A MATTER OF TIME
by C. A. Wiggins
The day dawned hot and blindingly brilliant in the city of ShiKahr. The tiny, silver-blue birds Lorna loved sailed overhead, and an occasional roar could be heard as the twins' sehlat greeted the morning suns in his own fashion.
Lorna sat in the garden at a small table, waiting for Sarek and the children to join her for their morning meal. T'Rueth, finished with her task of placing the food in a colorful arrangement on the table, had retired to the coolness of the house.
Inwardly, for the first time in some years, Lorna felt a bit disoriented, even a little sad. She knew there was no real reason for this distress, that she was experiencing what every mother must feel when she realizes that her baby is no longer a baby, but a child.
Suvil and Talitha began their formal schooling in a few hours. Now five years old, they would leave the comfort and security of their home and tutor to go out into actual classroom situations.
Lorna had spent the morning in her own private meditations, preparing herself mentally and spiritually for the possibility that one of her innermost fears would now come true.
And that fear was one she knew Spock's mother had known, and had watched come true in her own time.
She was deeply concerned that Suvil and Talitha would not be accepted by their peers. Knowing that the only reason was that she, a Terran and not a Vulcan, was their mother did not ease the distress she felt.
She and Sarek had discussed this a week before, after he had detected Lorna's distress and fears. Always perceptive, always gentle, he had reassured her that the general feeling on Vulcan had changed somewhat in the years since Spock had found rejection and thinly disguised hostilities in school.
"It could not have changed that much, Sarek," she had said. She had moved closer to him on the plush couch, content that the mere nearness of her husband could somehow dispel whatever sorrow she was feeling.
He had put down the sketch Suvil had brought him before he and his sister had retired for the night. The colorful, clean-lined drawing had made it obvious that while Talitha would be the musician her father had hoped for, Suvil would be the artist neither parent had quite anticipated.
"What do you mean, Lorna?" he had asked, the trace of a frown on his usually serene face.
"I was thinking of T'Pring's further rejection of Spock, not so long ago," she had answered, meeting his steady gaze with a rueful smile. "She could hardly have been called a schoolgirl at the time."
"True," Sarek had admitted. "But T'Pring was just a product of the atmosphere of those times."
"That is also true," Lorna had countered. "That is one of the reasons I'm worried. She and others of that generation who were taught in such a manner are now probably teaching their children the same way."
Sarek had allowed himself a slight smile, as they were alone.
"In their opinions concerning Vulcan/human offspring," she had finished lamely. Why is he smiling? she'd thought. What is there to smile about concerning this?
"I have spoken to Suvil and Talitha about what they may encounter out in what you refer to, I believe, as the 'cold, cruel world,' and they seem to take it in stride, for the most part," Sarek had then informed her.
Lorna had straightened up, demanding, "Why didn't you tell me, Sarek?"
"I did not wish to alarm you concerning the matter. Since you were alarmed, anyway, I suppose I should have told you." His voice had trailed away at this and he had then looked elsewhere.
"I'm not angry, Sarek, only a little surprised. I had hoped to be there, I guess, in case you had such a talk, to lend my--support, as it were.
"Besides," she'd then added, "their knowing about it and their experiencing it are two different matters."
"I was not thinking of displeasing you, my wife, though I should have, perhaps. I was thinking of the mistakes I made with my oldest child and hoping I would not repeat them with the twins, especially at this vulnerable age they are now."
Lorna had moved even closer to Sarek and had put her hand lightly on his shoulder.
"I never had such a talk with Spock," he'd continued. "I naively believed it was unnecessary. I suppose I was unprepared or unbelieving that such bigotry would exist here--especially in view of Idic. Spock was the first Vulcan/human to survive. We had no knowledge as to what would or could happen."
"I remember you once told me how strict you were with him. I know you only did what you thought was proper with and for him. There's no need to blame yourself for some past sorrows."
"I do not blame myself," he'd replied. "However, I am convinced that such actions on my part set up the later--difficulties between Spock and myself.
"And I do not plan on history, so to speak, repeating itself with my younger children," he'd concluded. "Not on my part, anyway."
Lorna sat, still patiently awaiting the arrival of her family. She remembered, with amusement, the growing excitement of the twins as the day to enroll in formal classes drew nearer. Sarek had had some difficulty with Talitha, who could not seem to understand she had to cease physical demonstrations of her affection for Suvil now that they would be in public. ("Not even a little hug?" she had incredulously asked her father.) And Suvil had been unable to sleep at his regular bedtime the past few nights.
Children, Lorna thought. No matter where they are from, they are the same. Bright, wondering, hopeful, imaginative--and cruel to other children who are "different."
