447: Things Left Unsaid

on June 15, 2010 in Book 16

In Which Reasoned Disagreements Occur

“Why are you looking at me like that, baby?” Amaranth asked, even as I was trying my best not to cringe. “You haven’t even heard my idea yet.”

Sometimes it felt like there was a string connected from Amaranth’s mouth to my heart… when the corners turned up into a smile, my heart soared upwards. When they fell down, it plummeted down into the pit of my stomach.

At the start of our relationship, I’d looked at Amaranth as a sort of rock… a warm, soft, yielding rock that said bizarre and unnerving things that often ended up being exactly right. Part of this came from the fact that she acted so certain herself. Once I really got to know her, it didn’t take long to realize that she was as fallible as anyone else. She craved my approval just as much as I craved hers, if not more so.

Knowing that made it harder to face her when I didn’t think I could give it to her. There was nothing else to do, though… if hiding my face and letting her just do what she wanted to was ever an option, it wasn’t when we were talking about my own legal affairs.

“It might be a great idea,” I said, as gently as I could manage, “but I can’t help disliking the idea of keeping more secrets from our friends.”

“It’s not always possible to avoid that when we’re dealing with the law,” Amaranth said. “You know that. There’s a difference between keeping secrets in the sense of lying, and just… exercising due discretion, you know?”

“I know,” I said. “But when you talk about a plan that hinges on it… well, you kind of have a bad history there.”

To be fair to Amaranth, I’d been stupid when it came to telling people things, too, but I was trying to move away from that. Amaranth knew that things like the time she’d played around with Steff and me with regards to Steff’s gender identity were wrong, but I had the feeling she still believed it was possible to do that sort of thing right, if one happened to be smart enough to figure out how.

“Well… it’s not like we can just sit on what we know,” Amaranth said. “I don’t for one second believe your conscience could stand for it. But you know how people love to speculate and draw connections, baby… we’ve only just cleared you of suspicion. If your name gets mixed up with the investigation again, especially if it comes out that you might have been… close with… one of the potential perpetrators… well, I’m only thinking of you.”

“Amaranth… I agree with you, but think we should just give the information to Lee and see what he says,” I told her, trying to keep my voice calm and level. I wanted her to know exactly what I thought, but I wanted to do it without hurting her feelings. Not only would that make her less likely to listen, it… well… would hurt her feelings. I couldn’t let that concern stop me from telling her the truth, but “He can help us decide if we need to come forward or if we can do it anonymously… and he’ll probably have better ideas about how to do that safely and still be listened to.”

Amaranth chewed on the corner of her bottom lip. The fact that she wasn’t answering right away was promising, I thought. She was thinking. She was hurt, but she was thinking.

“Well, I don’t disagree,” she said after a while. “We should definitely be talking to Lee about this, but I think he will agree with my idea, since he gave it to me in the first place.” It sounded to me like she was talking to convince herself, and doing a good job of it. Each word sounded more certain than the one before it. “Do you remember when he told me that I could be present at your meetings because I can’t be compelled to testify? So if the information comes from me, we can leave you out of it.”

“I think the fact that you can refuse to testify counts for a lot less when you volunteer to testify,” I said. It sounded snarkier coming out than I’d meant it to. It almost hurt me to not give in, to comfort her any way that I could… including telling her that she was probably right or that it wouldn’t hurt to try things her way first… and the effort of not giving in was coming out a little as forcefulness in my voice.

“I wouldn’t be testifying, though,” Amaranth said, strangely neither hurt nor reproachful . “I mean, I didn’t see the attack and I really have no knowledge of who did it, any more than you do… but I do know that mermaids have teeth like the ones they’ve rendered, and I can tell them that. The fact that I know this secondhand from you can stay our little secret.”

“It’s not a bad idea,” I said, though I was about as far from convinced that it was a good idea as I could be, “but Leda’s death has serious diplomatic implications and any special treatment the government gives you is because of respect for your mother’s power, not because you’re inherently trustworthy or anything.”

“Well, I don’t exactly expect them to base a case around my say-so,” Amaranth said. “But I could drop them a message that I recognize the teeth as something mermaids can grow, which would get them looking in the right direction.”

“Even if they can’t make you answer them, don’t you think they’ll have some follow-up questions about how you know that?” I pointed out. “And if you tell them you can’t or won’t answer, they’ll start wondering who you might be trying to protect, and it will probably be a short list if they know anything about you.”

“Not necessarily,” Amaranth said. “I mean, if they do know anything about me, they should know that I have compassion for every living being.”

