The adjusted (Chapter 29)
A woman sits across from me at the table. She is young, maybe late 20s, fair-haired, with a frailty about her that comes not only from her thin features but also from her mannerisms. On her lap sits a young boy, no more than two, with brown hair that is just a little too long so that it keeps dangling into his eyes. His mother uses her fingers to push it out of his face continuously, almost like one would pet a cat rather than a boy.
Of this experience I am most impressed with the boy, how one so young can manage to stay still for long I can’t imagine. Maybe they really tired him out at the onsite preschool or maybe his mother pets him so often he has surrendered to it.
I know Giddean was hoping this lunch would somehow help me adjust, but I am hoping she can help me escape. I just need to find the right time to bring it up. I felt obligated to get to know her a tiny bit first- ask all the required questions: where are you from? how long have you been here? Of course, Elena also felt compelled to ask me the required questions: How am I finding Pinn? Have I seen such-and-such thing yet?
Now I finally feel that I can bring up my mission. If only I could find a time when the waiters where far enough away. It seems as though the second I felt ready, the service in this section of the café became impeccable.
The café in the Female Center is unsurprising white, much like the rest of the structure. White tiled walls with a blue and gold tile border mid-way up the wall. Delicate white iron round tables with white leather-covered chairs. Small dainty gold chandeliers hang from the ceiling and one wall of the café consists of windows looking over the small garden that makeups the pre-school playground.
On our table sits a gold tea set, along with two large dishes: one containing finger-length neat sandwiches of different varieties, and another with petite cookies dusted with pink powdered sugar. Small elegant glass cups with a gold rim filled with water sit next to our tea cups.
And these cups are currently the bane of my existence. Waiter after waiter passes by refilling our cups, filling the cups of the tables next to us, checking that our cups are filled, checking that cups of the tables next to us are filled. Are women at risk of dying from a lack of hydration and I don’t know about it?
Finally the last waiter moves out of hearing distance in order to refill his water jug, I need to make my request quickly before they come back.
I clear my throat, “Uh, Elena, I know you’ve been here a while… I was wondering if you know anyone who has managed to escape, to get home.”
Elena looks up from petting her little boy. Her pale eyes examining me. She knew what I was asking: not ‘has anyone made it home?’, but ‘is it possible for me to make it home?’
She shakes her head and reaches for her tea cup, bringing it to her lips as she asks, “Do you have a partner on earth?”
“No- but I have family, friends, a life”
She takes a sip of her mint tea before returning her cup to the table, “I had a husband- an abusive husband”
She looks down at her son, “my life here is so much better” she says quietly.
“I understand and that is your choice, but I want to go home.” I try to keep it out of my voice, but I am irritated. The fact that life is better for her here is not the point, “We were kidnapped, taken against out wills. They could have asked for volunteers. Somebody would have taken it up”
She looks up at me again, “Who though? Not many. Just a few weirdos. I certainly wouldn’t have volunteered. And then what would happen to the Pinns? Without enough women their society would crumble.”
I say nothing. I mean, it’s not untrue that the Pinns might disappear if they stopped kidnapping women. Even if they could get a few women to volunteer to come and live out their lives on this foreign planet, it’s not clear it would be enough to keep their society going. But does that justify the injustice done to the women? The disruption, the distress, the damage?
“My son is innocent. I want him to someday have someone to hold and love. I want him to have children of his own.” Elena says looking down at her boy on her lap who is playing with the gold chain around her neck “if kidnapping women is the only way to do it, so be it”
I just gulp. Crap I feel guilty and I can’t say why. I mean, her son is innocent, but then again, will he be so innocent when he profits off the kidnapping of women? When by taking a partner he is effectively encouraging a system that causes so much trauma? When he would be putting his own pleasure and comfort above that of another?
I decide not to say that to Elena. I am not some wizard that can convince a mother to support something against the best interest of her child. I am also not willing to alienate the only woman I have met other than my mother-in-law.
“You are right, of course. I just need to get use to the idea” I mumble.She nods at me, “It takes some time, but you will soon find that you can’t imagine returning to earth”