287: Decisions, Decisions

on September 19, 2008 in Book 10

In Which Sooni Has Designs On Mackenzie

I watched awed and a little scared of the transformation Sooni went through as she repeated her “please-sir-thank-you-sir” act with the concierge, obtaining a recommendation for a “nice restaurant to fit a modest budget” after arranging the delivery of the tainted mirror. I didn’t understand how she could be so nice all of a sudden… but of course, it wasn’t niceness, exactly. It was politeness.

The sun was out, and though it was cooler than I would have liked, the weather seemed to be taking a turn for the warmer again. Under the circumstances, Sooni’s jacket seemed to be enough.

We walked to the restaurant, a small neighborhood spot that was off the main streets. The food there was good, and the prices were reasonable… I hadn’t counted on paying for Suzi when I said I’d buy lunch, but I knew very well she didn’t have any money of her own. It was easier to follow Amaranth’s advice on taking smaller bites and savoring them when my head wasn’t swimming in a sea of wine. All in all, it was shaping up to be a not entirely unpleasant day.

When she wasn’t interacting with the waiter, Sooni was very quiet and withdrawn. Suzi, on the other hand, seemed to be on top of the world. She was smiling blankly at everyone and everything, her head darting around to watch trays being carried past our table and people walking on the sidewalk outside. A couple of times she even reached out like she was going to swipe at a passing waiter before stopping herself and glancing guiltily at Sooni, who didn’t seem to have noticed.

Sooni had trout and rice with some kind of white sauce. Suzi didn’t share her mistress’s distaste for red meat… after inquiring in her fashion about the possibility of acquiring a cheeseburger, she’d accepted the waiter’s suggestion of a chopped steak with mushrooms and white cheese.

“Is better than regular cheeseburger,” Suzi declared after trying it. “No fill up on bread.”

“So… um… the dress you made for me was really nice,” I told Sooni, looking for a positive topic of conversation.

“Thank you,” Sooni said. “I let Kai-Kai help me figure out how to do the star glamours, but I did all the work myself.”

“Well, it looked really good,” I said.

“I’m glad you think so,” Sooni said. “I suppose it will be the last one I can afford to make, for a while…”

Was it stupid of me to feel guilty that she’d thrown away all her money on some ridiculous pipe dream she’d picked up from reading the wrong comic books? Probably, but I still did.

“You can have it back if you want,” I said. “After I get it cleaned, I mean.”

“Why would I want it?” she asked, her voice picking up some of the old derision. “It wouldn’t fit me, I made it for you.”

“I just meant… well, I thought maybe you could sell it to get back some of the money you spent,” I said. “Never mind. It was just a stupid idea.”

“Yes, it really was,” Sooni said. “It’s custom fitted to you, it wouldn’t look half as good on anybody else as it does on you.”

“Sorry!” I said. “It was just a thought!”

“Well, it was a ridiculous one,” Sooni said.

“Well, Sooni, most people own at least some clothing that wasn’t made just for them,” I said, a little defensively. I was doing my best to get along with her, but honestly, I’d only been trying to help.

“Yes, but there’s a difference between being forced to buy something off of the rack and paying money for something that was custom made for another person!” Sooni said. “Don’t you think if someone were to buy a custom dress from me, they would prefer… they… um…” She trailed off. “Miss Mackenzie, would you mind if I took a few pictures of you wearing your dress?”

“You want me to model it, you mean,” I said, seeing where she was going. It wasn’t a bad destination, necessarily, but I didn’t want to go along for the ride.

“Yes, please,” she said, fluttering her eyelashes at me. “If you wouldn’t mind… it would be so very helpful.”

“I’m not exactly the model type, Sooni,” I said.

“I know you aren’t!” she said, and the table jerked. I think she’d tried to stomp her foot while sitting down and she hit it with her knee. “But the dress won’t look right on anybody else!”

“You could just take pictures of the dress,” I said.

“But that doesn’t show how perfectly it suits you, how it flatters you,” Sooni said. “I know! We can take pictures of you in your dumpy, ugly everyday clothes and then take pictures of you in the dress so that everybody can see what a difference the dress makes.”

“Kee, you’re really selling me on this idea, Sooni,” I said.

“I gave you the dress for free!” she said.

“Yeah, and I offered it back,” I said. “I’m not a model, Sooni.”

“Not yet,” she said. “This could be your break.”

“Sooni, it’s not that I don’t want to help you,” I said. “And honestly, if you can make some money with your talent, I think that’s got to be a good thing…”

“If you want some of the money, fine!” Sooni said. “I thought you would do it to be nice, as a friend…”

“I would!” I said. “I don’t want the money, and I know you need it.”

“Oh, good!” Sooni said, all smiles again.

“Sooni, I mean the money isn’t the issue,” I said. “I just don’t want pictures of me all over the ethernet…”

We can put them on the ethernet!” Sooni cried, so loud that the clatter and chatter stopped all over the restaurant. “Oh, that’s a brilliant idea! College students don’t have much money, anyway. Do you know how to make a weavesite?”

