Chapter 5.5

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The following day wasa Sinday, and as a boy called Ward was clambering out of a sea chest, Carmen was sitting down to morning tea with her family. Her mere had forced her into her best dress (why can't I wear pants Mere?) and brushed some of the tangles out of her hair, but her nails were dirty and her knees scraped.

By comparison, her twin cousins, Daphne and Clarence Blanket, were immaculate. Their ginger hair was cut in an identical style (as if a bowl had been placed over their heads and scissors run around the edge), and even their clothing matched, for the Blankets subscribed to the established consensus that boys and girls were, for all practical purposes, the same thing. Carmen's uncle, Franklin Blanket, beamed across the table at them. There was a wondrous likeness between Mr Blanket and his offspring; one could almost envision a long procession of Blankets marching off into a dim and glorious future.

Janice Blanket, Carmen's aunt, didn't beam at anybody. After all, it takes significant concentration to converse with two other people without giving them the opportunity to say anything in return, and although Mrs Blanket had an almost superhuman talent for this, it still occupied her full attention.

"We were certain you wouldn't mind if we dropped by," she said. "Isn't that right Franklin?" She didn't wait for an answer, but turned to her sister-in-law: "Oh Evie, do you have any of those honey cakes dear? The children are famished – thank you – as I was saying, we were on our way to the Derricks to watch it, and thought you might like to join us – well when I say we were on our way, it required a considerable detour on our part, but here we are just the same."

"I don't believe you've ever seen one," Mr Blanket said pointedly.

"We have other plans," Carmen's mere said. "Besides, I don't consider it suitable for Carmen."

"Clarence and Daphne have seen three now, haven't they dear?" Mrs Blanket said to her husband, the Blanket children nodding in unison together as if attached to a camshaft, their eyes goggling and watering (they seemed never to blink).

"They are Carmen's age," Mr Blanket said, "and just look how well-adjusted they are."

As proof of this careful adjustment Clarence and Daphne continued to goggle and nod together.

"Once she turns seventeen Carmen will be free to witness whatever obscenities she likes," Carmen's mere said. "Until that time -"

"Evie," Carmen's pere said softly.

Mr and Mrs Blanket appeared not to have heard.

"Another cup of blackleaf would be lovely," Mrs Blanket said, gracefully changing the subject, "unless it's too much trouble – but of course it's not – and may I have three sugars this time – you know what a sweet tooth I am." She let out a high tittering laugh. There was nobody like Janice Blanket for spontaneous mirth.

Mr Blanket chimed in. "Now dear, not everyone has endless supplies of sugar." He smiled benignly at Carmen's mere, who replied to this considerate sentiment by explaining that there was, in fact, plenty of sugar in the house.

"Who're they executing?" Carmen's pere said.

"Stephanie and Anders Jamieson," Mr Blanket said.

Carmen's mere stopped in the doorway. "Stephanie?"

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A book is like an orange. First, you have the skin, then the sweet, sweet innards.

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