Marta and A Daughter
Copyright 1998 by Hayden Dawson
Like the majority of new eleven year olds, Rafaella Roberts did not take well to surprises -- when the surprise was a mother's voice sounding in her bedroom three hours before the pre-teen planned to awaken.
"Rise and shine, dear! We have a busy day." The woman who brought Miss Roberts into the world stood in the doorway wearing a simple dark dress Rafaella could not remember seeing before. "Happy Birthday!" Mrs. Roberts presented the same dress in her daughter's proper size.
"Mooom!" Rafaella had recently discovered the glory of realizing Mommy was not always right. Right now was one of those occasions. "It's still dark out!"
"Well, it's late morning on Difda, which is where we are heading. Get into this and you'll feel better." The dress was laid on the bed and the light switch turned on.
Young eyes blinked. "Dad said we were going out to dinner, my choice, and then back for cake, ice cream and presents. Never said anything about going off-planet."
"Change of plans. Anyway, it's just you and me on this one. We'll be back in plenty of time for the family to celebrate your big day."
"Yes, dear. I wouldn't take something so important away. Got a problem going somewhere special with Mom? Eleven make you too old for such foolishness?"
"No, Mommy." Rafaella leaped to give a hug and stopped halfway. Shadows existed under mom's eyes even though the room was well lighted. Makeup applied to cover the dark areas was not totally successful. "What's wrong? Are you sick?"
Mom completed the hug. "I feel fine now. Something did bother me last night but Dad talked me through it. Guess it's his idea I do this trip with you."
"Where are we going on Difda?"
"We have family there, whom it's time you meet." The tone was less motherly.
"You win." Rafaella slid out of nightwear exposing a body well along in feminine development. The dress rubbed against tender skin as one fresh from the cutting room would. Mom helped by smoothing out creases and zipping the back.
"Going to have to keep my eye on you." Mom moved to styling hair. "Didn't have to worry about your big sister until Susie was fourteen. Karen isn't even this far yet."
"Well they have something I don't have; that makes us even."
"Enough of that talk. I've done fine without, thank you kindly. All that power of your father's, and guess who's bailed him out many an occasion? Being able to talk mind to mind and throw things across the room without touching them is not all your siblings claim it to be. Dad doesn't treat you differently, neither do I."
"But know how many times I've tried, even though I know I can't?"
Mom patted her daughter's head. "That's one reason for this little jaunt. You'll discover another on Difda."
Rafaella followed Mom past rooms in which other children still slept, down the long stairwell, through the dining hall and into the kitchen. Her father stopped stirring pancake batter long enough to greet his wife and fifth child.
"Good morning and happy birthday! Awake enough to give a hug?"
Rafaella complied while attempting to surreptitiously steal a fingerful of batter.
"I'll have none of that!" Dad wiped clean the offending finger with a damp rag.
Dad sighed. "Care to give a hand, Mom?"
"What happened to 'Get her to the kitchen and I'll manage the rest?' Shake a few drops of water into the pan, Lawrence, if it sizzles, put the batter in."
It was indeed time for the pancakes to cook. "When do you expect to be back? I'll make reservations once Rafaella tells us where she wants to go."
"Early evening at the latest." Marta queried her birthday girl. "Where shall it be?"
Rafaella smiled. "I want you to cook for me, Mommy."
"Wait. Isn't this the same girl who complained I woke her too early minutes ago?"
"Yea. So. Daddy promised."
"Your daddy talks too much. All right, what do you want?"
"Nothing special, noodles and meat sauce."
"Guess I could manage that. Dear, if I make a list, can you fill it?"
"Yes." Lawrence put a griddle cake before Rafaella. "Butter and syrup are on the table." His attention turned to Marta. "The ship's ready and a driver is waiting on Difda."
"Any business you need me to take care of?"
"Thought we agreed you weren't going to do that!" Lawrence grabbed an arm. "You're not going to hide anything from her today!"
"Yes, dear. We'll only stay long enough for pleasantries."
Rafaella looked askew at her parent's disagreement. "Am I going to find out what's wrong?"
Dad responded first. "Yes, you will."
"There's much to cover. She started feeling sorry for not having powers again."
"Am I going to have to tag along?" Lawrence quizzed knowingly.
"No!" Marta came on firmly. "And for the rest of breakfast, this family will discuss something besides personal difficulties." True to her word, Mom moved to other topics until it was time to depart. "Come, Rafaella, our transportation awaits."
Mother and daughter were greeted upon arrival at Lawrence's starship by the captain. "My Dear Lady Roberts." Folds of blue and gold cloth swept the ground. "Miss Rafaella has certainly filled out since we met last."
Rafaella blushed and grabbed her mother.
Marta berated with gaze and grimace. "The captain should watch his mouth."
"My humble apologies, Madame. It would be a pleasure to see you to your destination and back with honor intact."
