|THE SECRETS OF PINE CONES
by K.V. Wylie
I've made more mistakes than I can count upon my fingertips
I have been ashamed and I have felt guilty as all sin
Counting every tear that drops cannot account for any loss
I'll let the past remain behind me now
I have wished on every star that shot across my broken heart
I am still amazed that you came true
I have kissed a hundred lips
But none of them compared to this
I have found myself inside of you
You forgive my sad regrets
And I forgive myself
"Never Give Up On Me"
Our home sits on a hill. No Vulcan would build a domicile in such fashion. The extra work involved in the foundation, for no other reason than the view, is illogical. This is not a work of art or a shrine. This is a mere house.
During the construction, I watched contractors move about with levels for an inordinate amount of time. The cost was also inordinate, and still, our bedroom floor dropped and required more work. Leonard made a comment about what he thought we'd done to make the floor move. I did not find it amusing; the additional work had cost us more funds.
The first time Jim visited, he stated he saw mountain goats. None are natural to this climate, nor are the incline and altitude that severe. There are aspects to the admiral's humour I do not comprehend, even after all these years.
But I do state, in the privacy of my journal, that our illogical house on the hill is pleasing. We have few immediate neighbours, as much of the forest in this area is protected. Leonard chose materials which complement the environment, and do not damage it. And it is the first property we have in our conjoined names.
We walk every day when I am home, and, when we return, the sight of our house causes an unaccustomed feeling in me that I am reluctant to either explore or eradicate. Leonard always takes my hand in his as we come up the walk. He does not require physical support. Does he share the same feeling?
When Leonard and I retired from active service, I accepted four projects and tenure at Starfleet Academy. Leonard took up gardening. Those four projects have since ended, and I have undertaken three more. I periodically teach for a semester, and I have written thirty-six papers. Leonard is still gardening. As I sit here in the midst of his profusion of flowers and ferns, I sometimes wonder which of us has accomplished more.
I recognize a human influence in the previous sentence. My own biological nucleic acids? Or Leonard's favorable presence though our meld?
A paper is overdue, and I came into Leonard's garden to finish it. My discipline is faulty. I have sat here idly for one point seven hours, noting the new blooms he has planted this season, my paper as ill-advanced as when I left the house. One particular flower has caught my attention. It consists of long stems on which are small, blue buds. I have not seen it any other year; not that I am involved in Leonard's choice of plants wherever we have resided, but this is the first time he has chosen a flower almost as blue as his eyes. It is a colour he seems to avoid.
Earth's rising sun brings out a curious pigment in Leonard's eyes. I noticed it our first morning in our new home. Leonard had left the windows uncovered. He woke first and leaned over to kiss me awake. His eyes were the first sight I had, and they were of a colour I had seen only once before, when we visited the Tasman Sea. The warm, surface waters where coral and sunlight meet are also that specific blue. He called the shade aquamarine. As I lay there, studying him, he mistook my expression. "I love this bedroom too," he'd said, but I was looking at aquamarine. I had never before noticed how brilliant his eyes are.
I digress, and am guilty of disordered thought. These flowers serve no purpose other than common decoration. The colour of Leonard's eyes is irrelevant.
Leonard has just come outside, as far as the back stoop. I noted the sound of the front door earlier, and assumed he had left on an errand of some sort, but now I see my assumption erroneous. Leonard is affixing a peculiar object to the door frame. It is that time of year once more. Ramadh Anglul. Declaration of My Soul.
Why am I (I admit here) startled? I entered the date for this entry four point two minutes ago, and my memory is not defective. His occasion begins in six days, the same day it has commenced in every year I have known him. We have been married for nine years, we lived together for two years before our joining, and I was aware of this idiosyncrasy of his when we served on the Enterprise, yet I did not anticipate the date this year. Curious.
Four days now. Previously, I have turned to projects of my own, or vacated our residence for the duration. I have left Leonard to his rituals. I could do so again, but this illogical house agrees with me, and I am unwilling to quit it so soon after moving in. As this is so important to Leonard, I will participate with him, despite the incomprehensibility.
Jim has sent his greetings for the holiday. He remembers every year, though Ramadh Anglul is not part of his religious designation.
Today, I asked Leonard if I might assist him with his preparations. He directed me towards a dust mop. He has been cleaning our house thoroughly. I found him this morning, on his hands and knees, polishing the floor. There is a machine more suitable for the purpose; beyond that we have engaged a cleaning service. When I reminded him of this, he said, "This suits me." Every year, he gets down on his knees.
While we worked, I inquired of the origins of Ramadh Anglul and said that I would be remaining with him during the thirty day period. I felt Leonard's surprise through our bond, but he recovered promptly. He said, "I can tell you why we celebrate it, but I can't tell you where it started. You'd have to go back through seven thousand years of earth history."
"Tell me why," I said to him.
"Because, my love, we all need to ask for forgiveness."
On the Enterprise, when Ramadh Anglul came, he would diligently approach every person he felt he'd wronged and ask them to accept his apology. I may say, with his sometimes blunt approach, he did need to speak to nearly every crew member. Many humoured him, having not believed themselves slighted. Some took him seriously. The odd crewmember was offended. Every year, for twenty-nine days, he would make that round, starting with Jim. I was always the last person on his list.
