Chapter 10 Part 5 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
Temmin numbered among Issak's attendants for the next few days as the twins recovered from two possessions in as many spokes. Anda had once said they treated the Embodiments like glass for a whole spoke after Nerr's Day; the other six Embodiments carried their Gods once a year, and while it took a toll on them all it was doubly so for the Obbys. While the other Embodiments might serve twenty or even thirty years, the twins would last perhaps ten. They did little but eat and sleep for the first week after Nerr's Day, regaining their strength.
Temmin told himself concern for Allis made him wait for the others to leave so that he might sneak through the door between the twins' apartments. Allis's pinched and exhausted face blooming again as she slept touched him in a way that Issak's did not.
It troubled him. It went against Temple practice. He loved others in the Temple--Anda and Issak especially--but he loved Allis in a way he should not; jealousy raged inside him when she spent time with others, and he could not stop nor could he confess, not even when he was sitting with his back against the bed and Allis touched his hair. "Tem, what are you doing here?"
He jumped up and he could feel the guilt on his face. Control, control. "I'm…I was just..it was in case you needed anything."
"Anda, Penna and Justinna are on the other end of this bell pull. You shouldn't be here, Tem. Why are you here?"
"I don't know," he mumbled.
"I think you do. I know I do." She sat up, keeping the covers pulled up around her. "Well?"
His face crumpled. "I'm trying, Allis, but I don't know what to do. I've talked to people, I've distracted myself with others and I'm trying not to feel what I'm feeling, but I don't know how not to feel something."
"What are you feeling?"
"I'm feeling…" The knot in his stomach crawled up into his throat. I can't, I'm not supposed to, I can't! If I say, I'll make it real!
"Temmin," she began, "when young men first have sex--"
"No! No, don't ever say that, never say that! I'm not most young men, I've had a great deal of sex since then with many others, and that's not how it is." Temmin sank on his knees beside the bed. "Why are you avoiding me?"
"I haven't avoided you, I have duties. So do you. What do you want, Tem? You have to name it before you can begin to heal."
The words came out in a rush. "Heal? How can you heal from loving someone? Because I love you, and I can't stop, and I'm not sure I want to. I'm not asking you to belong to me and only me forever. I know it's not possible, for any number of reasons. Just tell me this one thing. Do you love me? Not as a petitioner, or a Supplicant, or a fellow human being--do you love me? Do you love me, Allis? I need to know. That's all I need to know."
She searched his face, her green eyes sad and bright. "Oh, Tem. You'd best go. This is between us for now, but I urge you to speak with Barik or even Most High Gan. Don't ever ask me that again. Please."
A rustle made Temmin twist on his knees to face the door to Issak's bedchamber. "There you are, Temmin Supplicant," said Senik, his face blank. "You're needed in here."
Temmin rose from the floor, flustered and angry. Of all people to catch him, Senik was the last he would have chosen.
Senik appeared a few days later summoning Temmin to the Most High Beloved's chambers.
The old priestess sat on a low, wide couch propped up on pillows. "I'm perfectly able to sit upright on my own, but Senik likes to spoil me, don't you, dear? Well, Temmin Supplicant!" she said once they were alone. Malla took his hands in her own, her skin cool, soft and papery. "We have not spoken one on one in some time. How is your life here at the Temple?"
Temmin bowed his head over her hands and kissed them in reverence. "I'm told I'm progressing well in my studies and I'm enjoying them, Most High." Perhaps there had been a complaint about his work? Still not good, but better than what he was dreading. "Has anyone reported otherwise?"
"In a way," said Malla, sipping at her tea. "Your studies include freeing yourself from possessiveness, Temmin, and I am told you are failing in this regard. I have seen you failing in this regard myself."
"Well?" she said after a pause.
"I'm not sure what you mean. Perhaps you might tell me what the observers have found fault with in my dealings with petitioners."
Malla chuckled. "Never practice on the practiced, sweetheart--you can't evade me. The fault is not in your dealings with petitioners. With them, you are exemplary. With others..."