Nesta Brown walks towards the Hannard's Ford Sime Center, her collar pulled up high around her face to protect her from the biting chill. Snowflakes swirl around her as she opens the gate and walks up the steps of the Center. She hopes the snow will keep down traffic today; she really wants some time to talk to Bibi.
Bibi is dutifully working on the accounts. She's figured out that a discrepancy in the selyn balance was due to Marvin transposing two digits in one of his receipts for selyn uploaded. Fortunately, she uses a double entry selyn accounting system.
Nesta stomps snow from her boots on the doormat, then opens the door and goes inside.
Bibi zlins her approaching and gladly leaves the books to greet her in the waiting room.
Bibi: Good evening, Nesta. Awfully cold today, isn't it?
Bibi can zlin just how cold the young woman is and automatically pours a cup of hot tea to warm her up.
Nesta: Yes, it is. Hi, Hajene Bibi. I'm glad to see you.
Bibi hands Nesta the mug of tea.
Nesta: Thank you. Ooh, this is good. Nice and hot.
Nesta stuffs her mitts in her pocket and warms up her fingers on the mug.
Bibi ~~ enjoys ~~ zlinning Nesta enjoy the warmth.
Nesta: Are you busy, Hajene? Or have you got a few minutes?
Nesta takes a cautions sip of the tea. It's still a bit too hot to drink.
Bibi: I have some time. It's been a quiet day.
Bibi sits on one of the waiting room chairs, and gestures to Nesta to make herself comfortable.
Cristal moves to the correct spot to neutralize Nesta's GN-1 field.
Nesta settles onto a nearby chair, and unbuttons her coat.
Nesta: I could use some advice.
Bibi: I'll try to help.
Cristal nods encouragingly but doesn't say anything.
Nesta tries another sip of her tea, while considering where to start.
Nesta: My birthday's coming up in the spring.
Bibi nods and waits.
Nesta: I'll be eighteen then. Officially an old maid.
Bibi: Hardly an old maid, Nesta!
Nesta: Maybe not by your standards. Here...
Cristal: Eighteen would have been pretty old in junct society too, Bibi.
Nesta: Most of the girls I went to school with are married already.
Bibi: Well, people live a lot longer here than they did in Nivet before Unity, so they don't have to be in a big hurry to make decisions they may later regret.
Bibi isn't going to mention Gens in pre-Unity Nivet, who never made any decisions at all.
Nesta: It's... well, it's the way things are here. Once you get past a certain age, it's like you missed your chance, and even if there's nothing wrong with you, your odds of getting married then are pretty small. I don't want to spend the rest of my life being a maiden aunt, babysitting my sisters' kids. I want a family of my own.
Bibi sets her face in a sympathetic look, while wondering what Nesta wants her advice on. Or does she just want someone to complain to?
Nesta: There's... there's a couple of guys.
Cristal: Hmm. Should I pretend not to hear this, Nesta?
Nesta: You know Rikk, Hajene Bibi. You know him too, Sosu Cristal. He comes in here every month. Nice guy, decent family.
Nesta: Rikk and I used to spend a lot of time together, when we were in school. We still see each other a fair bit. If he were to propose to me, I'd say yes in a moment. The trouble is, he hasn't. I've dropped all kinds of hints, too. But then.
Nesta takes a deep breath, glancing from Bibi to Cristal.
Nesta: There's Yahn. You probably don't know who I'm talking about, but he's a nice guy too. Decent family. Couple of years older than me. He shops fairly often at the store where I work. And lately, he's been coming around oftener, even when he doesn't have to buy anything.
Nesta bites her lip.
Nesta: Last night he bought me dinner, and proposed to me. ~~ troubled ~~
Cristal elevates his eyebrows.
Nesta: I... I don't know what to do. He's not a donor. He thinks donating's something shameful, and once I was his wife, he'd probably try to make me stop.
Nesta looks from channel to donor, pleading for understanding.
Nesta: I'm a Brown. People expect our family to set an example.
Cristal allows the annoyance he feels to show on his face, but not in his field.
Cristal: Well, I certainly wouldn't want you to marry an anti-donor. For what my advice is worth. Which is not much.
Bibi: Nesta, it's important for people to understand and respect what's important to each other, if they want to get along well. I think you and Yahn should talk about what's important to each of you, so you understand each others' feelings and beliefs before you decide to be partners for life. If he doesn't want to try to understand you now, he's not likely to in the future.
