Culture Shock, (pt.1)

I know, I know: another girl. At least this one is human.

We meet Skylar – and Roland – in Part Two of “Obligations of Rank.” They’d been dating for about a month. Roland’s cousin Robert sort of gives them a push to get on with it. They do.

Enjoy my content? Buy me a beer! 

Given the second-shift job she worked, Skylar Hartmann didn’t rise and shower until just before noon.  With her short hair and small figure, it did not take long.  Stepping out, she regarded herself in the bathroom mirror.  A mirror in the hall bathroom of her husband’s parent’s home in Knoxville, where they were guests.

Roland said he’s looking for a place south of the river, near the hospital, she thought, quickly toweling off and began combing her white hair straight down, looking into her own red eyes.  That done, she brushed her teeth – less yellow after finally being cleaned but slightly crooked forever – while seeing how much thicker she was getting in the middle.  Four months pregnant, from the day before Roland proposed to me on the old Capital Grounds in Frankfort, now an imperial province.  First, he confessed as to what he was – and I still really don’t get “demi-human…”

She spat into the sink and resumed brushing.

And then confessed to who he was, a nephew of Empress Faustina, the most powerful person in North America, if not the whole, wide world.  With his twerp of a cousin, Crown Prince Robert, who accidently felt me up when we met, watching, he went to one knee in the wet grass and proposed to me.  Dammit!

“How can,” she asked her reflection, “you love and hate someone so much at the same time?”

Skylar pulled on her partial uniform:  a black skirt just below her knees, frilly white blouse.  Once complimented by her green apron at work, she looked the role as waitress at Second Creek Tavern, just a few hundred feet to the west, serving a clientele consisting mostly of teachers and students from the old University of Tennessee’s College of Engineering, one of the few departments still open.

Downstairs, her mother-in-law had set out strawberries, a slice of watermelon, some cheese, and lunch meat, all next to a glass of whole milk.  Henge wore a yellow dress as she put dishes away in the cabinets.

“Yous the absolute best in the world, Henge!” Skylar called, sitting down to eat.

“Thank you, daughter,” she replied without turning from her task.  “Still not comfortable calling me ‘mom’ or ‘mother’?”

“Ah…” she swallowed first, having learned from her husband they took table manners seriously, “I’m sorry.  Gramma and Granpa Zim raised me since my folks died from some sickness right after I’s born.  Maybe’s I’m jus’ hopin’ to meet ‘em again, someday.”

“You will!” Henge turned and smiled, her face radiant.  “I know that.”

“Yeah,” was her noncommittal reply.  Raised by her father’s Catholic parents, it hadn’t stuck.  “Any idea when Roland will be back?”

Skylar watched Henge blink her eyes, undoubtedly asking him that question as only their kind could.  “He’s looking at some of the Cherokee Bluff Condos right after work.  So he estimates nineteen hundred.  You’ll be at work another hour past that?”

“Yep,” she said, standing.  The glass and plates remained after her first go-round with her new mother-in-law:  ‘you are our guest and shall behave as such!’  It was one of the reasons Skylar pressured Roland for their own place.  She walked just in front of Henge and opened her arms a bit.

The unique demi-human placed her hands on either side of her new daughter’s head, shoulders, stomach, before leaning in and sniffing.  Freaked out the first time it happened, her husband explained that not only he but his mother even more so, could learn about someone’s medical condition by doing that.

“Everything is fine!” she said with another smile, her right hand lingering on Skylar’s belly.  “How is Lem?”

“He’s fine,” she looked away, a little embarrassed for being merely human.  “Sorry I’s cain’t talk to him like y’all’s did to each other.”

“Nothing to be sorry for,” Henge laughed.  “See you this evening!”

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