The thirtieth day was special. He would book that day away, and secrete himself, I never knew where. Perhaps his cabin. If we were near a hospitable planet, he may have beamed down. What he did on that last day, was then, and remains to me yet, a mystery.
"I wish to accompany you," I said to him.
All he would say in response to further questions was, "Ruth."
Is this Leonard's sense of humour again? After I finish my paper, I will check his holy books. He keeps them in our laboratory.
Leonard, by some perverse inclination, holds to two antique books of thin paper and no index. I read the first text and some distance in the second, before finding the part pertaining to Ruth. He called me by her name because I had coincidentally quoted her. I perceive no other resemblance.
As I read, I could hear the sounds of Leonard's ongoing preparations. I am somewhat concerned as to the result in our new home, where he may feel he has free reign over the walls. Once, I heard the sound of a hammer.
These fairy tales of prophets and illusions have given me an opinion of his capricious god to whom he submits so intemperately. Leonard's books have no foundation. How do I cope with a god who does not submit to rationality? Do I dare tell Leonard this god cannot possibly exist? Would he take my conclusion of his faith as a challenge? This elaborate readying (done with such wrenching intensity that I half expect to find his blood in the garland) speaks more to me than I wish to hear. He has never made such preparations for me. And it is absurd that he has gone to such pain for no reason. There will be no reward.
I could speak to him. Or I could be as Ruth, who simply accompanied and reserved her opinion. Perhaps, calling me by her name was not meant as a jest. Leonard may be asking me to be as she was, and to follow with patience. He has, I recall, stood with me during Vulcan practices he found difficult to understand.
So be it.
The first full day, though Ramadh Anglul officially started at sundown yesterday. I have decided to make a literal record of events, conversations, and my observations, in so far as I can remove the latter from subjective opinion. I have considered and decided against showing Leonard this record; he would not approve of an attempt to sever him from his fictitious deity.
Leonard prepared dinner last evening, and served it on plates I had not seen before. "Are these ours?" I asked, looking at a platter with inlaid designs and, I judge, actual gold edging.
"Yes, handed down from my grandmother. If I can, I use them during the holiday, but mostly they've sat in storage."
The meal consisted of apples in honey, carrots, homemade bread covered with a sugary glaze, noodles in cream, grapes, dates, cake, and wine. He had brought out our formal dinner service and goblets, and laid a white cloth over our table. Then he set two wrought-silver candlesticks between our plates and said, "These were a present from Jim. On board the ship, he and Uhura used to share this meal with me. Scotty and Sulu did once too."
I was not aware of this.
Leonard lit the candles and began serving the food. As we ate, Leonard indicated he was pleased I had consented to sit down at the table with him. I asked him to explain the parameters of the holiday, and also admitted that I had read his books, but the rules of the holiday had not been addressed in them.
"Except for the thirtieth day, the customs are not commanded. They've built up over time," Leonard said. "It's not a big deal. It's actually pretty simple. I need to clear the slate."
I replied, "Slate? Do you believe that what you have done and said is written down? This seems an exaggerated endeavor."
"On whose part?"
"You are enjoying this?" I inquired of him.
"Teasing you or the holiday? Yes to both."
I thought of the work he had put in for the preparation, the cleaning, ornamenting, and cooking, and also what I had seen him do on the Enterprise in past years. "The effort does not seem to justify the result."
"Do you know what the result is?"
"You just indicated the clearing of a blackboard."
"This was the biggest holiday in my family. Everyone, aunts, uncles, cousins, close friends, we would all find a way to visit for this meal, usually at my grandparents' home. The food was wonderful. My grandmother would bake for a month beforehand, cookies, cakes, pastries, big meals that sometimes thirty of us sat down for. I'd get presents. All the children did. And we'd play games. I had such a good time."
These were memories I had not shared in our meld. The closest parallel I had was a festivity of which Jim had spoken. "Did anyone wear an unusual red suit?"
"No. You're thinking of Christmas. That was my mother's holiday. It ended when she died, before my sixth birthday."
"Has your family stopped observance of Ramadh Anglul?"
"My grandparents have passed away, as you know. I've lost touch with others in the family, and the younger ones, well it's not such a big deal to them," Leonard said.
From his words, I concluded he observed Ramadh Anglul from family tradition, and not due to a theological duty. The religious etiquette, however, still carried importance for him.
I said, "As I do not wish to cause offense, you should indicate the regulations."
"Mostly, we carry on as usual. There are some food restrictions, which don't affect you anyway, and we're obliged to study the faith and give to charity. From sunrise to sunset, we fast. There are blanket prohibitions covering the entire holiday, including some outdated ones pertaining to buying camels and selling yourself into slavery."
"I do not perceive those as a concern for us, Leonard."
He continued. "The prohibitions that are not outdated include a ban on sexual relations."
"During daylight hours?"
"Day and night."
As I considered this, Leonard said, "You always vamoosed."
"It means you went away. During the last seventeen years, every time Ramadh Anglul's come around, you've taken a trip. But you'll be here this time, and under Vulcan law, if you ask me for sex and I refuse, you can divorce me. Spock, I really don't want to set us at odds to each other. If you're going to stick around for the holiday, you have to accept this."
I said, "As we have spent longer periods of time apart in the past, I do not see your concern."