“Okay, maybe… but it doesn’t matter how long it is if they start at the top, because that’s where I’ll be,” I said. “I think it would be better to tell them the truth from the start than have them find it out… I mean, we haven’t done anything wrong, really. We’ll be helping by putting this information forward. The only problem is how it might look, and it’ll look worse if we make them go digging to find out where it really came from.”

“Well, I could tell them a version of the truth that leaves you out… Mother Khaele’s protection will keep them from questioning that too deeply.”

“It might stop them from questioning you, but that won’t stop them from questioning your story. How closely do you think they’d have to look to tell you’re lying?” I said. “And anyway, if you don’t think they’d check up on you then why is it so important that no one else knows about this?”

“Because they might be questioned… I don’t necessarily think it’s likely that they will be, but I’d like to avoid the possibility that anyone would feel like they have to lie for us. Or reveal the truth ,” Amaranth said.

“But again, anybody who’s questioning your friends to find out the truth is going to start with me… we can’t do anything about the fact that I know the truth, and I’m certainly not going to lie,” I said.

“But if I can give Mike Gregory everything he needs, then why would he look further?”

“The way Lee talked about him, he wouldn’t accept a convenient lie just because it was convenient,” I said. “Lee wanted to keep him on the case because he’s honest. If we don’t deal honestly with him, then that’s going to count against us. I mean, the whole point of your idea is to try to minimize suspicion on me, right?”

“Not involving you at all seems like a good way to do that,” Amaranth said.

“We’re talking about trained investigators, Amaranth… I wouldn’t make too big a bet on how far divine patronage will protect you if they think you’re not being completely honest with them. You could probably still be expelled from MU, or maybe confined to your field… the best case scenario probably is they take you less seriously than they should.”

“It’s more like divine matronage, really,” Amaranth said, and I knew from the fact that this was what she chose to argue with that she saw some sense in everything else.

I hated to have burst her bubble when she’d been so sure she had a solution that would have fixed everything so neatly but I figured that Lee’s reaction would have been similar to mine. It seemed unlikely that he would know off the top of his head what kind of pressure the imperial government could and would bring to bear against a nymph, but I didn’t doubt one bit he’d have some ideas.

“We’ll talk to Lee,” I said. “And we’ll be sure to mention this in case he doesn’t think of it… and really, it’s not a bad idea, but I think you’d have to be something more than a nymph to pull it off. I mean, especially since Mother Khaele kind of went on television like that… it might give people the impression that you don’t have her full support.”

“Well, I think that would be reading a lot into a few stray remarks,” Amaranth said, her nostrils flaring a tiny little bit and her hands clutching at her sides. Mentioning her mother’s interview had probably been a mistake. While our local drama had been knocked off the news rather quickly by the disaster across the seas, Amaranth had been shaken by the realization that Mother Khaele was talking about her and not her sister-nymph Barley when she spoke about troubles with one of her children.

“How about we give him a reflection right now so we can run this by him?” I suggested. There didn’t seem to be anything more to say about the idea, good or bad, and I had a feeling that if we just kept going around in circles it would only make things worse.

Unfortunately, we got dumped into his echo trap… I supposed it wasn’t too surprising that he wasn’t available. We were past the end of a normal work day, and he had other responsibilities aside from us. The last time I’d heard from him, he was going to try to push for a speedy settlement while the school was occupied with the investigation. There was no reason for him to be waiting by his mirror just in case I decided to tell him something.

Still, I couldn’t help being disappointed. Lee’s confidence and his expertise had been incredibly comforting. His willingness to help, to take my side even before there was any gold involved had been the closest thing to a blessing that I was likely to experience.

I let Amaranth tell him that we would like his advice on the safest way to share information that might help the investigation . She seemed happier and more composed as soon as she started talking. What she’d really wanted, I realized, was just to do something. Trying to think up a solution herself was simply her default form of problem solving. Seventeen years consisting mostly of books and sex had made her remarkably straightforward about some things but with a sort of convoluted approach to other things.

The world of storybooks could be a lot more forgiving of cleverness than the one we lived in. Even non-fiction was biased heavily in the direction of clever ideas, since it tended to be the success stories that got written down, and with a shiny coat of paint on them.

“Keep this close to you,” Amaranth said, handing me back my mirror. “Even though he might not get back to us until tomorrow… well, we don’t want to botch this.”

“I know, you’re right,” I said, and it felt good to say that and mean it after so much disagreement and forced nuance. I slipped the mirror into my coat pocket. “I love you so much, Amaranth.”

“I love you, too, baby,” she said, taking my hand. She gave her head a little shake, like she was trying to clear something away.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I’ve been feeling kind of strange today… not bad, exactly. Just a little off.”

