"Made for Togetherness"
[Monday, November 3, 2014]
Genna felt like a bundle of nerves,
but she did her best to project
at least outward calm for
the benefit of her family.
Saul held onto Shaun
with one hand and Matthew
with the other, because both boys
were "wowing" at everything in sight --
one silently, one out loud -- and
yanking his arms as they bounced.
Nimkii had a hand twisted
into the back of Saul's shirt.
Victor was wound tighter
than a watch, every muscle
poised to spring into action.
The President's Office was
a beautiful white building in Malé.
Inside, hardwood trim accented
the red and green palette
of the Maldivian flag.
"It's like Christmas
all the time in here!"
Shaun said, staring.
"Shh," said Saul. "Please
remember that our hosts
are Muslims, and might not
appreciate the comparison
with a typical Christian holiday."
The door attendant just chuckled.
"We hear that from every American
who comes in here," he said.
"Right this way, please."
They went past all of
the big meeting halls and
the sumptuous sitting room
to the President's private office,
which looked pretty much like
any other executive office.
"Does everyone remember
the rules?" Genna asked.
"Nimkii, can you remind us?"
"Stay in our seats. Listen closely.
If we have questions, raise a hand,"
Nimkii said. "If anyone gets too antsy,
ask to visit the quiet room instead."
"Well done," Genna said. "I'm
sure they have a nice one here."
"It's fairly new, but we like it,"
the President said as he came in.
"We cleared out a room near
the prayer room for that."
He was smiling so warmly
at the children that Genna felt
a little of her tension melt away.
When she made the introductions,
he even went down on one knee
to greet the younger children, which
pretty much pegged him as a parent,
and a very good one at that.
"Welcome to the Maldives,"
said President Latheef. "I hope
you're enjoying your stay, despite
the circumstances of your arrival."
Genna wondered how much he
actually knew about their situation,
but decided not to ask him.
"You have a beautiful country,"
she said honestly. "We're considering
citizenship, but there are ... concerns."
Victor wound a quarter-turn tighter,
and Genna hoped he'd be okay.
"Many people have concerns,"
said President Latheef. "Let's
sit down and discuss them. Possibly
others have expressed the same ones
and we've already solved them."
Victor shook his head
but said nothing.
"Yes, even odd ones,"
the President said, just
as if he'd spoken aloud.
"When I see the people who
come to us for sanctuary, I
marvel at Allah's creativity."
"I guess we'd have to work
pretty hard to have stranger needs
than two whales," Saul admitted.
They were just sitting down when
they heard squeals and a swarm
of little girls mobbed the room,
all chattering in Dhivehi.
When they finally settled,
Genna was surprised to see
that there were only three of them --
two in matching blue-and-white dresses
and the other in green-and-yellow.
They were followed by a lovely woman
in the same blue-and-white dress.
"Hafsa," the President said fondly.
"To what do I owe this pleasure?"
"Fateena decided that she doesn't
want to go to the luncheon with me and
her sisters," said Hafsa. "I'm sorry,
I didn't realize that you had guests --
they're not in the family calendar."
"I'm afraid we didn't have much time
to plan ahead," said the President.
"It's all right," Genna said. "We have
three adults and a teenager here, plus
three younger children. It's no hardship
for us to add one more while you're out.
I'll think up something for them to do,
and it'll help keep ours occupied during
the dull discussion. How old is Fateena?"
"She's six, Masirah is seven, and Amani
is eight," said Hafsa. "And your children?"
"Matthew and Saul are four. Nimkii is eight.
Victor is no longer a child, so I'll let him
answer for himself," Genna said.
"Since I'm not going to be
pushing pennies up my nose,
I think my age is irrelevant to
this conversation," Victor drawled.
Genna groaned. A lesson in
Maldivian currency and a moment
of inattention had led to a need
for first aid, but fortunately Saul
had a steady hand with pliers.
Meanwhile Fateena had
wandered over to a table and
started playing with a toy boat.
Matthew and Shaun were leaning
so far forward that Saul put an arm out
to keep them from falling off the chairs.
Nimkii pretended indifference, but
never took her eyes off that boat.
Genna couldn't blame her.
It was a gorgeous model dhoni,
made of gleaming wood with
a proud high prow and a sail that
looked like it actually unrolled.
"That's a lovely boat," she said.
"Is it for sharing, or only for watching?"
"We can share," Fateena said, and
the other children scrambled out of
their seats to come admire it.
