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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 76: Brown 172
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 75: Beam 19
Derek sat on a cushion on the floor of a balcony high on the western side of the northwestern tower. If he stood, he would be able to see the sunset. He was too comfortable to stand. The sky was glorious in its colors, and the sun itself was not the part that you really wanted to see in a sunset.
Besides, Princess Button Nose was curled up in his right arm, her head resting on his chest. She was his favorite. They were all pretty and nice, and they all liked him, but his relationship with her was something special. He didn’t know her name, but then there was much she didn’t know about him, and given the circumstances a name was a rather unimportant part of their relationship. The other girls sat around the balcony, chatting as they did and watching the sunset in one of the last places that would see the sun (there was a lookout at the top of each tower that got the last glimpse).
“What are you thinking?” he asked her.
She blushed brightly, and tried to cover her face with her right arm and bury it in his armpit. This of course only made him more interested. “Come on, tell me; what are you thinking.” She shook her head without raising it. “Don’t make me read your mind.”
Slowly she raised her face and looked directly at him.
“You can do that?” she asked.
He shrugged. “Well, yes, I can. As a rule I don’t--it’s probably the biggest invasion of someone’s privacy I can imagine. Reading your thoughts can be more embarrassing than reading your diary, or hiding in your dressing room. So I can read what people are thinking, but I don’t, not without a compelling reason.”
She stared at him for another moment, then smiled playfully and returned her head back to his chest.
“So, what are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking that it would be very interesting to be able to read minds.”
“Well, maybe one day I’ll try to teach you. But what were you thinking before?”
“Don’t change the subject.”
“Me? I’m not the one changing the subject. What were you thinking?”
She tickled him. It was a mistake, and she knew it, because he was not nearly as ticklish as she was, and he immediately tickled her back. They were both laughing, and she let out a pleasurable squeal. “Enough,” she said, and they stopped, and she fell back onto his chest. The other girls were giggling, clearly enjoying the show. He waited silently for perhaps a minute, and then she asked a question.
“Have you ever thought about getting married?”
He dropped his head back against the wall. What was he to tell her?
“I almost did get married, some years back.”
She raised her head and gave him an inquisitive look.
“It was when I was a sprite. Long story, I’ll try to explain it to you sometime. She was a girl--well, a sprite, actually, but you know what I mean. I had grown up with her, and I had since become a hero, and my parents were talking to me about marrying someone because I was seventeen. I didn’t want to marry someone just because she thought I was a hero--you can’t live up to that in a marriage, because even when everyone thinks you’re a hero, you’re still just a person, and you make mistakes, and if someone marries you it should be for who you really are, not for some image of who you are or something you did. So my parents were arranging for me to marry this cute girl a bit younger than me. Her name was Dearie--well, her name was Borellen Terria Condira, but everyone called her Dearie for short, just like my name then was Theian Toreinu Morach but people close to me just called me Rach.”
He fell silent, recalling that time.
“So, what happened?” she asked.
He shifted slightly, slightly dislodging her. “Oh, sorry, here, let me--is that better?” Having gotten her settled again, he continued. “I had to go on a mission. I still had something heroic I had to do. I never returned from that mission; I couldn’t get back to that sprite world.”
She looked puzzled. “Again, that’s something I’m going to have to explain to you someday, I suppose. I could have loved Dearie, but it never would have worked. I had been a human for a long time before I was a sprite, and I’m a human now even though I can still become a sprite. She was a wonderful girl, but she would not have done well traveling with me in the life I have. I console myself that I probably saved her life and the lives of a lot of other people--sprites--, but in the process I lost that life.”
She shifted, resting her chin on her hands on his chest, looking up at his face. They remained quiet for a moment while the other girls chattered and the sky began to darken.
“So,” she said. “Do you think you might ever marry?”
He realized he was blushing. He had seriously thought of marrying her. He was still concerned that she would have trouble in the verse, but not as much as he had originally imagined--she was very good at self-defense, and he could imagine her fighting alongside him somewhere like the raid on the office building in London a while back. He was more worried about what would happen if he married her and they lived here for a long time. Would she age? Would they have children? He thought he knew the answers to those questions, but of course no one knew everything about the verse.
“What are you thinking?” she asked.
He was silent for another moment before speaking. “Remind me never to teach you to read minds.”
She playfully punched his chest, and he obligingly flinched and tickled her again.
“Are you two at it again?” Princess Chin Dimple said.
Between laughs, Princess Button Nose said, “He won’t tell me what he’s thinking.”
“Oh. Dear, I expect you don’t want to know. Boys can be thinking of things that would make you blush terribly, and you know how you blush.”
Derek felt himself blushing again; he got some consolation from the fact that Button Nose was also blushing. Of course he had thought of marrying her; he wasn’t going to say so.
“Time to go,” Princess Pink Cheeks said. “It will be dark in the stairways soon.”
One by one the girls rose, tossed their cushions against the wall, and gathered by the door. Derek and Button Nose were the last two, and as everyone moved into the tower they were in the rear.
“I would like to marry someone sometime,” he said quietly. “It’s very complicated, more complicated than I think you could realize. But I see that Bob and Shella have made it work, and with the right girl--” He trailed off. He didn’t think he could say more without making things much more complicated for them.
Then he thought of something else to say. “What about you? Do you think you’ll ever marry?”
She sighed. “I would like to be able to tell my father that I have found someone to marry me, before he tells me that he has found someone. Eventually I will almost certainly marry, and within the next few years I would think, depending on what the Princess does. The Caliph will probably want us to stay with her until she marries; but I do not know what plans are being made for that.”
Inside Derek breathed a sigh of relief; at least he wasn’t in love with the Princess.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twelve other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #300: Versers Challenged. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: