Portia pushes the wheelbarrow ~~ tiredly ~~ down the street of the little town she and Dilena have finally reached.
Portia: Well, Dilena, Sime Territory doesn't look all that much different than Gen Territory.
Portia is trying to be ~~ optimistic ~~.
Dilena grins optimistically at her new partner, or wife, or whatever.
Dilena: What, you expected the grass to be blue?
Portia: Well, you'd think that at least the buildings would look a bit different.
Dilena: All I've noticed is more stone and less wood, really. Of course, that's not saying what it's like inside the houses -- that could be real different.
Portia: Do you mind terribly that we'll have to stay in Simeland, after all?
Dilena: N-no. At least not for now. It's not Simes that bother me, you know. And it is just once a month.
Dilena laughs, rather hollowly.
Dilena: It couldn't be worse than what Miz Peeters went through once a month, and that was for days.
Portia: I'm not looking forward to it, either. But we have to if we're to stay, and if we go back, we'll be killed.
Dilena: Or as good as. Life without you wouldn't be a life.
Dilena's baby wakes up and starts to squawk, so she takes her out of the carrier and comforts her a bit.
Portia: Let's look for a place to stay for the night. We'll have to regularize our status quickly, but we should rest a bit, first.
Dilena: Well, I guess even here the next town will have an inn of some sort right on the road. Do we have money?
Portia: Not Sime money. They might take real money. Or let us stay when we show them that voucher. You do still have it, don't you?
Dilena: Yes. If that's what it is.
Dilena takes out the form letter Hajene Pansy gave her.
Dilena: It's all this strange-looking writing, almost like handwriting even though it's obviously printed.
Portia: I'm sure an innkeeper will be able to read it. Look, there are three wagons pulling into that courtyard. Do you think that's an inn?
Lometh is, as usual whenever her other work is done, looking out the front window of her inn, observing the comings and goings of her neighbors. She sees a pair of young women approaching along the main (well, the only) street. One is pushing a wheelbarrow, the other carrying a baby, and they both look tired and ready to stop for the night.
Dilena: Gotta be. There's also this other thing she gave me, maybe that's more helpful.
Portia: We'll see. Let's go find out if they speak any English here.
Lometh opens the window and sticks her head out; it's the only part of her that will fit. She smiles and waves, pointing upwards at the colorful sign above her door. She notes the out-T style of the women's clothing, and speaks in her best Genlan.
Lometh: You looking for a room, travaillers?
Dilena waves and calls back, politely.
Dilena: Yes, we are!
Portia looks up.
Lometh: Rooms, beds, meals. Be welcomed.
Dilena: How much, Gen money?
Lometh: Room with one bed, seventeen. With two beds, twenty-two. Supper, breakfast, cheap and good. Price depends on what you eat.
Lometh doesn't bother inflating her prices, as these two don't look like the sort who can afford the usual tourist rates.
Dilena: Bed wide enough for two and Luanna?
Dilena holds up the baby to show how big she is.
Portia: I have ten, Dilena. Do you have six?
Dilena rummages through her bag.
Lometh: Can add crib for two more.
Dilena: Counteroffer: Seventeen for one bed, cheap supper, and crib, payment in advance, take it or leave it.
Dilena is beginning to catch on to how to dumb down English for Sime ears.
Dilena raises her shoulders, smiles, and tries to look confident and impressive.
Dilena: Seventeen, and we wash dishes for you.
Portia gives a sigh of ~~ relief ~~.
Portia: Good. My arms are about to fall off.
Lometh: Take wheel barrel around back, to stable.
Dilena: Let me have the money, dear.
Portia: Oh. Of course. Here.
Portia hands over a worn bill.
Dilena adds her seven singles to it and walks to the front door, which is ajar. If it were a friend's house, she'd go round the back, of course, but paying guests ought to use the front.
Lometh moves from the window to the front entryway, where the guest register is kept.
Lometh: Come in, come in.
Dilena comes in and waits at what appears to pass for the front desk.
Lometh: Seventeen, then, and please to sign register. Alfiro will stable your wheel barrel, do not worry.
Dilena thinks for a moment and writes her maiden name and Portia's in the register, and adds "baby Luanna" for good measure.
Lometh holds her hand out for the money.
Dilena: Me, my friend, my baby.
Dilena hands it over with only a little reluctance.
Dilena: Your name, please?
Lometh: Lometh. Husband Alfiro. Son Yergi, five years, around somewheres.
