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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Next in series. Inara's party, through Ling-Ling's eyes.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1000 RATING: SERIES: FIREFLY
Ling-Ling cried when her brother told her that she was not allowed to go to Inara’s party. She loved Inara, wanted to be there amidst the excitement and beautiful gowns. She was a member of the Guild, wasn’t she, even if it was only as a member of the administration. And she had played such an important part, as Edward said, in keeping the spirit of House Madrassa alive following the death of Tasmina Sharre and the departure of her heir-apparent. It showed, he said, that though she had not been able to achieve Companion status she had benefited from the training nevertheless. She knew that sometimes he was teasing her when he said things like that. But she was certain that she could utilize her few years of training if she had to. When the police kept calling, for example, asking about the Companions who had left after Inara had – she had maintained her discretion throughout.
But now Inara was back, and she would restore Madrassa to its former glory. Ling-Ling would, she foresaw, recede into the background again, happy to support Inara and the sisters who were bound to return. It was going to be wonderful – because that’s what Inara was like, wonderful, in every way. And it was so thrilling, wandering when she and David Yo would get married and have a beautiful little baby.
That was why she cried: because she wouldn’t be there, at the re-birth of the House that had been her home for more than ten years now. But Edward wouldn’t understand. No matter how hard she tried to find the right words he always made her feel that she hadn’t. Otherwise why would he hurt her feelings? She was little Ling-Ling, after all, the baby and only girl of the family. And he had always been her favourite brother. And yet still he bossed her around and said unkind things.
“I’ve already chosen my gown,” she said, her tears glistening under her nose. She didn’t mention that Inara had chosen it with her.
“Oh, don’t cry Ling-Ling,” said Edward. “We’ll have a party at home. I’ll invite William and Henry,” he continued, referring to their two older brothers, both Parliament Members on Londinium.
“You know they won’t come,” said Ling-Ling. “And you’re too busy.”
“Just the two of us then. I’ll make time. And Mother. We can sit with her upstairs. And Inara. I’ll invite Inara.”
“She doesn’t like you,” said Ling-Ling, as though bringing to Edward’s attention a fact that he refused to acknowledge.
“I’ll invite her anyway. And Mr Yo.”
Ling-Ling broke into a smile, in spite of herself. “That would be nice! But not Dr Lang. I don’t know why Inara is honoring him the way she is.”
“Well, it’s precisely because of him that I don’t want you to go to the party. I think you were right in your doubts about Lang all along.”
No, she hadn’t liked him, ever. He had been dismissive of her from the start, as though he didn’t appreciate baby, only girls.
“What do you mean?” she asked Edward, agog. “Has he done something?”
“I really can’t say,” Edward replied. “And don’t nag me.”
“I still don’t understand why I can’t go.”
“Darling, just do it for me. Promise me you won’t go. Or I’ll have to forbid you.”
“Good. And I’ll expect to see you at the house on the evening of the party, just to make sure.”
Ling-Ling knew that Edward meant it when he told her not to do something. But how was she supposed to resist Inara?
She appeared in Ling-Ling’s office with a sad look, saying: “Good Son tells me that you have changed your mind about attending the party. How can this be?”
“He’s a bit – spooky, don’t you think Inara?” Ling-Ling asked, angling with her words for a conspiratorial giggle.
But Inara seemed more concerned than amused by her question. “Isn’t he helping you with your duties?” she asked. “I understand that was why the Office of the High Priestess sent him, seeing as there is no incumbent House Mistress. And I certainly expect him to carry out all the arrangements for the party, without involving you.”
Ling-Ling was kneeling on the floor, surrounded by fabric samples, and Inara knelt beside her, folding her legs smoothly under herself in that way that Ling-Ling had never quite been able to master.
“I suppose so,” Ling-Ling replied, holding up her hands at the chaos of fabric. “All the curtains on the top floor have to replaced. I’m trying to find a fabric as close to the old one as possible.”
“That’s very wise,” Inara said, with the kindness that Ling-Ling had always found to be sincere. “You work so hard. You deserve some fun.”
Ling-Ling sighed under the weight and importance of her workload. “Edward says I can’t come,” she said.
