Season content notes: ableism, internalized ableism
The sun on eir face woke Kolchais. Ey blinked a few times, eyes trying to adjust to the brightness. The warmth was soaking through em, leaving eir limbs feeling loose and relaxed for once.
Not wanting to lose the feeling, Kolchais didn’t move. Instead, ey reviewed eir memories of the night before, trying to piece together a coherent whole.
The Silent Spinner’s approach was unexpected. Kolchais knew little of the family save the gossip. That they were afflicted (or blessed) with some strangeness of spirit. That they were honest to a fault. That they spoke strangely and acted strangely. That they were frequently confused by (and confusing to) other people.
To the best of eir knowledge, Kolchais had never met one of the Silent Spinners nor known anyone who had. The times Kolchais had seen the near-adult in a market, the Spinner had been sitting quietly in a corner. Ey had stared, seemingly at everything and nothing, and spun, and the regulars of the markets seemed to ignore em. The Spinner didn’t seem to frequent a specific market but could be found in any market throughout the city.
Kolchais’ didn’t remember the near-adult speaking much the night before. Eir parent had done most of the talking. But ey had spoken, so could speak normally and not just with their hand-speech.
All that was not nearly enough information. And half of it was based on rumor and gossip, so untrustworthy.
Lefeng and Paiokp wouldn’t even know that much…
Footsteps approaching pulled Kolchais from eir thoughts. A moment later, Paiokp crouched down next to em and offered a cup of water.
Slowly, Kolchais stretched eir body, the movement triggering pain that washed away the warm comfort of lying in the sun. Doing eir best to ignore the pain, ey propped emself up on an elbow and took the water. “Thank you.”
“Chotaikytsai said it was best to let you sleep. How are you doing?”
Kolchais actually looked at the sun and winced as ey realized how high it was. “You didn’t need to do that.” Ey forced emself to sit up and climb to eir feet. Ey swayed a moment and stumbled before finding eir balance. “We have too much to do for me to waste time sleeping.”
Paiokp put a hand on Kolchais’ shoulder. Ey felt a tingle deep in eir gut and swallowed. Lefeng was impressive in eir own way, and Kolchais was quickly coming to respect and trust em as family. But Paiokp… Kolchais doubted either Lefeng or Paiokp would lay with em except to get children. And it would be far more than ey ever expected to get. Surely, when ey had been given so much, it would be selfish to want more?
Ey realized Paiokp had been speaking and blushed.
“I’m sorry, I was thinking and didn’t really hear…”
Paiokp smiled. “It’s okay, I was saying not to worry about it. Lefeng and I can do the heavy lifting, you don’t need to push yourself.”
Kolchais shrugged away the pulse of shame at eir uselessness and brushed out eir clothes. “We should see about going to the baths today or tomorrow.”
Paiokp let Kolchais change the subject, saying, “A bath would be welcome. I’m used to spending much more time in water. Let me bring you some food, and we can make plans.” Kolchais might have argued, but if the once-fisher was willing to make plans, Kolchais wasn’t going to interfere. Like the grandparents, Kolchais had noticed how the fisher-folk kept eir distance unless helping care for someone.
So they ate and talked about which bathhouse the family would visit and what time would be best. When the food was done, the distant-one went back to digging a trench for the new home’s foundation beams.
After moving around a bit, Kolchais had to admit that ey needed to let distant-one and Lefeng do the ‘heavy lifting’, at least for today. Chotaikytsai was with Tsouchm and Chestef clearing the weeds and wreck from one of the garden patches Chotaikytsai had allowed to go to seed. When Kolchais finished eating, ey joined them. If they were talking about a marriage to the Silent Spinners, Kolchais needed to know more about the other family.
Chotaikytsai surprised Kolchais by being happy to talk about eir Spinner parent. Starting by assuring Kolchais that eir cenn was not eir Silent Spinner parent so there was no risk in a close relationship with the near-adult. Then ey shook eir head and laughed. “What am I thinking? It’s not like I am cenn to any of you, of course, there is no risk!”
Tsouchm chuckled and teased Chotaikytsai about already having a grandparent’s memory. But Kolchais impulsively gave eir heart-parent a hug. No matter what Kolchais’ doubts, Chotaikytsai fully accepted and supported em, and eir slip of the tongue was just one more proof.
Then they talked about the Silent Spinners for a time. Chotaikytsai warned Kolchais that ey knew few of the spinning folk and from what ey saw, eir parent was not representative. But Kolchais learned some of how their hand-speech worked and a few things they might expect from the near-adult
Shortly after sun-high, the knocker at the gate rang. Kolchais waved for Chotaikytsai and Tsouchm to stay and moved as quickly as ey could over to answer it. To eir surprise, ey reached the gate before cautious-Lefeng. A glance showed that Lefeng was watching, but the once-walker only nodded for Kolchais to go ahead. Confused, Kolchaise opened the gate
The Silent Spinner near-adult was there. Pleased, Kolchais greeted em and invited em in. The Spinner seemed friendly enough, but Kolchaise noticed how ey avoided looking at Kolchais. Clearly, ey had already heard Kolchais’ reputation.
Kolchais bit eir lip and showed the near adult around. Ey said little, but willingly pitched in to help with placing the foundation beams for the new house. Hoping to make a better impression, Kolchais threw emself into the work, ignoring Paiokp and Lefeng’s hints that ey didn’t need to.
Ey was so focused on the work that ey doesn’t notice the odd way the spinner is acting. Ey frequently to stopped to wipe eir hands of dust and dirt. If that didn’t work, ey would stop for minutes at a time picking the little bits off eir hands.
Lefeng and Paiokp were clearly confused and kept glancings at Kolchais as if asking what was going on. Kolchais wasn’t sure and honestly doesn’t care. For once ey wasn’t the only one who had trouble with a simple task that everyone was capable of. Whatever the problem was, the Spinner was still willing and able to do the work, and Kolchais wasn’t going to hassle em about how. Just one of those things about the odd Spinner family.
Halfway through the afternoon, Paiokp abruptly stopped what ey was doing, dropping the sharp stick ey had been using to dig (they only had one shovel), and walked away. Kolchais ignored it, assuming ey was going for water or to relieve emself, though Paiokp usually timed such breaks for the end of a task.
A few minutes later, though, ey returned with wet several rags and gave them to the spinner, who took them with a brief “Thank you.”
Kolchais looked at Paiokp and mouthed, “What?”
Paoikp shrugged and whispered back, “Ey doesn’t like stuff on eir hands.”
Kolchais shook eir head. Of course. With the rags, the spinner was able to clean eir hands more easily.
As it got close to sundown, Kolchais was forced to move even slower than usual, stopping to rest even more often. Ey wanted to take the time to get to know the spinner, but just breathing was almost too much. Finally, when it was time to position the foundation beams, Paiokp insisted that Kolchais and the spinner allow em and Lefeng to do the lifting. And Kolchais couldn’t argue. Once again, failing to do eir part.
The spinner abruptly took their leave, barely taking time to say goodbye. Kolchais worried for a moment that Paiokp had offended them, but didn’t have the current left to worry about it. Ey barely managed to eat dinner and went to sleep early.
The next morning, Kolchais remained wrapped in eir blankets until almost sun-high. When ey finally got up, it was only to move to huddle near the coal. How long, ey wondered, until they have a proper hearth again?