Rozedda carries the heavy cedar chest into the master bedroom and places it under the window where it will be a comfortable window seat and convenient for when cold weather requires the use of the quilts and wool blankets inside.
Rozedda is spending the day before the weekend in trying to make the house livable. She'll start work at the factory on Monday.
Hrathna sticks her head into the kitchen, looking for Dad.
Alafry is putting together a meal of sorts, as well as he can with half the pots and pans still packed.
Alafry: Hi, Hrathna. How are the boxes coming?
Alafry smiles at his daughter, who unlike his son has been very enthusiastic about this move to Gen Territory.
Hrathna: About half done, I think. Dad, I've got this form I picked up at the public library this morning...
Alafry: What's it for? A card?
Hrathna waves a piece of paper at her father.
Hrathna: Yeah, and it's got to be signed by a parent.
Alafry: Okay. Got a pen?
Hrathna passes a pen to her father, smug at having anticipated his request.
Alafry absently signs his name -- using the Simelan alphabet out of habit -- then passes pen and paper back and scrambles to rescue his stir fry.
Hrathna: Thanks, Dad. Mom said she can spare me for a bit, so I thought I'd run this over to the library now. Unless you require me for something?
Alafry: No, run along. As long as you're sure you remember the way?
Hrathna: I was just there this morning, Dad. I think I can find it again.
Hrathna projects waves of ~~ exasperation ~~ that her mother would feel all the way upstairs, if she were already the Gen she'll someday be.
Alafry: Make sure you're back by dark.
Hrathna: Yes, Dad.
Hrathna sticks the pen in her pocket and hurries out the front door.
Maryanne waddles down the street, her arms wrapped around an enormous Welcome Wagon basket. She has just spotted her target house when a girl about ten years old, wearing a scandalously short-sleeved shirt, leaves the house and hurries off in the opposite direction.
Maryanne sets down her basket on the sidewalk, and stops for a bit of a breather. She pulls out her little notebook and checks her facts again.
Maryanne: Okay. Stown family. Two kids, both about nine or ten. Moved in two days ago. Hmm. Not as much information as usual. Oh, well.
Maryanne tucks her notebook away, mops her forehead with an embroidered handkerchief, and picks up the basket again. She waddles up the front steps of the house and, ignoring the shiny new wooden door-knocker, raps her knuckles smartly against the door.
Alafry hears something that sounds like a very loud woodpecker attacking the front door.
Alafry is ~~ interested ~~ in birdwatching, and grabs his binoculars and heads for the door, hoping to spot a Striped Woodpecker.
Maryanne knocks again, louder.
Alafry peers through the window, but can't find a bird on the tree in the front yard. He's a little ~~ frustrated ~~ as he heads for the front door, to see if he can get a better view without spooking the bird.
Maryanne raises her hand to knock again.
Alafry cracks open the door and peers through. He sees a woman standing on the porch, which might explain why he no longer hears the woodpecker.
Alafry: Quiet! Maybe it hasn't gone yet.
Maryanne lowers her hand.
Alafry looks over her shoulder, scanning the tree from this slightly different angle.
Maryanne: Maybe what hasn't gone yet? ~~ confusion ~~
Alafry: The woodpecker. Didn't you hear it?
Maryanne: What woodpecker? I didn't see a thing.
Maryanne thinks back over the last few minutes, then laughs at the sudden realization.
Maryanne: Oh, that must have been me knocking.
Alafry: Didn't you see the bell?
Alafry indicates the signal.
Maryanne: Oh. No, I didn't. I'm sorry.
Maryanne had mistaken the elaborate device for some sort of ornament.
Maryanne: You must be Mr. Stown. I'm Maryanne Borderman, from the Community Welcome Wagon.
Maryanne speaks her surname proudly. There's a lot of history in a name like that, even if she did only marry into it.
Alafry: Actually, Stown is my wife's name. She's Rosetta Stown, and I'm Alafry Utt.
Ammenia: Marvin! What kind of names are those?
Marvin: Funny. What would you expect from a Marvin Tale?
