Randayl lingers in the Embassy rose garden after his shift of hole-digging. He has washed up as best he can and straightened his faded work clothes.
Brenda has brought a picnic supper out into the garden, to try to tempt her Sime to eat. She's gotten strangely protective of Randayl, lately. She hopes the romantic setting will be conducive to talking about Important Things.
Randayl smiles as he zlins Brenda approach.
Randayl: Brenda! I was hoping you could get away.
Brenda: Mrs. T is busy in her office for the next couple of hours. And I really wanted to see you again.
Brenda is ignoring the fact that she saw him just at lunchtime. That was five whole hours ago.
Randayl's Sime sense of time isn't any more accurate.
Randayl: The yellow rose is blooming. See?
Randayl twines a tentacle carefully around the stem, and leans forward to sniff the perfume.
Brenda: It's lovely. This is a perfect spot.
Brenda moves close to Randayl to smell the flower.
Randayl notes that Brenda is comfortable with the sight of his tentacles. He never thought he would find a girl -- a real girl, from back home -- who wouldn't reject him because of them.
Brenda knows she should never touch a Sime without permission, but she shifts an inch closer and ~~ hopes ~~ he'll take the hint.
Randayl retracts his tentacles and ~~ tentatively ~~ puts a hand on her shoulder.
Brenda leans into the touch.
Randayl: Brenda, what will you do when the Ambassador finishes his term and returns to New Washington?
Brenda is suddenly ~~ shy ~~ .
Brenda: Well, I'd always assumed I'd be going back with them. But, well...
Randayl feels a sudden ~~ hope ~~.
Brenda squares her shoulders and decides to go ahead and say it.
Brenda: I've kind of been starting to hope that I might have a reason to not go home after all.
Brenda looks up into his eyes, ~~ pleading ~~ .
Randayl: Do you think you might want to stay in Simeland? Where you don't speak the language very well?
Brenda: It would be a really big step to stay here. It would be hard to go back later if I changed my mind. So I'd have to have... more than just a friendship to count on here.
Randayl: I have to tell you, Brenda, it's going to be a while before I can afford things like a decent apartment.
Brenda: That's all right. I can live in a shoebox if we have to. And... maybe Mrs. T will let me keep my job, at least for a while.
Randayl: I ought to be asking your father for permission to court you. I don't suppose he's planning to visit you here?
Brenda: Not in a million years.
Brenda thinks about it for a bit.
Brenda: I guess, with working for the Tsibolas, they're kind of taking the place of my parents right now.
Randayl: How's your family going to take having you stepping out with a Sime?
Brenda: They won't be happy. But... well, it's my life. And at least if I marry a Sime, I know what I'm getting.
Brenda's nager takes on a ~~ reminiscent ~~ quality.
Randayl: There's a story behind that?
Brenda: A girl I knew at school... her brother got married on his sixteenth birthday. Three weeks later, his bride had to shoot him. She got a bit strange after that.
Brenda swallows hard.
Brenda: Five months later, the baby was born, and she drowned it. Said a Sime father would make a Sime baby.
Randayl: Ah. Well, if that's the reason... a channel could check out any man you weren't sure about. You could marry a Gen and know that he was a Gen. And your family would accept him.
Brenda: Oh, I'm sure about you.
Brenda tentatively reaches out and strokes the tip of one dorsal where it pokes from its sheath.
Randayl holds very, very still.
Brenda: And I don't know why not, but I don't seem to mind the way I ought to.
Randayl gives a sweet smile.
Brenda returns a sappy grin.
Randayl ~~ dares ~~ to let the dorsal extend to touch her hand.
Brenda shivers a little under the touch, but turns her face up to his.
Randayl very ~~ daringly ~~ leans forward to brush her lips with his own.
Brenda's mouth softens against his.
Randayl resists the temptation to wrap his arms around her, fearing that such an act might be misinterpreted. He breaks the kiss, far too soon for his preference.
Randayl: You know, my family will be outraged.
Brenda leans her forehead into his chest, breathing in the sweaty scent of him.