Genna was more taken with
the table it was on now.
Layers of white and blue glass
had been cut in shapes to make
an atoll with several islands
in it, which gave her ideas.
"Do you like traveling
in boats?" she asked.
"Oh yes," said Fateena.
"I want to pilot a cruise ship
when I grow up! Or maybe
a water taxi. Or a research boat.
I haven't really decided yet."
"Well, you've decided on
the most important part,"
Genna said. "You like boats
and the ocean. Would you
like to try the kind of puzzle
that I make for my kids?"
"Yes, please," said Fateena.
And her father was sitting
on the edge of his seat.
Wasn't that interesting?
"I'll need some markers
or crayons that will write on
and wipe off the surface,"
Genna said, eyeing it.
Fateena produced a box
of markers in various colors.
"Okay, let's imagine that some islands
are inhabited," Genna said. She started
at the top, drawing a crab. "This one
has the best shellfish. This one grows
the best fruit. These little ones have goats
but no people." More drawings followed.
"This island has extra fresh water. This one
has many trees for making the boats."
"What about the one in the middle?"
Fateena asked at the same time
Shaun said, "What's all the blue?"
"The blue is water, like on a globe,"
Genna said. "The deepest part has
great fishing." She drew a fish.
"This middle island is too small
to grow anything, but they have
the best navigators instead."
"It's like my school project
with the countries," Victor said.
"You've done things like this before."
"We like board games," Genna said.
"Many of those use resource maps.
Now we need a ship that's bigger
or smaller than the dhoni."
"Here," said President Latheef
as he handed her a box of boats,
neatly divided to hold them.
"A cargo boat, perfect!"
Genna said, putting it on
the table. "Okay, the dhoni
is small and fast. It has a motor
but also a sail, so it doesn't take
much fuel to run. The cargo boat
is big and slow. It carries much more,
but burns a lot of fuel due to the weight."
"How do we keep track?" Nimkii said.
"Good question," Genna said. "We need
some counters, paper, and pencils."
These were swiftly produced.
Genna sorted the melted marbles,
then took a ruler out of the same box.
She put a handful of the red marbles by
the cargo boat and twice that by the dhoni.
"Spending one fuel token lets you move
your boat this far," she said, showing
them how to measure the ruler's length
on the table. Then she made a square
piece of paper and a rectangle, marking
spaces on each. "The dhoni can carry
five cargo tokens on each trip, while
the cargo boat can carry twenty-five."
"That's not fair!" Shaun protested.
"Is it fair that a little electric car can
carry less than a van?" Genna said.
"Think about that while I go on."
"Shellfish, fruit, meat, and fish all spoil,"
said Genna, pointing out their locations.
She laid out toy tokens for each type.
"Water, wood, and navigators don't spoil.
The dhoni takes one time unit to travel
between the closest islands, two units for
the farther ones, and three for the farthest.
The cargo boat takes twice as long. Goods
that spoil won't last more than six time units."
She wrote those times on the table.
Then she put more numbers on
the islands. "The bigger these are,
the more people live on that island
and the more goods they need
to survive. So you have to carry
everything to all of the islands."
"How is this a puzzle?" Fateena said,
frowning over the table and boats.
"I know!" Nimkii said. "We have
to figure out which boat is better."
"The dhoni is better," Shaun said.
"Is it?" Genna said with a smile.
"I'll leave you to figure that out.
Which boat can supply all of
the islands most efficiently?
Do you need both of them?
Is one island stuck without
a certain type of item?"
Pimmit squeaked forlornly.
"Matthew and I can't keep
score that good," Shaun said.
"I'll help," Nimkii said, grabbing
papers and a pencil. "Fateena,
do you want to keep your own?"
"Yes, please," said Fateena,
taking another page and pencil.
The children clustered eagerly
around the table, already arguing
about which boat was 'better.'
"There, that ought to keep them
busy for a while," Genna said.
President Latheef was staring
at her awe. "I think I'm jealous
of ... a mutual friend," he said.
"Why?" Genna said, frowning.
"Because he saw you first,
and hired you for his school,"
President Latheef said.
Saul chuckled. "Well,
he's got you there."
Victor laughed too.
That was a stretch, but
at least he was relaxing
enough to joke now.
"That raises the question,
what can we offer your family
to convince you to immigrate?"
asked President Latheef.
Nimkii tensed, her chatter
cutting off with a squeak.