Ammenia rolls her eyes, and gestures for him to continue.
Maryanne offers her hand for a handshake.
Alafry hesitates for a moment, then remembers the gesture.
Alafry: Oh, yes. Pleased to meet you, Miz Borderman.
Alafry manages to do the handshake pretty well, for someone who hasn't practiced it a lot.
Maryanne: I'm here to welcome your family to the neighborhood, and to bring you a gift from our local merchants, to help you get started off here as our new neighbors.
Alafry: That's very kind of you. Won't you come in? I believe some of the furniture is unpacked. At least enough to find you a place to sit.
Maryanne: Thank you.
Maryanne enters, and looks around curiously. She hadn't been in this house in years; the old Bethel family weren't very sociable.
Alafry: Please, find a seat in there. Would you like some tea?
Maryanne: Yes, please.
Maryanne decides there's nothing particularly unusual about the house. The only odd thing is her host. His accent is strange, his clothes are decidedly odd, from the short sleeves of his shirt to the cut of his trousers, and his body language is... disquieting.
Alafry does move with the deliberate care of someone who knows that if he hurts himself, his wife will hurt, too. He goes into the kitchen to put on the teakettle.
Rozedda zlins an unfamiliar Gen downstairs, but it seems like Alafry is handling things, and she really wants to get the insulating curtains up in the bedroom, the towels and linens put away, and the crates broken down so people can walk around without tripping.
Maryanne occupies herself, while her host is in the kitchen, with peeking into the nearest packing crate, which is half empty. She reaches in past crumpled paper and pulls out a strange wooden sculpture. It's all undulating curves and strangely proportioned blobs. She feels a bit ~~ queasy ~~ just looking at it.
Alafry measures tea into the pot, puts sugar and milk and spoons on a tray, and three clean mugs, too.
Rozedda balances gracefully on the bedroom windowsill to hang the curtains. They're a bit long, but Alafry can hem them up when he gets some time.
Maryanne wedges the sculpture back into its crate, and sits with her hands folded in her lap until her host returns. She hears occasional thumping noises from upstairs, and wonders if the moving crew is still here.
Alafry pours the water into the pot, then takes the tray into the living room.
Maryanne: Is the lady of the house in?
Alafry: Rozedda? Yes, she's upstairs getting the furniture in place. I thought she might want to take a break and join us, if you don't mind?
Alafry doesn't want to bring his Sime wife in close contact with an unwilling Gen. He's aware that she will have to face that situation at work, of course, but Rozedda shouldn't have to be held hostage by a hostile nager in her own house.
Maryanne: I was actually hoping to meet her.
Alafry: I'll call her, then.
Alafry goes to the foot of the stairs.
Rozedda: [Simelan] Yes, dear?
Rozedda is still on the windowsill, arms stretched as high as they'll go, half wrapped in the heavy insulating curtain she's putting up.
Alafry: [Also Simelan] We have company, and she'd like to meet you.
Rozedda: [Simelan] Okay, just let me finish this.
Alafry: [Simelan] Come when you can.
Maryanne: You folks aren't from around here?
Alafry returns to the living room.
Alafry: No, we're not. Cago is very strange to us, I'm afraid.
Rozedda gets the rest of the hooks into the loops on the curtain rod, and jumps lightly down.
Maryanne: Well, that's what I'm here for, then. To help you get settled in, answer any questions, make you feel at home.
Maryanne wonders if it's polite to ask about the language. She considers the question for a moment and decides to wait.
Rozedda brushes dust and lint off her t-shirt and jeans, and runs tentacles through her hair to smooth it back.
Maryanne: What do you do for a living, Mr. Ott?
Alafry: I illustrate childrens' books.
Maryanne: That must be fascinating. I'd love to see some of your work.
Maryanne is giving the stock response, but this time she means it. She's got three kids of her own, and therefore fancies herself something of an authority on children's literature.
Alafry: I'm afraid they're all still packed.
Maryanne: I'll look forward to seeing them another time, then.
Maryanne makes a mental note to ask about this on a future visit.
Alafry decides the tea has steeped long enough, and pours.
