All right, I’m going to be brave and post this story for you all. It’s the first story I ever had published (Peridot Books, 2000) and was published in the first venue I sent it to, which both encouraged me and set up extremely unrealistic expectations for my career. My favorite thing about this story is that it stars my roleplaying characters, because I am just that much of a cliche. There are times that I’d like to write that novel about Nera I always intended to. I also have this whacked out scene from a grocery store with Nera, Tannim, and some character named Tasi that I do not remember at all. It involved teh gay, though.
What We Make of It
by K T Bradford
Nera Star Bright, two-time winner of the Claire Danes look-alike contest, mother of one, champion distance diaper tosser and technology mage, stared at her computer screen. She stared for a half a minute at the error sign before clearing it and entering her command again. The error sign reappeared, mocking her.
“Damnit, I designed you, why won’t you work with me?” She said to the screen.
“Talking to inanimate objects again, Nera?” A voice from behind her asked.
She smirked without turning, knowing her brother could guess the expression without having to see it. “He’s not inanimate or else he wouldn’t be trying to piss me off so badly for taking away his RAM.”
Raneon moved up behind her, and leaned down, his head hovering over her shoulder. He peered at the screen as if he had some idea what he was looking at or for. “You talk about it as if it were an unruly child.”
“He is. A spoiled brat of a child who won’t do his work,” she said as she retyped the command once more, only to have the screen give her its equivalent of a stuck out tongue with the same error message. She sighed and leaned back a little, her face and his now next to each other. Ra pressed his cheek to hers as their matching emerald green eyes watched the reflection in the monitor. Ra smiled to her image and she smiled to his.
As she prepared to try the command again, she heard her real child’s footsteps thumping down the stairs and hurry through an adjoining hallway.
“No running in the house, sweetie.”
“Ok mommy,” he said as the footsteps slowed.
“At least one child listens to me,” she said with a smile before trying a different tact with the computer. Again, it stubbornly resisted, pulling a sigh from her.
“Maybe if you give it some cookies and milk…”
“Oh shut the hell up,” she said through a chuckle, playfully pushing him away from her. Turning back to her computer, she was tempted to cajole it with a little magic before she realized she couldn’t hear Tannim anymore. “Tan… what are you doing?”
After a moment of silence, “Nothing.”
Ra chuckled and headed for the hallway, “I’d better go check on his ‘Nothing’.”
“Thanks.” She watched Ra leave and thanked the Goddess that he was here now with her and Tannim. Nera didn’t know where her son’s biological father, Jaysen, was and didn’t care. He’d left her when she needed him most. Being nineteen and pregnant was scary enough, but to raise her child without the man she had planned her life around was terrifying.
She wasn’t completely alone, her mother, grandmother and aunts were willing to help in any way they could. But she knew that they couldn’t be fathers. That’s where Ra came in. He was more than happy to fill the space Jaysen left in their lives.
Turning back to the computer, she brushed her blood red hair from her face and sent the error message away with the press of a key and a sigh. Minimizing everything on the screen, she gave up for the moment to relax. With nothing but the desktop wallpaper and a few scattered icons on the monitor, she gazed at it unperturbed, noting the new picture her wallpaper program had brought up.
Merlin, the sorcerer that watched over King Author’s legendary kingdom, continued to do so on her computer screen. He held a wooden staff in his hand that glowed with, one might assume, magic. “Magic…” She laughed a little at the thought. Magic was no fun anymore. She’d spent years honing her powers after her awakening, only to keep it bottled up after she came to Earth. Living amongst mortals severely limited what she was allowed to do. Now all her great powers were good for were dealing with technology.
“And apparently I’m not even doing that correctly,” she said, scowling at the computer.
Hearing tiny footsteps, she turned to see Tannim walking in with his hands behind his back. “Hi sweetie,” she smiled, glancing up to see Ra standing just outside the door, an amused look on his face.
“Hi momma,” he said, smiling brightly. She smiled wider at his smile, seeing the ghost of his father in him as he did. She saw his father in a lot of his expressions, though physically he resembled her.
She used to resent Jaysen for that, as if he had intentionally left this part of him behind in their son. Her son. She’d wanted every trace of his existence gone with his body, but there he was in Tannim’s smile, his laugh, his hugs. How dare you have left a piece of yourself behind to torture me? But now, she appreciated it, even looked for it sometimes. It was comforting to know that part of Jaysen would always be there in Tan.
“What’s behind your back?”
His smile grew, “A surprise.”
“Can I see?” She asked, hearing a small chuckle come from Ra as he moved away from the door and down the hall.
Tannim walked to her, bringing his surprise out from behind his back. Nera looked at the roundish red object for a while, thinking before she spoke. Like every other parent of toddlers, she was often presented with indecipherable creations and works of art. To a child, they do look like a giraffe or a family portrait. But to adults, they’re just precious reminders that the world didn’t always seem so cut and dry. Instead of crayon masterpieces though, Tannim usually presented her with misshapen objects that he’d created with his limited amount of magic.
After a few moments of study, she ventured a guess. “You made an apple…” she offered, hoping she wouldn’t hurt his feelings if she was wrong. His bright smile reassured her.
“Uh huh, you like it?”
“Oh yes, it’s very nice,” she said, drawing him up into her lap and hugging him, “but the real test is how good it tastes.”
“You taste,” he said, extending it to her.
“Me? All right,” she said as she accepted the “apple”. Misshapen as it was, it didn’t look dangerous to eat. She took a small bite, ready for anything.
“Is it good? I worked on the taste a long time.”
She chewed, really tasting it, and smiled. Surprised, she found that it tasted much better than it looked. “Very good, Tan. Now all you have to do is work on making it rounder and not so flat. Then it will be perfect.” She gave him a victory hug and a smile to match his proud one.
Nera gave him back the apple as he laid his head on her chest and took a bite. She stroked his hair, the color another gift from his father, and enjoyed having her son in her arms. Tannim was thrilled to make an apple that tasted good and here she was frustrated because she couldn’t get a computer to do something Bill Gates never intended.
“Kind of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?” She asked herself under her breath.
“I said I love you, baby,” she replied, kissing the top of his head.
“I love you too, mommy,” he said with a mouthful of apple.
Chuckling, she reached around him, typing the command into the computer again. She frowned as it adamantly refused to cooperate. Feeling her frustration return, she moved to try new pathways. Then she stopped, looking down at Tannim again. When did I stop making magic for myself? she wondered as she watched her son. Then she realized that she never had. Tannim was her greatest creation and he made magic on his own terms. Maybe it was time for her to do so as well.
“Hey Tan, wanna learn how to make candy apples?”