A/N: Hey! You! Yes you. This story is a sequel to Grande Dame - which people, for some strange reason, keep insisting is halfway decent, so maybe you should check it out. Suffice it to say, without having read that series first, you will be completely, utterly mystified (probably) by what's going on in this tale of the far flung future (and waffles).
And for the fans who were hoping for maybe a little bit more? Here you go, kids :) I hope you enjoy.
"In her final collection of essays, Anastasia Burch posited that as society grew increasingly able to replicate physical items on demand with greater and greater fidelity, that instead of diluting the perceived value of the original, there would be a sharper focus on 'authenticity'. By that, she meant we would cling ever tighter to what she referred to as 'prime sources'. So consider: in a world where a famous work such as the Mona Lisa can now be perfectly duplicated - right down to the precise molecular chemical makeup and carbon-14 content - at a financial cost that is not unobtainable for many, why might we still find the original to be far more desirable? Herr Price, we have little time remaining today, so why don't we start with you? You're the lone history major of the class, and I believe we'd all benefit from your perspective on this topic."
William Price - actually, William Avinash Price-Caulfield-Belic-O'Reilly, though he'd shortened it years ago, because honestly, what a mouthful! - wrenched his gaze from the nearest window, fixated until a moment ago on the spectacular view of the Swiss Alps. Most days, he was content, even eager, to be a fully engaged participant in his "Philosophy of the Mid to Late 21st Century" course. Already halfway through his second year at the Grindelwald annex of the Doctorow Institute for the Arts and Sciences, he was normally a fastidious student. But the lure of the upcoming Winter Break, combined with his excitement over the personal project he planned on pursuing during his vacation, caused his attention to drift elsewhere.
Fortunately, he'd recently installed a grey market modification into his neural weblink, one which allowed him to buffer the last two minutes of whatever he'd heard and then quickly recall it for playback; it wasn't exactly cheating, but DIAS tended to frown upon the active use of such enhancements.
Still, it gave him a easy way out of his predicament.
Clearing his throat, William adopted a thoughtful demeanor, nodding his head once, and murmured, "Well, that's a fascinating question, Professor. Give me a moment to think on my response." He was relieved to find an appropriately understanding expression on his instructor's face.
Or Old Lady Holtzmann doesn't feel like calling bullshit on me...at least, not yet.
As he quickly performed a mental review of the last few seconds of audio, he groaned internally, chiding himself for not paying attention. It was a good question, one he knew he had an appropriate answer for; one he'd like to think would foster a good discussion among the other students in the small classroom, even though that discussion would probably have to be conducted online. It also made sense why Hotlzmann singled out; like the professor said, he'd recently declared History as his major, with a subject matter focus on modern archeology and antiquities. At the start of the semester, he'd come to the conclusion that as mankind increasingly adopted a 'disposable culture', pursuing a better understanding of the development of society through its relationship to physical ephemera and artifacts - as well as its methods of recording individual thoughts and expressions - was going to be of tremendous value. At any rate, he definitely saw it as something he'd like to spend a good chunk of his life on. He came from considerable money, so it wasn't like he had to worry about how to support himself financially. Also, the pursuit of the liberal arts wasn't as disdained as it had been sixty to eighty years ago, thanks in no small part to the ever-increasing use of technologies that slowly chipped away at the foolish notion of 'artificially induced scarcity'.
Clearing his throat, he began, "Okay. Sure, we can make copies of things that are now so perfect, we have to watermark the individual atoms in order to tell them apart. But above all else, there is one thing that the original possesses that can never be duplicated."
"Oh?" the professor said, quirking a brow in interest. "And what would that be?"
"Time." William replied, casually stretching out at his desk. "Or rather, experience over time. I mean, the Mona Lisa copy from your example might look just as pretty, and touch people emotionally in exactly the same way, but if hasn't...ahh…." He paused for a moment, trying to determine how best to explain the concept forming in his mind.
