Bonus Story: Reconciliations of Chance (Part 2)

Story by James Todd Lewis
An extension of the story told in Purebred (available as an eBook and audiobook!
(c) All characters copyright of James Todd Lewis (2015)
Art by Kat Miller


Intersected

chap

The next morning, Vanarra called out to Sahni as she walked by her office door.  “Kit, when you have a moment?”

“I’ll just set my things down,” Sahnassa replied, and in a moment was back at Van’s door.

“Come in, kit, please.  I wanted to ask … how are you?”

From her friend’s expression, she knew the question wasn’t caused by casual interest, but rather that Vanarra had actually been worrying about her.  Coming near and sitting on the side of the couch closest to Van’s desk, she stated, “I’m alright, I think.  I suppose I was a bit … quiet, afterwards.”

“A lot to think about?”  Sahni nodded.  “I studied her a bit.  Nice looking, just like you – although I think you have her beat.”

“Well, she has had several kits,” Sahnassa chuckled, biting her lip a bit.  “Don’t know if I’ll look as good if that’s in my future.”

“No, she actually is a bit slighter than you in, well, key areas, kit,” Van replied, a sly grin on her features.  “You’re a bit more nature-graced than her, just as an observation.”

“You think I’m fat?!” Sahni protested.

Vanarra shook her head, chuckling, “Nicely endowed and appropriately well-rounded, that’s how I’ll put it.  Your mother, on the other hand, looks like she’s the victim of something close to a starvation diet.”

“She’s always been that way,” Sahnassa grumped.

“I … I don’t get the sense that she’s a bad individual, though – at least, not now,” Vanarra suggested.  “Maybe, the bad stuff appears and disappears at different times; I’ve seen that in some, before.”

“Maybe, it’s more like a thread woven through her, something that if you look at her last night, you wouldn’t see,” Sahni mused.  “Maybe you have to get to the piece of fabric where she’s a mom with expectations of her children that you’d be able to see it.”

“Her child is an adult, now.  All grown up, has a job, has her own place, and has friends.  Maybe, she can come to terms with that.  I don’t know, Sahni.  I can see this bothers you, but I don’t feel like I can really help out much, here.  You’re going through something … I never have.”

Looking at Van’s somewhat introspective stare at her own desk, Sahni nearly whispered, “It’s amazing that you want to try, and that you care enough about me.  Hard place for you, I know.  I’ll just wait until she reaches out to me.  I told her how to get in touch, and if she cares enough about having a relationship, then she will.”

Vanarra kicked her chair back and threw her hind paws up on her desk, folding her arms in consternation.  “That’s what always gets me about these kind of relationship issues!  It rubs me damn well raw right under the base of the tail, Sahni!  Two Thurians have had an argument, a disagreement, a spat, a fight – whatever!  Now, someone has to decide to make nice if there’s going to be any peace, going forward.  All of their friends will tell them that they should be the one to reach out, but that’s not right, is it?  Like us.  I call you, but you call me.  If I step on your tail, I apologize, but you usually beat me to it.”  Van looked at her, a little worried.  “You don’t resent me for that, do you?”

“No!  I know you, Vanarra Anasto.  I know you care about me, deeply, and I know that you know the same about me.  I appreciate that you reach out, but I don’t keep score.  It can’t be a friendship if there isn’t a little balance, but we balance each other in other ways, like you did last night.  You were kind to me, gave me space.”  Sahni’s eyes twinkled with a little mischief, “You might have even warned a few others to keep an eye on me, from a distance, that is.”

Vanarra smirked.  “Yeah, kinda.  So, as long as it’s an exchange across many things, that makes it right.  I think there are a few Rahnahi quotes on that, come to think of it.”

“I sense this conversation isn’t exactly totally about us, either – or about me and my mom,” Sahnassa noted gently.  “Is there something else going on?”

