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.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Wizards of Winds and Waves, chapter 35

A hint about future action

As busy as I’ve been lately, I apologize for being lax about getting Wizards episodes up. This week, I’ve had the additional bother of a toothache, which now seems really to be sinuses pressing on the roots of my teeth. There are major wildfires burning in the Gila and in Arizona, and even though those fires are far from Five O’Clock Somewhere, smoke from them has been covering the Chama Valley. The smoke has irritated my nose, throat, and eyes, and it also seems to be taking a toll on Tres – fair-skinned fellow that he is, he’s very sensitive to environmental irritants.

Meanwhile, back in the novel, our heroes aren’t being very active this chapter. But they’re setting up possibilities for future plot twists.

Wizards of Winds and Waves
Chapter 35

We spent the next few days in a whirl of social events. As we had expected, we could leave Dora’s magic jewelry locked up and still enchant the crowds with our reputation. We did take the occasional day off – as idle rich people, essentially the social events were our job. We took drives through the countryside, and we did many of the things that young lovers in Paris are supposed to do – seeing museums and sights. We made multiple trips up the Eiffel Tower, once even eating at the restaurant at the top; we went to the Louvre and to Notre Dame Cathedral; we took an excursion on the Seine in one of the glass-domed bateaux-mouches. We ate well, whether we ate in or out; I was enjoying the selection of foods available in the market and teaching myself more advanced French cooking techniques. This suited Pierre very well; what I loved to cook, he loved to eat.

As we continued to attend social events, we began to develop a circle of friends who attended many of the same events we did. We also occasionally saw Grace’s grandson Peter or Hattie’s grand-niece Sally, sometimes together, sometimes not. They didn’t seem to show any sign of the sort of affection their older relatives were hoping for, but they were clearly friends. Having grown up in such social circles, they were more socially adept than I was, but thanks to Pierre, I was catching on.

“How do you feel about entertaining?” Pierre asked me one morning over breakfast, as he was going through the mail. “Do you think you could put together, say, a small dinner party?”

I had been rapidly gaining skills in the kitchen, and I realized I would like to try them out on a few guests. “Sure,” I replied. “Why?”

“Partly, it’s an obligation,” Pierre said. “When people invite us over, we should respond in kind rather than just being sponges. Of course, we certainly can’t put on anything huge, since the flat is hardly a mansion, but we should have some of our closer friends over from time to time. Grace and her circle might be a good set to start with.”

“Won’t she have trouble with all of the stairs? And her older friends might also have some difficulty.”

“I can carry them up if they need it,” Pierre said. “But I don’t think they will. They can lean on me, or on you, and we can use a bit of magic to help them along.”

“What would be the occasion for the party?” I asked.

Pierre handed me a fancy envelope from the mail. “Here, look at this,” he said.

It was very stiff, made of a golden-brown parchment-like material. When I opened it, I found another envelope inside, and in that was a graduation announcement. “Betsy’s graduating from spelling school!” I exclaimed. “How wonderful!”

“Yes,” Pierre said. “We can fly home for a couple of days for the ceremony, and then all three of us can come here before she goes off to wherever she has to go, and we can give the dinner party to announce that we have found my daughter and introduce her to people.”

“Yes, that sounds perfect,” I said. “And it is a good idea to have only a small group of people in the know to start with. A small dinner party should do nicely.”

Pierre and I drew up a guest list: Grace and all who had been at tea at her house the day we went; Alois and Elaine; Pierre’s bachelor friends Nigel, Mike, and Luke; and a few people we had met at various social occasions and found likeable. In all, there would be about twenty guests. We spent the rest of the morning writing out invitations, and then we made travel plans for attending the graduation and bringing Betsy to Paris.

Before we left, we stopped by the boat factory to see the progress on our yacht. By now, the hull had been finished and the interior was being constructed. As it sat in its cradle on the factory floor, I reached out and stroked its sleek, clean, fiberglass side, feeling the underlying magic tingle beneath the perfectly smooth, glossy finish. Yes, this boat was ours, Pierre’s and mine, and Alois had cast our souls into the fiberglass, just as certainly as Betsy put the souls of people into the wooden models of boats that she carved. I wondered whether she might eventually become a boat-builder like Alois.