"...it hasn't borne witness to time. It didn't acculate centuries of experience through its existence. It isn't the actual canvas touched by Da Vinci's own hands, wasn't in the same room as him. Absorbing the molecules of oxygen breathed out from the master's lungs. The original has a history; we can talk about the places it's been. The people who've owned it, and how all of those experiences both related to and shaped us as a civilization" He started to tick off at his fingers. "King Francois the First. And Napoleon Bonaparte. It was there when the Palace of Versailles was stormed during the First French Revolution. It was moved from place to place during the course of any number of wars; it was stolen almost two centuries ago, and it was years before someone found it in the thief's apartment. People have thrown acid at it, and ceramic cups, tried to vandalize it with spray paint…" William's hands began to move with frenetic animation as he continued to expound upon his point, "And it was almost lost during the terrorist attack that destroyed the original Eiffel Tower and half the Louvre. Imagine the stories it could tell us, if only it could talk!" He glanced around sheepishly for a moment, coughed once, and then dialed back his enthusiasm as he continued.
"But the copy? What's it seen? What stories could it tell us? Would it be anything more than 'Hi, I'm a technologically-created copy of one of the greatest artistic works of the Italian Renaissance. I was manufactured by an Ericsson HyperForge Model Nine three-d printer. The time between someone pushing a button and my completion was two hours, five minutes, and the only way to tell the difference is by scanning for the eight atoms of Nickel-60 in the smile, which were intentionally injected to act as a watermark.'?"
Professor Holtzmann tilted her head, twitched her lips, and said, "But couldn't the copy then go on to experience a life of its own, as you so put it? Are you saying that the mere application of time alone is what creates value and authenticity?"
William shook his head, clearly seeing where this was going, "Well, no. The copy could survive to the next millennium, and it might be the subject of any number of fascinating stories during that time, but so what? Everyone'll always ask, 'Yeah, but what about the original?'. Because - ah - because we give it value, based on originality. Or, I guess, more like our perception of it. Because the first was the product of the intelligence and imagination of one of history's greatest creative minds. You can't reproduce the precise number of brush strokes it took to create the Mona Lisa, in precisely the same order that they were applied. You can't duplicate the thought and care that Leonardo put into it, what he was feeling, what was motivating him as he worked. The inspiration that moved him to consider picking up the brush and start working in the first place. No machine can recreate any of that, ever, nor the sheer human effort that was involved the first time around. And most important of all, it can't duplicate the...". He clenched his hands in the air, struggling to come up with a better word for what he was about to say. Failed, and proceeded regardless. "...the soul. Davinci put a piece of himself in that work. I think that's something we can all sense, when we look at it. Even a child puts a piece of themselves, imparts soul, when they make the simplest drawings. That can never be reproduced in a mere copy"
"Hmmm. Curious. You make it sound like the inherent value of any object is completely dependent on whatever arbitrary and emotional aspects we as a society imbue it with."
Wow, thanks for pitching me a softball, Professor…
"Does a tree falling in the woods make a sound if no one is around to...yeah, I get what you're going with this. And I can't say for certain, of course, but I don't imagine the universe sits around examining and admiring itself. Not unless that's our purpose in life: to do so for it." William gave a soft laugh, then shrugged. "But that's a whole other box of CD's I'm opening up."
A scale of melodic chimes sounded, indicating the official end of class.
"Hmmmmph," the professor spoke up. "I suppose I know better than to ask any of you to consider staying around a few minutes more to discuss Herr Price's answer. Not when this is the last class of the year." Her voice then went up in volume, emphasizing the next point, "But I'm certain that at least a few of you can make the time to post up your thoughts and perspectives on our online discussion node during vacation. Have a wonderful break, and be warned: mid-term examinations begin two weeks after your return, so don't let yourselves get rusty. Auf Wiedersehen, meine Kinder!" the professor concluded with a bemused smirk.
The next morning found William slowly making his way to the student aircar hanger. A small pack was slung over his shoulder, carrying what few items he absolutely could not do without. Almost anything else he might require, from clothing to books to toiletries, could be replicated on demand when he got to where he was going. It occasionally amused him at how much the older generations, people such as his grandparents, still insisted out of stubborn habit in carrying around heavy suitcases filled to bursting when they traveled.