Van closed her eyes, and her brow furrowed.  “Luffar the lover left this morning, for good.  He said I wouldn’t apologize to him for the things I said, but I still have no idea exactly what I did say that kinked his tail!  Last time I try a mix between a Perratti and a Faelnar!  I suggested that he take classes so he can get a better job – he says I’m calling him stupid!  I tell him that I have work an event, and he says I’m not paying him enough attention!  Worse, he thinks I’m cheating on him while I’m working!  I think he’s been sneaking around and peeking in.  When he said I needed to give up going to the orphanage for his sake, that … that is when I showed him the door!”

“Sorry, Van,” Sahnassa replied, “but … he wasn’t good enough for you.  He doesn’t care about the things you do, and maybe far too much about himself.  Just not a fit.”

“Oh, he fit well enough, but only in one department.  Damned waste of a good hunt!” Van cursed, shaking her head.  “Makes me feel sorry for that body part when the rest of him doesn’t measure up.”

Sahni, despite herself, threw her paws over her blush fur and laughed, closing her eyes.  “Dear member, we are very sorry you got stuck with such an awful body!  If you’d like to request a change…”

“Oh, if it were only possible,” Vanarra groaned.  “Decent Thurian, bad hunt.  Bad Thurian, freaking terrific, mind-blowing hunt!  Still, a total hover wreck.  Dammit, Sahni, can’t there be just one male out there that has both heads screwed on straight?!  Well, two, so you can have a guy, too?!”

At that point, there was a large male in the doorway who cleared his throat, annoyed.

“And that’s what Flint comes in on!  Hi Flint!” Van chuckled, removing her hind paws from the desk and crossing her arms.  “So big fella, you know anyone who fits that description?”

“Don’t have a clue,” he answered back, smirking a little at Sahnassa’s embarrassment.  “I just file invoices and compile feedback forms.  Besides, disclosure of that information could violate my employer’s very strict and very sound policy on keeping relationships and harassing talk out of the workplace.  I’m glad you two get all of this out of your system before the others start showing up.  Makes life easier for me.”

“Sorry, Flint,” Sahnassa apologized.  “We were both just discussing how hard things can be with the males in our lives.”

“Please don’t,” Flint shot back, “there are some discussions that simply fall too far over the line.”

“Wait, you … you don’t think I mean that—“  Sahnassa blurted out, but then realized he had baited her intentionally.  “Okay, I’m done now.  I’m going to go back to my desk and make sure our systems are tuned up, at least, even if my relationships aren’t.”  Standing up, she walked up to him and stood there, waiting for him to move.

Glancing at both of them, Flint warned, “If you two ever have a conversation like this and Tresk is here, you are on … your … own.”  Then, he backed up and let Sahni by.

As Flint walked in and shut the door, Van acknowledged, “Yeah, if we did say something in front of him, we’d never hear the end of it.  It was a good awards social for us; how did yours go?”

“Male Thurian meets female Thurian under the silver starlight,” Flint narrated dramatically as he sat down, “they fall in love and are married just so that we can have a completely flawless post join event that lands us no less than three inquiries for spin-off business.”

“Three?!” Van asked, surprised.  “I had a couple of little nibbles, but nothing like that.”

“Well, it didn’t hurt that they were all convention coordinators, and when they asked if we could cater a sponsor or super-sponsor banquet for the right price, I just happened to mention that we’d done that in the past.”

Van was nearly salivating.  “Oh, that is good, good business, Flint, if we can pounce on some of it!  Did you get any names?  Anyone we can do some follow-up with?”

“Got them in my notes; I’ll send you all the details and background so you can make a good first strike.”

“Second strike!  You’ve already put some marks on them!” Van congratulated him, causing him to smile and nod.  “Dammit, Muscles,” she finally confessed, sighing, “I just had another relationship go completely into the pit for me, another male who couldn’t manage the life I lead or the intervals I work.  Why did one of the best males I’ve ever met have to be the one I hired?”

