The post is late today. I’m blaming Daylight Savings Time. It’s not really the reason, but I loathe the concept of DST enough that I feel no remorse in making it the scapegoat of my present frustrations and tiredness. Yes, I truly have no shame, denigrating one of Benjamin Franklin’s most lasting creations so…
Let’s talk about Tweets, not twits (and no, this is not to imply Franklin was a twit; I’ve never met the man, but I do know myself, and the label certain fits where applied). Added to my incapability to go to bed on time or adjust to a new sleep schedule (even with several months of warning), I find myself still struggling through the world of Twitter. Yes, I use the platform; I participate in #wordsprints and #row80 gatherings; I follow people, and by some odd chance I have even garnered myself some followers.
In doing so, I have probably violated every single rule of hashtags ever created. I still dot my tweets with excess characters, and most of my tweets come through Facebook or WordPress.
Why? Because until this Sunday, my sole guide to Twitter beyond occasionally peeking at their help files was this post from Jeff Goins (which actually was the trigger to attempt using the social network) and Kristen Lamb’s post about the #myWANA hashtag.
Then on a whim I peeked at Media Bistro, a site I’d actually added within a day of joining Twitter (directed there actually through Google+). I seldom go there even though their pages are full of interesting tidbits that are especially suited for the publishing world. But it must have been Fate urging me there, since I quickly found this page of 48 Twitter Lessons. I started reading through this list and then realized that I could NOT be the only one who didn’t know these things. I hope that others will get as much use from this list as I will.
And in passing on these links to those who are on the learning curve as I am, hopefully we can all step forward more sure-footedly. It really is one of the things that makes me so glad to be involved with social media and the online community. The drive to help each other become better seems to permeate the screen and keyboards. I hope, in some small way, I am managing to give fair coin for all the help I’ve received from others, even if it is only by paying it forward.
(And for those who’ve been to Jeff’s site… what do you think of the idea of Barcamp? Sounds frighteningly cool, yes?)
And once again, more of the untitled story…
She watched as he picked through the remains of his meal, tiredly staving off sleep. He wasn’t going to finish his food this time either. He yawned often and paused more and more as he continued. Finally she lifted the tray from his yielding grasp.
“Time for more later, Val. Let’s get some sleep.”
He nodded, but when she raised the covers to join him, he shook his head. “You’ll sleep better if you don’t stay here.”
“Likely,” she agreed, though she still held the covers in case he argued himself out of the thought. “You were snoring like a groundquake earlier.”
He snorted. “Been managing worse than that of late. I slept through that. Last week, I was waking myself up glass by glass with the racket.”
“Ah.” She laid the covers back down and considered how to phrase her thoughts. “Uh, would you–“
He shook his head again, his gaze gentle and warm. “Of course not.” With a wry twist of his thinned lips, he smiled. “‘Listii’s not shared his bed with someone he loves in longer than I have, Atyr.”
She didn’t get upset at that admission, nor at his open acknowledgment that if she spent the night with his brother it wouldn’t just be to sleep. Some women might have. She’d met several with that foolish sense of decency.
Not her. She had been a Hastor wife.
Physical love among the Hastor didn’t have any more special a meaning than any other bodily function. Sex was sex. It was pleasant, but it was no more special than eating, sleeping…relieving one’s self.
Val couldn’t have cared if she’d had sex with his brother or half the House. He wasn’t like Alanii, who equated the physical act of two people making their bodies one for a moment of time as a sign of intent and devotion. Val, like all the other Hastor she’d known, expressed his love to her, his love and devotion, by homey meanings, little gestures, considerations and sacrifices.
Not that Val wouldn’t try to make sure that sex between them pleased both himself and her. ‘The act of lovemaking is more than sex’ had long been a staple phrase of the Hastor kin.
Alanii and Val were clear agreement about that point. Both men were incredibly generous and giving in that regard.
She smiled and touched his hand. “Thank you. I need to be held tonight. It’s been a hard day for me.”
He blew her a kiss as he edged back under the covers. “I’ve no doubt of that. And it’ll likely get worse before it can get better.”
She felt her brow rise. “Mm?”
“You’ve still got to decide where you’re staying. If you’re–“
I already told you I was.”
He shook his head, softly rustling his herb-filled pillow. “Make no promises now, Atyr. No need to hurry that.”
She wondered what he meant by that. Even more, she wondered at the fact that he wasn’t assuming–wasn’t accepting–the fact that she’d decided to stay with him.
She watched a moment as his breaths slowed. His fingers, his nose twitched slightly. Just before he fell completely to sleep, she murmured, “There’s no decision to make, Val. There never was. I’ve just learned enough to know that.”
