“Missed a spot.”
“I know, I know…”
The maid Pip dusted a bookshelf while Emi swept the floor. They had been doing so for almost two hours now. But finally, Emi’s bedroom was starting to look presentable enough that people could come in here without having a heart attack.
Emi already missed the clutter so, so much. Her system… Her art… It was all gone.. How was she going to know what to wear every morning if it wasn’t staring her in the face the moment she looked at the carpet? And she wasn’t even going to bring up the horrific treatment done upon her desk.
Pip, for what it was worth, took it in great humor that a diplomat’s daughter would be such a slob. “You got enough closet space for a family of four, and you still throw everything on the floor,” she had said when they had first started. “Wish I could be your kind of rich.”
There was no point in Emi fighting it, because it was true. She was exemplary as an example of a terrible person.
Now she was a terrible person with a clean room. With a few taps of her broom handle against the floor and dumping the contents of her dustpan into the wastebasket, Emi signaled her satisfaction in the day’s work. “Finally,” she said. “Good job, everyone.” It was just the two of them.
Pip laughed. “What the Mammoth crap are you talking about?” she asked. “We got a long ways to go.”
“I thought announcing it like that would make it look better…”
Okay, an hour and a half later, NOW they were finished with Emi’s room.
Since work was over, Emi sat at her desk chair, showing off her latest creations to Pip, who laid belly-down on Emi’s bed, hands on her face and rhythmically kicking her feet in the air.
It was pretty annoying to have all her work-in-progress projects reorganized and all the spare parts sorted into little makeshift shelves. It was hard to remember exactly where she had left off. She might have to learn to live in this wretched way, where everything was put where it was supposed to be.
“I call this a tin man,” Emi said. She placed the metallic humanoid toy on the desk and wound it up a few times. When she let go, the thing clanged forwards in a straight line, moving all by itself. Its feet didn’t move, exactly–more like they made several tiny hops per second. Then it fell on its side and quickly lost all power. “I haven’t figured it all out yet, but what I want to do is have the feet move by themselves. I’m not sure if I can do that in a machine this small, though…”
Pip didn’t seem all that interested in the machines, but she was having a sporting time just seeing Emi have fun. “You sure caught onto this stuff real quick,” she said.
“What stuff?” Emi asked.
“The gear spring tinkering whatever, y’know,” Pip said. Her black-iris eyes blinked a few times, as if they were bewildered at Emi not understanding. “You started just a couple months ago, and you’re already building little toys and stuff. Probably takes a long time for most people to figure that kinda stuff out.”
“Oh, ha, no, it’s not very impressive. I got it all from this blueprint for a jack-in-the-box toy. Everything is based on what some other guy made.”
“Don’t sell yourself so cheap! You’re great.” Pip stopped kicking her legs, and then sat up in the bed, legs crossed. “Like, what in Phyra’s name’s that thing?” She pointed to the largest item on Emi’s desk, a boxy device with black and white dots scattered on its surface. “It looks like a really complicated book.”
“Oh, that doesn’t work at all,” Emi said. “It’s… Well, I’m trying to do something cool with it.”
“For your girl?”
Emi gulped. “My, uh, girl…?”
Pip giggled. “Everyone knows,” she said. “Don’t gotta worry about it. So, that a present for her or what?”
“Yeah, it’s going to be for her, if I can get it to work,” Emi said. “But don’t tell her, okay?”
“When am I ever going to talk to her?”
Emi got up from her desk and put away the devices she had brought out. She guessed it really had been a pretty short time since she started studying mechanics in her spare time. It didn’t feel like she was doing anything special, though.
Maybe Pip was just hitting on her.
Emi brushed the hair out of her face for what seemed like the millionth time today. “Ugh.”
“Kind of… My stupid hair is always bugging me lately.”
“When’s the last time you got a trim?”
“What, are you saying it looks bad?”
“Just asking how long it’s been.” Pip winked.
“It’s… Gods, it’s been a while, has it?” Since before the first time she met Tris, that’s for sure. No wonder it was feeling overbearing on her.
“Speaking of ‘been a while,’ where is that girl of yours?” Pip asked. “Doesn’t she usually come around this time every day so you two can go out and do whatever?”
“Not EVERY day,” Emi corrected. “It’s…. not every day, is it?”
“Well, she’s really busy preparing for the Winter Ceremonies. She won’t be here for a few days, probably. I think.”
“Ah, yeah, that’s what my girl said at first,” Pip said. “Real busy with work. Then a week later, she’s decided it’s not working out.” She waved her hands with exaggerated emphasis. “Oh, y’know, my ex’s a haircutter. I can probably get you a discount. Want me to go check?“
“Enough with the hair already.”
“She’d probably say no anyway, on account of the breakup and all. She sucks, just like your girl if she’s gonna be all ghostly on you.”
“Tris– I mean, my, girl– I mean, my friend isn’t like that at all,” Emi said.
“ I just assume everyone sucks. World works better that way,” Pip said. “You’re okay though.”
Okay, she was definitely hitting on her now. Time to wrap it up.
“Hey, I was thinking about… going out, soon,” Emi said. “Do you mind if…”
“Want me to cover for you while you sneak out? Okay,” she said. “But don’t forget, you owe me a Doros Prime. I want that liquor cabinet key.”
“What do you see in her, anyway?” Pip asked. “What’s that girl got that some other girl don’t? She’s not rich or some cool soldier. Just a schoolgirl, no? So what’s she got?”
Emi sighed. “Everything.”
That’s all she said, but it’s not all she thought.
Beatrice Ragnell, the girl of her dreams. So tenacious, so fiery, so passionate, that Emi could feel her warmth, feel her arms wrapped around her even at this moment. Her eyes blasting out from her glasses, crystal-focused on what laid ahead, and she charged forward to meet it, no matter what faced her.
It wasn’t just that Beatrice was the most beautiful girl in the world, which was a scientific fact if there ever was one. It was that Beatrice was so strong. It was that she looked at something she wanted to accomplish, and instead of waiting around, agonizing over decisions or second-guessing herself, she just did it. She was someone who, just by looking at her, you knew she was going to change the world in a few years. She was going to be important.
And Emi wanted to be there for her when she did. No matter what it was, Emi wanted to be there, watching her, supporting her, cuddling with her. It’s not like she had any plans in her life, except maybe raise a family one day. Whatever Beatrice wanted to do, she was going to do it, throwing her small body into the fires and trials, destined to come back through the other side unscathed.
What a woman.
Emi waved to Pip and exited her bedroom. She left her house and ventured out to the edge of the Balarand River, where she watched the sun set and the tiny farm houses past the city fade into the night.
Her life really had changed a lot in these past few months. She met the girl of her dreams–no, the girl of her life. She finished her schooling, started helping around the house, got a new hobby. Her fiancee set the date for their wedding.
All of that came swirling together so quickly that it completely changed the course of Emi’s life. But she still felt like the same despondent brat that everyone hated, except for Beatrice for some reason. Why wasn’t she becoming a better person?
Why wasn’t she able to tell Beatrice the truth about her impending marriage? Why was she still sneaking out of the house? Why was she always so hard on herself?
Tough questions, no answers.
Emi wanted to change. She wanted to become a better person, become someone more like Beatrice. If her girlfriend had the power to help keep the harmony of the Gods and whatnot, then Emi had to have that same power within her. It was hidden way deep down, maybe, but she knew it was there.
As Emi passed the library without entering, she decided she would change to the best of her ability. And that change was going to start with this stupid hair always in her darn face.