Project: #Novel365 2018 – Week 21

2018 (1)

#Novel365 2018 Week Twenty

Cariad was sent an Academy card form to sign and return together with a passport photograph along with college contractual documents and arrival information. Shortly after she received her Candida Isca Academy Single Sign On IT account details, that granted her access to central IT services.

The weeks that followed passed in a frenzied blur as the entire Boerum household prepared for what Rupert called Cariad’s Grand Adventure. Somewhere during the process of Cariad sorting through her belongings to decide what would travel with her and what would remain behind, Ruth passed by the room and spotted her daughter placing her piggy bank into a luggage case.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Ruth asked.

Cariad gave her a what does it look like I’m doing stare but answered anyway, “I’m packing Chris P. Bacon.”

“I can see that but why?”

“She’s a good luck charm and I never know when I might need some emergency cash.”

“I plan on giving you a card for emergencies! What kind of mother do you think I am?”

“I don’t know, Mom, the kind that keeps dirty little secrets?”

Rupert appeared in the doorway, shaking his head, “Don’t you ever speak to your mother like that again!”

“But she’s the one who started it, Dad! She barged in here trying to run my life!”

“All I did was try to stop you from burdening yourself with unnecessary things like that silly little bank of yours and these ratty t-shirts,” Ruth plucked several worn and faded novelty tees out of the case and flung them on the floor.

“You’re the queen of chucking out unnecessary things, aren’t you, Mom? Like your daughter?”

“Enough!” Rupert shouted. Cariad had never heard her father sound so angry. He paused, swallowed. “We’re a family, dammit, so it’s about time we started acting like one again! Ruth, let her pack what she wants to pack, she’s going away, not you!” Ruth opened her mouth to argue her point but Rupert put up a hand to cut her off. “And you, young lady, should learn to show a little respect because I know we raised you better than that!”

As he stormed away, Rupert added, “And if you can’t be civil toward one another then the very least you can do is be silent!”

And that was exactly what happened. From that moment there was a temporary ceasefire between Cariad and her mother and calm reigned. When they worked on a project together and speech could not be avoided, they maintained a strained civility and when words were not necessary they shared an icy silence. After the row with her mother, there was something about the act of packing her things and getting her affairs in order that gave Cariad the feeling that she actually was ready to leave home and she carried that feeling with her up until the moment she arrived at the airport and had to say goodbye to her parents.

“No, I’m not leaving,” Cariad’s eyes glistened as she tried to hold back the tears. It was a valiant effort and she put up one hell of a fight but it was a losing battle.

Rupert placed his hands on her shoulders and pulled her in for a hug. Her cheek felt damp and she thought she had started crying but she felt her father’s chin tremble against her and realized the tears were his. This made her hug him even harder.

“Are you afraid of school?” Rupert whispered in her ear.

She shook her head.

“Then it’s alright for you to leave,” Rupert gave her one last tight squeeze then held her out at arm’s length. “Your mother and I will find a way to manage without you for a while.”

Cariad turned to Ruth who held her arms out for a hug but the gesture looked uncomfortable, almost insincere as if it was a protocol that had to be followed, the socially acceptable thing to do in a situation such as this in order not to appear a monster in society’s eye. Instead of the hug, Cariad clasped one of Ruth’s hands and pumped it up and down firmly, politely smiling, “Thank you. Really.”

The air hostess announced the final call for her flight. Cariad turned and picked up her carry-on bag and wiped her eyes as she rushed to the gate. Before boarding, she stopped at the jet bridge and turned to wave at her parents. They smiled and returned the wave. Ruth mouthed words that Cariad read as I love you but she could have been misreading it so she didn’t mouth anything in reply. Her father, while waving, was also tapping his pocket, a gesture she didn’t understand. She was about to shrug What? to him but the air hostess was ushering her into the jet bridge.

***

Once she reached Candida Isca, there was hardly any time to settle in. Week Zero was filled with completing all the steps of her Academy registration in order to attend her program of study, release her tuition grant from the Student Loans awarding body, activate her University email account, obtain her University Card, print an enrollment certificate, become eligible to take examinations and access her results. When all that was finished her status as a member of the Academy was confirmed.

As she was a first-year undergraduate, Cariad was provided accommodations in the Green-Hart Family House with the understanding that she might be required to move out to private accommodation in her second or third year or she had the choice to share a house with friends.

Cariad was greeted in the common room by RA Cosette who was about 20 but her smooth face and the mysterious carefree attitude made her seem much younger. Her light ash brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail and she wore blue jeans, boat shoes and a cotton blouse. “My name’s Cosette, welcome to Green-Hart House,” the RA smiled.

Cariad let go of the handle of her rolling travel case, shook hands, introduced herself and because she hadn’t prepared anything in the way of small talk, said, “So, this is my dormitory?”

“We call it a residence hall, but yeah, this is the place you’ll call home for the next year or so. Dea and Burton are out and about somewhere so I’ll give you the five-cent tour.”

“Dea and Burton?”

“The hall director and assistant hall director. You’ll meet them during orientation when they set the ground rules.”

“Oh, you’re not—?”

“Nope, I’m the resident assistant who lives on your floor. Let me grab one of those for you,” Cosette grabbed the strap of one of the bags, slung it over her shoulder like it weighed nothing and led the way through the house.

“All right, things you should know,” Cosette said. “The floor you’ll be on is all first year so you shouldn’t run into too many hassles with upperclassmen. It’s also single gender—which means no guys—and substance-free—which means no drinking and definitely no drugs.”

“Oh, you don’t have to worry about me,” Cariad waved the notion off.

“I’ve been RA for two years, RA supervisor for one and in my experience, it’s always the ones I don’t have to worry about that make the biggest scenes. These next few weeks are going to be Buckle up, y’all time for me because you’re going to break every single rule and make the stupidest mistakes known to mankind. First time away from home is when freshmen need to get the drinking and fucking and all that other free will nonsense out of their systems. So, I’m going to been overly understanding with you in the beginning but keep in mind we’re operating on a three strikes rule. If you try to be slick and can take advantage of my good nature, you’ll find yourself hunting for a new place to live.”

“I’m not like that.”

“Okay, Carrie, prove me wrong, I dare you,” Cosette smiled but her expression was deadly serious.

The shortening of her name hit Cariad like cold water to the face. Her father had called her by a few nicknames that she had outgrown but neither of her parents had ever called her Carrie. She wasn’t quite sure how she felt about it. It was said without contempt so it wasn’t like she was being teased but it was a little too familiar a little too quickly.

Cosette ran through the tour of common areas, kitchens, shared bathrooms and shower facilities fairly quickly, none of which found a fixed space in Cariad’s memory and it ended at a room where two five by three white cards, one bearing her last name and the other that read Guō were push-pinned on a small corkboard beside the door. Cosette gave a little knock and announced herself and entered when a small voice from inside the room gave her permission.

The hall room itself was smaller than she imagined, approximately 12 feet by 16 feet with an 8-foot-high ceiling. Two loft beds were situated against the righthand side wall and beneath the elevated wooden frame of each bed was a small wooden writing desk and chair.

“It’ll seem a little cramped at first but you’ll get used to it and it’s only for your fresher year,” Cosette said, letting Cariad’s bag slide off her shoulder to floor. “The rooms get better year by year.”

“This is your roomie, Bao. Bao, meet Carrie,” Cosette said.

“Cariad, actually,” Cariad corrected. The last thing she needed was for that nickname to stick.

The Asian young lady seated at her writing desk in a plain button-down blouse and linen pants looked up from her laptop and gave Cariad the once-over before offering a lackluster, “Hi.” Cariad returned the greeting with equal enthusiasm.