"I'm just warning you," Leonard said. "It's different being together."
The rest of the evening passed without particular note. This morning, I was awakened very early by the floor in Leonard's study. During the building of our house, he asked the architect to devise the flooring in his study in such a way that the sound of wind chimes accompanies every step. There is a way to turn the mechanism off. Leonard has not done so, though he usually defers entering that room until I have arisen.
Today was the first time I have been in his study. The complicated decorating for his holiday had not been carried into there. He had not unpacked save for the furniture and a stack of books on his desk. Everything else was still in crating. I commented on it.
"I've been busy," Leonard said. He was by a window at the other side of the room from the doorway. He did not approach me or kiss me, as he normally does. Our link was a nearly inactive filament between us.
The chimes accompanied my passage into his study. He seemed amused at my careful progress.
"The floor will hold, Spock," he said.
"Do you not find the noise distracting?"
"The reverse actually. Do you have any plans this morning?"
"I am giving a lecture in ninety-three minutes."
"Then you have time to tag along with me. I have a date at the end of the lane with a young lady." He picked up a small bag from his desk.
His revelation left me mute, and I could pick up nothing from him save that same amusement.
He circled around me to get to the door, being careful to keep some distance between us. I realized then he had deliberately walked upon his study floor so that he could wake me without touching me or using our bond. The knowledge was not pleasant.
"Your self-restraint is misguided," I told him.
"Let's not tempt things, shall we?"
Leonard led us outside and down our front driveway to the road. He was silent until we began walking towards town.
"Don't you want to know her name?"
"It is sufficient that I will meet her," I said.
"Her daughter will be waiting with her, and probably some other people."
"Are you dating the neighbourhood, Leonard?"
He laughed. "It's for you, Spock. I mentioned you might be along."
"Why would this be important?"
"Because you haven't met any of our neighbours. We've been living here, how many months now?"
I recognized this as a rhetorical question.
"You're famous," Leonard said. "And reclusive. It's a deadly combination."
My husband is the only one able to pose questions I answer before I have formulated a sufficient response. Fortunately he does not indulge this talent in front of other Vulcans. "I am not reclusive," I said. A moment later, I was able to conclude, "Nor am I famous. I admit to being currently involved with projects of some renown."
"And Jim's name isn't known from one end of the galaxy to the other," he said. Then he changed the subject abruptly. "Isn't it a lovely morning?"
"Appreciation of beauty is not a singularly human trait. Look around us."
"I see trees."
"The birch bark is beginning to lose its yellow and turn white. And have you ever really looked at a pine cone? They're intricate. I've also heard rumours of maple trees."
"You mentioned earlier that you have also been busy. Is this what you've been doing? Looking at trees?"
"No, I've been working at a clinic."
"I was not aware you had returned to your profession."
"You'd know, if you were home more," Leonard said.
"I thought you were gardening."
"I did for a while, and you were there for the now infamous tomato preserve fiasco, but in this age of bounty and wonder, there are still those who can't afford medical care. I've been working at a free clinic."
"Admirable," I commented.
"Is it? I was going to reduce my hours and take on some work that paid. Outside of our pensions and investments, you're the only one with an income, which has been quite lucrative lately, I notice."
"It is fair to be compensated in accordance with ability, Leonard. We are married, therefore all assets belong to both of us."
We walked after this in silence. Writing a record of this conversation invites speculation I missed an significant point somewhere.
At the end of the lane, where the main road connects, we were met by three women and four men who were of five families in the area. As humans do not wear visible indications of their family line, the introductions were protracted and tense. Leonard later informed me that the people waiting for us were nervous of meeting me, and I must accede to his judgement. It was only with me that they repeated themselves and spoke incoherent platitudes. With Leonard, our neighbours seemed comfortable and able to converse.
I was relieved when Leonard drew his intended date from the group. His described young lady, Mrs. Al-Sharif, was ninety-seven and suffering from a dementia. She could not be convinced I was not her grandson, Ahmad, and I was forced to answer questions about a school I was not attending and a Great Dane that was not mine.
When the three of us resumed our walk, I inquired our destination.
"There's a stream down the way, not much good for anything but canoeing," Leonard said.
"We are going canoeing?"
"No." He lifted up the small sack he had carried from our house. "We're going to throw bread crumbs."
"For the ducks," Mrs. Al-Sharif said.
"And for Ramadh Anglul," Leonard said to her. To me, he continued, "It's something you do on the first day, symbolically cast your sins away."
"Ahmad, take my hand so you won't fall in the water," Mrs. Al-Sharif said to me.
"I'll watch him," Leonard told her.
"You fell in the water before, Ahmad, and you were scared," she said.
"I will endeavor not to do so again," I assured her.
Such was the general turn of the conversation. Mrs. Al-Sharif asked me, over and over, the same questions about my supposed school, and needed many reassurances that I would not drown in the stream. Leonard answered her mildly and patiently, and I became aware she was one of his patients at the clinic. My first inference was that Leonard had invited her because she was similar to his grandmother, but I have learned to be careful of such obvious reasoning with my husband. His motivation is often more complicated than I expect.
No ducks were at the water, but fish came to the surface when we threw the crumbs, which delighted Leonard and Mrs. Al-Sharif. Then they sat on a bench by a bend in the stream and admired the weather and scenery too ecstatically. I observed until it was time for my lecture.