Nesta: He... I... he's a nice guy, aside from that. But I wouldn't even look at him twice if Rikk... ~~ misery ~~
Bibi thinks that in Nivet, Nesta could propose to Rikk, which would save a lot of wondering and misery.
Nesta: You wouldn't happen to know if Rikk... whether he...?
Bibi spreads her hands, but not her tentacles. She's gotten out of the habit around Wild Gens.
Bibi: I take his donation every month, Nesta. I don't know him well otherwise.
Cristal: Nesta? Why can't you just ask him to marry you, since it's what you want?
Nesta: ~~ shock ~~
Cristal turns up the support for Bibi.
Nesta: I'm not that kind of girl. No decent guy would want me if I did things like that.
Nesta glares at Cristal with ~~ indignation ~~.
Nesta: What do you think I am?
Cristal: Umm, in love? It's not like he can do anything worse than say "no". And you don't want "any decent guy", you want this one.
Nesta stares at Cristal in ~~ disbelief ~~.
Nesta: Well, he sure wouldn't want me if I acted like that.
Cristal shakes his head in returned disbelief.
Cristal: I know he hasn't said anything, but surely you can tell if he does, in fact, want you or not.
Nesta: I'm not sure. I need to know that, but I can't just ask. And I need him to know how I feel about him, but I can't just come out and say it!
Bibi holds her peace, not sure where to start in interpreting the two cultures to each other, especially since she thinks the Nivet view is more fair.
Cristal: Well, I grant you can't tell if he's going to make a lifelong commitment. But whether he's interested in you at all, that should be evident, eh?
Nesta: Oh, he likes me some, or he wouldn't keep seeing me. But I need to know if he likes me like that.
Bibi has noted, however, that even for Simes, who can zlin, the course of true love seldom runs smooth.
Nesta: And I need him to know, if he's just shy, that it's okay to ask.
Cristal: Does he have any relatives you can talk to?
Cristal adds hastily:
Cristal: Female ones, I guess.
Bibi is pleased that Cristal is suggesting alternatives rather than insisting that the local culture is just screwed up not to do things the Nivet way.
Nesta: No. He's only got brothers, no sisters. There's his mom, but I couldn't talk to her. Not unless he'd already...
Nesta: Well, I just can't.
Cristal: What is his mother's view of you?
Nesta: I really don't know.
Nesta thinks about it.
Nesta: I'm a Brown. She probably thinks I'm okay.
Cristal: I would think that given how patriarchal things are in Gen Territory, you'd want to find out in advance how you'd fit into Rikk's family before you join it. I mean, there's no doubt the boy is, how do you say it, a "hottie", ...
Cristal smiles appreciatively.
Bibi blushes at Cristal's inappropriate idiom.
Cristal: But marrying him is a lot more than marrying him.
Nesta stares at Cristal, ~~ amazed ~~ .
Nesta: You... you notice things like that?
Bibi: Uh, Nesta, Cristal didn't mean it the way it sounded -- his colloquial Genlan isn't perfect.
Bibi thinks that Cristal is actually doing a pretty good job of getting Nesta to think the situation out, amazingly enough.
Cristal: What was wrong? I said he was the kind of young man that Nesta might reasonably find attractive.
Nesta had been going to ask Bibi to ask Cristal to take Rikk out for a drink and have a bit of a chat. But now she has the ~~ horrified ~~ image of Cristal telling Rikk that she, Nesta, is a "hottie".
Bibi: Cristal, the term 'hottie' has connotations you don't intend. It's quite derogatory in this context.
Cristal: My apologies. But my point stands: it would be wise to find out how his family will see you first, and you can only do that by talking with them. In this case, his parents. After all, don't you want them to see you as someone who takes matters seriously?
Nesta begins to understand just how clueless Cristal is about out-T culture.
Nesta: There's be no way to even begin talking to his parents unless he'd already taken me home to meet them.
Cristal: [confused] You've never met them?
Bibi is surprised too. In a town the size of Hannard's Ford? Among members of the same church?
Nesta: Oh, I've met them. I've just never met them.
Cristal shakes his head again, and concludes that this is yet another reference to some out-T ritual that he will not understand.
Bibi: Have you talked to your mother about the situation, Nesta?
Nesta: She just tells me that I have to decide what I think is important.
Cristal: And rightly so.