He looked at her, his expression softening a little.  “Like Sahni, you found me when I really needed something, and we work together well.  I have to admit that you kind of … well, got my attention, so to speak, but I really needed a job, so I guess I behaved as well as I could.  However, when I got to know you and work with you, I found that this was really the best relationship for us.  I think there are some things we’ve found out about each other over the seasons that would have made any kind of other relationship … difficult.”

“Yeah, probably pretty close to accurate, there,” she agreed, leaning back.  “I needed your help, too – especially with Gorta’s place and everything after.  I guess it’s not fair to bash all males.  You have your head on straight – one of them, at least.  What about you, cub?  Anyone else turned your head since I had to warn you off?”

“A couple, but … my size makes me a little scary, I suppose.  It never got serious, and I’m not sure it was ever going to.  I probably would be more upset by it if I was really alone, but this place feels like family.  Brother and sister fits us better than anything else.  You’ve backed me up when I’ve needed it.”

“Same here,” she added.  “I … I just wish there was someone like you, Flint, that either Sahni or I could find.  However, I suppose we both just go back to the relationship rangelands and see what else turns up.”

“It’s where I hang out full time,” he told her, standing.  “Not so bad.  Plenty of company.”

“Well, send me those contacts and background, and I’ll try to get us a business hook-up if a dating hook-up isn’t there for either of us right now.”

“Will do, boss,” he offered, and then turned to leave.  As he maneuvered through the door, she thought about him, wondering what it would be like to be in the hunt with him.  Although he was well muscled and impressively sized, there were parts of Flint’s psyche that just didn’t seem to make sense to her.  He worked out in the gym to attain a fearsome physique, but he was always worried about how others would be intimidated by his appearance.  He was the biggest, scariest, most daunting Thurian she’d ever met, but his character and manner were nothing short of gentle, patient, and unassuming.  There were parts of his body that she found a little interesting, for sure, but she respected him far too much to simply think of him as a sex object.

As she gently gnawed on a pen, it finally struck her why she and her big second in command had never fallen into the hunt together.  Flint was very slow to anger, which given his power and size were quite fortunate.  The same, Vanarra knew, could not be said of herself.  However, she was more adventurous and enterprising than he was.  Her realization was that while they complimented one another, that wasn’t the same as saying they were compatible with as a couple.  In fact, as she thought on it, she could imagine that certain aspects of domestic life with Flint might not work between them, at all.

“You’re just too damned good, Muscles, is what it amounts to.  Too damned good for me,” she breathed, softly, thinking that the statement was probably true on many different levels.

A few intervals later, Van was in high spirits after two extremely good sales calls, one of which ended in a booking and a deposit.  “One kill, and one in my sights,” she growled out happily, playing the prowler.  Her revelry was cut a little short when Sahnassa came in, eyes almost vacant, and sat down on Van’s sofa.  “Uh, kit.  You … okay?”

“Wants to have lunch with me, a private lunch at the Hotel Ausintere, in their main restaurant … before it even opens.”

Van’s eyebrow fur went up.  “That’s a nice little space, very elegant – lot of antiques on the wall and on shelves and such, if I’m remembering it right.”

“Artifacts,” Sahnassa whispered, her brow furrowing slightly.  “She’s picked neutral ground that’s not exactly all that neutral – favors what she likes.”

“And her alternative would have been like … what?”

Sahni thought for a moment and shrugged.  “I suppose you’re right.  Although the space fiction exhibit that’s touring in the Shanandrae Art Museum wouldn’t have been a bad idea – they have a nice little tea room.  Though, I don’t suppose she knows me well enough to pick anywhere else.”

“And maybe, she’s trying to change that?” Van asked, shrugging.  “When’s the lunch?”

“Tomorrow.  I’d guess I would need to take a little bit longer than normal.”

Van shook her head.  “Take all the time you need.  Tomorrow’s a down sol, the big events are on the sol after.”

Sahni bowed her head, deferring to her boss’s kindness.  “Thank you, Van.  We still on for the orphanage tomorrow night?”

“Yep, although Dexer’s starting to develop a bit of a crush on you, I think,” the mixed blood teased.

