Nate need not have worried about how Tyson would translate to Vancouver. Tyson was not the petted child Nate had seen in Victoria - Tyson was a martinet, intent on changing their circumstances. It seemed like a game to him, but one he played in deadly earnest.
Another person might have found the situation difficult, newly married, little money and seven children to raise, but Tyson was entirely equal to it. He had no real interest, so far as Nate could tell, in cooking or dressing well or keeping house, but he had an enormous interest in advancing Nate’s prospects and avoiding as much work as possible and so he did all those things skillfully but only to the extent necessary; additionally, he had Jamie and Sarah and the big girls to help him, and he employed them like a Field Marshall. What he could not farm out to others he did himself, efficiently and well. “You don’t have to,” Nate said when he came on him sighing over the ironing two weeks after their marriage. For his money they could do without. What was the point of ironing anyway?
“Oh yes I do,” Tyson said intently, ironing a sheet ferociously, his arm snapping out and back as he swept over the length of the linen. “I’m going to make you rich so I can hire someone else to do this so first I’ve got to do it now. You don’t get rich unless the town respects you, and the town won’t respect you if you’ve got crumpled tablecloths.” Nate backed away, unconvinced but unwilling to argue. Tyson and Jamie and Sarah had formed a forceful and intimidating cabal and Nate had learned not to cross them on the subject of house keeping or social obligations. They had altered everything for the better, and if Tyson felt ironing was a necessary part of that, well, Nate supposed he would leave him to it.
Tyson had demanded a decent house and when one was located, sniffily refused it and demanded a better one and that someone swing by and whitewash the twelve rooms they now occupied. He and Jamie had maneuvered, by dint of pretending to faint in church on the first Sunday, a brand new Omega pew and rights for the rest of the family to the front pew, real estate previously occupied by the upper class, such as they were, of Gastown. He had demanded, and gotten, the promise of five Aunties and their grown up children to move to Vancouver to participate in the establishment of the church community, an Auntie Midwife, formal establishment of the Kolonie and the recognition of Jamie, Tyson and Georgie as founders that came with it and the allowance owed to an Omega in need, in full, retroactively for Georgie and going forward for Tyson.
Drunk on his own power, he had prepared to demand a peacock, a long and closely held desire, but Jamie had dashed the pen from his hand. Instead he had taken the back allowance and made a straight path to the General Store to reprovision the pantry and resupply their wardrobes and then, his house in order, trained his eye outwards to consider whose acquaintance in the town might best be cultivated. In the face of all of that, Nate didn’t feel he had any criticism to offer.
Tyson sighed again as he moved on to the last sheet.
“You want some tea?” Nate asked and Tyson looked up from his sheet, surprised.
“I’ll make it in a minute, Alpha,” he said, “Alright? I need to finish this while the iron’s hot.”
“No,” Nate said, “I meant, do you want me to make you some tea? I’m having some and I thought you might like …” He trailed off. Tyson was staring at him in a most disconcerting fashion.
Tyson set the iron down. “You’re going to make the tea,” Tyson said incredulously.
“Um, yes,” Nate said, puzzled. Should he not? He often made Sarah a cup in the evenings, when they could afford it, but this was the first day of their marriage they’d had tea in the house and it hadn’t come up before. They had everything in the house. Tyson had cajoled the grocer into an at-cost arrangement for the poor impoverished Omega founder of the Kolonie and that afternoon Nate had opened the larder just to stare at the full shelves and cupboards, happily eyeballing the boxes and tubs of a hundred good things to eat.
“Yes!” Tyson said eagerly. “Yes, I do want a cup of tea Alpha, and thank you very much.” He finished his sheet at lightening speed and set the iron to cool out on the back porch then bounced happily down the back steps to the Seguin house next door. “Jamie!” Nate could hear him yelling. “Jamie! He’s making me a cup of tea!” Nate heard the Seguin door open and slam shut, and then Jamie’s measured tread up their stairs. It sounded like Jamie and Tyson were standing on the back porch, arguing.
“You’re confused,” Jamie said in his placid voice and Nate heard Tyson stamp his foot.
“I’m not,” he said and dragged Jamie into the kitchen with him. They sat at the table watching Nate make the tea, heads following him as he moved about the room. Finally he set the tea in front of them and sat down himself. Tyson just beamed at him.
“Well,” Jamie said, at a loss for words. “Thank you Alpha. How… nice.” He was looking at his tea like it contained a spider and Nate realised too late Jamie couldn’t drink it. It was contaminated by Nate’s touch; in fact, they were either going to have to buy a new Omega cup for Jamie when he visited or boil this one for a solid hour to remove the taint. Tyson slurped his tea pointedly and smirked at Jamie but their brewing argument was cut off by Tyler’s arrival. Tyler had acquired the house next door, an ideal situation as it meant Jamie and Tyson could travel back and forth without a chaperone.
“Oh, there you are,” he said, looking at Jamie. “I wondered where you got to. You two ready for Fastmolkje?”
“Oh God, not Fastmolkje again,” Nate said.
“Yes, Fastmolkje again,” Tyson said and Nate could see he would not be swayed. It was the linchpin of all his plans.