He moved in his slumber comfortably, curling to his left side in a fetal position.
In the very edge of her mind she felt something fleeting touch her, something akin to an embrace.
* * *
The knock was quiet, as was the click of the doorknob turning.
That was enough. A bed he wasn’t familiar with, even one in his brother’s house, his sleep disturbed by concerns for Val and hesitant thoughts on Atyr….
He woke quickly, was out of bed and ready to tackle the person entering as was necessary. The blade on the nightstand lay just beneath his fingers.
“‘Listii?” came the whisper from the hall.
He relaxed. Smart woman, he mused as he went over and finished opening the door. “Good thing you didn’t barge in here the way your son tried this morning, Atyr.”
“I take it he learned why that is a bad idea?” She accepted his welcome gesture, as well as the hand he extended to her, and stepped into the room. “Sorry to wake you, but I needed help in finding someplace to sleep. Val’s not sleeping well at the moment. He needs his space.”
He nodded, not really understanding. If he had Atyr in his bed…. “I’m not sure which room is yours. If you want, I can check on the console.” He didn’t even bother to suggest that she’d come to join him.
She’d tell him if she had on her own.
“Yes, please. All my things should be there.”
“They are. I heard ‘Mara ordering the servants to make sure after prefast.” He led her over to the small desk–one of the few demands on his nephew’s hospitality he made was a workstation with full computer access to Toril and Katsdaniis–and once he had pulled out the chair for her to sit in, turned the display to face him and punched up a request for the day’s rooming schedule.
He knew most of the spare rooms as well as the few guests in residence other than himself. A quick skim of the chart and it became obvious where ‘Mara’d put her.
“He’d ordered the master bedroom for you, Atyr.” He snorted lightly. “You were supposed to be staying on the ground level in the main guest suite, but he’d changed the req after you arrived.”
“Oh, really?” She reached in front of him to look for herself. “Interesting review of dinner preparations he made.”
“The rooms are essentially equal, Atyr. The master bedroom is on this floor, that’s all.”
“It’s Nisxel’s room, ‘Listii. I’d rather take the couch in the foyer where we talked earlier.”
He decided he wasn’t supposed to know how to take that comment. “Mm?” Granted, she and Nisxel had never been able to say a civil word to each other; it had been a long time since Nisxe had died.
She shrugged. “I don’t want to sleep there. I’ll have to speak to ‘Mara in the morning about it.” She sighed, making a fleeting glance toward his recently vacated bed.
He almost missed the request for what it was, so intent had he been on making sure he didn’t upset her by dwelling on Val’s former wife. Fortunately he did not. “Do that. Do you want to stay here until then?”
She hesitantly put her hand on his before he flagged the room assignment for the Seiria’s notice in the morning. “That’s why I came, ‘Listii.”
He looked down at their touching flesh a moment, fighting back the sensation of her touch as he had since she’d come in. Suppressing flames that he feared would someday consume him, he looked back to the console. Then he wanted to curse himself for the awkwardness.
Her Name, Valistii Mirniia, he chided himself. You’ve slept with more women than half the Army in your years. You even slept with her once. Why can’t you do it again? You aren’t afraid she’ll think wrong of you for accepting? She asked you!
To be honest to himself, he had to confess he was.
Tossing some willing doxy in a secluded niche for a bit of fun and stress relief was far, far different than laying with someone he loved the way he loved her. Far different even than bedding his wife had been before she’d gone to her Rest. Husbands and wives laid together–it was expected. Best if they loved each other, but love was a requirement for little save itself. A lot of husbands and wives shared children with little better than apathy between them.
Atyr though? He grimly remembered that one time, so many years ago now, when he’d found the nerve to touch her. It’d taken several glass of his brother pleading with him that Val’s soon-to-be wife shouldn’t be left with fears and uncertainties about how much Val loved her despite the fact that Valichii was going whoring that evening. He’d understood Val’s sentiments, having asked the same favor of his brother during his marriage to Riia. And even after Riia had come to accept that it was not a sign of that he cared any less, he’d always felt a sense of dread when his lot for wenching duty had been drawn.
Even after Val’s pleading he’d had doubts he could manage the strength to do as he’d been asked. It had taken seeing Atyr, there in Val’s rooms, alone, so small and close to terror–so much like the little Mouse Val had named her…. It had taken seeing her fear of Val’s possible desertion, her uncertainty.
It had taken over half an ewer of their uncle’s strongest mead.
And then he’d made so many mistakes, done so many things wrong in his fumbling, near-panicked manner. He’d never had the courage to ask her again, though he’d jokingly suggested he might.
He finished closing out the note to his nephew and set it to trigger after younger man’s morning wake up call. Then, almost robotically, he checked to see if any new messages had come while he’d been sleeping. Only one and it didn’t need a reply.
