Chapter 128: Certain UncertaintiesAlexandraErin on December 10, 2012 in Volume 2 Book 4: The Reinvention of Mackenzie Blaise, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort
In Which Amaranth Doesn’t Know Anything
I considered going to the healing center to check on Nae, but I decided against that… if she was still unconscious and being treated there would be nothing I could do and probably nothing that anyone could tell me about her. If there was nothing wrong with her that routine healing magic couldn’t fix, then she would probably be gone by the time I got there. I would have plenty of chances to check in with her over the weekend, especially since she lived in wargaming central… which meant I knew where her room was and half the suite usually had an open door.
So instead of following Pala, I decided to take the coach’s advice to the letter… she’d called my post-combat reaction almost down to the second, so it seemed to follow that she’d know what she was talking about when it came to managing it. I needed to head back to my dorm in order to get another pair of underwear anyway, so it made sense to hop into the shower while I was there.
I could hear the sink running when I opened the door to my room, along with the sound of spectacularly tuneless humming. Two had picked up some musical habits from her friend Hazel, but not even a rudimentary amount of skill to go along with it.
Well, no one could help the way they were made… golems least of all. Two’s creator hadn’t thought she’d need an ear for tonality, or possibly he hadn’t had the skills to impart to her in the first place.
“Hi, Mack!” she called through the open door.
“Hi, Two,” I said. “How did you know it was me?”
She turned off the water and came to the doorway connecting our shared bathroom to my dorm room.
“Because Amaranth would never wear your boots outside of the dorm,” she said.
“Amaranth wears my boots?” I asked. I’d only had them for a week, and I’d been “home” a lot more often than she had. I wondered when she’d found the time.
“Not that I’m aware of,” she said. “But she wouldn’t wear them outside the dorm.”
It was pretty faultless logic, actually… I’d suspected that Amaranth occasionally tried on some of my things when no one was around, although very little of what I wore would fit her. She was bigger in just about every respect than I was. She had relatively small feet, though, and I had relatively large ones. I couldn’t imagine that my shoes would be a comfortable fit… but like Two said, she wouldn’t be walking around in them.
“Good point,” I said.
“Are you skipping your class?” she asked.
“No,” I said. “It ended early today, due to equipment trouble… I was going to take a shower before dinner. Are you going to need the bathroom for much longer?”
“No, I’m done in here,” she said. “Please leave it as clean as you found it.”
“I’ll try,” I said.
I started out with a hot shower, standing under the hot water and steam until my muscles felt halfway normal again. I turned around and let the water cascade down on my aching backside… there was no actual injury there to be soothed, but the heat did something to at least mask the pain. The pain would fade soon enough, I just needed other sensations to occupy myself until it did.
I would have liked to transition from shower to bath and really soak up the heat for a while, but I knew I’d be running into dinner time before long so I wrapped things up.
Two’s admonition had made me a bit more mindful about what I was doing that might create a mess, but I didn’t really think it was possible to use the shower and leave it as clean as it was before I used it, unless I stopped to actually clean it when I was finished… but since I’d said I would try, I did that.
It seemed kind of pointless to clean the bathroom every time it was used… but it also seemed less daunting than waiting until it was actually noticeably disgusting and then cleaning the thing top to bottom.
I didn’t have to be in too much of a hurry since I knew Nicki didn’t need to be dragged along to dinner this time. She’d joined us for lunch on her own initiative. She’d also been at the Arch for breakfast, apparently, and wondered where we had been… we’d been at the student union, of course. The old dining hall’s big-and-hearty style breakfast was its sole redeeming feature… but then, it’s hard to hide the meat when you’re dishing up a plate of bacon.
I didn’t dawdle on my way back to the towers, but I didn’t rush… getting places quickly was for people with more agility than me. My clothes lasted longer when I respected my limitations, and I felt very naked under my pants. Well, I was naked under them, and conscious of that fact with every step. I couldn’t imagine the accident or mishap that could befall me on a not-more-than-gently sloping sidewalk that would expose my lack of underwear, but I had to credit the architects of fate with more imagination than I had.
