110: All Wet

on December 5, 2007 in 04: The Body Politick

In Which Feejee Stands Up Without Legs

I split from Steff when we got back to Harlowe, as she had to go over to her side to ditch her stuff and I badly needed a change of clothes. I got weird looks from several people I passed in the hallway, including Sara and Tara, who froze in place and went silent when they saw me and then burst out laughing as soon as I was a flight above them.

Two was just coming out of her room. She’d put on her fuzzy white sweater with the matching hair bow. She hadn’t been wearing them before, so I figured she must have been caught out in the down pour.

“Hi, Mack!” she said. Her eyes rolled down the length of my body and then back up again. It would have been a disconcerting reaction from her, but the expression on her face was one of concern. “Are you okay?”

“Hi, Two,” I said. I reached up to brush some hair out of my face and found a couple blades of grass stuck to my hand. “I had my weapon class a bit ago.”

“I don’t think you did very well,” Two said.

“No, I guess I didn’t,” I said, smiling. “How are you?”

“I’m fine,” Two said. That was new. Was “fine” better than “okay”? Was there a chart somewhere? “Do you know what a teddy bear does?” she asked me.

“Um, not really, I guess,” I said. As far as I knew they didn’t really do anything. The more expensive ones usually had enaction spells put on them, or vocal enchantments, or other features designed to make them seem more interactive, but I was pretty sure Two’s bingo prize had just been the basic model.

“Nothing!” Two declared in an awed tone. “They… just… sit there.”

“Oh,” I said.

Well, what else was I supposed to say?

If she had been the funny stupidly intelligent golem character on a stupid TV show, she probably would have been complaining about being given a prize that had no useful function and it would have been my place to try to explain to her the emotional value of a stuffed animal and be called illogical.

This was reality, though… and in reality, Two somehow found the idea of a useless toy impressive.

“They don’t do anything,” Two said, as if she feared I had missed the point. She sounded like a little kid who’d just run all the way from the school coach to the front door because she just had to tell her mom the exciting new fact she’d learned about squirrels or something.

Okay, so I’d been a dork in grade school, too.

“That’s… um… nice,” I said.

“It is!” Two agreed with wide-eyed emphasis. “It is nice.”

I was inches away from nodding my head and agreeing once again that yes, it was nice, when I had a better idea.

“Two… why is that nice?” I asked instead, conversationally.

“Because they always do what they’re supposed to,” she said. “They can’t not.”

“And that’s nice?” I asked.

“It is,” Two said, nodding gravely. “You can put a teddy bear on a shelf or in a curio cabinet or on your bed or in a toy box or among other stuffed animals or you can just hold it to your chest, but no matter where it is the teddy bear doesn’t have to do anything differently because it doesn’t have to do anything.”

“That is pretty impressive,” I said, smiling. It sounded like Two had done some serious research to find out the function of her newest possession, before deciding that it didn’t have one.

“Also, you can hold a teddy bear when you’re trying to sleep to keep from crying,” Two said. “But it’s like humming. It doesn’t actually do anything.”

It took me a moment to figure out what she meant about humming, but I wasn’t too distracted figuring it out to realize the significance of the rest of her statement.

“Are you still crying every night?” I asked.

She nodded.

“I’m sad every night,” she said, and it suddenly showed on her face, like the perverse opposite of the sun breaking through the clouds. Her voice became quiet, defeated… more like it had been at the beginning of the first week. “I don’t want to be.”

“Two,” I said. “Um… if Puddy officially moves out of my room, would you like to move in?”

“Yes, please,” she said, in that same voice.

“Um… would you like a hug?” I asked her.

She shook her head, to my surprise.

“Do you not like hugs?” I asked, worried that we’d unknowingly been causing her distress.

“I do like hugs,” she said, her voice regaining some of its color as she made the assertion. She continued to regain her strength and composure as she continued. “But you are very dirty and I’m wearing my pretty white sweater, so I do not would like to hug you right now. You should probably take a shower and put on clean clothes. Amaranth says that wearing dirty clothing and things will only make you feel dirtier about your woman parts.”

Hey, folks! Just in case you were wondering what’s the single most awful thing your adorably innocent kid sister figure can pick to talk about, there you go! Isn’t learning swell?

“Woman parts aren’t dirty,” she added, with soul-destroying levels of earnestness. “They’re just there.”

“Amaranth tell you that, too?” I managed to ask through a case of almost total paralysis.

“No,” she said proudly. “I figured that out by myself.”