“Well, now that the hard part’s over, I’ll leave you two to get acquainted,” Cosette said, patting Cariad on the shoulder on her way to the door. “Once you get settled in, come find me and I’ll tell you about a few of the activities that’ll help you get to know your fellow floor residents and you should make it your business to attend because we’re all about building a community that’s fun, friendly, and respectful.”

Bao’s eyes never left Cariad. She remained silent when their hall door clicked shut and the sound of Cosette’s footstep faded in the distance.

“Since I was raised to believe that honesty is the best policy,” Bao said, carefully enunciating each word, “I’m just going to put this out in the open: I’m very nervous about this dormitory living situation. You know, moving in with a complete stranger, it makes sense, doesn’t it? I’ve been reading way too many dorm-room horror stories online of crazy, nasty, or downright terrifying roommates.”

As she was speaking all Cariad could concentrate on were all the small framed photos hanging on the wall, propped up on the writing desk and even the background of her laptop screen. They were all snapshots of Bao. Not Bao and friends; just Bao.

Cariad’s attention refocused on Bao’s ramblings in time for her to hear her roommate say, “I don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night to find you standing over me with a knife, do you know what I’m saying?”

To be continued…

‘Til next week,

☮️  💗

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License

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Project: #Novel365 2018 – Week 20

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#Novel365 2018 Week Nineteen

After registering to fulfill the test requirement part of her application process, Cariad was called into the office of a member of the admissions staff which she and those who were in earshot found peculiar including members of staff as none of the other registrants before her received this treatment.

The admissions person who introduced himself as, “Mr. McCune,” sat her down in the cramped office that resembled more of a research nook than a proper office and politely asked her a series of random questions which she automatically assumed to be a sort of psychometric test. No, test wasn’t accurate because tests were graded on right or wrong answers. This was more of a verbal questionnaire to discover what kind of person she was in ways that a person wouldn’t necessarily admit to in an interview, with questions designed to expose how Cariad behaved and what motivated her.

When he felt he had gathered enough information to make an assessment, McCune thanked Cariad for her time, escorted her out of the office and asked her father to step in for a moment. McCune closed the door but the latch hadn’t slid into the strike plate so the door remained slightly open. She considered walking away back into the corridor but the opportunity to eavesdrop was a temptation she couldn’t avoid so she loitered at the door.

“Thank you for taking the time, Marco,” her father’s voice said.

“You’re one of our top contributors and a damned fine lecturer, Rupert, so how could I refuse?” McCune replied. “Besides, for a twelve-year-old, she has a top-notch mind as a result of your homeschooling, no doubt, so if she aces her test I’ll make sure she tops the shortlist.”

“I should probably warn you, she tends to be a homebody, one of the unfortunate traits she picked up from me, so her social skills aren’t yet what they should be which means her professors can expect for their hands to be full.”

“What genius doesn’t have social rough patches? I can remember a ruddy-faced freshman who was so full of himself and piss and vinegar when he first attended Uni.”

“Stop exaggerating, Marco, I wasn’t that bad.”

“The hell you weren’t. Do you want to know the best thing that ever happened to you, aside from marrying Ruth and having Cariad, I mean? Meeting me.”

Cariad found that she felt uneasy listening to the rest of the conversation. She had never considered that life her father had outside their family or before she was born and the fact that her father had friends he never discussed with her made her feel envious and left out. Logically they were crazy emotions but she couldn’t help the way she felt at the moment. Something else nagged at her, clearly, she was here because of her father’s connections with Candida so why had he lied to her and said it was Mom’s doing?

***

The admissions test was pretty much what Cariad expected, a timed, written exam designed to show the academy how she thought: how she analyzed and solved difficult questions as well as how she applied her knowledge to texts or problems she hadn’t encountered before.

The hardest part for her was deciding which course she wanted to study as she could only apply for one course in the same year and time studies, which technically fell under the category of horology or clockmakers, wasn’t presented as an option on Candida Isca’s course list. She opted to follow the path her father had paved for her and selected theoretical physics. Physics did not require written work to be submitted as part of the application process but Cariad completed four papers on Understanding Time as The Fourth Dimension, Traveling Through Wormholes, Alternate Time Travel Theories, and the Grandfather Paradox.