“Yeah, great, another male in my life!  Not exactly what I was hoping for.  I want to see how Hope is getting along.  She still having balance issues walking?”

“Doctor Nadar told Mauft that she’d be delayed in walking because of her lost tail.  It’s kind of weird, sometimes, to think about that thing that follows us everywhere we go just not being there.”

Sahni cringed and closed her eyes.  “Yeah, I’ve had nightmares about that.  Okay, well hopefully I don’t have any nightmares about meeting with my mom.”

“Before or after, Sahni, that’s what I’m hoping for you.  Come see me if you need to, okay?”

“Okay, Van.  Thanks,” Sahni replied before standing and leaving Van’s office.

section

As Sahnassa stepped in the main entrance lobby of the Hotel Ausintere, she realized that she only been within its confines one or two times in her entire life.  Her cautious steps and deferential nod to the Nephti desk clerk were acknowledgement of what her eyes and nose were already telling her, there was a reason why her visits here had been so infrequent.  The intricately carved rumna wood arches and polished goldstone floor, even the aster tree blossom infused air spoke of refinement, perfection, and rich privilege.  It made her doubly happy that she had chosen something a little more formal to come to work in, regardless of the snipes that Tresk shot her way about interviewing for another job or having forgotten to do her laundry.  “More likely the latter,” she had told him in good humor.

The choice of location, however, didn’t set her much at ease since it felt like Holana was trying to remind her errant daughter of the life she could have had if only she had acceded to her parents’ will, dutifully fallen into line behind them – in her profession, in her interests, and in her soul.  “I’m not the sort of Thurian who even wants to come to these places, anymore,” she thought to herself.  It was something she remembered Triana getting especially enthused over as a teen kit.  “Formal tea sounds about as practical as formal sleeping,” she grumped inwardly as she searched for the tea room, where her mother was supposed to meet her.

At first glance into the space, it didn’t look as if anyone was there or that the room was even open, a soft padded barrier rope of exquisite embroidery politely suggested that the curious should curb their enthusiasm to enter the hallowed and well-mannered precincts beyond.  Just at the point of hesitation, she was interrupted by a soft cough from a young female Vulpi, politely trying to get her attention without startling her.  “You are Sahnassa de Orturu, yes?” she offered the question in the most refined of the Taprician accents.  Sahni’s slow nod brought out a gentle smile.  “You are expected.  Please, allow me,” she offered, removing the barrier from Sahnassa with a polished series of movements and the delicate grace of someone long trained in the social niceties of the Thurian upper classes.

Looking at the lovely Vulpi, Sahnassa felt a twinge of something, a sense that not all was well with this well-polished visage in front of her.  “My thanks to you,” she whispered softly.  “I am very grateful for your kindness.”

The Vulpi blinked a little, barely managing to school her blush furs.  “Not at all.  My honor is to serve.”  Not knowing what else to do, Sahni nodded in acknowledgement and made her way down the long row of empty tables to a private seating area reserved in the back of the establishment, its two doors propped open, and the back of her mother’s head visible beyond.  It was strange, discordant with what she expected, and the set of her mother’s left ear and tail also failed in reaching the standard of perfection that seemed to infuse every table and chair and menu and light fixture and floor tile around her.

“No,” she thought.  “Shouldn’t she be facing the door to greet her guest, rising to meet her with that polished bow she taught me?  Shouldn’t there be an attendant right beside her?  This … this isn’t what I expected.”

Carefully, she padded down towards the door, realizing that she was approaching so soundlessly and quickly that she was in danger of startling her mother.  At the threshold, she abruptly stopped, and air disturbed by her passing gently wafted into the room.  Holana’s left ear raised a bit.  “You came,” her mother said without turning around, and a paw went to her eyes to wipe.  “And … well, on time, too.”

Stepping a little closer to her mother, she replied, guarded, “If academy didn’t teach me that, working where I do – my boss requires it.  You, also, you know?  It would be rude.”