An attitude like that could lead to problems if she ever got to the point of pursuing relationships beyond friendship, but I decided to let it go for the time being if only to let the conversation die. It had reminded me that I’d made up my mind to have a serious talk about sex with Two, but that was a conversation for another time, when I wasn’t half-covered in mud and reeling from the words “make you feel dirtier about your woman parts” coming out of Two’s mouth.

“You should take a shower,” she said again.

“It’s almost time for dinner, though,” I said.

“You are supposed to eat,” Two said, her eyes blinking while she worked things over in her head. “But you’re not supposed to be dirty…”

“You know, what I think I really need is a good, long soak in the tub,” I said.

The way my cold, damp clothes clung to me was starting to get me, and I was becoming increasingly conscious of the aches and discomfort in my back and waist from some combination of my fall during mixed melee or Steff’s vigorous exertions in an awkward position beneath the trees. I also felt a little physically and emotionally drained from it all, and somehow a hot bath sounded more therapeutic than a hurried shower before dinner.

“You’re supposed to eat,” Two said.

“I’ll grab something from the store when I get out,” I said. “I promise. It’s just… I am pretty dirty, and I didn’t really notice before but my back is kind of messed up from… um… when I was on the ground.”

There was no sense elaborating, really.

“You were doing sex things,” Two said confidently.

And, apparently, no need.

“Um, yeah,” I said, reddening. “Um…”

“I’ll go tell the others you’re taking a bath,” Two said.

“Thanks,” I said.

“The lady who refills the tubs told me there’s banana pudding tonight,” Two said. “I would bring you some but dining hall food is not to leave the premises.”

“That’s okay,” I said. I could think of about a dozen flavors of pudding I’d rather have than banana, but I didn’t say that. “Thanks.”

“Go take your bath,” she said, pointing insistently towards the bathroom.

I laughed.

“Okay,” I said. “I just need to get my towel and a change of clothes.”

“And don’t forget to eat!” she added as I headed towards my door.

I took a few moments to check my appearance when I got into my room. Not only were my clothes even dirtier than I’d realized, back and front–filth spreads, as my grandmother would have said–but my hair was sticking up crazily, and matted with leaves and grass.

Two had already headed down when I emerged. I hurried to the bathroom, eager to reach the privacy of one of the recessed stone bathtubs before I had another encounter like the one with the Leighton twins.

Fortunately, one of the tubs was unoccupied. Unfortunately, only one of them was.

“Come for a nap?” Feejee asked from the other one.

She’d shifted her legs back into their more natural tail form, just as she had the last time I’d seen her in the tub… when I’d spent a night sleeping in the other one to avoid becoming a nocturnal fire hazard. Feejee, who had naturally never encountered fire at the bottom of the fucking ocean, had innocently asked what it was, and I’d basically called her an idiot for it.

“I thought I’d put some water in this time,” I said, deciding to try for a joke. “That’s… um… the wet stuff that comes out of the faucet, right?”

“Yeah,” she said. She gave a weak laugh. “That’s the stuff.”

Okay, so we were past one hurdle. Evidently my little faux pas was one of those things that we could look back on and laugh at.

Now the only problem I had was that I had to get undressed in front of her. Not that she was staring, or had any reason to… clothing was about as common as fire in the undersea realm, and she never wore anything except her boyfriend’s jacket. She’d actually seen me naked on that previous occasion. I thought about that, trying to convince myself that it was no big deal… but somehow that made it a bigger deal instead.

“You’re obviously new at this,” Feejee said. “Step one is you take off your clothes. Step two is you turn on the water. Step three is you get in. If you’re feeling kind of crazy, you can mix up steps two and three.”

I must have been feeling really crazy, because I mixed up all the steps: after setting my clean clothes down, I stepped into the tub and drew the curtain, then took off my dirty stuff, carefully reaching around the curtain to set them on the floor.

“You’re pretty prudish all of a sudden,” Feejee said. I pretended I couldn’t hear her over the sound of the water turning on five seconds after she finished talking. The water that came out was freaking cold and I jumped when it splashed on my toes. It heated up pretty quickly… I’d only used the hot water knob and I’d turned it all the way. I hated cold, but heat didn’t bother me one bit.

“Awfully steamy over there,” Feejee said shortly after I turned the water off.

“I… uh… like it hot,” I said. Was she going to talk to me the whole time I was in there?

“A closed curtain isn’t very sociable,” she said.

“It helps keep in the heat,” I said. Did it? It probably had to, I guessed.

“I like my baths warm,” Feejee said. “But not too warm… and sometimes cold water can be bracing. Also, it makes my nipples stick out more, which apparently guys go for up here. Nobody honestly pays any attention to breasts in the ocean. Back home, it’s all about your flukes.”

“Oh,” I said. What the hell was a fluke?