Nate had been vaguely aware of Fastmolkje, or Little Feast, before, but he had been unaware daily attendance was largely mandatory, at least for those who wanted to be a power in the Community. Undeterred by his moaning Tyson had the MacKinnons, every one, up, pressed and presentable each evening at 6:15 on the dot, just in time to parade them to the Meeting Hall where willing or unwilling they participated in Community Fellowship and Dessert after evening service. So far as Nate could tell there was no real Fellowship, but a great deal of competitive dressing and glad handing. The women competed to out cook one another, the men gathered in a corner and talked business, and the young girls used the time as a sort of marriage mart. The young men made brief appearances to eat their fill, flirt with the girls and depart as quickly as they could. It was, however, absolutely central to the Observant social system and he was resigned to his part in Tyson’s schemes. It was a performance of piety and social positioning and Tyson had been reared to do it the best of them all.
That first day all ten MacKinnons had marched into the Hall, Tyson leading the charge with Georgie’s hand in his, Elizabeth and Alice clutching large pans of Mrs. Yoder’s pumpkin cake, carefully chosen for its economy. Everyone had been spit shined to within an inch of their life and promised unlimited dessert if they behaved nicely; terrible threats regarding misbehaviour had also been issued. Tyson halted in the doorway dramatically and trailed an approving eye over the children to be sure everything was in order. He nodded to Lizzie and Alice, indicating that they could set the cake on the buffet table. “Goden Avend, Parson Wiens,” he practically bellowed and then paused, waiting until every eye was upon him. Once satisfied he had everyone’s attention, he gathered up Georgie and sallied forward to meet Jamie, strategically stationed in the middle of the room and hovering over his own covered dish of apple platz. “Omega Seguin,” Tyson greeted him formally then kissed his cheek, glancing at everyone else in the room to make very sure they were aware none of them could even consider touching an Omega.
“Omega MacKinnon,” Jamie had said solemnly. “Goden Avend.” Jamie reached out for Georgie who willingly came to him; Jamie’s pockets had been seeded with a handful of hard liquorice candies and they’d made sure Georgie knew it. A pretty picture of good luck and beauty, they moved slowly and gracefully around the room, actors in a play, spreading Blessings and apple platz with their presence, their husbands trailing them and nodding agreeably by prearrangement. The other members of the congregation were largely delighted to meet them; Vancouver was not a prestigious location but that looked as if it might be about to change. Two Omega founders and a third Omega child, and both of them possessed of such young and affectionate husbands; if Jamie or Tyson could produce a child anytime in the next few years, it would establish Vancouver firmly as a competitor to Victoria. There were rumblings about the railway due to be built out to BC; when it arrived Vancouver would become the central port of trade on the West Coast and supplant unreachable by rail Victoria, and fecund founders would do much to promote that.
“You don’t have to do anything, Alpha,” Tyson had said when Nate asked what he was meant to do. Evidently his role was simply to be seen; no one expected him to broker business until they had at least one child. “Just sit there and look horny,” Tyson had instructed him. “All they care about is if you’re likely to get me going in the next couple of years.” Nate could do that, easily enough; it required no dissembling. “You might want to give me an order or two,” Tyson said thoughtfully. “Show them you’re in charge.”
“I don’t think I’m too good at that,” Nate said, thinking of their wedding and Tyson laughed.
“Alright,” he said, fussing with Nate’s shirt, “just don’t punch anyone then,” and sailed off. Nate sat and watched Tyson night after night at Fastmolkje. He could feel everything changing around him, and not just their material circumstances. Nate was… he was growing startlingly fond of Tyson; he liked him, of course, and he liked very much what his body could do with Nate’s body, and his beauty, but to his surprise he was also discovering he liked Tyson’s cheer and his nosy outgoingness, his brains, which Nate was gradually realising were a great deal more powerful than Nate’s, his interest in and knowledge of a thousand things Nate had never heard of, and his temperament. He was like a cork, always bobbing back upright where Nate did not. Nate had always been what his mother called moody, feeling everything too much, too happy, then too sad, too demanding of himself and too easily angered, but Tyson was even tempered and cheerful by nature, a balance to Nate and Nate a balance to him when he went too far.
And Tyson was pleasingly ready to meet him in his admiration, charmingly eager to discover what their bodies could do but also interested to hear about what Nate thought, and what he liked to do, and of his travels, not so very great but great to Tyson, who had been kept so firmly at home, and to go walking together in the evening down by creek, holding hands like a courting couple and talking shyly of how nice they each thought the other, and how perhaps one day Nate could take Tyson on a train, to see a little of the world, and to whisper with him in the night, talking of how they would like to be nice to each other, and the children, even when they were angry, and how they would go on together, taking the paucity of good things they had been given and creating more, together, and it all seemed a very good deal indeed to him, even if it meant he had to spend forty five minutes a day sitting at Fastmolkje making chit chat and looking horny but not excessively so.
# # #
He was glad of the changes, glad he could point to Tyson’s good work and his own affection for him when Jordie inevitably reappeared several weeks later. Jordie had arrived with a boatload of Tyson’s trousseau, consisting largely of furniture and boxes and boxes of household goods, forwarded in a jumbled heap by his still steaming father. Jordie had made the trip ostensibly to oversee the expansion of his warehouse but clearly in large part to assess the marriage and their circumstances. Nate wasn’t sure what gave him that right, but he didn’t see he had much recourse as Jordie was the man in charge of his livelihood.