Pierre apparently had a similar idea. “You know I found my daughter at the wizard school this spring,” he said to Alois when we got to the protected space of the office. “Her particular talent is in building things, and putting magic into the building – right now, she does models of boats, but maybe she can do real ones as well.”

“If that’s the case, I could certainly try her out as an apprentice,” Alois said. “I get dozens of applicants for every position, but so few are really qualified – and, of course, I don’t get any with magic skills. But isn’t she still in school?”

“She’s graduating in two weeks, and we’ll be bringing her here on the way to wherever her mission is. You should soon be getting an invitation to a dinner party we’re having for her.”

“Very good. Perhaps she can visit the factory while she’s here.”

Two days later, Pierre and I arrived at the school to attend Betsy’s graduation. She came to greet us at the parking garage. When I had first met Betsy, her face had been marked by heavy burn scars caused by her abusive stepmother. A couple of months ago, just before Pierre and I had had our joining – a ceremonial magic event similar to a wedding for wizards – I had discovered that I could do healing. It was a variant on the rearranging spell, but it required being able to magnify my inner vision so that I could work on the level of cells and sometimes even molecules. I had worked on Betsy’s face and, while I hadn’t been able to erase the scars completely, I had been able to make them much less severe. Later, I used almost the reverse of the process within my own body, creating scar tissue to prevent pregnancy; Pierre and I agreed that we wanted children some time, but not yet, and I could remove the scar tissue when the time was right.

Apparently, after I was finished with Betsy’s face, the cells themselves continued the work I had started; I hadn’t seen Betsy since, but I had been told that her face had healed completely. Now, I could see the result, and it was uncanny. Pierre had originally been attracted to me because I was very much like his first wife, Dora, Betsy’s mother. Now Betsy and I might well have been twins, we were so much alike. We were the same height, the same build, the same age, with the same fair skin and dark hair and eyes, and now that Betsy’s face was healed, the same facial features, with the slender nose, arching eyebrows, and high cheekbones characteristic of Dora’s family. Ironically, now, the only difference between us was a scar – a very faint mark I had on one cheek from a childhood bicycling accident, nearly invisible, especially with the makeup I now used.

“Betsy!” I exclaimed as she came to greet Pierre and me. “You look wonderful!”

“Thank you, Sarah,” Betsy said. “Thank you for giving me my face back – although, really, it looks like you gave me yours.”

I laughed. “Well, isn’t that what friends are for?”

Pierre was looking closely at both of us. “If I didn’t know Sarah inside and out, I’d have trouble telling the two of you apart,” he said. “I imagine the rest of the world could get easily confused.”

It occurred to me that having two nearly identical people might be useful if we needed to fool someone into thinking I was one place when really I was in another. “Yes,” Betsy said, “we could work this to our advantage.” That was another interesting phenomenon – while Pierre and I could each experience the sensations the other felt, we couldn’t read each other’s minds. But Betsy could read my thoughts, even if I couldn’t read hers. Just as Pierre and I belonged together as spouses and lovers, Betsy and I belonged together as … what? Best friends? “Well,” Betsy said, “I do prefer to think of you as a friend and not as a stepmother. My previous stepmother wasn’t exactly great.”

Pierre gave us a puzzled look. I had told him about my ability to communicate thoughts to Betsy, but he hadn’t seen it in action before. “Oh, don’t be so jealous, Dad,” she said. “She loves you like crazy, and it’s not her choice that I can read her mind and you can’t.”

“You can read his mind too?” I asked.

“Well, I guess I just did,” Betsy said. She looked at her watch. “Well, I need to get to the preliminary ceremony. I’ll see you in the great hall.” She hurried away.

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” I asked Pierre.

“Well, only Betsy knows the answer to that,” Pierre said, “but if the three of us can all communicate with each other in some way, we could make a pretty effective team.”


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