Other than fasting during daylight hours, I have found no difference in Leonard's routine for Ramadh Anglul from his normal behaviour. My observation has been limited by the demands of my research projects. Still, I believe my assessment fair.
My afternoon today was to be unencumbered. Leonard was not home, and I decided to review a journal in his garden. As I passed through the doorway, on impulse, I inspected the decoration which Leonard had fixed to the frame. Just below my eye-level was a simple holder containing a rolled sheet of linen paper, angled forty-five degrees from the entryway.
Partially withdrawing the paper, I was able to read, "Show us the straight way, the way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, those whose portion is not wrath, and who go not astray."1
I was interrupted by three humans at the back gate, a young man and woman with their child. Their manner was surprise upon seeing me, then formality. The conversation I set below in its progression.
"Excuse me, sir. We were hoping Leonard was home," said the man.
"Is there an illness or injury requiring his attendance?" I inquired.
"No, we wanted to invite him to dinner tomorrow tonight. And you too, of course, sir," the woman said.
"During this month, Dr. McCoy fasts during daylight hours."
"We know, sir. We observe the same holiday. The dinner will be after sunset." This from the man who had picked up his child to prevent her touching the flowers by the gate.
I had thought the child's actions typical. Vulcan children as well as human are drawn by objects of colour, and this behaviour is encouraged. Leonard would not be concerned if the child were to
want some of his plants.
"Your daughter may certainly have as many flowers as she wishes," I said to them, wishing to deflate some of their strained demeanor.
"She'd want them all," the man said.
"I trust your ability to set a limit," I said, but he retained his hold upon his daughter. Their awkwardness seemed unusually accented.
"Thank you anyway. We should be going, sir," said the woman.
I realized Leonard would not be happy if I appeared, however innocently, to rebuff their neighbourly civility.
"My name is Spock."
"The appellation is not necessary. Spock is sufficient."
The woman spoke. "I'm Netanya Ziv, my husband Ravi, and our daughter Kira."
"I am honoured," I said. "I will indicate your invitation to Dr. McCoy upon his return. Unless he has changed his schedule, I do not foresee any impediment to our acceptance."
"That's wonderful," Ms. Ziv said. I still do not understand the human tendency to exaggerate acknowledgement, but I nodded as if I did.
Her husband said, "Your garden has turned out very well. We cannot get our roses to bloom, but yours are filling your trellis."
I reviewed Leonard's various comments about his plants since we had taken residence. "The garden is Dr. McCoy's responsibility, though I remember he mentioned having to use a baking soda mixture."
"It's the mold," Mr. Ziv said, and Ms. Ziv said, "We've had so much rain, the roses got infected. We tried using baking soda, but it didn't work."
(Note: Mold from rain? A bacteriological agent? I will inquire of Leonard.)
To his wife, Mr. Ziv stated, "The Bluebells have come up too since we were here."
He indicated the flowers that had reminded me of Leonard's eyes.
"When were you here before?" I asked, for I had not seen them.
"Just after you moved in. You were working, and we only came as far as here. Leonard was directing the movers. We brought muffins. To say hi," Ms. Ziv said.
The scattered progression of her sentences indicated that they were still not at ease. Yet their use of Leonard's first name suggested a familiarity with him. They had been in his company, though not here.
"You have not been inside the house," I said in conclusion. "Would you like to see it?"
"I'm sure you're busy, sir," the man said, and corrected himself. "Spock."
"I am unoccupied at the moment." I replaced the linen paper in its holder and held open the back door.
My assumption, that a tour of the house would give them time to behave more normally with me, was in error. I am not sure what view they held of me, or of Vulcans in general, but they were intimidated. Yet they were able to speak easily about my husband. I learned that Ms. Ziv was a physician at the clinic and Mr. Ziv an author of fictional work. Their home must have been more modest than Leonard's and mine, for they complimented me most extensively about the floor plan and freehand painting of the walls and ceilings, claiming they wished someday to have similar mottling and stucco work done. When I stated that I originally believed the interior work to be excessive, but Leonard had wished it done so, Ms. Ziv said, "But it's so beautiful. It's worth it, just to look at it."
Their daughter found her own way into Leonard's study, for we heard the floor chimes and had to go in pursuit of her. I had not planned to violate Leonard's privacy by displaying either his study or our bedroom, but the child took such delight in the sound of the floor, I deemed Leonard would not be offended by their intrusion, especially as he had not unpacked his personal effects.
Mr. Ziv noticed the stack of books on Leonard's desk and said, "Those are from the community book sale. I knew Leonard had bought some, though he kept teasing that he hadn't." I inquired the date of the book sale and discovered it had fallen on a day I had been away.
After they left, I went to our bedroom and considered the waterfall. Two walls of our bedroom are windows, on which, instead of curtains, we have the ability to turn on two waterfalls of beaded water and back-lighting. Combined with the tint of the panes, we have complete privacy.
I turned them on now and watched the trickles of water fill the panes. At the time of moving in, I thought blinds would be sufficient. Leonard wished this. For the first time, I realize the pleasure of his preference.