I felt quite a bit more relaxed once I had addressed my downstairs situation, and while I was waiting for the lift to take me back down to the lobby I noticed a sign next to it. It had been done in the traditional media of all really important intracampus communications, posterboard and colored markers.
These ones were scented, too. though the only scent that had really lingered enough to still penetrate was the yellow bananas. It was weird to me, because I don’t think of bananas as having a particularly strong odor.
The sign reminded residents that there was a floor meeting this Friday in the main lounge, as there was every Friday in every floor of every dorm. I tended not to notice. I’d been briefly embroiled in floor politics during my freshman year, but that had been against my will. Our resident advisor had been a xenophobe and a drunk… the only girls she’d got along with were the ones who were acceptably human-looking and down to party.
The meeting was at nine… well after we’d be done with dinner. I thought it was weird to have them at a time that pretty much guaranteed only people without the stereotypical college student social life could attend them, but then I thought maybe that was part of the point: give people something to do on a Friday night… especially the people who had nothing else to do, and the people who had things they would rather not do but would if nothing else came along.
I didn’t have anything in particular planned for the evening, even if I wasn’t completely at a loose end. And hadn’t I just been thinking to myself that I hadn’t really met any new people around the dorm yet? It was something to think about. I didn’t even know my R.A. by sight… or by name, come to think of it. It had been some weird thing.
Maybe it was time to do something about that…
Or at least, maybe it would be, after dinner.
Nicki was there when I got to the Arch, along with everyone else as I was the last one. She had the veil rolled up and tied around her upper arm like a bandage. I didn’t have to ask her if she’d had any luck flagging down her secret admirer… the brittle eagerness that lit up her eyes told me she hadn’t. Amaranth was in the process of explaining the backstory on that to Dee.
“It all seems more… circumspect… than I was given to understand was normal for the faint elves,” Dee said.
“Yeah, well, we’re talking about elves who value women and femininity over men,” Steff said. “So maybe they take after your people a little. Anyway, how do you tell someone when you’re interested in them?”
“It varies according to relative rank and station,” Dee said.
“Of course it does,” Steff said.
“One of my lovers was already an intimate member of the household,” Dee said. “Which allowed me to be… more forthright than would otherwise have been decorous. Another presented his suit to me through the intermediary of my mother, the House Matriarch, and other key relatives. My other… former lover… I approached, through the Low Priestess of the chapel where we were both pledged to serve our initiations.”
“Such a lot of middlemen,” Hazel said. “So to speak. I can’t imagine consulting with a committee just to… court.”
“No?” Dee said. “Do not the young gnomes in your shire confer with no one before they make a match?”
“Oh, well, it’s normal and respectable for a bloke to ask the parents for their blessing,” Hazel said. “And it’s only sensible to run the idea past your friends, just to make sure you’re not being completely daft. But that… that’s just ordinary prudence.”
“Of course,” Dee said. “We’re just slightly more prudent than that.”
“Who’s even talking about marriage?” Steff asked. “Like, this isn’t even relationshippy stuff… it’s just how they tell each other they want to get with each other for some quick and dirty… or at least elf-dirty… fun. It can turn into an ongoing thing or lead to something deeper, but it’s not like a proposal.”
“Well, to be honest, I’m just really hoping to get some, you know… experience,” NIcki said. “I mean, it would be nice if it turns into a relationship… assuming that we get along, I mean… but I’m not really holding out for that.”
“So, kind of the opposite of Mack,” Steff said.
“What do you mean, the opposite of me?” I asked.
“You’re going on a date and seeing if it leads to sex,” she said. “Nickster’s going on a sex and seeing if it leads to date.”
“Hold on,” I said. “I haven’t said anything about that.”
“You said if he suggested something you wanted to do, you’d go for it,” Steff said.
“Yeah,” I said. “When I meet him to talk about going somewhere. If he wants to, I don’t know, go bowling and I am… for the sake of this conversation… into bowling, I’ll go bowling with him. That’s all I meant. At this point, the only thing I’ve agreed to do is meet him in the downstairs lobby and hear him out. Sex isn’t even on the table.”