Alafry: Here you are. Cream and sugar are right there, if you want them.
Rozedda cautiously zlins down the stairs. As far as she can tell, the visitor is calm and comfortable. Nonetheless, she turns her attenuator rings up from zero to half-strength.
Maryanne: I take it black, thanks.
Alafry hands her an unadulterated mug.
Maryanne spares a glance for the odd mug. It's much broader in the base than she's used to, and decorated with graceful abstract swirls.
Rozedda descends the stairs, tentacles retracted, and goes into the parlor, trying to move slowly, like a Gen, as was recommended to her in her Tecton briefing about living out-T.
Rozedda: Good afternoon.
Rozedda waits, as recommended, for the Gen to offer to shake hands first.
Maryanne: Hello. You must be Miz Ott.
Maryanne sets down her mug and scrambles to her feet for a handshake.
Rozedda: I'm Rozedda Stown, Alafry's wife.
Rozedda offers her hand, letting the Gen take it.
Maryanne: Pleased to meet you. I'm Maryanne Borderman, with the Community Welcome Wagon.
Rozedda: Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Borderman.
Rozedda engages in a somewhat limp handshake, overdoing the recommendation to deemphasize Sime strength.
Maryanne: Call me Maryanne, please.
Rozedda: Then you may call me Rozedda.
Alafry is busily pouring more tea, doctoring it to his wife's specifications.
Maryanne studies Rozedda's face. It's very slender, like the rest of her... She glances down at the hand she's just shaken and gasps. ~~ startlement ~~
Rozedda takes a step backward and wonders if it would be impolite to turn up her rings.
Maryanne: Oh. Oh.... I didn't realize...
Maryanne drops weakly onto the chair behind her. It creaks ominously under her sudden weight.
Rozedda moves closer to Alafry, trying to look like she's just eager for tea.
Alafry brings Rozedda her tea, placing his own field between Maryanne and his wife. He isn't a Donor, but then Rozedda is no channel.
Rozedda: Thank you.
Rozedda takes the mug and stays close to her partner.
Maryanne fumbles for her mug and gulps at the reassuring warmth, then splutters at the unfamiliar taste. Half of the mouthful goes down the wrong way.
Alafry hastily offers a napkin.
Rozedda adjusts her attenuators upwards, glad that the Gen isn't actually choking.
Maryanne grabs blindly at the napkin, and struggles to regain some bit of dignity.
Rozedda: I apologize for startling you.
Maryanne: I... no, I'm sorry, it was entirely my fault. I just wasn't expecting...
Rozedda doesn't see how Maryanne could have missed her larity -- she's wearing a t-shirt, but Gens tend to see what they expect to see.
Maryanne gestures at the mug, hoping the other cause of her surprise can be politely ignored. She bravely takes another sip.
Maryanne: It's quite, er, quite good really. It's not regular tea, though?
Alafry: It's standard trin, not anything fancy.
Rozedda notes that Maryanne is high field, and wonders if that's just where she is in her cycle, or if she's one of those dog-in-the-manger Gens who don't donate.
Maryanne, when she was young and daring, did donate a few times at the local Sime Center. She remembers that they offered her trin there, but she was never quite daring enough to drink any of it.
Maryanne: I'm sorry. I was just startled. Please forgive me.
Alafry tries to get the ladies past their awkwardness.
Alafry: Miz Borderman brought some information about the community to share.
Maryanne: Yes. Yes, I did.
Rozedda: How thoughtful of you. Many things here are strange to us, so this is very kind.
Maryanne is relieved to get the visit back on its proper track. She reaches for the huge basket and offers it to her hostess.
Rozedda takes it effortlessly.
Rozedda: Oh, Alafry, look at all this food she brought you.
Maryanne: This is your Welcome Wagon gift basket. It contains information, maps, gifts from local merchants, discount coupons, and, yes, food.
Alafry: That's very welcome, indeed. I haven't had time to do much shopping, yet.
Maryanne beams at the couple.
Maryanne: Few people do, their first few days here. Part of the purpose of this package, of course, is to acquaint you with local merchants and services.
