Nehcor and I needed to talk.
“Don’t you guys have, like, a temple or a church around here?”
Hal, who was elbow deep in sanitizing one of the five rooms of the inn (four little with single beds and one a bunk, the fifth a ‘suite’), didn’t even stop to answer the question.
“Of course. I’m surprised you missed it. The temple is at the center of the city. The market you go to is half-way there.”
“So, no churches? You don’t have services every seven days or so?” Their weeks here were weird. I hadn’t realized until a month in that I’d been counting my weeks by sevens while theirs were by eights. For that matter, their months were weird too. At least I didn’t have to worry about multiple moons, though this world’s moon was about three times bigger than my Earth’s.
“There is a service once a month for the pious in the community centers, organized by whatever priest is set over the area. If I had known you were interested I would have pointed you there.”
“Of course I’m interested,” I said with a huff. “I have to teach my boy how to avoid an existential crisis, don’t I?”
“Existential…” Most of the time when I whipped out weird words that had no translation in their language, Milly, Hal, and even Gus, more than likely tended to gloss over it, assuming the definition by the context. But Hal actually stopped his spraying to give me an odd look.
I sighed and waved my hand in a circling, so-so gesture. “Nothing really matters, no point to living, any way the wind blows I’ll go even if that includes murder and rape because there’s no proof to care, etc etc.” Basically, Bohemian Rhapsody, by Queen, but good old rock classics weren’t included in this world.
Hal gave a ‘ah,’ nodded sagely, and turned back to his spraying.
“Milly and I usually go during slow seasons. Late spring and summer are usually a no go for us, since that’s when most choose to travel. But we should be able to hold down the fort enough for you and Gus to check it out. Church services are in five days, I’ll start marking it on the calendar in the kitchen. I can probably clear out a time for you to visit the temple tomorrow morning, as long as you’re back by the third hour.”
And thus, Gus’s religious nutrients were set up.
He gave me a look like he had sat on a cactus the entire time I fussed over his nicer pair of clothes the next day.
“Why would god care if I look nice?” he grumbled as I messed with the weird cravat/tie thing they had in this world. I was thinking I’d settle for a nice poofy bow. “He made me naked, didn’t he?”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you wanted to visit the temple naked. I better start stripping—“
His hands flashed up to the half-made bow before I’d even twitched. “Not funny,” he growled.
I laughed. “You—you thought I’d seriously make you go naked, ha ha!”
“I wouldn’t be surprised!” He was turning red. “You get crazy enough ideas of modesty as it is!”
I rolled my eyes. “Honestly, the only ones there were Milly and I, and it’s not like anyone can see our yard from the world.”
“But in your underwear?” he wrinkled his nose.
“Hey, wet skirts are heavy. And the soap would be irritating my skin all day.” We were talking about another one of my attempts to do laundry with Milly, agitating the dirty clothes in the tub by stomping around in it. “It’s still a far stretch from naked, now stop complaining.”
He ‘tched. “This is a waste of time.”
“How is saying hi to the person who made you a waste of time?” I gave the bow a finishing tug. Cute. It was the perfect red to match his eyes. Yeah, they might scare off some, but we weren’t on a trip to attract friends now, were we? I could indulge myself.
“God isn’t there,” he said, as though I were stupid. “And what good’s he gonna do me? Nothing.”
I had to hold down a snicker at that and said, under my breath, “Shows what you know.”
“Ugh, you’re such a know it all.”
“Believe it or not, in this regard,” I flicked his nose, just to disrupt his grouchy expression. “I do know. Come on, we can talk on the way.”
And, well, I did my best to hold a conversation with him about the hardships of life and why they were necessary and all that jazz, you know, the usual as to why someone who’d nearly starved to death in an alley would feel jaded. But, well…starved and beaten in an alley was a bit too much for anyone to accept as for their own good, or, most likely, for the good of others so they could fully work their agency. My only comfort was that allowing the full use of agency also allowed the full wrath of justice to come down, either in this life or the next.
