Pametta is sitting in a small but fashionable cafe, inspecting a menu with two whole pages of luscious cakes and pastries.
Pametta is waiting for two friends of hers who wanted to meet away from prying parental eyes and ears for a delightful afternoon of shopping. She doesn't exactly need more clothes, as the outfit she is wearing is already the height of fashion.
Pametta does want to buy a few things for her brother, though: she is finding fewer and fewer opportunities to send him packages since her engagement brought her under closer parental scrutiny.
Seriosa walks in the door dressed in her usual flamboyant style. She scampers over to Pametta's table.
Seriosa: Pametta darling? How aaaare you?
Seriosa and Pametta exchange air kisses.
Pametta: I'm so glad that you could get free today. Do sit down and look over this menu.
Pametta pats the chair to her right.
Seriosa plops down in the chair, picks up the menu upside-down.
Seriosa rotates the menu to the correct position.
Pametta: I'm trying to decide between the orange chocolate cake or that one with the coffee-drenched bits of white cake. Although I'm told the cranberry scones are very good, as well.
Seriosa makes a finger-pointing gesture.
Seriosa: Tell you what. You get the O.C. and I'll get the coffee-drenched, and we'll split and swap, okay?
Pametta: Marvelous! The way life goes, we'll never be able to work our way through this menu without such a plan.
Seriosa: Never fret, Pametta dear. Soon enough you'll be eating for two anyhow.
Seriosa gives Pametta a sustained wink.
Pametta: I hope so. I admit, I find my fiance rather dashing, in a stodgy sort of way.
Seriosa tilts her head and raises her eyebrows at the same time.
Seriosa: Hmmm. Tell Sillyosa all about it, then.
Aspera comes in, looks around and finds her friends.
Aspera: Oh, look at the cute dress I just found.
Aspera takes a wad of silk out of a box and sits, holding the dress up to be admired.
Pametta: It's darling, Aspera. That color will set off your eyes perfectly.
Aspera bats her eyelashes.
Aspera: I'll have to see what I can attract with it.
Aspera is coming out in the fall season, and is eager to find a good match.
Pametta: Aha! You've decided to go after the Hains boy, then?
Aspera: Maybe. Maybe I can do better.
Pametta: Not....Andrew Vulpin?
Aspera: I've got the whole season to look around. And afterwards, of course.
Pametta gives a ~~ tolerant ~~ smile appropriate for a young lady who's already engaged to be married.
Seriosa already has had one season to look around and vice versa, but she and her mamma think she can do better next time.
Pametta: Seriosa, do you have any particular targets for this next season?
Seriosa pushes her curls back over her brow.
Seriosa: Well. I did rather like that younger Strunk boy, but he might be just a bit too young, don't you think?
Pametta: He's a year older than you. Admittedly, he's not as well established as...Brenn.
Pametta stumbles just a bit over using the first name of a distinguished Senator.
Pametta: But his family is good.
Aspera thinks Pametta's Brenn will die off and leave Pametta middle-aged with no good prospects for a rematch. And the last ten or fifteen years -- well, he won't be much use to her, and being close to him will be... yucky.
Pametta is rather ~~ pleased ~~ with her match: Pollovic seems to be an indulgent fellow, he can give her a married woman's freedom immediately, and she has a good prospect of living the second half of her life with total freedom.
Lilah breezes into the cafe, wearing a new spring dress in stylish pale purple, with long lacy sleeves.
Lilah: Hi. Sorry I'm late.
Seriosa resumes talking about Will Strunk.
Seriosa: I know, and isn't a year's difference not quite enough? After all, everyone knows girls grow up faster than boys....
Pametta: Well, perhaps.
Lilah sits in the empty chair beside Aspera and gives a small wave of greeting, almost trailing her fancy sleeve into Aspera's cup.
Pametta: On the other hand, a younger fellow might be more willing to accept your guidance.
Seriosa's not so sure she's actually equipped to provide "guidance", despite being able to talk a good game on the subject.
Seriosa: Mmm, maybe so.
Seriosa holds her arm in the air and snaps her fingers.
Seriosa watches with appreciation as the waiter comes rushing up. She tells him hers and Pametta's order, and looks expectantly at the others.
Seriosa: Anyone want to go for the cranberry thingies?
Pametta: I'm getting the chocolate orange cake.
Aspera: I'll just have tea.
Aspera has to be strict with herself if she wants to continue to fit into the clothes she's buying by the time she'll be wearing them.
Lilah: Tea, and the dark chocolate layer cake, please.
Lilah is gifted with the kind of metabolism that can consume vast quantities of food without gaining an ounce, and isn't ashamed of flaunting it.
Aspera's mouth waters, but she stays resolute.
