Monday, May 28, 2018
A Daughter’s Letter
To: Professor Elibsa
Historical Preservation Campus
Archives of the Empire
Imperial University of Kalquor
From: Matara Anrel, Doctor of Fertility Sciences, retired
Hetlad Territory, Capital District
My dearest Elibsa,
First of all, forgive me for sending along a text in response to your kind message, rather than a live vid. At my advanced age and declining condition, it is necessary for me to dictate correspondence in short sessions. I trust you will excuse a very old woman for taking so long to answer, especially in a communication as lengthy as this will be.
I am delighted you received the journal of my mother, Matara Shalia of Clan Seot. I agree it will add greatly to the archives, detailing the early experiences of Earther women immigrating to the Kalquorian Empire in the wake of their planet’s demise. I was shocked when you told me that so few kept diaries of that period—but with all the upheavals of the era, perhaps it’s not so surprising, after all. That my mother noted down what she did, and in such detail, is a credit to her. However, I doubt she expected it to be enshrined for posterity. Indeed, had she guessed it would become a ‘treasured artifact’ as you describe it, she might have written a good deal less about the more personal details.
I will do my best to answer the questions you posed, clearing up the matters and detailing the history her earliest journals don’t answer. I can only answer from my own viewpoint, limited as it is. Also, the passage of years and my subjective opinion of my mother may have dimmed a few of my memories. The woman I knew as Matara Shalia bears little resemblance to the Shalia Monroe who began her journal as a desperate survivor in the wake of Armageddon. For me, Mom was confident, in control of her destiny, unafraid to face anything or anyone. Well, maybe with the exception of her own mother. Reading her thoughts has been a revelation.
That’s one thing that opening those old journal files did for me, for which I will be forever grateful: understanding Mom better than I could have hoped for.
In answer to your first question: as far as I’m aware, Mom never did see Clan Dusa again. She didn’t speak of them to me. For many years, I knew nothing of their existence. If she continued to wonder as to their fate and lives after she left them, I suppose I will never know. However, if you will forgive me for saying so, perhaps there is another question behind what you asked. Am I accurate in supposing you wonder if my biological sire was pinpointed?
I understand the reluctance to come right out and ask such. We do not question parentage in our society. As it should be; Clan Seot was my parent clan, in every way. My fathers gave me no reason to be concerned that I was the sole child of their clan not blood-related to them. They treated me with the same love and care as they did my siblings. In fact, I believe I was doted on more than the rest, by virtue of being the firstborn.
I wouldn’t have thought twice about the matter myself, had a message not once gotten through to me from Dramok Nang, held in a criminal psychiatric ward off the planet. Somehow, though it shouldn’t have happened, he managed to send a vid to me when I was twelve years old. In it, he affirmed he was my father, that he still loved my mother, that we would all someday be together as a family. Naturally, I wasn’t sure of what to make of the message from this white-haired, bent, scarred, and wasted creature. After my parents’ excitement died down, it was explained to me that Mom had known this man before she’d met my fathers, and yes, there was a slight chance he could be my biological sire. Being the mischievous and outspoken pre-teen I was, my initial reaction was to tell my mother that I was glad her taste in men had improved since Nang. I believe my exact words were: “Were you blind or did you feel sorry for the ugly old thing?” Her response was, “He didn’t always look sickly. And he wasn’t always confused about reality.”
Except for some tension in the following weeks, that was all that was said about the matter. Dramok Nang never sent out any further messages. He didn’t leave that penal colony until his death a few years later, when his clanmates claimed his body and put him to rest. And yes, my mother did continue to train like a Nobek, even after his supposed threat died with him. I hope it was due to her enjoyment of being strong, rather than living in some sort of post-traumatic fear for the rest of her days.
But returning to the issue of Clan Dusa. I didn’t discuss them with my mother, nor would I have gone out of my way to meet them. However, I do have an interesting tale to relate.
I believe I was fourteen when my grandmother, Eve Monroe, came for a surprise visit. It never failed that Mimi would show up unannounced when Mom had a gazillion things going on and was at her most frantic. I don’t know if that was done on purpose. Mom swore it was. Mimi had a habit of being contrary, as well as outrageous, for the sake of her own amusement. Maybe it was her means of driving Mom crazy. (I’ll discuss your question about their relationship post-surgery in a bit.)
Anyway, Mom couldn’t take off from her crazy schedule for an impromptu invasion from Mimi. I was more than happy when my grandmother suggested to me that us ‘women’ go off for a shopping jaunt. My oldest sister was ten, and I thought myself far too grown up for the likes of her. I had such an attitude until I reached my twenties! Maybe later than that. I’d been the only daughter for far too long and didn’t want to share the limelight at that precarious age.
Anyway, I went to the market with Mimi for shopping and lunch, just us two grand ladies having a ball. I always had the best time with her, and having her to myself was a real treat. We were walking along as she whispered her usual shocking observations of the people we passed by. No, those I will not repeat. Mimi’s mouth was unfailingly profane when she knew it would spur a reaction, and I typically reacted with wild giggles and unconvincing pleas for her to stop talking that way. She was offensive to the point of absurdity, and I got such a kick out of it. I adored Mimi with all my heart and wish I could have had longer with her than I did.
So, there we were, her murmuring scandalous suppositions about the men we walked past, when she suddenly stopped and gazed at a man walking in our direction. Her brows drew together fiercely, the expression of someone trying hard to remember something.
I peered at the man too, who was unaware that he was being stared at with such unwavering interest. He was handsome to be sure, almost adorable in fact, and sweet-faced as most Imdikos are. His straight, casually-styled hair hung to his shoulders, and he moved along, smiling at everything and everyone…not because they pleased him, but as if it was the natural expression his features fell into when he wasn’t reacting to anything in particular.
Maybe nothing would have happened if he hadn’t glanced in our direction and caught sight of Mimi. She’d stopped to watch him with that quizzical expression. I was about to ask her if she was okay when the man said in a deep and gentle voice, “Hello, Matara Eve. It’s been a long time.”
“I thought you looked familiar,” Mimi said, gazing up at him, her expression relaxing. “Where do I know you from?”
“Earth.” He smiled at her, delighted. “I used to take care of you at the rescue site. You knitted me a cap. I’m—”
It was at then that he glanced at me. He froze, his words cutting off and his eyes rounding.
“My granddaughter,” Mimi said. She frowned at him. “Well, don’t stare at her like that. She’s only fourteen, bub.”
“My apologies, Mataras,” the man said, still staring at me. “I—I mistook the young lady for someone else for a moment. Forgive me. I won’t hold you up. It was good to see you again, Matara Eve.”
As he hurried from us, he kept glancing at me over his shoulder, a weird mix of fear and longing on his expression.
“Freak,” Mimi muttered, taking my arm and leading me onward. “The older you get, the stupider they’ll act. I’m glad you listen to your mom about self-defense training. You’ll be fending them off sooner rather than later.”
It was a bizarre encounter, but I forgot about it soon enough. I didn’t remember it until I opened Mom’s journal files and began to read them after she’d passed.
I was eager to watch the clanning ceremony vid she’d recorded for Clan Dusa. After the loss of the woman who’d been there my whole life, I was damned near desperate to catch a glimpse or two of Mom. I also wanted to see her younger and at the start of the journey that would ultimately bring her to Kalquor. The added bonus was catching peeks of Aunt Candy and my grandfathers Nayun, Bitev, and Rak.
Right away, I recognized the man who Mimi and I had run into at the market so many years before. As I’m sure you have already guessed, it was Imdiko Weln. Younger than the day I’d seen him, but it was the same open friendliness, the same easy smile. It was Weln who Mimi and I encountered, no doubt about it.
It made me consider his reaction to me. I might have assumed he saw a resemblance to my mother, but the truth is, she and I looked almost nothing alike. I’ve inherited her nose shape, and that’s it—I appear to be a full-blooded Kalquorian in all respects. So, what was it that gave Weln such pause when he saw me? Was it the fact I was with Mimi? Before she told him, did he guess I was her granddaughter and thus the daughter of Shalia Monroe, with whom he’d once had a relationship?
Somehow, that didn’t click. It might have made sense after Mimi told him those things, but his response beforehand had been too extreme. Curious, I went digging, checking into Imdiko Weln of Clan Dusa, trying to find out more about him.
He wasn’t hard to trace, as it turned out. Working with the information Mom had put in her diary, I was able to find out quite a bit about his background…and his family. Imagine how startled I was when I came upon an old still of him and his parent clan, and found my own face staring at me!
It was no wonder Imdiko Weln was so shocked to meet me. I’m his mother’s doppelganger. Except for the shape of my nose, she and I are otherwise identical. I will send you an attachment of her picture as well as one of me at the age of my encounter with Weln, and you can see how strong the similarities were.
I suppose that puts the question of my biology to rest. I often wonder what Imdiko Weln thought after our surprise meeting. Yet it is no shock to me that he didn’t seek me out again. The Kalquorian code of parent clans ensured that. My fathers were Seot, Cifa, and Larten. They raised and loved me, and that’s all that needs to be said about that. Mom seemed to have put that matter at rest, since she never spoke of it.
Since I’ve mentioned a little about the relationship between my mother and her mother, I’ll skip to your question on that next. It did improve after Mimi finished recuperating at the rehab center, run within Galactic Council space. She ended up moving to a colony near there. I had no doubt whatsoever how much she and Mom loved each other. Yet there was a sort of distance too, one they would have given anything to get past. Their continued issues might have been attributed to Mimi’s biting humor, her insistence on showing up when it was least convenient. Mom had a tendency to walk on eggshells around her, as if waiting for a blowup that never came…no doubt a habit from their history before Mimi’s surgery. Then, when Mom was finally pushed too hard by Mimi’s ill-timed criticisms or crude jokes in the hearing of the kids, she’d snap and there would be an argument. Sooner or later, they’d calm down, apologize, and so it went until the next time. I honestly think they couldn’t figure out any other way to be with each other.
I doubt that’s why there was that sense of them gazing with longing at each other from a gulf too large for them to cross. I caught Mom crying one day after Mimi had gone home, though they’d parted on good terms. Guessing she was missing her mother’s presence, I gave her a hug. “She’ll be back before you know it,” I said.
Mom whispered, more to herself than me, “She’s never coming back. I sent her away with that procedure.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked. “You two were okay when she left.”
Tears spilled down Mom’s cheeks. “I’m not talking about today. I meant when I signed for her to have the surgery, against her wishes. I had no right, though she seems happier now. Even if she doesn’t get so mad anymore, it wasn’t my call.”
At that time, I knew enough of the history to believe I had a glimmer of understanding. “She seems fine to me. She laughs all the time. How could the surgery have been a bad thing if her life is better?”
Mom stared off, her gaze shadowed. “Because sometimes, she looks lost. Like she feels something is missing, a piece of herself that she can’t find. I took it from her.”
The guilt was mutual, it turns out. Mimi sometimes told me, when we had our serious discussions, that she’d made mistakes with Mom, mistakes that haunted her to that very day. Their shared remorse was what kept them from being as close as they wanted to be. To me, it’s an indication of the huge amount of love they had for each other, so much that they couldn’t excuse themselves for the hurts they’d exchanged. Can you love someone to the point that it drives a wedge between you? Mom and Mimi seemed to bear that idea out.
Hopefully, I’ve answered your question on that to your satisfaction.
Moving on, you asked if I believed the number of Clan Seot’s children was linked to Mom’s personal egg donations. Her second baby, my brother Nayun, was not the last to be conceived at about the same time she helped someone close to her achieve a successful pregnancy. It became a kind of running joke when Aunt Hina, Ila, or Bazi started talking about adding a child to their families. No sooner would their clans make some mention that they were thinking of another baby, then my father Seot would call to Imdiko Snoy, “Start preparing the nursery!” Not for my aunts and uncles’ new child, but for the one Mom would suddenly crave for herself.
Poor Mom. She couldn’t get past the idea she was somehow handing over a baby of her own when she gifted someone close to her the eggs they needed. Only by giving birth within a few weeks herself could she seem to distract herself from that notion. My fathers were perfectly willing to accommodate that urge. Dr. Cafir railed against them for being enablers.
A side note: Dr. Cafir did not take Mom up on her offer of a direct donation. However, she and her clan did end up with two children, courtesy of the Family Fertility Foundation.
Fortunately, each of my aunts’ clans stopped at three children each. With me and my nine siblings, the home was always in a state of happy chaos. But hardly was it only us ten kids dashing about. Often, some or all of those nine cousins and Aunt Candy’s two (also counted as our cousins), were there as well. Mom called it controlled bedlam, but I don’t recall anyone complaining. Certainly not Imdiko Snoy, who lived for the announcement that a new baby was on the way. He lived with Clan Seot until old age took him from us…one of the saddest days of my life, though I had grown up and moved out before then.
That leaves us down to your questions about the rest of those who had been important to Mom and where their lives took them.
Mom’s friend Megan did become the Matara of Clan Aslada. They and my parents ended up good friends, and we saw them about twice a year. Their kids were pretentious snots, but they learned to act decent in the company of me and my siblings. We didn’t put up with that nonsense, and a few bruises proved our point when debates did not.
Clan Wotref’s transport, dubbed by Grammy Katrina as the Pussy ‘Porter, went to Earth and came back with none of the adventures that had plagued it when Mom was on board. Imdikos Tep and Feru, so central to Mom’s welfare (and mine!), often visited once they returned with Mataras they’d wooed into their clans. I was particularly close to Tep, the reason I lived when the ‘It’ invaded my mother while she was carrying me. He opened a practice on Kalquor and became an important part of the fertility foundation.
Grammy Katrina herself lived to be fully reconciled with her son, enjoying her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who often visited her and her clanmates on Kalquor. They seemed happy with each other, so I assume that Matthew got over his beliefs that put distance between him and Grammy. He treated my grampies with great respect, at least in my presence. As for Grammy, she remained as unapologetically bawdy as she’d been from the moment Mom met her. All my relations adored her, especially Mimi. When Mimi, Grammy, and Aunt Hina got together, everyone else often made themselves scarce and took the children away, because those women would get outlandishly crude in a hurry. Mom said their language could peel the paint off walls. I can still hear their laughter in my memories as they tried to outdo each other with lewd comments. What a gang they were.
Clan Resan was in and out of our world as their duties to the fleet allowed. They did their best to come to many celebrations throughout my life. Yes, Uncle Resan showed up, and yes, he and Mom were polite to each other, if strained. I understood they did not like each other long before anyone confirmed that to me. However, Uncle Resan was kind, and willing to offer any help I needed. I have to give him and Mom credit, especially after reading the diary…despite their enmity towards each other, they never said a word of disparagement in my presence. At least, not when I was old enough to understand what was being said.
I was closer to Uncle Betra and Uncle Oses. I talked to them more often via com than in person, unfortunately, but short of settling down on Kalquor, they did all they could to be a major part of my life. I counted the days until their visits, and the parties Grandmother Elwa threw when they were home were legendary. Better still were the jaunts they took me and my siblings on, from hunting near Uncle Resan’s ancestral home, to riding kestarsh in the mountains. Uncle Betra knew all the best places in the Empire to explore.
Grandmother Elwa had called it when she said Uncle Betra would never stay in one place for very long. Even after Uncle Oses’ death, years after they’d clanned, Uncle Betra’s wanderlust kept him and Uncle Resan constantly moving, always seeking new places to discover. Things must have stayed good between them, despite Uncle Betra being heterosexual. They always appeared content with each other, and they never clanned another Nobek. When Uncle Betra died of age-related complications, Uncle Resan was inconsolable. It was probably why he died less than a month after his Imdiko.
As you know, Aunt Candy and Uncle Stidmun’s union was the first recognized ‘nontraditional clanning’, when the laws changed. Sure, the civil war started by the Basma was the final impetus to allowing unions between two people, or however many wanted to be together. Still, I’m glad you and other prominent historians agree that Aunt Candy started the ball rolling with her early campaign to have legal recognition for those who did not wish to go the four-breed clan route. I credit Aunt Candy for being the reason there is a House Anrel instead of me belonging to a clan headed by a Dramok. Not that any of the Dramoks I’ve been fortunate to love haven’t been worthy to lead our household (or Imdikos, Nobeks, or Merges for that matter). But as I invited my mates to be a part of my life, it’s only fair I’m named mistress of my home.
I believe that answers all your questions, though you are welcome to ask if you have any others. Reflecting on all those who have passed on is bittersweet—I’ve laughed and cried in equal measure as I’ve revisited these memories—but I’m proud to have been guided in some way by each and every one of the people who appeared in the diary. Especially my mother, whom I hope looks on me with pride from the realm of the ancestors. Matara Shalia of Clan Seot was not only my mother, but my role model. I only wish I could speak with her once again and tell her so. But as my old, tired body sees fit to remind me often these days, I’ll soon be able to.
Be well, my friend. I thank you for keeping my mother’s words safe for those who would read her story and take what lessons they will from it.
And there you have it. Our journey with Shalia has come to an end. I’d like to thank all the faithful readers who came along for the ride. It has been a privilege writing this adventure for you, and I’m eternally grateful that you joined me and Shalia, whether through the books or on the blog where it all began.
I’m sure the question will come up whether we’ll ever see Shalia or any of her friends again. The answer is, I don’t know. If a story worthy of these characters occurs, of course we’ll revisit. To me, Shalia and the gang are a very special moment in my writing history, and all I can do is hope lightning might someday strike twice.
For now, we will leave them to their happily-ever-after, assured that Shalia found the life she’d hoped for. Thanks again for cheering her on.