Nonchalant and all that, I waited until the last moment to look up at the welcome interlopers.
“Ibrander,” said a poised, throaty, laughing voice, “won’t you introduce me?”
They stopped in front of the bench, my third cousin Ibrander1 (who detests Loddi, making me instantly suspicious of his coming over) and a tall, glossy person who was all rich brown hair and expressive mouth and hand gestures. One hand was on Ibrander’s arm but she still managed to be gesturing with it. Her clothes were nothing less than dashing – a wide hat and a one-piece dress suit in cream, its tailored A-line skirt skewing physics by ending in a sway. This was one case where I didn’t have to worry about the polite game that people played of trying to guess-without-guessing whether someone was visiting in-holo only. She was most definitely in person.
I mercilessly crushed the wish that I had worn something better.
“Right,” said Ibrander, whom I had forgotten in the visual assault that was his companion. She was smiling straight at me apparently without realizing how overwhelming that was. She had very white teeth.
“… and this is, er, Lalantree.”
Ibrander skipped a beat, looking slightly askance as he realized his beau had not torn her attention away from me for a single look at Loddi. I was trying very had to find somewhere else to put my eyes, only she forestalled my evasive manoeuvres by extending a hand right below my nose. A hand that she obviously took prodigious care of, with moisturizing treatments and the kind of seasonal glow that was in every season. There was a curl to her fingers (enhanced by a filigreed ring running half the length of her index) that perturbed me somehow.
But I couldn’t well avoid shaking her hand, seeing as it was in my face. Her eyes crinkled in a smile that showed all her lashes and hers was a grip that didn’t let go as soon as I would have liked.
“Lalantree? You look different than your name would suggest. Do you live on Amphitran too?”
I had no idea what she was talking about. She spoke quickly, yet without seeming to hurry, threatening to leave me behind in a blur of teeth and lips.
“Mavind?” Ibrander essayed, sounding a bit weirded out. “Shall we say hullo to my brother?”
“Oh, that’s all right, Ibrander,” she straightened and her other hand was magically no longer through his arm. “You go on over to your brother! I’ll stay here with Lalantree.”
Loddi was saying something. Nobody listened.
“Um…” Ibrander said.
“Um…” I said.
“Go on!” This person-called-Mavind tossed her head and that set off a ripple of hair that must be the final punctuation point on life, the universe, and everything.
“Ha,” she exhaled, thoroughly satisfied and blindingly bright, “now we can talk.” With that she sat down next to me on the bench – too close too close too close too close – in such a way that her back was to Loddi, and by leaning in she was able to take up a good 1/3 of my field of vision. She leaned and she started talking. As simple as that. And she had me spinning so fast (you would be spinning too if a person-who-was-way-too-young to be an angstromtechnologist was telling you all about themselves – outdoorsy hobbies, philanthropic endeavours, cooking and mon thei skills – whilst seeming very interested in hearing about your own shitty job and how you spent your weekends doing nothing) that at first the most remarkable thing about her barely registered. That is, she was immune to Loddi’s gravitational forces.
I think Loddi tried to sidle around and join our conversation. I think Mavind waved her hand and Loddi vanished like an unwanted blip on a HUI2.
I kept trying to think, with little success.
“Did you know you have delightful eyes?” she interrupted herself, again. She seemed to like interrupting her thoughts with more important thoughts.
I think I squawked. I think.
“Really, you do!” She was in close and whatever her perfume was, it wasn’t helping. “I won’t believe that no one has told you that before!”
“What – Ibrander – ” I managed to get out.
“Ah!” she shrugged. “You know, the best way of meeting people is by attending family gatherings. I could tell that Ibrander would have at least a few lovely people among his extended relations. And he was so kind as to bring me here when I let him know that I wasn’t engaged for this CLPFC day.” She laughed. “Now,” one of those eloquent, perilous hands found its way to my upper arm, “as soon as I arrived, I knew you were the one. Looking off into the valley, so quietly resigned to putting up with that bore, whatever-his-name-was… You are utterly delicious, don’t you see?”
No way was I going to try to see. If there had ever been a time to DEER3 and panic, this was it.
“Oh! But of course.”
1Top-of-class, very serious sort of bloke, until he gets drunk with other individuals who identify as blokes; Ibrander announced his intention to work on his non-bloke social skills at one of his brother’s dinner parties a dozen or so years ago, and I snorted before realizing that what I took deadpan delivery was not, in fact, a joke. He’s been pretty good about that though.
2Holographic User Interface.
3 Demand: what is attractive about this person, anyway?
Enumerate: list all known or possible flaws.
Evaluate: realize that it is never worth it.