Saturday, March 13, 2010

Chapter 11 Maria

"Listen, I know what you're thinking, and we don't talk about it, okay?"

Maria says it quietly but firmly as we walk into town. For a moment, I wonder if she's a mind reader too.

"Okay, but I'm new here, and I'm thinking it, so..."

She shrugs with a glance at me, her eye brows raise up. "It's complicated. But it works for them, so we don't wanna mess it up."

I just nod like I understand. Brandon must have a reason for it. Right away I think of Jimmy this morning and how nice and normal he seemed with his brother. A chill runs up my spine.

At the junk shop, we're like two girls in let loose in a mall. It looks like a second hand (or third or forth hand) store. Every surface is covered. It takes a moment of looking around before I begin to see that there is a slight order to things. Racks full of shoes and clothing, a table full of cutlery, and a crate of old books. That fascinates me the most. I'm bound to finish Brandon's books soon with the amount of time I spend hanging out alone at his apartment. I don't know what people like me do. Other than hanging out on the balcony.

I kneel down to the ground to get a better look at the spines of the books, my finger lightly touching them as I read them. Maria watches me with fascination as I pick up one book and flip through it.

"Oh, you can read." She says it with awe and admiration tinged with jealousy.

"Can't you?" Immediately I want to kick myself for not even thinking about it. It's another thing that I take for granted that in my world is a right and here is probably a privilege.

"Not at all." She says it softly and with a smile like she knows that I just caught myself assuming again.

"Well, I could--" I close the book, and it teeters in my hands before falling right out of them. Maria's hand is already there. She kneels to catch the book before it hits the floor.

She stands up with a smile and hands the book back to me. "I've been waiting for the last ten seconds for you to do that."

"Uhm, what?" I blink at her like she's talking another language.

"For you to drop the book. It's kinda hard to explain, but it's my power. I can sometimes see something that's going to happen right before it happens. But if I had told you that you were going to drop the book, you'd have dropped it anyway. So I stopped trying to warn people a long time ago. Anyway, what were you saying?"

It takes me a second to remember. Carefully I put the book back aware that the shop keeper is now watching us. "Uhm, I was going to say that I could teach you if you want."

Maria suddenly looks our age for the first time. The smile that breaks out on her face is a real genuine smile. "Really? That'd be so nice! Mike doesn't know how to read either, so he couldn't teach me."

The shop keeper slips over to us then in a very smooth and non-threatening movement. Her clothes are a little off, an old blouse with an older skirt, and it makes her look old though her face looks very young, probably Brandon's age. "I've got some great books to learn from." She pulls out a book of stories for children and hands it over to Maria. I can see the cover already has the depiction of the Two Brothers from the myth about the end of the world.

"That's a good one to start with," the shop keeper says to Maria.

Maria smiles at her and hands the book back. "Thank you. I don't really have anything to trade right now."

"Oh, and Mike's training today, is he?" The shopkeeper puts a hand to her chin as she thinks of a way to make the sale. I'm a little surprised at how much it seems she knows about Maria. I don't even know who Mike is really yet, but it rolls off this woman's tongue like she's good friends with Maria.

It doesn't seem to bother Maria. The smile plastered on her face isn't genuine, but it's also relaxed and cool. I get the feeling that she puts up with this a lot.

"How about when her owner gets back?" The woman motions towards me. "Whose pet is she again? I don't think I've seen her around before."

I don't like the use of the word "pet" in reference to me. Before I can protest, Maria hops in. "Brandon's."

"Oh? Start of his harem, eh?" She winks at Maria and somehow her joke seems crass compared to Pat and Maria's earlier teasing.

Maria laughs as she takes my arm and leads me towards the door. "She just might be." Once we're away, she explains, "Junk shops collect everything, even bits of information."

"But his 'pet?'"

We walk along the sidewalk back towards the bar. Maria looks semi-apologetically at me. "Yeah, sorry. But I figured it's best if she knows you're protected by Brandon rather than related to him. Having a little sister that he is obviously protecting would give him a weakness. But having a pet that he's protecting wouldn't. Either way, you're safe. People don't mess with his shit even if they underestimate him."

The hair on the back of my neck stands up at the last few words and I rub at my neck with a hand. "Wh-what do you mean?"

Maria cocks her brows at me. "Oh, well, everyone thinks he got his rank because of Mr. Smith and Jimmy. Brandon doesn't really have to prove anything to anyone. So long as the people he deals with know to be careful, that's really all that matters I guess."