Holana stood and faced her daughter.  “And you don’t want to be rude to me,” she said in a tone that carried both regret and realization in equal measure.  “Thank you for coming.”

Sahnassa stepped closer to her mother and gently embraced her, still cautious.  Surprising her, Holana chuckled, “Dear, you smell of tea cakes!”

As they separated, Sahnassa blinked, trying to understand why her mother would say that, but then the fragrant air of baking that had hit her when she entered the office that morning made her smile.  “One of the hazards of working in a catering company.  I smelled it when I first got in this morning, but I sort of became nose-blind to it after awhile.”

“It’s very fitting to the location,” Holana noted, smiling, motioning to the seat opposite her.  “I asked those normally attending these tables to give us some privacy.  I hope it’s okay.”

“Very okay.  From what I remember of formal tea, it would have been difficult for us to actually talk to one another – like really talk.”

As Holana retook her seat and faced her daughter, sitting across from her, she smiled weakly.  “It is true.  Formal tea is formal talk, a bit of a dance trying to impress and entertain.  Please forgive this choice of venue, but it was the only one I could think of where we could meet and have this type of privacy.”

“An expensive choice, surely, Mom,” Sahnassa realized.

“After seeing you last night, regardless of where this conversation goes, I felt it was worth it.”

Sahnassa’s head lowered, and she couldn’t meet her mother’s gaze.  “Thank you.  It’s why I came.  I wanted to tell you that I’m sorry for what happened to you and to Dad because of my actions.  I had no desire to hurt you.”

“But how did you even know about taking the Compact?  Did it come up in conversations when we were at the table?  Did you hear about it from the legal newsletters?  How could you have known that?”

“On my first sol of academy, I met my roommate.  She was a very odd, very smart Nephti who had just a little bit of trouble understanding the impact of the things she said on the feelings of others.  She was incredibly insightful, though, and she picked apart my situation in just a few passes.  Her parents were trying to do things to her, force her into psychological treatments or drugs to change who she was, and she had used the Compact against them, as well.  She told me about it, quoted it word for word from memory.  At the time, it sounded like the perfect idea,” Sahnassa offered, still not looking at her mother.

“But you didn’t care what that would do to us?”

“She didn’t exactly mention that, and looking back and knowing her, it was something that she would have unintentionally left out.  I’m sure she didn’t give any thought to the impact of taking the Compact, as far as what it would do to her parents.  She didn’t tell me any of that.  On the surface of it, it just sounded like I was asserting my place as an adult.  In the end, it was hurtful to you and Dad, but when I found out, it was too late,” Sahnassa breathed.

Holana’s groan dragged Sahnassa’s eyes to her mother’s confused and disturbed expression, haunted eyes staring at a potted plant some distance away.  “So, on your first sol of academy, you found out, then?”

“Yes.”

“And your matron visited you on that sol?”

“Yes, she did, with a roster of classes that would have utterly crushed me if I had tried to take them,” Sahni confessed.

“I’ve only seen this from my side, and from your father’s, and we imagined that you had stolen into the lair’s study and researched these things, had them ready for the very first moment when you could claim them, maliciously causing all of this pain and humiliation to pounce on us as punishment for what we were trying to do for you, to help you – or so we thought.  It was, literally, the very first moment, the first sol, you could have claimed the Compact’s protections against us.  We thought you were conniving, devious, and spiteful, calculating the very first moment to strike when and where it would do the most harm to us.  Now, to hear you tell it, you were…”

talking

“Desperate.  Heartbroken.  Alone.  Afraid,” Sahnassa confessed, earnestly.  In the silence that hung in the air between them as Holana tried to process this reality, Sahnassa waited, but when her mother blinked and looked up at her, she added, “My roommate, before the end of that school term, actually surrendered her rights under the Compact and made amends with her family.  Spending time with her, I had helped change her – help her become more connected to the Thurians in her life.  She, and I don’t know if this was because she felt responsible for what I did at her urging, actually helped pay some of my expenses.  She and her future mate actually took me out to eat a fair amount of times, as well.”