“Oh, well, this looks alright,’ Jordie said, looking around approvingly at the clean if sparse house and the cheerful looking Omegas.
He was the first visitor from home to the new house and Jamie and Tyson had prepared a sumptuous faspa, a Kolonie interpretation of a British tea: scones, jam, finger sandwiches, zweiback with sliced meats and cheeses and little viennoiseries both Jamie and Tyson were very proud of. The children were paraded out in their new clothes, washed and brushed to within an inch of their lives and then, cowed by Sarah and Tyson’s gimlet eyes trained on them menacingly, they greeted Jordie politely and fled for the kitchen. Nate twitched at his Sunday pants and shirt; he wished he were back in the kitchen with the children, where there were large dishes of werenaki and platters of pork chops smothered in cream gravy, not some fussy light supper. “I saved you a plate,” Tyson whispered and Nate looked at him gratefully.
“Thanks baby,” he said, and kissed him. Jordie looked at them askance but it wasn’t for him to say, Nate figured. He could kiss his husband in his own house if he liked, and he kissed him again for good measure. Tyson smiled. He’d been doing a lot of that since they married; without the shadow of Observant discipline he was growing happier and bossier by the day. Nate had no objections. He was spending his nights with his cock buried in Tyson and his days in a haze of well fed good will and if Tyson wanted to devote himself to getting the leadership of the new Kolonie in a chokehold, well, again, it was fine with Nate.
“You look well,” Jordie said. For the reserved Observant, this was lavish praise. He was clearly pleased with his match making and gazed benevolently around the room, looking approvingly at Tyson and Jamie, both. Tyson seized the moment.
“Alpha,” Tyson said, in suspiciously smooth tones. “Alpha MacKinnon told me you paid him two thousand dollars to marry me.”
“I did,” Jordie said carefully.
“And an apprenticeship?” Tyson said.
“Yes,” Jordie said.
“We’ll need that to be a share in the company instead,” Tyson said bossily. “An apprenticeship isn’t enough and two thousand dollars is just an insult.”
“For God’s sake, Barrie,” Jordie said, exasperated. “I’m not giving him a share in the company - I paid your father thirty thousand dollars for your rights and that’s enough. Your boy can flip fish like any other apprentice and like it.”
“Did you?” Tyson said, sounding very pleased. “That’s more like it. In that case we’ll need a share in the company once we been married five years or had our first child, whichever comes first.”
“I am not giving him a share in the company.” Jordie said. “And what if you don’t have any children, or die before five years?”
“If I die you’re to give him a share,” Tyson said.
“If you die I’ll kick him out on his ass before you’re cold,” Jordie said, shooting Nate an unfriendly look and Tyson stomped his feet. Nate sincerely hoped this was showy Observant negotiation and Jordie didn’t really hate him. The apprenticeship, he had been dismayed to discover, was in Jordie’s dried fish business and Nate had started at the lowest level, spending his days carefully turning small smelly fish over to dry evenly; he wanted to have some hope of moving up one day.
“You give him a share,” Tyson said.
“No share if you die,” Jordie said. “I’ll consider it after the second child.”
“He gets a share if I die,” Tyson insisted, “and a share for each child.”
“No share,” Jordie said. “Half share after the first child, that’s it.”
“Full share after the first, half share if I die, three quarters share if I die in childbirth,” Tyson snapped.
“Full share once the first child lives a year, half if the baby lives and you die, no share if you both die,” Jordie offered. “No baby, he’s right out on his ass,” he added with relish.
“Half share if I die,” Tyson insisted.
“No,” Jordie said.
“Yes,” Tyson said forcefully.
“No,” Jordie said loudly.
“BUT IT WOULD BE MY DYING WISH, ALPHA,” Tyson brayed, sounding intensely alive and also something like a donkey.
“NO SHARE IF YOU DIE,” Jordie yelled back. They both paused for breath and glared at one another. Tyson gathered himself and tried another tack.
“My one wish and you would deny it,” Tyson said. “I never would have thought it of you.”
“You told me a month ago your one wish was to eat an entire roast pig,” Jordie said. “And the month before that to see a peacock, and the month before that to be allowed to taste the cow’s salt lick. You seem to have a lot of wishes.”
“I just think,” Tyson said speculatively, grandly ignoring Jordie’s remarks, staring pointedly up into nothing, “I just feel, that Mary Penner’s great grandson deserves something better.”
“Mary Penner’s great grandson’s going to be flipping half dried oolichans until I say different,” Jordie said unmoved. “Hope you like the smell of fish.”
“I like it fine,” Tyson said contrarily. “I like him fine too and you did a good job choosing and I appreciate what you did for me. Thank you Alpha.” He smiled sweetly at Nate and then back at Jordie.
“Fine,” Jordie said, defeated. “Full share for the first baby, half share if you die.”
“Hmph,” Tyson said. “Another share for each child?”
“You’re an optimist,” Jordie said. “Another share for the third and another at five and ten years; no share for the second because apparently I’m going to have to help feed all nine of you for some time.” He glared at Nate as if he were responsible for all of his brothers and sisters. “And they revert back to me if both of you die without issue,” he said.
