Prompt: Cordelia tells her mother about her marriage
Rating/Characters: G, gen (Cordelia)
Length: 1100 words
Cordelia stared at the blank screen and was conscious of a moment of cowardice. She could put this off a bit longer, go for a walk, find Aral… but he might ask how she was getting on with her letter. Whilst entering into her anger at her mother for her collusion with Dr Mehta, he had gently encouraged her to write anyway. Family was important to Aral. It was important to her too, really, but this was going to be difficult.
Dear Mother, she began.
The first bit would be easy.
Two weeks ago I married Lord Aral Vorkosigan.
There was no point putting the date; different planetary dates simply confused everyone. Betans were familiar with the Universal Calendar, but Barrayarans weren't, and she wasn't sure what the date had been on the UC on her wedding day. If her mother really wanted to know she would be able to work it out for herself.
She stared through the screen for a while. Barrayaran marriage customs had been strange. She had felt, half the time, as if she were taking notes for a paper on patriarchal family systems. The other half the time she had been watching Aral.
It was a small wedding in the Barrayaran style, with just a few of Aral's friends and family in attendance.
Her mother would want these details. They gave Cordelia a twinge of regretful pain. Aral's friends and family. Not her old friends from Beta, and not her family. When she had pictured herself becoming bonded, she had always seen her parents, her brother, all the people she'd known through her life, all there at the party to wish her well. What had really happened had been totally unlike her imaginings. Though that had been true of a lot of things, lately.
She did not write I was sorry you weren't there, even though it was true.
Aral's friends had been most welcoming, generous with their time and offers of help to his new foreign wife. His father clearly doted on her, and though she was a little shy of the stern General it was hard to resist his kindnesses. But none of them had known her all her life. They had come to celebrate Aral getting married, not Cordelia.
If she had felt more kindly towards her mother, she would have included a detailed description of the Barrayaran marriage ceremony. The star of coloured grain, the strange set of formal gifts between the bride and groom, the way she had been kept apart from Aral all day until the ceremony, the elderly aunt Aral had dug up to prompt them each for their lines. She wanted someone to share her emotions at the ritual, her mingled enjoyment and amusement and confusion and, at a few points, incredulous shock. But writing all that would feel like a betrayal. She had chosen Aral and Barrayar above her family and Beta, and she couldn't do that and then sit back and enjoy a comfortable gossip about Barrayaran weirdnesses with her Betan family. To the Barrayarans it was normal, and whilst Count Vorkosigan-he had enjoined her to call him Piotr, but she couldn't bring herself to it-had been keen to explain everything, he hadn't understood her reactions. Aral had tried to understand, but even he could not wholly perceive his world the way an outsider did.
Aral intends to live quietly now that he has retired from military service. We plan to have children soon (in vivo, which is all that's possible here). I am sure I will find plenty to occupy my time.
She wasn't sure yet whether she could or should get a job here. Aral had gone quiet when she'd suggested it, and she noted that all the people doing interesting stuff on Barrayar were male. Of Aral's married friends, the female partner rarely performed any economic activity, and when she did it was something sedate like teaching or, unexpectedly, legal advice, which seemed to be one of the few Barrayaran professions that favoured women. Was she expected to do nothing for the rest of her life? She supposed raising children would keep her occupied for at least a decade, especially if they had a large family as she hoped, but sooner or later they would grow up, and what then?
She did not let any of these private doubts seep into her letter. This was the reason she hadn't wanted to write this letter; it brought too many things the joy of her honeymoon had driven away back to the surface. Time to change the subject.
We will not be able to travel to Beta for some time, until the political situation grows calmer, but at some point we hope to make a visit to see you and the family.
Though she disapproved, she was also a little relieved that Betan media reports were strictly censored before reaching Barrayar. Her exploits would certainly have made major news there, and she could imagine all too well what they would look like from the Betan media perspective. She gave the Betan media a rude mental gesture, but did not write anything more about politics. This letter would certainly be read, probably by the terrifying Captain Negri or that young lieutenant Aral had had in tow during the war, and then again by the Betan security services. She just hoped it would reach her mother afterwards. It was strange that she trusted Barrayaran security to treat her letter more kindly than Betan.
Besides, she had done with politics, she and Aral both. Enough was enough.
Now for the hard part.
I know you will not find this easy to accept, but I hope you will come to realise that this was the best choice I could have made. Though I regret having to leave Beta, I am very happy here with Aral and I think I will find life here interesting.
She did not mention the cause of her flight. If her mother still believed that the Barrayaran secret service had somehow programmed her to adore Aral, there was no way she could make her believe otherwise. All her actions were capable of being read in support of Dr Mehta's thesis; perhaps her mother would even believe that Aral too had been programmed and that was why he agreed to marry her. It didn't matter. At least here, her mother's beliefs couldn't injure her.
Or rather, she corrected her thought, not physically injure her, could not constrain her life. There were other kinds of injury. But Cordelia stifled her incipient self-pity. Doubtless her mother was hurting too, for different reasons and in different ways, as a result of this. About all Cordelia could do was try not to add to that in this letter. And for that, she decided, shorter was better, and she had said all that needed saying now. She hesitated a moment over whether to sign herself with her full married title, but in the end wrote only:
Your loving daughter,