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XI. In the pits

 

1.

Padric is kind of sweet. He seems at pains to not offend me. We have dinner at Tony’s, which is classy for me, and then he takes me to a little chamber concert at the Count’s Palace. This is free, but it’s very classy, and we get great seats because no one under the age of fifty goes. Then he takes me home. It’s basically a First Date in nature, complete with awkward good night kiss. No waking up next to a farting warrior this time.

The next day I work all day, then head for the School to work on my over-break project, which I was supposed to start on about two weeks ago, and on which, by starting now, I am ahead of 75% of my classmates.

Zelin sees me on the block outside the school, and she manages to tag along. She’s actually some help in the alchemy lab, although she’s absolutely not supposed to be there, since she has no magical skill whatever. Lucette sees us in the lab, and instead of ratting us out, she joins us. She too is just starting the project, and we manage to combine work with socializing with planning for yet another foray.

I work all the next day. Lucette stops by in mid-afternoon to say that she is now on the Reserve Sorcery Unit, and would I like to get in on some of that? Well, how can I say no? Gurth, Lali and Padric are all on the guard; Zelin’s apparently signed up for some elf girl archer wall duty; Jan’s signed on as a healer; I suppose Fenric might have a gig thieving around the back of the orc horde.

I have a date with Padric. We go to the new place which serves some sort of weird stuff from the far continents, but I kind of like it, whatever it is: a pam tak wango with bang bang sauce and some flingflangs as appetizers. The tea is weird and wonderful. We talk about the plan during dinner: he’s in. We hold hands on the way home. For the heck of it, I opt to go back to his garrison closet, and we have a night of love followed by a morning waking up in bed with a sweaty farting snoring archer and sneaking out to wash the man stank off me with a long hot bath.

And there I sit, thinking, what the hell am I doing dating this guy?

I kind of like him. He’s nice to me. He doesn’t think he’s smarter than me: rather the opposite. He listens pretty well. He’s very nice in bed, at least on the night side of a night together, before all the farting and snoring. But there are oh so many reasons why I should not be doing this.

One: everyone has targets on them. Archers definitely do. And he’s a pretty big target, for an archer. What will I do when (okay, let’s give this an if, just for argument) he gets plugged?

Two: What does Padric want out of this? All this paying for dinner and holding hands and listening to my girl talk, all this being really sweet to me. Maybe he’s in love with me. Am I in love with him? I can’t say so. But either way, the outcome, at best, would be that my plans for my life and his plans for his life would have to somehow be made to be the same plans. I can’t go off to U of Thomasport and study higher alchemy while he goes off to Edscastle to take command of the Army of the East. But let’s not kid ourselves, dearie. Most men would assume that I would go wherever they went, and give up my own plans for whatever their plans were. And then there would be the relatives. And the babies. And the rugrats.

Okay, I’m getting way ahead of myself. But the fact is, being a girlfriend, being just a steady date, that means giving up my own plans, my own independence. Yanos certainly never needed that kind of commitment.

And that brings me to three. I’m sitting there in my bath thinking of reasons why I’m concerned about the direction things are going with Padric, whom I like a lot, I really do. And every five minutes my mind puts Gurth up in front of me. And I have to shake myself because Gurth is not the subject right now. And anyway, Gurth is subject to all the same objections as Padric, well, except for number three, but Gurth’s got his own reason number three, which is this Amazon girlfriend of his.

And besides, I think, there’s—but I can’t think of any other reasons. I’m so confused about my feelings I can’t even count.

I drag myself out of the bathtub and work a shift in the back room. Lucette comes in and works the front, so Mom can go off to Travishome and buy exotics. She’s spending the night there, with her old witch pal Katlina. One can only imagine what exotic intoxicants the two of them get into. Lucette, and Zelin and Fenric and Jan, all come back and talk plans with me while I make potions. Padric shows up, and we’re all nice to him. He helps around the back, hauling stuff. He’s, like, 28 or something, he’s seen several orc wars already, but he’s quiet and shy and generally acts like I’m the older one. The others are a little amused.

Gurth and Lali stop by around closing. Guess what great idea is had? We double date. We hit the Rose and have a big dinner and some drinks, and then we go dancing. It’s really fun. It’s so much fun I’m smiling as hard as I can, just to remind myself how much fun I’m having. I find myself talking to Lali and just looking at Lali, because I find myself looking at Gurth and I make myself stop, and then I look at Padric and he gives me that smile of his, and so I look at Lali, because, well, I got nothing at stake with Lali. And by the way, Lali and Gurth get in some bickering between dances. Oh what fun.

I take Padric back to my place this time, and we share the bed with Cudgel. The next morning, it’s my bed that’s sweaty and being farted in. Cudgel doesn’t care. The little furry slut gets up, uses the litter box in the corner of the room, then comes back and dozes off on top of Padric.

And the morning after that, my mom’s stuck giving both me and Lucette the day off, because we’re all assembling at dawn outside Sleepy’s, ready to return to Valen for the first time since the new year.

 

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