Chapter 138: The Emotional Life of Moss

on March 28, 2013 in Volume 2 Book 5: Nasty Disturbing Uncomfortable Things, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Amaranth Grows


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Bonus story coming up Saturday: Roommate follies! Two teaches Dee how to cook! Show your appreciation early and beat the rush!

We retrieved Dee from her cloud-gazing spot, where she’d apparently been lying motionless without incident since we’d left her.

I was relieved… not really of the burden of conscious worry, because while I hadn’t liked leaving her there, I hadn’t given her much thought since we had. It was more a relief of tension, like when you see someone take a hard fall and then they get back up and you let out a breath you hadn’t realized you’d been holding.

Possibly my concern for her had not been strictly rational, but given my history, I’d like to think it was still reasonable.

“That was instructive,” she said, as she accepted Amaranth’s help back to her feet.

“What did you learn?” Amaranth asked.

“A new way of looking at the world,” she said. “Also, that sleeping on bare stone in a cave is not as good a preparation for laying down on the ground in a cold rain as I would have expected. I have not been this stiff since my first deep meditation drills.”

It was hard to tell with Dee, who had schooled herself not to betray emotion through her face or voice, but she sounded like she was in a good mood, even though she was complaining. I was about to take a shot in the dark when Two asked the question that was on my mind.

“Did you have fun?” she asked.

“Yes, I believe so,” Dee replied. “My lover, Darek, is somewhat notorious for his exploits beneath the waters of Durakesh. Living on a lake, I of course do know how to swim… it would be an unthinkable risk for me not to learn. But as a daughter of the line, it would be an even more unthinkable risk for me to dive through the open waters as he does.”

“So lying out in the rain is your bottom-of-a-lake simulator?” I asked.

“In a way, I suppose,” she said. “The sensation of the cold water on my body provided a meditative focus. It allowed me to feel closer to him, and to home, and to all my loves.”

“You know there is a swimming pool for students?” Ian said.

“And any number of lakes,” Hazel said. “Though I wouldn’t go jumping in one without talking to a local first. There are usually signs by the ones that are good for swimming, but they aren’t always meant for everyone’s eyes to see.”

“This was less about actually swimming than it was about the spiritual experience of being beneath water,” Dee said. “This seemed a safer and more convenient way to have it than going to the pool or finding a strange lake. Apart from other concerns, it obviated the necessity of choosing whether or not to breathe.”

“Are you okay to walk?” Amaranth asked.

“I suspect attempting to will prove the best remedy,” she said.

Amaranth offered Dee her arm, and we began the slow trek back to the tower. I was in a better mood and I wasn’t sure why. The fact that we were heading back indoors helped. Amaranth didn’t know anything for sure about the weather tomorrow, which didn’t guarantee it would be sunny but suggested it wouldn’t be extreme in either direction, and that would be an improvement even if it was still gray and drizzly.

Part of it I think was that Dee’s good mood was infectious, as low-key as it was. She’d found some joy in the rain, so it couldn’t be all bad. That made me think that Amaranth had probably been right… I had been stewing over the stupid assignment all weekend. Even though it was done and I’d made out better than I expected and I had found a cool species of moss, I’d been so pissed off about the requirement behind it that I’d let it affect my whole weekend.

But still, everyone had bad days.

Ian had to run back to his room when we got to the tower to get some notes he’d borrowed and return them, but he said he’d be coming to join Amaranth and me when he was finished with that. When the two of us got back to our room, Amaranth went over and picked up the jar with my moss in it. She cupped her hands around it and peered at it closely.

“Something wrong?” I asked.

“I don’t think so,” she said. “I thought it might have been a little bit brighter last night, when we turned out the lights… but now I’m not sure.”

“Well, if you thought it was getting steadily dimmer I’d be a little worried, but I guess there might be some random variations,” I said. “I mean, it’s not like it glows steadily, anyway. It only really has to last through tomorrow, but I’d like it if it survives longer than that. I’m really thinking about keeping most of it for myself, since there’s no requirement for the sample size.”

“Well, it’s perfectly healthy and reasonably happy,” she said, putting it back down on the desk. “I can tell you that much. This environment is unfamiliar, but it’s drier than the woods were and it likes that.”

“Reasonably?” I said. “Does that mean it has some complaints? I mean, is there something I could do better?”

“Oh, no,” she said. “I guess ‘content’ would be the better word. Moss isn’t known for strong emotions.”

“That meshes with everything I’ve ever heard about the emotional life of moss,” I said. I gave Amaranth a kiss on the cheek. “Also, I’m sorry.”

“What for?”

“For being a general stinkbutt,” I said.

“I think you’re missing a crucial mortal biological process or two for that, baby,” she said.

“You know what I mean,” I said.

