424: Coping With Pie

on December 10, 2009 in Book 15

In Which A Dream Referred To Is A Dream Denied

“I knew it!” Ian exclaimed. I stared at him… everyone did, the shirelings, the goblinoids, and us. “Um, I mean, I worked out that there was some reason they’d suspect Steff, not that… you know, this is probably not the best time to feel pleased with myself.”

“Two,” I croaked, turning towards her. “Where did you even get that idea?”

“Steff told me,” Two said. “She said she had to tell someone. I’m someone.”

Now that she’d said it, I realized it made a kind of sense… Steff had been really rattled the day after her encounter with Leda, but she’d been unwilling to talk about it. If Dee hadn’t said something, I wouldn’t have known anything about it.

Steff had insisted it was “just sex”… I’d been afraid at the time that she might have done something to Leda rather than the other way around. I felt awful, thinking about that. I tried to remember exactly what I’d said, how I’d reacted… had I sounded as accusatory to Steff as I did in my own head?

How had she taken that? What must it have felt like?

Steff really was pretty vulnerable, emotionally… she had sharp edges because she was so brittle and had been broken so many times. I hated to think that I had made things worse. But then, I’d never been the most sensitive or observant person.

I looked at Amaranth, hoping to see something in her face that would make me feel better… surely she’d have some words of wisdom, or at least kindness. But she looked a lot like I felt: stricken, guilty, horror-struck.

“Two, love, are you sure you want to be telling tales outside of school like that?” Hazel said quietly.

“I’m not outside of school,” Two said. “I am outside of class, but I think the area of the school encompasses the entire campus.”

“I just mean that you ought to respect it when someone tells you something in confidence,” Hazel said.

“Hazel, I agree with that in general,” Amaranth said, “but don’t you think we maybe need to know this?”

“Do we?” Ian said. “Okay, yeah, I was playing amateur detective a little bit ago, but I don’t see how this helps us or Steff. Granted she’s not my favorite person in the world, but you guys like her. Is it really in her interest to talk about her private stuff behind her back?”

“I just feel… I feel like I should have known,” Amaranth said. “I should have seen it. Sex is what I do, what I am. How did I miss that?”

Ian put his hand on her shoulder. I didn’t feel jealous, exactly, but something about seeing the physical contact made me realize how much I was craving a little myself. I stepped up next to Ian and he put his other arm around me.

“In my sex ed class, the school counselor said that rape wasn’t sex. Me being the thirteen-year-old philosopher that I was, I argued with her for half an hour,” he said to Amaranth. “I was an idiot. Anyway, you try pretty hard not to see the bad… that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it means you can’t be blamed for missing things like this.”

“I guess,” Amaranth said. “I’m just… I’m not sure what it says about me, as a friend.”

“That you’re not a mind reader,” Ian said. “You didn’t know, Mackenzie didn’t know… I’d bet nobody knew. Probably her own boyfriend didn’t know, or else he’d probably… uh, well. You know.”

“I really don’t think it was Viktor,” I said. “If he was going to do something about it, he wouldn’t wait until Steff was helpless and under life-endangering physical stress to sneak out and take care of it. And it’s not likely he just now found out.”

“Maybe Steff said something, in a delirium or in her sleep?” Ian said. “Or Dee could have picked something up and relayed it without thinking about it… um, I’m going to stop speculating. I doubt he did anything. You know, with the teeth thing, it probably was a wandering monster of some kind, somehow. I don’t know if that’s more disturbing or less.”

“If they have some evidence of that, I wish they’d put it out,” Amaranth said. “Think about how many people around campus right now are speculating about who did it.”

“I wish she would have told us what happened,” I said. “I know she’s been in a lot of pain… maybe we could have helped her.”

“She is getting help,” Amaranth said. “I mean, we can offer her support, but she’s getting professional help. I’m sure she’s talked about this with her healer.”

“Um,” Oru said. “Maybe this isn’t my place, but… are we sure it wasn’t the other way around? I mean, I’m no expert on mammal, um, anatomy, but that seems… logistically unlikely?”

“You know,” Shiel said, “my first impulse is to deny the possibility of a physical male being raped by a woman, but… I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the kind of assumption that would underlie that. In kobold society, evidence of physical arousal on the victim’s part is considered enough to dismiss rape claims. The ‘logic’ being that if you enjoy it, you obviously wanted it. I’ve never heard considered it being reversed, with an erect penis being… well, you don’t hear about many female-on-male rape cases. But it’s the same principle: if you’re ‘turned on’, physically, then it can’t be rape. As backwards as humans are in so many ways, I like to think they’re more progressive about that sort of thing than we are.”

“I can’t imagine being aroused if I was actually being raped,” Oru said. “I think you’d have to be sick in the head.”

“Well, I hope you never have the opportunity to learn otherwise,” Shiel said.

“Like you know anything about it,” Oru said.

“I know enough not to make assumptions that second-guess a victim’s experience,” Shiel said.

“I don’t know about girls, but getting, uh, you know… it’s a physical response,” Ian said. “Not like you make a choice, ‘oh, I guess I’ll get hard now’. Anyway, being turned on isn’t the same thing as saying yes, for anybody.”

“Do we really have to talk about this?” Honey asked. “It’s bad enough how the poor girl died… we don’t need to be leveling accusations…”

“Accusations?” I repeated. “Are you saying Steff is a liar?”

“No, I’m saying she’s an accuser… maybe. We don’t even have Steff’s word right now,” Honey said. “And it hardly matters now, does it? Unless, of course, she did have something to do with it. Though I don’t see how she could have.” She shivered. “Those teeth… eyes…”

“What eyes, now?” Hazel said. Her voice was surprisingly sharp. I wondered what Honey was talking about, too, but I hadn’t heard that much suspicion in Hazel’s voice since the time she thought I was making Two cook for me. “What are you on about?”

“Nothing!” Honey said. “I just keep seeing her in my head, I guess. Because of my imagination. The poor girl…”

“You keep saying that, but she wasn’t any kind of poor that I could see,” Hazel said. “No disrespect meant.”

“She was so lonely,” Honey said. “Out there every night…”

“She was never alone any of the times I saw her out there,” Hazel said.

“I said lonely, not alone, Miss Hazel,” Honey said. “A person can be surrounded by hangers-on and well-wishers and still be lonely as the moon.”

“Oh, yeah, I bet you were real lonely in your big hole in the high hill,” Hazel said. “How do you think I felt, after we sold the boat and I had to leave all my friends behind?”

“You know what freaks me out about all this?” Oru said. “I mean, on top of everything else.” She looked at Honey. “How much this is like your dream.”

“What?” Hazel said. “What do you mean?”

“Nothing,” Honey said. “I had a bad dream. It was nothing, though. Just a jumble.”

“That’s not what you…” Oru said.

“It was just a random bad dream, it could have been about anything,” Honey said. “They scare us with talk of the monsters outside, and I knew Leda was out all night sometimes. The dream probably wasn’t even about her. I just put a spin on it because I was worried about her.”

“Are you sure?” Oru said. “Because…”

“Look, I don’t want to talk about it,” Honey said. “The last thing I need is for a rumor to get around that I know something about all this. If I get nicked, even if it’s just for questioning, I’d… well, my family could be disappointed.”

The end of the sentence really didn’t sound like it went with the beginning. She’d sounded worried about something far worse than family disappointment. I wondered briefly if Honey was a fugitive of some sort… it would hardly be stranger than anything else that was going on.

“This is obviously a very stressful time for everybody,” Amaranth said. “We’re all worried for ourselves and our friends, we’re all sad about what happened, we’re all scared about what’s going to happen next. We shouldn’t be fighting. It’s natural that tempers might fray around the edges… we’ll just have to try harder to get along.”

“Well, that’s sensible,” Hazel said, though she was still looking at her cousin sort of sideways. “Speaking of sensible, you know what we should do is figure out how much food we’ve got and if we can get a proper meal going with it.”

“I don’t know if I have that much,” Two said. “I was going to go shopping today.”

“We’ll do soup,” Hazel said. “Soup’s easy to stretch. I’ve got potatoes, I know you’ve got celery and carrots. We’ve both got a little leftover chicken, and I’ve some stock cubes.” She hopped up onto her feet. “Come on, we’ll go and see what everyone else has, and let them know what we’re up to.”

“Okay,” Two said.

“You want to make soup, now?” I said.

“Well, that’s what you do when something like this happens,” Hazel said. “It’s what my mum would do. Well, not exactly like this… but a crisis happens, people need to pull together. They need a little bit of comfort and a little bit of camaraderie. Didn’t your mum ever do anything like that?”

“Not really,” I said. “Well, I guess she baked some pies when these kids got lost in the woods. My grandmother did stuff like that, too. I think… I’m not sure. I kind of avoided the kitchen. There wasn’t anything for me there, anyway.”

“Well, you should pitch in, then,” Hazel said. “We could use a couple of pies, I should think.”

“Yeah, um, I don’t know really how to cook,” I said. “Or bake, or whatever.”

“Your mum didn’t give you her recipes?”

“No,” I said. “She didn’t give me anything, really.”

“Oh, baby, don’t say that,” Amaranth said. “I think she gave you a lot of your better qualities.”

“I mean, physical,” I said. “It’s just the truth… it’s not like I’m resenting her for it or anything. We didn’t have a lot to begin with, and I was never very good in the kitchen.”

“Well, you were young,” Hazel said. “It’s a bit of a shame to let an important part of your heritage just slip away, though… is there anyone else in the family who might have copies of her recipes?”

“I thought you said that recipes weren’t that important,” Two said.

“They’re important for having even if they’re not important for using,” Hazel said. “Family recipes in particular.”

“Um… if they are family recipes, then wouldn’t she have received them from her own mother?” Amaranth said.

“Oh, yeah,” I said. “After everything else, I’m going to go talk to my grandmother so I can ask her to teach me how to bake a pie.”

“Well, you could look at it as a way to re-connect with your mother,” Amaranth said. “And it could be a sort of neutral topic with your grandmother.”

“Um, I’m not sure the topic of ‘neutral’ applies to that woman,” Ian said. He glanced at me as he said this, but I couldn’t really reproach him for it. I didn’t think he was wrong, for one thing.

“Yeah,” I said. “She called neutrality ‘the lesser of two evils’ when a couple of druidic evangelists came knocking on her door. It was the only time I ever heard her being clever.”

“Well, why don’t you come along with us?” Hazel said. “I’ll show you a thing or two.”

“She’ll make a mess,” Two said.

“She’ll help clean it up,” Hazel said.

“That’s okay, I’m really… I’m good,” I said.

“Come on, it’ll take your mind off things,” she said.

I looked at Amaranth.

“Don’t you think it might be fun?” she said. “And I’m sure Two would enjoy sharing her hobby with you.”

“We’re all sitting here under virtual house arrest, we just found out our best friend’s been raped by a murder victim… is now the best time to be making a pie?” I asked.

“Well… what else are we going to do?” Amaranth said. “I’d kind of like to do a little more research, just to keep my mind occupied, but with your mirror that’s kind of a one-person thing.”

“Oh, so what am I supposed to do?” Ian asked.

“You can help carry,” Hazel said.

“You really want to make pies and soup, right now?” I asked.

“You’re a bit quicker on the uptake than normal today,” Hazel said.

“I’m just… it seems…”

“How do you feel right now?” she asked me.

I had to think about it… I couldn’t immediately name what I was feeling. In fact, I couldn’t immediately feel it.

“Numb,” I said. “Spellshocked. It seems like it’s been one thing on top of another since I got here, but this… this is all beyond the pale. I don’t know what to feel. I don’t know how to feel it.”

“Well, your roomie can tell you that the best thing for when you don’t know what to feel is to do instead,” Hazel said. When I didn’t respond, she looked at me and said, “Either that or you can sit around and wait for your feelings to sort themselves out. That might work out okay in the end, but it has one pretty substantial drawback.”

“What’s that, exactly?” I asked.

“No pie,” Hazel said.

I sighed.

“Okay,” I said. “I can’t say how much help I’ll be, or how much I’ll actually learn.”

“Yeah, she is pretty bad at that,” Ian said.

“You coming along?” Hazel asked Honey.

“No,” she said. “I think I’m just going to make some tea and lie down.”

“Well, alright, then,” Hazel said. “But you make sure you let me know if anything, you know, funny happens.”