When she received her letter to interview, despite knowing that her father’s friend placed her on the shortlist as a favor, she felt a wave of excitement washing over her. She wouldn’t allow herself to race but she walked at a rate quicker than her normal pace and made the announcement to her parents. Rupert caught her up in a bearhug and nearly squeezed the life out of her so strong was his pride in his daughter. Ruth smiled a genuine smile that somehow seemed equal to the hug and announced that she would be making the trip with Cariad to Candida this time.

The academic interview was not at all what Cariad had expected. She had read up on interview techniques and how to avoid falling into traps on certain types of questions aimed at catching interviewees unawares, but none of it was relevant. Yes, there were four tutors in the room but they were very friendly and simply asked her questions regarding physics and her thoughts on higher dimensions and time travel. Without meaning to, she rambled on for an hour, reiterating things she had written in her papers and the tutors smiled and nodded along in agreement the whole time. Then the tutors presented her with something she hadn’t encountered in her father’s lessons: The Hierarchy problem.

“Why is gravity such a weak force?” Tutor Lefevre asked. “It becomes strong for particles only at the Planck scale, around 1024 GeV, much above the electroweak scale—100 GeV, the energy scale dominating physics at low energies.”

“Why are these scales so different from each other?” Tutor Valdez added.

“What prevents quantities at the electroweak scale, such as the Higgs boson mass, from getting quantum corrections on the order of the Planck scale?” Tutor Abrams inquired.

And Tutor Wood chimed in with, “Is the solution supersymmetry, extra dimensions, or just anthropic fine-tuning?”

The questions came in rapid succession and Cariad realized it was designed to rattle her, which it did. She stumbled in the beginning but began applying the knowledge she possessed to offer solutions. She even asked if she could work the problem out on paper and before receiving an answer began jotting down mathematical equations and when she became stuck at certain points she was surprised to discover the tutors were offering hints to steer her in a direction around various obstacles. By the time the interview had ended, she left feeling rattled but her mother dismissed it as a normal reaction to being verbally tested and suggested she should concentrate on doing something frivolous to distract her until they received word from the academy.

It was just the two of them on this trip, not because her father was too busy or too disinterested to make the trek but because he thought it best that the two most important women in his life get to spend some alone time with each other. Cariad was full of topics she wanted to discuss with her mother including why Ruth wanted her out of the house so badly, what didn’t her mother want her to know about what was going on behind her back, but she refused to make the first move. Her mother would have to initiate conversation first, make an effort to bridge the gap between them because that’s what a mother was supposed to do. It was her responsibility as an adult to own up to her actions, actions that made Cariad feel like an outcast, a burden, an unwanted thing. Her mother should have known something was wrong and if she cared she would have spotted it months ago and done something about it. And since she made no effort whatsoever to reconcile their relationship and Cariad refused to make the first move, the pair travel home in silence.

***

In January of the following year, the Boerums were notified that Cariad’s application had been successful. This was followed by direct communication from the academy that she had completed all the necessary administrative steps and was given an unconditional offer, which meant her place was guaranteed at Candida Isca, even though the college she would go to had not yet been specified and would not be decided until after her final examination results had been published.

To be continued…

‘Til next week,

☮️  💗

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License

Project: #Novel365 2018 – Week 19

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#Novel365 2018 Week Eighteen

Chapter 8

“Should you attend Candida Isca next semester,” the tour guide, who announced herself as Anna, said over her shoulder. “You will find that it has a unique academic structure. Students, researchers and lecturers benefit from belonging both to the academy, a large, internationally-renowned institution, and to a particular house or hall, a small, interdisciplinary scholastic community.”