Holana straightened and looked at her daughter, “And why didn’t you reach back to us?  Renounce the Compact like she did?”

Sahnassa looked away from her mother’s cold stare and shook her head.  “I didn’t think there was any hope.  The damage had been done.  Nothing my matron said ever indicated, in the slightest, that you were willing to … to forgive me.  She told me that it would be seasons, she thought, before you would.”

There was the slap of paws against the table, one of her mother’s gestures of exasperated anger.  “And here we are again, back to that!  Why?!  Why did she tell you that?!  It makes no sense!  You are telling me the truth, Sahnassa, right?” Holana demanded, angrily.

Looking into her mother’s eyes, Sahnassa replied, “When she came back to give me the news you were being forced to provide for me, that’s when she told me.”

Holana hid her eyes in her paws and shook her head.  “We were so close to following you, finding you on the sol you left!  I wanted us to make things right!  Your … your father wanted respect and an apology and for you to be open to changing your mind and—“  She started softly crying, and Sahnassa reached across the table and put her paws onto her mother’s arms.  “I just wanted my daughter back!”

Sahni’s eyes ran with tears, and she shook her head, breathing out, “I’m sorry, Mom.  I’m so sorry.  I don’t know why she told me that.  It wasn’t true?”

“I would have!” Holana told her daughter, staring into her eyes helplessly, hopelessly.  “And I would have cared for you out of what I earn even if he refused to!  It crushed me when you took the Compact, kit!  It hurt so bad that there was nothing between us, anymore!  It made me so mad at you that I just stopped thinking of you as my daughter!”

Holana reached out her paws and took those of her daughter, and both of them lowered their heads and wept.  “And, and that sol when I ran into you at Prime Flow Air, that’s … that’s why I said those things to you, and then your friend said that horrible thing to me that has eaten away at me sol in and sol out since then, and dammit if it’s not true!”

“What did he say?!” Sahnassa asked, eyes wide.

“He questioned what was worthy enough to step in the place of my love for you,” Holana told her, letting go and placing her paws in her lap, her head lowered and blush furs high in shame.  “I’m a coward, Sahnassa.  Your mother is a refined, educated, accomplished, respected, and admired coward.  I should have risked dishonor to come to you, see you, talk to you, and I was so afraid what the matron or dame would do to me if I did, that I just … didn’t!  I’m my mother’s daughter, to my shame and to yours … to my own.”

Sahni had no words for what was roiling in her soul at that moment – the regret, the loss, the sorrow of seeing her mother in this most horrible of moments.  Her mother, taking a tissue and wiping her nose and muzzle, tried to right herself, but then looked up at the ceiling.  “And by the moons, I’m still hiding from them!  Both left for Ricia just after the awards ceremony, and I picked this place because no one here would tell on me!  I’m sorry, Sahnassa.  Your mother is a coward, and I’m sorry for that.  I’m sorry for all that’s happened between us.”

Sahnassa looked at her and asserted the one truth she could articulate, the only one that made sense in this moment.  “She is my mother, though, and … hurting and sorry for what happened.  I’m your daughter, and I’m sorry, and I hurt, too.”

“The … hurts run deep, and shame, deeper still,” Holana quoted from an ancient text.  “Primitive Nephti tribes in the delta weren’t that primitive after all, so it seems.  De Dothnar’s progenitors had some true wisdom, and sometimes, I take comfort in that.”

“Like you said in your speech,” Sahni replied, but her expression wasn’t unkind.  “I am your daughter, and you are my mother.  I am proud of you for what you’ve done.  I am proud of what my father has done.  I’ve read the family news, about how charitable he’s become.  As someone who donates time at an orphanage, I can appreciate that.  I respect that.”

“You do?” Holana asked, looking at her daughter with a slight smile.  “I’ve … been encouraged to donate my time at the archive, and I found it to be strangely rewarding.  My only possible credit has been that I’ve taken on more volunteer time than was suggested.”

“Why?”

