Yuah opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling for just a moment. She couldn’t wait for the new wallpaper to arrive. It had been ordered all the way from Brech City. Turning to the side, she found Gladys looking back.
“How did you sleep?” asked Yuah.
“Good. So did I.”
“Last night was wonderful,” said Gladys. “Are you sure you’ve never been with a woman before.”
“I’ve never been, but I’m familiar enough with the terrain.”
“You’re not bothered?”
“Of course not.”
“You don’t find women attractive though,” Gladys observed.
“Attraction is a funny thing, when you stop to think about it. I remember being caught up in it when I was young. Every time I looked at Terrence, I felt all squishy. Now that I’m older, everything seems so tame. I see the men chasing after women and the women chasing after men. It seems we want what we don’t understand. A fanny seems like such an uninteresting thing. All things considered, there are many more pleasant parts of a woman—the curve of her chin, the long line of her leg, a thick mane of hair. Yet to a man, it must seem as alien as walking on the moon. And yet he wants it.”
“He just wants it, because it’s convenient to stick his thing in,” said Gladys, disgust written on her face. “Without it, he’ll stick it anywhere it fits.”
“I confess to a certain amount of repulsion regarding the form of a man,” smiled Yuah, “until the event was upon me. You’ve never been married, so you’ve never known the feeling.”
“One doesn’t necessarily follow the other.”
“So you have been with a man?”
“When I was a girl, my parents died—cholera, you know. My brother was older, and already had a family in Mallontah, so it was too far to go to join him. My uncle took me in, but it was not a charitable act, as he was not a good man. He forced himself on me. I thought it was just something I had to endure, and I did, until he wanted to pass me around to his friends. I left, and even though I was only fifteen, the opportunities for work after the Freedonian War allowed me to support myself.
“The Freedonian War?” wondered Yuah. “How old are you?”
“I was born during the Feast of Kafira Mass, 1893.”
“Why, you’re just a girl! I thought you were older than twenty-nine.”
“I’m twenty-eight, actually,” said Gladys.
“Well, I never was very good at arithmetic,” replied Yuah, leaning over and kissing her on the lips. She slid out of bed. “Let’s go down to breakfast. You’ve certainly been good for my appetite.”
At the dining room table, the two women were surprised to find no one else there. There was, however, plenty of food—toast, fried potatoes, tomatoes, white pudding, and something new. Cook had prepared an egg dish filled with peppers and onions and covered with sharp melted cheese.
“This is something like an omelet,” observed Gladys, taking a bite, “but it’s much fluffier.”
Yuah waved for Kayden to step over.
“How was this prepared?”
“It isss lizzie dish,” he said. “In oven.”
“Baked eggs? Who would have thought? Do you know what it’s called?”
“Their language is so strange,” remarked Gladys. “You must tell Cook that this is wonderful though.”
“Yes. Give her our complements,” Yuah told the lizzie major domo. “Tell her that she may prepare this as often as she likes.”
“What are we about today?” asked Gladys.
“I’m going visiting, though you are not required to accompany me.”
“I want to come.”
“Very well then.”
An hour later, the two women stepped off the trolley and into the street in front of Egeria’s house. Brech custom and law gave the husband control over all of a woman’s possessions upon marriage, so technically, the home belonged to Yuah’s father. However, Egeria had owned it before their marriage and, more importantly, it so reflected her style and taste that Yuah found it impossible to think of it in any other way than as Egeria’s house. Her father felt the same way about it.
They were greeted at the door by Egeria’s lizzie, who led them to an empty parlor.
“Where is the lady of the house?”
“I tell her you here,” said the lizzie.
“Shall we sit while we wait?” Yuah asked Gladys.
The both sat on the sofa, golden with a pattern of pink tea roses.
“I feel so out of place here,” said Gladys. “It’s like sitting in a museum.”
“I imagine one gets used to it,” said Yuah.
“Indeed one does,” said Egeria, coming down the stairs. “I wasn’t expecting visitors, so you must excuse me if I’m unprepared.”
Dot Shrubb and Olivia followed in line behind her. The three of them made a striking appearance, all with red hair—though Dot’s was more coppery—pale skin, and brilliant white dresses. Olivia carried a bright green young troodon, slightly larger than a chicken, in the crook of her arm.