We need minds like yours, Ender
We need minds like yours, Ender
Because when I say I have a Wiggin Problem I mean all the Wiggins, not just Peter and Valentine.
Ender’s Game New Promo
Along the lines of that short story about Peter and the Wiggin parents on Christmas, how about a ficlet of Ender and Val on a particularly bittersweet day?
Ender’s up in the middle of the night again. Valentine would be worried, if it wasn’t such a regular occurance. Now, several months into their stay on Shakespeare, she’s used to it. She knows the sound he makes when the nightmares become too much, the twisting and turning of the sheets. She can count the number of steps he makes down the hall in her head. One, two, three, four, until he’s at the stairs, and then there’s soft thuds and the clink of a glass.
Usually, she goes right back to sleep. It’s his own business, and she knows he doesn’t like her meddling in it.
This time, she follows him. She knows what today is.
“You’re up early,” she observes from the doorway.
He glances up. “No, I’m not,” he says. “Not for my standards.”
Valentine shrugs with one shoulder. “Sometimes I like to pretend we’re normal,” she says. “It’s a funny joke.”
Ender smiles, not because it’s actually funny - he smiles because it really isn’t. She knows that. He knows that. But they talk in word games all the time because it’s the only language they’ve really got between them, the language of her and Peter and him.
“Are you thinking about Peter?” she asks.
He pauses. “Why would I?” he says.
“It’s his birthday.”
“Have you ever considered that it’s a little odd to be thinking about someone’s birthdate when they’re already past their expiration date?” Ender asks, resumes what he was doing before: getting milk from the fridge and pouring it into his glass.
“You’re terrible at deflecting at three in the morning,” Valentine says simply. “It’s not a crime to be thinking about Peter right now, you know. Even if he’s dead. We both remember what his birthdays were like.”
It’s Ender’s turn to shrug. When the motion finishes, the line between his shoulders is tight. “I don’t remember much,” he says.
“Liar,” she replies.
“I’ve blocked out most of Peter. I remember only you, oh radiant beloved sister of mine.”
“Liar,” she repeats.
He shrugs again. “Don’t call me a liar just because I’m not saying what you want to hear.”
“What I want to hear is what’s in your head,” she retorts. “Don’t you ever get tired of playing games with me?”
Ender looks over his shoulder. It’s the first time she’s seen his eyes during this entire conversation. They’re clouded over, distant. He’s not really here, not right now, but he’s trying to lie to her about it.
“There’s nothing going on in my head,” he says. “I just want to have a drink and go back to bed, that’s all.”
“We’re going to have to talk about Peter eventually,” she says.
“I’ve said quite enough about Peter already,” Ender returns. “I’ve written the book, in fact. You can read it, if it’ll make you happy.”
Valentine sighs very loudly, very obviously. Trying to elict a reaction out of Ender can be like drawing blood from a stone. There are some tricks in her playbook to open him up, but they seem to work less and less well every day. It worries her. There’s so much in Ender’s head that really needs to come out.
“Sorry,” he says, kisses her cheek as he passes her by, glass of milk in hand.
She shakes her head.
She doesn’t move until Ender is gone. Yes: he hides much, even from her. But she has her secrets too, her hidden things. Right now one of them is in the fridge, all the way in the back, hidden behind a container of vegetables that Ender had received from some local farmer not too long ago.
She takes out the cupcake and lights the candle and watches it burn, all the way down. She watches until there’s only smoke left— smoke, and the faint salty smell of a teardrop that got stuck to her nose when she wasn’t paying attention.
Undignified, as Peter would say.
He toyed with the idea of trying to be like the other boys. But he couldn’t think of any jokes, and none of theirs seemed funny. Wherever their laughter came from, Ender couldn’t find such a place in himself. He was afraid and fear made him serious.