Saul got up to reassure her.
"We're not immigrating,"
Genna said, shaking her head.
"We have obligations in America
that we can't abandon." She
looked at Victor. "We're willing
to consider dual citizenship,
and regular visits here."
"All right, that gives us
something to build on,"
the President said. "What
concerns do you have?"
"My husband is ... unwell,"
Genna said. "We have some
very difficult medical decisions
yet to face, but those details are
best discussed behind locked doors."
"Understood," said President Latheef.
"As a service nation, we take
privacy very seriously."
Victor perked up at that.
"It must make you popular
with soups," he said.
"It does," the President said.
"Therefore, we like to emphasize
that protection to potential immigrants."
"If you knew ... you probably wouldn't
want me," Victor said with a sigh.
"We ask that people try to keep
cape politics out of the way, and
avoid breaking Maldivian laws in
Maldivian territory," said the President.
"Beyond that, we can be more flexible.
There are plenty of supervillains -- and
former supervillains -- living here now."
"I'm not a supervillain!" Victor yelped.
"I'm just ... it's kind of complicated."
"Many superpowers are,"
said President Latheef.
"I'm older than I look,"
Victor said. "That doesn't
mesh well with official records."
The President waved a hand.
"If necessary, you can put down
'Insha Allah' for 'God knows' in blanks
you don't feel comfortable filling yet.
We can revisit them later on."
"Huh," Victor said, sitting back
in his chair. "Well that's new."
"We had to find methods of
accommodating people with
very real, very valid fears about
what could happen if certain details
became known," the President said.
"Difficult points may be omitted, and
records can be sealed -- especially
for teenagers and children."
"And, um, what about conflicts
of religion?" Victor said. "Mine
isn't changeable, and it ties into
my abilities. Would that cause
trouble in a Muslim nation?"
"Every one but this one,"
said President Latheef. "We
are trying to broaden our horizons.
Although the nation remains Muslim,
we no longer require all citizens
to convert in order to live here."
"Whew," Victor said. "I was
really worried about that point."
"Talk to other immigrants if you like,"
the President invited. "Ask them
about their experiences here."
"Yeah, maybe," Victor said.
Saul came back to his seat.
"That sounds promising."
"I'm hopeful," Genna said.
"How is Nimkii doing?"
"Better now that she's not
worried we'll move here and
try to cut her mother out of
the loop," Saul said. "We
need to account for that in
these negotiations, please."
"Yes, of course," Genna said,
turning to the President. "We are
one family composed of several parts.
We do not want to split the family with
regards to citizenship. However, we
know that Nimkii's mother may feel
leery of a third citizenship for her."
"Her native tribe, and America,"
Saul listed, "then the Maldives."
"Nimkii's papers could be sealed,
so that she's considered a member of
the family and a citizen by observation,
instead of documentation, until she turns
eighteen and can decide for herself,"
President Latheef suggested.
Genna gave a fraying laugh.
"By that time we could have
three homes, spread around
our different anchors."
"Is that a bad thing?"
Saul asked, spreading
his hands. "We could spend
four to six months in each place,
and the stability would come
from doing that together, going
to the same three places unless
it's an actual short-term vacation."
"Maybe not, but it all depends
on Dom --" Her voice broke.
"I'm sorry, it's hard to talk about."
"Shall we move this discussion
to a private consultation room?"
President Latheef invited. "Who
would like to come, and who
will stay to watch the children?"
Genna was amazed that he would
leave his daughter with strangers.
Didn't presidents have secret service
or something official like that?
Then again, this was the Maldives.
He could have an invisible agent
in the room and they wouldn't know.
"Victor, do you want me to watch
the kids?" Saul offered. "You have
far more to discuss here than I do."
Victor shook his head. "I don't ...
think I'd deal with that very well.
I have some pretty bad history,
and I'd probably just panic.
Even if there's no reason to."
"The past is a reason,"
said President Latheef.
"You don't have to come,"
Genna assured Victor. "Can
you trust me to negotiate for you,
though? Saul, that goes for you too."
"Of course I trust you," Saul said instantly.
Victor nibbled on his lip. "How about
you talk it out first, and if more questions
come up, you come back and ask me?"
"Agreed," Genna confirmed, and
President Latheef nodded too.
She went over to the children.
"President Latheef and I are going
to talk about some boring details so
we can stay here longer. We'll be ..."
"Right next door," the President said.
"It will be locked, but you can press
the doorbell button if you need us."