Seriosa: Excellent. Off you go, and make it quick. I've got a dog to see about a man pretty soon.
Pametta chuckles and notes the gaze.
Pametta: When he comes back, we'll ask for an extra fork.
Seriosa's eyes twinkle half-maliciously at Aspera's state of perturbation.
Lilah sits back in her chair and eyes Pametta.
Seriosa: So you were going to tell us how Brenn -- you don't mind if I call him Brenn, do you? -- can be dashing and stodgy at the same time, weren't you?
Pametta: Ah. Well, he's old, of course. But those streaks of grey at his temples are quite distinguished. And he's very well preserved.
Aspera thinks the idea of being... touched... by such an old man is disgusting.
Lilah: What I want to know is how you went from "not sure who he is" to engaged in a single day. I don't want to believe the rumors, but...
Lilah gives an eloquent shrug.
Lilah: ... so far, rumors are all I've heard.
Aspera: And that both of you... donate.
Aspera shudders delicately.
Lilah tugs her long sleeves farther down her wrists at the thought.
Seriosa: Good heavens, Lilah, everybody knows that. My family doesn't think it's as shocking as all that.
Lilah: But I want to hear Pametta's side of it.
Seriosa switches sides with alacrity.
Seriosa: Me too, me too.
Pametta: Well, when my brother Saag's teacher told our parents that he's gone through changeover on that field trip, they didn't want to know the details, but I did. I went and asked his teacher what had happened, and discovered that he was quite probably alive and well at the main Sime Center, waiting to go to Simeland. We've always been close, you know that.
Pametta looks at Lilah for support.
Lilah: And you always did look out for him.
Pametta: Yes. I couldn't let him go start a whole new life without saying goodbye, so I told my parents I was going to research a school assignment, and walked to the Sime Center from the lending library.
Pametta sneaks a glance around the table to see if her friends are suitably shocked and admiring of her courage.
Seriosa is suitably admiring, though not actually shocked.
Aspera isn't surprised, really. All that reading gives Pametta ideas.
Pametta: They were a bit surprised, but they let me talk to Saag, and he was very glad to see me.
Pametta: He told me that they were sending him to a camp, where they'd teach him Simelan, and that he'd be on his own, after that. He was kind of scared, not knowing how he'd find a job and all that. Simes have to pay for their selyn, you know, and he was going to start months behind on his selyn tax. A lot of people never earn their way out of that kind of debt.
Lilah: But couldn't you have just sent him money? Instead of... you know?
Pametta: Come, now. Do you think my parents would give me money for that? They didn't even care enough to ask the teacher if he'd been taken to a Sime Center, or shot.
Lilah: Don't you get a decent allowance?
Lilah's clothing budget alone is enough to house and feed a family of four.
Pametta: Well, yes, but my parents would have known something was up, if I suddenly stopped buying clothes and things.
Lilah: Or books.
Lilah has always loved teasing Pametta about her bookishness.
Pametta: Well, yes. The Sime Center people have things set up so that it's easy to let your donation offset a specific Sime's selyn tax.
Lilah shudders at the thought of Pametta "feeding" her brother that way, but doesn't interrupt the tale again.
Pametta: Really, it was quite the adventure.
Seriosa has been looking at her watch several times through all this.
Seriosa: Well, folks, that dog awaits me, I think.
Seriosa drops enough money on the table to cover all four bills plus a substantial tip.
Aspera: Gee, thanks, Seriosa.
Aspera would rather spend her money on clothes -- not that tea costs that much.
Pametta: Yes, it's very sweet of you. Next time, though, it's my treat.
Seriosa gets up, swirls about, and walks out of the cafe, making a conscious effort to draw all eyes and hoping she succeeds.
Lilah: Anyway, Pametta, you were telling us about...?
Lilah's graceful gesture gets chocolate icing on her lovely new sleeve.
Pametta: Saag. Brenn says that if I want, we might be able to visit him one day. In Simeland.
Pametta finds the idea very ~~ daring and adventuresome ~~.
Aspera: You'd go to Simeland? Ooh, creepy.
Pametta: It would be a marvelous adventure, to see a foreign Territory.
Aspera: But all those Simes all around...
Pametta: What about them? They have no interest in attacking a Gen who's not carrying much selyn.
Aspera: Yes, but they read your mind and can see through your clothes and all.
Pametta: They can't read minds, only emotions. And their eyes work just the same as yours or mine.
Lilah: But they can... can see other stuff with their tentacles.
Lilah doesn't know the word "zlin".
Pametta: From what Brenn tells me, they can tell where selyn is, mostly. That lets them distinguish a person from, say a tree, very easily. A high-ranked channel can "see" very small differences in selyn, which lets them tell where a person is injured, or what's making them sick. Brenn actually had a channel living with him for a while, you know.
