The female center (Chapter 27)
As we round another corner, I finally see the large white building that is the Female Center. It’s hard to miss. While it is several stories, much like the buildings surrounding it, it is the only one with a small French-style garden in front of it. Rows of perfectly trimmed green bushes line the garden, white pebbles make the footpaths surrounding flower beds with vibrantly colored flowers.
We walk through the garden towards the door, the pebbles crunch under my feet and women in brightly colored dresses stand in the garden chatting. A gentle hot breeze makes the flowers sway and the dresses flutter. Now that I am closer I can see the women all wear gold chains of various sizes along with large gold earrings.
I raise my hand to touch the thick gold chain resting around my neck. My attire isn’t that different from theirs, but it’s still weird to see the symbols of wealth in a different culture. Thanks goodness I don’t have to, I don’t know, wear dead rats around my neck or something as a display of status.
Sean uses his long legs to pass my opening the door, surprising me. Maybe he is a gentleman.
Immediately inside is a large hall in the brightest of whites, a large glass structure on top with intricate metalwork holding its weight is bolted to the walls of the room. Reaching towards the ceiling are small domed trees with white bark and pale purple leaves. On the floor, plush-looking patterned rugs upon which turquoise couches with gold trim, small wooden tables and thick cushions lay. Women chat, walk, eat, and generally go about their business. The sounds of their voices echo off of the tall multi-story walls. In the center of it all, a massive gold chandelier hangs from the ceiling.
Right in front of the door is a long white desk which Sean and I approach. Behind it is a young man with slicked back almost yellow hair who smiles a bright white smile.
“Welcome to the Female Center! Do you have your card?”
I open my mouth to respond by Sean beats me, “it’s her first time.”
“Ah a new comer, wonderful! Okay just sign your name and some basic information over here” he points to a clipboard with a pen lying on the corner of the white marble desk, “then I’ll show you around. The card will be ready by the time we are done!”
I begin to fill in the short form as his words wash over me. Name, partner, address…. My mind catching up just in time to register my objection.
“Uh, I’m afraid I’m meeting somebody and I’m already a little late…“I trail off hoping he will get the hint.
“Don’t worry! This won’t take long.” The man grins his toothy smile. They must put something in their water to make people smile like that.
“I’ll be back later” Sean mumbles walking away quickly.
“Sean!” I call. Crap he walked out the door without taking me to my lunch appointment or telling me when to expect him back. Well if Giddean wanted to get rid of me all he would have to do is have me spend more time under the care of his incompetent guards.
I turn back to the clipboard and finish the questions, signing my name as the beaming man behind the counter leans over to read what I wrote.
“Ah, Mrs. Senator, you may call me Ryan.” He places his hand on his chest.
“Hi, uh I don’t want to take you away from your desk and I have a lunch date so if you could just-“
“Nonsense!” he exclaims “My colleague will man the desk. Just follow me.”
Ryan proceeded to show my around the massive building. Leading me down hallways to see the common rooms where women casually discuss the day’s gossip while enjoying beverages and cookies. The preschool facilities where small boys giggle, play with toys, and crawl over each other. The large library with imposing white bookcases which Ryan bragged has the ‘largest romance collection in Haringshude.’
I was lead through hallways which branches off into large classrooms where I could take classes to help me adjust. Ryan shoved a brochure and talked at length about the lectures I could enjoy: ‘a guide to Pinn customs’, ‘intro to Pinn history’, ‘Reilgion and Pinns’. A small health center just for women because, why not if you have the space? Ladies teas, book clubs with cocktails, dinner discussions on ‘womens’ issues, a full life was available to me if I just wanted to reach out and take it.
All within the safe white-washed walls of the female center.
After showing me around the massive structure, Ryan set me in the main hall so he could wander off to find my lunch date. I can only imagine the great first impression I am making with how late I am. I hate being late.
What I can say for certain is that I underestimated the plushness of the couches when I first walked in. These couches are truly decadent in their velvety softness. I lean back and enjoy the cushion softly embracing my back as I look up at the sun shining through the glass ceiling, admiring the delicate looking leaves in the ironwork which holds it all together.
Men and women come and go in the great hall, but I pay little attention to them as I turn my attention to the brochure Ryan gave me. I make mental notes of the courses I wish to take, wishing I had a pen to mark them instead. ‘Intro to Pinn Geography’ seems like one that might help me escape. I briefly imagine myself climbing rough mountains to my freedom- if only it was so easy. It’s a fantasy to believe that I could get home by somehow traversing any part of this alien planet.
“I saw one of them try to get in earlier” a woman exclaims far too loudly.
I look up from the brochure to see two women waiting patiently for loud woman to continue. Their beautiful dresses decorated with gold chains and fine embroidery. One woman taking a sip of something from a cup.
“No….” one of the women says while another shakes her head. By the look of shock on their faces it must have been someone shocking.
“One of the men had to drag her out” the first woman continues, “The nerve of –“
I turn to male voice to see Ryan has returned and is try to get my attention. Caught eavesdropping. Wonderful.
“Follow me, I found your lunch date.”