“That’s why I was kind of surprised to learn that more topsiders aren’t interested in feet,” she said, evidently encouraged by my comment. I guessed that meant flukes were the fins at the end of a mermaid’s tail. “Rick is, though, which is good. He does like my breasts, too, and I’m fine with that, but I personally think even when I lose my scales, my feet are still my best feature.”

“Uh, right,” I said.

“Nobody ever pays any attention to them, though,” Feejee continued. “You like women, Mack… have you ever noticed my feet?”

I didn’t argue the “liking women” thing. There were at least two… well, three now, if I counted Gloria… women that I liked. I could and would have argued against “lesbian”, but “you like women” seemed to be at least technically true.

As for her feet… had I? It seemed to me when I thought about it that they had been a bit on the large side… they weren’t like snow shovels or anything, but rather long and maybe just a little bit more triangular than most feet, widening a bit towards the toes. They weren’t like ugly or misshapen or anything, but they weren’t exactly what you’d call dainty, like Steff’s… or even mine. I mean, I didn’t spend a lot of time looking at my feet, but now that the subject was up and I could look across the tub and see my toes wiggle under the water, they were… well… kind of cute. I guess that’s the advantage of being a scrawny little wuss: you get to have delicate feet.

I thought about Amaranth’s feet. She was a larger girl than Steff or me, of course, and her feet had to support all of that, but for all that they were still pretty shapely, and not the least bit what you’d call oversized.

“Mack?” Feejee prompted. “Are you okay?”

“Huh? Yeah,” I said.

“Well?” she asked. “What about my feet?”

“Um… are they kind of big?” I said, doubtfully.

I think they are,” she said. “But nobody gives them a second glance, except Rick. That’s how I knew he was into me.”

“You know, I kind of just want to take my bath,” I said, trying to keep my tone friendly.

“Oh,” Feejee said. “I was just trying to make conversation.”

“I know,” I said. “But I’ve had kind of a long day, and…”

“It’s fine,” she said, a little snappishly. What was she getting irritated for?

“I don’t mean any…” I started to say, but she said, “I said it’s fine.”

Oh, well.

I heard her moving around in the water a bit after that, but other than that I might have been alone. I felt like I had a lot of things I should have been thinking about… but I couldn’t bring myself to think of anything, and it felt good. Was that what a teddy bear felt like, I wondered idly. The thought seemed a long time coming and a long time going, too.

A couple of times somebody came in to use the toilets or the sinks, but they passed through without saying anything. When somebody finally did speak, it shocked me out of a listless sort of reverie I’d fallen into, in which state it seemed like I could feel the water around me in the same way that I felt out the elemental water within my sample of earth.

“Hey, Feej!” the voice–which I recognized but couldn’t identify–called.

“Hey, Trina,” Feejee replied, and the voice fell into place, my mind assigning it the image of a girl with a large extra eye in the middle of her forehead.

“Party on the boys’ side later,” Trina said. “Thirsty Thursday. You in?”

“Who’s going?”

“Me, Sar and Tar… and maybe Twyla if they can’t ditch her, Gladys and a bunch from her floor,” Trina said. “It’s supposed to be BYOB, but you know we can score free drinks.”

“You, maybe,” Feejee said. “I suppose for me it’ll depend on if Rick comes or not. Anyway, I don’t mind providing my own… it’s not like I can’t afford it.”

“Yeah, I guess not,” Trina said. “Hey, did you get one of those weird letters shoved under your door?”

“Um… no,” Feejee said. “Not that I know of.”

“Really?” Trina asked. “There was one for both me and Amaranth, so I figured everybody…. oh, Khersis fucking Dei… you don’t think that means it likes me?”

“What are you talking about?” Feejee asked, sounding utterly perplexed. I was, too. When she’d said “weird letters”, I’d assumed that she was talking about my campaign letter… but this didn’t sound like that.

“That demon thing put this letter under my door,” Trina said. “Saying how we should all vote for it, and there’s this whole big ‘You don’t know me’ thing at the beginning… I couldn’t decide if that was scary or sad. I didn’t think I was even going to bother voting but now I will just to make sure Suzi wins.”

“I’m pretty sure the one who’s running is called ‘Sooni’,” Feejee said. “And yeah, I did get that letter… but I don’t think it’s as bad as you’re making it sound.”

“You’re not actually thinking of voting for it?” Trina asked aghast.

“Dunno,” Feejee said, and I heard a sound which I visualized as a flick of her tail, slapping the water. My mind translated that as a shrug.

“You can’t!” Trina protested. “I would just die if that thing was representing my floor.”

