334: Having Reservations

on December 22, 2008 in Book 12

In Which Hazel’s Reputation Precedes Her

Feejee ran downstairs to tell Iona about the party, returning a minute later to tell us that Iona might wander over later.

I kind of hoped she would decide against it… as clueless as Feejee was about the morality of consuming thinking beings, she worried me far less than Iona did. I had the feeling Iona knew exactly what it meant to take an intelligent life and just did not care. Also, Feejee at least regarded the merfolk traditions about hunting and feeding on land as inviolable sacred laws. I wasn’t so sure Iona felt the same.

I couldn’t explain my worries to Hazel and Ian, though, without blowing the mermaids’ secrets. So long as they weren’t actually hunting humans, stirring up the locals against them would feel… well, I knew what it was like to be treated as a murderous man-eating monster when I hadn’t actually done anything beyond simple existence. I wasn’t about to consign the mermaids to that.

In any event, with Feejee’s timely help, Hazel’s expert supervision, and my keen staying the fuck out of everybody’s way, we got the large cake over to the student union. I helped hold the doors, anyway… and at least my arms were free to carry my gift bag.

The first major obstacle had been overcome… the next would be to secure the party room. Any thought that this problem would be solved as easily as the cake had been transported dissolved as Honey came running across the union’s lobby, her eyes wide and wild.

The phrase “scared out of her wits” popped into my head and it stuck there. She looked absolutely beside herself with fright. I’d never seen Honey run before and honestly, if I hadn’t been watching her run now I would have hardly believed it. Her dress was so long and stiff, and obviously not designed for that sort of thing.

“Hey, what’s going on?” Hazel asked. “I thought you were going to hold down the fort!”

“I couldn’t stay in there,” Honey said breathlessly. “There is a man in there and he says he knows me and I swear I’ve never seen him before in my life!”

“Well, did you tell him we have the room tonight?” Hazel asked.

“I couldn’t,” she said. “He kept talking to me like he knew me, and it was giving me the galloping creeps.”

Hazel sighed.

“Probably somebody from one of my classes that can’t tell us apart,” Hazel said.

“But he called me by name, Hazel,” Honey said. She seemed to be verging on hysteria… her voice was getting shriller by the second. “He called me by name!”

“Uh, if we’re going to keep standing here, can we find somewhere to set this down?” Ian asked. I don’t think the cake was that heavy, but it had to be kind of awkward trying to hold it level and he’d been walking backwards for a good portion of the trip.

“No, let’s just get it where it needs to go,” Hazel said.

“But…” Honey said.

“If someone’s been harassing you, they’ll have to deal with all of us now,” Hazel said.

Honey hardly seemed mollified by this. I supposed that to understand her reaction, it was necessary to remember that a gnome wouldn’t think of herself as being an undersized person surrounded by normal-sized folks but a normal-sized one surrounded by giants.

Hazel beckoned Ian and Feejee forward, and after a few moments of hesitation, Honey fell in line behind us. The party room door was ajar, and Hazel pushed it the rest of the way open to give the maximum clearance for the cake-bearers.

“Hey, you lot,” she said to the people in the room as Ian and Feejee maneuvered past her. “You’re going to have to clear out, we’re having a party in here.”

“It’s a public room,” a girl’s voice said.

“And we reserved it,” Hazel said.

“How can you reserve it?” someone else asked. “It’s here for everyone.”

“Right, and everyone’s welcome to reserve it,” Hazel said. “Which we did. You can come back after nine if you want.”

I stepped into the room behind Feejee and saw that there were two other distinct groups of people using it, three guys playing darts and a larger group sitting down playing cards. I didn’t know which one of them had claimed to recognize Honey, but I recognized one of them: Jamie, the guy whose boyfriend had started shit at the dance, was among the card players.

“Don’t you people have your own game room, anyway?” the guy who was arguing with Hazel, one of the dart players, said.

“No, we sure don’t,” Hazel said. “Our fees go to support the union same as yours do, and we can use this room same as you.”

“Sure, we all have equal right to use the room,” said a girl sitting next to Jamie at the card table. She had dark red hair curling out from under a round felt hat. “So why do you want to kick us out?”

“Look, we don’t mean to put anybody out but we’re having a party for our friend,” Hazel said. “And we have to get everything set up in a hurry, so if you could all…”

“Well, don’t let us stop you,” Jamie said to Hazel. He hadn’t acknowledged me. I had a feeling like he was trying to avoid looking at me.

