Gossip[5 Thory 4261]
Me:"Hallo, um ... Seeks-Days. What brings you to this Zi Ri's apartment on this fine day?" I must admit to a touch of bitter emphasis on my species name, since she did, in effect, break up with me over it.
Strenata:"And why should I be anywhere but at the home of my favorite Zi Ri?"("Break up" in the sense of "let me know, finally, that she would not engage in sexual conduct with me, even if I were to take an Orren shape to match hers. There has not, to date, been any official breakup as such. Though I must admit to a certain lack of clarity in some fundamental issues, such as, e.g., whether we had the sort of relationship that needs an official breakup.)
Me:"You could be out riding with Nestrune." If it sounds like I was trying to indulge in a bickersome fight with her ... I'm pretty sure I was.
Strenata:"Perhaps you should have timed your date with the Countess to coincide with my Nestrune ride!"
Me:"When a countess says to meet at teatime, I can hardly say, 'No -- after the sun has gone out, if you please, for an Orren is riding with a Rassimel then!'"
Strenata:"And what makes you think I have more influence than that over Nestrune? Perhaps I might if I were willing to sleep with him, but I'm not." By which I understood her to say that she was at least consistent in her cisaffection. It might even have been an apology.
Me:"Has he asked?"
Strenata:"Not exactly. It's clear that he wouldn't object in the slightest were it to happen. And that if I want anything much out of him, I shall have to couple with him, and, I gather, more enthusiastically than Milirant did."
Me:"Milirant seemed enthusiastic enough when Nestrune last catalogued his conquests to me." Despite having been thoroughly, or at least partially, dumped by Strenata, I am still jealous of Nestrune, and in a way that does not reflect well on me in conversations with Strenata. I must do something about this, and soon, preferably with brandy.
Strenata:"Oh? Does he list the full catalog for you very often?"
Me:"Truth to tell, only quite occasionally. Generally when he is trying to explain to Thery and Yarwain how foolish they are to pledge monogamy to each other."
Strenata:"Ah. I get the catalog once or twice a week -- or at least the Acquisitions section, often together with the Best Of Collection section -- and I can assure you that Milirant passed briefly through the former and never into the latter. Neither Milirant nor Nestrune is all that fond of boys, for one thing."
Me:"Then why did they couple?"
Strenata:"Profit, I suppose, on Milirant's side. Force of habit, I suppose, on Nestrune's. The poor gentleRassy has had few opportunities to refuse intimate pleasure."
Me:"I find that hard to believe! Had he had proper tutelage, such as you could provide, he could have had a great many opportunities."
Strenata:"Ah, well, I daresay I misspoke. He has taken few opportunities to refuse intimate pleasure."
Me:"Slootly plausible. Still... you didn't come here to gossip about Nestrune with me, did you?"
Strenata:"Why -- where else would I go to gossip about Nestrune with you?"
Me:"Floooooosh's oven. Where I go to whimper when the ancient and dismal cruelty of Vheshrame overwhelms me. Also Floosh bakes good poptaloop, and lets me eat them in the oven."
Strenata:"Ah, right. Actually I was a bit worried, for I hadn't seen you in a while and I was a bit worried. Also, what do you mean by 'slootly'?"
So I explained "slootly", and she giggled, and I sat on her shoulder, and we chatted for two-thirds of an hour about people and classes and Herethroy abdominal structures and such.
Upon which I spent the next three and two-thirds years woefully wondering if that meant that Strenata and I hadn't actually broken up? Or perhaps if we had, but we were now un-broken again? Or if we were never involved in a breakable way, and my offers of intimate personal attention were entirely wrong? Or if Strenata is simply very light with her emotions?
(A dispassionate and unsympathetic clock might have measured that time as a mere ninth of an hour, and a dispassionate and unsympathetic observer might have seen me prepare and eat a snack of chub-beetles during that time. Pay such dispassionate and unsympathetic investigators no attention! For I was there, and I am quite sure it was three and two-thirds years.)