I roll my shoulders backwards trying to get the chill that's creeping up my spine to go away. The last thing I want is to have these thoughts around Brandon, especially now that I know that he can catch some of them. He's been nothing but kind to me. I don't doubt him. He's the one person I can trust. But still, some part of me is aware that he is hiding bits of himself from me probably afraid of how I will react if he actually told me all of the truth, and maybe he's partially right. I wouldn't exactly run away screaming, but it would have been uncomfortable if he'd told me before. I've had so little time to adjust, and now I have so little time left with Brandon.

Things are going much too fast for me. Somehow I get the sense that things in this part of our world always move much too fast.

Next Chapter -->


Another profile: Mike and Maria


  1. Hmmm...pushy shopkeeper. I didn't like her one bit....too nosy!

    I love the way Maria has a sort of fatalistic view about her power--she knows that the book will drop, and all she feels she can do is catch it because she cant' stop it from falling in the first place. I wonder what other sorts of things she's tried to warn people about in the past.... I also love that she is so eager to learn to read that she doesn't take offense at Paula offering to teach her--it makes her seem more confident, somehow. She's comfortable enough with who she is to take such opportunities, rather than pretend they aren't important or useful.

    The villagers must have a decent amount of power if they can get away with making jokes like that about the relationships within the tribe....

    I'm not at all surprised that others underestimate Brandon--as far as we know, he doesn't seem to have the same approach to the tribal life that the other members have, and that probably makes him seem weak.

    Awesome chapter, as usual.

  2. I can see the cover already has the depiction of the Two Brothers from the myth about the end of the world.
    This line struck me as relating to Jimmy and Brandon for some reason.

    While it did occur to me that knowing who Paula is can be an opening to get to Brandon, it never occurred to me that the junk shop keepers would spread it mainly because they are under protection the way they are. Smart of Maria to step in there.

  3. Every time I read a new chapter, I learn something new about this world that never occurred to me before. I never thought about the fact that some of these characters wouldn't be able to read but it makes perfect sense. Schooling can't be a priority in a do or die kind of situation like this, I suppose.

    Poor Paula. Knowing she's missing bits of information about Brandon could well be worse than if she had those gaps filled in. I still think Brandon should just go ahead and lay it on the line and let Paula react how she'd react. It seems like ignorance could be somewhat of a stumbling block in this world. Best to keep your wits about you, you know?

  4. lol, Rachel. Good. She is nosey. Makes her good at her job.

    Oh, that's something I didn't think of. Yes, I think one of the words that would describe Maria is definitely confident. She's very secure about her abilities and secure about who she is.

    Most of the villagers do have a good amount of protection. In this case, I think it's just this bold Junk Shop Keeper. A good one is worth as much as someone who farms. Also, see the new entry I just put up that comes after this one. That wasn't up earlier because I got sleepy, but I had meant to post it last night.

    Oh, Gayl, thanks for bringing that up. I wondered if anyone would catch that. When the story first popped out of my head, a character threw it out in reference to Jimmy and Brandon. Oh yeah, actually, it was Pat who threw out the reference and made the comparison.

    One of the things they sell is definitely information. So it was smart of Maria to step in and give a little bit of misinformation. (Not too important to the story, but I think Maria also knows Brandon pretty well after three years, and she knows he would proudly claim Paula as his sister to protect her. I doubt Maria or Mike would see the need for that.)

    Carla, lol, me too. I didn't really give it any thought until I reached this chapter and had these two chatting. Brandon had books, though only a few, so I assumed he had to be able to read them since they don't carry around a lot of junk with them.

    At some point, I'll get to explaining where the kids are at. (And whether Brandon can actually read, lol.)

    I agree with you. It would be dangerous to not know. But now she's starting to think about these things, asking won't be too far behind. I think Brandon's holding back bits of himself is completely a selfish act.

  5. *gasp* Brandon is a ladies' man! Somehow, it didn't seem as disgusting as had it been another guy. Simply because it's Brandon, lol. Oh man, this is bad. XD

    Maria seems a very cool character. As in, very matured for her age and all. Knowing something will happen without being able to stop it seems like quite a bad power to have. :\ I don't know about her, but I would have felt so helpless everytime something horrid happens to someone, like a car crash or something. I guess Maria's adjusted to it already, but still... wouldn't there be times when you'll worry and can do nothing but worry about an impending catastrophe? :(

    Also, like what others said, the shopkeeper is NOSY!! Don't like! >( And, it seemed like she can't be trusted, since Maria is rather guarded against her. Nonetheless, that scene also showed that Maria is a real friend of Brandon and is helping to protect them. :) That's really good news, from what I can see in this world, haha.

