70: Absences Felt

on September 24, 2007 in 03: Virginal

In Which Sleep Is Elusive

I didn’t know how Amaranth would react to Celia’s news, and it seemed like she didn’t know, either. She made a tiny sound that might have been a noise of protest or of surprise, but didn’t manage to get any actual words out.

“Do you think she actually left school, or just Harlowe?” I asked.

“Don’t know, don’t care,” Celia said, and that was pretty much the end of it. There were a few awkward stabs at conversation after that, and then dinner broke up.

I wanted to comfort Amaranth, but didn’t know how. I thought it would probably be for the best if Barley had dropped out, or at least if none of our paths crossed with hers again, but that wasn’t what Amaranth would have wanted to hear, and she shrugged off my awkward attempt to offer a general sort of consolation. Two and I headed back to the dorm, Amaranth went off in search of “work”, and I’m not sure where Celia went.

Needless to say, I didn’t get the bare-handed spanking Amaranth had threatened me with before.

I was almost afraid to open the door to my room, certain there would be some act of vandalism or desecration, some parting shot from my volatile roommate. When I did open it, the first thing I saw was that Puddy’s fridge was gone. The closet door was open, and the only thing hanging up inside it was my outfit from the dance. There were no crates of wine under her bed… the other bed, I should say.

Most surprisingly, the pillow on my bed had been replaced.

I felt awful when I saw that. Just a moment before, I’d been thinking Puddy would have trashed the place. What kind of a monster had I let her turn into in my head? Sure, when she was loaded up on that wine… but maybe she was turning over a new leaf. Maybe she hadn’t moved her stash… maybe she’d actually got rid of it.

I mean, if Two could spend a weekend smiling and hugging and hanging out with her friends… if I could stand up to the sort of girls who joined something like the Campus Social Committee… couldn’t Puddy dry out?

I didn’t have a lot of homework to do, one week into the school year. I did some reading for thaumo and diagrammed some chained spells for my logic class before I turned off the light and turned in for the night. I had wrestled with the idea of reading some more of the golem books before I went to bed, but I knew I’d have to get up early in the morning to get my fighting class changed.

I settled into bed, with the new pillow, whole and unburned, clutched to my chest instead of under my head.

Thinking of Two made me realize that I had the solution to one of her problems… or maybe it would be more accurate to say that I had the solution to one of Delia Daella’s problems. If Two took Puddy’s bed, she’d be keeping me up crying instead of the dark elf.

Though, with only a single wall between her and Delia Daella, maybe she’d keep both of us awake…and technically the other bed was still Puddy’s, and even though her stuff had been moved out, I only had Celia’s word that she didn’t mean to come back. If Puddy was looking to mend her ways, the least I could do would be to avoid doing anything likely to set her off.

I decided that once Puddy was officially moved out, I would ask Two if she’d like to move in. Well, I’d have to talk it over with Amaranth first… we were in a relationship, after all, and Amaranth might be expecting first dibs on an opening in my room. I didn’t expect that to be a problem, though. Amaranth had made it quite clear that she couldn’t spend every night with me, and I understood that perfectly. She would certainly approve of “Twoey” rooming with me… but she’d also approve of me asking her feelings on the subject first. I smiled… and blushed… in anticipation of that approval, and hugged the pillow more tightly as I imagined that approval.

Strangely, in my imagination, I was laying across Amaranth’s lap, with my ass exposed as if she was about to spank me. She wasn’t… she was stroking me teasingly, though, and there was a distinct feeling that she might be about to, at any moment…

Why did my fantasy of Amaranth’s approval come so close to my usual punishment? I was doing my best to just accept my feelings as they came instead of constantly questioning them, but my feelings weren’t making it easy on me.

I let the image dissolve and considered the housing situation some more. Two could take the bed I’d been using, to put more distance between her and the keen-eared former roommate. Or we could stack them and get more useable floor space.

That would certainly make things more interesting when I wanted to break out the…

Mecknights.

I had missed Mecknights.

The realization hit me like a physical blow, like a slap across the face from the studded side of the paddle.

It wasn’t like I’d never missed it before. Sunday mornings had usually been the one time that I could count on having to myself, which honestly had probably contributed to my appreciation for the show… but there had been weekends when my grandmother hadn’t been well enough to go to temple, or when I’d been in the basement, or whatever. Each of those times, though, I’d felt the loss keenly… I’d missed the show in every sense of the word.

This time, I hadn’t even thought about it.

That thought got me up out of bed. I went over to the small desk in the dark… not total darkness, of course, because there was no way that the flimsy curtain in the window could shut out all the light from outside, and besides, there was the crack beneath the door. I couldn’t see in the dark, no matter what Steff thought. She’d grossly underestimated the effectiveness of the human eye at night. Probably anybody with even halfway decent vision could have found their way to the desk and made out the shape of the graphic novel they’d bought the day before. They’d be able to at least dimly perceive the figures on the covers and read the words with a little effort…

Fucking Steff. I’d never before had any reason to wonder just how demonic my eyes were. Now, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I took my book out into the hallway and headed for the brightly lit lounge.

It was occupied by perhaps the person I would have least expected to see… aside from Barley, maybe: Kai, Sooni’s “favorite” neko, or at least the most put-upon and most abused of the three “friends” her parents’ money had apparently purchased for her.