“Yeah, it’s a big room,” the curly-haired girl said. “I don’t see why we can’t share it.”

“We’ll be needing that table, though,” Hazel said.

“They had it first,” the vocal dart-player said.

“No, they bloody didn’t, because we reserved the whole room,” Hazel said.

“Look, if you want to have cake with your friends or whatever, I don’t see why you need the whole room,” the girl said. “We’re not bothering you and you don’t have to bother us.”

“Except you are bothering us,” Hazel said. “We reserved the room.”

“Do you have some kind of proof?”

Hazel looked at me.

“I guess Amaranth might have a paper or something,” I said.

“Look, either you believe me or you don’t,” Hazel said to her.

“I’m not sure I do,” she said. “You’re not a student group, you’re just a group of students. I’m not sure I believe that they’d give exclusive use of a public facility like that.”

“So you’re calling us liars,” Hazel said.

“No,” she said. “I’m saying maybe there was a misunderstanding. Maybe somebody just thought you were asking if it was okay to hold a party here and they told you it was. After all, it is here for anybody who wants to use it.”

“…unless somebody else thinks to reserve it,” Hazel said. “Which we did.”

“If you’ve got something that says that, fine,” the girl said. “But I’m not leaving just because you say so.”

“Uh, we’re just going to put this down on the bar thing, okay?” Ian said.

“That’s fine,” Hazel said.

Ian and Feejee got the cake box lifted up onto the counter alongside the other food containers that had already been carried over. After divesting himself of his load, Ian was free to really look around the room for the first time. He didn’t bother trying to hide his scowl when he saw Jamie, and Jamie didn’t pretend not to see him. At the same time, Honey tiptoed around the edge of the doorway.

“Hazel… that’s the one who said he knew me,” she said, and somehow I guessed before I looked that she was pointing at Jamie.

Hazel?” he repeated. “Hazel Wilkins?”

“Willikins, if you please,” Hazel corrected. “What’s it to you?”

“Come on, Mar,” he said, getting to his feet. “Grab the cards and the chips. I don’t think we want to be here for this party.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Hazel asked.

“They’re leaving, Hazel,” Honey said, tugging on her sleeve. “Let it be.”

There was some grumbling from the other card players, but they gathered up their things and headed out of the room.

“I’ll see you in class, Honey,” Jamie said on the way to the door, and Honey shrank back behind her cousin.

That just left the dart players and after a few moments of sullen glaring, they left, too. I guess they didn’t feel very bold once they were outnumbered.

“What the hell did that one mean?” Hazel asked. “‘I don’t think we want to be here for this party.’ What’d I ever do to him?”

“He’s just a crazy man,” Honey said.

“He’s a dick,” Ian said.

“Come on,” I said. “We’ve got to get cards… are you going to be okay decorating?” I asked Hazel.

“Yeah, we didn’t come up with much in the way of decorations,” Hazel said. “Turns out the papermakers haven’t yet tapped into the lucrative Two’s Day market yet. It’s mostly going to be a matter of arranging the spread. If Miss Feejee can help us get things to the table, we’ll be able to manage.”

“Sure, okay,” Feejee said cheerfully.

She was being helpful but otherwise unobtrusive, which made me hopeful that she’d be able to just go with the flow, no pun intended. If she was going to get involved in things like this… and she’d expressed the intention to hang out more with our crowd than with the Leightons… then it would best if she could keep her predatory inclinations completely under wraps. I supposed she must have been able to, as the rest of the twins’ crowd was heavy on the human blood.

The bookstore was just around the corner from the party room, which was good as time was getting short. We wouldn’t have a whole lot of time to browse if we didn’t want Two to walk in when we were still filling them out.

“You want to get like some tissue paper and streamers or something, too?” Ian asked me when we got to the store. “I think they have colored tissue paper with the art supplies.”

“What for?” I asked.

“Well, your books are kind of just sitting in the gift bag,” he said.

“Yeah, but it’s not like they’re fragile. They’re books.”

“I think the tissue paper is to make it more like they’re actually wrapped, actually,” he said. “You know, so the contents are still sort of a surprise.”

“It’s a surprise party,” I said. “She doesn’t even know she’s getting presents.”

“Okay, I was just saying.”

The cards were confined to a pair of rotating displays near the cash register. The pickings seemed pretty slim.

“Uh… this is like a birthday party, right?” Ian asked.

“Kind of, but it isn’t,” I said. “I think we should stick to the generic occasion cards.”

“Yeah, probably… we don’t want to melt her brain by giving her a birthday card when it’s not her birthday,” Ian said.

