[ViewfromtheSide suggested “LATE” as her writing prompt over the weekend. Here’s my entry. Unlike the macro story that Maggie and I wrote over six installments for Topsy-Turvy, today I’m going to try to keep it under 1,000 words. This is a actually a scene from a novel I’m working on. Let me know if you are interested in hearing more.]
Marn sat in front of the telecom monitor. She adjusted her headdress. It wasn’t that she cared what she looked like for the man with whom she was about to communicate — or so she told herself — but she WAS the defacto spokesperson for the Brethern. She did have a certain image that she had to keep up.
She gave a clandestine look at her reflection in the window.
It had been 12 years since she had last spoken Tet. She had been younger and prettier then. And, of course, she’d been dressed more simply. Frankly, she hardly recognized herself under all these layers of elaborate clothing. It was all very symbolic, and very stylish, and very modest, but somehow it was very her. Most days, in front of most people, that was fine, but, now, as she was about to see Tet for the first time in over a decade, she felt like a bit of a fraud.
She took a deep breath and meditated as she let it out. ‘Spirit flow to me. Spirit flow in me. Spirit flow through me to others.’ She thought the words of the old chant, but she no longer said them out loud.
It worked. She calmed.
But it wasn’t a sense of Spirit that she needed for this interview. Marn would put aside her natural empathic tendencies for the next 5 to 15 minutes. She’d suppress the characteristic charm and easy smile that made her such a natural mouthpiece for the group.
She wasn’t here to play nice. She needed to channel the authority and leadership of Lonas and Girki, and the frankness of Uci. She needed to be firm with Tet. But she needed to keep the anger so often displayed by Vetis in check.
Not that they weren’t all angry with Tet. But she couldn’t let that old wound derail her today.
She would keep to the script. She would be professional and detached. He deserved nothing more.
There was commotion on the other side of the telecom. A muffled off camera a conversation confirmed that the up link was already active and that the Brethern representative was on waiting on the other end.
“How long?” Tet’s voice asked — still off camera — as he clipped on the microphone.
“About 5 minutes.” An unseen voice told him. A second later he sank into the seat in front of his own telecom monitor 1200 miles away.
He looked older, certainly,… more worn… Like some one had taken a photo of his sweet, earnest 24-year-old face and had run it through a copier 100 times. Each time he’d lost a little of his youth, his softness, his innocence. Perhaps 7 years in prison does that to a person.
“I’m sorry I’m late there was an emergen — ” His chagrined face broke into a surprised smile when he saw who was on the other side of the communication link. “Hey.”
“Good afternoon, Tet.” She struggled not to smile back, but there was genuine enthusiasm in his smile, his eyes. That disarmed her.
“I thought it would be Lonas.” He told her. For the last two years he’d written the Brethern once a month with a formal request to be allowed back into the capital to visit the Shrine of the Prophet. And every month he had a standing phone call with a representative from the group to tell him no. The last 23 times that had been a very grumpy Lonas.
“Lonas has other obligations today.” She said simply. “So you have me.”
Tet ignored / forgot that their communication was sure to be monitored and recorded. “Marn.” He said gently, warmly, FRIEND-LY, “It’s so good to see you.”
“Yes, well.” She sputtered. “Do you wish to re-schedule?”
“Um.” He gave her a confused look. “No, sorry, why would –”
“Because of your emergency. Do you wish to re-schedule so you can attend to your emergency?”
The question lacked emotion or — quite uncharacteristically for her — empathy.
Tet sobered. Of course… he might be glad to see her, but why would the feeling be mutual. “No.” His smile was gone. “It’s taken care of.”
She looked at her notes. “Shall we get to it then.”
All the wind was out of his sails. He kicked himself for letting his surprise end run his emotions. “Yes.”
“The Brethern thanks you for your renewed request and regretfully –”
“Please” He held up a hand against the monitor.
She stopped and steeled herself. “The decision has been made, Tet.” She said firmly.
“I know…I’m not trying to get you change your mind.” He looked away from the monitor and took a breath.
She could see his lips move as he said a calming mantra. When he looked back at the monitor it was with resignation. “Yeah, sorry, I just didn’t want to hear it coming from you.” He said, broken.
Despite herself Marn felt a wave of compassion flow through her.
She considered her ex-friend. “Why do you even want to come back to the Capital?’
He tightened and shook his head. “I don’t want to anger you.”
“Tell me.” She insisted.
He looked down at the table. “I had a dream. The Prophet called me back to the city. He called me to the tomb, the shrine. ”
“You had a dream two years ago and you keep asking every month?”
Tet lifted his eyes to hers and shook his head. “I have that dream every night.”
There was a brief staring match that ended when Marn scratched something out on her notes. “I can’t give you permission to come to the Capital on an official Brethern visit.”
He swallowed, defeated. “O.K.”
She sighed, she had utterly failed at her mission in this telecom call. “But I can invite you to the Capital for a personal visit to see me.”
Tet wiped at his eyes. “O.K.”