Rozedda takes out an attractively labeled jar and hastily hands it to Alafry when she sees the strawberries on the label.
Alafry: Strawberry jam! My son loves it.
Alafry is ~~ glad ~~ that Syrus will have the chance to eat a few more strawberries before his changeover.
Rozedda takes out an odd shaped can, with a picture of some kind of bean loaf on it. It's labeled "spam", a Genlan word she's unfamiliar with. She puts it back in.
Maryanne seizes the conversational opening.
Maryanne: Tell me about your children.
Rozedda: We have a pre-Sime boy and a pre-Gen girl, Syrus and Hrathna. They are twelve and nine.
Maryanne: What sorts of things do they like to do?
Rozedda: Hrathna loves flyball.
Maryanne is a bit surprised that a family with a boy about to turn Sime would move to Cago from... well, from wherever.
Maryanne: Is that anything like circuitball? Or maybe basketball? We have a girls' softball league and a basketball team.
Rozedda doesn't know, and looks to Alafry, who's better informed about Gen sports.
Alafry: Those games aren't very popular in-Territory. Basketball is most like flyball, I think, although it's still not very similar.
Maryanne: I'll get you information on both teams. And how about your boy? What does he like?
Alafry: He likes running races.
Maryanne: Ah. The schools here have an excellent track and field program. And... oh, there's a father-and-son fishing derby in just a couple of weeks. You and your boy could tag along with my husband, if you'd like.
Maryanne: Fly fishing. You know, you put a fly on a hook, and dangle it in the water till you catch a fish. The biggest fish in each category wins a prize, plus of course your family gets to eat fine fresh fish.
Rozedda politely tries to keep her reaction off her face.
Alafry almost controls his reaction, at least well enough that he's not projecting active nausea.
Maryanne: I think there are prizes for the most fish caught in the day, too.
Alafry: I think we would rather not do this "fishing derby", but we thank you for the invitation.
Maryanne: Maybe you're more into hunting? There's a gift certificate in the basket for Rob's Rifle Range, and a packet of jerky... great for hunting trips.
Alafry: No. No hunting.
Maryanne: You really ought to try it. It's great for father-and-son bonding. You've got to enjoy him while you've still got him, you know.
Alafry: I do, but no hunting. We play flyball.
Maryanne: Well, we do have boys' basketball too. No men's teams, except for the semi-pros. But might you be interested in coaching your son's team? they always need more coaches.
Alafry: I don't know basketball, but I did play flyball for a few years.
Rozedda: Alafry's team was in the regional semi-finals.
Maryanne: I'm sure you'll catch on fast, then. A sport's a sport; they can't be all that different.
Maryanne is unaware of how thoroughly she's displaying her own ignorance about sports.
Rozedda finishes her tea.
Rozedda: I must get back to work. You two carry on. Again, pleased to meet you, Maryanne.
Maryanne: I was going to tell you about some of our ladies' events... but another day, perhaps?
Alafry: That might be best -- we still have much unpacking to do.
Maryanne sets down her almost untouched mug and stands.
Maryanne: Then I'll be on my way. Do call me if there's anything I can do to help.
Rozedda: Thank you so much for this gift, and for visiting us.
Alafry: Let me show you out.
Alafry is careful to keep his field between their guest and his wife.
Rozedda nods politely and puts the basket in the kitchen on her way back upstairs.
Alafry: I don't suppose there are woodpeckers in the area?
Maryanne pauses before waddling down the steps.
Alafry is a little ~~ wistful ~~ as he looks at the tree.
Maryanne: I've never seen any. But then, I can barely tell a magpie from a raven.
Alafry: Well, maybe I'll get lucky yet. Thank you for dropping by.
Maryanne: Any time, Mr. Ott. Any time. Glad to help.
Alafry looks at the tree one more time, then closes the door and heads back to the kitchen to sort through the basket of goodies.
Maryanne takes the stairs slowly, then turns to look back at the house before making her way slowly down the street. Definitely an interesting addition to the neighborhood. Wait till Martha Green finds out.