Upon review, I feel a need to edit this record, though a complete set of remarks was my first intent. When you do not know the inclination of your experiment, editing is unscientific and dangerous. Crucial information, unrecognized as such, may be lost.
Yet I cannot justify keeping every word of every conversation of yesterday's dinner discourse. A summary must suffice. Even in summary, the evening was not without illumination. In fact, it was most striking.
My first intent was to record the celebratory practices of Ramadh Anglul by sharing it with Leonard. I viewed yesterday's dinner as an opportunity to observe a communal rite. Instead, I have come to an unexpected outcome. I have discovered I do not know my husband.
I am more Vulcan than human. This is due, in part, to my genetic markers which are not fifty and fifty percent, but eighty-three and seventeen, favoring Vulcan physiology. I was raised under Vulcan code. During the refusing of my Katra, my mother undertook to give me a stronger human influence. As well, I am married to a human and share a first-degree thought bond with him. But if you were to ask me what I am, my first and most complete response would be Vulcan. Neither Vulcan culture nor logic recognize love, but I have felt its strength, nonetheless. I love Leonard. Last evening, I found I have loved him without knowing him.
Leonard and I set out for the Ziv residence after sunset. Beyond a comment that it was raining, he was uncommonly silent during our walk. We brought, at Leonard's suggestion, cake and a bottle of wine.
We were met at the residence by Mr. Ziv who solemnly presented me with a Vulcan greeting. He turned to welcome Leonard, and his manner changed. With me he was polite. With my husband, he was pleased and effusive.
Seventeen people were waiting in the main room of the house, but the honored guest was Leonard. Everyone came immediately to him and, during the course of the evening, I perceived they wished to remain there. He was never without attendance and all seemed anxious for his comfort.
Several of the families had contributed to the dinner set on a long table at which Leonard and I were separated. To my left was a retired commodore, to my right Ms. Ziv. Across was a young woman, Ms. Onast, who was expecting a child within two weeks. The latter was a patient at the clinic where Leonard devoted time. Ms. Onast and Ms. Ziv spoke of children, a natural subject under the circumstances, and they tried to include both myself and the commodore in it. We could contribute little. The commodore soon turned to the person at his other side, and I was left in a position of passive observer. This gave me more freedom to monitor the various conversations at the table.
The humans were, for the most part, unfamiliar with Vulcans, and I suspect unaware how well I could overhear. I justify my disinclination to enlighten them by the quality of information I gathered. With verified assurance, I note the following:
My husband is the respected one. Leonard told me I was famous in this neighbourhood. Perhaps this is so, but I now know his name preceded him as well, and his actual presence has only increased his acclaim. These people wish his company. During the evening, they desired to be near him. Their own words and actions bear this out. My mother would say that Leonard and I rode in on our laurels, but Leonard has enhanced his.
His status is not just from his charitable work at the clinic. From the conversations around me, I discovered he attended two deaths, the Commodore's wife and Mr. Ziv's mother. In both cases, Leonard had removed the women from a hospice in order that they could die in their own houses. Apparently, these were desired outcomes for the families, but obstacles had been in the way until Leonard interfered. These were the particular actions which had earned Leonard such extreme regard.
Despite my experience with humans, I did not understand the families' wish. Vulcan would not understand. These were deaths requiring inordinate inconvenience with regard to the place of expiry. The hospice was likely better suited. Why did his interference result in such respect?
Further, why has Leonard never spoken of this to me?
The rest of the evening was insignificant. Amusements were suggested after the meal, including a card game in which the children in attendance decided I should participate. The deck was unusual, having depictions of animals. The odds were easy to calculate, but when I won three draws in a row, Leonard pulled me away from the game and told me (through our link) that I had lost my sense of humour. I assume he meant I should have allowed the children to win.
We walked home. When we came up our front path to the house, Leonard did not take my hand in his.
This morning, I asked Leonard to explain his regard in the community.
"What do you mean by my regard?" Leonard asked.
I pointed out he had been the guest of honour at the Ziv dinner.
"No, Spock. Not me. If anything, you're the object of interest. I told you what being reclusive can do."
"I noted their curiosity towards me, but they had a definite inclination for you."
Leonard seemed uneasy. When he spoke, it was to refute my words. "No, Spock, the guest of honour was the one at the head of the table by the door."
I recalled the place settings. A plate, cutlery, and glass had been laid at the head, but no one had sat to them.
"The empty chair, Leonard?"
"I'm not going to bore you with the story of that prophet. There's only one guest of honour, and it's him. Anyway, what you probably noticed is that I like our neighbours and they like us."
"They like you," I corrected.
"They're just getting to know you, but they have heard about you."
There was little point in continuing the discussion. This is something I have encountered before with Leonard, that we will view the same event with obvious differences in perception. Instead, I related what I had overheard regarding the deaths of the two women, and the families' extraordinary gratitude for his actions.
"You want an explanation for that? Spock, you look for complicated reasons when it's really very simple. Answer me this. Where would you prefer I die?"
"I do not want you to die."
"I appreciate that, but it's not what I asked. Where do you want me to die?"
The answer is, as Leonard said, very simple, though I have never stated it to him, or, perhaps, realized it myself. Until that moment.
"If your time comes before mine, I want you to die in my arms."
Now I understand. I see deeply, but Leonard undercuts me.
