Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Wizards of Winds and Waves, chapter 11

Some Important Background
What you thought you knew, now you don’t know.
Wizards of Winds and Waves
Chapter 11

When I woke up, the apartment was in darkness, with a faint afterglow of the setting sun in the sky beyond the bay. I was lying down, with my head in Pierre’s lap, and he was stroking my hair. “Good morning, sleepyhead,” he said, smiling.


“Well, actually, it’s about 8 p.m., but you did have a good long sleep. Last night, you did battle against the Others, and that’s always draining. Sometimes, after a battle, the combatants fall asleep and can’t be roused for 24 hours. And you did all of the fighting this time, without training, and without any help from me. You desperately needed the sleep. How are you feeling?”

“Better. Um, hungry. Were you just sitting there that whole time I was asleep?”

“From here on, I’m taking that guardian angel thing as seriously as possible. Actually, it was a pleasure.”

“Funny, even after what happened last night, maybe especially after what happened last night, I do feel safe.”

“Meanwhile, let’s do something about the hungry part.” We went to the kitchen to see what was in the fridge. It wasn’t much, unfortunately – some cheese and cold cuts, a couple of shriveled-up apples, some jars of long-expired condiments. The only things plentiful were beverages, the same large assortment I had seen on my previous visit to Pierre’s place. Beyond the fridge, the story was much the same – the elegant canisters on the counter for flour, sugar, and such were empty, and so were most of the cupboards. The pantry was absolutely bare.

“Is it too late to get Chinese take-out?” I asked. “I could go for some kung-pao chicken, and then tomorrow I can send you out to get proper groceries.”

Pierre was on the phone in an instant. “I want a pint of kung-pao chicken, a pint of sweet-and-sour shrimp, a quart of hot-and-sweet soup, two egg rolls, and steamed rice, not fried.” He paused a moment. “Yes, same address, same credit card.”

“Always the resourceful gigolo?” I asked.

“Hey, Chinese delivery is way better than Chinese take-out, if you don’t want to break the moment. And I always give the delivery boy a big tip, so he’s glad to make the delivery fast.”

Oh, that smile. Not a big grin, but a twitching upward of the corners of the mouth, and a pinching of the corners of the eyes; maybe – I wasn’t sure – there was a bit of a wink there. I could tell why so many women would want to take up with Pierre, despite his reputation. Even a short-term fling or one-night stand with him would be enjoyable, with his wit and sense of humor and all-over enjoyment of life. I realized that I was getting what possibly hundreds of women wished for but knew they couldn’t have: Pierre, indisputably and indivisibly mine, at least for the time being. Of course, there were a couple of flaws in the situation. The liaison wasn’t Pierre’s choice, and sex was off-limits.

The food arrived, and Pierre, as he’d said he would, tipped the delivery boy generously – about three times what would be normal. We set the dining table; Pierre’s fabulously expensive china and silver made a striking contrast to the cardboard and plastic containers the food came in, and the plastic chopsticks that it came with. Pierre served up the soup in his elegant soup bowls, and on the plates, he dished out rice, chicken, and shrimp, pouring the vividly red sweet-and-sour sauce over the shrimp. We ate in silence for a while, enjoying the food; it was definitely the best Chinese food I’d ever had, with red pepper and ginger and other spices I couldn’t identify, strong but well balanced.

“You know, there’s something that’s been bugging me,” I eventually said, “about the magic stuff and sex. I mean, if taking away virginity takes away powers, how come you still have yours? You’re not exactly a virgin. And then there’s Runyon and Sylvia. …”

“Well, there are definitely exceptions. Like, ninety-nine-point-nine percent of virgins lose their power when they lose their virginity, but even those who don’t lose it completely lose most of it. And for those of us who have training, there are spells of joining that preserve power – at least most of it. That’s how Runyon and Sylvia joined. There are rumors that sometimes joining even increases the power beyond what the two individuals had to start with, but I’ve never known an actual case.”

“But you never even knew you had power until long after. …”

“I’ve always wondered how much power I might have had before, if I still have as much as I do now. I’ve also thought maybe Dora was also one of us and didn’t know it, too. When we got married, maybe the vows worked sort of like the joining spell. Of course, the spirit of the joining also has an effect.”

“How so?”

“Love and respect increase the chance of the powers’ not being destroyed. But some circumstances can be disastrous. Rape, for instance. Not only does the victim lose all power; all of the power that the victim might have wielded in her lifetime is concentrated in a one-time backlash against the perpetrator, who, if lucky, will die a painfully agonizing death.”

“If lucky?”

“More often, the perpetrator goes insane, and spends the rest of his years in a state of complete mental torment. I can’t even imagine it. And then there’s incest – both parties end up insane and powerless.”

“Well, at least we don’t need to worry about that, do we?”

“Do we? … Now that I think about it. …”

“No, it can’t be.”

“Sure, it can. Look how many times people have said how alike we are.” Pierre was beginning to talk louder and faster, and he was trembling a little. “And your powers. If my first wife was also one of us, you would have inherited them from both sides, so that would explain why you’re so gifted. And there’s your sailing – any daughter of mine would definitely be at home on the water!”

“But I never even touched a boat until two years ago. My mother was so afraid of water, she never even wanted to live near the coast. I grew up as far inland as possible, in the Midwest, for Heaven’s sake.”

“Was she really your mother? Do you know for sure? And your father? You told me that neither of them really loved you. Maybe they weren’t really your parents!”

“I – I don’t know. …”

“And that explains a lot about last night’s attacks. If the Others could have succeeded – and face it, they came awfully close – that would have destroyed us both. It’s a good thing your powers were strong enough to break through so that even though you didn’t know about how the magic works, you felt the terror and got out.”

“It does almost begin to make sense. But, no, really, I can’t be your daughter. Wouldn’t I feel it if I were?”

“What do you feel?” Pierre asked.

I sat and thought for a moment. “Well … I want to be close to you. I want to do things for you, and touch you, and I want for you to be close to me.”

“Couldn’t that be the feelings of a child for a parent?”

“Well, I never felt that way about my mother and father, or about anybody else. How I feel is, um, well, maybe it’s love; I’ve never felt it before. But I don’t think it’s that kind of love.”

Pierre jumped up from his seat. “Come here and let me show you something,” he said, leading me into the bedroom.


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