Kai was sitting at the table with an open textbook and some loose sheaves of paper. Her eyes flicked up at the door as I entered, but only for a moment. I started to say, “Hi,” but swallowed the sound when she didn’t actually acknowledge me. I didn’t know if Kai was actually as stuck up as Sooni and the rest of her pack was, or if she was just stuck playing the role, but I wasn’t going to push it. I’d already had my assertive moment for the week.

I sat down in the easy chair and started reading Sci-Force 5.

“You missed your show,” Kai said suddenly, surprising me. I half-jumped, half-stood, and turned to see that she hadn’t actually looked up from her homework… the pencil still moved as she spoke. “I think Sooni was disappointed.”

“Why?” I asked. “Why would she care? She hates me, and I don’t think she really cares for Mecknights, either.”

Kai shrugged.

“Who knows?” she said.

I didn’t have an answer for that. In the silence, there was no sound but that of pencil scratching on paper. I found myself watching her small hands… and realized what I had been seeing without noticing. Her fingers were still wrapped in bandages, as they had been since the previous Saturday. Every time I’d passed the yokai in the halls or coming and going from the hall, Kai’s hands had been so dressed. I’d become used to seeing her this way, but of course, there was nothing usual about it. Bandages were for keeping the wounded together until they could get to a healer. There was no reason for anybody in a modern city… or on a modern college campus… to wear them for minor injuries, or to still need them more than a week later.

“Your hands,” I said, moving around the couch and drawing closer, to be sure of what I was seeing. Maybe they weren’t bandages. Maybe wrapping one’s fingers was a fashion statement of some kind?

Maybe I was just that desperate to not believe the worst.

“What about them?” Kai asked.

“They’re still bandaged from a week ago,” I said. “Why haven’t you got them healed? Doesn’t Sooni…”

“It’s not the kind of thing that you heal,” she said with a kind of finality that told me it would be pointless to ask what kind of a thing it was.

Was she not being allowed to see the healer to prevent discovery of her mistress’s abuses? That seemed unlikely, considering the strictness of the privacy policy and the fact that… well, the fact that other people were getting away with worse. Though, perhaps Sooni was paranoid, being in a strange land for the first time and not being entirely certain that she would be permitted to carry on here as she had in her homeland.

Maybe the unhealed wounds were a special punishment? It made me both sad and sick to think about.

“You know,” I said, “you don’t have to put up with the way she treats you. I don’t know how things worked back on Yokan, but the Imperial Republic has laws. You do have rights here, and…”

Kai looked up then, for the first time, and skewered me with her glittering cat eyes. Seeing her face straight on like that, I was struck by how young she looked… there was something very distinctly child-like about her, which almost certainly had been part of what had made Sooni pick her out as being the perfect “Baby Kai-Kai”, on top of her cream-white fur with its darker patches. There was nothing young in her eyes, though… instead, there was both a weariness and a resolve which spoke of compact ages of suffering.

The weight of experience in those eyes pressed down on me, and rooted me to the spot.

“You want to rescue me?” she asked. “You want to be the good guy… the hero? You want to save me from Sooni?”

“I didn’t…” I started, but didn’t know how to finish. Her accusatory tone seemed to require a protest, but I wasn’t sure what I was being accused of and what I should be protesting.

“Do me a favor, hero,” she said, closing her textbook and gathering her notes. “If you have to save me, wait until I have my degree, okay?”

She headed out of the lounge and down the hall, towards the room she’d been forced to share with Maliko and Suzi. Her tail swished angrily behind her as she went. I felt horribly guilty, and had no idea what for. I was once again aware… and much more acutely aware, at that… that Amaranth had promised me a spanking which I hadn’t received.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to get to sleep any time soon after that, but now I had something to do. It was time I started making the white and black lists. Putting my most twisted, convoluted desires into words wasn’t something I looked forward to, but having the lists made would probably make it easier for me to get what I needed when I needed it.

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6 Responses to “70: Absences Felt”

  1. pedestrian says:

    The problem with putting oneself in another persons place is that generally you have to knock them down and stand on them to achieve that pinnacle of do-goodery self-satisfaction.

    Current score: 0
  2. Lunchbox says:

    I… I think I finally get what happened to Kai. Did Sooni declaw her ?!?

    Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      No. It’s just the fur.

      Though the main story never reveals it, one of the chapter commentaries does. Sooni’s lack of fur and body hair is not natural. Remember the jar of ointment Celia had to remove “problem hair”? Sooni uses something similar.

      Kai simply got it on her hands by accident. Sooni could not afford to have it regrown (and you can’t “heal” fur). Of course, she wanted to avoid embarisment about why Kai had bald hands – so she had them wrapped in bandages.

      A nice thing to do? No. As horrible as Mackenzie is expecting? Also no.

      Current score: 4
  3. WsntHere says:

    If she was declawed, she allowed it so she wouldn’t lose out on her fancy university education. Kai seems to come from a truly low and hopeless background with this being the only way she sees to get out and maybe even take her family up with her….

    Current score: 2
  4. Daniel says:

    Given the talk of “regrowing” in reference to the bandages before the beginning of the book, I think so. Some hand/paw-related body part was removed, and Kai can still manipulate a pencil. I just hope that it was Kai’s homework she was doing, and not Sooni’s.

    Current score: 0
  5. Passerby says:

    Anatomically, declawing a cat is equivalent to cutting off the last joint on all your fingers…

    Current score: 0