Chapter 186: A Change of Pace

on November 6, 2013 in Volume 2 Book 6: Career Counseling, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Things Come Into Focus

Teddi’s advice about setting priorities really resonated with me… well, at least it did on a logical level. On an emotional level, I still would have rather just been able to sort of get my life up to speed and then coast along. It wasn’t that I minded getting out and pushing, I just didn’t want to have to steer. I was still in college, after all. The real world was supposed to be on hold for four years.

Realistically, though, I understood that you couldn’t coast unless you had a clear path. My path forward was pretty clear, I just needed to get on it. If I didn’t know for sure what was up with Acantha and I was even less sure what I should do about it, it was at least obvious that I should be focusing my attention in this area.

So this is what I did, for the next little bit of my life. It’s not that other stuff didn’t keep happening… I never have found the command word that turns that off. But for a while, I made my life mostly be about this one thing, which is why for a while the story is going to mostly be about this one thing. I’m sorry in advance if this makes anything jumbled up later on. I’ll do my best to make it clear what’s happening when, if I have to double back later and the timing seems important.

The other bit of Teddi’s advice that appealed to me was the part about not actually choosing between them. Again, these were my college years. When would there be a better chance to try on a couple of different approaches and see which one fit me best? Or to see if either of them fit me well at all.

In the abstract, I was more inclined to give Professor Stone a chance than Acantha… he seemed so much less fraught.

Because my enchantment class was on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule and my aesthetics class was on a Tuesday-Thursday, I’d be seeing Acantha again sooner and more often if I just sat back and left things up to chance. But I still had to relay Professor Stone’s offer to Two.

I didn’t want to drop it on her at a meal time or otherwise in front of everyone, because I didn’t know how she’d react to it. Two was a person, but she was also a created being who’d been brought into existence for a single purpose and then… from her point of view… discarded. That view of herself and her place in the world had permeated her existence during the early years of her freedom, until she found the wherewithal to leave the group home she’d been dumped at and head out into the world via the university.

I told Two at lunch that I had something to talk about when she got off work, so she should just come over to our side of the suite whenever.

It was Friday night, and Amaranth was sleeping out. Her actual (meta)physical needs could probably have been met within the structure of our polyamorous relationship, but she saw it as her nymphly duty to share the love, so to speak. So, I was alone when Two knocked on the open door that connected my room to our shared bathroom.

“Hello, Two,” I said.

“Hello, Mack!” she said with automatic cheerfulness, though she sounded tired. The time was rapidly approaching eleven… well, no more rapidly than usual, but I knew how Two felt, having been up so late the night before… though she’d been up just as late, since she’d been helping me with her wand. “You wanted to see me.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Two, do you know a Professor Stone?”

I guessed her answer would be no by the fact that it took her an extra second or two to answer, while her face scrunched up and her eyes went through her concentration routine. She wouldn’t have to strain herself to remember if she’d met a man named Professor Stone before, but if she hadn’t encountered anyone by that name, it would take her a moment to parse out “stone” as a name rather than an object and then work backwards through the sentence to realize I was talking about a person.

A lot of people would have picked that up from context, but Two’s brain worked a little differently. If golems tried to interpret sentences as they were spoken, giving them verbal orders would be a dicey proposition. Two had been set free… she only followed orders recreationally, and she had other interests. She was still a golem, though.

“I do not think so,” she said.

“He’s met you before, but he might not have introduced himself since you were working,” I said. “Do you remember seeing an older, slightly dwarfish man visiting your bake sales… well-groomed, taller than your friend Hazel but shorter than her boyfriend?”

“Yes,” Two said.

“That was my teacher, Professor Stone,” I said. There wasn’t a lot of chance that two men would match that description. “Nicki and I have a class with him on aesthetics in design… he’s really nice, and pretty knowledgeable.”

“He was very polite,” Two said.

“Yeah, that’s him,” I said. “Anyway, he’s also an enchanter, I think kind of as a hobby, but what he really likes to do is make beautiful things, and he thinks you might have a sense of aesthetics that complements his own. So when he found out that you’d helped me make my wand, he asked me to let you know that he’s looking for an assistant.”

“He would like me to be his assistant?” Two said a moment later.

“Yes,” I said. “I told him you might not be interested, but I did promise to pass the offer along.”

“I might not have time, with my housekeeping job and my volunteering,” she said.

“Well, he didn’t mention the wages to me… though he was very clear that you would get them… but I don’t think you would have to do both the housekeeping and this,” I said. “We’re talking about a skilled position.”

“Housekeeping is a skill,” Two said. “It is several skills.”

“Okay, yes, but anybody who’s looking for money can be trained to do it,” I said. “The skills that you have include things that I’m still going to be learning in my fourth year here. I’m not trying to talk you into saying yes if that’s not what you would like to do, though.”