He was on his way to the town's Masjid when I admitted his character had become a mystery to me.
"What do you mean?"
"You are revealing aspects of your personality which are either new or have been well hidden."
"There's that thing, Spock, using a hundred words when two or three will do."
He was teasing me. I could tell by his badly-used grammar.
"For example, Leonard, you seem--" I would have said emotional, but used the specific word happy instead.
He smiled. "I guess I am. Sorry about that. People change, you know." He went out the door, then came back in long enough to say, "Well, maybe you don't."
My observations of this Ramadh Anglul will be incomplete. My father asked me to accompany him to RG178463B1. I have just returned.
I requested from Leonard a review of the past eleven days. Other than his continued daytime fasting, I appear to have missed little. He unpacked his study and finished painting the kitchen. Damage from a thunderstorm required repairs to the roof. He hosted a dinner here three evenings ago, for the Ziv an Al-Sharif families. Ms. Onast delivered a child and Leonard wishes us to purchase a gift.
My husband requested my attendance at a used item sale. I am unfamiliar with such functions. Apparently people donate possessions which are then valued at less than their worth. The money raised goes to a charitable concern. When I pointed out it would be simpler to donate funds directly, Leonard said the sale would be "more fun."
That is definitely not true, however, I have agreed to oversee a table.
I woke this morning to the first personal nuisance which Ramadh Anglul has caused me. Leonard was still asleep, and had moved in the night to my side of our bed. We were in physical contact. This opened our mental link and I was fully aware of him. Consequently, I became sexually aroused.
I broke our contact, resumed our shields, and would have vacated our bed, but Leonard woke.
As I did not wish to distress him, I remained under the bedclothes (which I was forced to seize when he, for unknown reason, jumped quickly out of bed.) I am not sufficiently endowed that any sign of my desire would be visible through the sheets, however Leonard went into our washroom without looking at me. Strange.
Later, I heard him leave the washroom by the other door, and I allow here that I did consider using that moment of privacy to relieve my arousal myself. The shield between us is not strong enough to withstand it. As I write now, it is still an irritation.
Leonard is correct. Abstinence is difficult in proximity.
Today was the day of the sale. We walked to it slowly, which gave us the first mentally intimate time we have spent together in twenty-four days. He was not remote to me. He spoke of his work at the clinic in such a manner that I was finally able to share his frustration and satisfaction with it. I told him of the trip I had taken with my father to RG178463B1, including some concerns that I had, until then, kept to myself.
I also told him that I had once partially unrolled one of the parchments in the door holders, and hoped there was no prohibition against it. Leonard assured me there was none and offered to repeat the entire prayer to me, which he did, in Vulcan. It is eloquent writing, even translated.
My final request was that he tell me why he had left our bed so quickly on the twenty-second, and I apologized for not accompanying him if the reason for his leaving had been illness.
For one point six minutes, I did not believe I would get an answer. Then Leonard looked away from me. "I didn't want you to see something."
I had to press him.
"I was turned on, Spock."
"I was in the same state, Leonard. I cannot believe it is healthy for us to hide these feelings from each other."
"I'm ahead of you because I know for sure it isn't," he said. "Ramadh Anglul can be very hard on a relationship, but there is a reason for keeping from each other."
"I trust it is a sufficient one."
"The intent is that we are to turn our attention outward, into the community, to think of people besides ourselves. You asked about the thirtieth day. It is the one day out of the whole year in which it is imperative to ask forgiveness from God. It is the day we stand to be judged. Before we do, though, we are given twenty-nine days to ask forgiveness from those we have wronged. In fact, if we don't go out and plead for mercy, there's no point even showing up on the thirtieth day, because God's not going to listen to us. It makes you think, Spock, how important this must be if God requires only one day for himself, but designates twenty-nine for everybody else."
Once more, my husband has surprised me. I thought he observed the tradition only because it was a family one.
When I told him this, he said, "My family stopped observing years and years ago, and yet I continue."
"I do not know you," I said.
"You do, and it'll come around again."
Being careful of my words, I told him that, upon reading his holy texts, my conclusion of the validity of his god was different from his. "I do not wish to invite debate on the subject."
"That seems wise. Anyway, I'm not trying to convert you, Spock. That's never been my intent. All I'm asking is that you wait it out. Wait for me."
Under these open terms, the response was not difficult. "Of course, Leonard. Always. But do not go away from me again."
He nodded and I kissed him, despite our proximity to a public road. It was merely a chaste kiss, such as any may share in public view on Vulcan. I trusted it would not offend here.
We continued to the clinic, for the sale was to be held in its parking area. Leonard took me on a tour of the building. I noted he was in possession of his own office and waiting room.
"You have not reduced your hours yet?" I asked. I could not imagine the facility had the resources to bestow offices on part-time physicians.
"No. I keep meaning to."
"Why should you? We have more than enough income upon which to live."
"It's a human thing, Spock, value being measured in credits and all."
"Is my mother's value less because she remained home after marrying?"
"Are you comparing me to your mother?"
"Only in situation."
"Leonard, I only meant--"
"I mean, immediately."
Such was the end of that conversation. Leonard took me to my table and figuratively dumped me there.
A young girl, setting out the items I was to sell, said to me, "You're Spock, right? I'm Tiffany. My mom made me come."
