Scharona wasn’t sure what to wear. In the end she chose a soft, somber dress. It let her show a lot of cleavage and hid some of the extra curvature she’d accumulated since moving into government housing. Besides, it had been sitting in her closet for six months with the tags still on it. She’d explained to her mother she didn’t really need dresses, she just needed navy blue pants to go with her work shirts. The rest of her life could be spent in sweats or pajamas. But Mama’nica insisted. Her daughter was going to have a few nice things, even if she was embarrassingly poor.
Scharona had never had a rozloučení. Then again, she’d never had a relationship that warranted a parting ceremony. The closest she’d come was when she ditched final exams to spend the weekend with Kevin, stupidly thinking he was going to propose. He was…to someone else. Or rather, they proposed to him shortly thereafter. But Kevin hadn’t called that last weekend together a rozloučení. The ceremony was only for people who were in a real relationship. Whatever they had didn’t count.
Scharona didn’t think the relationship she had with the other rozloučení guests counted either. She was definitely part of the group…or rather, the two groups. She was somewhere in the middle. The purpose of the rozloučení was for the two groups to separate amicably, letting each other know that they were still cherished, but that they had chosen to go this way or that way.
Scharona had no idea whether she was going ‘this’ way or ‘that’ way. She didn’t particularly care, either. Since discovering that she’d never actually had a relationship with Kevin, she’d been trying to get on with her life, both professionally (since she’d screwed up college after ditching her final exams then spending a semester wallowing in self pity) and personally.
Technically speaking, ‘this’ way was with Dade, and ‘that’ way was with Lorenzo. Scharona had never actually been on a date with Lorenzo…unless she counted the times they all sat around the Step-Up house’s common room and watched old movies. She’d been on a couple of group dates that included Dade, but mostly because Jamie brought her along.
Scharona had been fastidious about preparing for the ceremony. Some of her friends had been talking about the possibility of making love one last time before they parted. Of course, that wasn’t unusual for a rozloučení, especially for one where a large group was splitting into two smaller groups. But Scharona hadn’t had sex with any of them. She hadn’t had sex at all since Kevin left her. Or, rather, since Kevin decided to no longer occasionally give her a booty call, because he was getting serious with another group, and there was no place for her there.
There was a certain irony that a rozloučení might mean her first sexual encounter with her boyfriends and girlfriends, not her last. Hopefully, no one would mention it. She was a considerate lover. She had a lot to offer. This rozloučení was going to be the start of something wonderful, she just knew it. Which kind of wonderful, she wasn’t sure. But it would be wonderful either way.
Scharona took the transit to the Companion House they’d booked for the rozloučení. She was greeted by a professional hostess who kindly kept her company for a half hour since she was the first to arrive. The others trickled in, each greeting her and the others with a kiss and embrace. Seleste was crying already. Scharona wasn’t sure which way she was choosing. They rozloučení had been planned a month ago. That gave everyone time to think and talk about which way they wanted to go, and deliberate “if so-and-so is going ‘that’ way, so am I” or “whichever way he goes, I’ll go the other.”
When they were all present, the hostess gave a lovely speech about parting ways and appreciating the love that was shared along one’s journey. Seleste wasn’t the only one crying. A duo of guitarists began to play, and the hostess handed out a dozen or so delicate floral strands to each of them. “As you say your parting words, give your cariad a strand as a token of your continued respect and deep regard,” the hostess explained. Scharona took hers and tried not to make eye contact with anyone. She didn’t really want to leave any of them.
They all stood, and the mingling began. Scharona wiped away a tear, seeing how emotional some of them were getting. Three of them broke off from the group and went over to an alcove. Soon they were cooing and kissing and, Scharona expected, much more.
She felt a hand on her shoulder and turned. Damian smiled at her and placed a strand of delicate purple blooms around her neck. “Scharona, you are a sweet and loving person. I will miss you, and I hope that when we do see each other, you will greet me as a friend.”
“Thank you Damian,” she said, hugging him. “Of course I will always think of you as a friend.” She placed a strand around his neck and kissed him goodbye.
So it was decided. Her first goodbye. She was fond of Damian, but didn’t feel any particular connection to him. It would be easy to stay friends. The problem was, she didn’t know whether he was going ‘this’ way or ‘that’ way.
She mingled through the room. Everyone else seemed to be hugging or talking. Another couple had retreated to an alcove, leaving no doubt as to what manner of goodbye they were enjoying. Scharona watched for just a minute. She’d seen other people make love before; the bonfire tradition the counselors had at camp was to divide up for some amorous recreation for the night. But this was more intimate, and more meaningful. This was two lovers saying goodbye for the last time.
