Travel Broadens: Episode 4

Fridda is sitting on a bench under some trees after her classes are over. She's reading the book "Selections from Simelan Literature" in hopes of upgrading her fluency and vocabulary to university entrance standards. She has a Simelan-English dictionary at hand. She's having a hard time concentrating, however, since her thoughts are drawn to her meeting with her father tomorrow.

Trisha strolls up, carrying a stack of the same textbooks that are in Fridda's bag.

Trisha: Hi. You boning up for the vocabulary quiz tomorrow?

Fridda: No. No, just reading these stories.

Fridda displays the book's cover. It's not on the required reading list.

Trisha: I envy you. I started the same time you did, but I'm barely getting through the basic stuff.

Fridda hasn't had any difficulty staying well ahead of the class on all academic topics, and indeed most things that don't involve tentacle dexterity or physical strength.

Fridda: Well, I'm a lot older than most. I'm over sixteen natal. I had more years of school at home. I mean, back in New Washington.

Trisha: I'm almost sixteen. Just short for my age. But I was never much of a student. I always expected to grow up to be a hog farmer's wife.

Fridda smiles.

Fridda: I kind of expected to marry somebody like my dad or uncle too.

Trisha: I can't see raising hogs here, can you?

Fridda: I guess hogs aren't good for much but meat, are they? Not like cows or sheep or chickens.

Trisha: Tell me about your family. It sounds like yours was more interesting than mine.

Fridda: Well, my dad teaches at New Washington University. My mom died about six years ago. My dad has a nice house in the city, where we lived.

Fridda still gets a ~~ pang ~~ when she remembers that she'll never see that house again.

Trisha: Your dad was a professor. No wonder you're good at the academic stuff. ~~ envy ~~

Fridda: Yeah. He expected me to be good at it, so I had to work hard.

Fridda doesn't want to give the impression that she thinks herself superior to the other Sime.

Trisha: I worked hard, too. Missed school more days than not, to do farm chores. For all the good that's going to do me now. ~~ bitter ~~

Fridda: ~~ sympathy ~~ It's a new life for all of us now. Like they told us, changeover is like being born again. That's why people here give their age from their changeover date, right?

Trisha: Yeah, but you at least got a bit of a head start. Do you still have family, or did they try to shoot you?

Fridda: My father didn't believe I was in changeover, or he would have shot me. I had to get away, so I wouldn't kill anybody. I tried to find a channel, and I was really lucky, except...

Trisha: Yes?

Fridda extends her short, awkward handling tentacles. They no longer hurt, but they are far from normal, both visibly and functionally.

Trisha: ~~ sympathy ~~

Fridda: Better than junct, or dead, right?

Trisha: Yeah. Must be rough, though. How did it happen?

Fridda: We were out at our summer place, out in the woods. One of the conductors on the train had told me that channels sometimes traveled to New Washington on that route. So I thought if I could get to the train, there might be a channel.

Trisha: That was a long shot.

Fridda: Yes. But what other choice did I have, really? So I got this man who worked for us to tie me up so I couldn't kill anybody if the train didn't come in time. He took a shotgun too, in case.

Trisha: So he tied your forearms?

Trisha winces

Fridda: Yes, behind my back.

Trisha: Ow.

Fridda: It seemed the safest.

Trisha: You didn't know any better. Neither did he. My dad, on the other hand...

Fridda: ~~ interest ~~ sympathy ~~

Trisha: ~~ bitter ~~ My dad knew exactly what he was trying to do to me. My best friend's mom took me to the Sime Center... and Dad showed up three hours later with a shotgun, demanding they send me out so he could do his duty.

Fridda: Is your family religious?

Trisha: Very. And, you know, the worst of it in some ways is that when I stop paying attention, I still find myself thinking the same stuff. Like maybe I am a demon, and this is some kind of afterlife.