Anna led the rather sizeable group of interviewees and their parents on the long and winding scenic path to the admissions building. There was a shorter more direct route, of course, but first appearances being everything, a good impression had to be made. And everyone in the tour group was impressed, all except Cariad.

“I know you’re doing this against your will,” Rupert gave his daughter a little nudge. “But you could at least pretend to be listening.”

“To impress who, Dad?” Cariad said. “She’s just a tour guide. I’m saving all my enthusiasm for the interview, I promise. Besides, all she’s doing is reciting the information that’s on their website and I read through that already.”

Which was the truth. Cariad learned online that Candida Isca Academy wasn’t so much a school as it was the academic equivalent of a sovereign state, comprised of 47 financially independent and self-governing learning institutions which related in a federal system to the central academy.

“And if this was really so important, wouldn’t Mom be here?” Cariad said, a little too sharply, revealing more hurt than she cared to admit to her father and herself.

“You know she’d be here if she could, just like you know an important engagement got rescheduled at the last minute, something she needed to handle personally,” Rupert said.

“Yeah, well, it really isn’t that big a deal, anyway,” Cariad shrugged. “You keep calling it an interview but it’s actually registering to take a test as part of my application that has to be submitted by mid-October. Then I’ll have to decide which courses I want to take and send in written works along with my application. If I’m shortlisted, then I’ll be invited to interview in December.”

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s an interview or registration, it would mean a lot to me and your mother if you presented yourself properly.”

“Dad, I know you lecture here from time to time so I’m not going to embarrass you, okay?”

Rupert put his arm around Cariad’s shoulder and gave her a gentle hug. He went to remove his arm but his daughter held it in place and leaned into him slightly as they walked. She was a good kid, though, strong-willed like her mother which probably explained why they were having difficulty getting along recently.

“There are also six permanent private halls, which are similar to academies except they tend to be smaller and are founded by investors with special interests in specific arts and experimental sciences.” Anna continued. “The academies, halls and houses are close scholastic communities, which bring together students and researchers from different disciplines, cultures and countries. This aids in fostering the outstanding research achievement that has made Candida Isca a leader in so many fields. In fact, the houses, halls and the academy work together to organize teaching and research, and many staff at Candida Isca will hold both a house and an academy post.”

“Even you have to admit that this—it feels wrong calling it a campus, it’s more like a town—is impressive,” Rupert said, brushing hair back from his daughter’s face. “All the libraries and museums cafes and restaurants and bars and nightclubs…and my hope is that when you get accepted—”

If I get accepted,” Cariad corrected.

When you get accepted, my hope is that you go heavy on the libraries and museums and light on the bars and nightclubs.”

“No promises, Dad.”

“No?”

“I mean, it’ll be my first taste of freedom, which means there will be a fair amount of experimentation as I explore the boundaries of free will,” Cariad smirked and that smirk turned into a full-blown smile when she saw the troubled look on her father’s face.

To be continued…

‘Til next week,

☮️  💗

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License

Project: #Novel365 2018 – Week 18

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#Novel365 2018 Week Seventeen

PART TWO

CHAPTER 7

The colors came in small bursts that brought a widening smile to Cariad Boerum’s twelve-year-old face which shined with wonder as she explored this the pigments of this wonderland. Images appeared within the color blotches in that beautiful way clouds in the sky sometimes took on shapes of faces and objects. But it wasn’t only objects, people, places and things that were visible, there was music, too, or perhaps not music as she had known it, the type played by instruments but the supposedly random sounds of life that were drawn to one another and strung themselves together like notes on sheet music and these notes were visible, gentle whirls of color, blurred, spinning and brilliant, the kaleidoscope of nature’s soul, in every shade of the spring flowers, carried aloft by the ambient drone of the wind.

Then the images faded taking along with then the rich colors and she found herself back home in the weather-beaten and sun-faded hues of her father’s workshop in the dullness of her singular reality. Here nothing was too bright, nothing was big or even bold. And though she loved her parents very much she longed to be back in that fantastical realm away from her sorrows, the only place that gave her peace. When reality had firmly set itself in her vision, Cariad found she was staring at her Welsh-Guyanan reflection in the mirror. Her hair was still ebony, her eyes still the color of emeralds and her sun-burnished skin was still honey but the colors seemed muted now.

