Jacind: You promise promise you won't tell anyone ever, not even your best friend or family or [deep breath] your intended?
Pametta: Of course I promise. Haven't we been friends forever?
Pametta reaches to squeeze Jacind's hands.
Jacind wonders if it's really safe to go over this cliff. Of course she has known Pametta her whole life, almost.
Pametta sees that Jacind is still uncertain.
Pametta: Didn't I keep it a secret when you broke the lamp in the entrance, when we were in school together?
Jacind: Sure thing. But this is way bigger than that. Not only that, it's way bigger than we thought that was, even.
Jacind giggles reminiscently.
Jacind: You remember the Dean's favorite line? "Young lady, this will go on your Permanent Record!"
Pametta: Yes, and he had us all convinced that any prospective husband and his mother would be reading that record!
Jacind: Well. There's... a Man.
Jacind's voice conveys the capital letter.
Pametta: Oh, my! You sly thing, here we all thought you weren't even looking!
Jacind squeezes her eyes tight shut and then forces them open again.
Jacind: Believe me, honey, we've been doing a lot more than ... looking.
Pametta: More? You mean....?
Pametta's eyes widen with a mixture of alarm and curiosity. Her own fiance is a perfect gentleman, so she is still wondering about some aspects of her married life-to-be.
Pametta: If your parents find out... He is planning to Do the Right Thing, isn't he?
Jacind: Well ... I hope so. But it's not that simple.
Pametta: It isn't?
Jacind: No. You see, he has ...
Jacind starts to say "an impediment", but decides to go for broke.
Jacind: ... a wife already. So ...
Jacind adds hastily.
Jacind: But he has promised me!
Pametta: You? And a married man?
Jacind sighs and nods slowly.
Jacind: His wife, see, she doesn't understand him ... and he does have Good Reasons.
Pametta: For not settling matters with his wife, so he's free to court you openly? What reason would be sufficient for that?
Jacind: No, no. He can't openly break with his wife. But he's planning to go away and take me with him.
Jacind is starting to feel a little safer now that the ground has shifted a bit.
Pametta: You can't be serious? He's not planning to part with his wife, after all?
Pametta is ~~ indignant ~~ for her friend's sake.
Jacind: He can't do that or he'd lose his ... job. His lifework, really.
Pametta: Won't he lose his job anyway, if the two of you are going to go away?
Jacind: N-no. I mean, he's being ... relocated. At least he's pretty sure he will be. And his wife, well, she wouldn't want to go with him.
Jacind is in agony from the pressure of holding back her lover's secrets if not her own.
Pametta: Oh. So he thinks that she will leave him of her own accord?
Pametta is ~~ relieved ~~.
Jacind: Umm, no. That would be just as bad.
Jacind finally decides she cannot stand it.
Jacind: Look, Pametta. I'm going to tell you the whole story, but this is drop-dead-before-reading secret, and no horseshit. If it ever comes out, lives will be ruined, and not just ours. I mean, I know the game, you swear you'll never tell anyone -- except your best friend. This isn't like that.
Pametta: Jacind, I swear I won't tell anyone. Not unless you specifically tell me I can, and only to whom you say I can.
Jacind looks around, then listens carefully. No one to be seen -- obviously, she's in her own room -- but more importantly, no sounds of servants in the halls.
Jacind: My lover is Senator Burgess. The next ambassador to Nivet.
Pametta: Senator Burgess? So... he's planning to take you with him to Simeland, and leave his wife behind?
Jacind: That would be the plan, yes. It won't be a divorce, of course -- but in Sime Territory, living together is being married.
Pametta: That's fine, as long as you're in Simeland. What happens when there's a new Ambassador?
Jacind waves that off.
Jacind: Nobody wants that job. By the time Lance is ready to retire from that, he'll be ready to retire from the Senate. And then he can make an honest woman of me, no problem.
Pametta: What if... what if you have a child? Without a husband?
Jacind: In Sime Territory? All children are wanted there. It won't be a problem. Besides ...
Jacind realizes there's a third level of disclosure needed here, but she doesn't suppose she can actually extract a blood oath from Pametta, even if they hadn't already gone through that silly ritual as kids.