"Okay," Nimkii said, and went right back
to loading fruit onto the dhoni's cargo card.
Genna followed the President next door
to the Red Consultation Room. It had
a slate floor and wood trim, with couches
of red velvet and wool rugs that seemed
to come from several different countries.
She took the couch closest to the kleenex.
"Tell me as much as you can about
the difficult details, and then I will do
my best to help you solve problems,"
said President Latheef. "We have
the office of Refugee Services, but
the more complicated cases still land
on my desk. I have plenty of practice."
That was true. Genna had read the news
as the Maldives attracted more soups.
It seemed to be a decent place to live.
"It started when someone kidnapped
my husband Dominic," she said,
grabbing a handful of kleenex.
President Latheef listened to her
as if he had nothing better to do
in the world, nevermind that he
was responsible for a nation
which was attracting more and
more of the world's soups, making
friends and enemies all the way.
When the pile of tissues on her lap
began to spill over, he got up and
fetched a wastebasket without
saying a word of interruption.
"So that's where we are now,"
Genna said, sniffling. "We just got
Dom back and we don't know much yet.
He's in a coma, but his reflexes seem okay,
so it could be worse. His healers warned us
to expect some memory loss, and -- and
they say that might be a good thing."
"It sounds like you have a lot of things
to worry about," said the President.
"What would help you worry less?"
"I don't know," Genna said.
"Health care is covered, I have
a great job now, but with Dom ...
sick, we don't know anything.
There are no guarantees."
"Perhaps flexibility would
help?" said President Latheef.
"Then you could choose the options
most useful to you at any moment."
"Oh, that's a good idea," Genna said.
"I'm sorry for falling apart on you.
I'm not usually so useless."
"A woman who can hold
her family together through
so much tragedy is not useless,"
President Latheef said firmly.
"You just sound exhausted."
Genna gave a soggy nod.
"I've been tired ever since
I lost Dom, to be honest."
"Then let us add rest and
relaxation to the list of things
that would probably help,"
said President Latheef.
"We excel in those here."
"I'm not sure a spa will
do much good," said Genna.
"Have you tried one?" he said.
"No," she said. "It just seems
vaguely silly when there are
so many more important things
demanding time and energy."
"Try it, and then you will know,"
President Latheef pointed out.
Genna chuckled. "That's
something I say to my students."
"Then you are a good teacher,"
President Latheef said. "Shall we
keep one set of notes, or two?"
"Probably two," Genna said,
taking out her smartphone.
"I hope I don't rain on this,
it's not a waterproof model."
"Trust me, you need
a waterproof phone here,"
President Latheef said.
"Add that to the list."
Genna added it. Surely
Hatter could find her one.
"I can't make any guarantees,"
she said. "My family is in limbo
until we know more about Dom,
his condition, what he'll need ..."
"Then we can set aside that part
for now, and work out other details,"
said President Latheef. "Are there
more potential obstacles in our way?"
"Victor is right about his superpowers
posing challenges," Genna said. "I haven't
begun to scratch the surface, but already
I understand why he's so skittish."
"You are serious about keeping him
as your son, despite the fact that he
only asked for a fake relationship?"
President Latheef asked her.
"I don't fake relationships,"
Genna snapped. "Sorry.
I'm running out of nerves."
The President waved it away.
"If I lost part of my family, I am
quite sure I would unravel too.
What else can you tell me?"
"His powers are ... kind of scary
to watch," Genna said. "He doesn't
like to show people for that reason."
"Nobody is obligated to publicize
their powers, although people willing
to use theirs for the good of all gain
many benefits," said President Latheef.
"A disturbing power that nobody sees
is unlikely to disrupt the peace."
"Okay, that's a good point,"
said Genna. "We weren't sure
if you'd demand a demonstration, or ..."
"Only for those that people plan
to share, so we know how to use
what they can do," the President said.
"Does Victor have any special needs?
We ask about superpowers because
many of them burn more calories, and
some need special materials, and so on."
"I don't know," Genna said. "Wait, he
has some ... issues ... with water,
but chlorinated water is okay."
"Many residences come with
a private pool, although if you take
an island, I must warn you that most of
those are undeveloped," he said.
"An island?" Genna squeaked.
"It was part of our original offer,"
said President Latheef. "So was
a government seat, but I doubt that
any of you would take me up on that."
"Definitely not," Genna said with
a shudder. "Our plates are full."