Somehow, that got me thinking about my ex and all the crap he’d gotten up to. Which led me down sad thoughts as to why he should be able to make up a new family, and maybe even have babies, while I got creamed on a freeway.
Gus nudged my arm after I’d been quite for a while. We were just stepping into the market square, our half way point.
“You got that look,” he said. “Stop thinking about it. Whatever it is.”
I smiled down at him softly. “Sorry. Just taking a moment to be a hypocrite.”
Being angry at god for dangling my desires above my head as a way to get me to do what he wanted.
But…and I looked at Gus’s furrowed, concerned face as I thought this. It hadn’t been all that bad. I had him.
I did suggest we stop by the bakery to get a treat, just to see Gus’s face at the mention of, his words, ‘love slave number two.’
“Let’s just get whatever they’re cooking,” he said, gesturing to a stall with a sizzling, fold in grill. The man cooking occasionally brushed his fingers through the air above the skewers, thin tendrils of fire following after their tips.
I pouted. He hadn’t so much as wrinkled his nose.
He did smirk at my expression, though, as though he had read my thoughts. Then took my hand and pulled me towards the skewers. His rare initiative on physical contact helped get rid of my disappointment.
By the time we reached the temple, my grumpy ponderings about hiring a carriage to take us back to the inn were swept away once we passed through the walls hiding the majority of the building within.
Something akin to a white, roman cathedral loomed above us, glittering in the sunlight. The carefully groomed gardens of trees and flowers had nothing on the beautifully sculpted scenes displayed on every flat surface not the roof or floor, and all gleaming as though crystal had been crushed and sprinkled throughout the mortar. The noise and bustle of the busy, high end city that we had just left seemed to quiet once we passed through the gate.
“That’s nice,” I said.
Gus chuckled, still holding my hand as the crowds had gotten thicker the deeper in we got into the city.
“There’s rainbows reflected onto the wall behind us,” he said, jutting a thumb to the side.
I gawked at that. “That’s…that’s nice too.”
He laughed again.
The buildings we had passed to get here would have fit the word ‘nice’ better. They’d been the chateaus and apartments of the upper elite and nobles who wanted to have a place closer to the city center, which was the temple. Some buildings had held boutiques and other high end shops that made the store I had bought my dress look like a thrift store. Even though Gus and I had dressed our best, the people we’d passed by had also made us look like we’d come from a thrift store.
But seeing this majestic building, I couldn’t blame the surroundings for being more ritzy. Center of the city aside, the view from one’s window in the morning would have been worth it.
“Come on,” Gus tugged on my hand. “We need to be back by three, right?”
“Don’t—don’t we need permission to enter?” Oh gal, even the sidewalk looked pretty. My poor shoes looked like moving turds peeking out from my pink skirts.
“In some parts. But the outer pavilions and the central hall are open to worshipers. There should be a statue of Nehcor in the main hall, right past those front double doors.
I did a double take. “You know god’s name?”
The look he gave me was very flat. “Contrary to what you may think, I did get taught about that. The orphanage was run by the church.”
“But that’s the first time I’ve heard anyone say his name.”
Gus had the grace to look a little abashed, even scratching his elbow. “Well, you’re not supposed to say it lightly. Makes it lose its power for you or something, not that it matters. God’s never heard me when I’ve used it anyway.”
“How do you know? I’m here, aren’t I?”
I didn’t need his sudden jerk to a stop to realize I’d made a mistake. Me and my fat mouth!
So I pushed out a giggle that I usually used when teasing him, desperate to cover my mistake. “I mean, if I can’t be your mommy you’ve got to at least let me be your god-given angel, eh? Eh? A ho ho ho!”
His disgusted look never made me feel so relieved.
“It’s got to be some sort of sacrilege to be so full of yourself on holy grounds. And for the record, I didn’t ask for some baby-hungry woman with commitment issues.”
Oh. So that’s what he’s decided to title my anti-marriage policy? Commitment issues? That’s nice.
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