“How was it?” her father said over his shoulder. Professor Rupert Boerum sat hunched over his worktable littered with cogs, chronographs and assorted watch parts, a magnifying loupe positioned over his right eye. He was tinkering on a miniature watch movement with a one-millimeter screwdriver in his right hand and brass tweezers in his left.

“It was fantastic, Dad,” Cariad answered hardly able to control her enthusiasm. “What was in that stuff you put in my eyes and why did it go away so quickly?”

Rupert placed the tools on the table and swung the loupe from over his eye before picking up the tiny bottle with the eyedropper. “This is an accident,” he said. “It was meant to be a cure for macular degeneration which is a common eye disorder that causes central vision loss or what you see when you’re looking straight ahead. What we believe it actually does is dilate the eye just enough to visually detect the passage of time. And it went away quickly because I diluted the solution.”

“I was looking at time?”

“A tiny portion of it, or so our theory goes.”

“Then why aren’t you working on that instead of wasting your time on stupid clocks and watches that nobody uses or even cares about anymore?” Her tone was wrong, it was disrespectful and Cariad knew it the moment she heard herself but it was too late.

Her father didn’t get mad, however. He let out a sigh that was almost imperceptible though she did see his shoulders drop slightly as he said, “My hobbies aren’t decided by how many are interested in them, the only thing that matters is that horology brings me joy so I don’t consider it a waste of time. And this watch that I’m working on is more related to those eye drops than you realize. This was the third method of telling time, after sundials and water clocks.”

Rupert gently lifted the watch movement and gave the crown a little twist and it began to tick. “What do you hear?” he asked.

“I hear ticking,” Cariad shrugged. Was this meant to be some sort of trick question?

“No, that’s what is happening, the watch is ticking. What do you hear?”

Cariad had no idea what her father meant or how she was supposed to answer the question. All she heard was the stupid ticking of the stupid watch.

Rupert sighed again, this time more audibly, “When baby animals, puppies and kittens and the like, were separated from their mothers, ticking watches and clocks were placed in their bedding to soothe them and stop them from crying at night because the sound mimicked the heartbeat of their mother. So, that’s what I hear when a clock ticks, I hear the heartbeat of existence, the movement of time as the universe as it expands, I hear evolution and it brings me comfort for as long as that ticking continues, time continues which means we continue.”

Rupert put the timepiece back on the table and covered it with a cloth. “And speaking of time, it’s time to get ready for dinner.”

“Dad, I’m sorry about what I said. Your hobby isn’t stupid, I am. I have a bad habit of saying things I don’t mean all the time now. I don’t know what’s wrong with me,”

Tousling his daughter’s hair, Rupert smiled, “You aren’t afraid to speak your mind, you get that from your mother. Maybe someday, hopefully sometime soon, you’ll learn to balance that with diplomacy. That you will get from me.”

Cariad rolled her eyes because she knew he was calling her immature in his own special way. “Can you put the drops in one more time? Please?” she pleaded, dragging out the word please the way she used to when she was younger to wrap her father around her little finger. She hadn’t used it in a while and was out of practice.

“And keep your mother waiting? Not on your life and not on mine,” Rupert plucked the bottle from the tabletop, slid it into the top left-hand drawer of his work table and locked it, placing the key on its assigned wall-mounted hook. Cariad made note of the hook location.

“Can’t you tell her we’re in the middle of an important experiment or something?”

“Lie to your mother? Have you met the woman? She would pick it apart before I finished the sentence and then I would never hear the end of being foolish enough to let you talk me into making the attempt.”

