just falling off.

“Okay, well, let me know if you need anything else,” the saleswoman said.

Two asked me to take off and put on the bolero jacket a couple times before she decided it wasn’t going to work for me. She then pulled out a slightly less ridiculous black denim jacket, one that had a bottom half that did not taper so drastically inward as it approached the waist. It had some weird straps with snaps on them up across the shoulders that served no discernible purpose, a description that could also apply to the pockets that might as well have been painted on.

“I don’t know how anyone is supposed to use those pockets,” I said.

“You aren’t,” Two said.

“Then why do they have them in the first place?”

“Because jackets are supposed to have pockets there,” she said. “It would look wrong if it didn’t.”

“Then why aren’t I supposed to use them?” I asked.

“It would look wrong if you did,” she said.

“I think that one’s super cute,” Nicki said, “but I’m not sure that it’s her.”

Hazel nodded.

“I think we can just about get her to care about the form, so long as we leave her with the function,” Hazel said. “There’s nothing wrong with practical clothes, if it comes down to it, nor any reason she can’t be practical and slightly more in step with your idea of fashion.”

Two didn’t say anything in response to that, she just stood there looking at me with her head slightly tilted as her face went through the twitches of cogitation. With her sunglasses on, her wordless appraisal felt cold enough to make me shiver. Then she went back to the rack and returned with a different jacket that had similar lines to the one I’d been wearing. The outer pockets weren’t really big enough for more than a glove each or a set of keys, but the inside had a large pouch-like pocket sewn into each side.

“You can put things in here and it won’t create as noticeable a bulge as stuffing them into the outside pockets,” she said. “We could get you a handbag but I’m afraid you would just lose it.”

“Um, thanks,” I said. I could really see anything wrong with the jacket, and it did come closer to suiting my style than the others had, so I paid for it and we moved on.

By early afternoon, I’d acquired three new t-shirts and two sweaters that Two had picked out, with assistance from Nicki and Steff. I called them t-shirts because they weren’t blouses, but they had only a small resemblance to most of what I thought of as t-shirts. They were tighter and more fitted to my form. They had scoop necks. They were decorated with things other than logos or characters… not that most of my clothes had any kind of decoration at all on them, though. In the time I’d spent with my grandmother, my wardrobe had pretty much shifted purely to unadorned solid colors.

Two had not exercised her temporary authority over me to lead me into anything with spaghetti straps or otherwise lacking in sleeves, a fact for which I was exceedingly grateful. Since I was paying for the clothes, I would have put my foot down and invoked my safeword if necessary to avoid anything I really would never have worn, but she seemed mostly concerned that I would have objected to everything if she didn’t have a way of controlling me.

In fairness to her, I might have… at least by the third or fourth vendor we visited, when my patience was beginning to fray.

I understood the benefits of having more than one set of wearable clothes, in terms of things like preventing wear and tear or saving on laundry runs. But if I needed new shirts, plural, and I found one that suited me, why did I have to keep looking for another one? Crazy little boutiques like Madame Selene’s aside, clothing was a mass-produced item. It wasn’t art. Creativity could be exercised in the creation and selection of clothes, but at the end of the day it was just something to keep weather out and nudity in.

I’d started the day a little more enthusiastic about the idea, and had been downright open to it the day before. But the longer I spent among the shelves and racks and hangers, the more I felt completely out of my element… like a fish who’d been dragged up onto the shore of a lake by her amphibious friends. No matter how exciting it was for them, I still couldn’t breath in that kind of environment so I just sort of flopped around and gasped and waited for the inevitable end.

Also… as we went from stand to stand and stall to stall, my appreciation for Two’s brisk, business-like manner was starting to wane, replaced by growing doubts. The impression of coolness that had so impressed me when we first set out was beginning to worry me. She seemed so… distant. Obviously we’d grown apart over the summer, but I’d thought part of the point of the day was to reconnect.

Or had that been me projecting my desire on the situation? If that was the case, then had there ever been any real closeness between us? Or had it just been my imagination, my own desire for companionship? Maybe I’d just seen what I’d wanted to see in the face of a frightened golem girl who lacked the wherewithal to assert any differently.

It seemed hard to believe that our relationship could have been one-sided, but I knew I’d managed to fool myself about other things, possibly… bigger things… before.

But I’d seen with my own eyes that Two friends everywhere she went, that implied that she was likeable, and that implied warmth… so was she just being cool to me? Had the bond between us really been so tenuous that all it took to snap it was a few months apart?