“Yeah, I mean, I’ve never done anything fancy, but…”

“Oh, this is such a wonderful idea!” Sooni said. “See? Do you see? I knew everything would work out, after all.”

I sighed. Okay, it wouldn’t be that hard to slap a page up on the ethernet with some pictures of me in the dress… cropped at the neck… and maybe some other examples of her less ridiculous work… with Sooni’s a-mail address at the bottom. I did have a lot on my plate, but it wouldn’t take too long to set the whole thing up and then it would be all on Sooni.

“Fine. Okay,” I said.

“Great! So, what should we call our business?” Sooni asked.

“Our business?” I repeated.

“Yes,” Sooni said.

“I wasn’t really looking to get that involved,” I said.

“Then you can be the silent partner,” Sooni said.

“Sooni, once I get the site set up, what would you even need me for?” I asked. “I can show you how to change the pictures and the text if you need to update something.”

“But once I start making clothing for sale instead of just for myself and my friends, I will need to think about things like the prices I pay for materials and shipping,” Sooni said.

“I don’t know anything about that!”

“You know more than I do,” Sooni said. “You’re poor.”

“What?”

“When I purchased the fabric for your dress, I just went to the fanciest store I could find and bought the first thing that caught my eye,” Sooni said. “You could probably have bought enough fabric to make a whole wardrobe for what I paid.”

“That’s not some special secret poor people skill,” I said, rolling my eyes. “You just… shop around. Look for sales, try to find the best price, stuff like that.”

“See? You know so much.”

“It’s something you could do on your own,” I said.

“But it doesn’t come naturally to me,” Sooni said.

“Sooni, you know I’m involved in a big legal thing right now?” I asked.

“That’s not a problem!” Sooni said. “We’ll keep everything in my name so the company can’t be seized.”

“I’m not being sued,” I said.

“Then what’s the problem?”

“I don’t have time for this!”

“You can’t back out now!” Sooni said. “What about all of our plans?”

“All the plans that you just made up right this moment?”

“Yes!” she said. “Those plans!”

“Okay, here’s the thing,” I said. “I don’t think I’m cut out to be anybody’s personal shopper, but I am pretty good at finding things on the net… so, I’ll get the page set up, and I’ll find you some good sources for buying cheap fabric and whatever else you need. That shouldn’t take long.”

“And you’ll model for me!”

“I’ll model the dress you’ve already made,” I said. “But, Sooni… I’ve got classes, and so do you. And you’ve got the student senate thing, which is important. And I’m dating… I mean, we both have social lives. ”

“Oh, this is perfect!” Sooni said.

“It is?” I asked. I thought I’d just outlined a lot of problems with the plan, personally.

“We were about to go shopping anyway,” she said.

“Window shopping,” I said. “Unless your fish came with a small business loan, we can’t afford to do more than look.”

“Yes, but that’s what’s perfect,” Sooni said. “We can shop for ideas!”

“Okay, I know we haven’t exactly articulated a business plan, but I thought the basic idea we were groping towards was custom clothing designs,” I said. “Why do we need ideas before we have customers? Won’t they tell us… you… whatever… what they want?”

“But how will they know what they want if there is nothing to spark their interest?” Sooni said. “Anyway, I am very good at drawing. I can do sketches.”

“Well, okay,” I said. Why argue? If she wanted to look for ideas while we were out and then draw them… well, that was something she could do on her own.

“I’m so excited!” Sooni said. “Please excuse me.”

She got up and gave a little bow, then turned and started limping towards the restrooms, clutching at her knee. I started to get up to go after her and make sure she was alright, but Suzi grabbed hold of my sleeve.

“Miss Lesbian?” she said.

“Uh, what, Suzi?” I asked.

“Sooni has no skills of an artist,” Suzi said.

“None?” I asked.

She shook her head.

“Fuck,” I said.

If this had happened before I’d got to know Sooni a bit, I might have thought it would be hilarious to watch the spoiled princess put up her scribbles for the ethernet to laugh at. Okay, I still thought it would be a little bit funny… but I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it. Watching people being humiliated often gave me the same sick feeling in my stomach I got from public embarrassment, and it would be a genuine shame if Sooni’s incompetence in other areas stopped her from shining in the one field where she was actually extremely talented.

“You know, I’ve been thinking,” I told Sooni when she got back from the restroom. “Simplicity is one of the key values of weavesite design, so we should probably start with something not too elaborate.”

“Simplicity,” Sooni repeated, nodding.

“The real selling point isn’t going to be sketches, it’ll be the pictures of your actual work,” I said. “They’re the proof. I think we need pictures of our dresses, and some of the other stuff that you’ve made.”

“Like the Baby Kai-Kai costumes?”

“Um… maybe not those,” I said.

