Iolana opened her eyes to see another pair of eyes, these deep brown, staring back at her from a distance of six inches. She blinked twice and then leaned her head back far enough that her seven-year-old cousin’s face could come into focus.
“What are you doing in my room?”
“I want you to play with me.”
“I can’t play with you. I’m not allowed to interact with you until 11:00.”
Iolana had been placed on restriction. She wasn’t allowed to leave the house without permission. She wasn’t allowed to see any of her friends. The only time she could interact with Augie and Terra was during their tutoring sessions. And she had not been allowed to take meals with the family. She had endured this punishment for nine days, spending her time writing long letters to Dovie and Willa and reading everything she could on the early days of the colony in preparation for her book. She had even written to Sherree Glieberman, though that had only been to politely decline an invitation to a slumber party. She wouldn’t have been allowed that, even had she wanted to go.
“I don’t want to wait and I don’t want to do my times tables,” said Terra’s scratchy little voice. “I want to play Argrathian checkers.”
“I’m sorry, I’m not allowed.”
“Yes you are.”
“You’re not on restriction anymore.”
Iolana sat up and looked toward her desk.
“I gave your mother the letter,” said Terra.
Iolana’s father had made it very clear. She wouldn’t be allowed back to resume her life until she had apologized to her mother. Two days earlier, in a week moment, she had composed the required document.
I regret my actions of last week.
Mr. Staff would have never accepted such a letter, but Iolana knew that her mother would find it adequate. She had decided though not to send it. She would endure her punishment until her father broke down and gave in. Iolana expected him to crack any day now. She was surprised he had lasted this long.
“You little bint! I’m going to fix you.”
Terra squeaked, jumped from the bed, and ran from the room. Iolana climbed out of bed and stomped around in a circle for a minute, not remembering that she could have chased after the girl if she wanted. Then she stopped and placed her hands on her hips. Well, what was done, was done. No sense moping about it.
The young lizzie entered through the still open door.
“Help me get dressed.”
The clothing that young girls wore in traditional Brech society was almost as heavily layered and almost as complicated as that worn by grown women. Though she was able to eschew the double layer of brassieres, a bustle, and a corset, most of Iolana’s dresses required at least four petticoats and more usually six. She also wore a shift and a double set of bloomers. Once all the underwear was on, it was time to step into the dress. Her charcoal day dress, like almost all of her dresses, fastened up the back with dozens of small buttons. She could almost reach them all using the fermeture, a magical button fastener, but let Esther use it on her. It was simply a matter of running the device up the row of buttons, which magically jumped into their hooks. Running it downward likewise unfastened them.
“Have they served breakfast yet?”
“In ten,” replied the lizzie.
“Good. Let’s go down.”
The only diners in the Dechantagne Staff home that morning proved to be the three children of the house. Each took their traditional spots, widely spaced around the table, despite the many other empty places.
“Where is everyone?” Iolana wondered.
“Your parents are both working,” said Augie. “Mother is doing some charity work this morning with her friends from shrine.”
“Honor McCoort, do you mean? She doesn’t have any other friends. None of us really have many friends.”
“I do,” said the eight-year-old boy. “I’m quite well thought of.”
As one of the lizzies set down a plate with eggs, sausages, and beans in front of her, Iolana looked carefully at her cousin. He seemed to have grown just since she had seen him three days before. Of course it might have been the khaki gear he was wearing.
“What have you been up to then?”
“I just went for a walk in the woods across the road.”
“You’ll get yourself eaten. There are velociraptors and who-knows-what in those woods.”
“I need some soldiers here,” Augie ordered the servant, and then looked back at Iolana. “Not to worry. I took two of the lizzies with me, and I took my rifle.”
“Your mother will have a fit if she finds out you were using a weapon without father there.”
“Then don’t tell her,” he replied calmly, before stabbing a sausage.
“I’ll tell her,” said Terra, her little voice almost shouting.
“Don’t,” said Iolana. “It will only upset her for nothing. Besides the three of us should stick together. We’re the three heirs—like my mother, and your father, and Uncle Augie.”
“Then you have to play with me,” said Terra.
“I will, but after lessons.”
“And I don’t want eggs. I want porridge.”
“Get my sister some porridge,” Augie ordered another servant.
Iolana looked at him only to see him staring at her as if she was some kind of strange creature that he had only just now discovered.
“We’re going to Grandpa’s house after lessons,” he said. “Would you like to come with us? You know he said you were always welcome.”