At the same time, he could understand feeling the need.
He stopped, taking a moment to inhale the crisp, clean winter air of the tiny Swiss village the Institute was located in. It never failed to take his breath away at how absolutely picturesque Grindelwald could be, nestled as it was in the Alps, with its rows of traditional A-frame houses built a century and a half earlier. The campus was perched up at the high end of the valley, and ever after a year and a half living here, he always stopped to pause and take in the sight of the rest of the town.
This particular branch of DIAS was a school with a tiny student body, barely a thousand or so, and was hardly a 'party college'. But it didn't have to be; aircars and hyperloop trains made it easy to live in one country while effortlessly hopping over to another. He could wrap up his homework at the end of the day in his dorm room, and then travel to Prague, Amsterdam, or London if he wanted to spend the weekend partying. The quiet, almost monastic student life suited him; born and raised as he was in the Greater Manhattan Arcology, he'd always felt overly-crowded and fenced in until he came here.
He reached his Subaru Hayabusa XLE and paused to admire his reflection in the polished silver exterior. It was clear to anyone who saw him that he was a mutt, given his colorful parentage, but he thought it worked out in his favor. He was always tall, though appeared especially lanky during his teenage years. Fortunately, DAIS had a fantastic gymnasium, filled with the latest auto-training exercise equipment, and it wasn't long before lean, defined muscle filled out his frame. Mocha colored skin contrasted with the straight, shoulder length waves of dyed platinum white hair. With three genetic parents, it was sometimes difficult to determine who contributed what, but above all else he was absolutely certain he inherited his grandmother Rachel's eyes. Which she in turn inherited from her father, who in turn took after her own father: William's namesake.
One of them, at any rate.
"Hoy, Will. About to jet out?"
Bowing his head for a moment and smiling to himself, he turned to face one of his classmates: Magda Bjorksdottir. He vaguely recalled first meeting her at the tail end of a holographic sculpting elective he took last year, and after several months was more or less convinced she'd signed up for the same philosophy class simply as an excuse to sit next to him. He hadn't cared to give the notion much thought, at least not until recently. It wasn't that he didn't find women attractive; quite the opposite. But he'd suffered a particularly bad breakup with his boyfriend over the summer, and spent the entirety of the last semester burying himself in his books and the gym in order to give his wounded heart time to mend. The last thing he wanted to do was rebound...
...on the other hand, maybe it's time to flag myself as available again. Put a toe in the water. Magda's cute, definitely a swiperight!
And he always did have a thing for redheads, especially ones of the Nordic variety.
Leaning casually against the side of his vehicle, he nodded once. "Yeah. Gonna jump to Amsterdam, and get straight on the hyperloop to Manhattan. I promised my Moms I'd spend Yule and New Years with them. The whole family is gonna be there, for the first time in a long while, and….uhhh." He shrugged, giving a pained smile, "I like my family, but there's so damn many of us. Big noisy crowd. Like, you know….ahhhhh!" He accentuated his point by shaking his outstretched palms at either side of his head. "Get toto burned out on them, after a while."
Magda giggled lightly as she absently twirling a finger around a few crimson ringlets of hair.
"But then I'm going to Oregon. Spending a few days with my grandmother, in the city she grew up in. Kinda part vacation, part extra credit assignment, going through a bunch of family relics up in the attic."
"Or-gone? That's...a place still in America, ya?"
"Oh no no, don't say it like that!" he teased. "They're stone-cray hung up about saying it just right. OR-eh-gun. And yeah, it's just on the other side of the country. Might actually take a ground car there, at least part of the way. Never done anything like that before." He paused a beat, before asking, "How about you?"
"Oh..." Magda made a show of rocking back gently on her heels. "First to London, to pick up my baby sister from her school. Spend a week in Curacao, but then get back home to Reykjavik in time for Jólabókaflóð. We've never missed it before, and I'd hate to deal with Mama if we ever did."