“Done,” Tyson said, evidently well satisfied. “Loosen up your signing hand because you’ll be giving us that share in a year.”
“For God’s sake, Barrie,” Jordie said. “You can’t possibly know that.”
Tyson just looked smug. “Mary Penner’s great grandson,” he said. “I got a feeling.”
“I bet you do,” Jordie said rudely. “Tyler told me they got an ear full.”
“We’ll name a girl after you,” Tyson said, ignoring Jordie and Jamie’s scandalized look. “Because you been such a friend to us.”
“Well,” Jordie said, taken aback. “Thank you.” He looked genuinely moved and Nate had no idea what meaning any of this had to the Observant, but apparently quite a lot. “I would appreciate that.” He looked at Nate somewhat more kindly and Nate forbore from pointing out Tyson had not consulted him on any of this. He supposed they could throw Jordan in there somewhere for one of them, but he was damned if it would be used as a first name.
“And you’re not to marry Georgie,” Tyson added offhand, evidently feeling this was also subject to negotiation. Jordie snorted. Georgie had taken against Jordie on first acquaintance and made a creditable effort to bite him every time they were in the same room; a courtship didn’t seem likely.
“I don’t want to marry Mary Penner’s great grand shark,” Jordie said. “Thanks so much.” Sarah, seated in the corner, muffled a laugh at that and Jordie looked over at her and winked. She smiled back, then blushed and buried her face in her teacup.
“He just gets like that sometimes,” Nate said apologetically. Georgie was snuggled up in Tyson’s lap, washed and brushed to a high gloss, each individual golden curl shiny and beautiful, pulled carefully out of his face with one braid across his crown. He didn’t look like he would bite anyone, although Nate knew from personal experience he was like a viper when crossed. The pink eye had been defeated by baths of witch hazel and three large meals a day had put needed weight on him; he looked healthy and well cared for in his little tweed suit and sturdy boots with fancy toe caps like girls wore. He looked like a fat pig and Nate felt strange seeing it and strange hearing this talk of marriage for him. He understood why Tyson had brought it up while negotiating their future prospects; in fifteen years, when Georgie was ready to marry, Jordie could potentially be one of the prospects; not closely related, wealthy, powerful, twenty five years older than Georgie. Old. Nate had the sudden realization that Jordie could be a likely prospect to marry any children he and Tyson had soon, and was repulsed at the thought. He sighed; there was nothing to be done about it now, but he’d be damned if he didn’t let Georgie make his own choice. Unconscious of these plans for him, Georgie stared at Jordie and gnashed his teeth. Jordie gnashed back and Georgie made to get up and go after him.
“You can’t fault his nerve,” Jordie said, half admiringly and Nate glared at him.
# # #
“Why’d Jordie act like we weren’t likely to have a baby anytime soon?” Nate asked Tyler later that day. Tyler blushed but answered.
“They don’t get breeding easy,” Tyler told him, leaning forward and looking pleased to know something Nate didn’t. “They hardly catch at all, so you got to keep at it and it takes years. There been two now, in Victoria who had three, but they were married to young husbands and they liked them - most have one, or some none at all.”
“Huh,” Nate said. He had not known this but now he thought on it, it was perhaps good; they already had seven children in the house and Nate’s period of apprenticeship to get through - a few years before any more came would be wise. He felt a little sorry at the thought of a baby with Tyson’s curls and merry eyes receding into the more distant future, but he knew it was for the best, especially as Tyson was so busy conquering Vancouver.
Tyson started throwing up the next day.
“Guess what?” Tyson said the following month, throwing up into the used chamberpot which was just disgusting, Nate felt, just absolutely disgusting but he didn’t dare say anything. Tyson’s mood was triumphant but unstable and the possibility of having the chamberpot heaved at him was a live one.
“What?” Nate said. “Sorry,” he added, feeling responsible for the puking.
“What are you apologizing for?” Tyson said, distracted from whatever he was going to say.
“Sorry you’re puking cause I got you caught so quick,” Nate said, and he did feel bad, though it didn’t seem to be bothering Tyson much. He was incredibly smug. Evidently this was the quickest an Omega had ever gotten pregnant in Kolonie history and Tyson felt strongly it was a sign of the Lord’s Blessing on their marriage, but also patently a result of he and Nate being very superior specimens. He complained every morning over the vomiting but then perked right back up after and spent the rest of the day bossily organizing the new house and the children and sitting on the porch with Sarah and Jamie nodding superciliously at passers by. There were a lot of passers by - everyone wanted to see the pregnant Omega founder of the Kolonie and curry favour with him. Jordie had also accepted it as a sign of the Lord’s favour; he had let Nate move up from fish turner to fish packer. Nate wasn’t sure stuffing oolichans into barrels was an improvement over carefully flipping oolichans, but it made a change, he supposed.
“I would puke ten times a day for a hundred years if I had to,” Tyson said fervently. “What I was going to say was, Midwife Auntie thinks I caught the night we married. Do you know how amazing that is?”
“That happens all the time,” Nate said, and so it did. Sarah herself had been such a baby.
