Thursday, January 3, 2013
Still no Dusa. I guess he wasn’t interested in seeing me again after all. And I even have a brush and some makeup now. Now here is one of the funny things about Kalquorians. I’ve heard more than one say how they don’t understand why we would cover our natural beauty with cosmetics (insert eyeroll here), yet they keep a supply for those of us who want it. It’s been deemed a necessity for our emotional wellbeing. I’ve talked to the specialist in charge of Mom, ANOTHER nice Kalquorian named Ginna. Seriously, where are the asshole Kalquorians? Either there are none or these guys are phenomenal actors. Anyway, Ginna says they’ve found a direct correlation between us ladies who like to wear makeup being able to do so and our outlook on the world and how we see ourselves. If it lifts our moods, the aliens aren’t going to argue with us though they don’t get it.
Anyway, Ginna is the psychiatrist who looked over Mom and formally diagnosed the chemical imbalance and slight brain abnormalities as bipolar disorder (which is currently masked by her dementia). He’s pretty certain both conditions can be corrected on Kalquor. So my dilemma is growing. How can I not take Mom there just because I’m afraid of being courted by clans and the fallout when I end up on an Earther colony? Is it selfish to be afraid of the certainty that I’ll be ostracized by my own people ... or worse?
As crazy as it sounds, it was almost easier to be in hiding and wondering where our next meal was coming from. When you have only one option in life, it makes things pretty damned simple.
I got out and about again today. Nayun brought in a hover chair this morning and showed me how it works. I’m to exercise a little more each day and get my strength back, but when I’m not on my feet, I can scoot around in my chair. It is so nice to not be stuck in bed for a change.
My big excursion was going to the dining hall for lunch with Mom. The Kalquorians have it figured out pretty well on how to feed us with efficiency. There are a couple of computers at each table showing meal selections. You can see what other diners who have eaten before you are recommending. So I knew to stay away from bywes and eat the baked chicken instead. All the Kalquorian food was rated low. I supposed their tastes aren’t in tune with ours at the time, another strike against going to their planet.
The dining hall was pretty full when we got there. Imdiko Weln, in charge of Mom until she went to her round in the rec room, steered us towards a table with three other women about my age. He shifted some seats to make room for my hover chair and stepped back a discreet distance to let us eat with our own kind.
I didn’t miss how our tablemates glared at him. I didn’t really understand it. Weln is as friendly-looking a guy as you could hope for, and he treats Mom like she’s his own parent. In fact, I’m ashamed to admit that he treats her better than I do. The man has the patience of a saint.
The three women we were sitting with dropped their scowls when they turned to me and Mom. They oozed niceness.
“Hello Eve. You’re looking good today,” the honey blonde sitting next to me said. She looked like a soccer mom. Her hair was curled just so, and I’d swear she was wearing fake eyelashes. I mean, no one has that many lashes, do they? I didn’t feel quite so high maintenance with my dash of mascara and lipstick.
“Thank you,” my mother said. “My daughter Shalia is taking me out for my birthday.”
I smiled, a little embarrassed. It’s not Mom’s birthday. Where she got that idea, I couldn’t tell.
The blonde winked at me. “Well, that’s so sweet of her!” She leaned over to whisper in my ear. “She tells us it’s her birthday every day.” Then she sat up straight. “I’m glad to meet you, Shalia. My name is Fran.”
I shook her hand. “So you’ve gotten know my mom pretty well, I take it.”
Another woman sitting across from me smiled. She was brunette, with her shining dark hair pulled back in a simple ponytail. Lip gloss seemed to be her only vice, and with her features, she didn’t need any more help than that. “Eve sits with us for lunch every day. My name is Patty.”
“And I’m Deirdra,” the third, a chestnut brunette volunteered. She sat next to Patty. She had that perfect, polished look that said she was wearing a lot of makeup, but so expertly applied you couldn’t tell.
Okay, I was feeling very much the ugly duckling in the midst of swans. I’d made good money in my job, enough to afford things many couldn’t. But these women were the country club set. Their clothes looked designer, and they wore them like people who were used to that kind of thing ... not like they’d looted the outfits after Armageddon. They’d probably never worked a day in their pampered lives. Eek. Let the self-esteem plummet.
Mom punched her lunch choices into the computer, and Patty waved her hands. “Oh no, we were so busy talking we didn’t keep an eye on her! What did you pick out to eat, Eve?”
“Ronka and pilchok. And mashed potatoes with gravy,” Mom said with glee. “It’s my birthday.” She clapped her hands with delight.
Fran blew out a breath. “Turn your back on her for an instant and she orders that Kalquorian poison.” She glanced at Weln, and a snarl marred that oh-so civilized face. In a whisper she added, “Animals. It’s bad enough they want to rape us all to give them monster babies. But why do they have to tempt the defenseless who can’t serve their sinful lusts as well?”
I was a little shaken. She might have been quoting from one of my films. It actually raised the hair on my arms to see such continued blind devotion to the now-erased government/Church mantra.
“Order the baked chicken, Shalia,” Deirdra said. It sounded like an command. “It’s much better than that alien slop.”
I could feel the antipathy boiling off my companions. I wasn’t too crazy about being told what to eat, not by this pageant bunch anyway. But I hadn’t had Kalquorian food. Nayun had kept me on a diet of soft foods I was used to as I recuperated. I didn’t know if I’d care for it.
Another consideration was this: was what I ate for lunch worth fighting about? In all the realm of moral issues, I thought diet was pretty low on the list.
So I ordered the stupid chicken. And while the women around me chattered about the merits of the various colonies and the men they might find there to take care of them (I kid you not), I choked down the overcooked meat, rendered palatable by the admittedly delicious gravy that came with my mashed potatoes.
Meanwhile, Mom’s food smelled delicious, and she looked happy as a clam chowing on it. Fran, Patty, and Deirdra pointedly kept their eyes averted as she devoured her alien meal. I wondered if they’d ever bothered to try it themselves.
I couldn’t take it. Finally I said, “I’d really like to know what it is she’s putting in her stomach.” I pretended to scowl with concern. “Mom, may I try a bite of your food?”
Next to me, Fran shuddered. “Now that’s love. Putting yourself on the line for your poor mom.”
Thankfully oblivious to the disgust her food choices engendered, Mom pushed her plate towards me. “Sure! The ronka first, Shalia. Pilchok is more like a dessert, though they say it’s meat.”
The ronka was in bite-sized chunks, a deep brown with bluish veins -- or something that looked like veins -- running through it. It smelled amazing, but I eyed it with some distaste. Some things you don’t want to eat just because they don’t look right. Ronka had that look.
Smell won out. I speared a piece with my fork, and before I could think much more about it I shoved it into my mouth and started chewing. My face was all scrunched up as I waited to taste something along the lines of sewage.
Good heavens. Kalquorians may not be able to cook chicken, but they can cook the hell out of ronka, whatever it is.
Imagine the most perfectly seasoned, perfectly cooked filet mignon you’ve ever eaten. Now imagine meat even richer tasting and practically melting in your mouth. Ronka is twice as good as that. Seriously. Good heavens.
The Pageant Trio were watching me breathlessly, as if expecting me to burst into flames at any moment. Waiting for my face to rot before their eyes as the ronka spread its evil pestilence through my body.
I still wasn’t willing to get into it with anyone over food, however. For all I knew, I’d end up on a colony with them as my next door neighbors. Heaven help me. So I swallowed my delicious bit of paradise and said, “I think it’s okay. At least they didn’t cook it into sawdust.”
Tanned shoulders slumped, and I was given looks of supreme motherly disappointment, like I’d shown them a report card that wasn’t all A’s. Screw them. I was really looking forward to the pilchok now.
The chunk I took from Mom’s plate certainly looked like meat. Kind of like pork dipped in gold. But it’s texture was more dessert-like. It flaked, like pastry. And it was sweet. Dip it in chocolate sauce, and I would eat it until I blew up.
I have to chalk up my bad chicken to inexperience from the Kalquorian cooks. The ronka and pilchok were five-star all the way.
It was a relief when Mom finished eating her meal and was escorted to the rec room by the ever patient Weln. I couldn’t bear another bite of chicken though. I made nice conversation with the other women for as long as seemed respectable before I begged off, citing my recent illness and continuing weakness. I went back to my room, snagging an orderly on my way and begging him for a nice ronka and pilchok meal of my own. He had it to me in less than ten minutes. It was heavenly.
I’m having it for dinner too, here in the privacy of my room, with no judgmental Earthers to look at me like I just drowned the baby Moses. I’ve decided communing with my own kind over a meal is vastly overrated.