Jacind: I don't think that is likely to be an issue to begin with.
Pametta comes to the erroneous conclusion that her friend must suffer from infertility, since she obviously isn't pregnant yet, and is ~~ sympathetic ~~.
Pametta: Well, it's just as well. Children would be a real complication, in your situation. But even without that problem -- Jacind, are you sure, really sure, that Burgess is committed to sharing the rest of his life with you? I mean, he hasn't given you a ring to pledge himself, right?
Pametta looks pointedly at Jacind's ringless fingers.
Jacind: Well, duh, no. That would be obvious. But he's given me something valuable, all right.
Pametta: He has?
Jacind folds back the collar of her dress, exposing a thin chain, and pulls up on the chain, exposing a strange-looking metallic object with a small hole drilled in it.
Pametta: What is that?
Jacind: I don't know, I'm no expert. But what it is, is a Genuine Ancient Artifact. Certified and everything.
Pametta: An Ancient artifact? What does it do?
Jacind grows a bit petulant, now that the thrilling revelations are over and Pametta is asking all these nerdly questions.
Jacind: I tell you, I have no idea. But it's from him, and it was very expensive. Isn't that the whole point of rings, too?
Pametta: Well, yes and no. Officially, it's supposed to be the symbol that counts.
Pametta looks at the suitably sized diamond on her own finger with ~~ pride ~~.
Jacind: Yes, fine, provided you can afford to be out in the open... It is pretty, though. Not like this -- blob.
Pametta: If he couldn't give you a ring -- and I quite see why he couldn't -- at least it's something interesting and worthwhile. Although it's a pity you can't wear it openly.
Jacind: Well, I wear it openly for him, and that will have to do until we're safely in Simeland, I suppose.
Pametta: Are you really going to live in Simeland? With, well, all the Simes?
Pametta remembers Jacind as having the usual attitude among their friends towards Simes, the few times they talked about it, but knows from personal experience that people change.
Jacind: Well, I suppose so. But, I mean, I'll be in the Embassy compound, most of the time, only meeting the more, well, civilized ones.
Pametta: Some of them are quite pleasant, Brenn says. He enjoyed the ones who stayed as his guests, for instance.
Jacind: Well, that's encouraging.
Pametta: In a way, I envy you. Brenn and I have even discussed going to Simeland on our honeymoon.
Jacind: Really? How interesting! You'll have to write me all about it. Assuming I'm still here, that is.
Pametta is struck by a thought.
Pametta: You know, we might actually end up visiting you and your Ambassador, if we get as far as Capital. Assuming that you are settled there by the time we get married, that is.
Jacind's eyebrows elevate.
Jacind: Do you think your Brenn can afford to meet ... well, me?
Pametta: Who's to know? A Senator paying a call on the Ambassador while traveling through another Territory isn't going to raise any questions. Not even my mother would question it.
Jacind: Well ... if it happens that way, you'd better prepare him, I suppose. I know politicians hate surprises. Anyway, when things have gotten that far, secrecy won't matter much. I guess.
Pametta: Speaking of mothers... What are you going to tell your parents?
Jacind laughs spitefully.
Jacind: Mommy Dearest is going to get a postcard. From Simeland. The kind where you can only write on half the card.
Pametta is ~~ scandalized ~~.
Pametta: You do like living dangerously, don't you.
Jacind: On the contrary, I like living safely. And that means getting out of reach of M.D.'s claws before she finds out anything.
Pametta: I see you've thought of everything.
Jacind hopes so, but isn't going to reveal her inner uncertainty, even in front of her true friend. A young lady has to have some pride.
Jacind: Of course.
Jacind's tone of voice, though, reveals more than it conceals.
Pametta: Jacind, I can't decide if you're a rebel or just plain crazy, but I do know you're the bravest person I know.
Pametta looks at her friend with ~~ concern and admiration ~~.
Pametta: If there's anything I can do to make your plans work out, will you let me know?
Jacind: Oh, of course. I know I can depend on you, Pammie.
Pametta reaches out to hold her friend's hands tightly.