751 - The love in you is so strong
20 Akim 4978 | Miyatara between Fispur and Haiuroru
I write shipboard so I might just hand you this letter. But I had to write anyway.
I got back to Arko within the eight-day, as I had promised Kilalulana. But I also broke my promise, since the other part of it was that I’d think about our relationship. I hadn’t had time to think about it enough to be certain what I wanted. Well—I want both things which together are impossible. If I could talk her into living in Yeola-e… and yet, if I had to talk her into it, would it be truly to her benefit?
I didn’t forget the old story, about how sometimes the most loving thing to do for one’s beloved is leave.
But maybe that would be cruelty… Mamin, a good part of me wanted her to decide for me. “You choose, Kil. As I love you, I’ll do what you ask.” But that would be cowardly, wouldn’t it? And if I didn’t like what she chose, set me up for later resentment.
First thing I found out when I got there is that I no longer had permission to go into the Marble Palace by the lefaetas Pastaias. Which I should have expected. There I was on the Rim, semi-conscious with sedative, with my flyer saying, “What do you mean!? He’s Vaimoy’s healer!” and the guards, none of whom knew my face, saying “But Haians never get drunk, especially so disgracefully—that can’t be him!” Why my flyer didn’t set them straight I didn’t understand until I thought about it. If he told them I was drugged he’d have to say why, aNiah consider fear of heights disgraceful and he didn’t want to embarrass me.
So then they wanted us to apply at the Steel Gate, but my flyer didn’t want to take me inside the city without an escort of four, which the lefaetas guards refused to authorize since they weren’t sure it was me. It took two aer to sort out, which was good in the sense that the drug wore off enough that I could speak on my own behalf, starting out by snapping that I was not drunk but sedated, thank you very much, I was Kaninjer of Berit as any elite warrior of any nationality here could easily confirm, and Kilalulana would be able to confirm to them she’d been expecting me. This didn’t bode well at all, I was thinking, for my getting a four-guard escort to go out with Kil.
Then when I got to Suite 27 and tapped the door, she was not there. She’d had no way to know I’d be here this precise time. I went to the Hyerne elite office and they told me she was out on the town, but they didn’t know where. With who? I thought, with a twinge of jealousy; it’s natural, I guess, isn’t it? I could hardly requisition an escort of four just to search every restaurant in the City for her, I saw—what is that mainland expression, finding a needle in a haystack?—so I didn’t know what to do with myself. My clinic was open, with Soruner, the Haian I was having fill in for me, working, but there’s only one exam room, and I would be horning in unannounced anyway. I could think of nowhere to be except sitting by the door of Suite 27 until Kil came back, however late that was.
It wasn’t that late, and she was with three other Hyerne pals, all of them a little alcohol-poisoned. “Kaneeja! You’re sitting on the floor! Come in, come in, love!” She gave them all pal-hugs and kisses goodbye and drew me into her room, and we had tense, passionate sex.
You know how you get a feel for a person’s thoughts through their body? I could tell she had come to some kind of decision or realization, because she had a certain sureness that she hadn’t last time, and there was a sense that she was waiting to tell me something. The part of me that wanted her to decide for us was happy. The rest of me was scared feces-less, as they say on the mainland.
Afterwards we lit the samovar—it’s Brahvnikian, she picked it up at a shop in the old fessas quarter, and it makes more perfect chocolate chai than anything else—and sipped lying naked together. When she sat up businesslike, her face resolved and sad at once, I knew she’d decided now was the time to tell me whatever this thing was, so I sat up seriously too.
“Kaneeja, I know what our trouble is,” she said. “There is someone else you love more than me.”
Mamin, my cup nearly flew out of my hand, splashing some chai on me, scalding hot. “No, there isn’t!” I said. “Love, Kilalulana, how can you say such a thing? I’d never lie to you!”
She put her hand on my forearm fast and gently, as she always does when she inadvertently offends me. “No, I don’t mean that way, I’m sorry, I know you wouldn’t. You haven’t. And I’m not blaming you. He was in your life first. It is not sexual, but it is love, and your love for him is stronger than your love for me.”
I stared at her stunned. Was she talking about—“Chevaga,” she said, seeing my confusion. “I know how he is… he draws love very easily. You have been healing him for four years now, so much longer than you have been seeing me.”
“But… it’s not that I love him!” I said. She’d said the word “sexual,” which brought the image involuntarily to my mind of touching him that way. I was filled with revulsion. Not because he’s a man—I’m indifferent, not averse, to them sexually—but because... well, as he once said, “If you knew everything I’ve done, you wouldn’t be able to look at me.” When you see someone’s face, everything they’ve done is there at some level, isn’t it, Mamin? So, with him, it’s not only the time he looked at me with tears in his eyes from having not wanted to be a warrior, or his conscientious explanations of things to me, or his holding me so comfortingly after he told me about Sirichao, but also the mercilessly-stone expression he had on the dock in Tinga-e, and the callousness on his face when he order the drawing and quartering of the Arkan prisoners after the infirmary raids. And the Sack.
“It’s that he’s such a pain to keep healthy!” I said. “A pain, who am I kidding, it’s impossible, he does not listen so it worsens and is more trouble and I have to be more on top of him, all the time.” I thought of what his face looked like when last I’d seen it: still and dead as wax, with two staring glass balls in it. When he’s so bad, Mamin, it’s as if I’m wounded myself.
“Kaneeja, I hear how you talk about him, and trust me, it’s love. He is a pain but you stay with him… why? Why don’t you quit, if he is such a pain?”
“I can’t!” Yes, those words came out of my mouth, even though he himself said I should. I bet you think I am a fool, Mamin… here come the tears again, sorry if they blur the ink! “He needs me,” I said. “For all he pretends he doesn’t. Kil, please understand, it’s not just about him, it’s about the world…” Probably I should not have told her what I did then, probably it was a violation of confidentiality, but I was thinking, the whole world knows how his life goes anyway. “Kil, to tell you the truth, he lives so much on the edge of life that I’m afraid he’ll die, much too young, if I’m not there. I mean, he might anyway, even if I am… but my presence lessens the odds.”
“You prove my point. That is love. Not just for him, but for the world.” She’d been looking down; now she looked into my eyes, and her hand tightened gently on my arm. “You love everyone. I told you right from the start, you are a beautiful soul… I meant, the love in you is so strong. I don’t blame you, or him… he found you long before I did. I should have known, someone as loving as you would have someone else already. I was naïve, to think you were between.”
Mamin… I wanted to cry and scream like a child. I could see where this was going. “I was between!” I said. “I’ve been between for ten or twenty times as much time as I’ve been in, my whole adult life! I don’t want to be between again!” I meant to say more but couldn’t, for sobbing.
“Oh, love,” she said, in that gentle, all-understanding way again. Like a mother—you know, she reminds me in many ways of you. That must be why I love her so much. “I know. But you’re solid in love. It’s why you are so loyal. My Hyerne heart wants to tell you, he should be nothing to you, he is a mere man, and I should be everything… but I know that’s not how it is for you. I know love is love is love for you, you love everyone equally, you have to to be a good healer to all… Kaneeja, you have taught me so much about love.”
I turned my head away from her. The floor beside the bed, with its whorls of inlaid marble, was the only fascinating thing. “I can’t have. I don’t know anything.”