Here's the first Q&A post that was supposed to go up during the party, but then Blogger ate, so I promised it to you in January, and here I am finally getting to it.
I went through a writing slump in January, though ... so I'm not sure you would have wanted to read what I'd have come up with then. But I have stuff now, and I hope you like it.
Also BIG BOLDFACED SPOILER WARNING. This Q&A takes place after the events of WPFP, so if you haven't read the book yet ... well, there are spoilers.
I'm in the employees-only section of the Sports Center owned by Clara's, Kath's, and Rhoda's parents, clutching a list of questions that my fangirls have kindly provided. Most of them are for Clara or Andrew, but Rhoda, Kath, and Rich have a few as well.
Clara, Andrew, Kath, and Rich are waiting for me, but as previously arranged, Rhoda won't be here for a little while, to prevent awkward explanations. Clara, seated next to Andrew, is glaring at me, but the other three seem amiable.
I take a deep breath and glance down at the list, searching for a safe question to start with.
"Clara, Sarah Taleweaver and Mnm would like to know what's your favorite book?"
"David Copperfield," Clara answers. "Two of the characters share my name."
"She'd also asks, that, now that you're back from Rizkaland, if you're still planning on trying for the Olympics, or if the dream has been replaced by others?"
"I've been given back my pre-kids body," she says, leaning forward. "I might as well take advantage. I ... don't think I'm going to make a career out of it, like I was planning to, as a kid, but I'll be disappointed if I don't make at least one Olympics."
"Andrew," I say, deciding to pick on someone else, and knowing that this question will do much to ease the strain in the air, "C.B. wants to know if you have considered taking swordplay lessons with the others."
As I expect, Clara dissolves into quiet snickers, while Andrew heaves a heavy sigh. "Consideration wasn't an option. The morning after we returned, Clara's mom marched me in here, put my sword in my hand, and proceeded to attack me." He shakes his head. "And I thought her daughter was insane."
"You passed, though," Clara points out.
"Eh ... barely. But, the thing is, I have to get used to shorter arms and weaker muscles again. I know what I'm doing, but my body doesn't, if that makes any sense? It's frustrating, that's for certain."
"I know," said Clara. "I have the opposite problem. A body that knows how to do things I haven't done in twenty years..."
"On that note, Morgan would like to ask Clara if it's weird to not actually be married to Andrew after being Tied so long in Rizkaland."
Clara's answer is a flat, "Yes."
I decide that I don't want to press her for any further explanation, and turn to Andrew. "Amanda would like to know what's your relationship with Clara is like now when you can't really tell your younger brothers about Rizkaland."
Andrew shifts in his seat, glancing down at Clara. "It's ... complicated. They know I like her - we see no point in hiding that - but they have no idea how serious we are. I think Kyle suspects, though, and I don't know that he approves. Josh and Parker both love her."
"Well, I can swordfight and do martial arts, every little boy's dream," Clara points out. "Of course they're going to like me."
"But, back to the original question," Andrew continues. "Clara and I have chosen to take things slow and try to have a normal courtship this time."
There's a snicker from the peanut gallery known as Kath, so I turn to her.
"Kath, Soliel would like to know how it was meeting the Water Princess thirty years after you'd last seen her?"
"Awesome at first. After all, it was great for the first friendly face in fifteen years be a friendly face I hadn't seen in thirty. Then I realized that Clara didn't share my enthusiasm, and it wasn't so great. I think we've worked things out now, though."
Clara glances over her shoulder at her friend and narrows her eyes. "I'm still thinking about it."
"On that note, Clara," I continue, thumbing through my note cards, "Amanda would like to know what you relationship with Rhoda is now that you, Rich and Kath are all so much different. And at least twenty-five years older."
"It's been different," Clara admits. "And ... very awkward at times. It wasn't as hard for Kath and Rich, since they both suffered pretty bad injuries immediately after their return, and any oddness they displayed was blamed on that. For me ... it's just been difficult all around. I'm supposed to pick up on a friendship I dropped twenty-five years ago, and act as though no time passed at all. I'm a different person now, but I'm supposed to act like I'm not. It's frustrating."
"I'm not looking forward to facing the same thing with Kevin after I return home," Andrew adds.
"On that note, Andrew, Hannah Rogers says 'Sup Andrew! When you came back from Rizkaland and found you were a high schooler again, did you still feel older and more mature? How did that change your perspective?'"
Andrew leans back, staring at Clara. "Of course I still feel older and more mature. Twenty-five years of memories and growth don't just vanish. How has it changed my perspective though ... I'm not really sure. It's been twenty-five years." He shakes his head. "Ever since we lost our mom, I was the one who stepped up and took her place. I was already more mature than the average high schooler I think ... I think the biggest change is that now I have Clara in my life, and the memory of another family that I'll probably never see again, not in life at least."
"All right, last question for now, will return in a bit for the rest of the list," I thumb through the notes for a question that will allow this post to end on a happier note. "Ah, here's one for Rich, and I don't think I've done one for him yet. Rich, Alyssa would like to know what you did to keep yourself sane while locked inside the Kastle."
Rich seems about to answer, but is distracted when his sister begins giggling. He shoots her a glare, and then turns back to me. "I spent much time preparing for the eventual battle against Amber."
"He jumped out of windows!" Kath inserts.
"I was testing routes through the Kastle that would maximize speed and efficiency!"
"As I said, he jumped out of windows. It's a wonder he never broke a leg. At least, not until he returned here."
Rich just glares at his sister. I decide that this is a good stopping point.