349: Making Plans

on February 9, 2009 in Book 13

In Which Mackenzie Is Quizzed On Her Preferences

I was hoping that Amaranth could confirm for me that Viktor would be out of the dorm or that Steff was up and about when I found her in our hallway, but unfortunately her news was pretty much the exact opposite of that… they were curling up together for some alone time.

“Don’t make faces, baby… I think we could use some time to ourselves, ourselves,” Amaranth said when she saw my response, and she giggled. It wasn’t until I saw this display of her usual girlish energy that I realized how tired she looked, and realized she’d been sort of drawn and fatigued all day. It hadn’t been so apparent because she’d been in stern, take-charge mode, but it had been there: weariness, as much emotional as physical. It was worrying. “How would you feel about having dinner on the town?” she asked, and I was able to forget about it a little.

“Do we really have money for that?” I asked, though I was excited by the idea all the same. Eating out was still a big treat to me, and once we were out of the halls and into a coach… assuming we had one to ourselves… I could tell her about the things she needed to know about, like the mermaids’ half-baked plans.

“I don’t mean to make a whole big production,” she said. “It can be fast food, or a little diner, or something… I kind of wanted to go into town with you, anyway. When we went to town to get you ready for the dance, which did you like better… the leather store or the clothing one?”

“You mean the underground one?” I asked.

It was a tough question, because the guy in the leather store where we got my paddle had skeeved me out quite a bit more than Caron, the dwarven woman in the store where Steff had picked out my skirt, had… but I certainly loved the paddle, and had got more use out of it than the clothing.

“Yes,” Amaranth said. “That’s the one. I don’t remember the name… it was written in dwarvish.”

“Uh… why do you ask?” I asked.

“Well, for one thing, there’s another dance to get ready for,” Amaranth said, and she giggled. “And… I kind of want to get something for you.”

“I thought maybe I’d try to put together a cheap costume from what I’ve got,” I said. In all honesty, the outfit Steff and Amaranth had put together for the first dance almost felt enough like a costume on its own. “Maybe with some stuff from a thrift store, or the Walled Market.”

“Okay… but you’ll still have to go to town for that, and the thing I’m thinking about isn’t really just for the dance,” she said. “So, which did you like better?”

“If it’s something you can get both at the leather store and at the little boutique, couldn’t we probably also get something like it at the Walled Market?” I asked.

“I don’t think so… maybe in the pet… well, no, that wouldn’t be quite the same,” she said. “Though that does give me some interesting… ah… um… anyway.” She shook herself. “This is something I wasn’t planning on getting until a bit later, but… I want to have the chance to give it to you now, in case… well… you know. So, which would you rather go to? I mean, if we don’t find anything suitable at one we can try the other, but then we’ll be past the point of surprise, so I’d rather start with your favorite, if you have one.”

“You know, not everything has to be a surprise,” I said. “Some things in particular probably shouldn’t be surprises.”

“The strap worked out okay, didn’t it?” Amaranth said, reaching out and stroking it where it hung by my leg. “And so did Two’s party. I think you should trust my instincts. I feel like I know you fairly well… at least, in terms of how you’ll respond to things.”

I sighed.

“Okay… well… going on the assumption that the exact same people would be working there, definitely the clothing place,” I said. “And even not assuming that, the clothing place.”

I didn’t know exactly what she had in mind, but it had seemed less fetishy than the leather place… maybe about fifty percent kink and fifty percent stuff that regular people might use or wear.

“Oh, I’m pretty sure Caron will be at the boutique, if you were hoping to see her again,” Amaranth said. “If I understood Steff correctly, she owns the place, and dwarven shopkeepers tend to live on premises.”

“Can you just tell me what you want to buy?” I asked.

“We’ll do it like we did your paddle,” Amaranth said. “You don’t have to agree before you know what it is… just promise to keep an open mind and I promise to let it go if you don’t want it, okay?”

“Okay,” I said. “But… I don’t want to go back to the leather store.” I put my hand on the paddle. “I think we got the only thing I’d possibly want or need from there.”

“But would you have ever imagined that you’d need that, before you experienced it?” Amaranth asked. “I mean, I’m not arguing that we should go tonight, but I don’t think you should rule it out… what if we wanted to try a flogger some time?”

“Why would we when we have the paddle?” I asked. “He said it was the heaviest thing they had without enchantment.”