“Off how?”

“Well, you know I think about you quite a bit, baby… even when you’re not here,” she said. “But today, I keep finding my mind turning towards you even when I’m thinking about other things.”

“Isn’t that kind of normal?” I said. “I mean, my mind goes all over the place when I’m doing things… and it does end up on you sometimes.”

“Well, when you put it that way… but at the same time, you know how that feels when it happens?”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m not asking you to describe it for me,” Amaranth said. “I just mean, you do know what it feels like… or it doesn’t feel like anything, because it’s just sort of… normal… to you?”

“Yeah, I guess,” I said.

“Well, imagine that something almost like it but not quite happened,” she said. “And it felt weird.”

“Okay…” I said, though I wasn’t sure I was quite following her. I had a disquieting thought. “Like something’s intruding in your mind and making you think of me?”

“No!” she said, very quickly and very forcefully. “It’s not at all intrusive. It doesn’t feel unnatural. It’s just… not… normal. It’s like you’re more persistently present in my thoughts.”

“Does it bother you?” I asked. I remembered how Amaranth had been insistent before that she didn’t love me more than she loved anyone else, just in a different fashion. I wondered if she was experiencing what it really meant to be in love with someone, for the first time. I had to admit that the idea thrilled me a little, though it also scared me.

What if she couldn’t cope? What if her mother didn’t like it?

“Not really,” she said. She made a face that reminded me of Two’s cogitations when she grappled with something that was hard for her to wrap her head around. “I mean, not badly… not much. It’s just different.”

I gave Amaranth’s hand a gentle squeeze.

“Well, in all honesty, I can’t feel anything but happy to think about you thinking about me,” I said, and she rewarded me with a glorious smile.

“Then I suppose it can’t be a bad thing,” she said. “It might just be… well, I haven’t had a lot of time to sort through my feelings these past few days, but ever since our performance Saturday night, I’ve felt… we went through something together, you know? I mean, we’ve been through a lot of things together, and that’s one more, and so…”

“You feel closer to me,” I said. She nodded. “I feel really close to you, too.”

“I’ve got some homework I need to do after dinner,” Amaranth said. “And then I feel like I should be making myself available… you know… under the circumstances. I’m not exactly a mental healer, but people do need to reach out to someone in times of grief and stress.”

“Yeah,” I said. I felt a touch of what might be called a reflexive sadness, because I felt like I should be sad to hear this, but I wasn’t. I knew what Amaranth was and what she did. I also knew that I was hers, and that meant that she was, in a way, mine. What she did with others didn’t affect that. Together or apart, we were still together. “I have things I need to do, anyway.”

I did, too… things I’d neglected, like the spellcrafting for Professor Bohd and the book on stickfighting I’d passed over and my history report that I’d done so much preliminary reading for but little actual research or writing on. I’d slid my way through the first part of the first semester thanks largely to a light workload, some lucky breaks, and patient instructors, but none of that would last forever. The time might soon come when Amaranth and I would have to make a real effort to spend time together.

“Ooh, you know what? We should make a date night,” Amaranth said. “That could be fun.”

“So far, my dates have involved extracted promises, dwarven secrets, mermaid secrets… and our whole deal on Saturday, which I admit was totally my fault…”

“Well, this will just be me asking you out,” Amaranth said. “Would you like to go out and do something later this week?”

“I’m going to see you before then, right?” I asked, feeling more than a bit of panic.

“Well, yes, we will, just like we always do, but the weeks are going to be getting busier and busier, and I think we should make a point of making time for each other,” Amaranth said. “I also think it will be fun.”

“Okay,” I said. “I am going to be getting done early on Thursday… Callahan’s going to be off doing something horrible, I think.”

“Your prejudice against her really is appalling,” Amaranth said.

“I’m pretty sure she’d say the same in so many words if you asked her,” I said. “Anyway… Thursday night?”

“Okay,” she said. “With a rain check for the weekend if something comes up.”

“What do you have in mind?” I asked. “Or is it a secr… surprise?”

“It’s not a surprise,” she said, cheeks coloring slightly. “But I’m not sure yet. It was just a thought that popped into my head.”

“I’m glad that it did,” I said.

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30 Responses to “447: Things Left Unsaid”

  1. Maurice says:

    Hurrah! Assertive Mack for the quiet and satisfying win. First actually paying attention in Mixed Melee and now having an adult argument with Amaranth…a far cry from the Mackenzie we knew at the start.

    Current score: 6
  2. jc says:

    Typo report: The middle word in the phrase “closest thing t a blessing” seems to be missing its vowel.

