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Remembrance: Sully

I first met Sully Winton the day her engagement to Colin was announced. Colin and I were nine; I picked on him about getting married until he took a swing at me. We both ended up with black eyes. That night, at the party, Colin tried to take out his anger on her; a ginger haired skinny girl two years older than us.

Sully attacked him. It was amazing: he pulled her pig tail once after she told him to stop and that was it. She just launched right into him, swinging furiously. Colin’s mother and her mother had to pull her off him.

I fell in love with her that moment.

. . .

Sully and her parents lived across the Circle Sea in New Tacoma, so we ran into her only at big Crew functions and festival days when they came back to the Imperial City. Five years later her father was promoted and they moved back full time. Then she showed up for Scout meetings. I tell you true!

It was something her mother had worked out. Scouts could be either sex, but in practice that meant troops for boys and troops for girls. Only, in New Tacoma, there hadn’t been enough girl children of Crew who wanted to scout and she had joined a boy’s troop. Now, back from the barbarous coast, she couldn’t complete her badges in a girl’s troop so her mother had a talk with someone and there she was in Imperial Troop 5.

I was livid. Colin was more phlegmatic.

“Look at it this way: we’ll finally get to sleep to the big tent with the older boys. They won’t let us share the little one with her.”

I wasn’t buying it. “I’ll bet you she’ll sleep in a special princess tent.”

As it turned out, we were both wrong; although Colin probably had it more right. She and her mother slept in the troop leader’s tent (her mother having become a troop leader) and the other troop leaders slept in the little tent. And in that way we were both promoted into the adolescent mayhem of the big tent.

. . .

In the years since their engagement Sully turned from a freckle-faced tomboy into a beautiful young woman and Colin learned to appreciate beautiful young women. However, he didn’t appreciate Sully quite as much as he could have, preferring instead to play the field as much as possible before being forced into marriage. Me? I was always a step behind Colin. Which meant I often couldn’t double date with him, because I was usually dating his previous girlfriend and it would have been awkward to say the least.

At the advice of my uncle my mother did not try to arrange a marriage for me. I had less need to climb the social ladder and stood a chance of making a more advantageous match than either Colin or Sully, so the longer we waited the better for me.

On Colin’s sixteenth birthday his parents surprised him with a package tour for four. He invited Lyssa Feyderov (his latest conquest), Sully (because he was expected to) and me; because, as he said, “I can trust you with Sully and my parents will think Lyssa is with you.”

He said it in front of Sully, who he always insisted on treating like one of the guys. He never even noticed the guilty looks Sully and I exchanged over the word ‘trust’.

. . .

During our first year at University there was a Trial of the Mother; you might remember it? Francois Guerra? Anyway, he was accused of fomenting Mutiny, although everyone knew it was really a case of getting his hands caught in the cookie jar and not giving a share to the right people for the privilege of putting them there. To everyone’s surprise he elected for the Trial instead of a Court Marshal. He wouldn’t have had that option if the Proctors had only accused him of cooking the books, but there you are. 

And so were we. Not legally really. I suppose my uncle could have arranged an invitation for me as a witness, but Colin wanted to see it as well. The thing was, we knew a way through the ancient caves that avoided the main paths and debouched halfway up one wall of the Grotto of the Mother, right over the pool and the viewing stands.

Sully overheard us discussing our plans and insisted on coming with. I was against it, but Colin suddenly agreed to take her and overrode my objections. So it was that the day of the Trial the three of us met early outside the cave entrance and snuck in before the Proctors showed up.

It wasn’t the first time we had been there, of course. Upper class kids go there on school trips and Scout troops in the area of the Imperial City are tasked with maintaining the facilities. As a result, the three of us had discovered the ‘balcony’ (as we called it) years before while exploring instead of sweeping dirt on the path like we were supposed to.

When the grotto started filling up we were already ten meters over their heads, eating a picnic lunch Sully had packed, drinking from Colin’s wine skin, and talking in low tones.

“Why do you think he chose Trial?” Sully asked.

“Who knows,” said Colin, “maybe he actually thinks he is righteous enough to survive. ”

“More likely,” I added, “he hopes the Captain will think he might possibly be righteous enough and will choose to pardon him instead of risking the Trial.”

Sully wrinkled her nose. “Griff, you always think people are as twisty as your uncle. If you keep it up you’ll end up just like him.”

I rounded on her, angry and hurt. “I’m just a realist, unlike you. I suppose Guerra could be just looking for a particularly nasty way of committing suicide.”

“Calm down guys.” Colin said. “Someone might hear us.”

Later Sully was retching in a corner. Colin and I both kept our places, although I did see him look away more than once.

. . .

Aside from Scouting with the boys, Sully mostly followed a conventional, if rather more difficult than truly required, path for a girl: separate schooling until University, joining clubs like Mother’s Helpers and the Imperial Boosters, spending several months a year nursing at hospitals and going with the Monks of Forgiveness to set up temporary soup kitchens and inoculation centers.

Once at University it surprised no one when she studied Life Sciences, although I gather it caused some consternation at home and with Colin’s family. He claimed to hope she actually would choose the path of a monk and free him from the arranged marriage. But really it wasn’t possible; what temple would stack up a bride price so tall? Still, she did well at it. It was clear there would be room for her anywhere as a lay sister or even as a teacher at the University, if she chose to work after marriage. (And everyone also expected she would.)

The problem was, those were years of ferment. Ten years of tight fiscal policy by the Purser’s Office is one sure path to riots by the underclass in the cities and muttering among the upper classes. There were even whispers of planned Mutiny, although no one ever knew who or where or when. (If a location was mentioned, it was always comfortably far away.) University was especially rife with it, as everyone there was expecting to either join a temple or take the tests for Crew on graduation and, thus, had a stake in politics.

The problem was, Sully took it all far too seriously. She was nearly always serious about things and unfeasibly idealistic and I think these qualities led directly to her downfall, which led to what happened with Colin, which in turn led to all that followed.

 


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