Fridda: I kind of forget I'm a Sime sometimes. I mean, I still feel and think pretty much like the same person. Don't you?

Trisha: Yeah. I guess it'll take a while.

Fridda: We're both very lucky. We could be junct or dead. If I'd killed somebody... I don't think I could live with that. And so few kids out-T have Sime Centers to go to.

Trisha: Yeah. But sometimes I wake up from a dream where I take the shotgun, and turn it around and shoot my dad. Or the worse dreams, just before transfer, when I grab him and kill him... and enjoy it. Maybe Dad was right. Maybe I am a demon.

Fridda: I don't see how you can be responsible for what you do in a dream. That wouldn't make sense.

Trisha: Dreams and whiskey, my mom used to say. Dreams and whiskey are where the truth comes out.

Fridda: Oh, I don't know. I mean, I've had dreams where I was flying, and dreams where I did all kinds of impossible and ridiculous things.

Trisha: ~~ curiosity ~~ What kinds of things?

Fridda: One time I dreamed I was standing on the roof of the house, and I jumped up and when I came down I broke through, and the house looked normal but it was full of water, so I was swimming, and I swam downstairs and my dad was reading a book and we started talking and then I realized that since we were under water, there was no air so we couldn't be breathing and I woke up with my heart pounding!

Fridda smiles and spreads her stunted tentacles.

Fridda: So where's the truth in that?

Trisha: ~~ humor ~~ Let me guess... you woke up, and your face was buried in your pillow so you couldn't breathe?

Fridda: No, I was lying on my back. And our house is up on a hill, so I wasn't predicting a flood, either!

Trisha: Hmmm... clogged sinuses?

Fridda laughs.

Fridda: Well, whatever it was, there was no truth in it.

Trisha: Okay, I get your point. ~~ warmth ~~ Thanks.

Fridda: You're still mad at your father, and you have a right to be. But that doesn't mean you're going to kill anybody, or shoot them either.

Trisha: So let's talk about something more cheerful. What are you going to do with your day off this week?

Fridda: Um. My dad's coming to visit me tomorrow, so I'll spend some of it with him.

Fridda is ~~ nervous ~~ about it.

Trisha: Your dad's willing to visit you? Wow! ~~ envy ~~

Fridda: I hope it works out. ~~ worry ~~

Trisha: Hey, he's still your dad, right? If he's willing to come see you, then that's the worst part over with before you even start. What's there to worry about?

Fridda: I think he probably feels really guilty... so he thinks he has to come visit me... even if he still...

Fridda looks at Trisha, then down.

Trisha: Yes? ~~ gently ~~

Fridda: He's written all these reassuring things, and about how he misses me, but that's just words. He's good with words. But when I zlin him... I'll know how he really feels.

Trisha: Oh. Oh my.

Fridda clasps her hands, her tentacles not able to complete the gesture normally.

Fridda: I'd almost rather have the words, than to find out he's here out of some kind of feeling of duty, and he's really disgusted that I'm Sime.

Fridda pauses.

Fridda: And that he's afraid of me.

Fridda grits her teeth, trying not to cry.

Fridda: We were really close, Trisha, especially after my mother died.

Trisha fishes in her pocket for a clean handkerchief, but doesn't find one.

Trisha: Listen, if he's afraid of you, it doesn't mean he doesn't still love you too.

Fridda: I guess... But...

Fridda is at a loss for words, in either language.

Trisha: If he's scared, and comes here anyway...

Trisha has never been good with words.

Trisha: You'll know it's more than just duty. Duty might make him write letters. It wouldn't make him come all this way to face something that scares him.

Fridda: You know how men are out-T. They can't admit they're scared. But we can zlin it now.

Trisha: There are none of his friends here to watch him being brave.

Fridda: Trisha... I.... I don't want to hurt him. I don't want to scare him. I don't want to zlin how he'll feel when he sees me like I am.

Trisha: Hey....

