Wednesday, February 22

I'm in Dublin, Ireland:)

I've been to the Jameson whisky still yesterday and am going to Guinness today, have seen the Bibles in Chester Beatty (you have to pay for the internet there, now, and the lady at the counter said it hadn't been working in two monhts) and will go today to see the Book of Kells.

Dublin is cold, and people walk around in hoodies and jean jackets, oversized coats and scarves (that one brown/white/red/black pattern so common in Paris, Florence, Venice, and Naples is not to be seen), and lovely accents that are so awesome to listen to . . .

Have met up with the friends and we are all sleepy-eyed and ready to walk about the world quietly on cement and flagstones in the dark wind, and the days end early.

I'll shortly drag my friends to another tourist spot, where my new brother-in-law (oh it sounds weird to say that) proposed to my sis. Also, the bar where they had an on-the-spot engagement party. Ha ha.

Also, if anybody sees my mum, say hallo to her:)

p.s. tried to post this on mindsay but the browser on the compy I'm using doesn't support it.

Monday, February 20

Carry On -- The Cranberries

She had once read a book called Experimental Tourist or something like it, and it had given her a lot of ideas; there was something odd about the way she traveled from that week on.

Her rucksack was neatly packed with a change of clothes, the necessary paperwork, and her computer. She also stuffed her current read in a pocket and carried her journal in hand, a thin black volume that might have been a guidebook or map, or a travelers' art history book, or an appointment book. However, she always left her rucksack in her hotel room, neatly repacked and put somewhere it wouldn't harry the maid service.

The hotels she stayed in were nice enough, and sometimes quaint, but she never tried to find ruthless bargains and sometimes treated herself to a comfortable room in a well-situated place. Staff at hotels found her unintrusive and serious, but unusual since she seemed to go forth alone and absentminded, returning early in the evening.

Once, at one of her favorite hotels, the clerk saw her leaving at 9 p.m. and couldn't stop herself from blurting out "Where do you think you are going?!" but luckily the girl had been her typical absentminded self and walked through the double doors as if she hadn't heard.

Thursday, February 16

Jen works at a coffeeshop & takes night classes at a community college.

Emeric had given serious thought to the subject of his reading material, finally deciding to put off Treasure Island until he had finished the latest Redwall novel. He'd done this with all the Redwall books and he wished that Treasure Island wasn't so confusing; he only ever got through the first five pages though he'd read the abridged version five times. Clutching his present read in one hand, he wondered if he would have time to get through the last two chapters before school started.

"Mum, I don't want to go to school today."

"Are you feeling sick, hun?"

"No, I just don't want to go." He started to draw a tree on the foggy car window and through the lines made by his finger, he could see raindrops, wet pavement, and dark, leafless trees.

"That's good, because it's a Saturday."

"What!? Oh. Where are we going?" The car took a left turn and shortly came to pause at a traffic light. Julian looked at her son, his hair still ruffled even though he'd tried to wet it before he combed it.

"To the doctor's, remember? So he can tell us about those tests you took last time." Emeric nodded, then yawned. "I'm sorry for getting you up so early, Em, it was just the only time he could spare for us."

"It's okay, mum." He grinned sleepily. "I still brought my backpack."

"Oh, darling, put it in the back. Don't think about it. How far are you along in your book?"

"Almost finished." He let his heavy pack drop onto the floor in the back seat and scooted up in his seat a little, wiping away the fog-tree with his scarf. "What about you?"

"Not yet. Poetry takes longer to read because it's so condensed."

Julian hated that her son had to wake up early on yet another morning just to have a miserably cold time in a pristine office full of stainless steel counters and linoleum tiles and that awful hospital smell--even if the doctor was nice (she only hoped he wouldn't try to give Em more stickers at the end of the visit). Such a patient kid! She wished she'd at least been able to get him out of school for the appointment, but then again, beggars can't be choosers.

As they turned into the parking lot Emeric listened for the sound of the tires crackling on the wet pavement; it was one of his favorite noises. His mother turned off the music they'd been listening to and pulled into a spot near the door; there was nobody to fill up the parking lots on a wet Saturday.

"You want to go see Jen at the coffeeshop after? You could finish your book there, if you want." Jen took breaks every now and then from manning the espresso machine and read to them the most interesting stories out of her psychology textbooks--and if she was working they'd get free drinks even though Julian always tried to pay.

Em smiled and nodded. "Yeah." Julian turned off the car and pulled up the emergency brake, unlocking the doors with her other hand.

Monday, February 13

You will like this one; it has a vulgar joke in it.

The dinner-and-movie date had started out fine with a respectably expensive meal out on the pier, but the movie had turned out to be one word off from what she'd thought it was. Half-way through it there was a masochistic sex scene that filled the entire silver screen with six-foot slimy lips and shiny black leather.

Ellen was the first to stand up from her seat and move towards the aisle. She leaned over to her date in a cloud of perfume and nodded towards the screen.

"I didn't ask to be sucked into this. I'll wait for you outside." She had to repeat herself twice because Charlie had been sleeping. He woke up slowly and squinted at the screen, starting back from his chair in a moment of realization.

"Yeah, we'd probably better skip before it comes to blows."

"CHARLIE!" she hissed, and clip-clopped in high-heeled sandals out the door and into the fluorescence of the mall.

Friday, February 10

Ordeal by ceremony.

I took extra time on this because I needed it; I've been stuck in some sort of funk for the last few weeks and it has been royally lame. Do excuse the excessive description.

When everyone had drunk from the cup of wine, she had gone to stand at the end of the semi-circle and began to observe her champion for the first time. He was slight and wiry and stood squarely on his feet, preoccupied with formalities and looking somewhat uncomfortable in the midst of such a solemn company. In short, he looked quite as she felt.

Their eyes met once, but there was no recognition in his--not that she expected there to be; this was the first time they'd been in each other's company. It seemed odd that he'd fought for her and yet didn't know her at all; she felt the stirrings of resentment in the back of her mind. Before she could pay them any attention, though, he had declared his request for her to pray at his vigil of knighthood. That was an odd enough request and she couldn't help but be relieved to hear it. A sleepless night praying in the chapel was infinitely preferable to any number of things he might have asked.

The group in front of the fire was dispersed and she remained staring vacantly into the fire until someone came to take the cup from her. Collecting her thoughts, she remembered that Juliana would be waiting for her with a clean shift and brushes for her hair, and would probably let her tiny fire go out if she didn't arrive soon. Turning, she tucked the front part of her skirt into her belt so that she wouldn't trip when she walked.

All of her helpmates would have gone to their rooms and would go back to their villages tomorrow or the day after since they'd all returned late from their small quest. The horses were taken care of. The books had all been delivered safely and diplomatic relationships were, for the most part, strengthened as a result of their efforts. Everything had gone well.

"Gone well, went well, is well, all is well," she whispered to herself in footsteps as the torches in the great hall were extinguished behind her. She felt she was followed by a sense of unease and unhappiness, and hurried away from the cold darkness of the hall to her rooms.

She embraced Juliana when she entered, and Juliana took it in stride, extracting herself with a brusque "Good! You are home. I know. Go to sleep." Juliana loosened the laces of her lady's dress and handed her a clean shift, taking away the dress and stowing it in the depths of a wardrobe on the other side of the room. The lady removed veil pins and veil, swinging the carefully-arranged braid over her shoulder and, untying the end, began to undo the weave of the plait with her fingers.

Juliana was humming tunelessly, choosing tomorrow's dress with the same calculating glance that frightened many maids and assistant cooks. Tomorrow morning would be spent in the throne room, so it must be beautiful. Tomorrow afternoon she could relax in the solar or the great hall, so it must be warm. Et cetera.

"Juliana."

"Mmm. You are upset because of this boy who wore your sleeve."

"Actually . . . who gave him my sleeve, anyway?"

"Your father had one fetched. It's back in the drawer, no harm done."

There was a pause before Juliana spoke again. "Something still bothering you? You should be content, it has been a good day."

"Yes, but . . . who is he? He doesn't even know me. I feel like it is . . . just awkward."

"What, you think he did that for you?" Juliana snorted, and took up brushing her lady's hair.

"Isn't that the point of those things?"

"No. The point is that he had a principle he wanted to stand up for and you provided an opportunity."

"Oh." She was not a little chagrined.

"Yes, well . . . you listen to your father's storytellers too much. That is why you have the wrong ideas about things--you should pay more attention to your studies." She ended awkwardly, aware of having advised precisely the opposite at least several times in the recent past.

"You must be right. It was a selfish thought."

"Of course I am right. Now go to sleep." A ribbon was tied at the end of her plaited hair and she felt its soft weight against her back again.

"Good night, Juliana."

"Milady."

After Juliana left, the lady did not climb into her canopied bed but stood at her window that overlooked the central courtyard, the decorative one with the garden, and watched as the last few stragglers took an easy shortcut through the grass to the gate into the real courtyard she had entered earlier, right before she'd relinquished her horse and been whisked off to the solar before the feast. She went over the day again in her mind, ready to retell the story of their journey tomorrow at the king's court.

The sky was stern and dark and the night clenched and cold but the casement windows with their tiny panes of glass did not show the stars or the moon; she unlatched one of them and peered out. She could see her breath in the air, and the moon was only a sliver in the sky and surrounded by her stalwart, constant stars. The hills were dark, too dark to see even heir silhouettes, and she listened for the sound of the ocean far below.