January 23, 2014

In Which CeeCee Ruins the Afternoon

July 10, 1184

"Sorry about all the stairs." Farilon took the near seat on the couch and offered a sheepish grin. For land-use efficiency, the university staff houses were built to be tall rather than wide--and in Farilon's case, this meant a food-centric first floor with a small entrance plus the kitchen and dining room, a second floor with an assortment of spare rooms, and a third with a combination sitting room and study, as well as his own master bedroom. "They didn't wear you out, did you? You look a bit... I don't know. Strained, I guess."

CeeCee shook her head, not so much because he was wrong but because he could hardly be blamed for the architecture, and she didn't recall ever feeling quite like this anyway. She wasn't sick, but... well, 'strained' may have been the right word for it, if there was a right word. If she could pick a phrase, it would have been something to the effect of her innards in knots.

But she'd ridden all this way, and Renata was out training, and it had been a while since she'd last visited with Farilon, so whatever it was, she didn't care to let it get in the way.

"I'm all right." And who knew? Maybe all she needed was to sit down for a while. "I hope you like those books."

"I like most of the books you bring."

"Only most? And here I thought you had good tastes." She forced herself to laugh, though the cramping fought the effort. But surely that was because she'd only just sat down? "But I think you'll find these useful for your mechanics classes."

"Or maybe I could just get you to teach those classes. Are you still planning on becoming a professor?"

Still. The word stung somewhat. Yes, she had plenty of time to change her mind, but the word made her sound fickle--or worse, childish and unsure. It hurt to think that Farilon might have seen her like that. "It's a more appealing option than joining an nunnery, or being just a wife and mother."

"I don't know if all nuns and wives and mothers are miserable, but I see your point."

"No, you don't." The knot in her gut tightened. She was probably about to ruin the afternoon, if he hadn't already. But was she supposed to just smile and nod and say nothing? Didn't that just breed tension instead of clearing the air? "No offense, but you're a man."

His eyebrow arched, but he didn't say anything. At least he was listening? "I mean... if a man tells people what he wants to be, there's almost nothing that will make anyone tell you no. But if you're a woman, the only acceptable options are being a wife and mother, or being a nun--and nothing on top of either of those things. And if you're not a wife and mother or nun, then you're a half-pitied, half-ridiculed maiden aunt. And if you don't want to be that either, then you're a malcontent and a woman of ill-repute, because God forbid you have any say in your own life."

"And as a man, I'll never fully grasp that."

"Exactly." Though he did have his own unique othering, and that might have made him more flexible than many. She would never understand his situation either, but they could both acknowledge their lack of perspective there; maybe that was something. "But maybe that will change, one day. My sister and the others made a big step by opening up the teaching positions to women--and not just nuns." Though they could be nuns if they wanted. And judging by Lettie's employment--plus the number of rooms on Farilon's second floor--they could be wives and mothers if they wanted as well.

"Never mind your sister herself. The male chancellors of other universities probably took issue when they heard, but she's doing just as good a job as any one of them. Better than some, I'm sure." Not that Farilon would have known the day-to-day workings of the other universities, but if he was comfortable with this one, that had to mean something. Farilon wasn't comfortable with much. "Say, has she taken you for a tour yet?"

CeeCee shook her head. "She hasn't had the time."

"Well, I could take you for one now, if you like." In afterthought, he swept her over with a quick stare. "Er, if you're feeling up to it, that is."

"All right. Maybe a walk is what I need." She'd ridden over here, after all, and that was when the aches had started--and sitting hadn't done much to ease them.

"You're sure?"

"Well, not unsure."

But--sure enough--her pains eased somewhat as she stood, maybe even a little more as she walked past him. They hadn't ruined the afternoon after all. She hadn't ruined the afternoon after all. And the tour could only improve things, certainly. They'd discuss the architecture, the layout, perhaps the current projects of the various disciplines...

"Er... CeeCee?" Farilon tapped her on the shoulder, finger hesitant. "You're bleeding..."