"My husband made me," I told her.
She laughed, unafraid of me. "I might have to boot off sometimes because of him." She pointed behind me. I discovered a young boy, not yet of school age, behind a box.
"That's my brother, Mack. He won't stay in one place and my mom says I have to watch him. Where he goes, I have to go."
"I understand. Where is your mother."
She gestured at a booth displaying children's clothing. "Her stuff will sell fast, and then she'll come get Mack. Until then, he has a lot of animal crackers, but that might not be enough to hold him."
I did an inventory of our table. We were to sell toys, board games, and children's books.
"What revenue do we charge, Tiffany?"
"Whatever anybody wants to pay. We put the money in a box and Mrs. Cormier, she's a big dough, will pick it up later."
Mack decided to approach me. He offered me one of his cookies, which I declined. Then he asked, "Does your mommy pull your ears too?"
A negative shake of my head sufficed for him. He decided to sit under the table where, we discovered later, he took every opportunity to untie shoe fastenings. Tiffany took a chair beside mine and began a commentary on everyone passing by. From her, I learned more about the neighbourhood than several months of being in residence had revealed. There were two schools, though most children were tutored at home. A hospital had relocated three years ago to a major city, explaining why the clinic had become so important. Tiffany wanted to be a veterinarian, but the closest university was six hundred and seventy miles away. Some of her friends had joined Starfleet as minor cadets to access higher education their families could not otherwise afford.
Unfortunately, my companion combined appropriate information with inappropriate revelation, for I also heard about the town's drunks, gossips, petty thieves, and adulterers.
Her last words to me, before her mother came to the table, left me, for a few moments, nearly mute.
"You're not such a scary man."
"Who says that I am?" I asked her.
"Everybody," Tiffany said. She deposited the cash box in my lap, then stood and gave me an unabashed scrutiny. "Nobody ever sees you. They think you're a snob, that you feel you're too good to live here, and that you tie Dr. McCoy up every night and whip him."
I believe I broke Vulcan control and stared at her in return.
"I'm just teasing, except for the whipping part. All the women in my mother's canasta group think you're sexy, and Mrs. Stanborough wants to make you a lemon custard and take it to you sometime when Dr. McCoy's out."
"I perceive you are still teasing me."
"Then why was she at our table four times this morning?"
Which, I recalled, was true. And then (no doubt due to Leonard's influence through our link), I suddenly found the situation humorous.
"Miss Tiffany, I am not afraid of her."
This was when her mother appeared, to find Tiffany smiling and me just about so. After gathering her children, Tiffany's mother thanked me for taking part in the sale, and invited me to the next town hall meeting.
The end of Ramadh Anglul is approaching. Leonard is starting to remove and pack the decorations. Apparently all sign of the holiday must be put away before sundown of the twenty-ninth day, and the house cleaned again. I will assist.
Leonard came to me in my study in the early afternoon. I had seen him in the back garden several times earlier, pretending to weed while glancing at the windows, his manner showing unwillingness to disturb me.
I well knew what it was regarding. I am the last on his list for Ramadh Anglul, though it seems unnecessary to place me there. The transgressions he feels he has committed towards me have been minor or non-existent.
When he came into the room, he paused by the window. The afternoon sun caught his eyes.
I saw aquamarine.
"My husband, may I speak with you?" he said, addressing me formally in old-fashioned Vulcan.
I nodded and waited for him to elaborate on his phantom act of evil.
"Jim is the only one who has ever been able to make you take a break from work. I do not have the ability."
"Leonard, I thought you were here to ask my pardon."
"I am, for the sin I have sinned against you, by insincere confession, intentionally and unintentionally."
He paused and I waited.
"Spock, I hate that you work so much, that you are away so much. I am tired of being alone. I've never told you. When you've asked, I have lied and said that everything was fine."
"Leonard," I started, but he interrupted me.
"Spock, I know how important your research is. And you've always worked this hard. I came into the marriage knowing this, and, I thought, accepting it."
"Leonard," I said again.
He dropped out of Vulcan, into colloquial. "Spock, I'm sorry. I don't have the right to be angry about something that's always been."
"Yes, you do." I took one of his hands in mine.
"I have erred," I said.
"I don't see how. You haven't been dishonest with me."
"I think otherwise. It is in your holy books and in our marriage vows that neither partner is to withhold himself from the other."
Leonard opened his mouth, but I covered his lips with my fingertips.
"I have been considering this during the past twenty-nine days, and I have been keeping a record as a check to my memory. Leonard, I have made you second to my work. The fault is mine. I have resigned my interest in all but one project, and that is due to end within the next twelve days."
"Spock, it's not in our marriage vows that I keep you at home twenty-four hours a day either. That's selfish."
"Leonard, I have decided to undertake a project here. I have attended a town hall meeting and spoken with the elected councilor of this area. A university and another surgery are needed, and I believe I can help."
I surprised him. The expression ran very clearly across his face.
"All that other work you've done, that you're doing," he began, but he did not complete the sentence.
"Wait, all that other stuff you've been up to is no small bananas."
Humoured, I replied, "Thank you, Leonard. I prefer to hold the same opinion."
"Oh, for," he said, and cut off again. "Are you sure?"
It was very difficult not to smile. It didn't matter. Leonard sensed it.