"Victor has ... hinted ... that he
came by his superpowers through
rituals, rather than the usual ways,"
Genna said. "I don't know if you'd
consider that a pro or a con."
"It could go either way,"
the President said. "Would
he try to convert anyone?"
"I don't know, but I don't
think so," Genna said.
"He hasn't even mentioned
it to anyone else that I know of.
Victor is a very private person."
He had way too many reasons to be.
"Perhaps I'll ask him myself, if
he's willing," said President Latheef.
"He seems a very wise young man."
"Victor is actually ... quite a lot older
than he looks," Genna said carefully.
"I thought so," President Latheef said
without any sign of dismay. "He is not
the first Abd-Hayy to seek refuge here.
They have a certain look about them,
and many of the same concerns."
"I'm sorry, I haven't heard the term ...
'ab high' ...? before," Genna said.
"One of the names of Allah is
Al Hayy, the Eternally Living One,"
the President explained. "Abd means
servant, so we use that because it is
not right for a mortal to use Allah's names
unadorned. The Abd-Hayy reflect a little of
His glory in this aspect, for they were born
but do not die the same as other mortals."
"People with a longer life, or immortals,"
Genna said. "Wow. Do you have
a lot of those coming here?"
"I think there are not a lot
of them in the whole world,"
said President Latheef. "I also
think they are making their way
here, because it promises safety,
as long as I can manage that.
I only say, Victor is not the first."
Well, if he protected the others
so carefully, then perhaps he
would protect their secrets too.
That raised another question.
"Why are you helping us?"
Genna asked. "I mean, it's
nice, but what's in it for you?"
"Your family includes superpowers,
something I wish to protect," he said.
"More than that, I'm coming to value
unpowered people who work well
with soups. We need more of those."
"You didn't say 'ordinary' people,"
Genna said, sniffling again.
The waterworks had only
mostly stopped for now.
"Ma'am, I have barely known
you for an hour, and already I am
quite confident that there is nothing
ordinary about you," said the President.
I have heard marvelous things about
how you teach, and having seen one
myself, I would love to bargain for more."
"I have my hands full just working for
the Ocean Pearls Charter School,"
Genna warned. "However, many of
my lessons are flexible, easy to adapt
to different students or situations. I
would gladly share those with others."
"That would be a great help," he said.
"Many islands are too small for public school
and only have an edhuruge or kiyavaage --
a room or a shady yard where a teacher
can give lessons. We like distance lessons
very much, too, as they connect the islands."
"I can work with that," Genna said. "I have
shown people how to set up a schoolroom
that encourages learning. It could be used
alone or with other methods. Other people
have suggested using my lessons for tourists
or on websites, which I like, but we could
also make an archive of lessons for
teachers and parents to use."
"Traditionally the edhuruges
use Islamic materials for teaching,"
President Latheef warned her.
"No problem," Genna said.
"Just add some lessons for
allies -- they'll need to learn
how to live in a Muslim nation
anyway. Do I need cover my hair
if I go into a zakat office, for instance?"
"We seem to be leaning toward
a friendship scarf for foreign women,"
the President said. "If you can adapt
your lessons for Muslim students --"
"Oh, I've done that before," Genna said.
"Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Pagan, atheist,
secular humanist, it makes no difference
to me. I can work with whatever framework
appeals to my students and their parents."
"Then I look forward to seeing the results.
I'll send a note to the Ministry of Education
to see about planning schoolrooms and
archiving lessons," the President said.
"Shall we move on to housing, then?"
"What about it?" Genna said.
"We have a place to stay."
"A place to stay is not
a place to live," he said.
"I'm given to understand that
your current residence is not
suitable as a permanent home."
Genna started to protest that
it was fine, then remembered
that they were borrowing what
was meant to be a bolthole.
Kraken would doubtless
need that back some time.
"Yes, we need another place
here," Genna admitted.
"Since you didn't sound
pleased by the idea of an island,
let's consider other options,"
said the President. "We now
offer a houseboat, an apartment
in town, or a villa of some sort.
Giving up the island gives you
a great deal of bargaining room."
"We need a house," Genna said,
"and a rather large one at that."
"All right, there are a few, but
that limits your options," he said.
"Most of what we have now, other
than apartments, was designed for
rich tourists -- singles or couples."
Genna said. "I suppose that
beggars can't be choosers."
President Latheef took out
a tablet computer and began
searching some sort of list.