    And, *sob* I keep forgetting that Paula will be leaving Brandon soon. :'( Man..

  6. lol, I'm glad. I was worried a little about what people might be picturing when they think about him and multiple partners. There's kinda a reason for it, and it's also just kinda the way he is. One day I'll get into his views on sex and explain more.

    Maria is another one of those people who was forced to grow up too quickly, so there is a maturity about her. I imagine there is nothing she can generally do to prevent something bad, but she can at least be there to somehow fix what it might be. Unless she can't. I'm sure that she's always worried about the day she knows something bad is going to happen to Mike seconds before it happens and she won't be able to do anything to stop it or help it. :(

    Perfect, that's exactly what I wanted you to take from this. Maria is a good friend of Brandon, and she will do what she can to help him the same as Mike would. (And the same as Angel probably would.)

    I know, I'm sorry, Paula will have to go. :(

  7. The shopkeeper intrigues me. She was incredibly pushy and has that vibe that she can't be trusted. Despite what Maria told Paula, I wouldn't be surprised if the shopkeeper dealt in information in exchange for other stuff, maybe even works for different factions. That's the conspiracy theorist in me though at work.

    I do get the sense as the chapters go on and little bits of Brandon are revealed that Paula certainly doesn't know the half of it. My curiosity is why is he hiding those parts of himself from her that he probably knows she'd freak out about. Is it simply to protect her or is it because it's nice to have someone know the man he used to be before all the violence, power and survival instinct kicked in.

    Is it a need to have someone treat him without fear or to treat him like another normal person rather than what he is.

    I like Maria. I think she and Paula could eventually be friends. Maria seems nice and she knew enough to get Paula out of the shop and the nosey shopkeeper's way. She was essentially protecting Paula. It could be because no one messes with Brandon but still, I get a vibe from her that I quite like.

    Great update as always!

  8. You aren't far off. The position can be very important. They're trusted, but only a fool would ever trust them completely. They could definitely play more than one side, or they could be careless, sharing bits of information when they probably aren't supposed to. I would guess in this case, Maria suspects her of the later, which is generally harmless but means you don't tell her anything you don't want a random person eventually knowing.

    I love that you're thinking about the whys about Brandon. He's definitely holding back, and I'm sure it's partially selfishly. It's probably for both of the reasons you mentioned. I'm sure it is nice for him to relate to someone on a strictly human level. Even life with his own brother is wrapped up in life with the tribe.

    I'm also really glad to hear you like Maria. :D

    Thank you, Carnaxa.

  9. That shop keeper is certainly upfront, calling Paula a pet to her face like that.

    Kinda spooky the potential danger she could be in, if it became common knowledge what her relationship to Brandon actually is.

    Great job on the shop, looks terrific ;)

  10. I think I pinpointed why exactly I still can't see Brandon as the "player" type. It's the combination of both his ability and his inherent "goodness". Is he inherently good, or am I just inferring that? Maybe he's just caring, which could be different.

    Unless, Pat has absolutely no problem with it - like she doesn't even *want* a monogamous arrangement with him, even if that were a normal thing for this world. Because the goodness (or caring) in him, and his ability to pick up thoughts, I think him picking up any hurt from her, caused by his actions, would have to kill him. Maybe that's why?

    In any case, I'm eager to read the bio about his views on sex, lol!

    Anyway... wow, Maria's power is fascinating, especially because she can't change things. Can no one change things? I guess ten seconds isn't very much time to enact much change.

    I was also caught by that myth about the two brothers!

    This feels precarious, that Brandon got his rank (or even just that people think so) because of Mr. Smith and Jimmy. It's probably supposed to be a safety, but it's almost asking for something to go wrong.

    It seems like Paula is starting to ask more questions and demand more answers, and that's a good thing!

    Such a loaded chapter! Great work here!

  11. Actually, she never even addressed Paula. So she's rude all around!

    Thanks, Poida!

    Thank you Laura. Haha, I will definitely have to tell Pat's story. Their relationship is similar to Michael and Edith's-- it's a little complicated. Though Pat's is a little more straight forward. You're pretty close to being on the right track, and you're also right. How's that for confusing? XD

    As for his goodness, well, there does seem to be something about him that is good. But you bring up a good point. It could just seem that way because he is caring, which could be something different considering his power. lol, is this getting too complicated?

    I'm imagining that ten seconds isn't enough. If she can see the end result, she probably can't see what leads up to that. So she might not be able to see her own role in the future event.

    But it's a fun idea to play around with. It could be possible for someone to change the future, but there would probably be some interesting circumstances around something like that.

