494: Word Searching

on March 8, 2011 in Uncategorized Chapters

In Which A Protagonist Looks For A Beginning While An Author Gropes Towards An End

Teddi produced a packet of papers that was more like what I’d expected to see when I walked in, but it turned out that most of it was optional. A consent form and a statement of confidentiality that I had to read and sign were the only required parts, though there were also some forms that looked more like worksheets than anything else that Teddi said I could look over before filling out.

“Are they necessary?” I asked, looking at a page asking me to write out my goals. What were my goals? I didn’t really know what the mental healing process consisted of or what it was capable of achieving, exactly.

“They can be useful,” she said. “Some people come in here with one specific problem, or they otherwise have a clear agenda. Some people come in with nothing more than ‘I want to be better.'”

“I don’t think I really fall into either category,” I said. “But… I suppose I’m more like the second one. I know you need something more to go on than ‘I want to be better’, but I didn’t really have anything more substantial than the fact that I’ve been through some messed up stuff and I have a lot of issues and things about my life that I don’t really enjoy.”

“When you say ‘my life’,” Teddi said, and I would almost swear she was projecting the concept of “aha!” directly into my brain as she said it, “are you talking about circumstances that surround you, or are you talking about internal aspects?”

“You mean, do I like myself?” I asked.

“I wouldn’t put it that way.”

“Because you’re being diplomatic?”

“Because I’m being precise,” she said. “There are going to be aspects of yourself that you do like and aspects you don’t like. That’s true of any person. The question is, are you here to learn to deal with those parts of yourself that you don’t like?”

“‘Deal with’ as in ‘put up with’, or ‘deal with’ as in change?”

“Either or both may be appropriate or possible,” Teddi said. “You see, Mack… mental healing isn’t like physical healing. Physical health is a thing, a quality. If someone’s body gets sick, they just need to be cured. A body in its normal state is healthy and undamaged, and healing spells just reset it back to that. Mental healing doesn’t work like that. Mental health is… well, it’s more like an opinion.”

“An opinion?” I repeated.

“Do you feel like you’re okay?” she asked.

“Honestly? No.”

“Then you need mental healing,” she said.

“So, if I believed I didn’t then I wouldn’t,” I said.

“If you believed you didn’t, you wouldn’t be here,” she said.

“So there’s no such thing as a person who believes they’re okay but who really badly needs some mental healing?” I asked.

“Well… people can have differing opinions, can’t they?” Teddi replied. “My point is that there is no baseline of health for the mind. There’s no normal to reset it back to.”

“Why do you suppose it’s like that?” I asked. “Why isn’t there like a ‘Cure Serious Issues’ potion I can take, or whatever? Why can’t a wizard just heal my mind?”

“Well, think about what a spell like that would actually be doing,” Teddi said. “If your mind is wounded, what are the wounds?”

“I don’t know, my memories, I guess?”

“Memories,” Teddi said. “Experiences. Patterns of thought and behavior. Imagine a potion removing those things… what would be left?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Would it be so bad finding out?”

“There’s a theory among alchemists that potions of forgetfulness work by healing the mind,” Teddi said. “Under this theory, every lingering thought or pattern… every memory… is a wound on the mind. Sometimes, it is necessary to remove something from the mind in order to heal the person, but we obviously have to be more selective than an all-out healing spell could be.”

I remembered the warning I’d been given when I got my piercings. It hadn’t really crossed my mind much since then, even though I was still in the period where a non-extremely-localized healing spell could cause a lot of sudden discomfort.

“Anyway,” Teddi said, “Like I believe you said, you’ve got a lot on your mind… those sheets aren’t necessary in the sense that anybody will require you to complete them, but they can be useful.”

“The problem is that I’m not even sure where to begin,” I said. “I feel like I could probably fill ten times this space, if I sat down and started writing.”