Cariad knew all this, it was just the idea of having to sit through the process of dinner. When it was just her and her father, dinner was eating on the couch in front of the wallscreen watching a science program or a comedy and laughing or discussing a topic around a mouthful of food with drinks precariously perched on sofa arms or sometimes wedged between the cushions to avoid spills.

With her mother, dinner was always served in the dining room, elbows off the table, back straight, take small bites and chew with mouths shut, make pleasant conversation but never with a full mouth, finish the entire plate, use the napkin, ask permission to leave the table, help clear the table, sweep the floor, help wash the dishes.

When she left her father’s study she would have to wash and change into her dinner attire, a ritual she never understood. Washing her face and hands? Yes. But a full shower? And wearing an outfit only design to eat a meal in? Where was the sense?

***

Everything was as Cariad expected it to be. The dinner—roasted yellow pepper and tomato bisque, salmon with lemon dill cream sauce, warm butter rum lava cake—was prepared to perfection. Her mother, Ruth, used to be a chef in what she called her former life before she met Rupert and used Sunday dinner, which was traditionally a big family meal though it was now just the three of them, as an excuse to show off her culinary skills. If she actually derived any pleasure at all from cooking, she managed to keep it a well-guarded secret.

Mostly everything about her was never a topic for conversation as Ruth Boerum excelled at playing her cards close to her vest. Over the past week or so she hadn’t looked her best but maintained a stoic appearance. Cariad would have asked her if anything was the matter but they currently did not have that type of relationship. Conversations between them that used to be very long were now very short. Cariad was not able to pinpoint the exact moment the familial bonds between them had become ruins. Perhaps it was not something that happened all at once. Perhaps it was little things that had built up over time that initiated the decay. The foundation of their relationship was in the process of disappearing.

As for tonight’s meal, there was one unexpected admirer of Ruth’s cooking, Cariad’s cat, Sacha, who somehow mastered the art of remaining out of the adults’ line of site as she stood on her hind legs and tapped Cariad’s thigh with her paw to request food. Cariad would oblige by placing bits of salmon in her mouth and transferring them to her napkin and discreetly passing them to Sacha during the pleasant dinner conversation that began in a typical fashion until her mother introduced a new topic.

“Your father and I have been thinking about your education,” Ruth said, touching the cloth napkin folded into a triangle to the corners of her mouth.

“What about it?” Cariad asked.

“We feel it might be best if you studied abroad, to expand your horizons.”

“I don’t want to study abroad,” Cariad turned to address her father. “I want to study with you, Dad. You taught at university so you know what you’re doing and my schedule is flexible so it won’t get in the way of your work and I can even assist you with that, if you’ll have me. Please?”

Ruth eyed her husband who appeared quite content not to join in the conversation but her expression was clear as crystal, she needed Rupert to side with her. They would need to be a united front if there was any hope of sending Cariad away to school.

“Education is not merely memorizing and reciting passages from books, isn’t that right, Rupert?” Ruth said in her usual manner where a question wasn’t actually a question but more of a statement.

“Your mother’s right,” Rupert placed his fork with the untasted rum lava cake down on the dish. “There is a world outside this house, outside our family, a huge world full of wonders and delights that will terrify you at first but it will also come to amaze you. You have a place in this world and you will only discover it after you learn the rules, what makes it work, which rules to follow, which ones to break. So, perhaps instead of thinking of it as school, you consider it a primer for society. A sneak peek into the life you’ll be leading once you move out on your own.”

“When have you ever heard me express any interest in society and how it works? All I want to do is study time like you do! Isn’t that what devoted children do, follow in their parents’ footsteps?” the frustration in Cariad’s voice was rising dangerously close to what her mother considered disrespectful territory.

“And no one is stopping you from doing that, dear,” the word dear had a dagger-like sharpness to it and Ruth spat it at her daughter with deadly accuracy. “All we’re suggesting is that you add more variety to your personal portfolio than being a carbon copy of your father. You might find there are other people in the world to look up to.”