“I don’t have to, ‘Listii. If the thought bothers you, or…”
He blinked and turned back to look at her again.
No, not just to look at her. He looked back to see an image from the past settle before his eyes, a memory from a past he’d just remembered. Maybe her hair only went to her chin now instead of flowing down her back like a river of blood and honey. Maybe her dark eyes were shielded by lenses that were nearly as thick as his pinkie fingers.
She hadn’t changed at all. The little mouse he’d seen that night once again come to the fore, smashing the facades of self-reliance and inner strength she’d present to the world. Not that he doubted her strength. She was a terrifyingly strong woman, blessed with more fortitude than most soldiers and world leaders.
She was still the waif his brother had practically stolen from her cradle.
He reached over a finger to touch her cheek gently. “No, Atyr. It’s fine.” He hesitated for a moment, wondering how much more he should say, whether it would help or hurt. He decided it wasn’t time yet. “I was just surprised by the request.”
She sighed and looked down to her lap where her hands lay, fingers twiddling awkwardly. “I need to be held, ‘Listii. It’s been so much today–almost too much. I’m scared for him, scared for me–I’m just scared. I don’t know where else to go or who else to turn to.”
He heard the break in her voice and saw the first teardrop fall only seconds later. Before it landed he was on one knee next to her, cupping her chin in his hand. “Hush,” he murmured, perhaps a bit more sternly than necessary. He softened his grip on her chin and looked into her eyes as tenderly as he could. “Hush, Mouse. You aren’t alone here. If you want to be held, need a shoulder….” He hesitated again to say ‘lover’. “…or even someone to rant and scold, I’m here for you. Alanii’d do the same, as would Lan–half the Guard likely. Your children wouldn’t desert you. And neither would Val, if he thought you needed him.”
She sniffed back a tear, then rubbed at her eyes with the sleeve of her blouse, displacing her glasses so badly that she needed to remove and resettle them. “Val sent me here.”
He should have guessed. He nodded to her. “See? He wouldn’t deny you comfort.” He didn’t dare ask whether the suggestion had been hers or Val’s. He’d hope it had come from her and leave it at that. Val knew too well what his life had been like of late, and ‘Listii had no illusions that his brother’s sense of handling problems would lead the man to shove the two of them together for their own good.
Her expression didn’t change. If anything, it became more distressed. “That’s why it’s wrong, ‘Listii.” She made a lesser attempt to stop the tears that had begun to reemerge from beneath her glasses, then fumed. “Damn it all! I should go sleep in that stewed prune’s room.” She added a few less genteel things and some others in a dialect of her native tongue he wasn’t familiar with before tossing her head dramatically with a look of horror. “Oh, ‘Listii, I’m sorry.”
He decided the shorter hair suited her far better than it had when it had been longer. She’d always kept it braided and bound then.
Her apology he shrugged off as unnecessary. He’d learned long ago that Riia’s past lifestyle would remain with him long after her death. And never mind that Nisxel had never been half the woman his wife had been, good and bad. He just smiled. “No matter.”
She must have misunderstood his reaction. Or she had intended it anyway. He caught her hands as she quickly tried to get up and stood up himself to discourage her from trying to press past him. “Why is it so wrong for you to stay here, Atyr?”
Sensing that she wasn’t about to fight him further, he kept hold of her hands but eased over so that he could sit on the edge of the desk. “Val loves you, Atyr. He’d do anything to make you happy. He knows how much I care for you too.”
She was doing her best to not look at him now. But finally she relented enough to meet his gaze. Instead of distress, her expression was one of not wanting to deal with something that repulsed her.
He made no attempt to hide his confusion this time. “That’s why? What’s why? That he loves you? That I care? Both? Neither?”
The slope of the desk was uncomfortable. Too much paperwork. He shifted while she hesitated in answering, then decided it wasn’t worth the annoyance.
As he wanted to give Atyr his full attention, it was worth a small interruption. Especially since she wasn’t willing to talk anyway.
“Atyr? Do you mind if we sit on the edge of the bed? This isn’t the most comfortable seat I’ve had.”
Her increased hesitation was answer enough. He rethought the suggestion and added “Or, if you’d like, we can head down to the kitchens and get a nibble. That is, if you want to talk now.”
Her expression lightened at the suggestion of finding the kitchens. “I could use some tea.”
“Alright then.” He slipped off the desk and strode over to the bath door. Grabbing the shirt and pants he’d worn earlier, he pulled them over his underwear, slipped his boots on, then headed to the door. There, he took her hand again and led them both out.
There you go… Hope you are all still enjoying this story. Anyone have a favorite character yet?