171: Bed Restless

on March 6, 2008 in 06: A Period of Conflict

In Which Mackenzie Wants Lemonade, Damn It

We were in the kitchen, and a pot was on the stove. The stove was on… I could tell because it was an old-fashioned kind with actual flames beneath the burners… but it wasn’t yet boiling.

I’d woken up wet, with my grandmother standing over me. She hadn’t needed to tell me what had happened. Without a word, she’d taken me by the hand and dragged me down the hall to her cozy little kitchen, lit the stove, and put the pot on.

The moonlight angling through the windows and the flickering flame of the stovetop were the only lights. Somehow, the things they illuminated seemed ghastly and frightening in a way the darker parts of the room weren’t. I kept my eyes towards the shadows, looking at the familiar jars of herbs on the spice rack, the long knives hanging on the wall, the pots and pans on their pegs, the temple calendar. No light touched these things, and they remained untransformed.

I was cold and wet, but hopeful. I thought maybe my grandmother was finally going to make me something to eat… she hadn’t let me have any food since I’d arrived.

The strange thing was, I wasn’t that hungry. I was aware that my stomach was empty, but the gnawing hunger that had been with me my whole life was gone.

I missed food. I wanted food. I didn’t need it.

“Now, Kenzie,” my grandmother said when the contents of the pot began to bubble. Her voice was muffled and indistinct with the interference of intervening years, but the words themselves were sharp and clear. They were seared into my mind. “Do you know what holy water is?”

“Water… water that’s holy?”

She nodded.

“It’s a simple enough description, but apt,” she said. “Do you know what holy water would do to something of your kind?”

I shook my head.

“Something like what boiling oil would do to someone of mine,” she said, and she thrust her hand into the pot.

She didn’t scream. She didn’t cry out. She closed her eyes and clenched her jaw and held her hand there. I don’t know how long. Time wasn’t working right. It had been like that the first time, in real life, and it was even worse in my dream.

“Grandma, no!” I cried.

I called her “grandma” back then. I was frightened and confused by the changes in my life, but she was still the comfortingly familiar shape that had loomed over me at irregular intervals throughout my childhood. Visits to “Gan’ma” had been a special treat when I’d been little, and when she and my mother fell out over something my mother had refused to tell me about, those increasingly rare visits had become all the more important.

Now, she was hurting herself in front of me, and I didn’t know why.

She pulled her hand out of the oil and thrust it in my face, talking calmly while I screamed my head off.

“From now on, there will be a bucket of holy water by your bed at all times,” she said, waving the mangled limb in front of me. “If you have one accident, I will douse you and put out the fire. If you have another accident, I will douse you and put out the fire. If you have a third accident in the same night, it will be the last one. Do you understand me, child?”

She did not get a clear answer out of me that night, but she repeated the message and the question in the morning. She repeated it again before I went to bed.

I didn’t go to sleep that night. It was easy. I was keyed up with fear. The next night was harder. I was still frightened, but I was exhausted, too. The fear won out in the end, and I stayed awake until morning.

When my grandmother caught me nodding off during the day, she called me willful. There was no question of making it through another night without sleep. I passed out as soon as I climbed onto the bare mattress, and slept deeper than I ever had before.

That was the third night without any accidents, and my grandmother let me have my blankets after that.

I didn’t dream about all of that, though. My dream stopped when my grandmother shoved her hand… burnt, blistered, and bloody… into my face.

I don’t mean it ended. I mean it stopped, frozen on that image. Seconds replayed. The hand came closer, then came closer again, then came closer again. It never moved back. It was simply thrust into my face again and again, forever.

Angles changed. Sometimes I could see my grandmother’s face, the look of grim resolve. Sometimes I could see my own. Sometimes it was just the hand.

I think the dream stopped there because that was usually the part where I woke up. That was the fun thing about being stuck in an enchanted sleep for eight hours, or until somebody kissed me.

There was no escape clause for nightmares.

I just had to ride it out, sometimes more aware that it was just a dream, that the event I was witnessing was nine years in the past and I never had to see my grandmother again… and sometimes less.

“Good morning, sleepyhead,” Lynette, the healer, said… her voice was the first clue I had that I was awake. The image of my grandmother’s hand still hung in the air in front of me for several seconds. I gasped and tried to stir myself to brush it away, the way you wave away an image in a mirror. “Oh! Are you alright?”

“Bad… bad dream,” I said. My throat felt dry. My head hurt and I was cramping again… or still… and the dream was still fresh and vivid in my head. “My grandmother… hurt.”

“Do you want a mirror?” Lynette asked. “So you can talk to her?”

I shook my head.

“No!” I said fiercely. “I want to forget her.”