“Then just sit down and start,” Teddi said. “Maybe eventually you will fill that many pages, but for now, what you put in the space you have will be where we begin. You know, some people say that writing can be like therapy… I believe that’s true, but I also believe the reverse.”

“Therapy can be like writing?”

She nodded.

“Do you do much writing, Mack?” she asked.

“I used to,” I said.

“Have you ever had so many ideas in your head that it seemed like you could just sit down and start writing and they would just all come pouring out?” she asked. “But then you sit down with a piece of paper in front of you, and can’t think of any one specific thing in particular to write down?”

I nodded.

“Yeah,” I said. “I do know what that’s like.”

“Well, this can be like that,” she said. “You have days or weeks between sessions and your head’s full of thoughts, but then you have an hour or two to do something with them and… nothing comes.”

“So is there any point to me being here right now?”

“That’s up to you,” Teddi said. “I’ve told you I’m free and I don’t mind being here, so it’s really a case of what you want to do with your time. Would you like to hear an observation?”

“Sure,” I said. “It’s what I’m here for.”

“If you’ll have a better idea what we should talk about after filling out that sheet, you might have a better idea how to fill it out after we’ve talked more.”

And so we ended up just talking. There was no agenda, there were no goals. We paused briefly when Audra came back to gather up the files that Teddi had been sorting and take them to another room.

I think I learned more about Teddi than she did about me in that first session, at least in terms of the number of facts recounted. I’m sure she took away quite a lot of stuff about me even when she was just telling me about her childhood, which was a lot in line with what I expected for someone from such an old family with such old money: dance recitals, private schools, riding lessons.

“Did you have your own horse?” I asked.

Something about the question seemed to surprise her, or make her realize something surprising.

“Oh, no,” she said.

“Did you have one that was owned by your family?” I asked.

“No, no,” she said. “I mean, there would have been money for one if I’d wanted one, but it never occurred to me… I guess it would have been inconvenient. Our house didn’t have any stables. None of the houses did, my grandparents’ or my uncle’s or any of the cousins we visited. I guess I sort of grew up thinking that horses weren’t something you kept at a house. I remember thinking it was sort of novel the first time I visited a friend whose family did have stables, but by that point I was over my pretty pretty pony phase.”

“Your family has dwarven stock, doesn’t it?” I said. “Somewhere way back.”

“Good guess,” she said. “You got that from the lack of stables?”

“Well, it fit with the sort of clannish attitude towards property,” I said. “I mean, I’m sure there are families with nothing but human blood and proud of it who set up legal hurdles to protect their assets, but I can’t imagine those assets wouldn’t have included horses a few hundred years back.”

Teddi nodded.

“Dwarves are one of the longer-lived mortal races,” she said. “So they tend to think in terms of ancestors and descendants in a fairly distinctive way. I didn’t realize that was a dwarven thing until I went to college. My school was women’s territory, for dwarves. A woman in my class had a textbook that was sixty years out of date. It had been meticulously updated several times. There were a lot of jokes about how cheap dwarves are, but it’s more a matter of… well, stone lasts. Gold lasts. A thing that one person uses once isn’t that valuable, to the dwarven perspective.”

A lot of the things in my mother’s house had been older, but mostly that was because she’d got them second or third hand. My grandmother’s house had been full of things that were probably older than she was, though that hadn’t occurred to me during the years I was living there. They were relics of an older time, but so was she. I wondered about whether she’d intended to pass any more of them down, if things had gone differently. They’d been more strained than estranged, before my mother’s death.

“You’ve gone quiet again,” Teddi said. It wasn’t the first time I’d lapsed into thought during our conversation.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“It’s your time,” she said again. “Spend it as you will. If you need to gather your thoughts, that’s fine. If you’re not yet sure if you’re ready to voice something, think about it for next time.”

“It’s not that,” I said. “It’s more… it’s habit. I’m not used to having someone to talk to. Someone, else, I mean.”

“Do you talk to yourself a lot?”

“Does this question have a wrong answer?”

She laughed.

