A THEME PARK VERSION OF ITSELF
The interior of the Broadway theater shifts and blurs in Lydia's vision as the curtain falls for the interval, but she keeps her mental focus long enough to finish translating the last few lines of the first act for the cultural attaché. He calls himself Fitzwilliam and sits to her immediate right in the VIP balcony. (Lydia calls him Fitz, and either he doesn't mind or doesn't register the difference.) Translating while listening to the dialogue is tricky but Lydia can hardly ask the actors to stop for a moment and let her catch up, and she is keen for her employer to have a seamless experience. She is proud of her ability to translate and listen simultaneously—a lot of her old classmates struggled with this aspect of the job, and tonight's play is a perfect chance to show it off—but it's been ninety minutes and there's more to come (Who knew plays were so long?), and she's dizzy and needs a break. The cultural attaché thanks Lydia for her work, she tells him it's no problem, then she stands up, trips over her bag and falls backwards over the railing.
By this stage Lydia feels so drunk that, as she plummets towards the stalls, she barely registers that what's happening is bad. She feels little more than sluggish surprise—Oh, I'm falling off the balcony. Oh dear--as she hears the cries of alarm from other audience members, some of whom she is about to land on.
And then she stops. Not because she has landed on anything, or anyone. She just stops. She is upside down. She looks up at her feet.
Fitz has reached out one of his long, slender arms and caught Lydia by her ankle, his flexible fingers clamped tight around the limb. She's heard his people are stronger than they look but until now Lydia has seen little evidence of this because the job of cultural attaché is so genteel. She always wondered if the rumors of their strength were just used by certain groups of humans to justify their own fearmongering but no, apparently not. He's holding Lydia by one hand without straining and she knows she is not the lightest of people.
Lydia stares foolishly down at the crowd of theatergoers staring up at her and feels relieved she didn't wear a dress tonight.
Fitz hauls Lydia back onto the balcony. He doesn't quite lift her high enough and her head glances off the railing on the way. She hears his voice inside her mind: Sorry.
No no, you're fine, Lydia replies. Thanks for catching me.
She's safely inside the balcony and he indicates for her to sit back down. He seems concerned, although she always finds it hard to read his face, especially behind that translucent wrap he wears over it (the Logi can breathe without these, but find it very difficult). Because his people don't use their mouths to speak, they don't seem to use them for any form of expression, any more than humans communicate their emotional state with their noses. She instinctively interprets his eyes as "surprised" or "curious"—but she knows that's just because they're large and dark.
The audience members still looking up at them from the stalls probably assume Lydia and Fitz are conversing right now. When you have the ability to communicate with someone telepathically, people tend to assume you're talking to them all the time, especially if you're not visibly doing anything else. But Fitz isn't talking to Lydia: anyone who knows him would know that if he's not making expansive hand gestures, he's probably not talking. He knows her brain needs a rest. Lydia should have known it too: taken more care, and not stood up so quickly. Now everyone will think she can't cope with the demands of her job, just because she fell off a balcony.
Eventually Fitz does speak. He says: We can skip the rest of the play if you're too tired. He always says "tired," never "drunk," because he's polite like that.
Part of Lydia would very much like to duck out of this. But it's the closing event on the last night of the seventeenth annual Plugout NY Festival, a very busy week in the cultural attaché's calendar, and this is the first time she's done it, and she doesn't want to wimp out so close to the end. There's also the reception afterwards, which is kind of a big deal.
Can we get some air? she says.
They walk down to the lobby, his hand discreetly but firmly placed on her shoulder to make sure she doesn't fall down the stairs.
* * *