Scharona looked up to see Eloisa approaching her, her eyes red with tears. She was already holding up a strand of flowers. They each said a few words, exchanged strands, and kissed each other goodbye.
Eloisa went to Lorenzo, clinging to him but not saying goodbye. That didn’t surprise Sharona. She’d been pretty sure Eloisa would stay with Lorenzo.
That put her into Dade’s group. Scharona brightened, and took a deep breath. She liked Dade. He was the kind of guy who was sweet to everyone. He was also the choice of Jamie, who was the one person Scharona was closest to in the group.
Jamie, who was currently flat on her back with her legs in the air.
Scharona knew that most of the others had been lovers, but she didn’t realize just…to what extent that relationship went. She’d thought that there had been a few random pairings and trios etcetera, but not the close, intimate, extended entanglement it seemed to be.
Scharona exchanged a few more strands and said her goodbyes, then counted the flowers around her neck. She had eight…and there were fifteen people in the room, including her. She wondered if someone in Dade’s group had given her a strand by mistake. That would be awkward, but they could laugh about it later.
Two more friends gave her strands. She mumbled something appropriate with each, then surreptitiously removed a few strands from her neck and returned them to her hand. Maybe no one would notice, but it seemed somehow wrong that she have ten strands when there were only fourteen other people to give them to her.
Scharona was glad that so many others were crying. Tears were welling up in her eyes as she realized what was happening. Unless the groups were splitting into three…not just two.
Hopefully, she cast her eyes around the room. Only a few people were still exchanging strands. One entanglement that looked like four people was buried in a pile of cushions in an alcove.
She felt a hand on her back and turned. Dade and Osima. They each placed a strand around her neck and embraced her together. Tears streaked her makeup down her face, and Osima handed her a box of tissues, helping her to clean her cheeks. Osima had a sweet, melancholy smile, but there was nothing in her expression that showed she held any particular affection for Scharona. Osima was just being kind.
Scharona glanced around nervously. A few people were already gathering coats, and there seemed to be two distinct groups forming in the room. She was part of neither, and there were only two strands left.
Lorenzo embraced her, hugging her hard and long. “You, Scharona, I think I will miss most of all!” The sincerity in his voice was insulting, but the others looked on, some of them embracing her again and saying goodbye.
Jamie hadn’t even bothered to put her clothes back on after her sexual performance. She wore her flowers naked, like a fairy queen. “We’ll still have ice cream together on trivia nights!” she said, as if it was some great promise of friendship. Scharona accepted Jamie’s strand, and gave her one of her own. She wasn’t sure whether it was one of the ones she had taken off already, and she hoped no one would notice that she was wearing more strands than anyone in spite of having taken some off.
The others lingered, as if reluctant to take that final step of leaving the Companion House, admitting that some relationships were ending, even though other relationships were continuing and growing stronger.
Scharona didn’t linger. She didn’t say any more goodbyes, or even tell her friends she was leaving. She slipped out quietly, pulling her hood up over her head as she headed back to the trans, and back to her tiny, lonely room.
This story is a ‘deleted scene’ from Under the Radar, the story in my Kingdom Come series that I recently took off the shelf to re-write. I call it a ‘deleted scene’ even though I just wrote it tonight and never had any intention of putting it in the story. It takes place…but it’s not important to the overall plot. The only character from this entire story who is mentioned at all in the actual novel is Scharona, the main character. In the novel, I mention the fact that Scharona once had a rozloučení with a group of cariads (boyfriends/girlfriends/people who’ve been dating) and everyone but her ended up in a loving relationship.
The Kingdom Come series takes place on a world where committed polyamory is the social norm. A traditional marriage consists of several men and several women. I came up with the idea of a rozloučení as a mature way for people to part kindly with one or more romantic partners, whether or not they’re sexually intimate. Dating on Kingdom Come is usually a group outing, and when the group becomes large and complicated, they usually break up into smaller, more defined groups. To come up with the right word, I put the word “parting” into google translate, and started clicking languages. Czech turned out to have the word I liked best. ‘Rose LOW chen ee’ is the best I can do to sound it out.
I’d love to hear people psychoanalyze Scharona based on this one scene. This very much symbolizes who she is (at least in the beginning of the story.) She is someone who always ‘flies under the radar’ and hopes that she won’t be noticed. She believes if she is just nice to everybody and always acts conservatively and quietly, everything will work out right.