Chapter 237: Reckoning With Glory

on August 13, 2014 in Volume 2 Book 7: Courtly Manners, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Mackenzie Is Told In No Uncertain Terms She Will Not Be Taking Glory Out

While I did think about what Nicki had said, ultimately I went to Oberrad to ask for Glory instead of seeking out Amaranth. I was still glad for Nicki’s advice, and would definitely make a point of talking to Amaranth as soon as possible after figuring out whatever could be figured out with Glory, but it was mostly a matter of logistics.

I wanted… needed… to do something right that moment, while I was still feeling confident and clear-headed about it. Amaranth had her own class schedule, completely separate from mine. Glory did, too, but hers was a lot more sparsely populated, and during the times that she wasn’t in class, she was far more likely to be found in one place than Amaranth. I couldn’t know for certain that Glory would be home, but I knew she had no appointments and no class, and that made it extremely likely.

When Glory answered the door herself, I only just barely managed to avoid calling her by her sister’s name. She was wearing a more elaborate dress than I’d ever seen Grace wearing and much more silvery jewelry, but I only took that in after my brain had mentally assigned the correct identity, and I realized that the reason I’d recognized her wasn’t because of what she was wearing, but because of her scent.

Elves don’t have a lot of scent, which meant that Grace had a tendency to smell like Nicki. Glory, in that moment, smelled ever so faintly like me.

“I was concerned when you didn’t show up for lunch,” she said.

“I’ve been eating in the union,” I said.

“So I have gathered,” she said. “I take it things did not go well with your lovers?”

“With Ian,” I said. “I haven’t even talked to Steff… I can’t imagine she’ll take it worse than he did, but she could take it a lot better and still be more than I can handle on top of what I’ve already got.”

“Why don’t you come inside?” she said. “Assuming you’re allowed to be alone with me.”

“Right now, I think I’m allowed to do anything, as far as Ian’s concerned,” I said.

“That sounds promising, but I have a feeling it isn’t,” she said. “Though I suppose it promises something, either way… well, come on in.”

“Okay, but let’s skip the bedroom,” I said.

“I’ll pretend I somehow didn’t hear you suggesting it would be your decision to go there,” she said, gliding away. “I will receive you in the library. Close the door behind you.”

She didn’t wait for me to catch up. I couldn’t have kept up with her unless I’d gone bounding down the hall as fast as my legs could carry me… and probably not then… but I knew where she was going. When I got there, she’d taken her lead time to get composed and settle into a big wingback arm chair that framed her like a throne. It was positioned so that there was no chair opposite it.

If she had been Amaranth, I would have sat down on the floor, but she was Glory and she was a queen, and so I stood.

“Please be direct,” she said. “Are you here to end my association with you?”

“No, I’m here to… figure some things out,” I said. “I just need to talk to somebody for a bit.”

“I see,” she said. “Why do I have the feeling that you chose me not for who I am, but because of everyone I’m not?”

“I chose you because of both those things,” I said. “Because you know me, but you have a different perspective on me than anyone that I know… and because you’re at the heart of everything I have to figure out.”

“The heart? Mackenzie, I’m touched, but I think you’re leaping towards the conclusion,” she said. “That was a joke, by the way.”

“Heh,” I said.

“You needn’t force laughter on my account. I realize it wasn’t a great jest.”

“No, it’s just… you always call me Mackenzie,” I said.

“Yes,” she said. “Except when I call you Mackenzie Blaise, or maybe inclusive of those times. I know your friends all call you Mack, but I’m… less fond of that. Nothing against you, of course… I just find your full name more… euphonious, somehow.”

“I don’t think I would have picked that word, but it’s definitely less grating,” I said. “The thing is, I wouldn’t have picked the name Mack for myself. In fact, I didn’t… it was pushed on me, and at first I just didn’t want to fight it, and then I got used to it. And… and I think it was useful, in a way, to be able to be Mack for a while. I’d been Mackenzie for so long that it was hard for me to think about what that even meant. Does that make any sense?”

“You had to become someone else in order to grow,” Glory said.

“Kind of?” I said. “The thing is, I don’t think I ever really was the person I thought I was when I came here… yeah, I’ve grown, yeah, I’ve changed, but I’ve also just learned things about myself… or at least thrown out a lot of bullshit I was saddled with.”

“Self-knowledge is a rare and precious commodity,” Glory said. “Who possesses it as an eighteen-year-old?”

“I’m not saying I even have it now,” I said. “The problem is, I’m not sure how much of what I replaced my old bullshit with is just more bullshit… how much is really me, and how much is just stuff I went along with because it was easier, or expected of me, or… exciting.”