William straightened up, his attention sincere. "Yola-bo- huh? Is that really still a thing? I mean, I know a little bit about it. With books?"
She nodded once, over-emphasizing the expression.
"Wow! With actual, physical books, that you wrap up in paper and pass around to each other and collect?"
It was a Yuletide tradition he'd only recently read about, one he found absolutely fascinating. What, with Iceland insistently, intentionally living with one foot strongly planted in the past, maintaining physical storefronts and appropriate gathering spaces. He had to admit that the idea of exchanging books amongst loved ones, and then spending the rest of the evening quietly reading together as a family held definite appeal for him.
"Well, dizzam!" he said, snapping his fingers in disappointment. "Sounds a lot more relaxing than what I've got ahead of me. Lot of musicians in the family, so it gets…" He took a deep breath and let it out with quick exasperation, "Loud, when everyone gets together. I mean, I can play a few instruments, but it's not what I want to be doing with my life, you know? Not my passion." He shook his head, and added in a low tone of voice, "Rather be reading, if I had the chance."
Magda bit her bottom lip as she smiled shyly. "It sounds like you've got a busy vacation. But meebee, you would like to come and visit me for a day?" She looked away, over at the mountains as a blush crept over her cheeks. "On your way back, right before school starts again?"
Hah. Well, here we go. Decision time.
William was old enough now to start appreciating these little decision points as they rose up to meet him. The seemingly small things that could easily set the course of his life for years to come. Sometimes he'd lie awake in bed at night, pondering all of the magnificent possibilities inherent in even the simplest of choices. It wasn't that he was filled with regret or indecisiveness, so much as marveling at the inherently fluctuating nature of existence. What he said next could easily influence the direction of his entire life going forward. There could be any number of stories told, and stories from those stories, stretching out years, even decades, all rooted in what he said next: a yes, or a no.
Or maybe not. But what the hell!
"You know what? Yeah. That sounds really on-top. I'd love to make a day trip of it. Pretty sure we have each other's comlink addresses, so, ah, I'll drop you a text a few days before, and we'll figure it out?"
Magda nodded, clearly trying to play it cool, but succeeding only by half. "Yus! Toto! Uh...I mean." She cleared her throat, as she tried to affect a calmer demeanor. "Sure. That'd be good. Give me a call, whenever."
Pushing himself up from his aircar, he nodded. "You bet." He popped open the gull-wing door on the side, aimlessly tossed his knapsack on the passenger seat, then turned back around. "Have a great vacation, yo."
She waggled her fingertips at him and brightly replied, "Sjáumst síðar!"
With that, he climbed into his aircar and took off.
Two and a half weeks later, William finally made his way to Arcadia Bay. He'd tolerated three or four days of driving at high speed on the sparsely utilized American highway grid before giving up in Denver and renting an aircar to take him the rest of the way. As soon as he touched down at the city's small air terminal, he grabbed the first bus into town. As he stepped off, he pulled his parka tightly around him. There was a chill in the air, and a light dusting of snow, most of which promised to evaporate by the afternoon. He had time to kill before he was scheduled to meet his grandmother, and chose to start the day off with a trip to Price-Caulfield Park. As he approached the twin statues of his great-grandparents in the middle of the commons, he swallowed back hard at the rush of memories that flooded through his mind.
It was twelve years now, just over half his life, since his last visit to Arcadia Bay; specifically, attending his great-grandfather's funeral. As a child, he didn't fully comprehend why there was such a huge crowd to mark the event, one that easily engulfed half the city. He knew she'd been someone important, someone who'd touched the lives of many, but he didn't truly make the connection until that moment.
He reached up and placed a tender hand against the chilly granite of Chloe Price-Caulfield's arm. Though he'd only known her in the last remaining years of her life, he could easily see that her eyes held the same spark, the same vitality, as what was expertly portrayed in this statue of her younger self.
Eyes just like his.