“You know, maybe I’ll see you at the party,” Feejee said, rather abruptly. It had the sound of a dismissal. “If I’m not doing something with Rick.”

“Oh, don’t be so damned sensitive,” Trina said. “Demons aren’t people, you know. They don’t even look like people unless they eat somebody’s face. I can’t believe nobody’s arrested it yet… or destroyed it.”

“I’ll talk to you later,” Feejee said.

“Um, I’ll tell Fin you’re a maybe, then,” Trina said. “Bye, then.”

“Goodbye.”

A bit after the door closed, Feejee said, “You could have said something to her.”

“You could have, too,” I said. For that matter, Trina might have noticed the tub with a closed curtain and the piles of clothes beside it. For a girl who could focus her eyes in multiple directions, she seemed to have a bad case of tunnel vision.

“I did say something,” she said.

I had meant she could have told Trina that the person she was talking about was right behind her, on the other side of a curtain… but since she had sort of been sticking up for me, I didn’t press the point.

I heard the water sloshing as she transformed and rose out of the tub.

“I want you to know,” I heard her say as she was toweling off, “that if I don’t vote for you… and I haven’t made up my mind… it’ll be because I think you’d make a lousy leader, not because of anything else.”

“Um… thanks?” I said. Was that what they called comforting, where she was from?

“You can say that nobody really knows you, but you don’t make yourself very easy to know,” she said. There was what I must assume was a deliberate pause, and then she added, “Or like.”

“Well, what am I supposed to do?” I asked a little… just a little hotly.

“Talk to people,” she said. “Get to know them. Get out a bit. Loosen up.”

“According to popular rumor, I’m loose enough as it is,” I said.

“You should come to the party tonight,” she said.

“On the boys’ side?” I asked. “After dark?”

“See, that’s what I meant by ‘loosen up’,” she said. “Nobody cares.”

“No, thanks,” I said.

“There’s beer,” she said.

Double no thanks,” I said.

“Well,” she said on the way to the door, and I could practically hear her defeated shrug as she said it. “I tried.”

In the end it was only my promise to Two that kept me from bolting back to my room and hiding in it for the rest of the night. As it was, I ran down stairs and out to the corner store just before it closed to get myself a garden salad, and then hid in my room for the rest of the night. I ended up eating the salad with my fingers because I’d been in too much of a hurry to remember grabbing a fork.

If Trina’s reaction to my letter was typical–and I really had no reason to suspect her attitude was an isolated case–then I’d probably erred disastrously by writing it in the first place… it would have been better to just let my campaign quietly die.

By the time Amaranth came back from her Mechan meeting at a rather late hour, I’d managed to convince myself that a crushing defeat would be the least of my humiliation on Friday, and I ended up crying in her arms for a good ten minutes before she gave me a very light, very tender spanking and told me how happy Steff had been at the circle.

Well, that was something to look forward to, I told myself… after I failed to win the senate seat, I’d have more time for my friends, my relationship with Amaranth, and my growing relationships with Steff and Ian.

Three relationships, with people of three different genders.

Was it any wonder people thought I was weird?

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5 Responses to “110: All Wet”

  1. pedestrian says:

    Our Mack -she is going for the trifecta.

    Current score: 2
  2. MackSffrs says:

    “…I’d made up my mind to have a serious talk about sex with Two…”
    This is also called “disseminating harmfully false information.”

    Current score: 3
  3. Hoopla says:

    Have I mentioned how much I adore Two? Well, it’s worth repeating. And is it just me, or are Feejee and Ian the only people whos attitudes toward Mackenzie fall within the bounds of what is relatively normal? Everyone else seems either WAY to accepting of how messed up she is or unjustifiably vicious and predjudiced towards her.

    Current score: 0
  4. capybroa says:

    I’m sorry, but if Mack somehow ends up winning this election I will have serious trouble suspending my disbelief. It is physically painful to watch her utterly fail at even the most basic of social interactions, over and over again. I realize that she’s only a week or two into the school year, but at this rate I’d be surprised if she survives the year, especially since there seem to be quite a few people around who bear her some measure of ill will.

    Current score: 0
    • Anon says:

      Eh, she’s got the eight at the dinner party definitely on her side, so that’s almost a third of the floor. Once you factor in how many people are likely to not bother voting, and how many would be voting against Sooni more than anything else, it’s well within reason.

      If literally anyone other than the two of them had run, Mack would have no chance whatsoever. Celia, Honey, Belinda, Twyla, Feejee, Dee… hell, Two would have a better chance in the election than Mackenzie. But against Sooni she’s a strong contender.

      Okay, she also could beat Puddy.

      Current score: 1