Lometh counts the money twice, makes it vanish, and jots a note in the ledger.
Lometh: Come to front room, sit, get load off feets. Supper in an hour.
Lometh is already thinking of ways to stretch the stew, which is already cooking, to feed two more without adding anything expensive.
Dilena: All good. But tell me, how to say "Thank you?" in your language?
Lometh: For deed, for materials, or for being?
Dilena: Materials, this time.
Lometh speaks the Simelan phrase, slowly.
Dilena repeats it with Lometh's name on the end, not mangling them too badly. Her out-T accent is actually kind of cute.
Lometh smiles back.
Lometh: Good, good. You will learn. This is your first visit to this side border?
Lometh has noted the wheelbarrow, and already suspects it's more than a visit. She settles her bulk into her favorite chair. Immediately, a cat leaps into her lap.
Dilena: Yes. We are running away from husbands who hit us and try to steal Luanna.
Dilena figures that the truth and nothing but the truth ought to be enough in this case.
Lometh: Husbands hit you? Is there no law in your Territory?
Dilena: Law says, husbands can hit wives if reasonable -- you understand, "reasonable"?
Lometh had understood that the Wild Gens, for all their oddness, had law and order of a sort. Now she's not so sure.
Dilena: So if no bruises where other people can see, law keeps quiet. But if wife hits husband --
Lometh: Reasonable is swat a mosquito that bites on you. Reasonable is poke to awaken. Reasonable is not bruises.
Dilena: We agree! That is why we move here!
Lometh: You be looking for new husbands, then?
Lometh can never resist a chance to matchmake, and she's mostly used up the local supply of singles.
Dilena isn't quite secure enough to give a plain No to this question.
Dilena: Who can say what will be?
Lometh: There be nice young men staying here also tonight. I be introduce you at supper. Sime, Gen, both.
Dilena: New friends always good. We probably never see old friends again.
Dilena figures she can dance along the edge here for quite a while -- these people won't know what normal behavior is.
Lometh: Friends, yes. Perhaps more? It is not easy, to raise baby alone.
Dilena shrugs over-explicitly.
Portia comes into the inn, carrying a small bag with the most valuable part of her possessions.
Lometh makes a stab at Portia's name, based on what she read in the register.
Lometh: Port-ya, we are in here. Come and sit.
Portia: Sitting sounds very pleasant, just now.
Lometh: Sit and be easy. Few minutes, and I must do kitchen things. But for now sit, talk.
Dilena: Yes, dear, do come in -- I know your feet are sore. Mine are, and I wasn't pushing that -- Oh, this is Lometh, and she's our hostess.
Portia: Pleased to meet you.
Lometh: And this is Patarr-ku. In your language, mouse-eater-girl.
Portia leans down to pet the cat.
Portia: She's pretty.
Lometh: And useful. Cat gets mice, mice not get bread.
Dilena: Yes. We have -- had -- cats at home too.
Lometh: Useful, too, for calming worry. Cat prrrs, worry goes.
Portia: At least for a while. Although it always comes back.
Lometh: Some worries worse than others, though. Leaving home, family, friends hard.
Dilena: Very hard. But here we are people, not just --
Luanna wakes up again, and after a bit of sniffling, goes into the "I want to be fed now" howl.
Portia: She's hungry, poor thing.
Lometh: Then you must feed her.
Dilena: She needs milk. Can I, um, take off my shirt here? I don't know your rules.
Lometh: Skin or cloth, not big worry here. Unfed child be much bigger worry.
Dilena rapidly undoes the row of buttons, slips one breast out, and applies Luanna to it -- who applies herself to suckling, one of her three main jobs in life.
Dilena: We will find work to keep her fed.
Portia: And ourselves as well.
Lometh: Work not easy found, for Gen. Donation payments cover roof, beans, but little more.
Portia: We'll manage, somehow. We have to. We can't go back.
Dilena shudders, unfortunately transmitting the anxiety to Luanna, who pulls off and howls.
Lometh: Marry Simes. Sime works, Gen lives easier. Baby require belch, perhaps?
Dilena attempts to burp Luanna but without success: however, the familiar motion does manage to calm both of them down until Luanna is able to resume.
Portia waits until Luanna is done, then holds out her arms.
Portia: Here, Dilena. I'll burp her.
Dilena hands over Luanna gratefully. So nice to have someone to share the baby-tending with.
Lometh: I must go work kitchen. You be easy here until supper.
Dilena: Okay, good bye and [Simelan]thank you[English] again.