    Current score: 0
  3. Steph says:

    “closest thing tp a blessing” is how it currently reads.

    I cannot be the only thinking “Uh-oh…” as far the “just a thought that popped into” Amaranth’s head *just* as Mack was thinking the same thing?

    I’m also not the only one to click over today and see two new posts and squee with glee, I’m sure.

    Current score: 0
    • Steph says:

      *Headdesk* Only one thinking*

      Current score: 0
    • Andrea says:

      That does happen a lot when two people are really in sync, though, and it seems like Mack and Amaranth are definitely in sync by the end of this chapter. They start off with pretty different perspectives, then they reach an understanding, and THEN they drift off in thought, so it’s not too surprising that they ended up thinking about the same things. I think it just means they’re getting closer.

      Or Mack Daddy is messing with their minds!!!

      Current score: 0
      • Steph says:

        Hm.. I am the wrong person to forget that close people synch up like that. I freaked out my best friend one day cuz I was just happening to think of her *and* wanting a McD frappe, and I texted her something random like, “I wanna frappe now,” just as she was pulling into the drive thru and ordering one.

        I think that if Mack Daddy wasn’t stepping up as a main player lately that I wouldn’t have been so suspicious and likely would have seen it as them being closer. Knowing that, it partly makes me want to re-think my “Uh-oh” and partly makes me want to upgrade it to an, “Ooh..shit.” 🙂

        Current score: 0
      • Drudge says:

        Or it’s just a side affect of Macks demon nature. It’s heavily implied she’s already messing with everyone’s mind. How the fuck else does a ninety pound weakling quickly gaining a gut suddenly become the most fuckable thing on campus? Not to mention all the man eaters that come into contact with ANY female half demon generally go wild with hunger eventually.

        Current score: 1
        • Steph says:

          I don’t think she’s “quickly gaining a gut.” I suspect she was skin and bones and horridly undernourished – she hasn’t been EATING for the better part of a decade. She’s eating regularly, and properly, which means she’s fleshing out into a woman’s body.

          I suspect her appeal to everyone is her relative naivete coupled with her willingness to experiment and learn. Quick learning, nerdy newbies with enthusiasm are FUCKING HOT.

          That said – there’s probably something to a bit of mind fuckery on Mack’s unintentional part. Predators have a tendency to be alluring and mesmerizing, even if simply in a piss your pants frozen in terror type of way. A demon would be a human’s ultimate predator, so it makes sense there’s be some subtle ‘pull’ drawing others to Mack.

          Current score: 3
  4. Generilisk says:

    @Steph, No, you aren’t. I’m worried her dad may be attempting some sort of subtlety here. And speaking of evil influences, whatever happened to the pitchfork? I don’t remember that being resolved.

    Current score: 0
    • Oni says:

      That would be because it wasn’t.

      dun Dun DUUUNNNN.

      Current score: 1
    • Wolff says:

      Either the pitchfork is doing all this on its own, or Mack Daddy is using the “holes” it left in Amaranth the same way he does with Mack. This chapter made me wonder though- if nobody can find the pitchfork, maybe Amaranth put it Away?

      Current score: 1
  5. Rey d`Tutto says:

    Thanks for the Posts.

    Current score: 0
  6. Peter says:

    Wonderful Chapter

    Current score: 0
  7. Lunaroki says:

    Really liked this chapter and I loved the Other Tales story too!

    Got a Typo Report though:

    I couldn’t let that concern stop me from telling her the truth, but “He can help us decide if we need to come forward or if we can do it anonymously… and he’ll probably have better ideas about how to do that safely and still be listened to.”

    The first sentence stops abruptly after the “but”. If that thought is meant to be left dangling like that it should probably end in an ellipsis, but I’m guessing it was an accidental oversight that the sentence never concluded.

    Really great stuff today AE! 🙂 Always wonderful to get an update or two from you. ^_^

    Current score: 0
  8. Zathras IX says:

    Mackenzie hopes that
    Amaranth’s plan will make them
    Thank Khaele it’s Thursday

    Current score: 0
  9. Amarys says:

    I was going to ask what this chapter was for since nothing seemed to really be resolved, and then i realized that this chapter wasn’t about resolution; it was bout Mack and Amy communicating better. So, a satisfying chapter over all, although i feel bad for Ian. Mack needs to have a date night with him! Anyways, I went back and reread Mother Khaele’s opinion on Mack, and the ending lines to that chapter (272 for reference) might have just been a bit of punchline, but i think a good OT would be Steff’s first month at MU. please? 🙂

    Current score: 0
  10. Seeker of Things that are in Vain says:

    *still wearing his *Seeker* name*

    I hvae no doubt that Lee will say “no” to Amaranth’s (I am not to sure how to use apostrophes in you language, sorry) idea, and will be me more likely to point out to give the hint to Gregory using a discret way.
    When he is as good and honest as an inspector like he appears to be he will follow the clue, and observe why Mack is giving it to him…
    and he should conclude that it is an honest attempt to help without getting into to much trouble.