“Not to Omegas,” Tyson said. On examination, it appeared Tyson was pleased about the baby not because he was excited about the baby per se - “I’m sure it’ll be very nice,” he’d said, off hand - nor did he have the faintest idea how it had gotten there or how it came out - “What,” he’d said, appalled. “Really?”, but that he was eagerly looking forward to the increased power and authority this extraordinarily quick pregnancy would bring. “They can’t cross us now, Alpha,” he’d told Nate earnestly. “We’ve got the sanction of the Lord and no one can dispute it. We can do whatever we want.” Then he’d looked a little evil and cackled. Nate left him to it. Thank God for Jamie, he often thought - his tempering influence was a godsend, but then, thank God for Tyson too, who was wiley and clever and well connected and had an unassailable sense of what was owed to him and a willingness to demand it. They all of them, Sarah, Nate, the children and all, were benefiting from it and Nate was just glad Tyson was pleased.
# # #
Months later he was, in the event, almost alarmingly pleased with the baby when Nate was allowed in the room. Tyson had been tidied, his hair pulled loosely back and he was wearing the fancy bed jacket his mother had sent, all signs of the birth bundled away, the bed linen pristine and the curtains pulled back to let the sun fall on the baby, wrapped in many layers of fine white muslin. He looked a fine lady, expensively dressed and elegantly arrayed as he leaned back against the goose down pillows covered in silk but then he looked up at Nate and grinned, and he was his old self again.
“Look at her!” Tyson said, holding the baby out to Nate proudly and wobbling her alarmingly for emphasis.
“Be careful,” Nate said, taking the baby from Tyson. “You have to support their heads,” he said to Tyson and Tyson, to his credit, looked abashed.
“Sorry Nate,” he said; he had begun to use Nate’s name as soon as the midwife had announced it was a girl, entirely pleased with himself for his triumph in producing a girl, pleased with Nate for his part, pleased with the baby for her charming little face and curls, and evidently feeling that he now had the right to take up Nate’s long standing offer of first names, for the Observant as good as a heart felt confession of love. For all their affection, Tyson had always hesitated to use the word and Nate didn’t want to cheapen it by demanding it though he longed to hear and say it. The Observant were extraordinarily reserved about such matters. “Nate,” Tyson had yelled through the door, “come and see! It’s a girl!” but Nate had been barred from entry for over an hour, left outside to talk to Tyson through the door while the Aunties cleaned Tyson and the baby up. Georgie had done his part to distract Nate by having an absolute fit in the hallway over god knows what - Nate thought wearily that three year olds must be the most trying creatures in God’s creation.
“You did so good,” Nate said soppily to Tyson, bending down, baby in one arm to kiss Tyson. Tyson, contrary to all predictions and his previous stroppy carry on when met with an unpleasant sensation, had navigated labour with nothing more than a deeply concentrated look and an insistence that Nate hold his hand and walk with him up and down the hall. Midwife Auntie had eventually compelled Tyson to withdraw into the room designated the birthing chamber leaving Nate in the hall to worry and listen to a great deal of grouchy Platt back and forth. The arguing had tapered off after a while and then there had been a few sharp cries from Tyson, followed by, oddly, a shriek from the midwife and then a long, drawn out period of waiting and finally a triumphant laugh from Tyson.
“I did,” Tyson said, pleased with himself. “Look at her.”
Nate drew the baby against himself in one arm and sat on the bed beside Tyson to examine her. She was perfect; an exact female miniature of Tyson, her features and dark curls just like his. The only thing of his he could see were her eyes, a pale blue unlike Tyson’s brown, but that, Nate knew, often changed. He could feel the tears welling up - she was so beautiful, and Tyson was in perfect health, and had done so well and been so brave. Midwife Auntie shot Nate a judgemental look - he wasn’t sure if it was for the crying or the sweet talk but Nate was by now deeply, stupidly in love with Tyson and he didn’t see why he should hide it. He slung one arm around Tyson and drew him in close. “Thank you baby,” he said, kissing Tyson gently.
“A girl,” Tyson marvelled, looking down at the baby.
“A girl,” Nate agreed, swiping at the tears. He felt such a muddle of emotions; joy, pride, excitement at the thought of his own baby, terror, for the same reason, sorrow at the thought of his parents, not there to see this first grandchild.
“Was it hard?” he asked, ignoring the tears sliding down his face. “You feel alright?”
“It was hard, Al - Nate,” Tyson said, looking up at Nate cheerily and clearly pleased with himself. “But I was brave and now she’s here, a girl.” He looked at the baby again, triumphantly. “Though it did hurt quite a bit just there at the end,” he said consideringly. “I didn’t quite know what to do with myself.”
“Yeah?” Nate said, still gazing at the baby. He shuffled the swaddling a little so he could see her tiny, perfect hands. “What did you do then?”
“I bit Midwife Auntie,” Tyson confided to Nate, hanging over his arm to admire the baby with him. Nate laughed. He was in no mood to find fault with anything Tyson did, not if it produced these results.
“She should be glad to be bit,” Nate said, taking a page from Tyson’s unreasonableness. “Anyone would be glad to be bit for such a fine baby.”
“That’s right,” Tyson said, still looking smug. “Mary Penner’s great-great-granddaughter and an Omega’s Daughter. She’ll be lucky all her life and she’s brought us luck too. A full share in the business and born the year medical schools let women in; just the thing for River of Jordan MacKinnon.”
