Belle, due to one thing and another, hasn't been able to make it to Aunt Virla's for several days. She's determined to get there today, not only because her friend Patti wants to be checked by the channel, but also because she's got another of those horrid headaches.
Patti is ~~ less certain ~~ than she was about the whole thing, as they approach Virla's house.
Belle's headache has just kept getting worse and worse since it started the day before yesterday. By now, it's really bad.
Patti thinks adventures are a lot more fun when they happen to other people.
Patti: Are you sure this is all right?
Belle tries to smile reassuringly at Patti, but it comes out as more of a grimace.
Belle: It'll be fine.
Belle isn't in any shape to repeat the long reassuring speech she gave this morning.
Patti: You don't look so good, Belle. Maybe you should go home and rest? We can go tomorrow.
Belle: I'm going today. Hajene Kat can help with this headache. You don't have to come along if you don't want.
Belle leads the way through Aunt Virla's front gate, goes up the front steps because they're closer, and knocks.
Patti pauses, chewing her lower lip, then follows.
Katsura is upstairs, in the back of the house, working on Nick in his sleep. She thinks he can use all the sleep he can get, so is ~~ reinforcing ~~ his sleep while she uses a shoulder contact.
Belle waits impatiently for a few seconds, then turns the doorknob and walks in.
Belle: Aunt Virla? Hajene Kat? (pause) Sosu Nick?
Patti: Maybe nobody's home, Belle.
Katsura relinquishes the contact, covers Nick warmly, and goes out into the hall, closing the door behind her. She can zlin that Belle has established, is accompanied by another young Gen, and has an awful headache.
Katsura: Belle? I'll be right down.
Belle: You see, Patti?
Katsura comes down the stairs, and smiles at Belle and her friend.
Patti hangs back, but that doesn't stop her from staring ~~ avidly ~~ at Kat's tentacles.
Belle: Hajene Katsura, this is my friend Patti, from school.
Belle remembers her manners, despite her pain.
Katsura: Hello, Patti.
Patti's etiquette lessons didn't include how to address a polite greeting from a possibly-demonic, snake-armed monster. She hopes normal manners will do.
Patti: Hello, ma'am.
Katsura: Did you know that you're a Gen, Patti?
Patti's eyes widen.
Patti: I am?? ~~ relief ~~ ~~ joy ~~ ~~ alarm ~~
Katsura: Yes, you are.
Belle manages a smile for her friend.
Belle: Congratulations, Patti.
Katsura turns to Belle.
Katsura: And Belle, you're establishing too. Congratulations.
Belle: But... ~~ astonishment ~~ But I'm gonna be Sime. Uh, that is, I thought... uh...
Katsura: No, you're a Gen now. You don't have to worry about changing over any more.
Belle falls silent as she tries to absorb the news.
Katsura is holding up fairly well under the onslaught of uncontrolled adolescent emotions, and she has experience in dealing with Gen pain, so she can handle Belle's headache too. She just hopes Belle won't suddenly explode with reaction.
Belle: Hey, this means I can stay at home, and inherit the farm someday, and get married, and... and everything. Everything normal.
Katsura: Yes. And neither of you has to wait until you're sixteen to be sure of it, either.
Patti is slowly coming to the same conclusion, and with it, the realization that she will be around to suffer the consequences of today's visit.
Belle's thrill of ~~ joy ~~ and ~~ relief ~~ is somewhat dampened by the ongoing ~~ pain ~~ of her headache.
Patti hopes that Belle, at least, will have an incentive not to blab it about. Much.
Belle: Um, Hajene Kat?
Belle: Don't think I'm not grateful for the news... but could you loosen up those headache muscles again? It's worse today. Much worse.
Belle belatedly remembers her manners again.
Patti has heard rumors about channels being doctors, but hadn't thought she'd get anything that juicy from this visit.
Katsura zlins Belle's headache and suddenly realizes that she may have Latifa's Syndrome, a rare establishment complication. She wishes she could do a five point contact and be sure.
Patti decides that seeing her friend subjected to channel-style doctoring falls under the heading of "adventure happening to someone else".
Katsura: I'll see what I can do, Belle. Come here.
Patti frankly stares, ~~ avidly ~~ watching the show.
Katsura wishes she had Nick here to help her. Working without touching the patient is much more difficult.
Belle takes a step towards the channel, stumbles, and staggers into her arms.
Katsura catches her by the shoulders, hands only, tentacles withdrawn, and helps her regain her balance.
Patti gasps, finding the whole thing ~~ exciting and thrilling ~~.
Katsura: It's okay. Patti, would you step back a couple of meters?
Katsura can do without Patti's effect on the ambient while she works on Belle.
Patti moves back a token few steps, which is about as much as the parlor will allow, anyhow.
Belle grabs at the channel's forearm, more for reassurance than to steady herself, unaware that she's reaching for a spot very close to the dangerous lateral pressure point.
Katsura catches her hand before she can touch the forearm.
Patti flares ~~ alarm ~~.
