337: A Bun My Word

on January 2, 2009 in Book 12

In Which… Wait, The Pudding Club? Seriously?

Nobody was sure quite how to react to Hazel’s sudden illness, except for Two.

“I’ll get it!” she declared, putting down the cake knife.

“Oh, no, honey, it’s your party,” Amaranth said. “You’re not doing any more work. Mack, baby, there are supposed to be cleaning supplies in one of these cupboards… why don’t you find them?”

“Okay,” I said, and I went around behind the counter, where she’d pointed, and started opening doors.

There were a variety of bottles and cans in one of them, some of them looking very old and crusty, with the labels faded or worn off or eaten away by the contents of other containers that had leaked or spilled. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, exactly. There were some paper towels, but I wasn’t really in love with the idea of getting down on my hands and knees and trying to scoop up the mess with them.

Hazel may have been tiny, but her little body had held in a surprisingly large amount of food just long enough to make it really gross.

“I believe one of us should do a ritual of purification on the food,” Dee said to Amaranth, before turning to me and bowing apologetically. “I am sorry, Mackenzie, but if there is something in particular you enjoy, perhaps…”

“I’m telling you, the food is fine,” Hazel said, a little shakily. “There’s no need to go pointing fingers and waving a bunch of wands.”

“I must say, I find your concern to be misplaced,” Dee said.

“Oh, so you don’t think it’s the food, either?” Hazel asked.

“I mean, I would hope the safety of your friends would be more important to you than your reputation as a cook,” Dee said. “In either case, a few simple prayers would lay the matter to rest definitively, and in the event that you are correct in your assertion, you’ll be…”

“It wasn’t the food,” Amaranth said. “It definitely wasn’t.”

“Perhaps a quick invocation, just to be on the safe side?” Dee suggested.

“No, trust me,” Amaranth said. “I, uh, already checked.”

“You called upon your divine powers in the presence of Mackenzie?”

“Oh, it’s a passive thing,” Amaranth said, too quickly. “Nymph sense. Like my ability to know things relating to sex.” She laughed. “Only, completely separate and distinct from that.”

“I see,” Dee said. “Well, you are obviously telling the truth about your certainty regarding the safety of the food, so I will trust your judgment on that matter. Hazel, if you would care to step outside for a moment, I will see to your ail…”

“She’s fine, too!” Amaranth said.

“I am?” Hazel asked, confused.

“Of course you are,” Amaranth said. “There’s no need for anyone to examine you.”

The conversation had distracted me from the task immediately at hand, but then something caught my eye… a familiar-looking bottle at the back of the cabinet. Its label was missing, but it looked like the potion Puddy had pilfered to clean up the evidence of my hunger-driven bathroom rampage.

I grabbed it and sprinkled a little bit on the mess… only a little bit, in case I’d chosen poorly and it did something to vomit aside from removing it, but it seemed to have the desired effect and so I poured on some more. The bottle was almost empty to begin with, though, and while I got rid of the, uh, chunkier parts, there was still some left when the bottle was empty.

I looked at Amaranth helplessly.

“That’s fine, baby, I’ll get the rest since I don’t have to worry about getting ucky,” she said, and she went for the paper towels while I tossed the bottle. “Wash your hands before you touch any of the food,” she told me. “I don’t think we want to find out what that stuff would do inside a stomach.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said automatically, then flushed with embarrassment remembering we were in decidedly mixed company, including several people I didn’t know. Then I realized they wouldn’t necessarily know the significance of those words to us, and I felt kind of stupid… and blushed harder.

I gave Amaranth a bit of a wide berth as she cleaned up the rest of the mess, but I slipped in beside her while she was washing her own hands.

“So, what’s up with Hazel?” I asked her.

“She can tell you herself after I’ve talked to her,” Amaranth replied. “If she wants to.”

“You can’t tell me now?” I asked.

“It’s not my place,” she said.

“You know I can keep secrets,” I said, annoyed. I’d kind of taken it for granted that Amaranth would tell me what she wouldn’t say in front of the room. Hadn’t we gone through this whole thing before, with Steff’s not-so-little not-so-secret?

“Baby, it’s not really anybody’s business but hers, though, so if she doesn’t feel like spreading it around, I’m not to going to say anything.”

“Oh, fine,” I said, and turned and stalked away to retrieve my cake plate.

The awkward silence that people had been stunned into was just starting to turn into awkward conversation. Ian approached me a little tentatively.

“Some party, huh?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said. I tried to come up with some witty play on “throwing a party” and “tossing cookies”, but I couldn’t make it work in my head, and thinking about what had happened just made me feel sick to my own stomach.

“Everything okay with you?” he asked.