    I'm glad you caught the myth too. And the precariousness of people even thinking Brandon got his rank because of family ties.

    Thanks Laura!

  12. I really feel for Paula here, as she says, so little time left with Brandon, and so little she really knows. Again, makes him all the more fascinating, a onion with so many layers.
    Brandon reminds me of the mafia boss that keeps his reputation stoked, so all live in fear of him, but underneath, so much more going on. Great character Lunar!

    Also loved Paula offering to teach Maria to read, will she have time, though?

    And the shopkeeper, guess there is not much else to do around there except gossip. Brandon gets around. I don't doubt it.
    And Paula imagining what Brandon is capable of sends chills up her spine, mine too.
    Also love the plot of the book, a little foreshadowing perhaps?

    Great update, Lunar!

  13. Thank you Drew.

    Haha, it's almost like he's the opposite of a mafia boss. Between covering up his tattoo and leaving out a lot of details about himself, it's easy to underestimate him.

    We'll find out if she'll have time.

    Not much to do but gossip indeed! Also the book-- perhaps. ;)

  14. Catching up time!

    I love it when new powers are revealed and I find Maria's prognostic ability fascinating. That is mainly because the future in this world seems static and not fluent like it is in ours. I mean, when we see the future we can change in things in the present that make the future outcome different. Maria sees things as they will happen and cannot change them, therefore there can be only one future in this world. In a way that makes her ability more awesome (while in our world it would be flawed.)

    I thought the shopkeeper looked quite nice, sweet even, and indeed untreatening. But then there is something disquieting about her. Why does she assume paula is a pet? She (the shopkeeper) is obviously no one's pet, but I started doubting she was entirely human because of that remark. (Is she the only person other than Paula we've seen wearing glasses so far? Glasses must be precious in this world.)

    And why is she suggesting a trade with Paula's owner while she is trying to make a deal with Maria?

    It also struck me that reading doesn't seem all that valued in this world where 'pets' can read and people like Maria - who could be an owner - can't.

    I too am intrigued by the tale of
    'two brothers'. Somehow it reminded me of the bible story of Cain and Abel. Jimmy is defo Cain here, and Brandon would be a natural Abel. He seems goodness personified.
    It sure is a hard world if the 'end of the world' is described in a children's book (even if it is a myth).

    I like Maria and I also like the fact that she readily answers all Paula's questions.

    That line - Oh, well, everyone thinks he got his rank because of Mr. Smith and Jimmy - almost suggests that Brandon would not be respected if it wasn't for the family he belongs to... Yes, it reads almost like people think he would not have the rank he has if it wasn't for Henri and Jimmy.
    If they truly think that, Brandon could easily be in danger at any point.

    Wonderful chapter as always! :)

  15. Ah Moondaisy, I have missed your comments!

    Ooh, I love theories about the future. You'd think it was something we could change, and her ability semi-suggests that it isn't. But she can only see about ten seconds in the future. I don't think that's very far.

    But I like the idea that there can only be one future in this world. Hmm! I'll have to remember that idea!

    Okay, first off, good catch with the glasses. That was a little something I threw in. Paula comes from civilization, so she's got prescription glasses. For a Wildlander, something like glasses would be hard to come by unless there was a glass maker in town that could make lenses. The only other way would be through junk shops who trade these sorts of objects. So the fact that she's wearing glasses sort of shows her status and her goods.

    That being said, I think she uses her looks to her advantage. She's very unassuming looking. But she's in the trade for information, not just junk. So she wants people to be unassuming.

    So she suggests making a trade with Paula's owner not because she thinks it'll work, but because she's trying to sneakily gather information about this new person in town who clearly isn't a normal Wildlander.

    She may or may not be human. Some people actually keep their powers really well hidden.

    I figure that in this world, survival is what's important, so reading would be a slowly diminishing art. Not many can read. Slowly, this world is decaying.

    Oh, Cain and Abel! I never thought about that to be honest. That's another one I'll have to remember. I need to look into one. It's been a while since I've read that story.

    I view their "end of the world" story also as a creation myth for them. Because it's an explanation of how they came to be. So yeah, it would be in children's books, but it's still pretty telling that it's so dark.

    As for Brandon, it's true. Brandon has rank, but he doesn't do anything visible that would tell people why he has it, so they assume it's because of his connections. It is true that it could be dangerous for him except that no one's going to test it out while Henri and Jimmy are around and kicking. It wouldn't be wise to risk pissing either of those two off, so this idea goes unchallenged. This is something that will come up again!