"Hey parnaana," he breathed out, using the Hindi honorifics that his family had adopted for close family members. "It's….it's really good to see you again." He turned and walked over to a nearby bench, clearing off the last traces of snow before sitting down. Looking back at the memorial, he continued, "Sorry I've been such a stranger, hey? But you know, you grow up, and then you're a teenager, there's a lot of shit to get through, and all that seems like the only important thing in the world…" He laughed lightly, shaking his head. Oh, the stories he'd heard, about the angry, aimless woman-child Chloe had been in her youth. Lashing out in bitter scorn at whatever authority figures crossed her path. Squandering her gifted intellect and ability, mired in self-pity and righteous indignation. But Chloe herself had also been one of the harshest critics of her youth, and to hear her tell the story, as she had time and time again, she'd easily be dead at nineteen if it hadn't been for her best friend and future wife coming back into her life out of the blue.
"She was my angel, little man. Anything I am today, it's all because of her. She saved me. God, I wish you could have known her."
His eyes flicked over towards the companion statue of Maxine Price-Caulfield, as he breathed out, "Yeah. Me too."
She died a year before he was born, but after all the stories his mother, grandmother, and great-grandfather told, he half-believed that she'd been there in his childhood, as a living, breathing individual.
But he knew well enough that it was just a trick the heart plays on the mind. Memory was such a mutable thing. It was never her, it wasn't Maxine - sorry, Max, never Maxine - that he knew. Simply other people's filtered impressions of her, filled with bias and prejudiced affection. He fixed his gaze on her, as he rubbed his chin in thought. Certainly she seemed kind, as much as everyone had acclaimed. Whoever carved the statues did a marvelous job in translating so many ineffable qualities of her personality into physical art, but it was still someone else's impression of her, all the same.
Part of the purpose in his coming to Arcadia Bay was the hope of finding some family history about her, some first-hand documentation, things that would help him truly understand who she'd been. As a real, complex, actual flesh-and-blood individual. Granted, it was a school project, and he'd be doing more than just reading and revealing for his own personal pleasure. Items would need to be sealed and preserved in archival-grade bins and bags. The content dispassionately analyzed, ephemeral objects catalogued. In that sense, he was to do nothing more than report on the dull, dry 'scientific truth', and there was a part of him that despised that part of the profession as much as he admired and even took comfort in it. But he desperately wanted to find something that was unique to her, that would shed light upon her character. Her thoughts, her dreams, her hopes and fears, from her own personal perspective. He'd read all of her works over the years, studied her voluminous portfolio along with the textbooks she'd authored, and still he couldn't help but feel that there was some small, but ineffable piece of her that was thus far denied him.
An hour later, he made his way to the Two Whales diner, pausing to linger at the doorway. He groaned with light embarrassment, chuckling as he recalled celebrating his seventh birthday here,. He'd listened eagerly as he ate way too many waffles, rapt in attention as his great-grandfather regaled him with a thousand-and-one tales about the place. Of how her own mother worked here, practically running the diner single handedly! Or at least, that was how Chloe made it sound.
It was immediately like stepping back into the past, in more ways than one. The decor so stubbornly clung to a zeitgeist now over a century old that the entire building might as well have been decoupled from the space-time continuum. He studied the yellowing paper handouts, the archaic physical calendars and photographs hanging on the wall. The historian-in-training in him was impressed; it was meant to look effortless and unaging, but he could see the telltale signs of constant maintenance that indicated just how hard the local historical society was working to preserve the illusion, down to the smell of the dust, the preserved graffiti on the walls, and the music playing over the ancient magnetic-diaphragm speakers. It would be almost perfect, were it not for the obviously modern styles of clothing worn by the patrons.
He sat down at one of the booths, fingers gliding over what he assumed was a century old tabletop. He wasn't sure how much of the booth was original material, recovered in the wake of Megastorm Azrael destroying Arcadia Bay, and how much of it was outright replacement, but it was obvious that the spirit lingered, no matter what. This place felt old. Hung heavy with the weight of a million stories, told and untold, all of them mundane, petty, and spectacular. He thought again about his family history, tangled up in this city's own. In this restaurant, and hell, maybe even at this very table. There was legacy here, one tightly bound up into the weft and weave of the fabric Arcadia Bay
A legacy that he felt was completely unearned and undeserved of him.