High, piping voices drifted out to her from the house. The twins were ready for their breakfast, and then, for school. As their father, Sarek had the task of accompanying them to the place of enrollment and classes this first day. She could hear his deep, resonant voice now, though not what he was saying, as he responded to Suvil's and Talitha's many questions and comments.
"God," she breathed, "be with them. Be with all of us."
The door swung open and Lorna's family came to join her at the table.
Breakfast was almost completely silent, in Vulcan tradition, save for Talitha's occasional outbursts of questions. Sarek shushed her gently at first, then when that did not work, quieted her with a level stare.
Catching Lorna's eye, he gave her a barely perceptible, sly smile as if to say: "She's ready for school, but is school ready for her?"
All too soon for Lorna, the meal was over, and the children and their father were leaving. She walked with them to the gate in front of the house, fiercely determined to be as calm as any Vulcan woman.
At the gate, the family stopped and Sarek spoke a traditional admonition to the twins:
"You are no longer a child, either of you, and will not behave as such. Sharp words and disobedience towards your peers and your teachers are signs of an undisciplined life--."
Talitha interrupted, finishing what she had heard him say many times over the past few weeks: "...and an undisciplined life is an immature life."
"Precisely," Sarek coolly tallied. "I trust you both will remember that. Now, bid your mother goodbye. Remember what she has taught you as well as what I have taught you."
Suvil and then Talitha crossed their small, perfect palms with Lorna's. They were suddenly so serious, so proper--Vulcan scholars--no longer her chubby and powdered children; it made her want all the more to snatch their slender, compact bodies up next to her own and tell them how she loved them. Instead, she gave the proper Vulcan salute and watched as they turned and marched out into the street, slightly behind and to the side of Sarek.
Lorna went back to the garden, sat down again at the small table now cleared of breakfast dishes and leftovers. Mhari, Suvil and Talitha's sehlat, snuffled about the table, coming to rest his massive head in Lorna's lap.
"Mhari, they are gone," she whispered in his ear. "It was just a matter of time that they went from being our babies to our children. It's just a matter of time before they're grown completely, I guess."
He whined, licking her hands.
"Will everyone out there see how bright and beautiful they are? Will others see how special our little boy and girl are?"
It was just after the noon hour and the twins still had not returned from school. Sarek was due back at any moment from a meeting he had had to attend. Lorna knew she could then voice her concern over their tardiness. She did not wish to show her ignorance or her feelings to anyone other than her husband.
I'm being silly, she thought. Like an old hen clucking over her chicks. If it wasn't normal for them to keep first-day students this long, I would have been informed about it by now.
The door opened and Sarek entered the hallway, coming directly to the room where she waited.
They were alone, so he put his arms about her in a brief, but intimate embrace.
"Are you anxious, Lorna?" he asked.
"You could always read my mind," she deadpanned. "Yes, a bit."
"I stopped by the school on my way here and was told their teacher would accompany the students home this first day. The class had already left, as a matter of fact. Since Suvil and Talitha live on the exact opposite end of ShiKahr than where the class was headed, they will be among the last ones home.
"And to answer your second question," he continued, "they were themselves."
There was a gentle rapping at the ornately carved front door. Sarek and Lorna moved away from each other, looking first at the door, then at each other.
"That will be the twins with their teacher now," Sarek said. "Let us both go to greet them."
Her heart racing, Lorna followed her husband to the door, standing back slightly as he opened it.
She checked a smile as she looked down into Suvil and Talitha's round, cheerful faces. She checked surprise as she saw that their teacher was--human.
"I bid you welcome," Sarek said. "Thank you for seeing our children home. Enter and be comfortable."
The young man, tall and fair, nodded serenely, his face expressionless as he stepped inside. Suvil and Talitha both came into the hallway, walking up to stand by their father.
"Did you do well?" Sarek asked.
The twins nodded solemnly, but there was a definite twinkle in Talitha's eyes.
"No one teased us." This came from Suvil, a simple yet profound statement from a simple yet profound child. He looked at Lorna as he said this, as if he knew that had been worrying her.
"They wouldn't dare," Talitha calmly assured him.
"Enough talk," Sarek told them. "Go into your room and change for your meal. You will eat outdoors." Quietly, they saluted their parents and their teacher, turned, and left, Talitha glancing back over her shoulder.
"My name is McCollum, Douglas McCollum." The teacher stood formally, his hands behind his back.
"Your father wouldn't happen to be Ronald McCollum," Lorna stated rather than asked.
McCollum nodded, and though he kept a rather humble, stern expression on his face, she noted his shining eyes as he gave the affirmative gesture.