“Well, I can’t help you there,” she said. “How about a glass of water? Sleeping potions often cause a bit of dry mouth.”

I nodded, and she got me one.

“You’re not really going to make me stay here all day, are you?” I asked after I’d finished drinking.

“Roger said you might be difficult… if there were any way to speed up your recovery, I would do so,” Lynette said. “But it would be blatantly irresponsible of me to let you out of our care before I’m certain your energy levels have normalized. Here’s some reading material.” She handed me a pamphlet. “I gather you may not have received some rather crucial information about your menstrual cycle.”

“I knew it affected things,” I said. “I didn’t realize it was so dangerous. That’s going to make it difficult to keep up in my labs if I can’t use magic at all…”

“I doubt you’ve been just ‘using magic at all’ for these past few days,” Lynette said. “The key is to try not to use any more magic than you normally would. Your body has natural barriers that protect you by preventing you from drawing too deeply on your energy reserves, but those barriers are weakened during menstruation. You have to substitute your own judgment for your body’s.”

“My body’s judgment,” I echoed darkly.

I squeezed my eyes shut. That sounded just like something my grandmother would say. Not judgment by my body… but a judgment of my body, upon my body.

In her mind, being born female was a judgment from on high… a curse, and menstruation and everything that went along with it was part of that curse.

It wasn’t that I liked to agree with her, but I could certainly understand where she was coming from.

“Miss Mackenzie, if I’d known how… inexperienced… you were about these things, I never would have been so brusque with you the other day,” she said. “But what I said is true: it is just a period, and we all have them. So long as you’re careful in how you expend your energies in the future, I can promise you’re not going to die from one.”

“You’re a divine caster, right?”


“Are you a divine caster?” I asked again.

“I don’t like the term ‘caster’,” she said. “To me, what I do isn’t ‘spells’, it’s a miraculous gift… but yes, I use divine energy for healing and protection.”

“Well, then, you don’t have to worry about burning up or bleeding yourself dry, do you?” I said. “Even though we both have periods, you don’t have to worry as much about yours.”

“You know, I’m going to go get you some more blood leaves to chew on,” she said. “We can have somebody go over and get some breakfast for you, too. There’s a fresh pad on the table, and a sponge by the sink if you want to clean up a bit.”

“Can I have some privacy for that?”

“There’s a curtain you can pull around the sink,” she said pointing to it.

“Can I have a little more privacy?”

She smiled.

“If you close the door, we won’t come in without knocking,” she said. “Unless you don’t answer.”

“Just close it behind you,” I said. “I’ll open it when I’m done.”

She nodded, then left, pulling the door closed. I felt a tiny bit better, exerting a pointless bit of authority over the administration of my prison.

My legs were a little bit wobbly, but I attributed that to having slept too deeply for too long, and in an unaccustomed position. The princess pose was not my thing, but it was another side effect of restful magic sleep.

I washed up in the sink and changed my pad. I had an uncomfortable moment when I realized somebody must have done that while I was unconscious the day before, very possibly more than once.

I tried not to think about it. I tried to make myself believe they had somehow done it magically with no actual contact or exposure. I didn’t succeed at either.

It was so humiliating. Everything about my infirmity and confinement was. Ordinary healing was such a quick and painless affair. Wounds, poisons, diseases, and broken bones could all be taken care of quickly with no loss of dignity… being mystically depleted and bleeding to death out your nether parts was apparently a different story.

I found that for once, I could push my mortification away by resenting the people who caused it. Okay, so there were some good sides to worse-than-average period symptoms. I hadn’t asked anybody to clean me up in my sleep or mess around with my private bits. It wasn’t my fault. They should be embarrassed, not me.

I also had an idea where I could start healing my pride. I never had changed before I conked out, but if I was going to spend the day in bed, my comfy shorts would beat the hell out of the flimsy robe.

Or they would have, if Two had brought them. What was hanging in the cupboard was clearly hers. At least it was opaque, but ridiculous all the same: all tassel trim and dangling pom poms, covering only the bare essentials.

I looked about a bit to see if my own clothes were anywhere in sight, then put on Two’s nightclothes underneath the robe. It made me feel less naked, anyway.

I didn’t bother opening the door when I was done. I simply settled back in bed and picked up one of Ian’s comics, waiting for Lynette to knock.

“Enter,” I said when she did. I tried to sound haughty and didn’t look up when she came in.

“Well, you’re just making yourself at home, aren’t you?” she said.

I didn’t say anything. I’d grabbed without looking, and ended up with an eastern import. Not in the mood to admit a mistake even to myself, I’d actually started reading it.

“Here are some herbs and a bit of restorative tea,” Lynette said, shifting the stack of comics to put them closer to the bed

“Don’t move my stuff,” I said. Being difficult made me feel ever-so-slightly better.