As we continued on our quest, I searched my memories of the trip for little hints of any real feeling towards me. Yes, she’d stepped up to stand between Selene and me, but that might have been a sense of responsibility more than anything. There’d been very few smiles and no hugs… but now that I was thinking about it, there had been plenty of hugs in the past. Two liked hugging. So again I came back to the thought that Two was not an unfeeling lump of clay made flesh… she was just displaying very little feeling towards me.

So was it just me?

Or just today?

Had something changed?

Was simply being on a mission enough for her sense of purpose to block out her other emotions, or had she grown so much, so fast that she’d left me behind? Was this shopping trip just her going through the motions and fulfilling an obligation, or her doing a favor to the people in our life that she still felt some fondness towards by helping me out?

Second-guessing whether someone really liked me or just tolerated me wasn’t anything new for me, but of all the people in my life I might have felt insecure about, I never would have expected it to be Two. Maybe that was the problem, though. Maybe I’d taken her affection for granted. Maybe I’d acted like she’d always be there when I needed to feel liked, when I needed to feel needed… maybe on some level I’d treated her like an automaton, and this was my reward.

We were heading towards one of the last stops she had planned before lunch when suddenly she stopped in the middle of the market aisle and lowered her shades to peer over them a bit. The darkness covering her eyes parted and there was the subtle green flash of some other spell coming into play.

“Everything okay, love?” Hazel asked her.

“Yes,” Two said. “Mack, do you still have the receipt for your jacket?”

“I think so,” I said. “Why?”

“Unless you want two jackets, you may need to return it,” she said. “Follow me, please.”

She didn’t wait for a response, but headed off briskly in a slightly different direction.

“Ooh,” Steff said as we set off on Two’s heels. “Leather! I approve.”

“What’s she talking about?” Nicki asked.

“I don’t know,” I said.

At first, there seemed to be a pottery stand directly in our path, but then Two moved around it. Leather? I knew Steff was a fan of black leather, but I couldn’t see it being Two’s thing. I didn’t want to see it being Two’s thing, in fact.

The stall we ended up at was a bit more vanilla than Steff’s taste, though, selling belts and hats and bags of leather, along with contemporary street armor and the jackets that had apparently caught Two’s eye. It also seemed to be in the midst of a clearance sale.

“Here,” she said, pulling two slightly different black riding jackets off a rack. “You should try these on.”

“I’ve never had a leather jacket before,” I said, which I had to admit wasn’t exactly a reason not to wear one now. There was something appealing about them. The ones she’d gone for looked roomy enough, though they were far from shapeless… they were definitely women’s jackets and showed a decided favor for form… though leather practically had utility as an intrinsic property, didn’t it?

“I think they will suit you,” Two said. “They are warm, and resilient, and suitable for holding armor enchantments, which will help you when you get into trouble. Also, they look like something that someone pretending to ride a motorcycle would wear.”

“I think she’s got you nailed,” Steff said. “The other metaphorically speaking.”

“Yeah, I can see you in that jacket,” Nicki said, pointing to one that had some folded over bits and a bit of a collar like a trench coat. “Honestly, when I picture you in my head, that’s kind of what I picture you wearing, anyway.”

“Really?” I said.

“Yeah, maybe with a long scarf or something?” Nicki said. Then she added, a little bit embarrassed, “I mean, in the winter or whatever.”

Nicki’s heroic or dangerous or whatever image of me should have been amusing and a little bit embarrassing, but as I reached out and took the coat she favored from Two, I could almost believe in it myself… I wanted to believe in it. I lowered my bags to the blanketed ground and put the jacket on. Then instead of turning to the full-length mirror to see how I looked in it, I turned to my friends to see how I looked in their eyes.

“What do you think?” I asked.

“Totally you,” Nicki said.

“Totally hot,” Steff said.

“It makes for a nice change,” Hazel said. “How do you feel in it?”

The weight of it was noticeable… not oppressively so, not with my strength. It had a good solid presence to it, though. It would take some getting used to, especially the texture of it against the bare skin of my arms, but I thought I could get used to it.

“I’m not sure that it’s me,” I said. “But… I think it could be?”

“Do you like it?” Two asked me.

“Yeah,” I said. “I really think I do.”

She clapped her hands and jumped in place. I jumped at the unexpected sound of her delighted squeal.

“I’m so glad,” she said, throwing her arms around me in an unexpected but very welcome embrace. “I’ve been trying so hard to find something you really like, but you can be very hard to please.”


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39 Responses to “Chapter 87: The Cold Front”

  1. Maahes0 says:

    Awh, the end was just perfect.
    <3s to Two!

    Current score: 1
  2. jamie martin says:

    “great bit sail” -> “great big sail”
    “I could really” -> “I couldn’t really”
    “still couldn’t breath” -> “still couldn’t breathe”
    “that Two friends” -> “that Two made friends” ?

    Current score: 0
  3. DarkSage says:

    Ahhh … Hence,the feeling of distance from Two. She was getting frustrated by not findind something that Mack,truly liked.

    Current score: 2
    • DarkSage says:

      A thought on the Mercy,issue. I’ve wondered if the Half-Demon, still in Mercy’s possession,is Mack’s sister? The first-born that Grandmother,gave away.

      Current score: 0
      • Laurie says:

        No, that would be Dan (Aidan Harris Sr.) in Kin and Distant Relations (KDR for short). He was adopted by an Air Force buddy of Laurel Anne’s father and his wife. I believe the wife died and the adopted father retired from the air force to take Dan with him on a civilian airship. Dan ended up settling down in the Mother Isles with his wife Dell, after an accident on the airship he was working on. They have an adopted son as well, who they call Aidan.

        Current score: 0
        • Zukira Phaera says:

          Inquiries like this make me wonder if, since the new year started if a cast page might not be in order.

          Current score: 0
  4. Zathras IX says:

    Broadcasters’ Motto:
    “Whatever you say, say it
    With authority!”

    Current score: 0
  5. ripvw says:

    @DarkSage. We already know who Mackenzie’s sibling is (though Mackenzie doesn’t). The first-born that her grandmother gave away is Dan Harris. Here’s his first story: http://www.talesofmu.com/story/other/son-of-a-creature-man

    Current score: 0
  6. Month says:

    Ah, I can sense an instant guilt trip for our little ms Blaise….

    Current score: 0
  7. pedestrian says:

    Khreeesseesses!!!

    Alexandra you made my heart jump up to my throat with fear when TWO stopped to scan something in the distance and then asked Our Mack if she still had the receipt for the jacket she had purchased.

    For a few seconds i panicked thinking that it would turn out to have been some sort of bait to a trap by Mercy.

    Please don’t scare me like that! I’m a pitiful old man, your clever word tricks are going to give me a spasm yet.

    Current score: 2
  8. Dave says:

    Typos:

    I could really see anything wrong with the jacket

    – a ‘not’ missing here!

    But I’d seen with my own eyes that Two friends everywhere she went,

    – ‘had’ missing.

    I can so relate to Mack and shopping for clothes:

    But the longer I spent among the shelves and racks and hangers, the more I felt completely out of my element.

    Exactly! Like Mack, I’m no good at choosing clothes, and so dislike the experience. I can put up with a shop or two, but after that I get to feel “can I go home now?”. It would be cool if someone found me a leather jacket that suited me though; I like the idea of a leather jacket but I have yet to find an actual leather jacket that I like.

    Current score: 0
    • Lunaroki says:

      That covers two of the typos I saw, thought I would suggest “made” might work better than “had” in the second one. Got one more for ya though.

      Typo Report

      if Two’s creator had intended for her to to assist more directly in his enchantments

      Too many “to”s in a row.

      Current score: 0
    • bangle says:

      I’ve had the same problem with leather jackets, except I did find one that I liked but it was too expensive for my pocket book. ;_;

      Current score: 0
    • Zukira Phaera says:

      I am much the same with clothing, and felt the same with leather jackets – finally found a men’s leather bomber that suited me right down to the ground and it became a staple of my wardrobe.

      Current score: 0
    • Kaila says:

      Anyone else wish they had a fried or two like Two? Would make clothes shopping much less frustrating.

      Current score: 0
  9. Luke Licens says:

    “But I’d seen with my own eyes that Two friends everywhere she went, that implied that she was likeable,”

    Seems like there’s a word missing between ‘Two’ and ‘friends’. ‘Had’ or ‘made’ would seem to fit.

    Also seems that someone else spotted it first. 😛
    That’s what I get for not refreshing before I post.

    Current score: 0
  10. Anne says:

    Thinking of Mercy, one wonders if at some point LAW might feel that the easiest way to keep Mack out of her hands is to eliminate Mack? :X

    Current score: 0
    • pedestrian says:

      I’ve said it before, if Our Mack picks up an extra language or two, the courses she has been taking would give her that all around ‘Liberal Arts’ background for LAW/CIA operations.

      Plus bellydancing, cause some traditions are worth keeping.

      Current score: 0
      • fka_luddite says:

        Klutzy Mack belly-dancing? The mind boggles.

        Current score: 0
  11. Lyssa says:

    Oh god, I love Two, and AE, you are fucking brilliant.

    Current score: 0
  12. AWWWW.

    Current score: 1
  13. William Carr says:

    ““What is this ‘little cool’ you speak of?” I asked.”

    { snrk }

    First order of business, layering insulation spells and armor spells onto that jacket.

    Second order of business, building a magic motorcycle.

    They’ve got horseless carriages, it has to be possible.

    The nature of a wheel is to roll.

    Amplify that tendency and you get self-powered wheels.

    From there, though, you need a kicker. Something to boost acceleration.

    Maybe a speed enhancement spell !

    Twist the throttle… and of course a sound effect spell… away you go !

    Current score: 0
  14. Erm says:

    you would just lose it

    Come to think of it, shouldn’t this be feasible to solve with an enchantment? An audible alert when the item is too distant from the owner, or possibly (though that seems less easy) a telepathic nudge. Or a locator that leads the owner back to the item if it is left behind.

    Current score: 0
    • Eris Harmony says:

      Or maybe a homing spell, so that if she loses it it reappears in her dresser drawer.

      Current score: 0
      • Lyssa says:

        I like this idea the most, though I dunno how possible it would be. I think the noise ones would be annoying if she set things down on purpose or if they just went off when things were in the closet.

        Current score: 0
      • Zukira Phaera says:

        Love that idea – oh the necklaces and earrings I would still have.

        Current score: 0
  15. pedestrian says:

    William & Erm – great suggestions!!

    Current score: 0
  16. William Carr says:

    How do you “attach” a homing spell?

    Would it be a “luck” spell that makes anyone who finds it, want to drop it off closer to you, until it meanders it’s way home?

    Would it be an instant apportation spell that targets your sock drawer?

    Of course, sock drawers already have hexes on them that discourage socks from being in pairs. That’s why you have to roll them together or you end up with odd socks.

    It’s doesn’t all happen because of the hex on the clothes dryer, you know.

    There might be a problem targeting a homing spell on the sock drawer; the conflict between the two spells could result in your socks vanishing from your feet at lunch and re-appearing in the sock drawer.

    Current score: 0
    • JS says:

      Trust me, I know. We don’t have a clothes dryer and yet they still manage to disappear one by one!

      Current score: 0
      • Brenda says:

        Long ago I saw an episode of “Garfield & Friends” which explained everything

        (A clothes-eating alien lived in the dryer.)

        Current score: 0
        • Cadnawes says:

          I knew a family that had a sock eating dryer. When it broke and needed repairing, the repairman found 27 odd socks in the inner workings. They’d been building up somehow for years.

          Current score: 0
          • Zukira Phaera says:

            Had that problem, solved it with a lingerie bag and safety pins. Socks come off in pairs and immediately get pinned together. Washing of socks is a seperate load, in the bag.

            Current score: 0
  17. That one guy says:

    The thing about a nice motorcycle jacket is that 1) it’s basically good leather body armor that can be enchanted into better armor, 2) it has some nice studs that could be enchanted to pop out into spikes for when you’re grappling with someone, 3) if you’re Mackenzie and you get really hungry it’s a good emergency ration since it’s basically really dry beef jerky.

    Current score: 0
    • Erm says:

      There isn’t really any blood in leather once it’s cured (also it’s not human leather)…

      Current score: 0
      • pedestrian says:

        as if ‘beef’ jerky actually contains any beef….

        Current score: 0
        • Ducky says:

          The jerky I make is 100% beef. It’s actually really easy to make, too, if a little time consuming.

          Current score: 0
          • pedestrian says:

            Ducky, I was actually twitting commercial products that seem to have all the flavor and consistency of recycled old shoes.

            Current score: 0
  18. Erm says:

    Leather jacket, long scarf… the next clothing items I’d think of along that theme are a long camel-colored trenchcoat, a bowtie, a fez…

    Current score: 1
  19. Lara says:

    Thank god. I was so worried they were drifting apart ;_; I love Two so much.

    Current score: 0