He closed his eyes, fervently hoping that no one here recognized him.
He blew out a heavy puff of air as he recalled turning sixteen, and receiving a letter - an actual paper letter, with gilded ink and embossed seal! - hand-delivered and everything, from Blackwell Academy. Filled with all sorts of flowery words and phrases, 'personally and cordially inviting him' to apply. But between the lines, the message was clear: as long as he didn't turn out to be a spectacular idiot-child, there was no way in hell the great-grandson of both 'The Grande Dame of Arcadia Bay' and one of the school's most famous teachers was going to be denied admission to the still-prestigious Blackwell.
As soon as he was done reading, he immediately knew what his answer would be. And in barely twenty-four hours, the headmaster received his polite response, thanking him for the opportunity, but otherwise opting - regretfully, of course - to decline applying.
He'd practically heard his great-grandfather cheering him on as he wrote the return letter. And why not? There was nothing in her life that she achieved that she hadn't earned, sometimes with literal sweat and blood, and William aspired to emulate her as much as possible. True, his family fortune kept his life easy and comfortable, more than her early years had ever been, so he'd be damned if he didn't earn his own mark in this world when he could. By his own merits and efforts.
He was halfway through his waffle and eggs, and so engrossed in trying to make out the tinny song playing from the nearby jukebox that he failed to immediately notice his name being called out.
"William? Willy? Will! Gleesh, pota, have you gone deaf?"
He jerked with a start, almost knocking his pineapple juice across the table. He quickly looked up and saw his grandmother standing right next to the table. Now in her early seventies, she looked little different from women twenty to thirty years her junior, thanks to the state of modern medicine; it was the formal, more antiquated state of her dress, along with her honey-blonde hair tied up in a crown plait that gave away her status as a member of the older generation. She favored him with a patient, good-natured smile, as he wiped his mouth, rose up from the booth to deliver an expected hug, and in return receive the expected kisses on his cheeks.
"Naani! Ohai!" he said. Then with a sheepish, downcast glance added, "My bad. Just...I mean, I wasn't expecting to see you here, though I guess I should have. We were going to meet at the house in another hour, right?" He belatedly motioned for her to sit down.
"Yeah, but I thought I'd stop here first and get a cup of whatever passes for coffee these days. Maybe a quick waffle, not that they've ever been as good as…"
"I know, I know, as when your grandmother worked here." He chuckled.
"So of course, as soon as I see my favorite grandson sitting here, a grandson who didn't even bother to text me the minute he got into town…"
He stuffed a couple more bites into his mouth, and muttered around his food, "Only grandson." His aunt Nadia had twin girls of her own, and he often felt like the literal odd man out at smaller family gatherings. He swallowed before continuing, "Sorz. I got impatient, spent more time in Denver than I meant to, so I decided to rent an aircar and fly here instead. Got me into town earlier than I planned, so I…" he shrugged, "...figured I'd see you soon enough. And besides, it gave me a chance to visit the park, say hi to your parents."
This elicited a warm smile from the older woman. "You're a good boy, so I suppose I'll forgive you. This time. And just look at you!" She reached over, affectionately squeezing a bicep. "Mi-gah, you've gone and made yourself so muscular. 'Hella ripped' as Daddy would say." William shifted in his seat as he felt his grandmother appraise him. She gave a little sigh and said, "You know, it's amazing. Other than the hair, and the studs down your earlobe, you look so much like Sandy at that age. I used to joke with Kamala sometimes, that her genes clearly won whatever wrestling match they got into with your other two mothers."
William snorted in bemusement. "Mathair Kim's father says that I look like him. So maybe we only see what we wanna. Of course, she's the one who gave me nine-months rent-free living, so he might have a better claim."
As his grandmother laughed, his eyes drifted over towards the counter, where he noticed, much to his dismay, the pair of them were starting to draw attention.