Brenda: More than they are by the fact that you're a Sime?
Randayl: Well, that was the worst, it's true. No, you'd be the third worst thing I've done to upset them.
Brenda: Hmm? ~~ teasing ~~ What was the second worst?
Randayl: Well, it was actually my late aunt. She left her fortune to me instead of to my father.
Brenda: Well, I guess that one fixed itself when you turned Sime.
Randayl: Actually, no. She died a couple of months ago.
Brenda: You won't get it, though. You're legally dead back home.
Randayl: But she was very clear that she intended me to inherit, tentacles and all. The will was pretty airtight.
Brenda registers ~~ shock ~~ as she digests the implications.
Randayl: My father was furious. He was pretty desperate to get his hands on the money.
Brenda: You mean you're... going to be rich?
Randayl: Well, someday. I had to compromise with my father, to keep him from contesting the will and wasting all the money in the courts. I did get him to agree to let my sisters take changeover training, in return for settling his outstanding obligations.
Brenda feels a sudden wave of ~~ insecurity ~~ . She knows she's plain, has no real prospects and not much education. Surely Randayl will be able to do better than her.
Randayl: But for now, I'm still digging post holes. And it's going to stay that way for quite a while.
Brenda: And when it changes? I'll never make a grand lady like Mrs. T.
Randayl: So what? I've known a lot of grand ladies. My father assumed he'd find one for me to marry so I could take over his Senate seat. It wasn't until I changed over that I realized how much I didn't want that life.
Brenda feels a sudden sense of ~~ unreality ~~ .
Brenda: Your father's a Senator?
Brenda: (in a small voice) Oh.
Randayl: At least for now. If his financial difficulties become known, he'll probably lose his seat.
Brenda pulls herself together enough to realize that, working for the Tsibolas, she's seen a lot of senators, and heard about a lot more.
Brenda: Which one? Maybe I've heard of him.
Randayl: Rundle. The hatchet man.
Brenda's eyes widen.
Brenda: I saw him once. And heard him. When he came over to tell the Ambassador they were kicking him out of the Senate. I was just the other side of the door. No wonder you don't want to be like him.
Randayl: He's good at his job. I can respect that. But I admit, I don't like him much. My sisters are another matter. I want them to have a better chance than I had.
Brenda: But you... you said you got them into changeover training.
Randayl: Yes. That doesn't mean that my father will take them to a Sime Center if they go into changeover. Or allow them the freedom to marry someone they choose.
Brenda: Could you...
Brenda is thinking frantically.
Randayl: Could I what?
Brenda: Get them to come over here? Now, before they're any older? I don't mind if... well, if we have to wait a bit before we can afford to marry.
Randayl: I don't think so. At least not now. But there's time, still. They're not in much danger yet.
Brenda: How old are they?
Randayl: The oldest is just turning twelve.
Brenda: So she's got some time. Maybe.
Randayl: Yes. At least she knows enough to identify changeover and find help, if that's what she wants.
Randayl: And if she turns Gen instead -- I hope she'll contact me, if my father's plans for her future aren't to her liking.
Brenda: Yeah. Well, stay in touch. Make sure she doesn't feel like she'd be coming to a stranger.
Randayl is ~~ touched ~~ that Brenda would encourage him to stay in contact with his family.
Randayl: Brenda, you will absolutely scandalize my family. I can't wait. I don't know what they'll find worse: that I'm marrying a woman who's earned her own way, or that a Gen would marry me.
Brenda: You know, once you have money, you'll have a lot more prospects. You could do better than me.
Randayl: Brenda, I'm a conservative fellow at heart. I want to marry a woman -- a Gen -- who shares my background. And there aren't too many here. Especially not ones with shiny brown hair like yours.
Randayl reaches out and brushes the hair back from her forehead.
Brenda blushes. ~~ happiness ~~.
Randayl: Now, you said the Ambassador is acting sort of like your family. Should I ask them whether I can court you?
Brenda thinks about it.
Brenda: Yes, I think so.
Randayl leans forward to kiss her again, this time a little more ~~ confidently ~~.