Markig had a huge smile as he walked out of rehearsal, a huge smile that turned into one hell of a pissed off glare when he saw me there. I shrugged at him and mouthed, “What’s wrong?”
He pointedly ignored me for a few while he talked to some of his friends, cheering up again so that by the time he headed over to me his huge smile had returned. “You don’t have to walk with me, Tollur. I’m not a little kid.”
Oh. That’s why he’s pissed, I thought, rolling my eyes at the conclusion he’d jumped to. What the fuck is it gonna take to get through to him that I don’t think of him as a little kid? I wondered for the thousandth time that sulid alone. Since he’d decided not to do the tagreeth, he seemed convinced that I was never going to see him as the young adult he was; nothing I said did a damned bit of good to convince him otherwise. “I ain’t walking with ya cuz you’re a kid. I’m walkin’ with ya cuz I was headed this way anyway — was in town running an errand for Kanji — and thought maybe we could snag lunch together.”
“Oh,” he said a bit sheepishly, looking at his feet. Then his smile got bigger than ever and he said, “I have some great news!”
“I’ll never guess,” I said as we started walking towards a bistro I knew he loved.
“Emmerich has goifa!”
I stopped walking and turned to my son, shocked. From Chess, I could believe this. Hell, even Maggie had one hell of a vindictive streak at times. But Markig? My eldest boy was one of the kindest people I’d ever met. “Your friend has a nasty ass virus, and you’re happy?!” I asked incredulously.
He laughed. “No! That’s not why I’m happy! Lurlur, who was his understudy?”
I had a feeling I should’ve known this. Luckily, Markig’s smile gave me the answer. I racked my brain trying to remember who Emmerich had been playing. I’m pretty sure my smile equalled my son’s when I realized the answer. “You’ll be playing Roderigo?”
He nodded. I hugged him as I said a quick, silent prayer of thanks . . . and one for Emmerich to get better soon, but not too soon. Didn’t want the kid to suffer, but wanted my boy to get his chance too.
“I think that calls for somethin’ a bit better than Xavis for lunch, don’t you?”
He got a mischievous twinkle in his eye that was a bit too much like looking in a mirror and said, “Carazot’s?”
I sighed heavily. I hate Mamiof cuisine; Markig loves it. “If it’s what you really want, sure. I’m sure they’ve got something I’ll eat.”
He hugged me tightly and said, “I’m just kidding. I’d like to go there, but it can wait until Poppa can go with me. Xavis is fine for lunch.”
He nodded. “Besides, Maggie’s making hygliak for dinner, so I don’t want to be too full.”
“Why does no one tell me these things?”
“You were out of the room helping Chess find her shoes.”
“Still, you’d think someone would’ve told me later. Anyway, let’s get to Xavis.” I smirked at him as I added, “I’ll let you have some time alone there so you can tell Najara the good news.”
“I can tell her with you there. I just can’t celebrate it with her with you there.”
I laughed. It was one of the rare times he sounded like he was my kid.
That evening, while Markig was outside with Najara, looking at the stars — allegedly; it hadn’t been so long since I was fourteen that I believed that’s all they were doing — I said to Kanji as I sat down next to her and put an arm around her shoulders. “I’m feeling really fucking old right now.”
She gave me an incredulous look.
“We have a kid old enough to play Roderigo Malsereno, and it ain’t even our eldest.”
She kissed my cheek and said, “If our kids didn’t get older, we wouldn’t get grandkids.”
I looked over at Tirzah, happily playing on the floor nearby and smiled. “You got a point. I kinda like bein’ a grandpa.”
“I know. Besides, Roderigo is a teenager. When we have a kid old enough to play Xavier, then you can feel old.”
“Yeah, I suppose so, but I don’t think we’ll ever have a kid playin’ him.”
Kanji looked at me quizzically.
“I think even on Sweytz it’d be hard to get people to accept a Mugdaran Xavier Flores. Every Ruvellian around would be all ‘I am quite certain there was a Ruvellian man who could have played the part much better.’” I thought I’d done a pretty good imitation of a high class Ruvellian accent, to judge from Kanji’s opinion, she felt differently.
Walter poked his head around the doorway and asked Kanji, “Why is our husband doing bad imitations?”
“It wasn’t bad! I sounded just like Quinn.”
“Ren’s boyfriend?” my husband asked.
I nodded. “Fucktoy, actually, but yeah, him.”
“He sounds nothing like that,” Walt said as he came in the room.
I studied him for a piclano. “You look different.”
He and Kanji both looked at me like I was nuts.
I smirked and said, “There’s something missin’.” I pretended to contemplate it for a moment, then said, “I’ve got it! Your hands ain’t got a book in ‘em!”
He made a rude gesture but smiled. “I’m taking time off over the holiday. I’ll get back to work on my dissertation in Unua.”
“Good,” I said. “You need a break. So, you just gonna stand there, or can those hands that ain’t occupied by a book come give me a neck rub?”
He laughed and joined Kanji and on the couch. “So, why were you doing a bad imitation of Quinn’s accent?”
“It wasn’t bad! You two just don’t pay close enough attention to how people talk!”
Walt kissed my cheek. “Vince, I love you. I love you very much. You’re an incredibly talented man, in several different ways. But please, for the sake of everybody who can hear, leave the acting to Markig.”
“Kanj, back me up here. It wasn’t that bad, right?”
She kissed my other cheek and said, “He’s right. Leave the acting to Markig.” Then to Walter, “He was showing how he thinks Ruvellians would react if Markig were ever cast as Xavier Flores.”
Walt shrugged. “On Ruvellia, yeah. Around here . . . I doubt it. That trip to Earth for their Jül rattled your brain, love. You’re seeing prejudice in places it isn’t.”
“Eh, maybe you’re right. Anyway, hopefully by the time he’s old enough to play Xavier, Markig’ll have moved on to better things than plays at the local faire.”
“I hope so,” Kanjetta whispered softly. She’d always been content to perform at small, local things, but our son’s dreams were bigger than that. I’m pretty sure all three of us were praying for them to come true in the silence that followed what she said.