“What?” Nate said, but he was almost resigned. He had suspected some sort of awfulness like this, and he knew Tyson had not forgotten his promise to Jordie.
“You heard me,” Tyson said, and there was a real note of finality to his voice; “Did you bring me anything to eat?”
“Well I don’t know about that name,” Nate said, but he knew he was going to give in. They had a perfect baby girl who had entrenched their future, Tyson had good as said he loved him, and a name was neither here nor there; there would be other chances to choose names, Nate was sure.
“Yes, yes but what about the food?” Tyson said, accurately sussing out Nate’s readiness to roll over. “Just a sandwich or something? Nate?”
“I love you too,” Nate said, dandling the baby, thinking of their future. He felt sure in that moment it would be a long and happy one.
# # #
And it was.
Nate sat on the stone wall that bordered the docks now, a new addition in the last ten years. He had contributed heavily to the cost of it, like every public work in the Kolonie, and he was glad to see it felt sturdy and well built as he sat and swang his feet. He was wearing his Sunday boots, fancy elastic sided things, Empire calfskin or so the Eaton’s catalogue assured them, worn for church or days like today, a holiday, and he admired them as he waited for the wedding party. He had assisted with the loading of the last of the wagons, all full of dried fish headed for the train depot, and the rest of the day was his. He liked to come down and help load and unload the boats occasionally just to keep his hand in; it seemed wise to work at, not just oversee, every part of his trade. Just a little though; he didn’t miss the days spent slinging fish full time. It was good to be well off enough to not have to - indeed, he was rich, just as Tyson had promised and he could afford to never touch a fish again, if he chose.
Jordie walked up from the docks, just arrived. He was still sailing the sloop Nate had taken to Victoria with him so long ago, and his beard was as luxuriant as ever. “Alright?” Jordie said, shaking Nate’s hand. He looked a little teary eyed already, as if he’d been getting misty in advance of the wedding. He’d never admit it but he was a sentimental sap, Nate knew, and a secret cryer at weddings, though not, of course, at Nate’s wedding. Nate recalled mostly complaints about his failure to follow Observant tradition and then a lot of yelling but even that made him feel nostalgic on such a special day.
“Alright,” Nate said, emptying his pockets and handing Jordie, in order, a handkerchief, a bill of lading, and one of the special keys they used to pry the lids off their barrels. “I’m not supposed to cry so don’t you start.”
“I’m not going to cry,” Jordie said smugly. “I’m sitting next to Segs and he’s deputized to kick me if I do.”
He paused for a moment to straighten his hat and then turned back to help Sarah who he had left down by the boat struggling with a heavy wooden crate. Nate called a halloo down to Robbie’s boy Peter, the most recent apprentice, seated on the dock mending net and waved him over to assist Jordie. There was no reason Sarah should have to help lug the box all the way down to the park grounds; what was the point of being married to a wealthy man if she still had to heave great boxes of wedding china about herself? He would have helped himself but he was waiting for Tyson. They would go to Georgie’s wedding together, as they did everything.
“Mind you’re not late!” Sarah called to Nate in lieu of thanks, which was just typical. No matter how old they grew, he would always be her younger brother and in need of bossing. Anyway, he could see the wedding guests from there, milling down at the far end of the road, Tyson at their head; there was no way he could fail to be on time. The thing couldn’t start until the MacKinnons arrived.
He sat a little longer, enjoying the early summer sun and the moment of idleness; his hat was new and he took it off to examine the bits of straw that were poking him and then took out his pocket knife to carefully cut away the pokey bits. Tyson would go mad if he saw; Nate had ruined any number of hats the same way, cutting off the excess straw and making a hole rather than weaving the ends back in. It was a trick Nate never seemed to catch hold of, somehow - he thought perhaps you had to have been born into an Observant community to know it. He considered his work with satisfaction and then put the hat back on just in time because Tyson was hurrying down the street to him, in a great rush over something.
“Have you got them?” Tyson said, drawing near.
“I got them,” Nate replied, pointing at the flowers hidden in the shade of the wall, carefully covered with a dewy rhubarb leaf to keep fresh. “Come sit for a minute.” He stood up to catch Tyson around the waist and pulled him to sit beside him as they watched the crowd of wedding guests stream into the park and find their seats. Georgie had asked for a new fangled outdoor wedding under the pavilion in the park, and Nate was glad to give it to him. It was not a traditional Omega wedding at all but a modern one and the Kolonie did not approve, officially, and yet every man of them had accepted the invitation, marvelling over the fancy pressed paper, gilt edged and hand written in expensive calligraphy by an artist back East.
Georgie’d had many fancy ideas for the wedding; he had insisted on five kinds of cake - Orange, Coconut, Fruit, Gold and Silver cake and plain white- and scalloped oysters from Fanny Bay, pear & cucumber pickles, pressed chicken and beef, and a lavish display of expensive fruit. They had brought in a crate of oranges and baskets and baskets of local grapes, great bunches of green ones glowing in the sun, and rich fat purple ones piled up high on the buffet table near the pavilion. The oranges were resting two on each plate on the table, ready to be taken and savoured as wedding favours.
