224: Dee’s Diet

on May 26, 2008 in Book 8

In Which Mackenzie Spits

Monday, Calendula 5th 222 (Breakfast)

Two and I collected Dee, as promised, before we headed downstairs. We waited in the first floor hallway to see if Amaranth would come join us. None of us really wanted to go looking for her when she was working… or maybe that was just me.

We were there for about ten minutes before she appeared from the stairwell, hand-in-hand with Steff, who looked wan and rather pale, even for herself, and was kind of stooped over. She was smiling, though.

“Hey, baby!” Amaranth called, waving with her free hand.

I responded by running to her and throwing my arms around her. We drew Steff into the embrace and then we all simply held each other for about a minute before breaking apart. It was just that kind of a day.

“Hi, Amaranth,” Two said as we walked down the hall, hand-in-hand-in-hand.

“Hi, Two,” Amaranth returned.

Steff let go of Amaranth’s hand to accept a hug from Two and bestow upon her the requisite double-kiss. I was used to seeing Two beam with pleasure at the completion of this little ritual, but today the effect seemed to be reciprocal. Steff regained about an inch of stature and her smile magnified itself several times over.

“How you doin’, pseudowench?” Steff asked.

“I’m doing well,” Two said.

“How’s your job?”

“Good,” she said. “I’m doing so well that Kyle is taking extra breaks to smoke cigarettes, even though he’s not supposed to.”

“You’re not planning on alching on him, are you, hon?” Steff asked.

“No,” Two said, shaking her head. “Nobody likes a tattletale and it isn’t my job.”

“That’s great,” Steff said. She turned to me, looking me up and down. “And check you out… oh, and wearing the paddle, even.” She gave me a hungry look.

I ducked my head and blushed as her eyes seemed to probe beneath my new clothes. I was wearing the black and gold butterfly shirt, which didn’t show much skin but clung a lot closer than my usual t-shirts.

“I thought it would be a good idea for her,” Amaranth said. “Are you joining us for breakfast today, Dee?”

“I thought that I would, if there is no objection,” Dee said, giving her a slight bow.

“No, I think that’s wonderful!” Amaranth said. “I’m glad you’re feeling better.”

“I am,” Dee said. “I have decided to open up more, to become more involved in campus life. I am not sure in what capacity or to what extent… but joining with my good friends for the morning meal seems to be a decent way to start.”

“Let’s go, then,” Amaranth said. “I’ve worked up quite an appetite this morning. You know, if you’ve taken two cocks in the butt before, it might not seem like a big deal to… well, um, I’ve had a busy morning, anyway.”

The dining room was serving both bacon and what I was pretty sure was pork sausage, but I skipped both of them and instead decided to feed my sweet tooth with some syrup-drenched pancakes and a bit of fresh fruit. Two had dug out the bubble gum ice cream, but that seemed like a bit much… and besides, I wanted something tangier. I wanted strong, sharp flavors to drive the thought of other tastes from my mind.

Steff didn’t seem to be very hungry. She had a bowl with more milk than cereal in it, and it was only half full to begin with. Dee, on the other hand, had gone to the omelet station and now had a giant omelet overstuffed with ham, mushrooms, and cheese.

“I apologize for my display of indulgence,” she said when she saw me looking at it. “I did not find time to eat much this weekend.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to stare,” I said. “I mean, you can eat what you want. I just thought it looked good. Except for the mushrooms.”

“I would have been very hungry in the underlands if I did not eat mushrooms,” Dee said. “Outside of selected holy times, meat is reserved for growing children and the expectant or nursing. We have no large domesticated mammals, so once I was weaned I tasted milk rarely. The monks grow fruit on a domed island, but that is a luxury and treat beyond measure. Had I been a picky eater, I would surely have starved.” She sighed and looked around the table, at Amaranth’s bowl of cinnamon oatmeal, Steff’s cereal, and my pancakes. “Now that I am on the surface, I have become a picky eater of necessity.”

“Oh, you still haven’t adjusted to wheat?” Amaranth asked, frowning in concern.

“I do not think it is a matter of adjustment. It is not just wheat, either. Oatmeal also distresses my stomach,” she said. “As do most of the dry cereals. Even those labeled as corn-based are problematic, which is somewhat aggravating as whole corn kernels have never posed any difficulties.” She tilted her head, looking sideways at the food on her plate. “The food here is both more plentiful and more varied than what I am used to, but that very variety threatens to undo me.” She lifted up her glass of milk. “Although I must say that surface cuisine is not without a few pleasant surprises. Though, even leaving aside the matter of temperature, this is quite a bit different from the milk I remember from my youth.”