“I see your concern,” she said. “But I would suspect that the things that excite you and the ways you go along with them are you.”

“It’s funny… that’s pretty much what Ian thinks,” I said. “He’s decided we should take a break from each other until we’ve both got our heads on straight. Anyway, I don’t totally buy that way of thinking, but they say character is what you do in the dark. If that’s true, then I guess what I did is pretty revealing, isn’t it?”

“I don’t recall you doing anything.”

“I’m sorry, my queen,” I said, throwing her the title to make amends for my slip of tongue. “What I went along with. The point is that it says something about me, and what it says… along with other things… gives Ian doubt that I actually want to be with him. And I keep thinking, what if he’s right? What if… what if I’m only with Ian because there’s part of me that is still hung up on the whole boy-girl thing?”

“What… boy-girl thing?” she asked.

“The whole, girls grow up and marry boys things,” I said. “With or without the whole man-pursues-woman, floral dresses and cozy kitchens and… whatever is supposed to still go along with that in this day and age. You know, your basic heteronormativity thing.”

“Oh,right,” Glory said. “That whole thing. It’s very… human?”

“Right, and it’s what I grew up with,” I said. “Even when I was sure it wasn’t for me, it was… something that was denied to me. Like, the fact that I could never have it was part of being a demon. So, maybe there’s a part of me that still just sees it as something that’s essentially human, something that’s supposed to happen, and maybe I only want it because of that.”

“It’s as plausible explanation as any for why so many humans end up committing their lives to individual mixed-sex relationships before they’re barely out of their teens,” Glory said.

“…I was talking more specifically about me in particular, but I think there’s some societal stuff there, yeah,” I said. “But the other side is, what if that’s what I really want, and everything else is just… acting out?”

Glory laughed.

“I’m serious,” I said.

“Mackenzie Blaise, rebel without rebellion,” she said.

“Okay, not acting out like rebelliousness,” I said. “Maybe ‘acting out’ was the wrong phrase… but what if I just ended up clinging to all the kinky S&M shit and sex with girls and… well, sex in general… because of the other stuff I internalized, because on some level I think that it’s what I’m supposed to do, or… or… because I feel like I’m not good enough for the picket fence fantasy and this is what I have to settle for in order to have anything close to love?”

Glory slapped me.

I didn’t see it coming, because she was incredibly still while she did it. Her face didn’t change, not a strand of her moved, her body didn’t change position in the slightest. One arm just moved with an independent grace of its own and backhanded me across the face.

“Ow, what was that for?” I asked.

“In a moment, you will thank me,” she said. “Imagine that Amaranth were standing in front of you, and you told her that you suspected that you were only settling for her because you don’t think you’re good enough for real love. Can you imagine what she would say in response?”

“No… are you kidding? I can’t imagine saying that to her,” I said.

“Then I think we can dispense with it as nonsense,” she said.

“Oh… thank you,” I said.

“I told you.”

“You did,” I admitted. “Okay… so… I guess we can rule out the idea that I’m not actually into girls at all. That doesn’t tell me anything about whether or why I might be hanging onto the idea of Ian…”

“May I point out something obvious?” Glory asked.

“If it’s obvious to you, go ahead,” I said. “I told you I wanted your perspective.”

“You said that I was at the heart of all this, but you’re still not talking about how you feel about me,” she said. “While I’d hate to give you the impression that I’m self-centered, I did think that was sort of the point?”

“…the whole thing is sort of the point?” I said. “I mean… the whole point of this stupid break is for us to figure out what we even want, including with each other. I just… you’re kind of my blind spot, I guess.”

“That may be the nicest thing anyone has ever said about me,” she said. “Well, the nicest sincere thing anyone has ever said about me.”

“I guess the short version is… there isn’t going to be a short version,” I said. “It’s going to take me a while to figure all of this out.”

“I see. And in the meantime?”

“In the meantime, I guess I’ll be pissy and emo about stuff again for a while,” I said.

“What I really meant was, what about me… that is, whether you intended to break from me during the interval that you’re on a break with Ian… but you make a good case for not seeing that as a loss, exactly.”

“I… actually, I didn’t come here with a specific plan about that,” I said. “But the more we talk about it…”

“Yes?”

“Well, the thing is… this might be the worst thing for me and Ian, but I think it might be the best thing for me,” I said. “And I hate to embrace that, because it feels like giving up on him, but I think this is the kind of thing he meant when he said we need to figure out what we want, and anyway I have to know.”