"What?" How was that possible? She would have remembered cutting herself. "Where?"

"Uh... I don't want to say."

"Oh." Though her stomach spun, she wasted no time turning around. Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit... "Oh, no."

How had this snuck up on her already? Some sort of divine retribution for her wishing Farilon wouldn't think of her as a child? She was ten years old! She shouldn't have had to worry about this for another couple years, at least. Hell, her own mother hadn't started until she was fourteen, and Aldara and the twins averaged around there as well! How had she--?

Stupid! Why had she just expected to take after her mother's side in that regard? Of her half-sisters from her father, Riona had been the oldest at twelve--and a young twelve, at that. Raia and Vera had both been eleven, and Viridis had been... ten. Like CeeCee. God! Stupid!

"Uh... do you have something for that? In one of your saddlebags or something?"

...Damn it. "No. This, uh... this hasn't happened to me before..."

"Oh." That did it. He was now forever privy to the workings of her reproductive tract. He'd never be able to look at her again without remembering this moment.


"Do you want me to go and get your mother?"

Of all the things she would have preferred he'd never ask. "Yes, please."

"All right. I'll stop by next door and ask Cherry if she could come over and keep you company. She's usually home around this time."

Company? That sounded like a kinder way of saying she needed a babysitter. At least Cherry was unlikely to make a big deal of it. "Right."

"And you can take a towel if you need one. Just wash it before--" He squirmed as he caught up with his own thought. "On second thought, keep it."

Great. He thinks I'm disgusting. "Thanks."

He gave her a quick rub on the shoulder, then brushed past her and started down the stairs. "Just try to stay comfortable, all right? And help yourself to anything in the kitchen if you get hungry."


She knew he meant to be nice, but food was the least of her concerns right now.



Van said...

CeeCee's dress has got to be the bluest blue thing in my game.

Ekho said...

I think "They didn't wear you out, did you" doesn't quite sound right. Oh poor CeeCee, after having the gall to speak her thoughts on the way men perceive women, only to endure something like that afterwards. I know how she feels about believing Farilon must think she's 'disgusting' as a lot of men do react that way, but I don't think Farilon sees her as just a female, he actually appeared worried and tried to be as helpful as possible.
I'm impressed that he actually mentioned it and told her, rather than leaving it for CeeCee to discover later on and be even more embarrassed about it he addressed the issue straightaway and I think that makes the awkwardness not so awkward - especially for them both in the future.

Van said...

Yeah, I'm not sure about that line either. I just needed something to establish that she's not feeling great and he noticed. *shrug*

CeeCee was definitely blind-sided by this, and while there are plenty of awful scenarios for the first period, getting it while having an intellectual conversation with an older guy you have a bit of a crush on is not the time anyone wants to get it (there's nothing fundamentally unintellectual about menstruating, but bodily functions in general seem to derail conversations).

Farilon did handle this about as well as you can expect for any nineteen-year-old cismale. It's true that he doesn't really think of people in terms of male or female, and CeeCee is no exception. He sees a lot more than "Well, she's a girl".

Winter said...

But it's a very nice blue!

I don't think it gets more embarrassing than this! Poor CeeCee. I know I cringed when Farilon told her to keep the towel (not that I blame him for not wanting it back.) She'll survive this incident, and she'll be much harder to embarrass going forward. If she can live through this, she can live through anything.

Farilon did about as well as any man in his situation could, though. Most men would have rather looked at a gushing head wound than point out someone's period.

Van said...

Indeed, I do not dislike that blue. :)

Yeah, I think CeeCee will be replaying this in her head for a while. :S But yeah, after this, her resilience can only go up from here.

Farilon could have handled this much worse, for sure! Even CeeCee's own brothers (except maybe Donnie, who is young enough that he probably doesn't know what a period is and would have mentioned seeing blood on her dress, fearing something worse) probably would have looked away and chosen not to mention it, probably leading to even further embarrassment on her part.