Advice (Chapter 41)
There is nothing worse than a room silent except for the noise of utensils scraping on dishes.
I hate that sound, like I hate nails on a chalkboard or the hum of a broken AC when I am trying to sleep. Like I hate someone whistling when I am taking a nap, or the sound of a dog barking next door when I am trying to work.
That sound represents another silent dinner. Another evening spent sitting at the table with Giddean while he works through dinner. A small pile of papers sit next to his plate. He holds a very long piece of paper in his hand in front of him as he takes a bit of his food without looking at it. If I were to do such a thing, no doubt I would spill my food down the front of my shirt, but somehow he looks even more handsome. His brow is furrowed and lips pursed as if he is thinking hard. His five o’clock shadow makes him look even more manly than usual. His broad shoulders barely contained in his elegant suit. His thick pink lips touch the glass as he takes a sip of his liquor. He is the embodiment of male physical perfection.
I am staring and he hasn’t even noticed.
He is a hard worker, I will give him that. But it seems as though I was wrong when I thought that the Captain was a threat, it’s clear that his work is his true mistress. Not that I am jealous, I shouldn’t be. I can’t be. Maybe only a little….
I push the purple foam off of the tartlet on my plate. I miss the simplicity of a pizza or mashed potatoes with gravy. Everything here is too fancy for my plebeian tastes.
I feel heavy, weighted down my conversation with Elena. I am worried for her. She seems somehow delicate and frail, as though it wouldn’t take much more to push her over the edge.
I wonder if that will be me at some point- worried that the child in my belly won’t survive. I suppose I will be alone in that too. Who would comfort me when I am worried? Who would hold me if I cried at the loss of a child? Giddean is obsessed with work. I haven’t seen the Captain in a while now. James is a child. Sean barely speaks to me.
There is no one. I would be alone in my misery.
“Is it not to your liking?”
I almost jump when I hear Giddean’s voice. He never says anything other than a mumbled good evening when we sit down. He is still holding his paper in his left hand, but his striking face is turned to me in question.
I glance down at my plate. The mush on my plate has little resemblance to the dainty tart that sat on it mere minutes before I decided to push my fork through it like a child resisting his vegetables.
“Uh… just not hungry”
He quirks his brow, yet says nothing. I expect him to return to his paper and ignore me like he does every evening since starting this tedious dinning tradition, but he surprises me again by setting his paper down and turning in his chair so his whole body is facing me.
“How was your lunch with my mother?”
I look up at his intense dark eyes. I suppose James told him I had a lunch date with her.
“It was fine” I don’t give away anything. I don’t want to talk about my worries with him; we aren’t close enough for that sort of conversation.
He hums before saying “I know she can be… pushy”
I giggle softly, pushy is exactly the right way to describe her, “I guess a little”
He displays his straight white teeth in a wide smile, before it quickly turns into a small frown, “Did she say anything that upset you?”
“Oh” it comes out unnaturally high pitched “No, no. I can handle her”
“Hmm…” he hums again as he squints searching my face as if it will tell him what his mother said. I bite my lip; I’m not sure how to convince him his mother did nothing out of the ordinary.
Before I can think of anything to say, his eyes turn back to his paper lying next to his plate. He picks it up and it’s clear that our brief conversation is over. And I feel sad. I feel disgust for the desperation I feel for the tiniest bit of attention he is willing to pay me. It’s pathetic. I go back to picking at my food. Screw him and screw this. Maybe I will skip dinner tomorrow. I will go visit Elena or fake a headache.
“How do they handle people doing outlandish things on their property on earth?”
I look up again to see his eyes on me. He is still holding the paper, but he is facing me.
“Um… it depends”
He waits for me to explain and I try to rack my brain for what I know about city planning.
“There are zoning laws. You can only build certain types of buildings depending on what the property is zoned by the local government. Some properties are only for commercial, some are for residential. Um…”
He nods to encourage me to continue.
“If you want to get it rezoned you have to apply to local government. Sometimes there are public hearings when it is rezoned, but I don’t know when exactly… Oh and before you can build anything you have to have approval from a city agency.”
I look over at him again and he is taking notes on the side of his paper. The soft scratching of pencil on paper fills the room.
“Continue” he says in his deep voice after several seconds of scribbling.
“Um… and some neighborhoods limit it further, you can only have certain style or certain color buildings or even certain types of landscaping. You can get fined if you go outside of the rules without permission”
I wait for several minutes until he is done taking notes to ask, “how is it done here?”
“Your neighbor can sue if it he is unhappy with what you have done with your property?”
“Like, on the grounds of property value or..?”
He nods, pushes his plate away from himself, and the holds out a long paper for me to see. I take it from him and hold it out in front of me. On it is a sketch of city streets with names and various outlines of buildings with numbers on top. The outlines are done roughly in gray pencil, but one building in the middle is outlined in a bright red.
“Where is this?”
“It’s somewhere in the East Bay District. This one here” he points, “The owner decided to turn his home into a chicken farm. The sound and smell are driving his neighbors crazy. They sued. But the man defended himself saying it was his livelihood and he is able to sell eggs more cheaply because he doesn’t have transportation costs. He’s part of a movement to bring agriculture into the city.”
“What did the courts rule?”
“That no one can deprive another of his livelihood”
I snort a very inelegant snort, “So if I wanted to make my living by robbing people, nobody could stop me?”
Giddean frowns, “It’s not the most well written ruling…”
“No kidding” I then pause briefly, “so what are you planning on doing about it?”
He stands abruptly grabbing his chair setting it next to mine. He takes my plate and sets it carefully on the other side of the table before reaching over to grab his papers. He spreads them before me before he sits down next to me, his broad shoulder rubbing mine.
“Well…” he begins before excitedly getting into the details of four different proposed solutions. And this is how we spend the evening, debating the repercussions of different policy solutions until late.