“Believe me, there are things I’m impatient to know, too,” Glory said, making a wrap-it-up gesture.

“Sorry about the preamble,” I said. “The point is that I think maybe the only way I can figure out what’s real in my life is to step away from it for a while, and the best way to figure out how I feel about you is… well, it’s like you showed me with Amaranth. When it’s all abstract, I can convince myself that maybe it’s all in my head, but as soon as you put those abstract ideas in context with her…”

“You’re saying, you would like to spend more time with me,” she said. “And not taking down shopping lists and reminding me of appointments.”

“Yeah,” I said. “That’s… that’s what I was getting at.”

“What do you have in mind, exactly? And don’t tell me that you don’t have anything in mind exactly… people so rarely do when they start talking. If you’re here to work it out, work it out.”

“Sometimes saying that I don’t know is just how I get my thoughts in order while I’m working it out,” I said. “But… I guess… I mean, you could invite me to spend the night some more, or we could… there could be activities…”

“You would like me to date you,” Glory said.

“I… think I’d like it if you tried that,” I said.

“I’m getting the feeling that you do not mean for me to assume as serious a position as any of your lovers,” she said.

“Well, I mean, I’d still like it if you took it slow,” I said. “But… I just… I think we need to be explicit about taking the next step, instead of just sort of… sliding into it, or past it. I just know we can’t just keep hovering where we are and try to figure out if we want to move on.”

“Obviously this is something that would require a great deal of thought on my part before I could possibly say yes,” she said.

“Well, yeah, obviously, yeah,” I said.

“Mackenzie Blaise?”

“Yeah?”

“I have been thinking about this for months,” she said. “Since before you knew me, since before I dreamed it was possible. Yes.”

“You’re sure?”

“I expected you to be flattered,” she said. “If you make me repeat myself, I will slap you.”

“I could kiss you,” I said.

“Could you? Can you?”

“I… probably,” I said.

“Come back to me when that is a definitely, and I will kiss you,” she said. “And just to be clear…”

“You will be asking me out,” I said.

“Correct. I will be taking you out, you will not be taking me out. I’m still myself,” she said. “Still an elf, still the queen. And even if I am one day not a queen yet still a student… well, there are things that our way makes more complicated, and things that it makes simple. I enjoy the elegant simplicity of a unilateral relationship.”

“Okay,” I said. “I’m all for clearly defined roles. But, uh… that’s going to make this next bit awkward.”

“Shall I simply take it as stipulated that you are not about to ask me on a date?” Glory suggested.

“That… works,” I said. “The thing is, Nicki has been feeling lonely and left out these past couple days, and so I’ve been trying to talk her into having dinner with me in the union tonight. I think she’s just about convinced, but it only takes her a moment of doubt to unconvince herself that she’ll be welcome, and I can’t be with her for every moment. I told her that Grace would be welcome, too, and I think she’d be more likely to actually come if Grace does.”

“You wish for me to tell Grace to bring Nicki to the union dining hall,” Glory said. “I fail to see how I could have mistaken that for a date… oh. You wish for me to bring my sister and her girlfriend to the union, so the four of us can eat together.”

“That’s what I was thinking, yeah,” I said.

“Is this at all contingent on how your conversation with Amaranth goes?” she asked.

“I don’t think so,” I said. “I mean, it’s not a date.”

“Then it’s a… confirmed appointment, Mackenzie Blaise.”

“Great! Then, I will see you tonight.”

“You will see me sooner,” she said. “If you have clearance to be kissed, I don’t want to have to wait until I’m not on a date with you to do it. That seems confusing, and I am impatient.”

“It’s going to be really tight to track down Amaranth and have a heart-to-heart with her in what’s left of the afternoon, and then get back here” I said. “I mean, usually, I can’t count on seeing her until dinner.”

“Well, do your best,” she said. “I enjoy seeing you in tight things.”


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31 Responses to “Chapter 237: Reckoning With Glory”

  1. Order of Chaos says:

    Glory in Queen mode is a bit of a bitch. I can’t say that I like her but each to their own.
    Also Ook.

    Current score: 4
    • Anthony says:

      She’s an elf. Name one, anywhere in the series, who’s not *monumentally* screwed up in the head one way or another.