“Nothing’s going to happen while I’m asleep,” Honey said.

“Something usually happens when Mack is asleep,” Two said. “But it’s not very funny.”


Author’s note: Sorry this one has gone up so late… it’s been a ~*fun*~ couple of days at Chez AE, as readers of my blog know. I’m closing the Q&A post so that I can finish compiling the answerable questions for the weekend. Thanks to everyone who participated. If the results are well-received, we’ll probably do it again.

A note to commenters: the characters in this story are fictitious. They have no feelings and cannot hear anything you say about them. Other people reading the comments section are real, as is rape. Please display a little sensitivity in comments, particularly if you feel the need to dissect what is and isn’t rape. What might be an intellectual exercise for you could be an emotional minefield for others.

Discuss this story on the Livejournal community.

Next: No, it’s not going to be a whole chapter about making pie. It’s going to be several of them. Stuff happens.


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9 Responses to “424: Coping With Pie”

  1. Tomas says:

    Second time I re-read ToM, am liking Ian more and more just as I am liking Amaranth less and less…

    Current score: 2
    • MadnessMaiden says:

      I can see that. I read a huge chunk of it back in the day, and now I’m re-reading it again. (I intend to see it through this time.) The first time I read it, I loved Amy. Now, not so much. Her flaws are starting to outweigh her good traits. I still hate Ian, although I’m liking him more and more as the story goes on. It sucks, since I WANT to hate Ian, and I want to like Amy. XD Oh well, it is what it is.

      Current score: 1
      • Mike says:

        Yeah, this is my third time thru it all, and my opnions on people are shifting. I don’t hate anyone, but I’m kind of ambivalent about Amaranth and Ian. Just remember, they’re kids themselves, still finding themselves, while trying to help Mackenzie do the same. The characters I love tho, are Callahan and Bohd. Both of them are great for Mackenzie in different ways. I would really like it if Bohd came back in the current storyline. I think I’ve said it before, but she could be a great role model for our little protagonist.

        Current score: 5
  2. pedestrian says:

    I have not finished a first read yet so I do not have a many facts as you do Tomas. From my level of ignorance of what will transpire I would say that Amy has the same problem of TWO. Amy just has much more experience at developing an autonomous personality.

    They are both created entities and they both suffer what I call the AI{Artificial Intelligence} condition. That they are only as smart and capable as their creators were competent to program into them.

    Damn good thing Viktor didn’t know what her Royal Pain-in-the-Ass had done to Steff. He woulda gone medieval all over Leda’s sorry peckerwood ass.

    Current score: 0
    • MackSffrs says:

      Actually, one of the goals with creating a machine AI is the possibility for the event called the Singularity, in which an AI, mostly likely the first one, will analyze itself and proceed to improve and expand itself beyond its original creation. This leads to a point in history where progress of the both the AI and technology far outstrips what humans can imagine by virtue of the AI having made itself to be greater than what we can imagine.
      Now if you are talking about AI like a chatbot… well then yes, obviously the AI can only respond in way it has been programmed to be capable of.

      Current score: 1
  3. Tegid says:

    So it was the mermaids then…

    Current score: 1
  4. Oburutsuki, the Crying God says:

    The thing is, MackSffrs, that the AI that creates the singularity and the AI that runs a chat are essentially the same thing: programs performing the functions they are coded to do.

    Current score: 0
  5. Jechtael says:

    Rape doesn’t have to be sex, but nonconsensual sex is by definition (as far as I know, and I think I know quite a bit) both sex and rape.

    Laurel Ann not having her mother’s recipes would be a perfectly reasonable possibility, given the estrangement. Maybe she was good at cooking and picked up the gist of it, then reconstructed pie recipes from her memories of making various pies in her youth. Maybe she picked up recipes from her neighbors. Maybe The Man brought her a copy of The Joye of Snackes.

    Current score: 0
    • Jimmy Joe III says:

      Rape does have to be sexual intercourse. By definition. It can’t be, for instance, just a lascivious glance as tumblr would have us believe. It has to be physical and involve some sort of sexual act, oral, anal, or genital. You can’t rape with your eyes, or your words.

      Current score: 1