Yuah Dechantagne slowly opened her eyes, wondering how she got sandpaper on the inside of her eyelids. She stared up at the unfamiliar blue ceiling for several minutes before realizing she should look around to see where she was. As soon as her head moved, she was sorry. Somebody had hammered a big spike into her head, she decided, as she rubbed her temples. Climbing out of bed, she staggered over to the washstand and poured the pitcher of cool water into the basin. Setting the pitcher on the floor, she reached into the water with both hands and lifted it to her face. She did this several more times, the last time with her eyes open, trying for some relief of their itching. They hadn’t felt this bad since… well, since she had abused them. After drying her face, she looked down at her body. She wasn’t wearing nightclothes. She had on her foundations from the day before.
Looking around, Yuah saw a big, fluffy robe hanging from a hook on the inside of the door. Staggering across the room, she pulled it off the hanger and slipped it on. Then she opened the door and stepped out. Immediately, she was blinded by shaft of light beaming in through a window at the end of the hallway—her stepmother’s hallway, she realized. Her father had been married to Egeria Korlann née Lusk for some fifteen years now, but she still thought of it as Egeria’s house.
“Good morning, sister,” said a sweet voice from behind her.
She turned to see a thin girl, with alabaster skin and vibrant red hair, standing at the top of the staircase. She had on a pretty white play dress and carried a large emerald egg in the crook of her arm.
“Good morning, Olivia. What time is it?”
“It’s quarter to the hour. Mother said that I was to come bring you to breakfast.”
“A quarter to what hour?”
“A quarter to nine. I’ve been up for hours.”
“And what is it you have there?” wondered Yuah.
“It’s my troodon egg,” replied the girl.
“Is that what’s for breakfast then?”
“No, silly. I’m hatching it. Mother said I could only have a troodon if I hatched it myself. That way it would know I’m it’s mum.”
“All right. Breakfast then. Lead the way.”
The girl hopped down the stairs in a way that Yuah thought would ensure that the egg didn’t make it, but it did. She followed her half-sister down to the dining room.
Olivia had been born to Yuah’s father and his second wife almost seven years into their marriage. She had been a surprise to everyone, especially her mother who had been told by doctors and priests that she would never be able to conceive. It had bothered Yuah that her father had married a woman only two years her elder, but she found it surprisingly pleasant to have a sister who was only seven. It made her feel younger. She felt for Egeria. She wouldn’t have wanted to raise a child at forty-nine. It was hard enough being forty-seven, and her children were essentially grown. Terra would turn nineteen soon, and Augie twenty just a few days later.
“Good morning, Yuah,” said Egeria, as her stepdaughter plopped into a chair at the table. “Would you care for a scone?”
“Oh, just tea please. What happened to me anyway?”
“You had quite a bit of wine last night, so I thought it better that you stay the night with us.”
Yuah looked around, noticing that it was only Egeria, Olivia, and she in the room.
“He’s already gone into work.” Egeria poured the tea and then stirred in several ingredients before handing it over. “Here you go, dear. It has honey, lemon, and ginger. It will make you feel better.”
“Thank you,” said Yuah. “What do you mean, he’s gone in to work. He’s retired.”
“He has an office at Uni. He likes to go in and keep an eye on things.”
“Mm-hm. Did I hear Olivia say that you were going to allow her to have a troodon?”
“Yes, but she has to take care of it herself and keep up her studies.”
“You could have just had one of ours. Augie has at least a dozen of them. I can’t go in or out of the house without feeling like they’re going to leap on me and attack.”
“They aren’t aggressive, are they?” asked Egeria. “If one is aggressive towards a human, it should be put down.”
“Well, they don’t actually do anything, but I can see in their eyes that they want to.” Yuah sipped her tea. “I will have that scone now, thank you.”