Monday, 17 December 2018

Chapter 20: More


From: Neith Cole [mailto:neithcole@minscix.intra]
Sent: Saturday, 1 August, 0054 A.S. 8:42 a.m.
To: gracewhittaker@2K.intra
Subject: I know I’ve always said it’s gross, but I’m doing it, I’m writing from the toilet

Grace!

How are you and I.M. doing?   And what about the hunt for a worthy suitor?  Is there a candidate amongs them to prove me wrong?  You must’ve had a sit down with everyone by now.  Twice.

I have been thinking a lot while I’ve been here.  I’ve learned a lot of new things.  But I keep thinking about what you said – about having someone to tell the rhymes to. 

I’m sorry I was so hard on you about moving to your towers.  You knew what you wanted, and you weren’t sure of any other way to go get it.

Prove me wrong.  Find someone decent and secure yourself your kind of happiness.  I dare you,

x
N

P.S.  I’m actually writing for what they call the “loo” here.  Does that make it less gross?
#
Neith ran.  It was starting to rain.  She was laden with arm and shoulder-fulls of clothing swiftly pulled from the outside line.  Swollen in cloth, she burst in through the beads at the back door to dump the speckled but mostly-dry clothing inside.  She turned and went back out to hastily reload.  She paused to let Elle explode through the beads, buried in rescued laundry. She returned herself to pluck more – pegs flying as she did (that was Davey’s job, Peg Retrieval).  She wasn’t sure who started laughing first – since the heaped fabric and wet footsteps no doubt obscured their voices when it did begin.  It was clear when Elle made her last re-entry into the home, tipped her load, and remained doubled over with a gurgling laugh, Neith was already laughing. 
The two women made an exchange then, with their eyes welling with laugh-tears.  The look between them spoke of absurdity and the joy in absurdity shared.  Without a word, they continued to laugh, their hair dripping and clinging to their skin as they stood clasping their sides, both knowing they had treated a little precipitation as dire circumstance.
Davey came stomping inside, kicking his boots off by the door.  He carried the basket of recovered pegs.  He placed them by the fire as he had been instructed to do.  He then beamed, mouth open, looking back and forth between the two adults he had found in fits. 
And then Davey did the only thing you can do when you come upon unusually manic grown-ups.  He began to dance.  His movements consisted of spinning, flapping arms, and hopping from foot to foot.  He began to laugh too, his wet curls bouncing, offering droplets in all directions.
Neith and Elle erupted with renewed vigour.
That was when the girl with the red hair appeared.
Neith was so shocked she let out an abrupt chirp.  She stuck her neck out as though pecking the air.
Red hair.
Neith had seen Intra photos of redheads and wigs, but never a person with the rare recessive in front of her.  And the little girl was gorgeous.  She was close to Davey’s age, smiling, and looking around the room from face to face. 
Elle had quickly quietened, rounding out her display with a long “Hmmmmmm.”  She smoothed clothing she was now arranging around the room to dry indoors. 
Davey realised last they'd been joined by another, his dance losing some of its energy as he spun and examined the sources of his music.  Ah, yes, the laughter had stopped.  He saw the redhead then.  He ran towards her, shouting a battle cry. “Laaa!”  The girl opened her arms and took a step back as he threw himself into them. 
“Hello Davey Gravy.”  She popped one of his curls.
“Miss Nola,” Elle said. A tight smile playing on Elle’s face was the only lingering evidence of what had just transpired.  “Nola, this is our friend, Neith.”
“Hi.”  Nola barely glanced at Neith before looking again at Elle.  “May I please read some of your books while I wait for Papa?”  The girl with the red hair rocked on her feet.
“Of course you may.  Thank you for asking so sweetly.”  Elle placed a gentle hand on the young visitor’s back and ushered her towards the reading chair.
Nola threw one more brief glance in Neith’s direction on her way to the shelf.  She then bit her lower lip as she traced her finger along the spines.  She gently pulled out her selection, drew up her legs, and leaned the open book on her thigh-wall and read.  Neith noticed she started reading from about a third of the way into the book.  That is where Nola remained – absorbed and quiet, while the household carried on as though a genetic miracle wasn’t in their midst.  Neith reminded herself they all were genetic miracles. 
They talked over their lessons from that day. Ruthie arrived and described a scientific demonstration she had observed. Amos woke from his nap and emptied Ruthie’s satchel.  Nola read. 
Dinner preparations were underway when a man arrived at the door.  This must be “Papa.”  Elle showed him inside and offered him tea.  Nola looked up from her book, with a micro-expression of disappointment.  She quickly smiled and returned the book to the shelf.  Once Davey had released the man, Nola stood to hug him, moving free of the chair.  The red-haired girl then leaned on him as he took a seat in the reading chair she had vacated.  She stroked his hands as they lay on the armrest and hummed.  Neith was mesmerised.  Had she been this affectionate with her father?
There was a pause in the pleasantries between the adults and Neith looked up. 
Elle opened her eyes wide, indicating Neith had been spoken to.  “I said, yes, this is Neith, Neith this is Nola’s grandfather, come to collect her.  We all call him Koro.”   She rolled the R in Koro.
“Pleased to meet you,” Neith rattled off, automated.  Internally, she was resetting her perimeters.  This was Nola’s grandfather?  He looked so young!
Neith fixated on the tenderness of this young girl who remained glued to Koro’s side.  Neith’s parents were at least this man’s age, and her Nanny was never so youthful.  She knew many had delayed having children before they fully comprehended the fertility crisis, (or failed to succeed for many years if they were trying sooner), but this man could not be older than 50! 
“I’m sorry for staring! You look so young!” Neith said, realising she was doing just that.
Koro let out a rich and deep laugh.  “I like this one, Elle.  Let’s keep her.”
Neith blushed, but smiled at the warmth.  Her growing sample of Nydia was looking pretty good.  Had she imagined hostility when she had arrived?  Maybe the history between Nydia and the City wasn’t as bad as she feared.  Maybe there was hope for some kind of alliance and future here.  Hope for Grace. 
Koro stood.  “Elle, it has been a pleasure, as always.  Neith, Ruthie, Davey,” he was nodding towards the named person with each name.  He stalled looking for the last name-bearer.  “And Amos!”  Koro ruffled the youngest’s hair, finding him beneath the table, putting new things into Ruthie’s satchel. 

“Likewise, Koro,” Elle hugged the man with one arm, tipping her cheek onto his shoulder.  She kept her other hand on the knife at the bench.
Hand in hand, Koro and Nola left.  Neith watched the inanimate door they’d passed through for some time after, her mind awhirl in efforts to comprehend an entire community beyond it she didn’t know. 

Ruthie took to the reading chair and swung her legs over the side.  “Glad they’re not staying for dinner?”  She shot across the home, towards her mother.

Elle pursed her lips and squinted as she spoke over her shoulder, “I wouldn’t say ‘glad,’ we would’ve made it work.”  The blade beat out on the board as she continued chopping.
“I wonder why Koro came.  You heard Nola, she thought her dad was coming for her.”
“That’s not our business, Ruthie.”
Ruthie smiled and swung her feet down to face the front of the chair.
A grandparent.
A red-headed child.
Neith definitely wanted to see more of Nydia. 


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