“I do,” she said. “And we don’t have to say another word about it. Though, I should ask if you’re sure you want to participate in my little adventure idea… I mean, I think your motivation might have been grumpiness-related when you said you were in.”

“Well, I’m not sure,” I said. “I’m not sure that I don’t want to, either… let’s just scale it back from ‘definitely in’ to ‘provisionally in’. I’m definitely interested in hearing the ideas.”

“I’m glad,” she said. “Because… well, you remember when I said that I had so many plans for taking our relationship to the next level, and they didn’t go anywhere?”

“Yeah, and you remember when I said that there was still time?” I said. “Because I meant that. Only, please don’t tell me that the next level involves adventuring together. If the only way to progress is to take up dungeon raiding, I’m just fine with staying at the level we’re at now.”

“No, the adventure idea doesn’t exactly relate to that, and, yes, there is time to fix it, but it seems like if I want something different to happen in the rest of the year, I need to do something different,” she said. “The adventure thing just seemed like a good way to shake us out of our ruts… not just us as in the two of us, but all of us. You, me… and anyone else who needs a good shake-up.”

“Not just us,” I repeat, trying to keep my voice cool and calm… I’m trying to figure out what’s on Amaranth’s mind, not win an argument or catch her at something. “So, you do think we’re in a rut? I mean, you and me?”

“Well… I feel like in a lot of ways, our relationship has become… more stable,” she said.

“That sounds like a good thing,” I said, because she’s said it like it isn’t. “Stability’s good, right?”

“So is growth,” she said. “When I said ‘more stable’, I guess I meant that we’d stopped growing.”

“You think we’re stagnant,” I said.

“I think we’re… comfortable,” she said.

“I know you like to put a positive face on things, but you keep using words that mean good things to try to describe what’s wrong,” I said. “I mean, yeah, I am comfortable with you, and that’s a good thing. You’ve helped me do a lot to explore the boundaries of my comfort zone, which turns out to be a bit bigger than I would have guessed, but at a certain point there’s not really anything left to explore, is there?”

“You’re saying we’ve peaked,” she said. “One year into our relationship, there’s nowhere to go but down.”

“Why do we need to go anywhere? I’m saying we’re a good way up the side of the mountain, the view from here is really nice, there’s a spot for a picnic… there’s no reason we need to go down, but do we really need to keep climbing over jagged rocks to see if there’s something even better further up? Can’t we be glad that we’re still here in our nice spot together somewhere relatively high up the peak?”

“Last week, you were all about self-improvement,” she said.

“I am,” I said. “I like improving. I want to keep getting better at… well, at everything, really. Basically I want to keep getting better. But I can’t take risks if I don’t have somewhere safe to come back to. That’s what our relationship is. It’s my safety.”

“And you don’t think that safety might be holding you back?” she said. “You did say your best semester was the one where you were alone… looking out for yourself.”

“Summer would have been miserable if I didn’t have the fall to look forward to,” I said. “One reason why I got so much done is because I kept busy. It made the time go by faster. And anyway, if I’d been dumped into that situation without two semesters of your love and support, I would have been lost in a week. You don’t hold me back, you hold me up.”

“Well, I guess I have always tried to be nurturing,” Amaranth said. “But still… it doesn’t sound very exciting, does it?”

“Are you kidding me?” I said. “Did I seem bored when we got back to the room last night? I can still be excited about things that are safe. We don’t need to go delving or fighting mock monsters or whatever you had in mind to spice up our relationship. You’re a nymph, Amaranth.. you pretty much are spice.”

This made her giggle.

“Technically, I’m more of an edible pseudograin,” she said. “Though some people also eat the greens, too.”

“Oh, you know what I mean,” I said.

“I do,” she said.

“But if we can set aside all the geographical and culinary metaphors… I’d guess what you’re trying to say is that you worry that you’re not going to be able to give me what you think I need, not without something shaking you out of your comfort zone,” I said. “The main person you want to shake out of a rut is yourself.”

“I… yes,” she said.

“Amaranth, that’s okay,” I said. “You have needs, and you’re allowed to want things for yourself.”

“I know!” she said. “That just makes it sillier that I was pushing it off onto everyone else, and projecting it on our relationship. You know I don’t like to sound vai… okay, let me back up. You know I don’t like to admit an intellectual weakness, but you’re right, this is more about me than it is about you, or about us. I mean, it’s about us, but it’s about what I bring to the table for us.”

“And do you really think that throwing me an adventure is the key to fixing that?”

“Well, it’s something that will take both planning and follow-through,” she said. “And probably a certain amount of applied discipline to get you to go through with it. And… and… it’s not our relationship, so if I screw everything up somehow, I still won’t screw everything up.”

“I think you have plenty of follow-through,” I said.