"A little better, Sir, but not much."
The ship lifted off and traveled under normal propulsion until clear of planetary gravitation. At this point, it disappeared. Seconds later, the vessel was in the system of the Imperial Planet Difda, childhood home of Mrs. Roberts. A shuttle then detached and delivered its passengers to an airlock providing access to the domed capital. The cycling airlock was handled naturally by Marta. Rafaella's knowledge of space travel, however, extended only to trips on the pressurized starship. She screamed as her ears popped.
Mom pinched an eleven year old nose. "You never get fully used to it."
Head pain abated. "Will it be like this all the time?"
"No. From here on it'll be no different from home."
On the other side was a hovervan emblazoned with the seal of the Werkstein Foundry Werke. Established by Marta's paternal grandfather and passed on to son and then granddaughter and husband, the foundry was one of the premier constructors of spaceship hulls. With travel between two galaxies a daily reality, business was good.
"If you please, Mrs. Roberts." Dressed too formally, a young executive hopeful offered an open side panel door. His voice did not brim with confidence.
"Most impressive." Marta hoped friendliness would assuage fears the boy was about to be fired. "I must commend the manager for such a superior choice in driver."
"As you say, Ma'am. I'm Leonard Battaglio, of the management trainee program."
"Pleased to make your acquaintance, MISTER Battaglio." Emphasis was put in the proper place. "This is my daughter, Rafaella, she turns eleven today."
"Your daughter is becoming quite a lady." Although making note of similar things as the captain, Leonard's remarks met with more approval.
"My daughter has been blessed with her mother's looks, brains and ability. There is much for her to be thankful for."
"Dear, thank the gentleman for such a kind comment."
Rafaella remained unsure. "Thank you...for such a...kind comment."
Leonard smiled. "You are quite welcome Miss Rafaella Roberts. Forgive me for surprising you."
"Just don't ask me on a date or something."
"Such never was my intent. Just wished your mother to know what a fine job she has done."
"Her mother is quite aware of that."
"Ahhh. Notification I should get to business at hand."
"Another point in your favor. Now drive."
Traveling under Difda's dome, Rafaella looked up at the bluish hue taken on during daylight hours. The interior color changed to match what one would observe on a planet with a breathable atmosphere. From the start of one Difdian day until its end, no less than two thousand separate color and hue adjustments occurred.
"Here we are ladies." The Werkstein foundry bordered the dome and consisted of extensive ground and space-based facilities. A lunchtime siren sounded as the van parked in a reserved space. The plant manager welcomed as they disembarked.
"Your husband's call surprised us."
"Obviously, I'm not here for an inspection. This is my daughter's eleventh birthday. Part of it will be spent discovering how I grew up."
"Eleven. That makes you Rafaella. You have four siblings ahead and three behind. Last I checked, that was all of you."
"And that WILL be all of them, Sir." Marta had to interject.
"Thought you were thinking it would be nice to have little ones around again."
"How do you come about knowing that, Miss Nosey?"
"Didn't mean to. I came down late one night and overheard you."
"Adults talk, they don't have to mean what they say. Your father and I are comfortable. Some pictures just brought back good memories."
"Is that what happened last night?"
"No. Those memories weren't good."
"Sorry again. So now what since we're here on Difda?"
"A few minutes. Let's walk around. If you like it, you can work here someday."
"Do I have to choose now?" Rafaella gestured at the manager who had moved with Leonard to the main entrance. "They're waiting for us, Mom."
"Then we better catch up. Hang on, Grandpa used to hate it when I did this." Taking firm hold of Rafaella's hand, Marta darted across without checking. Cars screeched to a halt and drivers prepared to honk before recognizing the bosslady.
"Mooom! Want to get me killed for my birthday?" Mom's behavior continued strange. She should have said more about private discussions becoming public and was running like a schoolgirl. "PLEASE, NO!!" Was she lying about not being sick?
Marta reacted to the distress cry. "Dear, look at me." Withholding the inevitable was compounding the situation. "We'll tour another time." A tissue from Mom's purse contained a child's tears. "Mr. Battaglio, take us to the Werkstein manor."
Leonard recognized a place where one didn't question. "Of course, Mrs. Roberts."
"I'm keeping him for our visit." The manager was directly addressed. "Then, find Mr. Battaglio a place more useful. Does not political affairs need a Number Three?"
"Yes, Ma'am. Am submitting candidates to you next week."
"It's him. Congratulations, Assistant Director Battaglio."
Leonard's mouth went wide. "Not sure how qualified I am for that."
"I think you qualified, that's enough."
A trip across the length of the capital unfolded the scope of Difda society before Rafaella. The budding adolescent mind could barely comprehend the achievement of life on a naturally lifeless rock. And her mother had spent half her life here.
"What kind of schools does Difda have, Mom?"