Katsura really wishes Nick were with her. She lets go of Belle's hand, hoping that will calm Patti. She doesn't want to touch Belle without permission from one of her parents, anyway.
Belle turns toward Patti to reassure her, and the room spins.
Katsura: Here, Belle, sit down.
Belle stumbles towards the nearest seat, and collapses.
Katsura: Just take it easy. Would the two of you like some tea and cookies?
Katsura figures Belle needs some time to adjust to her new future.
Belle: No, thanks. I don't think I could eat anything.
Belle is aware that this is the first time in her life that she's turned down some of Aunt Virla's baking. She figures, though, that the main issue right now is not throwing up.
Katsura: How about you, Patti?
Patti is an adolescent Gen. ~~ greed ~~
Patti: Are there any of those meringues around?
Katsura: I'm not sure. I'll see if I can find some. I'll be back shortly.
Katsura goes into the kitchen to make some chamomile tea and search out some goodies.
Patti: Belle, you really don't look good. Maybe we should go?
Belle shakes her head. That proves to be a mistake, as the world spins again.
Belle: Hajene Kat can fix this. It's just a headache, but it's a real bad one.
Katsura makes the tea and puts some sugar cookies on a plate. She assembles a tray and returns. She could zlin the worsening of Belle's migraine all the way in the kitchen.
Katsura: You've got a migraine headache, Belle. That's why you feel dizzy and nauseated.
Katsura sets the tray on a table and gestures to Patti to help herself.
Belle: You mean, like the ones Dad gets?
Katsura: I suppose. They tend to run in families. Here, let me help you.
Belle ~~ eagerly ~~ leans towards the channel.
Katsura goes over to Belle and extends her laterals over the girl's head, really wishing she could take her in a five-point contact.
Patti absently grabs two cookies, ~~ staring ~~ at Kat and Belle.
Katsura: Just stay still now, Belle.
Belle: It's okay if you want to touch me.
Katsura: I don't want to without permission from your parents.
Belle: If I'm Gen now, and that sign out there says it's Sime territory, doesn't that mean...?
Katsura: Yes, but it wouldn't keep your parents and other people from getting very upset about me, and probably your aunt, too.
Belle: I won't tell them. Patti won't... will you, Patti?
Patti: Of course not!
Patti means it, too. She won't tell anyone who can't be trusted only to tell the secret to people whom they trust not to tell anyone they don't trust.
Katsura: Still. I'd rather not. Quiet, now, I'm going to work on your headache.
Katsura grasps the new Gen's nager and analyses her developing selyn system as well as she can at this distance. It really does zlin like Latifa's Syndrome.
Belle tries to hold very still as another wave of pain throbs from the base of her skull and down her back, twisting her gut again as it goes.
Katsura concentrates, engages Belle's nager deeply, and manipulates her selyn system, normalizing the circulation in her brain. She can zlin the headache fading, for now at least.
Katsura: There, how's that?
Belle gives a little whimper of ~~ relief ~~.
Belle: Not all the way better, but a lot better than it was.
Katsura nods. Belle is in for a rough time.
Belle: Thanks, Hajene.
Katsura hesitates. In-T, Belle would be an adult, and entitled to full disclosure about her health problems, but here she's legally still a child. She wishes Nick were here to advise her about out-T culture.
Katsura: I'm going to write a letter for you to take home to your parents.
Belle feels a burst of ~~ alarm ~~ . She's still not sure whether Mom has any idea why she's really been coming here, but she is sure that, either way, it's very important not to talk about it.
Belle: Uh, I'm not sure that would be a good idea. Telling my folks, I mean.
Katsura: Well, let me tell you what I'm going to write about in the letter. Then you can decide whether to give it to your parents or not, okay?
Belle: Okay. ~~ relief ~~
Belle knows she'll never give Mom the note, no matter what it says.
Patti is also ~~ relieved ~~: it would be hard to keep her own adventure secret if Belle's comes out like that.
Katsura: You've got a condition called Latifa's Syndrome. You'll have a tendency to get migraines whenever your selyn system is full, probably for a year or so, but maybe less, or maybe longer.
Belle: But... ~~ confusion ~~
Katsura: Right now, your selyn system is expanding for the first time. The problem is that the selyn is being produced faster than the selyn system can grow to accommodate it.
Belle: Oh. Okay.
Belle is impressed that Hajene Kat seemed to read exactly what she was thinking.
Katsura: Now, in-T, this means an unpleasant first month as a Gen, and we'd schedule the young person to donate a little earlier than usual until the problem goes away, if it does.
Katsura: However, out here, Gens don't usually donate every month, so possibly you'll be prone to migraines quite frequently until things settle down. I don't know if they will settle down, however, because I've never known of a case in a Gen who doesn't donate.
Belle: Can I donate right now, then? Please?
Patti: Belle! ~~ scandalized ~~
Katsura: No, Belle, not without permission from your parents. If I were to take your donation, it could cause an interterritorial incident.
Belle: They don't have to know. I won't even take the money, if that makes a difference.
Katsura: No, Belle. They wouldn't know, but I'd know.