Nate could remember the first time he had eaten an orange; not yet rich he had been twenty seven and on the strength of the two additional shares in the business they had received for both ten years of marriage and the birth of their third child, they had hired a girl for the laundry and spent lavishly that year on food for the New Year celebrations. They had bought a ten pound box of mandarins and Nate could remember sitting beside Tyson on New Year’s Eve, tired and happy, eating the first one. The new baby Ollie had only been a few weeks old, small enough that the midnight New Year service had been Tyson’s first public appearance since his birth and Nate had always associated the pleasure of that quiet moment, the baby asleep in his lap, the other children tucked away in their beds, Tyson warm beside him, with the taste of oranges.
It had been a good start to a good year and Nate remembered it fondly. It had been the last time they had all been at home as one group, Sarah marrying Jordie the following spring and setting off a chain reaction of sisters marrying one after another, the little boys growing into young men and Georgie almost thirteen, a year of great import for an Omega. Tyson had been particularly happy that year. Ollie was an easy baby and the big girls were old enough to be a great help with the house; the two other ones out of diapers and with the appearance of an Omega third child, all concerns regarding the MacKinnon position in the Kolonie had ended and Tyson could afford to relax, a little. He was not by nature a quiet, placid person, and Nate liked his busy, cheery loudness; but Tyson soon after a baby was a little softer, a little muted but happy, a rare season of quiet, and Nate had liked that too. It remained only for Tyson to sit and receive his visitors and accept their congratulations. He had bought a bed jacket for receiving after the baby, a particularly flattering blue, and Nate remembered coming home each afternoon to see Tyson sitting up with the baby, waiting to greet him and looking so fine in the pale sunlight on his dark hair and soft blue jacket. Omega born Omegas were sometimes frail and they had had fears for Ollie but they had proven unfounded. He had been a fat little pig indeed, an enthusiastic eater and easy grower.
Now Tyson was wearing the same blue, a daring choice of colour for the parent of a marrying Omega; he ought by rights to have been wearing black to mourn the passing of the Omega from the family but instead he had on his best, a catalogue ladies jacket, fawn woolen cloth but with a velvet collar and a silk lining that peeped out; he had torn the lining out and redone it himself in blue silk taffeta, rich and lovely to celebrate Georgie’s marriage. Nate had a very fine matching waistcoat and silk tie. He squeezed Tyson’s hand and stood up to dust his trousers off and straighten the waistcoat. All the guests were seated and Nate could see Georgie approaching and it was time to prepare. “You remember the year Ollie was little?” Nate said. He could see Ollie now, racing up and down the road, too energetic to walk calmly beside his sisters as he should.
Georgie had been twelve, almost thirteen, ready to have his hair put up and begin observing strict Integrity and Nate and Tyson had spent hours talking quietly about how to proceed. They had considered every possibility, from leaving the Community to simply following tradition but in the end it had been Georgie who had resolved the issue for them; he had simply refused to consider anything but the most traditional path. He had announced he wanted his hair up so everyone could admire it; he wanted to enter into strict Observant Integrity, like his three Omega friends in the community; he wanted to sit in the Omega pew at church with Tyson and he wanted to learn to play piano and serve tea beautifully and he had, in the end, gotten his way. It had been, Nate thought, quite a different life for Georgie than Tyson though they were only separated by twenty years and the Community did not change much over that time; no one had ever dared to raise a hand to him and surrounded by an enormous family he could still touch, the Integrity strictures were easy to adhere to. Shy and quiet by nature it was easy for him to appear meek and submissive, or at least close enough to it to occasion little remark.
Georgie had had one final, surprising request: he wanted a tutor with a college degree, not a Normal school certificate, to teach him proper English and the sciences so he could prepare to go to a secular University and become a doctor and he got it. There had been some stutters at the start, the Elders pressing back against Nate importing an English to teach an Omega, especially this one who looked set to take on Tyson’s mantle as the most beautiful and valuable of his generation, but money and a blythe disregard for popular opinion had won the day. Mercifully the Women’s and Omega Medical School had been in Toronto; any other location would have posed an insurmountable problem, but Toronto had a flourishing Observant Kolonie and had leapt at the idea of having an additional Omega, if only briefly. Nate, less enthused, had considered simply moving the whole family to Toronto with him, but had ultimately settled on sending Robbie and his young family to chaperone. Robbie had married young and his wife, Martha, was a upright, bossy woman, more than equal to assisting Georgie in navigating life in a new Kolonie and among his Reform school mates. Georgie had flourished. He had, Nate knew, occasionally snuck out from class and gone to tea houses and cafes, even bookshops on occasion. Sometimes he took a stroll around a park, unchaperoned but for a crowd of his classmates, and Nate pretended not to know.
He had lived a modern sort of life and nothing would do but that he have a modern sort of wedding and a modern sort of cake. They had used the traditional Omega white cake, the same as Nate and Tyson had had at their wedding, but it was stacked up in modern round tiers and covered in royal icing, piped in ribbons and swirls and flourishes and tiny, intricate birds. Jamie and Tyson had laboured over it for days with the willing assistance of their daughters. There had been two yelling matches and a fit of hysterics, but in the end they had achieved something remarkable.
“I remember,” Tyson said and kissed him. “I remember everything.”
