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, June 21, 2006

Wizards of Winds and Waves, chapter 36

Betsy’s début

Our save-the-world team is expanding, and the possibilities are intriguing.

Wizards of Winds and Waves
Chapter 36

Most magic is a matter of mental concentration and doesn’t need any physical materials or resources. Ceremonial magic, such as the joining spell and the graduation ceremony, however, does use props. They aren’t truly necessary, but they help when there are a large number of wizards by providing a focus for the group. When Pierre and I joined, all of the wizards in attendance were to celebrate our union and strengthen it; at the graduation ceremony, the purpose was to support the new wizards as they went out into the world. Each graduate had a piece of sailcloth, to two corners of which had been tied pieces of rope during the enrollment ceremony. Now each graduate’s rope-and-sailcloth assembly was draped around his or her neck, where it glowed in a color representing the graduate. Betsy’s glowed neon blue. One by one, the graduates stepped to the center of the stage and announced the missions that had been revealed to them during the preliminary ceremony – a graduate couldn’t be counted as a full-fledged wizard until he or she had participated in some assignment against the Others. Each graduate announced a different mission, such as working against environmental destruction in Russia, or combating human-caused famines in Africa. Betsy was the last graduate to come to the stage. She looked out over the audience until she spotted Pierre and me, and then she spoke. “I’m going to France to help my father and stepmother turn the communists.”

Pierre and I looked at each other, then back at Betsy. This was more than we’d dared hope for. We could all be together now. She looked back at us and nodded her head – yes, we would all be together.

A week later, we were back in the flat in Paris. Like me, Betsy had been raised in a household without much money, and so Pierre now had two of us to tutor in the social graces necessary at the upper-class level. I accompanied Betsy on shopping trips for clothes and accessories, as much to channel Pierre’s comments as to add my own, and soon she and I both had extensive wardrobes. We then worked to prepare for the dinner party that would serve as Betsy’s introduction to Paris society.

The evening was, for the most part, a success. Grace and her pals provided much of the entertainment with stories of the adventures of their younger days. Betsy looked enchanting in a seafoam-green chiffon dress that seemed to float around her. Peter’s attention was riveted on Betsy all night, to Grace’s disappointment but not to Sally’s. In addition to Peter, Mike, Nigel, and Luke also couldn’t stop admiring Betsy; she might as well have been wearing Dora’s jewelry. The young ladies Pierre and I had invited to balance out the guest list might have been a bit disappointed, but they didn’t show it – Betsy was, after all, the guest of honor.

At the end of the party, after the other guests had left, Peter lingered. He stood in the entryway, shifting from one foot to the other, opening his mouth as if about to speak and then shutting it again. “I … I, uh … hope I can see you again,” he finally managed to stammer to Betsy.

“Oh, I’m sure you will,” she replied. “Won’t you be at Contessa Rossini’s soirée next week?”

“Yes, I will,” Peter said. He started to say something else, then stopped, then said, “Well, I suppose I’d better get going …” But then he didn’t.

“Yes,” Betsy said. “You’d better get going.” She ushered him out of the door, giving him a gentle shove on the back.

Poor Grace, I thought. She really seemed to want Peter to take up with Sally, but now he had been enchanted by Betsy.

“Oh, stop it, both of you,” Betsy said. “I may not have been pretty until recently, but I’ve seen enough of boys going after pretty girls to know that what Peter’s got is a silly crush. It will pass, and then he’ll discover that Sally’s the girl for him.”

I wondered how she could be so certain.

“Because Grace says so,” Betsy said. “And Grace is always right.”

Pierre and I looked at each other. Clearly, there were going to be problems with privacy from now on. Was Betsy going to be listening in on everything we did – even in the bedroom?

“Ugh, you’re right,” Betsy said, grimacing. “It’s been kinda cool listening in on how much you guys love each other, but I’m not sure I want to overhear when you’re actually making love. Maybe you could put extra-strong shields on your bedroom, the way they have around the laboratories at the school?”

Now, that sounded like a good idea, although we couldn’t do it right away – that strong a level of shielding took a lot of energy to implement, so it meant a large number of wizards pooling their power. With just the three of us, such shielding would drain so much of our life energy that it would be days before we could recover, days in which we would be especially vulnerable to attacks by the Others.

“Yeah, I know,” Betsy said. “But until you can get people together to put the shielding in, would you mind, um, abstaining?”

I wasn’t sure I could, and apparently Pierre wasn’t sure either. Betsy burst out laughing. “Oh, all right, Dad, I’ll consider it educational! Just, um, try not to embarrass me?”

“What did you just tell her?” I asked Pierre.