“Thank you,” she said. “Do you know how many hours he would need me for? My housekeeping job does not leave me with as much time as I would like for my other activities, but none of the options with fewer hours will give me enough regularly.”

Two’s activities tended to expand to fill the available time. When she didn’t have anything to do, she found something. If she didn’t have friends or any demands on her time she probably would have been happy to pick up every shift the housekeeping people would give her, but she was the secretary and rulekeeper for her friend Hazel’s miniature war game club and was a regular contributor to fundraising bake sales and concession stands for any campus group that asked politely.

It seemed like she could use a change of pace as much as I needed a change in priorities.

“Well, again, he didn’t talk to me about terms, but I think you’ll probably find he’s willing to be flexible,” I said. “I mean, you could probably tell him how many hours you’d like to work, and work out a schedule with him… I just didn’t know if you’d want to do this kind of work again, since it’s the sort of thing you did for your creator.”

“I also kept house for him,” she said. “I do not think I would like to go back to work for him… even as a job. I do not think I would like to be what I was again, most of the time. But I might like working for someone who likes to make pretty things, and I would like a job with better hours. I have so many things to do!”

“Yeah, you mentioned that the other night,” I said. “Okay, well, if you’re not going to be busy all day tomorrow, maybe I could introduce you?”

Technically I didn’t need an excuse to go talk to Professor Stone. He’d dropped a pretty solid hint that his door would be open if I wanted to pick up some pointers from him, which I did. But actually taking him up on that? I wasn’t the sort of person who could just… do that. I needed to have an opening.

“Okay,” Two said, and that was that. I had my opening.

Now I just had to hope that when the time came, I’d know what to do with it.

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16 Responses to “Chapter 186: A Change of Pace”

  1. I hope you enjoy this chapter, brief as it may be… a bout of stomach illness in our household stole a day and a half out of my work week, though I rolled with it as best as I could. Under the circumstances (i.e., building momentum) I thought a shorter chapter was better than a delay.

    Current score: 0
    • Hollowgolem says:

      And yet still blazing through chapters, making up for all that time lost in a stressful move.

      Don’t worry, even short chapters are welcome. Still a big fan of your work, and happy to see the pace getting more routine.

      Do what you need when you need. You don’t owe us anything.

      Current score: 0
    • Marian says:

      I wouldn’t mind even a five word chapter.
      As you tend to write the -right- words in a chapter.
      (though telling a chapter in five words might be more stressful than relaxing if you are not feeling well)

      Current score: 1
  2. Anne says:

    🙂 Excellent! Thank you Alexandra.

    Current score: 0
  3. tomclark says:

    “hough she’d been up just as late, since she’d been helping me with her wand.”

    Shouldn’t that be “with *my* wand”?

    Current score: 0
  4. pedestrian says:

    ahhh, the old “when the time came”

    We all wish we knew what to do with that!

    Current score: 0
  5. zeel says:

    That third paragraph threw me for a loop, the only other chapters that get that meta have been the volume jump, and the chapter (way back from the beginning) about the mask, right before facing the ghouls. And I’m not sure what “this” she is referring too.

    Aside from that though, I can’t wait for more Two!

    Current score: 1
  6. Oniwasabi says:

    At this point if our Mack KNOWS what to do when the time comes, check for doppleganger!

    Current score: 0
  7. DrMengus says:

    I noticed, all through the third paragraph, this is the first time (that i remember) that Mack speaks to the reader, as she is conscious that she’s telling us about her life. Is that on purpouse?

    Current score: 0
    • oniwasabi says:

      Early on in the story there are direct references to the reader. The one that sticks with me the most is when Mack started a line about not crying, then mentioned tears, then acknowledged crying and stated something to the effect of “and fuck you for judging me.”

      Current score: 0
      • zeel says:

        She has a number of moments in the first book or so like this, it’s interesting to see it come back.

        Current score: 0
  8. pedestrian says:

    Zeel, I think the point of “So this is what I did, for the next little bit of my life.”, is that we can expect for the next few postings, that Our Mack’s concentration will be focused on coming too terms with her relationship between Acantha and Callahan.

    “If I didn’t know for sure what was up with Acantha and I was even less sure what I should do about it, it was at least obvious that I should be focusing my attention in this area.”

    With Dr. Stone/TWO as a sort of timeout/intermission/safe zone? from the emotional turmoil of the disagreement between two instructors.

    Current score: 0
    • Anthony says:

      I may be mistaken, but I don’t think I’ve seen anyone referred to as “doctor” in ToMU.

      Current score: 0
  9. Cadnawes says:

    I’m just happy to see the story. Moving and hackers and no wonder your immune system’s a litttle low. Thank you for working so hard.

    Current score: 0
  10. Zathras IX says:

    I have never found the
    Command word that turns off the
    Fiddly bits of Life

    Current score: 1
  11. Kaila says:

    I love this chapter. Two rocks.

    Current score: 1