Over the 45k word threshold. I realize that for the first time, ever, when I go back to edit this, I’ll actually be adding words rather than taking away, as I did for my last two books.
The difference, of course, is time: T4L and EFL were both written in about 30 days. As such, transition from scene to scene was clear in my mind. Now, with CH started on November 1, and it now being March 7, things are a little disjointed. I’ve been having my wife and kids proof parts of the story, and over the weekend, my wife commented “that was rather jarring!” Yeah: additional editing.
So. I’ve got Maya in the air. Her life just keeps getting worse and worse; her willingness to subsume everything to find her brother is breaking what’s left of her stable mind. It’s going to be a photo-finish as to who wins: Maya, Hanako, LEGION.
I wish I could save her.
“Just one way?” The young man behind the counter asked. “And… luggage?”
Maya shook her head. He raised his eyebrows at that but said nothing as he typed. He wondered if she’d had a bath, recently.
“That’s a total of six hundred Canadian dollars, please.”
“I have these,” Maya indicated her handful of Ria.
“I see… let me key in the conversion… that’ll be two hundred and sixty!”
Maya carefully counted it out. A tenth of her supply, gone.
“Thank you! May I see your passport?”
She blinked once.
“What do you mean, ‘what’?” The clerk asked. “While San Diego might be in legal flux right now, it’s outside of our jurisdiction, so, for any international flight, we’ll need to scan your passport.”
“Oh.” He thinks me Canadian. That bought her time. “I left it. At home.”
He hung his head.
“If you’d like to go retrieve it, I can issue you a receipt for your ticket and hold everything for you until you return.” He looked back up, forcing a smile. “Is that alright, miss?”
She nodded and held out her hand. Once she’d her receipt, she turned and walked out of the terminal to maintain the illusion she was homebound for her travel papers. Just outside the sliding glass doors, she stopped.
What do I do, now?
Maya turned right and walked until she reached the next entrance into the airport. She re-entered and looked about. Ah: a restaurant of some kind, there to her left. She paused at its main door and looked around.
“Miss? Miss…?” The girl behind the counter kept nattering.
“What?” Maya focused on her, watching her shudder.
“I… if you’d care for a table… I can…” The hostess stammered.
“I’ll sit there.” Maya pointed, walking past the other.
There was a long, U-shaped bar in the center of the restaurant. Being around lunchtime, it was about half occupied. Maya sat down to the right of an Oriental man in a silk business suit. He was eating soup with his left hand while his right tapped at a laptop. He glanced up, smiling that a pretty, young girl chose to sit next to him. His smile fell a bit when seeing her ill-fitting, dirty clothes. A beggar?
She read his face: southern Chinese, early fifties; his hair had only a hint of gray at the temples. His skin was smooth and light: the color of someone always indoors. The smile he’d produced and leavened was sincere, though.
“Something to eat, miss?” The man behind the bar asked her.
“Yes. That soup he’s having smells nice.”
“Forgive me, miss,” the waiter continued, trying to be subtle, having noticed her state of dress, “will this be cash or credit?”
Very young in this world, Maya missed it all. She took the clear plastic bag with her Ria out of her pocket and set it before her.
“Of course! Very good! Thank you!” He apologized. “I’ll have a bowl of Mi Goreng noodle soup right out! Was there anything else?”
“Glass of water.” He nodded and departed. She noted the man staring and typing again at his computer. He saw her stare.
“Yes?” He was more relaxed, that she was not a beggar.
“Sorry to bother you, sir. It’s been some days since I left home, and was thinking about sending an email. But…” She trailed off, staring.
“I see, I see.” Now he thought: a thief? “There are machines you can use at the business kiosks, throughout the airport.” He turned his screen just slightly more away from her. “Your, ahem, appearance aside, you’ve obviously the money for it.”
Maya considered that. Her clothes did have patches of oil and dirt on them, first from the ship over, later from resting her body wherever she could. She was aware that humans bathed, but the only times she had been cleaned was to remove the blood from Mother’s forced changes to her. Associating such baths with being hurt, she had avoided them. Looking at her dirty hands, dirt under her nails, she realized she must revise that. Soon.
The waiter brought her water and set it down.
“Where is the toilet?”
Startled by her phrasing, he pointed. Maya grabbed her plastic bag and slid off the barstool. In the small bathroom there was nothing she could do for her clothes, which she’d removed, but she’d wet down the paper handtowels, covered them with soap, and cleaned herself off. When another patron had come in, seeing Maya naked and scrubbing at herself, she’d let out a gasp and quickly left. More paper handtowels saw her dry. As she put her stolen clothes back on, she resolved to buy something new. If there was money left over after acquiring a ‘passport.’
Her soup was waiting for her when she returned. Hmmm. She waved at the waiter and requested he bring her an egg.
A few moments later, she cracked it over her soup. Better. The man next to her chuckled.
<You Japanese and your eggs!>” He’d said with a Kansai dialect.
<You of Guangdong and your bird flu’s!>” She replied in perfect Cantonese, surprising him. His smile returned.
“<You now smell as sweet as you look, little miss!>” He said in his native language. Maya wondered how good his command of Japanese was. Her left hand plucked at her shirt while she slurped noodles into her mouth.
“<I’ll get something nicer later. It’s been a busy week.>” She pulled at the shirt’s buttons, exposing more of her small chest.
The businessman waved to the waiter, asking for some alcoholic drink she didn’t know. Good; humans are fools. Human males, moreso. She slurped more noodles, ignoring the stares from around her.
“<Is your flight soon?>” She detected a certain eagerness in his voice.
“Not really,” she replied, stirring her egg into what was left of the soup. “<I… left home quickly, and my mother did not give me my passport. I want to see my brother in San Diego so badly! I’d do anything! But… without travel papers…>”
A runaway, he thought. And with that wad of cash, from a top flight family. Not someone to make enemies with, but it was obvious what she wanted and what she was offering. He recalled his meeting, at the bar, after the company’s formal dinner, last night. When he’d made a joke about the heat and needing a ‘white paper fan’ to his host, the other, quiet man, in the black suit just stared at him over the rim of his glass. They understood one another. Triad.
“<I might be able to help you,>” he said to Maya as he took his phone out of his suit coat pocket. “<If you’re willing.>”
“For good travel papers,” she stared hard at him, “<you can put it anywhere.>”
Aroused by her words, he brushed off the idea that her eyes were suddenly red.
It was two days later, as the sun was coming up over the Cascade Mountains, that Maya returned to the airport. Heels had proven impossible to her, even with her modifications, so above her low shoes was a gray skirt and open jacket, with a burnt-orange blouse beneath. A string of pearls was about her neck. Over her right shoulder was a slightly oversized purse: carrying what was left of her money, and the businessman’s laptop. Large, dark sunglasses occluded her eyes.
Stopping just inside the sliding glass doors, she brushed the dust of what was left of him from her shoulders. She walked carefully, trying to keep her legs apart, back to the ticket counter she’d been at before. Love not only tasted terrible, but it hurt, too.
It was a different young man than the one that had sold her the ticket. This one was Indian, and spoke with a typical sing-song accent.
“Yes, miss? How may I help you?”
She extended her hand with her receipt and newly made Canadian passport.
“Next flight to San Diego, please.”