"One bedroom, one bedroom,
two bedrooms, three ..." he said,
his frown getting deeper.
"Do any of those have
a hide-a-bed?" Genna said.
"We might manage with that."
President Latheef glared at her
over the rim of his glasses. "You
can't expect anyone to live on
a hide-a-bed couch," he said.
"I did," Genna whispered,
"for a while. It wasn't ideal,
but it was better than nothing."
"Aha!" said the President.
"I found an island with
some larger homes. It
used to be a resort."
He turned the screen
so she could see it.
"That's a mansion!"
Genna protested. "We
don't need anything like that."
"Mmm," said President Latheef.
"How many people do you
have in your family?"
"Seven," Genna said.
"Well, eight at the moment.
I don't know how long Pips
will keep staying with us."
"You cannot fit eight people
into a villa built for one or two,"
the President said gently.
"You need a large home.
Come, look at the floor plan."
Genna looked. "That is ...
way more space than we need."
"Yes, but you described your family
as a whole made of different parts,"
said President Latheef. "Now look --
the Great Beach Villa is basically
two houses stuck together, with
common areas forming the bridge."
All right, that part did appeal to her.
"How many bedrooms does it have?"
"Upstairs, it has a master bedroom and
two smaller ones, each with an ensuite.
Downstairs, it has a guest bedroom, for
a total of eight counting both sides,"
said President Latheef. "Plus one
for your katheeb, of course."
"What's a katheeb?" Genna said.
"It means 'house master,' a servant
to take care of everything," he said.
"Whatever your katheeb cannot do
himself, he will arrange for you.
Each half of the house has
a bedroom for this purpose."
"We don't need servants!"
Genna was trying not to shriek.
She was ... possibly not succeeding.
"I know, you're not used to them."
The President patted the air. "However,
you are new to this nation, and we find
that it helps to minimize mishaps."
Well, he had a point there.
As careful as they'd been,
Saul had gotten the runs for
half a day, Matthew had missed
a spot on his left ear that got
sunburned, and Victor had
accidentally stabbed himself
on some tropical plant.
"All right," Genna grumbled.
"I concede the point. But I reserve
the right to renegotiate it after
we've lived here for a while."
"Of course," the President said.
"Shall we revisit this point after,
say, six months in residence?"
"I can live with it," Genna said.
She wasn't happy about having
servants, but it was better than
somebody getting hurt or lost
or who knows what else.
"Thank you," said the President.
"Aside from some discomfort over
size and service, how do you feel
about the house in general?"
"It's pretty?" Genna said,
looking at the white walls
and sugar-sand beach.
"What things do you
look for in a home?"
"Space for the kids,
craft space for me if
I can afford it," she said.
"I need an office now, too."
"Bedrooms convert to offices,"
the President assured her. "And?"
"Two kitchens?" Genna said wistfully,
tracing the floorplan with a finger.
"The original design assumed
two families vacationing together,"
the President said. "That's why
it has a mirrored layout, so that
everyone has their own space,
plus common areas in between."
"Enough room to share, or
to get away from each other
for a little while," Genna said.
"All right, I see the appeal. It
just seems so ... ostentatious."
"Perhaps the architect felt
that building small hovels on
such spectacular islands would
insult Allah's gift," the President said.
Genna looked out the window at
the lush tropical trees in the tiny yard
that surrounded the President's Office.
"You could be right there," she said.
"There are more pictures of
the residence," he encouraged.
Genna scrolled through a few more.
It had two swimming pools, too, which
was ridiculous consumption. At least
Victor could swim there, though.
The living room was big enough
for the kids to romp around without
actually crashing into anything, but ...
"Oh, that viewscreen has got to go,"
Genna muttered. "If Saul wants one, he
can keep it in his half of the house." She
rubbed a hand over her face. "I can't
believe I just said that." Even half of
this mansion was bigger than what she
had gotten used to after losing Dominic.
"The decorations are, of course,
yours to choose as you see fit,"
the President said. "I admit that
the villas tend toward the extravagant.
We are converting former resorts into
residential islands due to immigration."
Genna looked at the ginormous counter
and the spare refrigerator with glass doors.
There was a grill beside an outdoor table,
too, and more lounge chairs to rest on.
Upstairs, the master bedrooms had
private sitting areas, and the bathrooms ...
"This would make Dom smile," she said,
tracing the blue-and-white patterned tiles.