    (and sorry about grammar messups and so on… I am no native speaker)

    Current score: 0
    • Steph says:

      “and sorry about grammar messups and so on… I am no native speaker”

      Don’t stress it. 🙂 Your grasp of the convoluted English language is much better than some native speakers I’ve met. It’s usually pretty easy to tell when mistakes are born of an unfamiliarity with the language as opposed to someone who just doesn’t care how they come across.

      My congrats, by the way…we have some pretty strange rules, I couldn’t imagine trying to learn English as a second or so language.

      Current score: 0
  11. Shanri says:

    Umm, anyone thought about mack’s mother after this and that she could sense minds aswell as what mack daddy said about if you’re powerful enough that she could control people. example being she (mack mom) gave one of her friends a little push (mentally) to tell another friend what they really thought?

    Current score: 0
    • Andrea says:

      Oh wow, it would REALLY screw with Mack if she was mentally controlling people and found out about it. Think about how much she detests the idea of her dad messing with people’s minds. Right now Mack can assume that the people who screw her and befriend her are doing so because they want to. If Mack somehow pushed them to do that, then she couldn’t trust anyone to have genuine interest in her, which (considering how she wants to keep other people safe from demonic things like her blood) would probably make her more reclusive.

      Current score: 0
  12. Zandu Ink says:

    Am I the only one to think that Amaranth’s plan somehow involved the mermaids eating her? At least, that was my thought before reading this chapter.

    Also, long time reader, first time poster. Not sure if I made my way here from MLM or the other way around, though.

    Current score: 0
    • Andrea says:

      Ooh yeah, I definitely got that impression too. Also, hi from a fellow MeiLin Miranda-er! : ) I think I started on misfile.com, ended up here, and eventually wandered over to http://www.meilinmiranda.com/

      Current score: 0
  13. Ducky says:

    I think everyone’s reading way too much into two close people thinking similar thoughts. There have been plenty of times that I’ve picked up the phone to call a dear friend and he/she calls before I can dial. Mack has shown zero signs of having any of her mother’s talent, and we know Laurel Anne’s sister didn’t have it, so it’s not necessarily hereditary. Mack Daddy, for all that he is a demon, may just care about his daughter’s well-being. How would mind-controlling Amaranth in any way further that, when she is so committed to the topic already?

    Getting off my soapbox now. Thanks for the multi-update.

    Current score: 1
  14. anthony says:

    Interesting parallel here. Mackenzie was so sheltered that she didn’t recognize what an orgasm was when she felt it.

    Amaranth is so sheltered, in a different way, that she doesn’t recognize what romantic love is when she feels it.

    Current score: 2
  15. Kaila says:

    Am I the only one vaguely wondering if the ‘mental synching’ is a hint from Amaranth’s mum of ‘keep an eye on your girlfriend’? Probably not, but hey, if it’s not just them, and it’s not Mack’s dad…

    Current score: 0
  16. LlubNek says:

    ‘“I wouldn’t be testifying, though,” Amaranth said, strangely neither hurt nor reproachful .’
    There’s an extra space before that period that causes it to wrap oddly.

    Current score: 0
  17. jade Moon says:

    this story is so agonizingly SLLLOOOWWWWW! Pick it up please!! Good grief!

    Current score: 0
    • Drudge says:

      What she said.

      Current score: 0
      • Steph says:

        Pace of the story? I like it. I fly through traditional novels at lightspeed and always want more at the end. I want to read the minutiae of every day life, get further into the characters’ head, see how they react to day-to-day inconveniences, not just the big, life altering events. It’s how I get stuck reading series authors even when I couldn’t care less about the main character anymore – I get so caught up in the world I just keep buying.

        Pace of the updates? Well…we’d all like to see more, I think, but not if it comes at the expense of AE’s health or the quality of the story. I’ll take a superb weekly chapter and a healthy-as-she-can-get-herself-AE over sub par writing and a cranky, sick author.

        Current score: 2
  18. Arkeus says:

    So, mack, you were thinking ten minutes ago that Amaranth’s mind may be tempered with, and then she says her thoughts are weird…and you don’t comment?


    Current score: 0