“You actually remember breastfeeding?” I asked.

“I… I probably carried on with it a bit longer than you did, I think,” Dee said.

“Elves usually nurse their kids until they’re three or four,” Steff said. “There’s less of a rush for them to grow into independence.”

“Yes,” Dee said, shifting a little uncomfortably. “Perhaps on the surface, but… well… in any event, it was a bit longer than that for me.”

“Oh your gods,” Steff said, leaning towards Dee and grinning avidly. “How long?”

“I would rather not…”

“How long?”

“Steff,” Amaranth said, warningly.

“I always knew dark elves were a bunch of mama’s girls,” Steff said.

“Tread softly when you approach the subject of my mother,” Dee said.

“Seriously, how long?” Steff said.

“Steff, leave it,” I said. “Please.”

“Steff, there’s no need to pry,” Amaranth said. “This is something deeply personal.”

“Oh, come on,” Steff said to Dee, ignoring Amaranth and me. “After all that talk about how dark elves aren’t ashamed of their bodies I listened to?”

“I am not ashamed,” Dee said. “I simply do not believe you have the context to fully understand my situation.”

“So give it to me,” Steff said.

“You wish me to summarize three decades of life experience and cultural background?” Dee asked.

“No, I want you to tell me how long you rode the tit,” Steff said.

Dee sighed.

“Very well. If it will end the conversation… I was twelve when my mother finally collapsed the roof on the subject,” she said.

Her remark about “ending the conversation” proved to be prophetic. Nobody said anything for the longest time. I think we were all thinking similar things. I know a lot of people in human society had the impression that elves aged slowly, but the fact was they grew to adulthood normally and then they did not age at all. Twelve years old was enough for someone to technically be a nursing mother themselves.

There was room for debate on what was the best time to stop breastfeeding, but there couldn’t be much doubt it was “some time before the child develops breasts.”

“Well, that isn’t really as odd as it sounds,” Amaranth said. “D… down there, you follow a nine month calendar, right, Dee? So it would really be more like nine years, which isn’t quite as shocking. There are human parents who follow a philosophy of…”

“I had already included the calendar conversion in my calculations,” Dee said. “I was, in fact, in my sixteenth calendar cycle at the time.”

“Oh,” Amaranth said. “Oh. Um… oh. Good… good for you?”

Silence fell over the table. The only sound was Two’s bowl moving slightly as she scooped out ice cream. She hadn’t contributed to the conversation, or been affected by it.

“Well, I’m so glad you decided to open up to us,” Steff said, grimacing.

“You demanded to be told,” Dee said. “I did so under protest.”

“You should have protested harder… now I have images in my head that won’t come out,” Steff said. “I’m never going to be able to look at you the same way again.”

“Then I mourn the myriad opportunities to debase myself I have lost this day,” Dee said.

“I think it’s nice that we all feel like we can speak so freely to one another and still be friends,” Amaranth said.

“Indeed,” Dee said. “I apologize for my sarcasm, Steff. It was unwarranted.”

“Oh, will you please stop that?” Steff said.

“I apolo…”

“Stop!” Steff said. “Khersis Fucking Dei and all the Dei-ettes. You don’t have to apologize every time you blink too hard in somebody’s general direction.”

“I… regret if my behavior causes you distress,” Dee said. “It is simply how I was raised.”

“On that subject, though… on that subject… the subject of your upbringing… didn’t you tell me you were training for the priestesshood when you were eight?” Steff asked.

“Yes,” Dee said. “Or roughly six solar years of age.” She seemed pleased by the change of subject. “Eight is a number of theological significance to us, you see, and so it is considered an auspicious age to begin significant undertakings. It is the age when most children of commoners either begin working alongside their parents or enter into an apprenticeship outside the house. Those who do not have any particular vocation begin their weapon training at the age of eight.”

“So… didn’t the other kiddies in your class think it was weird when it was time to break out the lunchboxes, and you reached for your mom?” Steff asked.

“First of all, I told you to tread softly down that tunnel. Second of all, I never said that I was nursed by my mother. Third of all…”

“Are you going to go through eight ‘of all’s for theological significance?” Steff asked.

