Sozont could hear Marth's voice coming through the door.
—M: "Who is it?"
—R: "Sozont has come to see you."
—M: "What???" Sounds of apartment-tidying.
—S: "I've brought a present."
—R: "Well, come in then."
Marth was wearing a bathrobe.
—M: "Why didn't you call first?"
—S: "I didn't want to spoil the surprise."
—M: "The place is a mess."
Sozont looked around. The apartment was cleaner
that most bachelor pads. "What mess?" he asked innocently.
—R: "Heh. At least this year's specimen
is a gentleman."
—M: "So what did you bring me?"
—S: "I'll show you. Um, it needs to
—M: "Let's go to the kitchen, then."
Sozont unwrapped the gift on the kitchen counter. Some
of the decorations had gone askew, so he tidied them up.
Marth looked at Sozont's handiwork for a minute.
—M: "It's a tray of voles!"
Sozont beamed. "Yeah." But then suddenly
he was crestfallen. "Damn! I forgot all about the small and cut
—R: "It's a WHAT???"
—S: "It's just chicken."
Marth was smiling. "See? The scallions
are tails. The red circles are the eyes. Noodles for whiskers.
What are those noses made of?"
—S: "Pimentos. And there's four pieces
of Kiev. One for each of us, plus a spare."
—R: "No thanks. I don't eat mice."
Red Bunny went into a bedroom and closed the door behind her.
Marth put the tray in the oven and sat at the table,
so Sozont sat across from her.
—"So, to what do I owe this visit?"
—"Your, um, last broadcast message to friends sounded
like you wanted company."
—"It did, didn't it? I can't imagine what I
must have been thinking. Oh, yes, now I remember. I was thinking
that people would CALL FIRST!"
—"I *thought* you'd be resting in bed, so if I called
then you'd feel obligated to go racing around tidying the place up and give
yourself a relapse." Wait, this couldn't be the right time for an argument.
It never happened like that in the movies.
—"So how did you figure out where I live?"
—"You dropped hints. I listened."
—"I don't remember hinting about my address."
—"You've talked about what's nearby, how long it
takes to get to certain places, a few tidbits about your building. Enough
to triangulate your location."
Marth stared at Sozont for a moment, then spoke in
a small voice: "It sounds like you put a lot of effort into it." She
got up to take the tray out of the oven.
—"Nah, just paying attention."
Marth transferred two pieces of chicken to plates.
She set the table with forks and knives and napkins and glasses of
water. Sozont realized there was much more involved in serving dinner
than just decorating the meat. He was sorry he was making work for
her during her illness. He wanted to help out, but didn't know what
to do, so he just did nothing.
Marth sat down, cut off a piece of the chicken Kiev,
and ate it. "The rosemary really adds to the flavor."
—"I just sprinkled that on to look like 'fur'. If
it actually tastes like anything, that's just a bonus."
—"You're quite the culinary artist."
—"I just threw this together. I don't do much
with arts and crafts."
—"Oh, I do. I've been playing around with some
As they talked and ate, Sozont noticed that the chicken
actually did taste pretty good. And Marth had recognized the "tray of
voles"! Sozont had to keep telling himself that, because it seemed so
hard to believe.
—"So when are you hoping to return to work?"
—"Oh, another day or two. I' still not back
—"Well, I hope you feel better soon."
—"Yeah. So I'm, er, not really up to, um, hopping
in the sack with you today." Wait, she's talking about having sex!
Was there a whole subtext to this conversation that Sozont hadn't been
paying attention to?
—"The thought hadn't crossed my mind," he said gallantly.
But the reply he got was a negative facial expression—one might even
call it a "scowl". Perhaps some backpedalling was in order. "I
suppose it should have."
—"Yeah. Or were you planning to wait for rutting
season to get into high gear and then suddenly start trying?"
Sozont was getting nervous. He had no idea how
to navigate this topic. He really ought to just tell her about his RL
virginity, but she was being so forceful that he didn't want to show any weakness.
"I don't think this meeting really counts as a 'date'. I've been
trying to think of something we could do, but I just can't settle on an appropriate
—"How about a visit to East Cupcake Hot Tubs?"
—"Wednesday. 8 PM."
—"I'll be there!"
Marth wrapped the other two chicken breasts in foil
and put them in the fridge. She washed up Sozont's tray and gave it
to him. "I'm really very tired. I should go back to bed."
—"It was nice meeting you again, Marth. I can
hardly wait until Wednesday!"
—"Yeah. See you then, Sozont!"
As he headed out the door, Sozont tried to shake hands
with Marth, as if this had been a business meeting. But she caressed
his hand instead of shaking it, so he touched her hand too. Sozont
was surprised at how the tender moment felt—why should touching hands matter
so much? But it did. Then Marth moved her hand to the door, waiting
to close it. Sozont took the hint and left.
On his way home, Sozont thought about his visit with
Marth. The hot-tub thingy was scary. He was quite certain that
he would be expected to get naked for that. But Sozont would do what
was required for the situation. And if he was stiff and formal about
it he probably wouldn't embarrass himself too badly.