Bibi: I don't think it would be fair to Yahn to agree to marry him when you'd really prefer somebody else.
Nesta nods agreement to that with a feeling of ~~ relief ~~ .
Nesta: I'll tell him no, then. Which still leaves everything up in the air about Rikk.
Bibi: It's never wise to rush into these things, Nesta. If Rikk isn't ready to settle down, you'd both be miserable if you pressured him into marriage.
Nesta: The thing is, I don't know if he just needs more time, or if he's too shy, or if he thinks of me like a sister, or...
Nesta realizes she's babbling, and stops.
Bibi reaches out and pats Nesta on the shoulder.
Bibi: Don't worry. You're not an old maid at eighteen. And some of your friends who are already married may be regretting they didn't wait a while longer.
Cristal: Yes. It's not like in-Territory, where people who find they don't like each other just move out, after making arrangements for the children, of course.
Nesta stares at Cristal in ~~ horror ~~ .
Nesta: You mean nobody gets married?
Nesta can't imagine living like that.
Cristal: Of course we do. We just have reasonable ways of dealing with, umm, irreconcilable differences. Instead of forcing people who can't stand each other to go on living in the same house until one of them drops dead of frustration and resentment.
Nesta is a bit ~~ puzzled ~~ . How did Cristal jump from the discussion of courtship to this?
Bibi: Customs are different in-T, mostly because both men and women expect to earn a living. People do marry, but marriage takes a number of different forms, some more, uh, formal than others.
Cristal: Here, you marry him, you're stuck with him. "Till death do us part", isn't that the expression you use?
Nesta: How else do you get the stability to raise a family?
Nesta is honestly ~~ puzzled ~~ .
Nesta doesn't think to point out that death parts quite a few couples once their children reach That Age.
Cristal: People can live up to their obligations without having to stay together. If they don't, the social disapproval can be intense.
Bibi wonders if she should explain that before Unity most people didn't live long enough to raise their children anyway.
Nesta: I guess... folks do things very differently over there.
Bibi: Some do. Others stay together their whole lives.
Cristal: Oh, yes, of course. My parents, for instance.
Nesta is trying very hard not to be judgmental.
Nesta: You understand, don't you, Hajene? You grew up here.
Bibi: People here have a different understanding of marriage than people do in-T. Since you live here, you'll go by the way people here understand marriage.
Nesta is ~~ reassured ~~ that at least Bibi understands.
Bibi is glad the discussion never got around to her own 'old maid' status.
Nesta is, of course, far too focused on her own marital status to worry about Bibi's.
Cristal: Well, it seems like you're in a box, certainly not of your own making. Be patient and, umm, hang in there.
Cristal hopes he hasn't gotten the idiom wrong again.
Nesta: I guess I'll have to.
Nesta certainly isn't going to ask Cristal to help unbox her. Not after the things he's just said.
Nesta: Hajene, I know it wouldn't be appropriate for you to say anything. But, next time Rikk's in, do you suppose you could... well, listen? To see if he says anything?
Cristal looks at Bibi.
Nesta hopes that is subtle enough, without being too subtle.
Bibi: Let's see what happens, Nesta.
Nesta nods slowly, hoping she's not reading too much into that reply.
Bibi wonders what D'zoll would have told Nesta. Then again, even Cristal has more experience with out-T culture.
Nesta: Well, I guess I'd better be going, Hajene. I'm sorry to have taken so much of your time.
Bibi: No problem, Nesta. Take a few cookies with you.
Nesta finishes her lukewarm tea and stands, buttoning her coat.
Bibi can't help the reflex to feed Gens, especially Gens in distress.
Nesta: Oh, no, I couldn't. They're for the folks who come in here.
Bibi: You've come in here. They won't be as good tomorrow.
Nesta shrugs and takes one cookie.
Nesta: Okay. Thank you. I'll be baking raisin squares for next Tuesday. Is that okay?
Cristal: You betcha, Nesta. They're great.
Cristal smiles again.
Nesta is one of the regulars on the "bake for the Sime Center" roster.
Nesta: Great. Okay. Well, I'll see you later, then. And thanks for listening.
Bibi: You're welcome. Good night.
Cristal: Come back whenever, Nesta.
Cristal practices his idioms.
Nesta pulls up her collar and heads for the door.
Nesta: Good night.
Bibi turns and heads back to her accounting duties.