“Oh, pff!” said Inara, making Ling-Ling smile. Inara took her hands. “He hasn’t been away, had the benefit of distance. But I have. It’s obvious how much more responsibility you have now than you did before. How you’ve kept things going even when so many have left.”
“Yes,” Ling-Ling agreed.
“Would you be able to get in touch with them, if I wanted to invite them?”
“Well, there isn’t much time, but yes, most of them. It’s only one or two that we’ve lost touch with.”
“We don’t know where they are.”
“What do you mean?”
“The police say they’ve disappeared. But you came back. Edward thinks they were just following your example.”
“Oh. Yes.” And Inara looked sad again. “I hope they’re all right. Who – who are the police concerned about?”
“Kinza. And Tammni.”
Inara’s face seemed to fall. “Is there anything I can do to help?”
“Oh Inara,” said Ling-Ling, “you mustn’t worry. The Office of the High Priestess is dealing with it. Once the party is over, you could contact them.” She dared to smooth her fingers over Inara’s shawl affectionately. “But don’t let it spoil things for you.”
“You’re right,” said Inara, drawing herself up with a smile. “There are more important things to think about. Like your gown! What are you thinking of wearing?”
And that was the beginning of being persuaded to disobey Edward: Inara coaxing Ling-Ling to her quarters, washing and styling her hair, making her up, allowing her to try on her robes, and then, the following day, taking her through all the exquisite gowns that Sihnon’s fashion houses had fallen over themselves to send. Choosing one, yellow, off-the-shoulder, flaring out from the hips with an arrangement of folds below the waist, that really – and she had cried again – made her look beautiful. Like the Companion she might have been, if Mummy and Daddy hadn’t forced her to give up her training. Looking at herself in Inara’s mirror she had promised herself that even though her family had taken away her career, they would not deprive her of this one evening of harmless fun.
The decoration of House Madrassa, when that evening came, satisfied Ling-Ling’s expectations. Lanterns were strung through all the great lime trees around the edge of the compound and illuminating the driveway from the entrance to the House down to the great gate. They lit up every window in the building’s imposing façade, which Ling-Ling stood under in her yellow dress, her head dropped back and her arms slightly lifted away from her sides.
The guests were to be received in a way that had gone out of fashion some time ago: Inara would greet each one personally in the ante-room of the House’s ballroom and introduce them in turn to the party’s guest of honor, Dr Lang. And Ling-Ling didn’t want to be left out of that. Just because she lived in the House didn’t mean she couldn’t arrive at the party through the front door. And, of course, she knew the guest of honor. She’d met him several times. And wouldn’t it surprise Inara – no, in fact, wouldn’t it be funny, to act as though she was meeting him for the first time?
And so, when she found herself at the front of the line of people waiting to shake Inara and Dr Lang’s hand, she stepped forward with a serious expression even though she felt that she would burst into a fit of giggles. She was gratified by how warmly Inara greeted her, saying how glad she was that she was there, which made her smile of course. But when she came to shake hands with Dr Lang she had regained her formal air.
“Good evening,” he said – absolutely as though he actually didn’t know her. Which was not what she was expecting, and which ruined the joke.
She scowled slightly. “Good evening to you, Dr Lang,” she said crossly. His blank expression didn’t change, which only annoyed her more. He was such a rude man. She was feeling the words of rebuke that she would have liked to direct at him, if only she could have formulated them, when she heard her name spoken behind her.
And turning round, she saw her brother’s driver and gofer, Bao-Zhi. He had called her Ling-Ling. Not Mrs Tang.
“Forgive my interruption,” he said, addressing Inara. “But I have been sent to fetch Ling-Ling home. She is needed urgently.”
“Of course,” said Inara, and, turning to Ling-Ling: “I was hoping you could join Dr Lang and myself in the first quadrille. Can’t you stay?”
Ling-Ling looked at Bao-Zhi, who returned her gaze stolidly, insolently. People were looking. Her eyes burned with angry tears. She would never forgive Edward, not this time. Without another word she turned and followed Bao-Zhi out of the ante-room.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010 10:19 AM
Wednesday, April 28, 2010 10:28 AM
Wednesday, April 28, 2010 11:27 AM
Wednesday, April 28, 2010 12:14 PM
Thursday, April 29, 2010 9:28 AM
Thursday, April 29, 2010 11:30 AM
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