Trisha tries to twine tentacles gently with Fridda, and is immediately reminded of her deformity.

Fridda does her best with her short, weak tentacles.

Trisha: Oh, you poor thing.

Fridda: They said they'll probably keep improving, during First Year. They're a lot better than they were. ~~ forced optimism ~~

Trisha realizes that no matter what his attitude, Fridda's father will be upset when he sees her tentacles. If it isn't fear, it will be pity.

Trisha knows she's technically an adult, but right now she wishes she had the wisdom of a real adult.

Trisha: Hey, look...

Trisha is searching wildly for something she could say that might actually help this wonderful, brave new friend.

Trisha: Hey, assume the worst. He is going to be scared, just the way you would have if you'd established out-T. And he is going to be upset about seeing your tentacles, one way or the other. Take for granted that those feelings will be there. And then zlin deeper, and see if there isn't love too.

Trisha desperately ~~ hopes ~~ that there will be.

Fridda: You're right, Trisha, I'll try. Maybe I'm seeing things too darkly, since I'm past turnover, like they keep warning us about. And Hajene Kolina will be there to manage the ambient, too.

Trisha begins to see another side of Fridda's worry.

Trisha: You're afraid that if he's scared or upset, with you approaching need, you might want to...?

Trisha doesn't quite want to say it, in case she's barking up the wrong tree.

Fridda: No! Not really... but... he's my father -- it's hard to think of him as a Gen.

Fridda chuckles ruefully.

Fridda: Maybe not as hard as it was for him to think of me as a Sime, though.

Trisha: Hey, that's right. You've got no idea what he zlins like. ~~ dawning realization ~~ None of us have any idea what any of our old friends or family zlin like. It's like we never really knew any of them.

Fridda shrugs.

Trisha: This is your chance to really know your dad after all! And he'll be seeing....

Trisha struggles to wrap her imagination around what a loving parent like Fridda's dad would perceive, seeing his daughter with tentacles.

Trisha: He'll have to start seeing Simes as real people. But... Remember how I said I still sometimes think of myself as a demon? These things don't change all at once. It's gonna take time.

Trisha: Assume it's going to take him some time. Weeks, months. No matter what happens tomorrow, give him some time.

Fridda is having a ~~ dawning realization ~~ herself. She's tuned Trisha out while it develops.

Fridda: Trisha... I think I'm upset partly because... I don't want to think of him as a Gen. Another adult, like I'm an adult, not my smart father who always knows what to do and looks out for me. I'm not a kid any more. My father and I are both having our faces rubbed in it, aren't we?

Trisha: Yeah, I guess so. You know, it's weird. All the time I was a kid, I wanted to hurry and grow up. Now it's happened... yeah, me too. I want to crawl up in Daddy's lap and let him tell me everything's gonna be all right.

Fridda: We're the grownups now. We're the ones to tell ourselves that it will be all right, and make it happen, too.

Trisha: We can't go back. We can never go back. Even if we could somehow take off our tentacles, we still couldn't go back.

Fridda thinks about her powerful uncle, dressed in disguise, slinking around behind the Sime Center hedge in Hannard's Ford. An adult like herself, and being so silly. She'd assumed that he couldn't really be doing anything silly, because he's a Real Adult. She laughs.

Trisha raises an eyebrow.

Trisha: What did I say that's so funny?

Fridda: We're all right, Trisha. We can do it. It's not all that hard to be a grownup. They aren't any more perfect than we are. They do stupid things sometimes so it's okay if we screw up, too.

Trisha: You mean, the world is being run by screwups like us? Klyd Farris was a screwup? Controller Markin is a screwup?

Trisha begins laughing ~~ hysterically ~~.

Fridda shrugs, then turns her hands up, tentacles and fingers spread.

Fridda: We know what adults are like, now. We're adults, so they're just like us.

Fridda begins to laugh as well.

Trisha: Look out, world! Here we come. It's our turn now.

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