“Because I’m always on your case, making sure you follow through on what you’re doing,” she said. “But that’s easy, anyone can do it.”

“I think you’re just more conscious of your own failures,” I said. “Or maybe it’s that you’re holding yourself responsible for both of ours. Maybe it is easier to be the bard singing from the sidelines than it is to do it for yourself, but doing it’s easier with the bard there than without. Who’s cheering you on the way you cheer me?”

Amaranth actually blushed at that. It was always an odd sight, and gave me a weird feeling… like I’d slipped into a parallel dimension populated by opposites.

“I think you’re being kind by calling what I do for you ‘cheering’,” she said.

“Well, it’s not nagging,” I said. “Well, it’s not always nagging… not just nagging.”

“And it’s not that I don’t have people who support or encourage me,” she said. “In fact, I get a lot of positive encouragement pretty much everywhere I go… just not for everything that I do.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I should have been more supportive of your idea from the beginning… I should have known you wouldn’t have suggested it without a reason. I mean, even if I wasn’t wild about the idea, you were essentially talking about a group activity. I kind of made it about myself.”

“Well, it was an activity centered around you,” she said. “Hmm… you know, maybe that was my mistake. If we’re each going to plan an adventure… I mean, everyone who participates… then why should it be you having all the fun? Especially when you’d probably have more fun if you didn’t feel like you’re going in alone.”

“You’re talking about a forming a party,” I said. “An honest-to-goodness adventuring party.”

“Well, an honest-to-pretend-ness adventuring party,” she said. “And we’ll each take turns creating a scenario for the others… you could even get in on that if you wanted to. Doesn’t that sound like fun?”

“It sounds… better than the original idea did at first, I have to admit,” I said. “But also a bit more involved.”

“Well, we’ll talk to everyone else tomorrow,” she said. “If anyone else is interested, we can figure out a timeframe… it’ll take awhile to both come up with ideas and get things together, so I think we should figure on maybe having a week before we begin? It won’t necessarily have to be a full week between each one, because we can all be getting ready at the same time.”

“Good idea,” I said. “That way I can be done with my date with Jamie and have a good start on my mind-shield thing…”

“That’s assuming you don’t have more than one date with him,” Amaranth said. “What if it goes well? What if he wants to join in the fun?”

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” I said.


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15 Responses to “Chapter 138: The Emotional Life of Moss”

  1. Arkeus says:

    “No, the adventure idea doesn’t exactly relate to that, and, yes, there is time to fix it, but it seems like if I want something different to happen in the rest of the year, I need to do something different,” she said. “The adventure thing just seemed like a good way to shake us out of our ruts… not just us as in the two of us, but all of us. You, me… and anyone else who needs a good shake-up.” <= Being very meta there, author.

    Also, a VERY nice chapter overall, and i am really liking where it's going lately!

    Current score: 1
  2. Zathras IX says:

    I could do without
    Mortal biological
    Processes like those

    Current score: 1
  3. Lunaroki says:

    The emotional
    Life of moss does not have that
    Many wild extremes

    Current score: 1
  4. pedestrian says:

    With Mack submitting,
    kneeling between her legs,
    indomitable Amaranth
    can take a lichen

    Current score: 2
  5. Not her the other girl says:

    I like it. Amaranth was the one being overly picky about words for once, and Mack made her blush. Opposite world indeed!

    Also I’m *dying* to get to the chapters with Jaime’s date. Oh the awkwardness that will ensue!

    Current score: 1
  6. smarchfield says:

    Are we about to do a D&D adveture??? Or maybe a “real” life D&D adventure. Either way this could prove very interesting.

    Current score: 1
  7. yahrlan says:

    Hmm…the moss was glowing brighter last night- when Amaranth was playing with her toy…

    Current score: 1
    • Burnsidhe says:

      Nymphs do seem to have plant empathy. So perhaps there’s a projection element as well, and I doubt that Amaranth has ever thought to control it.

      Current score: 1
  8. Dzen says:

    Send them back to the labyrinth!

    Current score: 1
  9. tomclark says:

    Ugh. Do we *seriously* have to put up with more Jamie?

    Current score: 0
    • pedestrian says:

      Our Mack has the magic lichen in case Jaime again has the need to play ‘reindeer games’.

      Current score: 1
  10. tjhairball says:

    Oooh. I am reminded …

    … Jaime was looking into adventuring parties for tax purposes at one point, wasn’t he?

    Current score: 1
  11. Literate Guy says:

    “he said he’d be coming to join Amaranth and I” — no, he said he’d be coming to join Amaranth and me. (You wouldn’t say “he said he’d be coming to join I”.)

    Current score: 0
  12. readaholic says:

    Aww. Sweetness with Amaranth and Mack is sweet, indeed.

    Current score: 1