Wherein we see some of the existential angst (and Skylar would not understand that at all) which she is experiencing. I moved around a lot as a kid but it never became “easy,” just a routine. For someone like her, IIRC she’s nineteen, to find out your boyfriend is not exactly human, and a prince, and lives in one of the three Great Powers on earth… that could be overwhelming.
I thought about writing the argument she and Roland might have had when she proposed getting a job like she had before. Given how defensive he is over her, I’d imagine once he satisfied himself with her physical safety, he’d probably roll with it. Still, this is supposed to be a short story, so I cut it.
Walking along the right bank of the Tennessee River, Skylar enjoyed the early summer warmth and the partly cloudy sky. Passing under the Norfolk Rail Bridge, rusted and unused for years, she smiled and returned the waves of the usual joggers and walkers out for their lunchtime.
It wasn’t so much the electric power everywhere, she thought, we had that in Frankfort since I was about five when the imperials came north and installed that little reactor. Didn’t charge us’uns nuthin, too. But the sheer size of this city. Her hometown was maybe twenty-five thousand. Knoxville must be at least ten times that. And while there is no capital of the imperium, as they say, most of the family has homes here, so that’s what folks think. I sure did.
Seeing no cars, something else to get used to, she stepped quickly across the road to the tavern. Deliveries came in the back but she always used the main front door, pushing it open as the little bell above it tinkled. Her suggestion, from where she worked at The George & Dragon in Frankfort.
“The Sky is falling, folks!” Old Bill from behind the bar shouted as he always did when she came in. “It’s the end of the world!”
Sky made her typical rude gesture to her boss while most of the regulars just laughed. There were some waves, a few “Hi, Sky!” from the ones who thought themselves clever, but generally just polite greetings. She went behind the bar to stow her purse and pull out her green apron.
After all, two weeks after the ceremony to install Viscount Webb over Kentucky Province, just before Roland was due to return home, the empress with most of her family showed up yet again, once more on the front steps of the old State Capital Building, to witness my bein’ hitched to my Intended. Ev’rybody in the world who wanted to saw that, including most of these here folks. But here, I’m just Sky Zim, barmaid. Not some princess.
I love Roland and cain’t wait for little Lem, but that don’t mean I don’t miss my old life, too.
She saw two tables in the back needed to be cleared so grabbed a tray and went there first.
Roland tried to explain it to me, my little head, the night before, and scared the crap out of me in the process. “The Empress opposes this, me marrying a commoner with questionable genes,” he’d said, touching my hair and kissing my eyes to take the sting out of his words, “but has to back down after her son, Crown Prince Robert, delivered this land to her on a platter. She’ll spin it that ‘life in the imperial family is open to all.’”
Sky finished picking up the mugs, cups, and dishes and hefted the tray.
I’d asked just how’s mad the empress was. His short, “do not talk to her any more than you must” had me crying, screaming to call it all off.
“But Roland always wins,” she sighed, putting the dirty things into a large sink filled with soapy water. She returned to wipe down the tables before making the rounds to see what anyone might need.