I close things out at the Hartmann Family Dinner. Henge has a random act of kindness for her new family; Faustina talks war with her father; Gary and Henge make another go or two at a sibling for Aurelia. Wrapping up lose ends, really. After this, Faustina and her legions are on the march!
When Henge saw her husband follow his father away from the table after dinner toward the deck, she conceived of an idea.
“Aurie? Gabbie? You two come with me! We’re going to take care of the dishes!” she announced while carrying the last of them into the kitchen. Setting them down she grabbed the shoulders of her mother- and sister-in-law and gave them a push out. “You two go rest for a bit! Dinner was wonderful!”
Faustina just shrugged while her mother gave a thankful smile. Turning about they heard Henge carrying on behind them, “We’ll make a little workstation! I’ll wash, Aurie will dry, and you sort and stack, Gabbie. Okay!”
“Did you want anything to drink, Fussy?” her mother asked, stopping in their living room for a small glass of wine.
“Bleh. You know I hate the taste and feel of alcohol! Totally messes up my lines!” Faustina replied with a moue. “But… thanks for asking, Mom!”
With the younger holding open the door for the elder, they stepped onto the deck. Both of the men turned, a little surprised to see them. Leslie had stayed with beer rather than whiskey and Gary nothing at all. Leslie raised his mug.
“The cornerstones of our civilization,” he said, eyes mostly on his wife.
Gary could see his mother reconsider what she was about to say and instead raised her glass, saying nothing as she took a small sip.
“So as not to start a fight,” Leslie began, both hands tightly gripping his mug, “I shall only ask once more: please do not do this, Faustina!”
“Thank you for not mentioning it again, Father,” Faustina said, stepping lightly to him and leaning up to kiss his weather-beaten cheek. “Let’s not talk shop until Mom finishes her wine! Please tell me all the things I’ve been missing about my baby brother!”
With a sigh her father took a seat at the red oak table, waving everyone else to take a bench.
“You want to start, dear?” he asked.
Over the next ten minutes Gary watched his sister mime rapt attention as their parents talked about their youngest sibling. Everything he had come to see in her for her seventeen years was screaming boredom. Do you find ‘normies’ so boring that you cannot even take an interest in your own blood?
“Well, now!” Callie said, standing with her empty glass, “allow me to go do a quality check on what’s been going on in my kitchen. Oh, yes: how long is everyone staying?”
“My driver will be here in a bit less than an hour,” Faustina replied.
Gary looked first to his father who shook his head just a little bit.
“We shall leave at the same time,” Gary said. “It may be that Aurelia will fall asleep before we depart.”
“If she does,” his mother said in the doorway, “my lap is waiting for her!”
The moment the door closed, Faustina leaned toward their father.
“I have some questions. First: the mobility of the sixty mm mortars? My boys move fast and I want to make sure that the Society’s men can keep up…”
Fifty minutes had passed and Henge had let him know that yes: their daughter was asleep in her grandmother’s lap, having on odd, fantastical dream about lions on the veldt. Talking mind to mind was one thing; his wife and daughter were much more tightly integrated. Having just gotten a solid answer about putting 105mm Howitzers on a river barge and controlling their fire, he watched Faustina lean back with a cat-like smile. Gary had a much better idea of what his sister was planning against Savannah.
The sound of car slowing before the Hartmann’s house had her instantly up and inside. Gary could hear that she was making a quick but heartfelt goodbye to their mother before rushing back outside as he and his father were standing. She hugged Leslie as tightly as she could.
“You’ll be proud of me! Just wait!”
“I’m proud of you now! Please…!”
“And if anything goes wrong,” she cried, tearing away from him and putting her arms about Gary’s neck, “Big Brother will come running and save me! Won’t you?!”
“Of course,” he agreed, leaning a little to kiss her cheek. “I’ll be there before you are aware.”
She jumped the three steps off the deck to the mown grass, running.
“Later!” she yelled with a little turn. She disappeared around the corner of the house.
She was gone.
“Stupid…!” he saw his father shaking in rage.
“If you throw your mug, father, my brother or daughter will be the ones who find the pieces with their feet,” he said quietly to the night. He told Henge it was time for them to go.
Did he not take it well? Henge asked, but so that both of them heard her.
Fearful; angry. I have only seen him in such a state when I nearly died when we visited tribe Mendrovovitch.
Grandfather was angry? Aurelia asked. Why? Princess Faustina can do anything!
Gary sighed aloud as they drew to the edge of the City.
There are no certainties in war, Aurie, besides this: people are hurt; people are killed. There exists the possibility that your aunt will die.
Oh. I would sad.
We all would, Henge agreed. And that is why her father is upset. No parent ever wants to see their child hurt.
Mommy? Daddy? Aurelia asked as they were almost home. Can we start a special prayer for Princess until she comes home?
“I think,” Henge said, “that is a wonderful idea! I shall look up a series of Novenas we can pray until she is safely home to us!”
Thank you, Mommy!
Gary took his hand off of the wheel to give Henge’s a little squeeze.
Some minutes later, with their daughter tucked into bed, they took turns in their small, single-sink bathroom brushing their teeth. Even with the emotionally charged dinner party, it was very obvious that Henge wanted to work more on a sibling for Aurelia. Better than most men at compartmentalizing his emotions, Gary had no problem with that at all.
Henge shed her clothes next to their bed, still in amazing condition even after the birth of their first child. It was cool enough to keep the windows shut but about to be warm enough that she didn’t get under a sheet. Her husband did the same and joined her. Later, he was a little disappointed that he couldn’t get her completely where she wanted to be. She gently chided him again that he would not, could not, understand what it was like for her: their minds more open to each other than their bodies were.
“At the risk of sounding blasphemous,” she whispered, running her hands over his chest, “I guess this was what physical love was like before the Fall. Total sharing; a complete gift of self.”
“We do,” Gary agreed, wondering if he should give into what she was doing and pull her up onto him, “certainly seem to become one mind if not one flesh.”
As she moved her hand lower, he pulled her up, their minds filled with each other and molten with pleasure.