“Oh do you now?” Nate said nonsensically and he stood to pull Tyson to his side. He remembered it all too, for better and for worse, and he wouldn’t change a moment of it, at least not from the time he met Tyson.
Together they stood watching Georgie as he made his way to them. Normally he wore almost exclusively men’s clothing but for the wedding he had added a high necked white lace blouse, fine and delicate, to his suit. He had his hair up in a traditional Wedding crown but he had added two white ribbons, along with the Barrie and MacKinnon hair combs that Tyson had never had a chance to wear at his wedding and they gleamed among his gold braids, gold on gold, reflecting the sun. He had chosen to forego the traditional gold bracelets, thousands of dollars of gold, a burden his soon to be husband’s family could not support and one he didn’t need, possessed of his own trade to protect him, the first Omega in Canada to graduate as a doctor.
Nate watched him with admiration as he proceeded towards them with, his medical graduate pin on his lapel. Nate could read, and write, and figure and that was enough for him, but Georgie had always been the smartest of the bunch. Nate took a couple steps, still holding Tyson’s hand and met Georgie in the street. He could feel tears threatening and thought he should have organized with Tyson to pinch him. He had promised that he wouldn’t start crying like a sap, at least not right at the beginning. Nate had made a boob of himself at Rosie’s wedding, crying loudly through the ceremony, and Georgie had made Nate promise to not do the same again. This close, Nate could see that Georgie had subtly darkened his lashes and brows with kohl, and he knew that it was easy to smudge; he had been specifically and firmly instructed not to make Georgie cry before the wedding itself, lest he appear before the congregation looking like a racoon.
“Ah, Pa,” Georgie said, looking to make sure no one could see and then pulling out a clean hankie from his pocket and pressing it into Nate’s hand. “Come on now, no crying.”
“Alright,” Nate said, “alright,” and stuffed the hankie into his pocket so he could pin the boutonniere onto Georgie’s lapel, next to his pin. It was just a couple of Nootka roses and a bit of fern; Nate had picked them himself and Tyson had helped arrange them, but they were delicate and beautiful, like Georgie. Georgie smiled and kissed him on the cheek; he had to stretch up to do it as he had never grown over five feet.
“Thank you, Pa,” Georgie said. “You going to walk the last bit with me?”
“Reckon so,” Nate said, pulling himself together, and Tyson on one side and Nate on the other, Georgie walked down the dusty path, towards his five kinds of cake and expensive oranges but more importantly, towards his soon to be husband. His boy, waiting down at the end of the walk just to the side of the pastor, red cheeked and nervous, was a good one. Reform, but Nate didn’t care about that, though Tyson worried. No one could have treated Georgie with more respectful veneration than Cale. He was a farm boy, a couple years younger than Georgie and the first of his family to go to high school nevermind medical school, unacceptable in every way except that he liked Georgie and Georgie liked him and his cheeks flared a bright red every time he looked at Georgie and he was willing to live in Vancouver and assist Georgie in starting a practice. It was to be a modern kind of marriage too. There had been no settlement, no bride price or dowry for Georgie, though the Community had given them the house they were to live in and furnished it for them. To the Community, the prospect of two doctors, one of them an Omega, was well worth overlooking Cale’s unfortunate heritage and liberal leanings. And besides, the gossips assured each other; new blood was always necessary. Look at Alpha MacKinnon with his English father; three babies by an Omega, two girls and an Omega born Omega. Yes, they said to each other with satisfaction; they expected great things from Georgie.
They reached the front of the crowd and Nate, already starting to sniffle, handed Georgie off to his fiance. Tyson pulled Nate to one side of the crowd with the rest of the family, near the buffet table. Jamie, a little more portly every year but never less than dignified, trailed by his two tall and dark haired daughters, nodded civilly at Nate and hovered next to the cake awaiting the inevitable compliments. His dignified reserve would have been more impressive if Nate hadn’t watched him slap Tyson the day before, insistent the little icing sugar birds all face in the same direction, but Nate was still glad to see him.
Cale’s parents stood next to the huge block of MacKinnons, looking a little unsure but glad enough to be there; Tyler stood near them, whispering a translation of the Platt and the Observant customs. There would be no slapping today though, and if they were lucky, no punching. Cale had been carefully instructed to make only a token effort at the two orders
Nate settled in as the ceremony began and groped in his pocket for his handkerchief. He was definitely going to start crying. The listing of the names always moved him, so many gone before and so many missed, though he was glad to be here with those who remained, still alive and beside Tyson. It was good to be here, today, holding Tyson’s hand and watching Georgie marry a poor man he loved. They could have ended up in a million different places, Nate supposed, lived a hundred different lives but he was glad to be in this one with Tyson. He felt a great sense of satisfaction as he sat and waited for the words to start.
The pastor lifted his hand, signalling the beginning of the service and the crowd fell silent.
“George Graham MacKinnon,” Pastor Wiebe said, embarking on the first part of the ceremony, the Roll of Fruchtarnt, the formal listing of the Observant antecedents of the parties for the last three generations. “Child of Alpha and Omega MacKinnon, Omega son of Katherine MacKinnon and English, grandson of Anna Penner and English, Mary Penner’s great grandson…” and Nate started to blub.