“Because it gave me something back, maybe something I didn’t see in Triana or you so much.  Someone interested in what I do.”

Sahnassa leaned back in her seat and folded her paws in her lap.  “I am proud of what you do, and I’ve read the amazing work you have done.  I am sorry that it wasn’t where my heart was, but if my heart was never in it, would I have actually been any good at it?”

“No,” Holana acknowledged, shaking her head and looking at her daughter with some new insight.  “No, you wouldn’t have been any good at it.  You have to love a thing to do it well, and you have to do it without the hope of any praise – although praise strangely comes when you love something enough to give yourself to it, like the award.  Hylea … let me know what she thought about my opinion on your grades in academy.”  She lowered her eyes.  “Hylea was right.  I was wrong.  Do you … love what you are doing now?”

Sahnassa smiled hugely back at her mother’s tentative glance her way.  “Yes!” she replied earnestly.  “I have a boss who is my true and dear friend, a place that’s exciting, a place where I can use my skills and develop new ones!  New skills so unlike what I studied for!  Matron Astalla has been wonderful to me, as well.  I wouldn’t worry about her coming back at you for any of this.  She’s been very good to me, and she supports me.  I’ve done several other contract jobs for the family, and every one of those has been just wonderful.  My grades, as much as a disaster as they were, don’t really seem to matter anymore.  So many good things I owe to you, Mom.  I realize that, and I love you.”

Sahni stood and walked over to her mother and drew her into a standing position.  “I do love you, Mother, and I’m sorry.”

“I love you, too, Daughter,” Holana whispered back, “and I’m sorry.”  The two embraced and softly wept for a few moments before parting.  “Would you consent to having a little tea and a light lunch with your mother?”

“I would,” Sahni smiled, and again they took their seats.

“I have to tell you,” Holana warned, “that your father isn’t ready for any discussions like this.  Gonastir … sometimes, he just infuriates me.  He can be warm and loving and charitable, but when it comes to you and all of what happened, the details don’t matter.  He was right, and you were wrong, and there’s this enormous debt of apology and respect he thinks you owe him, when I know he doesn’t.  He’s not softened on the issue, at all.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.  Really sorry.  Do  you think anything will ever change his mind?”

“Time, maybe,” Holana replied, shrugging.  “He’s never going to get over the fact that you had such amazing access to the matriarch and just gave all of that up to become a technologist.  He thinks you could be a dame, now, by the moons.”

“Oh, please, he has to be joking,” Sahni groaned as her mother waved a paw at a server standing a good distance away from them.  “Dames in our house, matrons even, are not just out of academy!”

“No, they’re not, but … he does have a point, and it is something I want you to think about.  I don’t want to change your profession; I’m glad you’re happy, now.  I want you to try an experiment for me.”

“Really?  What?”

“When Astalla gets back, reach out to her and ask for her to schedule time for you to speak with the matriarch.”

“What?!”  Sahni whispered harshly.  “You’re kidding me!”

“Try it, my daughter,” Holana told her.  “Just indicate you want to tell her how you’re doing and, perhaps, to tell her that we have spoken.”

Sahnassa looked at her mother a little warily as the server placed tea and small sandwiches in front of them.  When the Vulpi was gone, she asked, “Does this help you win points back?”

“Doesn’t hurt, but  no – I’m not doing this for me, but for you.  This gives you something to talk with her about.  It also gives you an opportunity to see that, not for right now, but in the future, you may have other options open to you.”

Sahnassa chuckled, “After feeling like my family name was hanging by a fur strand.”

“Just try it,” Holana softly challenged as she prepared her tea.  “Just try and see if it actually happens.”

“It’s … ludicrous, but what’s the worst that will happen?  Astalla will say no, I’m sure of it.”

“We will see, my daughter.”  Dropping the polite and formal tone, she returned to one that was much more loving, “It does my heart really good to call you that, and to know that you would take my advice on something, anything, regardless of how ridiculous it might seem.”

“Me, too, Mom.  Me, too.”

Continued here!

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