“Yeah, just a little queasy,” I said. “I used to have a big problem with nausea after eating, and though I’ve mostly got over it, seeing… well, I’m okay. I just don’t want to dwell, you know?”

“I meant with you and Amaranth,” he said.

“Oh,” I said. “She won’t tell me what’s going on with Hazel, for some reason.”

“I don’t think she’s telling anybody,” Ian said. “I wouldn’t take it personally.”

“I’m not ‘anybody’,” I said. “She shouldn’t be keeping secrets from me. There shouldn’t be secrets between lovers.”

“Uh…” Ian said, freezing with his fork halfway up to his mouth.

“What?” I asked.

“Nothing.”

“No, what?” I asked.

“Seriously, Mackenzie, it’s nothing,” he said.

“Oh, not you, too,” I said. “Tell me what you were going to say.”

“You don’t want to know,” he said.

“Don’t tell me what I want,” I said. “I just asked you to tell me what you were going to say, so obviously I do want to know.”

He sighed.

“You’re being a hypocrite, Mackenzie,” he said.

“I’m not,” I said. “Seriously, what were you going to say?”

“That,” he said. “You’re being a hypocrite.”

“What… how?” I asked.

“You keep secrets from me,” he says. “And it bugs the piss out of me, but I know you think you have a reason and that’s good enough… well, no, it’s not really good enough for me, to be honest, but it’s not like I can hold you by your ankles and shake you until the truth falls out, so I put up with it. It’s not a great situation, but I can tolerate it… but now Amaranth’s not telling you something that really probably isn’t any of your business, and it’s probably not going to get anybody killed or arrested, and it’s probably not anything you really should be worried about and you’re getting all bent out of shape over it because suddenly you don’t think there should be secrets between lovers.”

“Yeah, but… that doesn’t make me a hypocrite,” I said. “When I’ve kept secrets from you, it’s been… different from this.”

“Yeah, that’s pretty much the definition of a hypocrite,” Ian said. “’It’s different when I do it.’”

“No, it is!” I said. “Ian, I hate doing anything that risks pushing you away, so I wouldn’t keep secrets from you if it wasn’t important. But like you said, whatever’s going on with Hazel is not a life or death thing, so she should be able to tell me.”

“But the only reason you have for why she should tell you is that there shouldn’t be secrets between lovers,” he said. “Either you believe that or you don’t.”

“Ian… you have to understand, there are some things I just plain can’t tell you about right now,” I said. “My life’s complicated… it even has lawyers in it. But I promise you I’ll tell you everything, someday, if I can.”

“I don’t even really care about that,” he said. “I’ve accepted that you have secrets just like I’ve accepted… well, everything. It’s just a little jarring to hear you bitching about Amaranth not wanting to talk about Hazel’s pregnancy.”

“Hazel’s what?”

“My what?” Hazel asked, from down by my legs.

“Uh…” Ian looked at her, appearing not so much stunned as at a loss for what to say. I could imagine him going through and discarding various ways of trying to cover for what he’d said. He finally gave up and just stammered, “Well, what do you think she was talking about?”

Amaranth came rushing over.

“Oh, Hazel, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” she cried. “I wanted to tell you in private after…”

“Oh, it’s fine, but… you’re wrong,” Hazel said, shaking her head. “I can’t be.”

“But you’ve been intimate with Andreas, though, haven’t you?” Amaranth asked.

“Yeah, but… we were, you know, careful,” Hazel said. “I mean, you have to be careful when you’re taking a roll with someone who outweighs you five to one, but apart from that…”

“That much?” Ian asked me quietly.

“Dwarves aren’t just taller than gnomes, they’re a lot bigger around and have much bigger skeletons,” I said. “She’s probably, what? Thirty pounds? Five to one’s probably a little low, actually.”

“Yeah, but… ouch,” Ian said.

“I’m sure she was on top,” I said, and instantly regretted the mental image.

“Ew,” Ian said. “Thanks for that.”

“No problem.”

“Hazel, honey… do you know about that stuff?” Amaranth asked. “About being safe?”

“Of course I do!” Hazel said. “I’m not some dumb kid, you know. I’m a good sight older than you, in fact. I could probably teach you a thing or… well, no I probably couldn’t. And I don’t think I’d want to. But my main point stands. I’m not some dumb kid.”

“I don’t think there’s supposed to be this much shouting at a party!” Two said.

“Sorry,” Hazel said, and we all said it, too, even though I couldn’t think of any shouting I had done. “It’s just, you have to be wrong. I wouldn’t be careless about something like that. I like Andy well enough to go a bit further with him than with any of the boys on the river, but it’s too important to fool around with something like that. I mean, I couldn’t quit school and leave Honey on her own, could I? I promised her family I’d stick close by her. And I’ve no intention of risking having a daughter. That, and Andy says that dwarven mums have seven month trimesters. I don’t know how that would work out with a mix, and I’m not keen on finding out.”