“It would be a different experience,” Amaranth said. “Variety’s good. But… well, I guess maybe I’m planning too far ahead. If you don’t want to for now, that’s fine. There’s no point in arguing over it.” Her face fell, and her eyes lost their shine. “Did you have anything in mind for a costume, baby?”

“Um… nothing concrete,” I said, a little surprised that Amaranth had dropped it so quickly. I couldn’t be happy about it, though, because it was just another case of her pessimism… or maybe even fatalism… about our chances at a long-term relationship.

I couldn’t blame her, considering… but we couldn’t do anything about that. I was trying to do my best to enjoy whatever time we had, which would have been easier if she didn’t keep reminding me of it and then shutting down.

But, then… she was clearly trying to do the same thing.

“I suppose we can look around at Caron’s, and if we don’t get any ideas, we can always go to the Walled Market,” she said. “Or we could poke around the bazaar. Everybody should have Veil stuff on display, I’d think. That’s assuming you really don’t want to go to the leather store… not to push, but I know I could come up with a cute costume for you with some of the stuff we looked at last time.”

Her eyes lit back up when she said this, and it would almost have been worth it to tell her that sure, we could go if that was what she wanted… but the only thing remotely costume-like that had caught her eye on our first visit was a butt plug that looked like a horse’s tail. I didn’t doubt they’d have a saddle and muzzle and other horsey things.

It wasn’t that I was opposed to a costume that somehow affirmed my relationship with Amaranth… actually, thinking about it in those terms was kind of exciting… but I wasn’t about to show up almost naked except for a bunch of pony gear with her on my back. “Costume” or not, that was too much like playing in public for my tastes.

Besides, Sooni might be pissed that I did animal dress up fun times with Amaranth and not her.

I resolved to be open to less extreme suggestions, though… and if Amaranth wanted something that I felt was over a line, maybe I could bring her back a little closer to it. Maybe not horse and rider… because seriously, even ignoring Amaranth’s particular forbidden fetish the imagery there kind of went beyond “willfully obedient submissive” and into much iffier territory… but we could come up with something.

Guard and rogue… teacher and student… something.

“That sounds good,” I said, realizing she was waiting expectantly for my response. “Caron’s and then the Walled Market. But I think we should really look at whatever Caron’s got… if we don’t have to go to another store, we won’t be out so late.”

“That’s good thinking, baby,” Amaranth said. “After all, it is a school night.”

“Don’t remind me,” I said. “Tomorrow’s mixed melee.”

“Oh, baby, you still haven’t found your footing there yet?”

“It’s hard to find my footing when someone keeps knocking me off my feet,” I said.

“Well… that’s not likely to stop,” she said. “And that’s kind of the point of it all. People are always going to want to knock you down. I don’t like it… I really wish you could ignore it… but you can’t.” She sighs. “I could. I can. It really doesn’t matter what anybody does to me…”

“It does,” I said, but she reached out and shushed me before I could protest further, tell her that it mattered to me if she suffered or was treated badly.

“It doesn’t,” she said. “Because when they’re done I’m only inconvenienced. And if I was ever… completely undone… I know there’s nothing bad waiting for me, at least. I don’t want to believe there is for you, either, but… well… I’d rather you don’t have to find out either way, for a long time.”

“I don’t want to have to find out what hell is like, either,” I said when she dropped her finger. She started to raise it again. I held up my hands. “Okay. I don’t want to find out what happens, wherever I go… but the longer I live, the more likely it becomes that I’m going to do something awful, doesn’t it?”

“I don’t think that’s true at all,” Amaranth said. “I think the half-demons who do ‘something awful’ are the ones who don’t live long in the first place. If you can go one decade from your… maturing… without doing something like that, then you can go another, and then another… and before you know it, it’s a century. And if you can go a century, why not two?”

“You never hear about a two hundred year old half-demon, though,” I said.

“Well, I think that proves my point,” Amaranth said. She sighed. “Anyway, we’re both agreed on getting back early, so let’s save the discussion of your classes and just get going.” She pointed her thumb at my door. “Do you need anything from our room?”

“No, but I’d like to dump my books,” I said. “And I should leave Two a note.”

“Oh, she knows,” Amaranth said. “I didn’t want to leave her on her own for dinner, in case Dee wasn’t available. So, she’s cooking instead.”

“Oh. Nice,” I said.

It felt like something was badly off. Maybe it was worry over Steff. Maybe things just felt different because we were tiptoeing around certain things. Maybe it was the fact that Amaranth had gone from acting like she was going to spank me every hour on the hour to backing down from every little conflict. She’d only shushed me when I’d been interrupting her. She’d deferred arguments until later instead of declaring them over.