“But I work so hard on those!” Sooni said. “They are the most accurate Baby Kai-Kai outfits anywhere!”

“Well, it’s like you said about the dress you made just for me,” I said. “They only look so good because they’re on her. Most people don’t have their own Baby Kai-Kai lying around, so it wouldn’t make much sense…”

“Oh, I see what you mean,” Sooni said. “But most of my clothing is Yokano style.”

“Yeah,” I said. “That could be a problem. Most girls in Magisteria don’t need tail slits, and they’d probably prefer skirts that cover their underwear a little more consistently. But I guess we could look at what you’ve got and pick out some examples.”

There I went, committing myself further and further just to stop Sooni from falling on her face… might it not be a good thing if Sooni got out there on her own and failed a little bit? After all, I’d only just got done lamenting my life choices… why go and chain myself to her runaway carriage?

On the other hand, I’d been spending and spending and spending and didn’t have any money coming in. The school wasn’t going to give me a boatload of gold coins even if we did win and I wasn’t about to rent my womb to Mercy. Deciding to take what skills I had and my ongoing entanglement with Sooni and doing something positive with them… was that such a bad choice?

What was the right decision here?

Well, the fact that I couldn’t tell probably meant it wasn’t “make up your mind right this second and then stick to it no matter what.” I needed time to think, to look at my other commitments… to see how some of the various ongoing crises in my life were going to shake out in the long run… before I took on something like this.

“Sooni… we’ve got some good ideas here,” I said.

“I know!” she said. “It’s going to be great!”

“But the absolute bottom line is that I can’t commit to this… I can’t promise anything right now.”

“But you just said…”

“We just said a lot of things!” I said. “And so far, that’s all it’s been: just saying things. I know how important promises are to you,” I added quickly, seeing her getting ready to let me have it. “Which is why I’m telling you now that I can’t make any promises. I have to think about this. I don’t want to say yes and then find out later that I can’t.”

“But… what am I supposed to do if you won’t help me?”

“We go to a major university,” I said. “There are probably people who would make a commercial weavesite for you as a class project. Anyway, I’m not saying no… I’m saying I don’t want to rush into anything. If we’re going to do it, we should do it properly, right?”

“Oh,” Sooni said. “Yes, of course. I always do things properly.”

“Obviously,” I said. “And for a business decision, that means taking the time to think it through.”

“Of course it does,” Sooni said. “I need time to think it through, too! You aren’t the only one who isn’t ready to commit, you know. I have to sit down, and look at things, and figure out if I’m ready to do this or not.”

“Great,” I said.

“How long do you think we should think about it for?”

“I’ll let you know.”

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12 Responses to “287: Decisions, Decisions”

  1. pedestrian says:

    and of course Sooni could always blackmail her daddy dearest into tossing her a few piddling little factories and a few thousand otherwise redundant serfs.

    Current score: 0
    • Kat says:

      Uhm…tsunami? He’ll have other problems? I mean over 100.000 people just dies in her homecountry and he’s apparently a kind of feudal lord very close to the sea!

      Current score: 1
      • Anon says:

        Not her home country, a different island chain. Though this being the first tsunami in the age of global communication, and the death toll being unimaginably high, there’s likely to be foreign disaster relief efforts, and he might get involved in those.

        Current score: 1
  2. Arkeus says:

    Wow, is Mack actually learning that just saying “yes” doesn’t always work?

    Current score: 5
    • BlackWizard says:

      I wouldn’t go THAT far, but I’d say that her back bone is currently being upgraded from ‘jellyfish’ at least.

      Current score: 2
    • MentalBlank says:

      She doesn’t learn quickly, but she does learn well.

      Current score: 7
  3. Daezed says:

    Demon takes Khersis’ name in vain….

    Tee hee!!

    I am far too easily amused. =D

    Current score: 1
  4. capybroa says:

    Yes, yes, by all means start up a weavesite featuring you in a serious of ridiculous and revealing Yokano-style clothing sets for the entire magical press to use in their coverage of your very public legal troubles. What could possibly go wrong?!

    Current score: 1
    • MentalBlank says:

      Did you not read “Cropped at the neck” ?

      Current score: 1
  5. Cadnawes says:

    There are, in fact, secret poor people skills. Go shopping with a rich person and prepare to facepalm often.

    I actually think Mack’s date-with-Sooni dress sounded really lovely. Modeling it, as long as it isn’t an upskirt shot, ought not be a legal problem, just a shyness overcoming one.

    Current score: 3
    • Athena says:

      Well, they’re hardly *secret*. But they *are* learned, yeah. There are just as many bad habits that can be learned by being poor too though, they’re just different from the ones other classes learn.

      Current score: 1
  6. Lara says:

    “Sooni has no skills of an artist,” Suzi said.
    Is this a Homestar Runner/Strongbad reference? I only caught it on this readthrough, hahaha.

    Current score: 0