Aspera: Ooooh. Now that's really creepy. Are you going to let him do that after you're married?
Pametta: Why not? He said they were model guests. The channel was able to help his mother's stiff joints, and her Donor pruned the roses.
Aspera: Yes. But to have them in the same house. Roaming around while you're sleeping...
Lilah: And it would be such a scandal, if anything happened.
Pametta: Most nights, they were out working at that little Sime Center over by the university. And, well, what happened at the ball wasn't any of their doing.
Lilah: Tell us about the ball. I don't want to believe all of the things I've heard.
Lilah could not, in fact, reasonably believe all of the things she's heard, since some directly contradict others.
Pametta: Well, I met Brenn early in the evening, and I liked him. A lot more than I thought I would.
Lilah raises an inquisitive eyebrow.
Lilah: How so?
Pametta: He was... sweet. Like he really cared what I had to say. And he didn't criticize me for going to see Saag.
Lilah suppresses a ladylike snort. As if he could criticize anyone else, after his stunt last fall.
Pametta: So when the argument started, and he said in front of everybody that he'd marry me or no one... You know I'm not a romantic, but really, what woman could ask for more?
Lilah: Hmmm. I think I'd ask for less. About thirty years less.
Pametta: He can't help his age.
Aspera: You could get stuck as a widow with a bunch of kids. Nobody would marry you then.
Lilah: And... well, I've heard my father talk. He says that, quite aside from the difference in outlook, Brenn Pollovic isn't...
Lilah hesitates, trying to think how to phrase it politely.
Pametta: Isn't what? Isn't quite as stodgy as some of his colleagues?
Lilah: Isn't very good at his job.
Lilah instantly wishes she could take it back. It's too cruel a thing to say, really, since Pametta seems to be stuck with the match.
Pametta: It stands to reason that he's been having trouble, without a wife. But that won't be the case much longer.
Lilah: And are you ready to be his wife? You've always been more interested in books than in that sort of thing.
Pametta: Of course I am. I won't be hobbled by having to get my parents' permission for every little thing. I can go where I please, and learn what I wish, and it will all be part of my duties as a Senator's wife.
Aspera: Come on, Pametta, he's not going to just let you do whatever you want. Being married is a responsibility. You have to put his interests ahead of your own.
Aspera was brought up right. She understands her destiny.
Lilah: There's hosting things, and arranging things, and negotiating things. You've never seemed interested in any of that.
Pametta: I think it will be more interesting when I'm actually allowed to express my own opinions. And if it isn't -- I'll hire an excellent social secretary, and pay attention to the good advice I'm paying for.
Aspera: Um, Pametta, you can only express your own opinions if they're the same as your husband's. Except with your own personal friends, of course.
Pametta: Brenn and I agree on most of the important issues. And where we don't -- there are ways.
Lilah: Such as?
Lilah hadn't thought Pametta was particularly interested in that aspect of wifehood, either, and wants to find out how much she knows. Or thinks she knows.
Pametta would no doubt surprise her friends at the depth of her (theoretical) knowledge, if it were appropriate to discuss such matters with girls who have yet to snare a husband: research using knowledgeable sources trumps gossiping with equally ignorant friends, any day.
Pametta discovered an interesting set of...publications...among her brother's effects, as well.
Pametta: Let's just say there are many routes of persuasion, starting with doing one's homework.
Lilah raises an eyebrow. Surely even Pametta wouldn't dare try to blackmail her own husband.
Lilah hopes she's mistaken Pametta's meaning.
Pametta smiles ~~ mysteriously ~~.
Pametta: I'm sure your mother will talk to you about that, when you form a serious attachment to a suitable gentleman.
Lilah gives a little sigh of relief. Not blackmail, after all. But still...
Lilah: Pametta, you do realize you're not marrying some young man like the ones we know? Brenn's... well, he's practically a geezer. And he's gotten by perfectly well all these years without wifely comforts. He may not be so easy to persuade in the usual ways.
Pametta: I assure you, while he's been a perfect gentleman, that particular gleam in the eye is difficult to mistake.
Lilah figuratively throws up her hands. Pametta will just have to learn the hard way that life isn't as simple as her books would have it.
Lilah: Well, I guess you'll work it all out when the time comes. You really are happy with the match, then?
Lilah really can't see it, but to each her own.
Pametta considers a moment, then nods decisively.
Pametta: Over all, yes. I'll gain far more than I'll give up.
Lilah nods, and chases the last crumbs of her chocolate cake across the plate with her fork.
Lilah: That's the big thing, then. At least for now.
Pametta: Yes. Let's go shopping.
Lilah ruefully considers the mess the chocolate icing has made of her stylish new sleeves. Maybe those long lacy ruffles aren't practical, even for a lady of leisure.