It doesn't feel like much, finishing a single chapter, but I've been both preoccupied and feeling lousy, so I guess I can be forgiven, yes? Plus it was a decently sized chapter. I'm not writing at light speed like I usually do and that makes me sad. But it's still fast by most people's standards, so I'll take it.
Words: Chapter 16 came to 5,562 words.
Basic details: Delia decides to hire a tutor. Her reasons for doing so are rambled about in a conversation with her mother in the beginning, and they have one of their catty little mother/daughter spats about What Is Delia Doing With Her Life. (You know, the stereotypical "why aren't you married and pregnant yet?" talk.) Then we actually meet said tutor, and she's pretty awesome. Delia is now about twenty years old.
The good: I get to show that Delia's mom is still involved in her life (if continuing to be gently critical of her weird daughter), and I get to show that she has her own ideas about what maturity should mean. She's starting to sound like she has some kind of plan, or at least realizes what's missing in her life, and she doesn't sound as much like a sheltered brat when she talks about what she wants. I was also pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to write about Imelda, her new tutor; when I wrote the original version, Imelda had very little screen time, and therefore she didn't have much of a personality in my mind until I let her do her thing in this version of the story. I'm liking her interaction with Delia, and there were some unexpected discussions of fairy religion vs. human religion that came out of nowhere, with illuminating results.
The bad: I'm worried it's really going to start reading like filler about now, because now I have close to 70,000 words of Delia kinda getting ready to do stuff. Granted, she originally thought she was going to spend her life doing something else and got her entire butt handed to her, so the next part of her journey features scratching out a new goal or four, but it bothers me that the book's trajectory has been like a mild roller coaster without a steady build. This is also the second time Delia has been featured giving a tour of her castle, though the previous time was as a young teen showing off her unfinished abode to family and friends and this time was a more dignified presentation of a completed project to a near stranger. (In the original, Imelda's appearance was the only time Delia's castle got described.)
A conversation Delia has with her mother after admitting that she doesn't care about partying with the other fairies for solar rituals:
“You need to be part of the world, Delia. While you still live in it.”
I brushed my hair out of my eye to make the most of my glare. “That’s exactly what I’m trying to do with my tutor, but you acted like it was silly.”
My mother reclaimed her tea and nursed it in silence.
“She’s going to teach me,” I went on, “and I’ll learn more about what else there is to care about in the world.”
“Or she will just give you an excuse to fill your head with knowledge and never do anything with any of it.” She put the cup down again. “That is who you are, Delia. You collect, you cherish, you keep, you reflect. But you only go in circles, and never forward.”
“It looks like circles to you because you don’t have the perspective to see it’s a spiral.”
When Imelda says a proper human education would necessarily include religious studies, Delia objects because it's basically the king's religion that screwed her life up. But then Imelda makes it clear how important it is to understanding most of the humans of the realm, especially if they are your enemies, and that gets Delia's attention. They settle the conversation this way:
“I suppose you’re right about the religious education,” I conceded. “No knowledge is bad, especially if it’s integral to understanding what drives humans’ choices and morals. That said, can I at least have your promise that you will not be trying to claim my soul for the king’s god through these lessons?”
Imelda laughed. “There is no chance of that. I am well versed in the scriptures, but I am not a believer myself. They are fascinating, though, Miss Delia, and you will see how much of our ways have always been built on these stories.”
“I see,” I said, wonderstruck at the idea of a human who didn’t follow their central creed. “Do you have a belief system, then?”
“My beliefs are little more than live and learn, and be kind to one another,” she said. “The rest is just details.”
“I think I like you,” I said, my lips creaking into a smile that was so underused I could practically feel the rust flaking off.
“And I you, Miss.”
When they've finished settling their terms for Imelda to tutor Delia, she gets a little overenthusiastic offering little gifts and services to her so she'll be more comfortable performing the job. They have this exchange:
“I think we are of the same heart in many matters, Miss,” she said, “but if I may say so—not to seem ungrateful, of course—you do not need to feel so desperate to please me.” She patted my hand like my mother sometimes did. “It seems you are truly starved for company. You are lonely.”
I pulled back and put my hands in my lap.
“Am I right?”
“I don’t know. Sometimes I think I’m not. But yes, I’m sure I—sometimes I get tired of my own thoughts for my only company.”
“As much as I respect your pure craving for knowledge and your need to put yourself to good use, I think you may learn the most from me if we form a friendship, Delia.”
“I’ve had friends,” I replied, but I retained no defensiveness in my tone.
“Where are they now?”
When Imelda asks about certain peculiarities regarding Delia's motivation to get a human education even though she's a fairy, she discloses some pretty private stuff about her difficult youth, and here is her reflection on her tutor's reaction:
She listened to my woes with the careful contemplation one would normally give to stories about scars on souls, which made me feel ever more like she understood this was no mere childhood bullying story. She could feel how it had shaped me and taught me I wasn’t fit for this world. And she could see how much it meant to me that the echoes were worth answering now that I’d decided to test the waters once again in a world that had already tried to drown me.