She Knew He Was Coming, p.1Kris Neville
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_Mary might have learned a more ladylike trade, but one thing iscertain: she had a shining faith in that space guy from Earth. Now,about that cake she baked ..._
She Knew He Was Coming
By Kris Neville
Illustrated by Ed Emsh
Outside, the bluish sun slanted low across the green dust of the Martiandesert, its last rays sparkling on the far mountain tops. One by one,lights flickered on in the city.
"Mary must be expecting that Earthman," Anne said. She held her glasticblouse tight together over her breasts and leaned a little out of thewindow.
Milly nodded. "The _Azmuth_ landed this morning."
The noises of commerce were fading. From the window Anne saw the neonblaze up over the door. For the thousandth time she blinked between theequivocal words: 30--BEAUTIFUL HOSTESSES--30. Laughter, dry and false,filtered up from the tea bars along the street. She looked westward,toward the spaceport, and made out the shadowy nose of the berthed spaceliner looming against the night. She could picture the scene--a thousandstevedores unloading cargo, refill men and native spacewriters scurryingover the sleek hull, the Earth voyageurs shouting orders and curses.
"Maybe he isn't even on it." Anne turned from the window. She crossed tothe couch and sat down, fluffing out the green crinkly glass of herskirt; pendant, multicolored birds flashed from the rings in her ears.She tucked rosy feet under her scented body. "I don't like Earthmen,"she said.
"They spend money."
"They make me sick," Anne said. "With their pale skins and ugly eyes andhairy bodies."
"They have strong arms."
Anne's wide, red mouth curled in distaste. "They're like a bunch ofkids."
The room was lighted by soft, overhead fire. Heavy drapes hung from thewalls. Sweet, spicy incense curled bluely from the burners by thewindow.
Before the mirror, Milly edged in the narrow line of her pink eyebrowswith a pencil. She folded her lips in, rubbing them together, lickedthem, making them a glistening red. She pinched her cheeks.
"I wonder when they'll catch Crescent?" she said.
Anne yawned languorously. "It won't be long."
"I wouldn't want to be in her shoes," Milly said.
Anne patted her mouth lazily. "She ought to have known she couldn't runaway."
"What do you think Miss Bestris will do to her?"
Anne stood up, brushing out the wrinkles in her dress. "I should care."
"But what will she do?"
Anne shrugged. "Whip her, maybe. How should _I_ know?"
"Don't you feel you'd like to run away, once in a while?" Milly asked,turning to look at the other girl.
Anne laughed coldly. "I've got better sense."
"But don't you _want_ to?"
Anne tossed her purple hair. "Where is there to go? Who is there to goto?"
"Yes.... I guess you're right." Milly turned back to her reflection.
Both girls turned their heads to the buttons on the wall. The white onewas glowing.
"It's Miss Bestris."
"We'd better go," Milly said.
Together they walked down the heavily carpeted stairs to the sittingroom.
The Madame was waiting. She was a large woman, rolling in creases offat, and her pink hair was rough and clipped short. She had a pair ofdimples in her cheeks and a single gold band around her right wrist. Shewas leaning against the piano.
"Hurry now, girls, hurry right along," she said.
More girls were entering the room; they spread out, sitting on thechairs, curling at the Madame's feet. Their eyes--amethyst, gray orgolden--were on her face. Many had pink hair, others had tresses ofpurple or salmon.
"Now, girls, I suppose you know there's an Earth ship in port?"
The girls nodded.
"So I expect we'll have visitors tonight. I want you to all look yourvery best." She smiled at them. "Anne, why don't you wear that low-cut,orange plastic with the spangles, and June, you the prim white one? Youlook like an angel in it." June smiled. "And Mary...?"
"Yes, Miss Bestris?"
"Mary. Did you buy that neo-nylon I told you about?"
"No, Miss Bestris."
"Mary, Mary, Mary. I just don't understand you at all."
"I'm saving my money, Miss Bestris," Mary said intently.
"Yes, dear, I know that. We're _all_ saving our money. But we simplymust look presentable. We have a reputation to hold up."
"Yes, Miss Bestris."
"Then, Mary, dear, do--do, _please_, buy yourself something decent."
"Yes, Miss Bestris. I will.... Tomorrow. Tomorrow morning, if I ..."
"Child? If you what?"
"Nothing, Miss Bestris."
"Well. See that you get it tomorrow. If you don't, I'm afraid I'll haveto take some of your money and get it for you."
Mary looked down at the floor. The flaming glow of the hydrojet torchescast golden lights in her softly purple hair.
"By the way, Mary. Is that your cake in the oven?"
"Yes, Miss Bestris."
The other girls snickered.
"Let her alone," said the Madame. "If she wants to bake a cake, whyshouldn't she?"
No one answered.
Miss Bestris went on around the room, discussing the girls' clothing,brushing this girl's hair, pinching that girl's cheek, chucking this oneunder the chin, smiling, frowning. Then finally she stepped back andnodded.
"You all look quite good, I think. I can be proud of you. And now, Iwant you all to go to your rooms and make them extra attractive, andthen try to get a little rest, so you'll all be especially beautifulwhen the boys come. Run along now."
The girls filed out, and night continued to settle. After a while, hercigarette glowing in the gloom, the Madame waddled to her office. Therethree people were waiting for her.
* * * * *
The office was plain, businesslike, masculine; no lace, no ribbons, noperfume, only the crisp smell of new paper, the tangy odor of ink, thesweet smell of eraser fluid. When she came in the door the three peoplestood up.
She waved her cigarette hand with a once delicate gesture and flamelight glinted dully on the gold band. "Please don't get up for me," shesaid, but her tone was condescending and the three visitors sat downrespectfully.
Miss Bestris crossed to her desk; she perched on a corner of it, leanedback, blew smoke.
"You wanted to see me about your girls?"
Two of the people, man and wife, looked at each other. "Yes," they said.And the other man said, "Yes."
"Did you bring any pictures?"
They handed her pictures, and she held them up to the overhead torch.She studied them critically, pursing and unpursing her lips in secretcalculation.
"This one," she said finally, holding out one of the pictures.
The man and wife rustled their clothing; they smiled faintly proud ateach other.
The other man got up slowly, retrieved his picture, left the roomwithout saying a word.
"We can't do for little Lavada," the woman whined. "She was a latechild, and we're getting old, and we thought she would be better here.It's hard to do for a growing girl when you get old. And my husbandcan't keep steady work, because of his health and ..."
"I'm sure she will be happy here," the Madame said, smiling.
"Yes," the man agreed. "It's for the best. But--you know--well, we hateto do it."
"How old is she?"
Miss Bestris studied the picture again. "She doesn't look over twelve."
"We have doctors to see to that," the Madame said. "How much did youhave in mind?"
"Well," the man said, "it's been a month now since I worked, and withdebts and everything...."
"And something to put aside for winter," his wife added.
"We couldn't take less than a _milli dordoc_."
"And we wouldn't even think of it, but we don't have a scrap of bread inthe house."
"And all our bills, and winter coming on...."
Miss Bestris turned the picture this way and that. The
She Knew He Was Coming by Kris Neville / Science Fiction have rating 3 out of 5 / Based on18 votes