Portia is pacing the floor of the small room under the roof that she shares with her family. She would be pacing even if Luanna wasn't fretful and wanting to be carried, because today Dilena went to the Sime Center to donate for the second time.
Portia is ~~ worried ~~ that whatever the letter suggests won't be sufficient to help the channel make the experience bearable for Dilena.
Portia really, really doesn't want to have to return to New Washington Territory, nor can she and Dilena survive for long without the extra income.
Portia couldn't take the time off to go with Dilena, but she did manage to get both of them the rest of the day off. She hopes that will be sufficient to get Dilena over whatever new trauma is inflicted.
Dilena arrives, looking a lot better than Portia expected. Perhaps she's just holding it in.
Dilena bursts out into a big grin.
Portia sets the baby down on the bed and goes to hug her wife.
Dilena: Yup, that's me. All drained, paid up, and ready to par-tay!
Dilena rushes into the hug with immense enthusiasm.
Portia starts to ~~ hope ~~ against hope.
Portia: Does that mean it went all right?
Dilena: Yes, yes, yes. It went better than all right.
Portia: Oh, we've got to celebrate. Let's go to the Tilted Stein and have a few. We have the money, now, and it's been a long time since we had a good excuse.
Dilena: Yeah. I'm for that. I'll tell you all about it there.
Portia quickly checks the Luanna bag for supplies.
Dilena picks up her precious, sweet, wonderful girl and kisses her on the head.
Portia tosses the bag over her shoulder with a grin.
Portia: Come on! Let's show the town we're here to stay.
Dilena: [to Luanna] Look who's all calm now. Look who's a good quiet baby, huh?
Dilena deftly puts on the baby carrier and puts Luanna in it, who quickly goes to sleep in spite of all the fuss being made over her.
Portia is shortly holding open the door to the Tilted Stein.
Erneh yawns, then sets down the newspaper he's reading as he zlins a couple of Gen women on the porch. He stands behind the bar. It's a slow afternoon.
Portia sees the place is empty, and leads the way to a table near the bar.
Dilena: I feel like sitting at the bar, but ...
Dilena indicates Luanna and the supplies.
Dilena: Can't have everything, can we.
Dilena is riding the high of her first good donation.
Portia: We have everything that's really important. I'll trade that for the rest, any way.
Erneh enjoys the Gens' positive emotions. Usually early drinkers are on the morose side.
Portia waves the bartender over.
Portia: Two beers, please! We're celebrating today.
Erneh doesn't know much Genlan -- not a lot of it is spoken this far from the border, but he catches the first part at least.
Erneh: We got Old Dark, New Dark, New Light and Double Oak. Which will it be?
Portia: New Light for me.
Dilena: Mmmm, I'll try Old Dark. I feel adventurous today.
Erneh fills two steins from the kegs behind him and puts them on the bar.
Erneh: There you go, Gens. That'll be four and five.
Portia quickly recites the numbers from one to ten under her breath.
Portia: Is nine, then.
Portia pays and collects the beer.
Dilena claims her stein and tries it -- adventurously.
Dilena: Hmm. Interesting. Never had anything like it before, really.
Portia tries hers.
Portia: Now, this is a decent beer. Not too unlike some of what we got across the border.
Portia: I won't call it "home" any more. We're here to stay, now!
Portia lifts her stein in a toast.
Dilena clanks hers -- too loud to be a clink, really.
Dilena takes another gulp. Just an acquired taste, really. Takes some getting used to, no doubt.
Portia: Now, tell me all about it.
Portia sips steadily as she settles back to listen.
Dilena: Well, I was fine -- okay, a little nervous, but only because of what happened before.
Portia: I know it was terrible for you, dear. I've been feeling so guilty that you chose to stay here because of me.
Dilena actually laughs.
Dilena: Just wait, just wait, don't jump to conclusions. In the waiting room, I was fine -- all right, a little nervous worry, because of what happened last time.
Dilena: But there was a while to wait, so I got over that.
Portia: What happened when the channel was ready for you?
Dilena: Well, at first everything was fine, just like last time. Then she started, and I felt -- The Fear.
Dilena speaks of it in capital letters.
Portia's eyes widen and she takes a big gulp of her beer.
Dilena: She stopped drawing instantly but didn't let go. Instead she did something -- I think she called it a deep examination. Fortunately, she had some English, but she says there just aren't English words for this kind of thing.
Portia: It's amazing what a language does and doesn't say, isn't it?
Dilena: And she said, she said I have just a touch of Donor talent, but not enough to really do me any good. That's the kind of Donors the channels have, you know, not the kind like you and me and most of the other Gens here.
Portia: The ones who earn so much, but have to go where the Simes want?
Dilena: Yes, them. Anyhow, it's an inborn talent, but some people have lots and others almost none. But anyhow, I could feel the selyn draining out, and because I'm not used to that, my body gets scared when I feel my life force going.
Dilena: This is all what she said.
Portia: So could she do anything about it? Or do you just have to grin and bear it? It does sound wretchedly uncomfortable
Portia notices that Dilena's stein is empty, and her own has been tilted enough to be nearly so. She turns to catch Erneh's attention.
Portia: More beer, please.
Erneh: Same again?
Portia grins at Dilena.
