It certainly didn’t feel like his house. Technically it was, even though it didn’t feel like it. Under Brech law, all of a woman’s possessions belonged to her husband. And Egeria had a great many possessions. The table that Zeah was sitting at, made of sturdy cherry wood brought all the way from Mirsanna and inlayed with jade and mother of pearl probably cost more than he earned in a year—than he had ever earned, in his best year. The teacup in his hand probably cost more than the table—at least the set that the teacup had come from. Another man might have been bothered by this feeling that he was living in someone else’s house, or felt a certain unease at owning so many things that didn’t feel like his own. Not Zeah. He had spent his entire life living in a home that didn’t belong to him, and even when he eventually had his own home, he had only lived there a week or two before he moved back out and began living out of a small room behind his office.
“What are you thinking about, Dearest?” Egeria had worked very hard to come up with just the right endearment to use after their marriage and “dearest” was apparently her choice. It seemed as though she used it every third sentence.
“I was just admiring this cup.”
“It’s from the Daliath Islands. They came overland to Brech, and then I had them shipped here.”
“Is that so?” said Zeah, taking a little more interest in the cup than he originally had. He only had a vague notion of where the Daliath Islands were—somewhere in southeast Sumir.
“It’s iron glaze over a colorless pigment. Tenth century.”
Zeah started and almost dropped the cup. He had to revise his estimate. The single cup cost more than he had made in his entire life. He looked around the table. There were one, two, three, four cups here, a saucer for each cup and a teapot. No wonder the teapot was so oddly shaped. That must have been the style nine hundred years ago.
“Careful Dearest, you don’t want hot tea spilled in your lap.”
“Yes, I mean no.”
Putting his teacup down, Zeah took a bite of toast. It was at least possible to get one’s mind around toast. A loaf of bread was 20P, an exorbitant amount if one were buying bread in Brech, but here in Birmisia, it was about half of what people had paid for bread only two years ago. Toast with a bit of honey; that was all a man really needed. What did a man need with thousand year old teacups? He ate the last bit of toast and washed it down with tea from his immoderate teacup.
Egeria stood up from the table and gathered the used dishes together. She had only just collected them, when Chunny, her lizzie servant, appeared at her side to take them from her. She swept back around the table and sat down opposite her new husband. Zeah could have forgotten all about cups and toast and spent the entire day looking at her. She was still in her dressing gown, layer upon layer of pink Mirsannan silk, which only hinted at the petite form beneath. Egeria’s long red hair hung loosely over her shoulders, framing her pretty face. Sparkling green eyes looked back at him.
“Seeing you like that makes me want to stay home.”
“You don’t have to go to the office. You could stay home with me. We could eat cake in bed and make love all day.”
Zeah felt the heat rise up into his face. “We could eat cake all day, but I don’t…”
Shouts and the sounds of stampeding shoes on the fine wood flooring announced the arrival of Zeah’s grandchildren, and they piled on top of him before he had a chance to even turn around. Augie, a rough and tumble boy, who was proud to say he was “over four and a half”, grabbed Zeah around the neck, while his little sister Terra, a thin and rather pale three and a half year-old in a yellow dress, was satisfied with wrestling her grandfather’s knee into submission. When Zeah did manage to turn his head, he saw his grandchildren’s cousin Iolana standing demurely by the door. He held out an arm and she raced forward, giving him a big hug. Though her dress matched that of her young cousin, the tall and thin eight year old stood out, with her long, golden hair.
He expected to see his daughter with the children, but instead Chunny ushered Governor Iolanthe Staff into the room. She looked as striking as ever in a grey pin-striped dress, a very masculine-looking tie, and black boater. She smiled at the Korlanns. She seemed to be smiling a great deal lately, but to Zeah’s mind, it just never looked quite right on her. It was like painting a rainbow on the prow of a battleship.
“Good morning Mr. and Mrs. Korlann,” she said, reminding them that it was the first time she had seen them since the wedding.
“Good morning Iolanthe,” said Egeria, getting up and giving Mrs. Staff a hug.
This allowed Zeah to simply say “Good morning,” and not have to say “Good morning Iolanthe” which he found excruciatingly painful to do.
Zeah stood up, Augie still wrapped around his neck, Iolana wrapped around his waist, and Terra wrapped around his knee. He reached down and scooped the smallest child up under his left arm and he guided the oldest with his right hand behind her head. He took two steps forward and doubled over, letting the middle child’s feet hit the floor.
“You must let go of Grandpa, children,” he said. “He’s way too old for this.”
“Come with me and I’ll get you a biscuit,” said Egeria.
Only Terra yelled “Yay!” but all three followed her into the kitchen.
“My daughter’s not with you?” he asked.
“Obviously,” replied Iolanthe. “I don’t know where she is actually. Cissy had the children dressed, so I thought I would bring them along to my office. They can play in the garden.”
“I’m sure Egeria wouldn’t mind letting them stay here.”
“It didn’t take you long to start making her decisions for her.”