      (You know, for a series that’s supposed to have the rejection and outright defiance of racial bias and stereotyped as one of its main themes, the portrayal of elves both Faint and Dark (and otherwise, but Mercy’s kind of a special case anyway) is really not helping much…)

      Current score: 4
      • zeel says:

        One thing to point out is that so much of how we act is cultural. I would expect that for fantastic races as well. Mackenzie is not a racial stereotype of humanity or demon(ic, ness?) because she was raised with human ideals and a clear understanding that she was not one. So she filters the world through her human cultural filter, but fails to live up to her own cultural standards.

        Glory is an Elf, raised by Elves, and in Elvin culture. Most Elves in the story so far have also been raised in a similar way. They conform more to stereotypes not because they are Elves, but because that is how they were raised.

        An Elf raised by humans would act very strangely to other Elves, and would fail to exhibit most Elvin stereotypes.

        The point is that people don’t conform to stereotypes because of what they are. They do it because they were raised to act that way. There are individuals that will act against the norm, but they are the exceptions.

        Current score: 15
      • LukeLicens says:

        I would ask you to name any single person in the series who’s not ‘monumentally’ screwed up. I find it refreshing that even ‘perfect’ people have a whole submarine full of crazy lurking just below the surface. I also like that pretty much everyone manages to be functional despite the big bag of crazy they haul around. That’s what makes the characters feel so real.

        Current score: 5
        • Brenda A. says:

          Teddi.

          Current score: 1
          • Barnowl says:

            We actually don’t know Teddi that well.

            Current score: 1
          • zeel says:

            Possibly, but we don’t know enough about her character to really make that call. And considering her position as the de facto mental healer for non humans there is probably some interesting things going on in her mind. Wouldn’t mind seeing an OT about her.

            Current score: 1
          • Mist42nz says:

            Teddi is a psych doc, they’re usually pretty screwed up. Hence the profession, it tends to lead itself to a narcistic bent.

            Current score: 0
    • Daemion says:

      Some people happen to think that “a bit of a bitch” is pretty hot. Mack at least seems to be very attracted to Glory.

      Current score: 2
      • spess imvader says:

        Me, for a start. I’m completely in love with Glory and wish I could become her slave, so she could boss me around, use me for her pleasure, reward me by letting me kiss the soles of her boots, and finally sell me to Mercy when she is tired of me, providing the human meat industry with fresh material.

        Current score: 0
    • Mack says:

      I like how sincere she is.

      Current score: 1
  2. Zathras IX says:

    Self-knowledge is a rare
    And precious commodity
    That’s in short supply

    Current score: 7
    • Dani says:

      What’s an example of a rare commodity that’s not in short supply?

      Current score: 1
      • The Over Caffinated Squad says:

        Shortness of supply is measured against the demand, not the absolute abundance. Something can be extremely rare, but generally undesired.

        Current score: 1
      • Potatohead says:

        Steak?

        Current score: 7
        • OhPun says:

          Depends on how you cook it. I like my steak like this story, well done.

          Current score: 2
  3. pedestrian says:

    Anthony, you make a good set of points.

    However, in my opinion. Alexandra’s position seems to be.

    That each of us have to confront not just our own bigotries and prejudices.

    We also have to be willing to confront such expressions of fear and hate when others around us
    are expressing their bias.

    Current score: 4
  4. tijay says:

    I really don’t like Grace, and I don’t like the idea of Mackenzie throwing away her relationship with Ian for a relationship with Grace

    Also oook

    Current score: 4
    • Miz*G says:

      I would hope Mackenzie won’t be in a relationship with Grace at all. I do love Glory though. As a character and as a potential love interest.

      Current score: 4
      • Mist42nz says:

        Not finding Glory interesting at all. I already read the Iason storyline in More Tales. This storyline is coming out the same shape.

        Current score: 0
        • Q says:

          except she doesn’t seem to be a dick and mack while….imo often enough unlikable in some ways is far from being the douche that was more tales’s pov

          Current score: 0
  5. Readaholic says:

    Ah, well. Drama must happen.

    Current score: 2
  6. scifi_chic says:

    “Oh,right,” – needs a space.

    “as plausible explanation” – as plausible an explanation?

    Current score: 0
  7. not her, the other girl says:

    Mackenzie hasn’t even talked to Steff yet and she’s deciding to move forward with Glory? Seriously? (This is rhetorical, I definitely believe Mack would do this, but it still makes me want to shake her.) “I haven’t even talked to Steff… I can’t imagine she’ll take it worse than he did…” Weren’t we just saying that Nicki was showing a lack of imagination last chapter? Now it’s Mack’s turn. Mack has been ignoring Ian’s needs lately, looks like she’s going to stay on that theme and ignore Steff’s well known elf-baggage.

    Hopefully she’s on top of her school work cause she’s going to need something going well in her life over the next few weeks, and her personal life is not going to be it.

    Current score: 6
    • Barnowl says:

      You know, I never got the impression that Steff was sexually exclusive to this poly-relationship with Mackenzie, Amaranth, and Ian. When it started, she was involved with Victor. When she was with him, she was allowed to have other lovers occasionally, if I remember correctly. And now, I’m not clear on quite what happened with that, but I can’t imagine, if, for example, she had a chance with her impossible long-term crush, Coach Callaghan, she wouldn’t go for it.

      I’m actually surprised sexual exclusivity has suddenly become such a big deal in this relationship, but I feel like the only person it is really important to is Ian. And if he had his druthers, he’d rather be in a monogamous, exclusive relationship with Mackenzie. The current situation was already a compromise; that’s why Glory was the last straw for him.

      Current score: 4
      • Lyssa says:

        I don’t think it’s a matter of exclusivity at all. It’s a matter of taking her lovers’ feelings into consideration, which she has not done and continues to fail to do. Amaranth pointed out to her before she went to talk to Ian that Steff was likely uncomfortable with Glory because she feels inferior to full-blooded elves in some ways. Mackenzie has decided (subconsciously or otherwise) that she’d rather spend time talking to Glory and figuring out what she wants to do there, than reassuring a woman she claims to love, who is feeling insecure.

        Current score: 3
        • Fiona says:

          I was confused so I went back and read the chapter where they all had a conversation about Mackenzie “dating” Glory (Chapter 222). Note this was AFTER chaper 221 in which Mackenzie employs some fast talking to back off from a kiss with Glory,so she can sort things out first. In Chapter 222, neither Amaranth nor Steff raise any objections on their own behalfs. It’s all about Ian, who says he isn’t really sure how he feels about it. Mackenzie reassures him he comes way before Glory for her (just as she does in the Walk of Shame chapter) and as Ian remains iffy while apologizing for being so, eventually Mackenzie says ““Let’s say: no serious relationship”…”the last thing I need is another partner in the same way that you guys are my partners” and Ian says “I can live with that”.

          So…then what happens. Amaranth cheers on Glory and Mackenzie’s first kiss. Amaranth insist Mackenzie stay overnight at Glory’s place, although Mackenzie is uncomfortable with doing so, and Ian doesn’t really like the idea either (Steff seems ambivalent). You don’t need nymph-sense, to note the physical progression of Glory and Mackenzie’s relationship and no-one has yet said, “hey, kissing with Glory was OK, but no further hanky-panky or we’ll all be upset”. Mackenzie was supposed to be woozy from the concussion, in which case one view would be that Glory took advantage of her, but at the time I don’t think Mackenzie saw anything wrong with the development.

          Then the next morning, the horse out of the barn, Amaranth lays on the heavy guilt trip “You should have thought about Ian’s feelings!” Ian continues it “you never have time for me!” although he himself said in chapter 222 that the solution to find more interests outside their relationship.

          My conclusions? Mackenzie has bent over backwards to take her partners’ views into consideration. They have had ample opportunity to tell her that physical intimacy with Glory would be a dealbreaker for them, and have not done so until after the fact. Mackenzie has repeatedly reassured them that they come first for her. Now she’s miserable because of the guilt trip they are laying on her. (With the exception so far of Steff, whose feelings we don’t really know, but the other two have got Mackenzie afraid to find out).

          As for Glory, for her it’s all about Glory, which is typical. Nicki of all people seems to be the only one who thinks Mackenzie’s feelings matter.

          Current score: 9
          • Order of Chaos says:

            Nicki has a history (well the shopping trip) of questioning other people deciding what Mack should do. I think she’s a good thing for both Mack and the story.

            Current score: 8
          • Lyssa says:

            You and I read the same things, with different conclusions. That’s fine. 🙂 Personally, I would go and check in with the people I love first, because I would put them first and I see the two as hand-in-hand. I get that not everyone sees things that way, though.

            Current score: 4
            • Fiona says:

              Thinking further, I agree that she should be talking to Steff. Reason being, Steff’s not a person to speak out when she’s unhappy or insecure. Instead, what she’s likely to do is pull some crazy and possibly self-destructive stunt. The silence regarding Steff could be seen as rather ominous. The whole Ian issue may be a red herring.

              Current score: 4
          • Mack says:

            I’m with you on all this, thanks for laying it out. I think Mackenzie should do what she wants with her life, and I think she is trying really hard to be good to others.

            Current score: 3