Got so into doing political research as to where I think this story is going that is was suddenly dark outside and I had done nothing for dinner (we finished the turkey leftovers the day before). Off today, thanks be to God, so here’s some of what I’ve got down so far.
I’m leaning away from writing all of Aurie’s first speech as Regent. It will look like a Wall of Text and sound like exposition. Thing is, I do not want to “head-hop” to Colour’s perspective for just one section. I’m still thinking of a way around this
The next morning, sleeping in until six, Colour was gently awakened by a young woman calling her name in her guest room. Getting her eyes to focus while the other introduced herself as “Marie Rose” and an aide to the princess, Jansen saw she wore a light blue dress to just below her knees with some floral print about her waist.
“Would y’all car fo’ a bath or shower?” Marie asked. The woman from the far north took a moment to discern what she had been asked.
“Um, where’s Au… that is, where is the princess?” she asked.
“Rights now she’s takin’ a break from paperwork and in the gym, ma’am,” she replied.
“May I see her, first?” A real bath did sound nice, though.
“Of course, Ma’am,” the other said with a small hand motion to the closet. “There are sev’ral robes for y’all to wear.”
“Thank you,” she replied, pulling one on. “And ma’am is a bit much, so just call me Colour.”
“Nope,” Marie Rose said with a shake of her head, her brown curls tossing about. “That’s not hows we’uns do things here. Best I cain manage is Miss Jansen.”
Down two flights back to the ground floor, the aide led Colour further into the building. Coming to a wall of mostly glass on her right, she noted two armed men at the doorway. Inside was just her impulsive friend and a man about her age. They both were in tee shirts and shorts. To the room’s right was a collection of free weights but they stood to the left, on mats.
“A moment,” Colour said to Marie, who was about to tap on the door. It was not often she got to see her friend in an unguarded moment.
Each in a self-defense stance, the man kept tossing quick jabs at her head or body. Aurelia just dodged them, not even attempting to parry or block. Admittedly, some of her motions were hard to see, they were so fast. Circling a bit as they were, it was just a moment before…
Aurelia raised her hands and said something. The man stood down and looked over his shoulder while the princess waved her friend in.
“Sorry!” Jansen called, taking a few steps into the gym but stopping at the edge of the mat. “Didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“We have about finished anyway,” Hartmann said, taking a step back and bowing. The man did as well. “Thanks, Ferenc!”
Aurie walked over to her friend and took her hand, leading her back to the hall.
“Looks like you just got up. Showered yet?”
“No… Miss Marie did offer a bath…”
“Great idea! The one in my room is bigger so we’ll use that one. Marie? I’ll take her now. Can you get that cream-colored suit from her room’s closet? And panties, shoes, and such, and bring them to us? Thanks!” she said with a touch of her hand to the young woman’s face.
“Of course, Princess,” she replied, dipping her head.
“Marie!” Aurelia flicked her nose a little. “You and I are past that! C’mon, Colour.”
Back up to the third floor, as large as Jansen had thought her room, the princess’s was at least three times bigger. She was instantly out of her exercise clothes and headed for the bathroom. Water began to be drawn into a tub.
“I know you know everyone who serves you,” Colour said, following her, only to see Aurie sit on the toilet and take some paper. She decided to brazen it out. “But you seemed quite friendly with Miss Marie.”
“She’s a Sister of mine,” Hartmann explained, flushing and standing. Checking the water with her hand, she made some adjustments before stepping in, leading with her slightly longer leg. “Are you coming or not?”
“Yes, yes,” Colour said, shucking her clothes into a pile and carefully stepping into the huge tub. A bath in the heart of the imperium with its current ruler. “Sister? But you said it was only you and your brother…”
“My mistake,” Aurelia apologized. “I’ll wash you back and explain. Before Grandma and Grandpa arrived in Knoxville, the Council of Five, who ran the place, had implemented the Brother- and Sisterhood, based on the Spartan model. A dozen kids, separated by sex, of course, from age eight to eighteen were randomly assigned together. Can you hand me that soap? Thanks. They would meet twice a week to study, pray, play… they were largely self-directed by the older kids.”
“Didn’t that just lead to more social conflict… umm!” Colour could not recall the last time someone scrubbed her back. And now it was someone she trusted with her life. “What with all the rich kids…”
“Nope,” Hartmann stopped her, using handfuls of water to rinse her friend off. “Now you do mine. No, I said randomly assigned. So the kids of nuke techs, machinists, farmers, shopkeepers, were all together for ten years. A kind of surrogate family. And we did and do still call each other Sisters. Aunt Fussy liked the idea so much that she tried to spread it across the imperium. Not compulsory, of course, but many city-states adopted it. All of the retired legionary colonies have. Could you scratch a little under my left shoulder blade? Ahhh!”
“So you and Marie…?”
“Yep. I was the bad kid, though,” Aurelia smiled, turning around to start soaping up her front. “Didn’t stick around until I was eighteen. I became a contubernalis, a cadet of the legions, at sixteen. I’ve served in the army since.”
Just as she had at the semi-frozen lake in Nova Scotia, the princess slid under the water, coming up to squeeze it back out of her hair.
“It’s more purple when it’s wet,” Colour said before thinking.
“I’m aware. And it’s not a dye: you’ve seen Mom’s hair. And don’t get that dreamy look thinking about her!” Aurelia ordered. “Where was I? Marie. Known her since we were eight. Her father was a Baptist preacher, of all things! I think it cut him both ways that his girl drew an imperial princess as a Sister but our family is Catholic. It never bothered Marie and me. Speaking of…”
They heard someone moving about in the main room. Probably said aide with the clothes her mistress had requested.
Aurelia stood. Leaning just a little to the left, Colour saw. She used her hands to push more water off of herself before stepping out and grabbing a towel.
“Take your time. Run more hot water if you like,” she said. “Then take time for breakfast. Marie will bring you to me around oh-eight-thirty, just before my speech. I want to check some parts of it with you.”
“I think you rely on me, a foreigner, a little too much, Aurelia,” Colour said with her face to the water.
“Wrong again,” the princess said, tactful as ever. She dropped her towel to the floor and made for the door. “I do not rely on you enough.”