“Okay, but I know what I’m seeing,” Amaranth said. “And it’s obvious. I mean, it’s subtle… you can’t be more than two weeks gone, and dwarves do grow slowly… but once I thought to look for it, there it was.”

“Wait, is two weeks even long enough for her to have morning sickness?” I asked.

“And shouldn’t morning sickness be in the, you know, morning?” Ian asked. “Or is that a dwarf thing because they don’t see the sun?”

“Usually swelling and tenderness is the first symptom to be noticed, but every pregnancy is different and nausea can happen at any time,” Amaranth said.

“You did complain about your, er, delicate parts swelling up and hurting,” Honey said.

“Yeah, but that was because you kept stepping on them,” Hazel said, giving me a mental image to replace the one of Hazel trying to straddle the mountain of a dwarf. I liked this one a little better, though it was still kind of freaking me out trying to understand how it could have happened.

“That shouldn’t have hurt if they weren’t already tender,” Honey said.

“This is ridiculous,” Hazel said. She turned to Dee. “Miss Delia Daella. Dee. Please. You can point your big elfy brain at me and figure this out, right?”

“With your permission, I will,” Dee said, bowing. “Though it is unlikely to be definitive at this stage of maternity.”

“The stage I would be at, if I were,” Hazel said.

“Quite,” Dee said, and she concentrated for a moment. “I do indeed sense only your own mind within the confines of your body… however, this would also be the case if the baby is not sufficiently formed to have her own thoughts, so this should not be viewed as confirmation of a negative. I am, unfortunately, not sensitive to life itself.”

“Oh, don’t call it a her,” Hazel said. She looked like she was going to be sick again.

“What’s going on over here?” Celia asked, wandering over with Feejee.

“Amaranth says that Hazel’s pregnant,” Two said.

“Oh. Yeah,” Celia said. Her tongue flicked out between her lips. “Totally.”

“Is that what that is?” Feejee asked.

“Yeah,” Celia said. “It’s their hormones. One of the sisters who ran the school got knocked up and sent away. She hid it from her superiors under her robes, but she got sent to the healers after too many students said she tasted wrong.”

“That smell’s been bugging me all week,” Feejee said. “I didn’t want to be rude and ask.”

“Can we back the goat cart up a bloody second?” Hazel said. By this point, the entire room was paying attention, if not creeping closer. “I haven’t joined the pudding club just yet, unless it’s with the third coming of Owain.”

“Who?” Ian asked.

“I think that’s the gnomish god of war,” I said, remembering a reference to Magisterion I praying to all the gods of war he knew before going into battle.

Hazel turned to Two.

“Two, love, you listen to me, okay? I’m most certainly not in the family way, no matter what anybody says.”

“Okay,” Two said, nodding.

“Um, hey…” Steff said, hesitantly, from the doorway. She rapped on the open door. “Knock knock?”

“Oh, thank Owain!” Hazel muttered as we all turned to face Steff.

She looked pale… well, paler. Transparent, almost. The sleeves of her nice jacket were cut into ribbons, though she seemed unhurt.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“Hazel’s not pregnant,” Two said.

“Oh,” Steff said, blinking in confusion. “Okay.”

“We’ll talk more about this later,” Amaranth said to Hazel.

“I’m sure we will,” Hazel said as Amaranth ran over to Steff and gave her a hug, with me following close behind her. “Who’s up for some darts? And let’s get some music. Is this a party, or isn’t it?”


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7 Responses to “337: A Bun My Word”

  1. Jackie says:

    I thought it was Honey that got sick?

    Current score: 0
    • Daezed says:

      She said it was a false alarm… She felt nauseous after looking at Hazel… And we know Honey had a dream of Leda being killed, as well as of Mack murdering people. Perhaps she has something like foresight?

      Current score: 3
      • Zukira Phaera says:

        she does. it runs in their family. Honey is Hazel’s cousin on her mother’s side.

        Current score: 1
      • zeel says:

        She has some mild precognitio, dreams mostly, but appearently she was able to sense Hazels iminent sickness – but mistook it for nausia.

        Current score: 1
  2. pedestrian says:

    sounds like good guesses to me.

    but AE enjoys maliciously tormenting us with her word games,

    Current score: 0
  3. Anonymoose says:

    This would be SO much easier to figure out if they were just twins.

    Current score: 0
  4. Zany says:

    I finally get something in this story! Honey had a premonition of Hazel throwing up – just a feeling – and sick is enough to make anyone nauseous. Though it worries me if Mack’s going to be a mass murderer…

    Current score: 1