You mean to tell us they look down on us?

Not exactly. All eyes are on her as she tries to explain what she has written down. She clears her throat. He taps expectantly on the meeting table, making her nervous. She misses Lee. Focus. She finds her voice again.

But there are some aspects they find, well, archaic. Anachronistic, maybe. Especially the architecture. I’m merely speaking of practical concerns.

Who are they to judge?

He seems incensed, though it may just be his mannerisms.

They cannot find anything better to do with their time? They build their way, we build ours. They must know we have limited materials here. Our traffic may be comparatively slow but it is definitely efficient. And I’ve seen the vids of their cities. Hypermodern ugliness sprouting up everywhere, but all among them, buildings that look quite like ours. Not so different. I wish we had the hothouses, though. Something we can work on implementing in the next year, perhaps. For the park.

They call them conservatories.

Yes, well, that’s something to put on the list. You’re absolutely right, something like that might bring the visitors. Thank you for your report. We’ll take your recommendations into consideration.

Of course, Sir.

All right, everyone. I think this meeting’s just about finished.

People begin scattering. Finally only she and he are left in the room. He addresses her with his back turned, pouring himself an Amoral. Typical of him. Amoral is inordinately expensive. He does not offer her any. Not yet.

You’re free to take the rest of the day off. In light of your recent hard work. I found what you wrote very insightful, you know. Your recommendations are good. Very good. Helping a young city grow isn’t easy.

Thank you, Sir. She leaves before his praise can become too effusive, before the Amoral can be offered, either out of a sense of awkward obligation or from desire. Some things never change.

Outside, she pulls down her hat further to ward off the cold, though it is a cloche hat and it is brim is already cupped downwards like an inverted tulip. This place is indeed archaic. Those are her own thoughts. Airships. Goodness. She admits their suitability to the situation but can’t help wonder at their continued use despite the challenge of the winds. She watches them when she can. Most steer safely into port. Inevitably, though, there are accidents. Not always fatal ones, but nerve-shattering. Each time a storm front comes in, her heart stops. The fronts are growing.

Think of other things. The books are archaic, too, though she loves those. Beautifully historical. The paper feels so wonderful whenever she gets to open them and feel the naked fibers under her bare skin. Too often she was stuck with the task of carrying the books unopened, though this promotion should help her access their innards more often. No more work in private salons, but in boardrooms. Trust in her abilities.

And she is meeting him tomorrow. Lee. Her heart spins.

Tonight she will go back to Sal’s apartment. They will drink black tea from dainty filigree teacups which she will handle nervously. She won’t break anything, but she might spill some tea; her hands want to shake themselves to distraction like brittle leaves. Sal likely expects her to show up dressed all in brown again, salary spent on futile little nothings that nevertheless infuse her day with meaning. And she will be dressed in brown tonight. Honestly, there isn’t that much salary. But yesterday she found out about the promotion. She took a risk and bought the dainty gray dress, cut like an inverted tulip. But pretty. Pretty on her.

An airship drones out of port overhead. She’s growing used to their sounds, their shapes, their billows and fits and flights and fouettés.

Tomorrow for their meeting she will wear gray. Where did you get that dress? he will ask. I bought it, she will reply. I earned a promotion. He will be proud of her.

Tomorrow she will watch the airship he is on steer safely into port, before the winter storms. Before the long winter, when airships lie deflated and dormant in the fields as the air swoops over them, screaming the names of those it has taken.


Story © 2015 Clio Em.

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