Third of all, as a firstborn daughter of the line, I was expected to travel with bodyguards and an attendant,” Dee said. “If any of my fellow novices-in-training knew that my attendant was also my wet nurse, they did not chance to remark upon it during catechism lessons. In any event, I fail to see why this topic is of interest, a decade and a half on. I am a grown woman, independent and secure. I have successfully completed every task that was expected of someone of my position. I have traveled further from my home than any member of my family and house before me, and I have done so standing on my own two feet. If I was a little unusually close to Dehsah as a child, it has certainly done me no harm as an adult.”

Having unwisely decided to take a sip of my orange juice at that moment, I did a spit take at the sound of the name, spraying Steff and her plate.

“Oh, fuck, Mack… give a person some warning before you shower them with bodily fluids,” Steff said, wiping her face. “Juice a little strong for you this morning?”

“I… um… nothing,” I said.

Apparently Steff didn’t know the name of Dee’s lover, or hadn’t caught it. Or maybe I was drawing lines where there were none. Dee’s people seemed to favor “D” names. There were only so many of those to go around. Possibly “Dehsah” was a family name, or the equivalent of “Jean” or “Beth”.

“Well, I for one think it’s wonderful that you’re fu…” Amaranth said. She froze mid-word, and there followed a period of silence where she and Dee looked at each other, before she nodded, and said, “Okay. If that’s how you feel about it, I’ll respect your decision.”

“Hey, hold on, no telepathy at the breakfast table,” Steff said. “That’s rude. Isn’t it rude, Two?”

“I don’t know if it’s rude or not,” Two said.

“But secrets don’t make friends,” Steff said.

“My friend Hazel says sometimes friends need secrets from each other in order to be friends,” Two said.

“Yeah, well, okay, but… oh, damn it all, anyway,” Steff said. “I guess I got enough good dirt for one day.” She sighed and looked down at her juice-spattered shirt. “I hate to take advantage, pseudowench, but I don’t suppose you can do anything about this?”

“I can,” Two said. She slid off her seat and went around to the other side of the table, where—with a little chanting and running her fingers over Steff’s peasant blouse—she expunged the orange juice.

“Sorry,” I said to both of them, as Two took her seat beside me again.

“It’s okay,” Two said. “I forgive you.”

“It’s fine. Anyway, you’re going to tell me what this is about,” Steff said to me. “You know that you are.”

“I really don’t think she will, Steff,” Amaranth said. “It isn’t her place to say, and anyway, she’d be speculating, to some degree.”

“I don’t know what could possibly be worse than the breastfeeding thing,” Steff said. “I mean, I can think of a million things that are worse, but I couldn’t picture you doing any of… hmm…”

Steff’s face took on a far-off look as she trailed off.

“Don’t you dare,” Dee said.

“If you’d tell me, I wouldn’t have to try to imagine,” Steff said. “How about you tell me, and I’ll tell you a secret about my personal life. Fair’s fair, right?”

“Fair is fair,” Two agreed with conviction. She might not have understood a fifth of the rest of the conversation… or maybe she did, I didn’t know… but she definitely understood that essential tautology. “That’s right.”

“I lack the skill to articulate exactly how poor an inducement that is,” Dee said.

“I’m sorry,” Steff said. She sighed. “I’m not trying to be a dick about this. I just… it’s interesting. You’re such a mystery, you know? And you always seem like you were carved fully formed out of black stone, or something. It’s blowing my mind to think of you as a little kid… much less a creepy homeschool type with serious attachment issues.”

“I… thank you for your interest in my life?” Dee said.

“No, seriously,” Steff said. “You’re mortal.”

“Technically,” Dee said. “For a certain value of ‘mortal’.”

“You’re fucked up.”

“I feel that is a little strong,” Dee said. “As I previously noted, I am fairly well-adjusted as an adult, whatever my origins.”

“You’re just like me,” Steff concluded.

“Now, there is no need to be insulting,” Dee said. She ducked over her omelet and resumed eating, though she turned her face slightly away as she did so.

This made it impossible to be sure, but I think she was hiding a smile.

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2 Responses to “224: Dee’s Diet”

  1. pedestrian says:

    There is a reason psychotherapy takes years of effort. Like peeling an onion, one single layer at a time.

    Reminds me of that joke:
    Woman tells Man “You men are like onions, with a multitude of layers, all the same and you make us women cry.”

    Current score: 0
  2. Anon says:

    Gotta love it when Dee breaks out the snark.

    Current score: 0