I kissed him, then led him to my desk and showed him a copy of a transmission I had received that morning.
"Leonard, do you know Ms. Tiffany Valliell?"
"I believe so."
"She is a loquacious and extremely intelligent young lady. Her closing semester marks are in the highest range. Her family cannot afford to continue her education."
As Leonard read the transmission, he began to smile. "But she's going."
"She has been accepted, on a full scholarship, at Grand North River University. The Registrar's Office contacted her family yesterday, to confirm her admittance to their first year medical and veterinary science program. The fund is set up in such a way that her family will not know the source. They have been told the scholarship is part of an endowment settled on the school. I know I should have consulted you before I wrote the draft from our account, Leonard, but I trusted you would be in agreement with it."
"I love you, Spock. I really love you. You big-"
I kissed him again.
I accompanied Leonard to his Masjid this morning before dawn, and discovered, at last, exactly to what the last twenty-nine days have been progressing.
All of the preparation and self-denial has been for silence. For complete lack of movement and silence. Nothing else.
This morning at the church, the men and women entered by and remained in separate areas. No one greeted anyone else. The leader, at the front dais, did not acknowledge or turn to see who might be within the congregation. I believe he was praying; he was the only one making a sound.
Leonard entered a row of benches, took a place near some other men, but did not sit. Instead, he raised his hands, palms upward, closed his eyes, and simply stood, as if waiting.
I left him after a few minutes, and was able, once outside the building, to speak for a moment to a man on his way inside. He informed me that what Leonard was doing was the entirety of the day. This was Ramadh Anglul, Declaration of the Soul, the day to stand before God.
I decided to spend the day working on a paper.
On the lane to our home, I came upon the elderly Mrs. Al-Sharif, walking slowly and coatless into the woods. I made a noise on the gravel with my shoes as I came around her, an effort to warn her of my presence without startling her too badly. Still, she panicked upon seeing me, and asked, "Who's there?"
"It is Ahmad," I told her.
She was not wearing her focal lenses. She squinted, so I stepped forward and repeated, "It is Ahmad, grandmother."
This calmed her slightly, and I was able to get her to accept my jacket.
"I can't find Princess. She hasn't touched her food. I don't know where she is."
Guessing that Princess was a pet, I offered to help her look. The direction I chose was towards her house.
She could not walk very quickly, and often tried to go into the forest. It was a long walk, and I believe I failed at giving her any assurance about her animal. Dementia is the most unfavorable of conditions, and one that I personally hope will not visit either Leonard or myself. It is death before death.
Her daughter appeared when we reached the main road, and ran towards us in evident relief. She had discovered her mother's absence before breakfast, and the family had been looking for Mrs. Al-Sharif since. I explained that her mother had been seeking a pet.
Mrs. Al-Sharif's daughter informed me that Princess was a cat. The animal had died several years ago. Then she commenced a course of gratitude so exuberant, I was forced to pretend a previous engagement, though I was not able to leave without promising to accept a cake which the daughter planned to bake for me that afternoon.
I returned home, and the walk seemed, illogically, longer than before. I paused by the birch trees Leonard had admired, and impulsively entered the forest, in search of the elusive maple trees. I did not find them, but I did gather some pine cones and a small sprig of herb I recognized as lavender by the fragrance. Later, I returned home and answered correspondence, though not as quickly as a clear mind would have allowed. The pine cones and lavender sat on the table before me, presents for Leonard, but distracting to me.
Leonard did not return home that evening, and I retired without him.
Leonard was asleep beside me when I woke. The sprig of lavender was on his pillow.
I judged it better to let him rest, and left our bed without disturbing him.
While drinking a cup of tea in the kitchen, I was unaccountably drawn by the sight of our back garden through the window. Something was different. I stepped out and discovered Leonard had arranged the pine cones into a border for the Bluebells. They were gently placed in the soil, though not evenly. He would have worked perhaps with only a flashlight to guide him.
I knelt on the grass edging and aligned the strobili. The last one, larger than the rest, didn't fit and, as I picked it up, I remembered Leonard's claim regarding their supposed intricacy. I held the pine cone up to the light just as I sensed his presence behind me.
"There's more to them than you'd think," he said. I turned to find him watching me and drinking my tea.
"I have not yet ascertained that by independent observation."
He knelt beside me as I regarded the cone. Sun and shadows filled the deep, bumpy, interior, and an almost imperceptible smell of pine reached my nose.
"You found a lovely brown one. It couldn't have dropped that long ago. The others are older," Leonard said.
He took the pine cone and fit it deftly into the border so that its difference in size was not noticeable.
"And now you're going to say that my description is awfully subjective."
"Yes," I said to him, "but I concur."
He touched my cheek and our bond began to open.
"Was yesterday successful for you, Leonard?"
He was still touching me. By now I could sense his desire and was sharing it.
"I hope so. I tried to do the best I could."
Leonard glanced at the grass around us, brushed away a twig, then said, "Let's do it."
"Outside?" I believe I both looked and sounded appalled.
"Yes," he replied, laughing at me as he tried to pull me down with him.
The sight of him lying back in the grass was overwhelming.
"Spock, let's make love right here."
And we did.
1. The prayer which McCoy has put in the holder on the doorjamb is part of the opening prayer of the Qur'an.
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