“Masa Masa! It’s spring, It’s spring!” Despite her joyous, childlike call, these were the words of a woman of twenty, Fei Shungli.
Masa, who had been writing, put her notebook and pen down and stood to meet her friend. “Spring? What of it?”
“Masa.” Shungli’s face lost all cheer. “A full season has passed since the day of my birth.” She grabbed at her cheeks below the eyes and pulled down. “I am doomed!”
Masa smiled, her dark cheeks pulling back to reveal sharp predator’s teeth. “You will be okay, Fei Shungli. It’s just a myth.”
“Uwahh, but have you seen my sister?! She can’t keep a man for more than two dates!”
This was true, Khaen seemed to repel men, and she was even older than Shungli. “But…don’t you think it’s her attitude, not her age? She exudes misery.”
“Yes…I suppose I ought to hold on to my cheer. Men like that right?”
“I don’t know. I think people in general do.” Masa thought a little longer. “Who knows, everyone is different.”
“You are not helping!”
They were in a park on the northwest corner of town. Masa liked it here. It was still within the bounds of the metropolis which she, being only seventeen, was not permitted to leave. But she could remain in city limits and still gaze at the pastoral lands of the north and northwest. Grand fields separated by little old growth rows of deciduous trees. Most of these small woodlets had mansion, or farm village, or both nestled in it, using the trees for protection from the elements while still living near the fields.
When she was younger, Masa would imagine herself visiting these grove villages, and sometimes even being the matron of a mansion. She wasn’t brave enough to hope for such a thing now.
Masa knew why Fei was so unhappy, but she didn’t share the feeling.
“I don’t think you should worry about being an old maid,” Masa said.
“Humph! Easy to say that at your age! Women go out of style after they turn twenty. Look at me! You can see it happening already!”
At this, Masa laughed. “Look at you!” She put her thumb on her friend’s cheek. “Your skin is still firm like a child’s, your hair,” She moved a thick black lock from Fei’s face,” wonderful and thick. And wait a moment, didn’t your mother marry at twenty-seven?”
“I know! Doesn’t it sound horrid!!?” She shouted, causing a nearby family who was walking down the trail to turn their head. “And look at you! Young, and…”
“Ah, all this dark hair, a small nose, and…”
Masa raised an eyebrow. “Come on, I already know it. Tell me what you are leaving out of your appraisal.”
“HMPH!” Fei Shungli turned her face away. “Pointy eyes, sharp teeth, the tanned skin of a peasant farmer.”
Masa smiled. Her canine teeth—of which she had three times the normal amount—were half a finger’s length. They only just perfectly fit in her own mouth, and due to alternate anatomy, likely would not have fit in her friend’s if she’d had them. The oddest thing about her teeth was that they had grown in just this year, replacing nearly all of her regular adult teeth—a horrifying experience, until her family had learned that this was a normal occurrence for biracial children with a parent from the Plainkind people.
It had been a surprise especially since the rest of her Plainkind features had come around the expected time, her turn to womanhood. Her eyes sharpened vertically, like that of a cat, and the increased blood flow turned the iris muscle red. Her skin thickened and held a tan longer, and her muscles became more compact and pronounced. She also hardly grew in height.
“And,” said Fei Shungli, patting Masa on the head, “Men like a smaller woman.”
Masa shook her head. “Not exactly. At least, it seems to me that women like being small more than men like a small woman.”
Shungli gaped at this, but both she and Masa had a feeling her intuition was correct.
It was getting dark and they headed back.
“Still,” said Fei Shungli, “You’re looking for a husband, right? You don’t want to end up a sad, impoverished old maid like me!”
“Impoverished? Old? You’re wealthy and younger than most!”
“Well. I think I might turn away from men for a few years and get an education. What do you think?”
Masa was impressed. “It’s better than complaining about how old you are. Maybe they’ll teach you a thing or two about human development and aging.” Masa exhaled, exasperated.
“Are you coming?”
“Huh?” Masa blinked, and almost tripped. She caught herself, and then really did trip, grabbing a thick nearby tree branch on her way down. It broke under the weight of her densely-muscled body, and she landed on her chest, keeping her chin safely elevated.
“Why not!” Fei helped her friend up. At least, she tried. Masa did most the work.
“Maybe. I will talk to my parents.”
“Well! I’m sure they’ll be proud.”
“Or, if they picked up too much Djeb culture, they might say education isn’t for women.”
“Well!” Fei Shungli said, “Masajtzedek Ancheszka Dinhaze, you can tell them that I’m making it the new norm! At least, for old ladies like me, boo hoo!”
June 25, 2023
This is an early chapter for a project I’ve been planning and intuitively outlining and planning for the past month or so. (Maybe more.) It might not end up being the first chapter, but it is clearly introductory.