Cariad’s face was alive with a kind of terrible anger but a strain was also present. She was forcing herself not to blurt out the hurtful things that could never be taken back. Instead, she turned to Rupert and managed to say, “Are you just going to sit there and take that?”

When her father didn’t respond, Cariad said, “You know what? Forget I said anything,” she pushed her chair from the table, startling Sacha who bolted from the room. Without asking to be excused, Cariad stormed off, stomping her way up the staircase to her room, ignoring her mother’s demands to return to the table at once. It was an immature move and she knew it but she needed to release the frustration of not being able to bring herself to say the things she truly wanted to say to her mother.

Inside her bedroom, she slammed the door for good measure, to let the household know how truly upset she was. Sacha eventually gathered enough courage to poke her head out from under the bed.

“It’s okay, Sacha,” she said. “I’m not mad at you.” Cariad plopped down on the bed. Sacha, still wary, head bunted Cariad’s leg as she came out into the open, marking the girl with her scent glands before jumping onto the bed to lay her weight beside her human.

“The problem is they think I’m still a little girl. They think I can’t see something’s going on with Mom. Why can’t they just be honest with me for once? It’s so unfair!” Cariad stroked Sacha’s head and the cat showed her appreciation in purrs and long, slow blinks.

After a while, there was a knock at her door, a gentle tapping that belonged to her father. She wanted to tell him to go away, to leave her alone but it came out as, “Come in,” which made her angry at herself for being so weak.

“Before you say anything,” Rupert said as he closed the door gently behind him. “I’m not here to make you do anything you ultimately don’t want to do, I just want to offer up a little more information to help you make the right decision. Will you allow me to do that?”

Reluctantly, Cariad nodded.

“Good. The school we had in mind isn’t just any old school, it’s one of the best in the world. Candida Isca Academy.”

“Candida?” Cariad eyes turned round and shocked. “How can we afford that?”

“Your mother called in some favors and managed to land you a scholarship. Don’t ask me how, she wouldn’t say but I do know it wasn’t a simple process. You still have to interview, though, which is why we can’t force you to attend. You sabotage the interview and Candida’s out of the question.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“When have I ever lied to you?” Rupert asked and the truth of the matter was Cariad had never even considered the possibility of her father lying to her and put on the spot like this could not come up with a single instance.

“Okay, then,” she decided to test him, “tell me what’s going on with Mom. I’m not stupid, you know.”

“No one thinks you’re stupid, you’re simply at that age where you think you’ve got the world figured out and trust me on this point, you don’t. Your mother and I are handling a situation right now and she wants to be the one to tell you in her own way in her own time. I’m simply respecting her wishes the same way I’ve always respected yours.”

“You two aren’t getting a divorce, are you?”

Rupert wrinkled his face and said softly, “What? Nothing of the sort.”

“Because you’d tell me if you were, right? Because not telling me would constitute lying to me, you know that, don’t you?”

“Well aware of it. No divorce, I promise. Your mother will be my wife for the rest of our natural lives and then some.”

Cariad was silent, staring down at the Turkish area rug, eyes scrying its light blue, cream, navy blue and rust red pattern, searching for an answer, any answer. Finally, she exhaled and asked:

“Can I at least have some time to think about it? It’s not fair springing it on me like that and expecting me to make a snap decision.”

“The interview is in a month, after that the point becomes moot.”

Cariad tore her eyes from the rug and looked at her father. “I meant what I said, you know, about following in your footsteps.”

“It is possible to do both you know and you might even make a discovery that would make me want to follow in your footsteps. And don’t give me that look, stranger things happen every single day,” Rupert smiled and patted his belly. “Now, I don’t know about you but I missed dessert and a slice of homemade lava cake is sounding real good right now. Join me?”

“I don’t know. Is Mom still down there?”

“If you don’t cut your mother a little slack—”

“I’m joking, Dad. I’ll play nice…for now.”

“At this point, I’ll take whatever concessions I can get.”

To be continued…

‘Til next week,

☮️  💗

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

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