"Good ones. Started architecture classes at one while still in high school."
"Oh. But how -- all of this?"
"Engineering, what else? Beneath are machines which create, cycle and clean the air. Other machines do the same with water. Actually a lot of water is trapped in the rocks. It is a relic of when Difda was Terran. That was long before anyone came here. Above ground are atmospheric regulator units to keep things comfortable."
"Mooom! Stop teaching!"
Marta sniffed. "Once knew a little girl who loved talking to her mother."
"She still does, but about other things now. Like why did you have me when you knew I wouldn't be a telepath?"
"Because your father and I had children to express our love, not to create a psionic army."
"But it's not fair! Anthony and Karen show off just to tease me!"
"Dad's aware of that. When it comes to abusing power, he resolves things."
"Did he hurt them?! I don't want that! I love them!"
"And they love you back. Dad just showed the twins it's not fun to be psionically played with. They got the message. Shouldn't tell, but they split the cost of that pink outfit you were screaming for the other day."
"The one you said was too old?" The beam was bright.
"Yes; that one."
"Goody! It looked better on me than what I'm wearing now does."
"Drawing attention is not the purpose of this uniform. Showing respect is."
"Respect for what?"
"For whom, dear." Marta trailed off. "A very good whom."
The home of Marta's parents had well suited the prominent industrialist Herr Werkstein. Much of the bottom of three floors consisted of a study, conference room and banquet hall; all still lavishly appointed. The rooms saw regular use as Guiseppe Werkstein's workday rarely stopped at the foundry gates. The bedroom of his teenage daughter lay two stories above and shoved to the back. Rafaella and Marta slipped sweaters on after entering the vacant abode. The damn house was always one tough to keep warm.
In the foyer, Marta opened a coatroom door. The thermostat hidden within was adjusted to a more comfortable level. "Sorry about this. Lawrence and I need to find someone to keep this place up. Leonard, in my father's study, top center desk drawer are the keys I need. She and I will be back."
On the way to Marta's bedroom, Rafaella paused at a formal painting of the Werkstein family. Mom was perhaps nine. The resemblance Rafaella bore to her mother was never more striking. Grandfather and Grandmother Werkstein were already in their seventies. Marta had come late in their lives and was unexpected. Grandmother's hands attached firmly to Marta's shoulders, apparently providing comfort to her offspring.
Mom had not bothered to stop and was already stretched out on her canopy bed when Rafaella caught up. An elaborate, authentic building set boxed in the corner was early evidence of the premier architectural engineer for two galaxies Marta Agnes Werkstein would become. On the mirrored dresser was her high school photograph. The expression on the girl's face was the one found so shocking this morning.
Mom spoke and smiled from her resting place. "If you see anything you want, you can have it."
The garments from Mom's younger years were mainly boringly traditional, but still wearable. One or two looked close enough in size. Wait! Mom just changed the subject on her!
Rafaella reexamined the photo. "Why aren't you happy here, Mom?"
"That's a LATER discussion, dear daughter."
LATER with that tone meant when she was twenty! Made no sense to push and rush into a dead end, however! What about this? "Why aren't you happy NOW, Mom?"
"Why do you say that?"
"I don't have to be telepathic to read when my mother is hurting! Look! You pull me out of bed, put one of your dresses on me and bring me to a place I've never been! You cried all last night and are about to cry now!" The roles of supporter and supportee switched. "You're about to share something I doubt you have even told dad!"
Marta applauded. "All correct my girl. Except that dress is yours. After my tears stopped, Dad and I went to the mall and had them tailored for you and me. I'm proud of you! Putting aside personal pain for the sake of another is a mature thing, young lady."
"Guess I was acting childish."
"No, you were sticking up for yourself. Don't apologize for that. Kind of funny, your normalcy is why you are here. Going on twenty years with father and still this psionic stuff boggles me. I understand how it's painful to feel detached from your siblings; sometimes I feel the same about my other children. Forgive me though; I lied when saying I didn't treat you different. You're like me, us ordinary girls have to be there for each other."
Rafaella cried, kissed and hugged. "I love you, Mommy!"
Marta did the same. "Want to show that dress to Grandma now? She'd like to see you in it. She's resting beneath a cathedral. Been there since I was eleven."
Eleven. Today's magic number. The early wakeup and drab dress were not without reason. "I would like to do that. Would you mind doing something for me?"
"Aren't you pushy? Think I MIGHT be able to. What?"
"Let me slip into the pink thing when we get home."
Rawlings, MD 21557
Hayden, in collaboration with Patrick Arakel, created the 'Bioenergetics' and 'Chinese Magic' sections of the recent A Magical Medley book for FUDGE and other RPGs thats published by Grey Ghost Press. The above story is set in the future worlds of Bioenergetics and is presented here in the Fantasy Realms Journal with his written permission.