“Anyone who would lock someone up for talking to themselves isn’t much of a judge of mental health,” she said. “Having a confidante is important, and sometimes there are no other options. Also, how else do you get to know someone if not by having a conversation with them?”

“I’d like to get a little better at having conversations with other people,” I said.

“Well,” she said. “There you go. I do believe we have discovered a goal… and that makes this as good a time as any to mention that I haven’t eaten since noon.”

“Do we have to stop now?” I asked.

“We can, or we can break,” she said. “Or we can have something sent in. How do you feel about pizza? Oh, there’s that suspicious twitch again.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I know it’s the most stereotypical college food, and the one that’s almost synonymous with the word ‘delivery’… but I kind of have… well, okay, this isn’t something I think is written down in a file in some vault somewhere in the first place, so I don’t even know why I thought…”

“In fairness, you are dealing with a mindreader,” she said. “But really, it’s just the most obvious and convenient choice. There are other options.”

“I just had pizza last night,” I said. “And I technically don’t have to eat food, so… you just get whatever you want.”

“Would it bother you to watch me eat?” she asked. The words hit me like a cold draft. “Oh… well… maybe we should break while I take care of that, then?”

“No,” I said quickly. I didn’t want her to think that this was a big thing, since it related to what I couldn’t talk about, and I also didn’t want it to become any bigger of a thing. “Let’s… I don’t know. I want to try something new, maybe. Not pizza. What do you recommend?”

“Well, the pizza place I like also does pasta and hot Vitulian sandwiches,” she said. “Meatballs, salami, that kind of thing.”

“I don’t know if I like that sort of thing,” I said.

“Is that because it’s something new, maybe?” she said. “I have some menus in my desk. They’re all places that I like so they could collectively be considered a very broad recommendation. I’ll let you see them and you can see if anything jumps out.”

I don’t know if she put the Vitulian place on top or if they just happened to be arranged that way. The meatball sandwich didn’t look any more appetizing than it sounded. Another one that had piles of shaved beef was kind of hard to look at… but in tearing my eyes away from it, I spotted something that looked better.

“Four cheese and tomato sandwich,” I read. “That sounds interesting.”

“The vegetarian option,” Teddi said.

“I guess,” I said. “That’s not specifically why… though, I suppose I’m not really in the mood for meat.”

“Did you only start eating food recently?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I mean, again. I ate it growing up. I don’t really recall a lot of strong preferences. I think I had a mix of little kid pickiness and omnivoraciousness, pretty much.”

“That’s a good word,” Teddi said.

She put an order in. I apologetically noted that I’d left my money in my room, and she said I could pay next time. I didn’t really see the point of a “hot sandwich” as opposed to any other kind, unless it was a hamburger or something. I couldn’t picture how heating up a ham or turkey sandwich would improve it… and probably that was true for the sorts of sandwiches we got in the lunch room, but the toasted or grilled or whatever they did with it bread and gooey layer of cheese was pretty good. I had been thinking that tomatoes and cheese sounded a bit like pizza, but despite the similar cuisine it was really quite a different taste.

I felt better in a lot of ways after eating… more relaxed, and more trusting, I supposed. Maybe some people can eat guardedly, but I’m not one of them.

“You said you used to write,” Teddi asked me later on in the session.

“Yeah,” I said. “Fan fic… uh, fiction based on…”

“I know the term,” she said. “What fandom?”

“Mecknights, mostly,” I said.

“I don’t know that one,” she said. “Why’d you stop?”

“I didn’t set out to,” I said. “I just… well, I realized that I’d never get away from my grandmother if I didn’t get serious about going to college, and that meant more focus on school work and getting a job, which wasn’t easy. You were pretty right in judging my accent. I’m from Blackwater.”

“I suppose I should have known that,” Teddi said. “You and your grandmother have both been in the news. I try to block that stuff out when I’m dealing with you, though. I don’t know how much of that is true, how much of what’s important to some reporter actually loom large in your own mind, and so on… the things you tell me matter, Mack. It matters that you tell me them, when you tell me them, why you tell me them. That’s why I’d like to rely on what you tell me and what I can tell for myself instead of what I hear somewhere.”

“I appreciate that,” I said. “What else does my voice tell you?”

“Either you pick up regional variations really quickly, or you’ve taken a little trouble to not sound like a wetlander,” Teddi said. “The accents are similar, but most people from Blackwater sound more like what the coasters think plainsfolk sound like.”

“It’s not really deliberate or anything,” I said. “I just… well, I guess at some point I decided it would be better to sound like the people on TV than the people all around me. In the long run, I mean. I never planned on staying in Blackwater. Anyway, we never lived in the swamp or anything. It was more hills and trees. It’s funny, you know, Prax is considered a prairie province and Blackwater is supposed to be the swamp province, but following the Enias River, it’s all hills and trees.”

“The grasslands open up more to the west,” Teddi said.

“What about me?” I said. “Not just where I’m from. You said that you learn to read other things. What does my voice tell you about me?”

“You’re somewhat guarded,” she said. “Except for a few times when strong emotion overtakes you, your voice has been really level.”

“Amaranth says I only have two volumes,” I said. “It’s funny, when I met Audra I was thinking that a friend of mine doesn’t really inflect her voice much. It never occurred to me that I might be the same.”

“When you get indignant,” she said, “there’s a… well, okay, I’m trying to project again. There’s a sort of conflict or imbalance or something in play there. It’s as though you’re really proud of yourself without actually believing in yourself.”

My first reaction was to say that sounded impossible, but my second reaction was that it was pretty accurate.

“How is that possible?” I asked, which addressed the first without denying the truth of her observation.

“If I had to put into words… and I suppose I do… I’d say it’s like you have confidence in the truth of what’s being said but you don’t have confidence in the speaker.”

“I am the speaker, though.”

“Do you have confidence in yourself?”

“No,” I said. “Even when I’m sure I’m correct, I can’t quite bring myself to believe I’m fundamentally right.”

“That’s not quite another goal, but it is a problem identified,” Teddi said. There were no timepieces in the room, but she glanced at a window. “Did you want to get back to your dorm before full dark?”

“Yeah, but… what?” I said. I hadn’t even noticed how much dimmer the room had become, to say nothing of the sky outside. “Wow, the time… I…”

“I think we should probably set an appointment,” Teddi said. “I’ll have to consult my calendar if you would like another weekend session; my Saturdays are pretty packed, ordinarily. Honestly, I’m getting to be booked up most weekday evenings, too.”

“How about Wednesday afternoons?” I asked. Monday seemed too soon… I wanted a few days to digest things, not just come back and try to start talking again. I felt like we’d made more progress in terms of a relationship than anything else, and that wasn’t bad… it was probably necessary, even. But it wouldn’t accomplish much in the long term.

“After classes?”

“I have a big break after lunch,” I said.

“I know I don’t have anyone at one on Wednesday,” she said. “It’s yours, if you want it.”

“Every week?”

“If you want it,” she said. “And you can a-mail me if there’s something on your mind at an odd hour, or if you’d just be more comfortable saying something in writing.”

“Okay,” I said. “So… I guess I’ll see you Wednesday, then.”

“If you hold on a moment, I can give you an appointment card,” she said. “And I can set up an automated reminder if you’d like.”

“You have no idea how good an idea that is.”

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42 Responses to “494: Word Searching”

  1. Hey, folks! Just a note that the final vote for the Rose And Bay Fiction award is now underway and will be for another week or so. Even if you voted before, please vote again… this is a run-off made necessary by the way the original vote was structured.

    Voting link here.

    Thank you for your support!

    Because I was working through midnight, I haven’t closed the pre-sale for The Gift of the Bad Guy… just in case anybody wanted to get in on that, I’m going to leave it open until I get up tomorrow, which will probably be around noon. On the off chance that I get right to sleep tonight and thus wake up earlier tomorrow, I’ll still leave it up till noon.

    Current score: 0
  2. drudge says:

    “If you hold on a moment, I can give you an appointment card,” she said. “And I can set up an automated reminder if you’d like.”

    “You have no idea how good an idea that is.”

    Can’t help but grin there.

    Current score: 5
    • Zergonapal says:

      Yup, I know what thats like.

      I wonder if Teddi picked up anything from Mack’s expression as she stared at the shaved beef roll.

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      • Jechtael says:

        I’m seeing the “nauseated Elijah Wood” meme image. Perhaps meat in general would have been more appetizing than shaved meat, for Embries having possibly prepared and enjoyed some shaved meat of his own the previous night.

        But hey, maybe now she’ll have a reason to avoid bacon and ribs beyond the risk of making a pig of herself!

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    • Sapphite says:

      Complete giggle fest here – Mack and her memory!

      Current score: 0
  3. Frelance says:

    “Anyway,” Teddi said, “Like I believe you you’ve got a lot on your mind…

    I think this makes sense, but it’s hard to read. Perhaps it didn’t make the translation from natural dialogue to written word well?

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    • cnic says:

      Try parsing it “Like, I believe you, you’ve got a lot on your mind…” with commas or elipses or similar thought break.

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      • beappleby says:

        It’s possible that AE meant to write either “Like you said” or “I believe” and didn’t quite finish. That happens sometimes.

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    • beappleby says:

      Other possible typos:

      “There was a consent form and a statement of confidentiality that I had to read and sign were the only required parts” – seems to be missing something. Possibly, “but they were the only required parts.”

      They’d been more strained than extranged, before my mother’s death.

      estranged, not extranged (just like it’s not expresso…)

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      • fka_luddite says:

        Apparently “extrange” is also a legitimate word. Using a search, it shows up in several legal usages, although I have been unable to determine the exact difference in meaning.

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        • beappleby says:

          Hmmm. It doesn’t show up on Dictionary.com, which asks “Did you mean ‘estranged’?” And since “estranged” fits the context really well, and the S and X keys are right next to each other, I will assume it’s a typo for now.

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  4. Ky says:


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  5. Erm says:

    I wonder if having watched Embries eat will turn Mack into a vegetarian permanently (aside from the blood part).

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    • zeel says:

      I doubt it. The carnivorous nature runs too deep.

      Current score: 0
  6. WorBlux says:

    Teddi was sounding a bit like Thomas Szasz there for a while.

    Current score: 0
  7. Zoquara says:

    “Amaranth says I only have two volumes,” I said. “It’s funny, when I met Audra I was thinking that a friend of mine doesn’t really inflect her voice much. It never occurred to me that I might be the same.”

    Ok, lost me. Who is Audra? Been reading a LONG time, and I’m totally unfamiliar with that name.

    Current score: 0
    • beappleby says:

      Audra is Teddi’s golem. Reread the previous chapter before the Aidan story.

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    • wocket says:

      She’s the golem serving Teddi. Just introduced in the last non-OT chapter.

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    • Cadnawes says:

      She’s the golem who works for Teddi. She was just introduced, so you could have missed her name.

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    • beappleby says:

      Seriously?! (LOL)

      This is why you should always refresh before commenting…

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      • Cadnawes says:

        Hey, if a bunch of people decided to be nice, is it really the end of the world?

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        • beappleby says:

          No. It just should be common sense to refresh, and this illustrates why. Nothing wrong with it, but I always feel better knowing that I’m not going to be repeating something three other people just said.

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    • fka_luddite says:

      Or from this chapter (just after the discussion about memory as mental wounds).<blockquote)And so we ended up just talking. There was no agenda, there were no goals. We paused briefly when Audra came back to gather up the files that Teddi had been sorting and take them to another room.

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      • fka_luddite says:

        Sorry. Wrong closing mark on the blockquote invocation.

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  8. readstospouse says:

    Extranged -> estranged ?

    I love your representation of mental health services, and your concept of memory as mind wounds was fascinating.

    Bias and assumptions get a bad rap also, but would memories be useful if we could not learn from them and try to understand the future?

    Current score: 0
  9. Sarah says:

    Why isn’t there like a ‘Cure Serious Issues’ potion I can take, or whatever?


    I really like Teddi as a character so far, and as a therapist. It’s always refreshing when fiction gets therapy right.

    Current score: 1
    • Rey d`Tutto says:

      Yes, that is Terminally Full of Win!

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      • Kaila says:

        Don’t say terminally! You’ll kill it!

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        • Chips says:

          “It’s worse than that, it’s dead, Jim, dead, Jim, DEAD, Jim! It’s worse than that, it’s dead, Jim, dead, Jim, DEAD!”

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  10. Jani says:

    “Even when I’m sure I’m correct, I can’t quite bring myself to believe I’m fundamentally right.”

    Not really a bad way to be i think, quite lot of very destructive people have believed themselves to be right when they weren’t.
    Ofcourse, there is a point where self doubt and being open for the possibility of being wrong becomes a seriously crippling mental issue.

    Problem might be more accurately be described as Mackenzie “not being able to believe she might not be wrong”.

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  11. arsenic says:

    “I remembered the warning I’d been given when I got my piercings. It hadn’t really crossed my mind much since then, even though I was still in the period where a non-extremely-localized healing spell could cause a lot of sudden discomfort.”

    What warning? Anyone remember the chapter?

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    • beappleby says:

      I don’t remember the chapter, but I believe it was something along the lines of, be careful if you need to get healing, because these holes I just punched will CLOSE. I think after a certain period the holes become the standard that it will heal back to, but they’re still new.

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    • Miz*G says:

      Chapter 353

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  12. Maahes0 says:

    Basically that it takes a while for the body to accept the damage as a permanent part of the body, like a scar. Until then any just blanket healing spell will try to heal the piercings and if the body tries to heal the piercings with the piercings in there, well you can imagine.

    Current score: 0
  13. Fylas says:

    Imagine your wolverine and you got a artificial prothesis after your arm got cut off and your body tries to regenerate the arm INSIDE the prothesis, kinda like that?

    its the best example I can come up with people could imagine :3 (well most of em ^^’)

    Current score: 0
    • bramble says:

      Or, you know, just what can happen with new piercings if you don’t make sure to rotate the studs, but much, much faster.

      Current score: 1
  14. readaholic says:

    Great depiction of counselling (and all the associated forms at the beginning lol).

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  15. Kaila says:

    Aw, I like Teddi.

    Current score: 2
  16. Zathras IX says:

    You don’t get over your
    Pretty pretty pony phase
    You just rein it in

    Current score: 3
  17. Lunaroki says:

    I just now found this chapter, 9 days after the fact. There was no LJ post about it and when I saw the jump in numbers from 493 to 495 I got to wondering what had happened to this chapter. In the interim I had forgotten enough about what happened in 493 that I didn’t think to wonder about the gap in time in the story. I didn’t even notice it. I didn’t get to read this chapter until after I got all done reading chapter 495 and posted the Typo Report. Only then did I notice the link to 494 at the bottom of the page. Might want to add an LJ post for this chapter so people like me who only only discover the new chapters when the LJ post shows up in the RSS feed will know this chapter exists.

    Current score: 0
  18. Krail says:

    Interesting comment about the accent. That’s something I never think about for written characters unless it’s specifically brought up.

    Now I’m picturing Mackenzie with the slightest drawl. (Raised by a fundie in the wetland province, of course, I’m thinking Alabama-Texas)

    Current score: 2
  19. Downside says:

    The author is groping? Why can’t the protagonist grope? I want to read about that. Oh, wait, that’s back a few (hundred) chapters, isn’t it?

    Current score: 1