"Uhh-naw…" he drawled, then turned back. Instinctively moving a hand up to obscure his face, he said, "Maybe we could take the food to go?"
Confused, his grandmother looked around, "What's your rush?" She leaned in and teased. "Do you owe someone money? Is there a girl chasing after you? Or a boy?"
He smiled through his grimace and shook his head, "Neg, just...people are starting to notice, and, y'know...recognize us, and…"
"And what's the prob with that? This is Arcadia Bay. Our family's ancestral home!". She held out her hands at her side, as she said the last line with a bit of dramatic flourish. "Even if I personally haven't lived here in decades." She sat up straight and gave him a piercing look. "You aren't ashamed of that for some reason, are you?"
William sputtered, "Wha-? No! No, I mean...it's. Just. Ach! It's hard to explain, naani…" He struggled for another moment, and said, "You grew up here, but I can count the number of times I've visited on two hands. And I probably can't remember all of them, because I was just a little kid. I'm just not….comfortable…like...I don't feel any of this belongs to me. Whatever love people in this city have for our family, none of that belongs to me. I haven't done anything to personally earn it."
Arching a brow, her grandmother tilted her chin up, and then reached out to clasp his hand in hers. "Oh, William. Always the egalitarian. You were young, adorable, and a Price-Caulfield. That would be enough for most people in the Bay. Still, I suppose it's true, our family has a surprisingly noble position here. Us and the Chases, and to a lesser degree the Prescotts and the Boyces. But Arcadia Bay was very good to our family, and we to it. Our fortunes are all tied together. Fortunes, I might add which made it possible for your grandfather and I to get the best educations and make the most of our talents, which in turn allowed us to do the same for our daughters, who were able to do the same for their children." She smirked. "Even the ones who've never lived here."
William winced at her words, painfully aware of the good fortune and blessings that spread through generations of the family line, while still feeling unworthy of it.
I kinda sound like an asshole right now, maybe. But she has a point.
"It might help if you look at it this way: nobility comes with obligations, at least if you're doing it right. If our presence here makes anyone in town who still fondly remembers Mom and Dad happy, then who are we to cut those people off? They won't bite, you know? In a way, they're our family, too." She turned for a moment and darkly grumbled, grinding a clenched fist into her palm, "Even that damn Faith Boyce, I suppose."
"Oh gosh. Ms. Rachel, is that really you?"
William and Rachel both glanced up as a woman in her early forties approached their table. Dressed in a casual business suit, with a manager's nametag that identified her as 'Janine', her chestnut hair was tied back in a loose ponytail; her smile was warm and inviting.
William watched as his grandmother quickly rose, not hesitating to reach out and embrace the other woman. "Oh yes it is, Janine! And ohm-gee, do not even with the 'Ms'."
"It's wonderful to see you! I had no idea you were coming into town, otherwise - well - I'm sure we'd have gotten a group together, give you a proper welcome." Janine's eyes cast over towards him, and she cooed, "Oh my, is this little Will? Wow! I haven't seen you since the Senator's - her, ah...". She swallowed lightly, and continued, "Except you're not so little anymore, are you?!"
Rising up and shuffling to his feet, he raised a hand, giving as authentic a smile as he could muster, feeling terribly awkward all the while. "Hey." he said softly. "Um. Good to be back."
He froze as Janine encircled him with her arms, crushing him in a ferocious hug, as if he were a beloved and intimate family member. Turning back to his grandmother, she asked, "Is it just the two of you? Is your husband coming? Is this some sort of family reunion?"
"Will, slide over. Make room for your elders, kid." She waved him back down and to the side. "Janine, sit yourself down, and we'll tell you all about it."
He quickly shuffled over, taking his breakfast along with him. He then glanced over his shoulder, and turned back as he saw that a line of curious onlookers was slowly forming; older folks, most of them in their sixties and seventies, but there were a few people roughly his age who looked towards his table.
Probably wondering what the hell the big deal is.
