To the Mean
Thank you for traveling with us today as Rick Wilber’s “To the Mean,” transports us to the past and the future in this epic story of connection. ~ Julian and Fran, February 26
To the Mean
By Rick Wilber
Karolina di Chun, 211 Anno Domini, Roman Britain
“Beautiful, isn’t it, Dee?” Karolina asks Diara, her daughter, who looks back with a smile, nods, and then turns to look at the view again, saying nothing.
They are in Karolina’s private airship, the Praetor, on their way to surprise Diara’s father with a visit. Time, in its wondrous elasticity, means that Karolina was pregnant but not showing when she left Severus four months ago his time, opening up the travel pane in her faux cottage in Cramond. Her leaving siphoned off the inserts and closed the door behind her as she left, the cottage crumbling into its old self as soon as she was gone. Her pregnancy triggered the med clause and opened the pane and she walked through it into Edinburgh, the capital of independent Scotland, for the healthcare and support an ex–First Minister deserved, even one ruined by scandal.
Now, seven years later in her own time, she has returned with an airship and a child who is beautiful and happy despite, or perhaps in answer to, her shortcomings: the flaccid muscles, the folds at the edges of the eyes, the struggle to read, to write, to add and subtract, even to speak. Down syndrome: genetic translocation, inherited from the father. Diara, for all her smiles and hugs, has never uttered a word.
Karolina knows her history, knows that Severus is ill and on his way to Eboracum, where one of his sons and his wife are already waiting for him. He’ll die there in a few days, whether murdered by poison or dead from illness is historically uncertain.
But there’s no need for that! Karolina to the rescue! She’ll snap up her emperor, and even that funny scribe, and take them back to the pane that’s in her reconstituted cottage and then travel forward to modern medicine and a long life for Lucius Septimius Severus Pertinax, consul of the Roman Empire. They’ll have years together, the three of them. He will love his daughter, surely.
Juliana di Casos, 2065 Common Era, Edinburgh, Scotland
Juliana di Casos, Karolina’s mated half, thought the plan to take the child back to the site of Karolina’s exile just to see the birth father was foolish, even dangerous.
“It’s not that I’m jealous, Karolina,” she’d said. “Our love is unconditional, dear, you know that. But must you throw away everything for this ridiculous past?”
Juliana was balancing Karolina’s daughter, sweet Diara, on her knee and bouncing her slightly up and down to Diara’s delight.
Juliana knew her history too. “He ruled an empire that he alone revived. He can’t possibly care about having another daughter, even by you, wonderful you, dear Karolina,” and she kissed Diara on the top of her head. The child smiled.
Karolina disagreed. “He deserves to meet his child, Juli. We’ll meet him near the end, just days before he dies. I’d like to say goodbye. Diara will say hello. That’s all. Then I’ll bring Diara home, and together you and me and her, we’ll move across the square.”
They were in the sitting room of #33 Charlotte Square, built in 1798 in New Town, Edinburgh. This home once belonged to Robert Reid, who had designed much of the square. Directly across the Private Gardens she can see #6, Bute House, where the First Minister of Scotland lives, an incompetent prig if ever she’d known one. He’d driven Scotland into misery. She could bring it back. If things proceeded as they might, she would bring it back, and return herself to Bute House, where she belonged.
“Oh, dear Karolina,” Juli said. “Have you thought this through? He might kill you both on the spot, your daughter a bad omen and you her mother. You know those Romans and their omens.”
Karolina came over to take Diara from her mated half’s arms and walk her over toward the window to show her the Gardens. “Would you like to go play there, Dar? See the swings?”
Diara nodded and smiled. She liked the swing set, back and forth and back again, her mother pushing her along from behind.
“And it’s not just him, dear Karolina,” said Juli. “It’s Time itself. What will it do in reaction to this encroachment? Severus is no ordinary man. You are no ordinary woman. Your daughter no ordinary child. Will elasticity have reached its limit and correct Time’s course? Will it revert to the mean? Will the two of you disappear, mother and daughter, as if you never were? This is all too experimental. Be sensible!”
Karolina, holding Diara in her arms, shook her head. “I want to do this, Juli. She’s his daughter.”
Juliana, short and stout in stature and comportment, had always been the sturdy guide that Karolina needed. She sighed. “I still say it’s foolhardy. Your exile has ended. You have a future once again! Your nation needs you!”
Karolina stood firm. “Darling Juli. Sweet Juli. Juli, my love. I have to do this. I must. This is my daughter and her father.”
Juliana smiled. “You should stay here, love, in your own time and place. You should humbly agree to return to power for the sake of the nation. This is what you should do.”
Karolina smiled too. This was often how things worked between the two of them. “But?” she asked.
Juliana took her hand, leaned over to kiss Diara on the forehead, Karolina on the lips. They hugged, the three of them. “But you will do what you will do, dear. As ever. As always. Take care.”
Karolina said, “It will be all right, dear Juli. Time won’t mind a bit. There’s plenty of elasticity left.”
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