Dominique had seen it all; she’d been near the front. Queen Skyla had almost fainted! She was barely fit to be queen. Dominique was willing to deal with the media—she didn’t panic when the media surrounded her and asked her questions; a few photographers had taken her picture when they thought she wasn’t watching. She played the part of the worried Lady well. Maybe when Harmony woke up, they could rally around her and persuade her to run against Queen Skyla in the next election. Or better yet—challenge the queen’s reign now. That would make for quite the news story.
“Are we going to visit Lady Harmony now?” Lady Kristen asked.
It was easy to forget that Lady Kristen was still beside her—following her, really, as they left the throne room. Dominique had half a mind to return to her quarters and draft her First Lady acceptance speech. Of course, she’d done it already—but re-writing it only made it seem more real, more current to the times. Once Lady Harmony was gone, busy with ruling the Dome, she could be in charge of the Ladies—and that was more than enough excitement for her.
“Yes, of course,” Dominique said, forcing herself to smile and giving Lady Kristen the once-over. “Your lips look dry. Did you apply your chap today?”
Lady Kristen looked guilty. “I…I applied it last night.”
“And what does the Lady’s Charter have to say about that?”
“Rule 145,” Lady Kristen said automatically. “A Lady’s lips should be as smooth as the words that flow from them.” She looked discouraged. “I’m…I’m sorry Lady Dominique. I don’t have any chap on me right now. I promise I’ll apply it tonight! I promise!”
“All right, all right. Stop making excuses.”
“Rule 14. A Lady must not–”
“There is no need to quote the Charter every time you open your mouth.” It was hard for Dominique to keep the sweetness in her voice. Remain firm, but in favour, that was also in the Charter. “Let us go now, so we can return in time for afternoon tea.”
They took the more public route to the hospital, through the promenade. The promenade was circular and enveloped the inner core—where the scientists and the higher-up soldiers and of course, the Ladies—dwelled and worked. While the floor clanked underneath their boots, gentle music tried to drown out all but the boutique sellers, calling the passersby, enticing them with their souvenirs and “moon gems”—bits of rock collected on various scouting missions that had no inherent value, except to the rich, stupid tourists. She smiled at them, though, and they smiled back, their eyes twinkling as falsely as the moon gem. By the time she was First Lady, she would have their affections.
Upon reaching the fourth Sector, amidst a swirl of coffee smells and newspaper salesmen, she heard her name. It would be more accurate to say she thought she heard her name, as it was barely a whisper above the bustle in the promenade, and Lady Kristen repeated it. Dominique paused and then turned when she saw Lady Kristen gesturing to another Lady—a Junior, like Lady Kristen—rushing to catch up with them.
Another Junior—just what she needed. And worse, this particular Junior barely spoke English. Dominique had nothing against the French—she herself was of French descent, born in Montreal, and spoke both languages fluently—but the Dome had one language, and in order to survive here you had to speak it. She remembered her Lady mentors telling her that when she happened to let a French expletive slip during a training exercise. She’d had to scrub the bathrooms with a toothbrush—not a regular electric one, but an old-fashioned one. It had taken hours until her mentors were satisfied. Dominique never forgot the lesson.
Lady Méline was fresh from Earth, coming from the last transport only a week ago. She stopped running a few feet from Dominique, pausing timidly as a crowd of rowdy tourists rushed in the opposite direction. Lady Méline scrunched up her body like a mouse creeping around a cat as she eyed them warily. Her large brown eyes were full of awe and fear and worry; the ends of her hair hung loosely around her chin. At least it was styled appropriately, even if it was long enough to be worn up. Dominique remembered being scolded for a similar infraction just days after her arrival. Now, it was her turn to do the scolding.
“Oh! Méline—I mean, Lady Méline. Junior Lady Méline!” Lady Kristen’s voice increased an octave as she spoke, stealing hopeful glances from Dominique. “Sorry. I thought we were going to go back to the common area and I was going to tell you but I forgot and I guess it was just as easy to go from the throne room!”
She smiled at Lady Méline. Trying to make friends, no doubt. She knew the Charter inside and out yet she didn’t know how to play the game.
“L’hospital. Je veux aller…” Lady Méline trailed off shyly, her face turning a deep shade of red.
“‘I want to see Lady Harmony.’ Say it,” Dominique commanded in clear English.
“I…want to see de Lady Armony,” Lady Méline repeated.
Lady Dominque gritted her teeth and forced yet another smile. There were too many people around, too many tourists and non-Ladies. She would have to discipline Lady Méline later. “Of course. We’re headed there now. Come with us.”
It took a moment for the words to process with Lady Méline, but once she looked to Lady Kristen—who was nodding encouragingly like Méline was five years old—Méline’s eyes lit up. “Oh, merci, merci, Lady Dominique.”
There was something comforting about hearing her mother tongue again—the only times she heard it now was when she was asleep—but she couldn’t let herself fall prey to the past. She was the Second Lady. Soon to be first, if all went well. The Junior Ladies, they whispered, and maybe poor Lady Méline thought she would have it easy if she found Dominique and began speaking French with her. But no. Dominique never had it easy, and neither would any other Lady in service.
She grabbed Lady Méline’s arm and squeezed, digging her nails into the dress’s fabric. Lady Méline whimpered but fortunately, she didn’t scream as Dominique led her down the promenade. “That’s thank you, and don’t you forget it.”