For the next hour, William did the best to graciously hold court with his grandmother: shaking hands, answering questions, being warmly welcomed and feigning remembrance of elderly citizens he couldn't actually recall meeting as a boy.
He soon realized that it was one thing to study history, quite another to be studied as history.
It's been a while, huh? Well, suffice it to say, Mama Lyta has not exactly been having an easy time of it as of late. Work has gotten particularly crazy, and I suspect forever more shall it be. I've also been going through some heavy personal stuff, only part of which is related to my country's ever-spiraling descent into madness and chaos. But at least the memes are good. So yeah, inspiration has not exactly been forthcoming, even if I did have the time. It's a little difficult to write and revisit a world about a future where "everything works out in the end" when it's harder than ever to believe that's what's actually in store for the human race.
Still, it's not all bad. I spent a very lovely Julian-calendar Christmas with NuQueerWarhead and her family, and then traveled to Europe for the first time in years, where I got to hang with Corentin IV. All wonderful times well spent.
At any rate, it's almost Spring, and that tends to awaken my need to write. And perhaps a few of you blessed with long memories and attention to detail noted that in the end notes of the final chapter of Grande Dame - which was published almost a whole year ago! - I specifically mentioned how one fan, White Story, convinced me to consider writing something of a coda; a short sequel that would answer the question of whether Rachel ever found out about what happened in 2013, or if Chloe did indeed take that story to her grave. To be honest, I'd originally planned for the answer to be: no. Sorry. Rachel never finds the answer.
There was a certain pathos I enjoyed in the notion of that, that she comes so close, but the family mystery is forever lost. But I was eventually convinced to consider something else, but only - I made myself promise - if I could find a hook that would satisfy my desire for a bit of mystique. The story had to be better than "One day, Rachel found Max's diary, read it, and said "Oh Mom, you so crazy!".
People who know me know I am fatally infatuated with world building, so please indulge me if this opening chapter seems a little more sizzle than steak - I promise by the end of chapter 2 - which should be out in just a few days - that we will start to get to the real meat of things. Certainly, this story is more written for the fans of Grande Dame, and less for general consumption, so I thought it might be nice to take some time fleshing out details on the way to the main event. I hope you're enjoying yourself, at least. :)
This will probably be a shorty; no more than three or four chapters. Of course, I say that. I say that each and every time. Grande Dame was supposed to be a one shot, originally, and look what happened. But still, I'm really certain this time.
Last thing: A lot of folks have sent me PM's and reviews over the past few months, with very kind words. Some of them have even started writing their own stuff, and were nice enough to let me read through their initial drafts and offer feedback. So I would say go and check out Kariego's Not Over Yet and Bronco27's Flying Free, if you are looking for more Pricefield goodness in your life! I also want to give a shout-out to minutemaidman, who maintains an excessively comprehensive list of LiS fics on the LiS Reddit, and said nice things about me and other hard working authors on this site. It is all super-appreciated...I know I wouldn't keep on keeping on if it weren't for the fans, you know?
Anyhow, I've rambled long enough. Have a wonderful rest of the week, and see you in a few days!
P.S. Oh shit! I almost forgot. Can you believe there's actually a place in Switzerland named after Dumbledore's boyfriend? I had no idea either! :-D
3-16-17: An extra tip of the hat to White Story, for making an observation that led to a slight tweaking in Williams initial speech in the first act. They made me realize how ultra important it was to establish a certain concept, that will come across later in this series.
3-17-17: A tip of the Irish top hat to Harpu who confirmed what I vaguely suspected: my German sucks. :) Corrections have been applied.
3-20-17: *hangs head* Oh...yea gods. While writing chapter three, I realized much to my horror and dismay that I'd been using the Hindi honorifics all wrong in this series. I've...tried to make corrections to the best of my comprehension, but I suspect that I should have done a LOT more research before attempting to flirt with this level of cultural appropriation. Guh *headdesk*
4-25-17: Apparently my German still sucks, but Alpenwolf taught me something new about German. A small correction has been applied in the use of the word Kinder