DEATH OF A FLAME OR
He touched her forehead, and a tingling sensation told her that she was being telepathically probed. It was rather awful, not to know what he was looking at; she shut her eyes and shuddered. When she opened them again, a red spark danced within the core of the charm. Sarek damped it somehow before he slipped the chain over her head. Stepping back, pleased, he said, "You will consider my suggestion," and left.
Amanda slid her hand down the chair until she reached the Flame's carved receptacle, lifted it, and pressed it to her lips. The charm emanated a strange, achingly alluring calm. If only she could grasp the sensation, instead of merely touching it!
She smiled, molasses-slow, an entirely new expression in her dreamy eyes. Perhaps she would accept Sarek's proposal, after all. His logic was, no doubt, impeccable.
Any plan can be logical, if you are willing to sacrifice enough for it. So they were married, according to the precepts of Vulcan tradition. On her wedding night, Amanda discovered an unexpectedly strong passion for her Vulcan husband, and more pleasure than she had anticipated from his alien touch. And found at the same time that the Vulcan sexual union, the pon farr, was limited to seven year intervals.
"Why?" Amanda subvocalized, frustrated. If Sarek heard her, he would be perfectly willing to explain in great, and logical, detail.
But she already knew the answer by heart. "It is the Vulcan way." But it wasn't fair. For an instant she almost determined to argue it, and several other things, out with Sarek. Then she sighed, and reached for the gold Flame-charm.
It seemed to her that it always ended that way. Living on Vulcan, being human, had hurt. But she had always found calmness and joy glowing warmly on the end of a chain.
She looked out at the heat-shimmering landscape, feeling so separate from the pudgy middle-aged woman who was trying to be Vulcan. The girl- Amanda examined her home, the Vulcan clothing she was wearing, the alien seeds rubbed absently in her hand, and found them strange.
Who could have guessed that at the death of the Flame, she would be thrown back emotionally to her girlhood? Her whole married life seemed vague, the opposite of deja vu, as if it had been viewed through a dancing flame.
Some things, it was true, were impossible to get across to Sarek, but other things you couldn't hide. It wasn't long before he noticed her wondering glances at familiar things. Not long after that she confessed the whole incident.
"Fascinating," he murmured. "What response to the problem do you consider best, my wife?"
Amanda's heart leaped in response to a craving that had been steadily growing since her moment of revelation. She thought suddenly that she would die if she did not find her youth again. Schooling her face into impassive lines, Amanda said carefully, "Perhaps . . . I should return to Earth for a time. It was there I accepted the Peace, perhaps on Earth I will learn to understand it."
"You would go alone," Sarek said thoughtfully. "My work keeps me here. And I do not follow your logic. Still, it may be the best, if you do not stay long. You have permission."
That was the moment of leave-taking, Amanda thought later, although Sarek escorted her scrupulously to the space-transport and supervised the loading of her luggage. Then he went back to the home of his fathers, to his astrophysics, his logic, and his duties, and waited placidly for her return.
And waited. And waited. And waited . . .
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