"It's such a contrast to the warm woodwork,
but these tan bits tie it together beautifully."
"So is that a yes?" the President said.
"Yes," Genna agreed. "You drive
a hard bargain, but we'll take it."
"I'm happy to hear that," he said.
"Shall we ask if Victor will share
a few more details with us?"
"I'll go ask him," Genna said,
and headed to the other room.
Victor was helping Matthew unload
the cargo boat, but he abandoned
the game as soon as she came in.
"Is everything okay?" Victor asked.
"Yes, and we have a house,"
Genna said. "The President
would like to discuss a few things
with you, but you don't have to say
anything if you don't want to."
"The least I can do is listen
to his questions," Victor said.
"I think he's a good man. You
tell him that if I freak and run, yeah?"
"I'll remind him," Genna promised.
Victor stuck to her like a shadow
as they went to the consultation room.
The President stood up to shake hands
with Victor, which made him blink.
People didn't often offer to touch
Victor, for whatever reason,
and that worried Genna more
than she wanted to admit.
Maybe if she tried a spa,
she could talk the others into
trying it too, Victor included.
Maybe pigs would fly.
She still wasn't sure how
the President had talked
her into agreeing to it.
"Gennamom told me you
wanted to ... talk?" Victor said,
jittering from foot to foot instead of
sitting beside her on the couch.
"If you're willing," the President said.
"She mentioned that you came by
your abilities in a deliberate manner,
and might be able to extend them
to someone else. That could be
a good thing or a bad thing."
Victor shook his head. "I don't
try to convert people. Ever."
"Then it should not pose
a problem," said the President.
"However, we've had some jealousy
between soups and naries. We're
working on a school for supernaries.
In time, an option for manifestation
might become an asset there."
"Nobody would want it," Victor said.
"That's why I don't proselytize. I might
be willing to adopt an orphaned infant
to raise the way I was raised, but that's
different -- and not anytime soon."
"An issue to ask an imam, perhaps,"
said President Latheef, making a note.
"Don't worry, I don't have to give him
a name or other identifying details."
"Yeah, that helps," Victor said. "I've
never considered it before because
I've had to move so often, but Genna
insists that the fake adoption is real.
For life. That changes everything."
"Family does that," the President said.
"Is there anything else I need to know?"
"I'm a lot older than I look," Victor said.
"I'd rather not say by how much."
"I suspected that," said the President.
"Will you need help adjusting? The world
can change a lot even in an ordinary lifetime."
Victor rocked back on his heels. "Nobody
ever asked me that before," he said.
"Even Gennamom watches to see if I
can do something myself before
she asks if I need help with it."
Of course that made Genna
wonder if she should offer help
more actively with Victor, given
his age and different experiences.
"Sometimes it's hard for me
to keep up with all the new gizmos,
or even ordinary gear, but Gennamom
has done a great job of helping me
look at school a different way,"
said Victor. "I think if I get stuck,
she could get me unstuck."
"Then we don't need to worry
about it now," the President said.
"Would you like to see your new home?"
"Yes, please," said Victor. He didn't
quite sit down, but he leaned on her couch.
President Latheef showed him the house,
along with wider views of the island.
"What's all this blank space?"
Victor said, pointing to the map.
"Forest," said President Latheef.
"The notes say that they plan to keep
part of the island green, but they're
building out new homes just beyond
the one you'll be moving into."
"Really?" Victor perked up.
"I've done construction before.
Saul is really good at it too."
"So was Dom," Genna whispered.
Victor leaned against her side.
"He still is. He'll get better."
"We could use more workers
in construction," the President said.
"Most of our people prefer to go into
service work instead, where they
can earn tips from rich tourists."
"Then yeah, I think it's time
to pitch this to the rest of
the family," Victor said.
So they went to the office
to ask the others about it.
"We've found a house, and
made tentative agreements,"
Genna said. "There are photos."
That was all it took to get the kids
on board, and Saul was intrigued
by the promise of construction work.
Then the President made his final pitch.
"I'm reminded of something my friend
Desmond says," he told them. "We are
made for goodness. We are made for
love. We are made for friendliness.
We are made for togetherness. We are
made for all of the beautiful things that
you and I know. We are made to tell
the world that there are no outsiders.
Is this the kind of place you want to live?"
"Yes," they all chorused. "Yes!"
"Then welcome home,"
said President Latheef.
"We're happy to have you."
* * *
This poem runs long, so the character, setting, and content will appear separately.