“You don’t have to get her anything, you know,” I said.

“I’m not saying that to be mean,” he said. “I just don’t know how she’d respond to that.”

I knew that some places had cards tailored for specific relations, like for grandparents or nieces and nephews. I looked for a “to sister” card, but almost predictably, the stationery section of the college bookstore was limited to parents.

Oh, well… a blank card would be more personal than one with a pre-printed message in it, I decided. Not that I had a lot of time to compose an epic ballad on sisterhood or friendship or anything like that… but of course, Two kind of favored simplicity so maybe that worked out. I forgot about the message and just looked for one that I thought she’d enjoy and ended up picking one with a glitter-covered picture of a butterfly on it, reflecting Two’s taste for “pretty” things. Inside, it said “Thank you for being my friend.”

That pretty much summed it up, I thought.

“What do you think of this?” Ian asked, putting a card in front of me. At first glance, I thought he’d had the same idea as me, but then I saw that the sparkly wings were attached to a tiny woman sitting on a mushroom.

“I don’t think real faeries look like that,” I said.

“Oh, I didn’t realize we’d be graded on accuracy here,” he said.

“I’m just saying that kind of imagery is a little…”


“Just bear in mind that this party’s going to have as many non-humans as humans, if not slightly more,” I said.

“Wow… so I’m not going to be the only human, then?” Ian said.

“Some of her classmates and coworkers are coming,” I said. “Apparently, Two’s more popular than we knew.”

“Okay, how about this one?” he asked, showing me another card that just had diamond shapes made out of diagonal lines of glitter. “This one isn’t offensive to abstract geometrical patterns, or anything like that, is it?”

“You don’t have to be such a smartass about it,” I said.

“I just don’t want to rock the boat,” he said. “Or is that offensive to mermaids?”

“What have you heard about mermaids?” I asked, feeling any icy stab of panic in my gut.

“Uh… that they live in water?” he asked. “Khersis, Mackenzie, I’m just messing with you a little… you know, a little playful banter, like I thought we were doing in the mirror. Or did I read something wrong and I was actually just getting on your nerves?”

“Sorry,” I said. “You didn’t read it wrong, but… well, racial issues are going to be a bit more sensitive than other things.”

“Yeah, believe me, I know that,” he said. “And I should probably just leave it at that so it doesn’t sound like I’m saying it’s hard being a human surrounded by gnomes and elves and mermaids and things, but… sometimes, it is hard being a human surrounded by gnomes and elves and mermaids, not knowing what to say or not to say. I’m trying to be sensitive, but this is uncharted territory for me.”

“Oh, Ian,” I said. “You are trying, anyway. I guess knowing there are issues is pretty much the definition of being sensitive, right?”

“Yeah,” he said.

I gave him a playful whack on the shoulder with the envelope for my card.

“Though you shouldn’t have said ‘and things’,” I said. “We’re all people.”

“Of course you are,” he said. “So is this card good?” he asked, holding up the diamonds one.

“It’s fine,” I said.

“Great… now I’ve just got to find a present.”

“You aren’t going to find a present in here,” I said.

“Watch me.”

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6 Responses to “334: Having Reservations”

  1. pedestrian says:

    My wife would always tease me about how poorly i wrapped gifts. my solution was to wrap them in Sunday funny papers. i could be sloppy but the recipients, even one as fussy as my wife, still enjoyed unwrapping.

    Current score: 0
    • MentalBlank says:

      I know the feeling Pedestrian. And I highly sympathise with Mack’s “and my keen staying the fuck out of everybody’s way” It’s exactly what I do under similar circumstances.

      Current score: 1
    • zeel says:

      Am I the only person on Earth who can’t relate to the terrible gift wrapping? Everyone in my family is great at it. It’s so far from being difficult, you just have to learn some basic concepts and think logically about what you are doing.

      Current score: 2
      • Athena says:

        I dunno… I think part of it is mindset and attitude (and practice, of course). I know a lot of people who can’t wrap for shit, including family members.

        Personally, I really like gift wrapping, and doing it all neat and tidy is very satisfying to me. On the other hand, though, I’m autistic and take quite a while to wrap things 😛 To say nothing of the effort that goes into that time.

        Current score: 0
  2. Morten says:

    Dammit I’ve read the more tales of MU but I’m not quite clear why Jamie wants to clear out (except that he’s in the herbalism class). Link?

    Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      I’m not certain either, and I have read through this all many times.

      Current score: 0