“Oh, I said that she would have to learn how to love a man so when the right one comes along she’ll know what to do.”

“Now that, I can agree with,” I said, putting my arms around Pierre’s waist, drawing him to me, and kissing him.

“Oh, puh-leeze!” Betsy said.

For Betsy’s big debut at Contessa Rossini’s soirée, we decided to make as big a splash as possible. She and I both wore emerald green two-piece dresses with satin tops and velvet skirts. I had a tight-fitting bustier and a slim skirt with a slit in the side nearly up to the hip; she had a camisole and a wide, flaring skirt. I wore Dora’s diamonds; Betsy wore the pearls. Pierre accented his tuxedo with emerald studs and cufflinks to play off our dresses.

As planned, we did make an impressive entrance. Of course, there were many comments about how much Betsy and I looked alike. Pierre spent much of his time answering the same question over and over again: “How can you tell the difference between your wife and daughter?” Pierre would respond, “The wife is the one I go to bed with. The daughter is the one I don’t let anybody go to bed with.” That always got a good laugh.

For dancing, Betsy was definitely the most in-demand partner. Peter danced with her as much as he could, but he had a lot of competition. Mike, Nigel, and Luke all got in a couple of dances with her, and many of the other men at the party got one. She had only begun to learn dancing from Pierre when she arrived in Paris, but she had picked up enough that she did reasonably well on the dance floor. Pierre and I only danced a couple of times with each other; the rest of the time, we tried to have at least one of us off the dance floor at all times to watch out in case Stephane or some other troublesome figure should show up.

“Would you two just stop worrying and just enjoy things?” Betsy asked us at the end of a dance. “Jeez, you’re like parents or something. Look, if you’re worried, I’ll go sit with Alois and Elaine. Now get out on that floor.”

The next dance was a tango. Reassured that Alois could keep an eye out for trouble, Pierre and I let the music sweep us up, and, as before, we swirled and swayed and twisted around each other, sensuously, feeling the electric tension as it sparked between us. As before, by the time we were done, we were alone on the dance floor; this time, however, there was no sign of Stephane or anyone else to break the spell of the dance. We went to the side of the room, where Betsy had joined Alois and Elaine seated at a small table.

There are some women in whom fertility increases sexual allure, who, in demonstrating that they can fulfill the biological purpose of the act, become all the more desirable. Elaine was such a woman. She was slender, petite even, with slim arms and legs and delicate hands. But in the middle, she had an immense bulge, swollen out, a great spherical mass of life that she carried in front of her, accented by the form-fitting maroon dress she wore. Above, her breasts were large and round, swelling in preparation to produce milk for the soon-to-arrive child. Alois sat beside her, and as the conversation went on, he was constantly touching her, apparently unaware that he was doing so, stroking her hair, patting a shoulder, holding her hand, caressing a breast or just resting a hand on that huge belly.

“Well, Pierre, your daughter’s debut is quite a success, isn’t it?” Alois asked.

“It has been so far,” Pierre said. “Now I have to worry about all of the young men who will be after her.”

“Well, at least there’s one you don’t have to worry about any more tonight. That English boy who’s been following her around like a puppy finally gave up on her and left.”

“Really?” Pierre asked. “When did he go?”

“About half an hour ago. I’m not sure exactly; I didn’t see him leave.”

The next dance was a slow one, and Alois took Elaine out on the dance floor. They were amazingly graceful together, in spite of having that sphere the size of a beach ball between them to dance around. Alois cradled his lanky body around it in such a way that I couldn’t imagine how he and Elaine could dance together without the bulge. They returned from the dance floor excited and trembling. “Feel this,” Alois exclaimed, grabbing my hand and placing it on Elaine’s belly. I felt the flesh beneath go from rubbery to rock-hard for a few seconds and then back to rubbery. “It’s beginning.”

“Shouldn’t you be getting to a hospital then?” I asked.

“Not yet,” Alois said. “It’s a long time from the first contraction to the birth. And dancing helps the labor. Besides, we prefer having our children at home, with a midwife – there’s one in the local circle of wizards.”

So Alois and Elaine danced, about half of the dances. Pierre and I danced. Betsy danced, but not with Peter, who had disappeared. Eventually, Elaine whispered something in Alois’ ear, and they left.

The next morning, Alois phoned to say that he and Elaine had barely reached their cottage when Elaine had then calmly and gently pumped out a healthy baby boy. She had always had easy births, but this one was the easiest yet. “She said it all got easy after you touched her, and that it went faster than she thought it would,” Alois said. “She didn’t have to strain at all. We’re going to want you on hand from now on.”

“How many more children are you planning on having?” I asked.


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