It was definitely weird. I wasn’t sure I liked all of it better… I mean, I certainly hadn’t disliked the concentrated attention she’d paid to me in the morning. Well, the cold shower… at the time… had been an excruciating ordeal, but it hadn’t lasted forever, and the water had felt that much warmer when she let me turn the hot back on … and we’d both known where we stood with each other.

Or rather, where she stood and where I knelt.

“Mack?” Amaranth prompted, and I realized I was standing in front of my door with my hand on the knob.

“Amaranth?” I said quietly.

“Yes, baby?”

“Is everything okay?” I asked. “I mean, apart from… the stuff I know about.”

“Mack… baby… Mackenzie,” she said gently, and that got my attention. She’d called me by my full name on maybe two occasions, once when I’d briefly tried to break her of the nickname, and once in chastisement after she learned my middle name from the news. Now she wasn’t angry. Her voice was tremulous, almost afraid. “The surprise I mentioned… it’s your choice, if you want it or not. I want you to want it, but it has to be your choice. If you accept it because you know that’s what I want, or because you’re afraid of disappointing me, or because you feel too submissive to say no, then it won’t mean anything… but if you take it because you really want it for yourself, then it won’t matter what… what happens. Even if we’re separated, it’ll still… we’ll know what you chose. Does that make sense?”

“I suppose it will when I see it,” I said. “Of course, there’s an easy…”

“Oh, you are not getting it out of me that easily, missy,” Amaranth said, waving a finger in my face. She gave me a smack on the ass and scooted me in the direction of the closed door. “Get your books put away and be back out here in two minutes.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said happily.

That was more like it.

I wasn’t too worried about her pressuring me into accepting. Amaranth knew my limits by now. She might… she did… want for me to break them or grow past them or whatever, but she knew what they were. She could be flighty about them in the heat of the moment, but this was something she’d given a lot of thought. She wouldn’t be expecting me to accept whatever it is she was talking about if it was beyond them.

And if she was… well, I’d have to disappoint her, but that could hardly be my fault. Maybe she’d even be proud of me for sticking to my wands.

I hoped I wouldn’t have to, though. If I could make her happy, for however long we had, I’d be happy, too.

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8 Responses to “349: Making Plans”

  1. pedestrian says:

    The difficulty of maintaining a long term relationship is not getting through the hard times. But afterwards, when the situation improves or at least a possible resolution is in sight. The good times are often when many relationships fall apart.

    Current score: 1
  2. Arkeus says:

    Urgh, Amaranth is such a destructive influence on everyone around her.

    Current score: 1
    • Pamela says:

      I can’t stand Amaranth. There is literally nothing I like about her. However, I think calling her a destructive influence is rather harsh, considering how much Mack has improved under Amaranth’s influence. Of course, this is not to say Amaranth even has much to do with it. Still, Mack’s attitude and behavior is improving, as is her self-confidence.

      Current score: 2
  3. P says:

    I have great respect for an author who can drag her characters through the mud, and have them come up smelling and looking like people covered in mud.

    Current score: 8
  4. Jimmy Joe III says:

    Getting real tired of Amaranth doing things that involve “but before I could [something completely reasonable]”

    Current score: 1
  5. Zany says:

    I have to say, Amaranth’s behaviour is totally justified. She’s lived in a field all her life, and when she goes to university it’s like WHAM! Freedom, responsibility, problems! She experiences the best thing ever (love) and is told she can’t have it anymore, by her own mother. At the same time she has to deal with wanting something forbidden to her, AND being responsible for Mack’s safety. She’s basically a flower that’s been moved from a garden to the middle of the road, and it’s just a matter of time before she gets torn apart.
    What did you expect? Also, sorry for the rant.
    (TL;DR: Amaranth can’t cope with reality because she ‘s never experienced it before.)

    Current score: 1
    • Mike says:

      Exactly. A lot of the problems these kids have is the fact that they are all still kids. Legally adults, but c’mon, when you were 18 you were still a dumb kid, totally inexperienced. I know I was. The best way to learn, imo, is to be thrown in the middle of something. Life is just the same.

      Current score: 0
  6. undertheteacup says:

    “Maybe not horse and rider… because seriously, even ignoring Amaranth’s particular forbidden fetish the imagery there kind of went beyond “willfully obedient submissive” and into much iffier territory”

    Eheheheheh, I just realized that part is a little reference to Iason/Jamie and the way their relationship started.

    Current score: 0