Another long day working on gear box creations, another long day failing miserably at her big secret project. Emi sighed, wiped the sweat from her brow, and pushed all her tools to the side of her desk.
Well, she learned some valuable things about how NOT to build a functional machine, and as weird as it sounded, that actually helped her out a lot. Her mind turned a little bit more gear-headed every day, and soon those cogs were going to turn in just the right way that everything would click and she’d somehow understand it all perfectly. Sometimes failure was a good thing, believe it or not!
All that failure made Emi hungry, so she decided to go downstairs to the kitchen and whip herself up a nice snack. She knew they had leftover pie from supper the night before, but whether or not she was in the mood for something as heavy as pie in the afternoon was still to be decided.
Her brain wracked with the possibilities of what she could eat. There were so many foods she craved. Pie, cake, muffins, cornbread, pancakes… mostly things in the bread category, yes, but bread was yummy and kept one’s figure full, so therefore it was the best.
Emi opened the pantry, looking for–
–Pip and another maid kissing passionately–
–and then slammed the pantry door shut.
Pip, Emi, and the other maid, a girl named Sophi, sat around at the dining room long table, and Pip placed both of her hands on the table like she was trying to take control of a delicate situation. From the images swirling around in Emi’s brain right now, this was probably the correct course of action.
“Okay, presumably, you may have just seen us, er, having a romantic moment,” Pip said, “and I’m very sorry for that. So is she.”
“Sorry,” said Sophi.
“That’s, um, alright I guess.”
“But please don’t go telling Ms. Khami, alright? Please?” Pip pleaded. “She’s got us working crazy hard on that rooftop renovation project, but Sophi and I hit it off really well and thought we’d… Y’know, kiss and stuff.”
“In the pantry…?”
“Yeah, in the pantry,” Pip said. “Regrettable pick for a place, I know.”
“This house is so big, with so many empty rooms, and the place you choose is the pantry…”
“Okay, yeah, but could you please not let Ms. Khami know about it?”
“Let Ms. Khami know about what?” a voice said from out in the foyer. Ms. Khami’s voice, of course.
“Oh, brother,” said Pip. “Sophi, let’s skedaddle–”
“I didn’t realize you housekeepers were being paid to chat and eat,” she said, putting her hands on her hips in that classic Ms. Khami way. “I sure would like to have a job like that.”
“Sorry, Miss!” Pip chirped. “We’ll get back on it!”
“Actually,” Emi said suddenly. “Pip, could you and I, uh…” She looked at Ms. Khami to give a silent signal, and the woman relented from her stern pose.
Sophi and Ms. Khami left the kitchen.
“So, what’d you want?” Pip asked once they were out of earshot.
“First, go fetch me the leftover pie,” Emi said.
“Pfft. Make me.”
“You are literally my servant.”
“I hear you, I hear you.” Pip went into the pantry and retrieved two slices of pie. One for Emi, and, naturally, one for herself.
“Thank you. But could you get forks too?”
“Yes, my master…”
Pip got the forks too.
“Okay, now we are ready for pie,” Emi said. “And ready for… um, well, stuff.”
“Like, you and Sophi were kissing and stuff.”
“Heh, ‘kissing and stuff.’ Just kissing, nothing special,” Pip said, twirling around her fork like a toy.
“But you’ve, well, been in a lot of big relationships before, right?”
“A few. Mostly small ones.”
“But you have, um, a lot of experience is what I mean, right?”
Pip smirked. “Guess you’d call it that.”
“And so, maybe I wanted to, um, ask you for advice…”
“Well, you know…”
Emi sunk into her chair. “I don’t get how relationships are supposed to go… I don’t know how to be a good girlfriend.”
Pip nearly choked on her pie. When she managed to swallow, she burst into laughter. “Emi… Emi, Emi Emi.”
“You sweet, pure, innocent child,” she said. “You just wanted… Oh, Emi. You’re already a good girlfriend, I’m sure.”
“ I don’t think so,” Emi said. “I’m a complete novice. I have no idea what you’re um, supposed to do when you’re dating. It’s really embarrassing to talk about…”
“So let me guess, Beatrice is your first relationship?” Pip asked.
“Well, I mean, I had a couple little romances when I was a kid,” she said. “Does that count?”
“Not at all. She’s really your first, huh. Gotta say, that surprises me. Thought rich kids liked to seduce the commoners and all that.”
“Like I said, it’s a little embarrassing…”
“And one look at Beatrice and you already know the only thing she’s dated in her life is her math textbook, so I guess you two really are going at this like newbies.”
“Maybe yeah. So that’s why I’m, um, asking.”
“How to do romance properly?”
“Just, romance in general?”
“I don’t really understand it. It’s so embarrassing…”
“There’s so much here,” Pip said. “I don’t even know where to begin. What do you usually do?”
“We go on walks, visit marketplaces, hang out at the library together, eat snacks, talk about religion…”
“You poor thing.”
“Huh?” Emi ate a chunk of pie, but it didn’t taste like anything but the feeling you get when your friends tell an inside joke you don’t understand.
“I mean, you’ve, like, kissed, right?” Pip asked.
“Of course, yeah. We’ve kissed. We kiss.”
“And beyond that?”
Emi’s face lit up. “N-n-n-n-no! Just kissing, just, um, kissing!”
“You’re absolutely adorable, you know that? This is the cutest predicament I’ve ever seen,” Pip said.
“The sheltered rich kid life has really ruined me.”
“Also, you’re engaged in an arranged marriage, so there’s that involved.”
“Don’t mention that in this conversation, that makes all of this so much weirder!”
“But it’s okay to be a novice. You’re okay.”
“Well, I, uh, I sometimes feel like Beatrice wants more from me and I’m not being a good enough girlfriend,” Emi said. “But I don’t know what to improve on! Dating is so difficult! I don’t want to be a novice anymore, that’s all.”
“You’re overthinking it so much.”
“I always do…”
“If you don’t know what she wants, you gotta ask. Plain and simple.”
“Asking is hard…”
“It’s part of being an adult,” Pip said. “You should know. You’re older than me, you know.”
“I’m a bad adult…”
“Is there maybe a book where I can learn more?”
Pip sighed. “You’re hopeless, and that makes it even cuter.”
“I feel so attacked right now…”
“Listen, Emi. You’re a great gal and your girl loves you. If you think you’re not being romantic enough, you just gotta ask. But you probably don’t gotta. It’s a feeling. You look into her eyes, and you know it’s gonna be alright.”
“So, asking and eyes… Got it. Do you have a piece of paper? I need to jot this down.”
In the end, Emi didn’t learn anything. But that was okay for her.