“Or other convenient horizontal surface,” Steff said. “Okay, I guess I knew that you probably meant that, on some level… but hope sproings eternal.”
“…do you mean springs?” Nicki said.
“I made my choice and I stand by it,” Steff said.
“Anyway, I don’t know if I’m ‘going on a sex’,” Nicki said. “I mean, first of all, I still need someone to come forward and claim their prize, and then… like I said, I’d want to get to know them a bit first. Even if it’s going to just be sex, I need to sit down face-to-face first… and if that’s a dealbreaker for her, that’s a dealbreaker for me.”
“So, basically, what I said was wrong in every particular,” Steff said. “Let’s talk about something else.”
“How did your fighting go today, baby?” Amaranth asked.
“Uh… smashingly?” I said. “We kind of encountered technical difficulties. I didn’t win but I didn’t lose.”
“That doesn’t sound like the Jillybean I know,” Steff said.
“I hope she never sounds like the Jillybean you know when I’m around,” I said. “But the fight was called early on account of a broken mockbox, so there wasn’t really anything to be done. I won’t know until Monday what the score is. It’s… kind of a mess, but I think I impressed her, so I’m mostly hopeful, overall.”
“Waiting and hoping,” Nicki said, looking at the flimsy cloth wrapped around her arm. “I know the feeling.”
“Oh, sweetie,” Amaranth said. “You know what they say about a watched pot… it’ll probably happen when you’re not expecting it.”
“I already did that part, though,” Nicki said. “That was yesterday, when someone shoved this thing in my hand… can’t we just move on from this?”
“I’m afraid I don’t know what to tell you,” Amaranth said. “But imagine someone in the position of your admirer… if she had to work up the courage to even slip you her things in the first place, it might well take her a few days to come forward. She might even be avoiding this place right now, so she doesn’t have to face the possibility of rejection. Anyway, didn’t you just say you wanted to go slow?”
“Sure, once I have someone to go slow with,” Nicki said. “Until then it’s more like going nowhere fast. Mackenzie will probably have her first date with what’s his name before I even know whose veil I’m wearing.”
“On the positive side, if she doesn’t leave it off quite that long you could always double-date,” Hazel said.
“Oh, no,” I said. “I think a night out with Jamie Bowman’s going to be enough of a cartwreck without an audience. And I really hope Nicki’s new friend doesn’t leave her hanging until halfway through next week… that just seems cruel.”
“I’m sure she won’t,” Amaranth said. “If anything, she was probably just waiting for the weekend to make her move.”
“But it’s the weekend now,” Nicki said.
“And it will be tomorrow and Sunday, too,” Amaranth said. “Relax… this is probably just as hard for her as it is for you.”
“Wait… do you know something?” Nicki asked.
“Oh, there’s a loaded question,” Hazel said.
“I mean, has she… has anyone… approached you?”
“Oh, no,” Amaranth said. “I’m just making my best guess, really… you know, trying to be charitable and understanding about how a person might well feel, in this situation.”
“She’s telling the truth,” Steff said. “Amy’s not really much of a plotter… I mean, she could keep a secret, but she’d let you know she was keeping a secret.”
“I swear I don’t know anything more about the situation than you do,” Amaranth said. “If anybody had come to me, I would have encouraged them to approach you openly, since I don’t see any downside for anybody in that scenario.”
“Okay,” Nicki said, slightly mollified. “Sorry to jump to conclusions… but not knowing is driving me batty, you know? I mean, she knows who I am… I only know that she’s out there.”
“Or to look at it another way,” Amaranth said, “she’s sure she likes you, but she has no clue how you’ll react when you see her. So you both have that much uncertainty to deal with.”
“I guess you’re right,” Nicki said. “I probably shouldn’t judge… if I knew who she was and it was up to me to come forward and talk to her, I’d probably be taking my sweet time, too. I guess I can give her until Sunday and then… I don’t know. I feel like I’ll have to do something if the weekend comes and goes with nothing happening, I just don’t have any clue what it’ll be.”
“If you can wait that long, I’ll help you,” Amaranth said.
“How?” Nicki asked.
“I… really don’t know, either,” Amaranth said. “But we have a couple of days to figure it out.”