Belle: You're just gonna let it hurt like this when you could fix it? What kind of channel are you? ~~ anger ~~
Katsura sighs again.
Katsura: I have a duty to help you, which I've done, but I also have a duty to preserve Unity, which could be threatened if I take the donation of a legal minor out-T. And Belle, now that you're a Gen, you can hurt me with your emotions. I zlin you're angry at me, and it hurts me physically as well as in my feelings.
Belle isn't, very. She's still hurting too much. She's struggling to make her mind work. It's been a very confusing day.
Katsura nods acceptance of the apology.
Katsura: Now, I want to write this down for you, since it can be hard to remember the details when something is new to you. You can decide for yourself whether to show the paper to anybody, okay?
Belle: So... does this mean I've got to tell Mom or Dad, or else you can never help me any more than this?
Katsura: I can relieve your headaches like I just did, while I'm here. But I won't take your donation without permission from your mother or father. The channel in Hannard's Ford has the same policy.
Belle: Now that's what'll cause an interterritorial incident: Dad finding out.
Belle manages a small, bitter laugh. It makes her head hurt worse again.
Katsura wonders whether to point out that Belle's father's migraines may be due to the same cause, but figures it will just reinforce the stereotype of greedy Simes wanting to suck selyn out of every Gen they can get their tentacles on.
Belle thinks about asking Aunt Virla to talk to Mom. But no, it wouldn't help. Belle knows how the rest of the family feels about Aunt Virla.
Katsura: In Nivet, you'd be an adult now, and and entitled to make your own decision to donate. Here, you aren't an adult, but you can still make the adult decision to tell your parents or not, and accept the consequences of your choice.
Katsura: So, have some tea and cookies, and I'll write this up for you.
Belle: Thanks. But don't seal it. I need to read it and think about it.
Belle figures she just might manage one of Aunt Virla's meringues, now.
Katsura: Yes, that's fine. I'll be back in a little while.
Katsura goes upstairs to write the letter in the ambient created by Nick's nager, which is still beautiful and supportive despite his illness.
Patti leans forward as soon at the Sime is gone.
Belle turns to look at Patti.
Patti: Belle, you're not seriously thinking about letting that Sime... you know. ~~ delightfully scandalized ~~
Belle: Yes, I am. You don't know how much this hurts. Besides, after...
Patti: After what?
Belle hesitates. She's never really confided anything important to Patti before.
Belle: After going around for ages thinking I was going to be Sime, and after meeting a Sime like Pinecone... I would have wanted to donate anyway. To keep a Sime alive.
Belle: The other Sime who was living here for a while. He's about our age, and he's really neat. Weird, but neat.
Patti: Belle, your folks are gonna hit the roof, if they find out you've got a Sime friend.
Belle: No matter what I decide about the letter, they don't ever have to know that part.
Belle studies her friend closely.
Patti: Well... I guess not. But they're not gonna be happy about you wanting to kiss the other Sime.
Belle recognizes the look on Patti's face, and realizes with a sinking feeling that it's not a question of whether her parents will find out, but of who'll be the first to tell them.
Belle: I'm not sure they're going to know that, either.
Belle watches Patti carefully as she waits for her reply.
Patti: Well, the Sime said she wasn't going to do it to you if you don't tell them.
Belle is certain of her decision now. In fact, she'd better get home very fast, if she wants Mom to read the letter before she hears the whole story from one of the neighbors.
Belle: Yeah. Well.
Belle looks awkwardly away. Now that she knows Patti isn't a friend she can trust, it feels uncomfortable being here. She knows, on the other hand, that she can't afford to let Patti leave this house ahead of her. And she can't leave until Hajene Kat finishes writing the note.
Belle: Um, did you hear about what Banni did to Donna this morning?
Belle knows it's a faint hope, but maybe she can distract Patti with some even juicier gossip.
Patti: The bit with the blueberry muffin?
Belle: Yeah. And the glass of milk.
Patti: That was... nasty.
Belle: It really makes you wonder about some people.
Patti: Yeah. And Banni's mom runs the Church Auxiliary, too.
Belle: I'm sure Banni will be in for it once her mom hears.
Patti: Yeah. She'll be memorizing Scripture for weeks.
Belle shudders theatrically.
Belle: If it were my mom, it would be extra chores. For weeks. Months. How about yours?
Patti: Mine? No talking to any friends, in school or afterwards.
Belle: How on earth could she make you do that? Er, not do that?
Belle would love to have that information for her own use.
Patti: She'd get the teacher to not let me out of her sight.
Belle knows just how feasible that is, in a schoolroom the size of theirs. She realizes that her headache has grown again, and is once more throbbing all the way to the base of her spine.
Belle: Must be nice, having a mom who's that blind. Wanna swap?
Patti: Not if it means your dad comes with it. Mine is easier to deal with.
Belle: That wouldn't take much.
Belle searches desperately for another conversational gambit, preferably one that won't lead right back to her own dilemma.
Belle: Think it's gonna snow tomorrow?
Patti: Who can predict the weather? Really, do you think you can talk your parents into letting you... you know.
Belle buries her face in her hands.