"The ecologist?" Sarek inquired politely.
"Indeed," McCollum replied. "That is how, indirectly, I came to be a teacher here instead of on Earth. He and T'Pau planned this cultural exchange and, well, I became a bit more enmeshed than I had expected."
"There are so many Terran children on Vulcan at this time, however, it is probably good for them having another Terran in authority--other than their parents," Lorna commented.
"That was the general idea," McCollum agreed. "Shall we get down to business, now?"
"Of course," Sarek murmured politely, then lifted one eyebrow. "What 'business' is that?"
"Suvil and Talitha," the young man said, smiling gently.
The parents of this "business" straightened expectantly, proudly, a bit apprehensively. Sarek formally nodded assent, and the informal parent-teacher session began.
McCollum took out two small tapes and a recorder.
"As you can both clearly see," he said, setting up the equipment, "Suvil made his highest score in verbal categoricals."
"Categoricals?" Lorna asked, feeling absolutely decrepit.
"Just terminology for sections of this abbreviated I.Q. test," he quickly reassured her.
"By the same token," he continued, "Talitha's score was highest here. . . ." He paused.
"Was her score the highest in the entire class?" Sarek inquired, noting the meaningful pause.
"Yes. In mathematical categoricals. Suvil scored third highest in this section."
Lorna inwardly preened herself. She had given Sarek not only beautiful and bright children by her own standards, but by Vulcan standards as well! He picked up on her thoughts and she was rewarded by his teasing response: //By my personal standards as well, Lorna.//
"Now that I have met both of you," McCollum snapped the machines shut, "I can understand the twins' reference to your fears that they would not be accepted."
The moment of truth, Lorna thought.
McCollum smiled again at the couple and said, "Let me hasten to assure both of you that they are accepted. Fully."
Lorna stood, offering him her hand to shake. "You don't know how good it is to hear that."
Sarek also rose and echoed her sentiments: "I also had reservations as to how they would be received."
"There are more Vulcan/Terran children now," McCollum stated flatly. "As well as more contact between the two races. Such children are not considered the novelty--or the shame--they once were."
"In other words," Lorna asked, "'familiarity breeds contempt'?"
"'Contempt' meaning its own familiarity, its own understanding, its own class--yes," he answered. "Even Klingons are proving to be somewhat different than the history books would have us believe."
"True," Sarek said. "However, we are Suvil and Talitha's parents, and it is with them that we must concern ourselves."
McCollum rose at that, having already shaken Lorna's hand, and began gathering up his "things"--as he had referred to the tapes, the machines, and his cloak.
"There is nothing you should be overly concerned with. Ah, yes--Suvil requested and received permission to take part in an advanced art class. He is very good for his age group. Please, both of you, encourage him in his artistic endeavors."
Sarek replied, "Mr. McCollum, I assure you, we encourage our offspring in all their endeavors."
"I'm sure you do, Ambassador," the young man said, "but both of you should know that Suvil has the makings of a great artist, even at this age. I would like to see it develop fully, to its greatest potential."
"So would we," Lorna said. "Mr. McCollum, your visit and subsequent comments have taken a load off my mind. You are most welcome in our house anytime."
"And you are equally welcome in mine," he answered, the slight smile on his lips again. "I do not like to cut the visit short, but I do have an important meeting to attend in some thirty minutes."
"We are familiar with the demands of meetings," Sarek commented dryly.
The two men walked towards the hall, and the door beyond. Lorna, free at last to go to her children to ask them their opinions about the entire business, walked quickly towards the garden.
She found them, primly and properly dressed, at the table just beside the shrubbery. Mhari, out of his pen, was whining some new woe to Suvil, who rubbed the large sehlat behind its ears. Talitha mocked a sailing bird's whistle, swinging her feet as she sat on the bench.
Lorna felt, rather than heard, Sarek come up behind her. They stood, just outside the house, watching the children, who were still unaware of their parents' presence.
"If only we could keep them just like this," Lorna said, "with pure, sweet spirits and minds. Sarek, would it be so terrible--having two five-year-olds around the house forever?"
"In a matter of time, they will be asking the same questions of their own mates, no doubt," he whispered against her ear.
"Please, Sarek, I am too young to be a grandmama," she laughed gently. "Just yet, anyway."
"We shall face that as we have everything else thus far. At its proper time--in just a matter of time," he answered. "Speaking of time, it grows short, Lorna. Let us go to our children. Let us enjoy them, here and now."
The two locked hands and walked out to the garden to their offspring, secure in the knowledge that, for now, they were indeed their children.
Get Kraith, Showcase, and Jean Lorrah's NTM fanzines on paper: