"Do you ever feel like we're losing track of time?" I asked James one day as we lay together resting after a very satisfying bout of lovemaking.
"Maybe a little," James said looking thoughtful. "Why do you ask that?"
"Because without consulting the AI I'm not sure I could tell you how long we've been on Heinlein Station," I answered, blushing a little.
"Why don't you write your story? Not just what has happened since you got picked up, but what brought you into the Starbucks where I picked up you and the rest of the family," James told me.
"Do you think anyone would be interested in my story?" I asked.
"Yes I do. If no one else is interested in your story, some day your children will probably want to know how they got here."
"If you're sure... ," I trailed off, embarrassed.
"Yes Frances, I'm sure. In fact, I'll write my story too. And I'll encourage all the other people here to write their stories as well. After all, everyone has been grousing about how boring the watches are." I thought about that the next time I had a watch shift. Sergeant Staunton noticed the fact that I was a bit distracted when I showed up and asked me what the problem was. "James asked me to tell my story," I answered.
"You mean write it or have the AI record it?" she asked. I nodded. "I think that is a wonderful idea."
Thus I began to tell my story during my watches. This is my story: My name is Frances Isabelle Parker nee Smith. I am a concubine, my master, my lover, my all is James Emerson Parker. By the time James picked me out to go with him, I was convinced that I'd never make it to being a concubine, which unfortunately was the only way I was going to get to rescue my children from the Sa'arm.
I guess I should, on that note, tell a little about my life before I got picked up. As far back as I can remember I lived with my mommy and daddy. I will tell the high points though there are very few, and some of the low points of my life.
I'll start by talking about my daddy, Mr. Smith. Yeah he taught me to be just that formal -- that he was Mr. Smith to everyone including me when I wasn't at home. I don't know when the first time he told me I had Riley's luck was but it was something that always seemed present in my life. I guess by that he meant that even when things that might seem good happened, that somehow it turned out badly for me in the end.
One conversation that stands out to me was something that my daddy said about me while talking to my mother. "Lena, I swear Frances has Riley's luck." I don't know how old I was when that conversation took place. Old enough to know that Daddy and mommy didn't want me to hear them discussing me. Not old enough then to realize that Daddy was disparaging me though, that came later.
"I know," Mommy said, "and she's already so fat the kids are calling her Miss Piggy or a beached whale."
"And whose fault is that?" my daddy sneered. I don't remember seeing his face but I'd heard that tone before when he was using words to hurt someone. "You're either on the bottle or so busy trying to keep ahead of the neighbors that you don't pay attention to what she's eating."
One of those things that might have seemed lucky was me being among the first of the girls in my class to get titties. Except that they were mostly a product of me being so overweight. Another thing that might have seemed lucky was when I made friends with a neighbor of ours, Mr. Jacob, who taught me what my coochie was all about. I thought he was wonderful and denied that he had hurt me even when everyone said I was lying about it. But what did they know? By the time I made Mr. Jacob's acquaintance I didn't just have titties, I was the heaviest girl in my class and fast on my way to the shape that I'd gained by the time James picked me up.
Thus when after another miserable day at school the old man next door leaned against the fence and said, "You look like you lost your last friend," I just started pouring my heart out to him.
One of the first things that popped out of my mouth was, "I'm fat and ugly and everyone hates me!" Then I burst into tears. Mr. Jacob sat down next to me and held my hand. I was so hungry for any scrap of kindness that it never occurred to me that that was something he shouldn't be doing.
When I stopped bawling and looked around Mr. Jacob said, "I bet you would like something cold to drink."
I gulped back one last sob and looked intently into his face. He didn't have the sneer that I saw when my mommy or daddy or any of my peers caught me crying. I didn't see that at all. Instead he looked me squarely in my eye and asked, "What are you going to do about those nasty brats?"
"I'd like to kill them all!" I said angrily.
"Could you kill them all?" he asked.
"No... ," I said after really thinking about his question. He didn't look like he was looking for a way to torment me. Indeed it seemed like for the first time in my life someone was validating my feeling of being violated by the behavior of my peers.
"Then why are you thinking foolish things like that or about killing yourself?" he asked. That set me to bawling again. It felt like he'd just hit me hard with an invisible knife.
I didn't cry quite as long as the last time and when I stopped I choked out, "H ... ho ... how d ... di ... did you know I was thinking of that?"
"If you were engaging in the foolish fantasy of mass murder but were aware enough to know it was a futile thought then you were thinking about suicide too," He told me flatly. His statement ripped open another scar in my psyche and I cried some more. Not too much though, I was emotionally and physically exhausted from my earlier bouts of crying. When I stopped crying I realized that he was holding my hand softly. He pulled me off the bench where I'd been sitting and led me to his house. If any thoughts of danger crossed my mind they were fleeting. Both my daddy and mommy knew Mr. Jacob and spoke to him occasionally.
When Mr. Jacob led me into his house he got some lemonade out of his refrigerator and poured me a glass. Then he ran cold water over a cloth. "When you're finished with that lemonade you can put that on your face so that you won't look like you've been crying for half an hour."
I looked at the clock on his wall and said, "I have to be home before 6:30."
"It wouldn't do for you to irritate your father," Mr. Jacob said in a way that seemed to me to indicate that he thought that my daddy was not reasonable about where I might be. I nodded. "Well don't cut your time too close but if you get some ice to put with that cloth it will help keep your face from showing your distress."
I thought about that for a couple of moments while I drained the glass of lemonade that Mr. Jacob had given me. "Can you give me a little ice and let me know when it's about ten minutes after six?"
Mr. Jacob got some ice and put it in the cloth. He handed it to me and led me to a reclining chair. "Have a seat here and rest a bit," he suggested.
I did that, closing my eyes and leaning back in the soft chair with a cool cloth over my eyes. I went to sleep. My weeping jag from earlier in the afternoon caught up to me and my mind demanded rest.
"Frances, Frances," someone was shaking me gently and calling my name. My face was cold and I felt a good deal more distant from my body than I usually did when waking up. I was sitting in a soft chair and didn't recognize the voice that said more urgently, "Frances, honey it's time to wake up. You need to go home now."
Go home? I thought, then I remembered that I'd gone to Mr. Jacob's house with him. I didn't think that was among the things that Daddy forbade me to do. But I was certain that it would be if I was not home when he got there. I sat up and urgently tried to get out of the chair. Mr. Jacob helped me out of the chair by gently pulling on both of my hands when I tried to lever myself up using the arms of the chair. "You come back and visit me and I'll help you decide what you can really do about the brats you go to school with," Mr. Jacob said as he let go of my hands and I headed out his back door.
A thrill of fear and excitement shot through me then. I knew that there was no way that my daddy would want me to go to someone else with my problems. Not that he would help me solve my problems but rather that doing that would be me escaping his sphere of control.
Sometime later that evening after enduring a miserable meal with my parents I stood in the doorway of my closet and wondered what I should wear the next day. I think that was the first time I ever did that. As I looked over my wardrobe I wondered if Mr. Jacob would think I was pretty. Then I nearly burst into tears for at least the fourth time that day. That was something I desperately wanted to avoid. If either my daddy or mommy saw me crying or the evidence that I had been crying they would be sure to have some emotionally cutting remark to make about me being a crybaby.
To be charitable my wardrobe was paltry, it consisted of jeans and sweaters with a few t-shirts. I had one skirt that was at least a year old and a couple of button up blouses that I'd refused to wear because of the teasing I endured at school. I pulled out the skirt and tried it on. It was very tight. The same was true of both blouses. I couldn't button them at all so they would go to charity. I headed back to our living room and took them with me. Mommy was in a sober and nasty mood that indicated that she'd probably be hitting the bottle hard in the next day or two. I walked in and said, "I've outgrown these," as I held up the blouses.
"I hope you don't think that we're going to buy more clothes that you refuse to wear," Mommy said sourly.
.... There is more of this story ...