Portia: We are having an adventure. Let's try the New Dark this time.
Dilena: Yes, same. Thank you [for materials].
Erneh fills two steins with New Dark and puts them on the bar.
Erneh: Four and four.
Portia counts out loud this time.
Erneh smiles and nods, amused at the immigrant Gen's antics.
Erneh: Dark is good for making milk. My mother told me that.
Erneh makes breast-shaped gestures in front of his chest and points to Luanna.
Portia: You think? Well, we'll both have to learn to appreciate it, then.
Erneh zlins Portia more closely and nods at the signs of early pregnancy.
Dilena: To continue... No, she did a different kind of exercise with me. She got another channel, a "monitor" I think she said, and she pulled out just enough selyn until The Fear started, and then she stopped. And then again. And then again.
Portia pushes one of the steins towards Dilena.
Dilena: And after about five times, it wasn't quite so scary. And after another bunch of times ...
Dilena stops to take another healthy gulp.
Dilena: ... it wasn't bad at all. And then, well, you get the idea.
Portia doesn't, actually, since she has no trace of Donor talent.
Portia: You got used to it?
Dilena: Yes. And then I liked it. And then she took all the rest in one big draw ... and I looooved it. It was, well ...
Dilena: ... almost as good as us.
Portia blinks in ~~ astonishment ~~.
Portia: Really? Either I'm failing in my marital duties, or I got cheated last time.
Dilena: I only said "almost". And it's really totally different. But it is pleasure. Just like nursing. Or eating, or drinking for that matter. Now I know just why those Donors do what they do, and put up with doing what they're told and all.
Dilena: Anyhow, then I got all excited, and wanted to know if I could be trained to be one of those, but no. I'm much too slow, they said. I don't think they meant stupid, I'm not. Maybe not as quick as some.
Dilena takes another drink to cover her ~~ concern ~~ that she's hurt Portia.
Dilena: Anyhow, she said not to tell anybody, but of course that doesn't include you.
Portia: You're perfectly normal. It must be one of those language things.
Dilena: Yeah, I suppose. Well, anyway, she got about ten times as much as before, so we're rich, at least for this month. We could buy drinks for everyone in the pub, but of course ...
Erneh: Yes, Tuib?
Dilena: Buy for yourself a drink, please. We pay.
Erneh is a bit nonplussed, but draws himself a New Dark. It would be rude to indulge in a Double Oak, at 8 the stein.
Erneh: And another for you, too?
Portia: Sure. Double Oak. We haven't tried that one yet.
Erneh sets his New Dark aside and draws three Double Oaks. It's kind of a waste for Gens, since their metabolism doesn't react to the oak essences, but the customer is always right.
Erneh: Here you are. Eight, eight and eight. Twenty-four.
Erneh thoughtfully does the arithmetic for the Gen, since she may not know how to count that high in Simelan.
Dilena pays this time.
Dilena: Today -- your name?
Erneh: Erneh, Tuib.
Dilena: Well, Erneh, today I learn I am a slowly tee emm three.
Erneh puts his arms on the counter, the better to zlin Dilena. She zlins like a GN-1, more or less, to him, and a recently drained one. But the customer is always right.
Erneh: Yes, Tuib.
Dilena: Too slowly to work with channels. But since yesterday I could not tolerate donating ... we celebrate.
Erneh: Good good. To your good future donations!
Erneh lifts his stein of Double Oak in a toast. He's in favor of more selyn from Gens, of course.
Portia: Yes. And you'll have to tell me how you did it. Maybe I can earn more, as well.
Dilena clanks with Erneh, then with Portia.
Dilena drinks deeply.
Dilena: I didn't do it, they did it to me. But it wouldn't have worked if, if I didn't have the talent. Inborn. Who knew?
Dilena: Anyhow, I have a new letter. And supposed to come back next month and all should be well. Or more than well.
Dilena is now exhibiting a mild but definite ~~ postsyndrome ~~.
Erneh zlins it faintly from Dilena, but just figures the Double Oak is stronger than he remembered.
Portia doesn't know postsyndrome from underdraw, but is ~~ happy ~~ that things are working out.
Dilena: So Erneh...
Dilena polishes off the Double Oak.
Dilena: Is there a place to dance around here? ~~ daring ~~
Erneh: Later this evening we'll probably have a few musicians in. Zorgol, shiltpron, drums, gourdbox.
Dilena: Cool. Um, very good. Portia, do we have anywhere we have to be?
Portia: No place whatsoever, until Luanna wants her dinner.
Portia smiles slowly.
Dilena waves her hand.
Dilena: Oh, we can do that here. This is Freedomland.
Dilena is drunk enough to babble.
Dilena: I wanna dance. A lot. With you. Mostly.
Portia: You know, I've never liked dancing. But with you for a partner... I think I might just change my mind.
Dilena: You betcha. I looooove it. Almost as much as donating. Or what will happen after the dancing -- I hope.
Portia licks her lips.
Portia: Now, that would be telling.
Erneh smiles and enjoys the uncontrolled ~~ drunken lust ~~ the two Gens are projecting. At this rate they'll have passed out long before they can disrupt the evening crowd.
Dilena throws her head back and laughs with sheer ~~ joy ~~.