“I just want to make sure you can reach them,” she said.

“I’ve got arms and legs.”

“You’re supposed to be resting,” she said.

“Now I have to get up to reach my graphic novels.”

“Fine,” Lynette said. She picked them up and put them on the bed beside me. “Now they’re…”

“I told you not to move my stuff!” I said. I sounded about twelve years old and felt about six. That was okay with me.

“Look, if you really don’t want to be here, we can just give you a few more sleeping potions and you can sleep until you’re discharged,” she said. “Is that what you want?”

A whole day stuck asleep, at the mercy of whatever dream popped into my head? I didn’t answer, but my expression must have been enough.

“If you continue to get all aggravated, I can force you to take them,” she said. “You’re here to relax. If everything goes as it should, you’ll be out of here by Friday morning at the very latest.”

“Friday morning?” I repeated.

“At the latest,” she said. “Your friends can visit starting at eight, as long as they don’t get you excited or tire you out.” I blushed, and felt all the more embarrassed because I knew she didn’t mean anything like that. “Do you want breakfast first? Do you want a mirror?”

“Breakfast,” I said. “Waffles or pancakes, with strawberry syrup.”

“I’ll send somebody over. Anything to drink?”

“Lemonade,” I said, without thinking.


“I can have lemonade, can’t I?” I asked.

“I don’t know if the cafeteria has lemonade in the morning,” Lynette said. “Would you like orange juice if…”

“I want lemonade,” I said. I remembered Two’s lemonade, almost sickly sweet. “And extra sugar to put in it.”

“Okay, but if they don’t…”

“Then I don’t want anything,” I said. “I’ll get my friends to bring me some.”

“Okay,” Lynette said. “If that’s what you want. We’ll try to stay out of your hair, Miss Mackenzie…”

“Ms. Blaise,” I corrected, though I’d long since stopped caring what other people called me. “I have a last name, you know. I am half-human.”

“Ms. Blaise, then,” she amended.

“And why is it ‘miss’ for non-humans and ‘ms.’ for humans?” I asked. “That seems demeaning, somehow. Men are ‘mister’ no matter what their race is. Why aren’t women the same?”

“Actually, as recently as twenty years ago, it was still fairly common for non-human men to be styled ‘master’,” Lynette said. “But that was considered to be a bit diminutive.”

“And ‘miss’ isn’t?”

“Maybe it is,” Lynette said. “I’ll go get your breakfast taken care of. As I said, Ms. Blaise, we’ll try to stay out of your hair, as long as you try to relax a little. You’re not doing yourself any favors getting all wound up over little things.”

“Call me Ms. Mackenzie,” I said.

She gave me a “don’t push it” look and headed for the door.

Okay, so I was being peevish on purpose, but really… why not Ms. Mackenzie? The different forms of address for non-humans came from the reality that human-style surnames were rare in other cultures, but why did that mean we had to be titled differently? And didn’t I have a right to be addressed as I saw fit?

I persisted in reading the stupid backwards comic out of obstinance. It was a slightly-larger-than-pocket-sized digest of the first several issues of a series, with girls having weird adventures in a high school.

I think it was a high school, anyway. It seemed in some ways to be more like a university.

Lynette came in with a tray and set it down on a folding stand. She didn’t say a word. I was absorbed in reading, or else I would have remembered that I wanted to complain about having really wanted either waffles or pancakes, depending on which one she actually brought.

There was a stack of each, anyway… and lemonade.

The main plot in the comic was all about how the oh-so-stereotypical “bad girl” kept trying to mess things up for the heroine and her friends, challenging her to a bunch of pointless contests and getting competitive in class seemingly for no other reason than to get in the heroine’s way. At the end of the collection, she was utterly humiliated after being defeated—in a cooking contest of all things—and was slinking away and monologuing about dropping out of school when the heroine caught up to her and put her hand on her shoulder.

That was how it ended. I could see where the story was heading. They’d become friends and the bad girl would be integrated into the gang, though they’d always be rivals.

It was trite and it was stupid and it was clichéd and it bugged the crap out of me that I didn’t have the next part to read… though I wasn’t annoyed for long: I could hear Amaranth out in the hall. It was eight, and I had visitors.

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3 Responses to “171: Bed Restless”

  1. pedestrian says:

    Grumpy goose was a pet name I had for wife at that time of the month. Her pet names for me were pretty much unrepeatable in any company.

    Current score: 2
    • zeel says:

      I’m having a hard time imagining anything too bad to repeat here. I guess I probably don’t want to know.

      Current score: 3
  2. The Butcher says:

    Oh Soonie… subtle much.

    Current score: 1