"So, um..." Stella starts to say around a mouthful of stew.
"Finish chewing before speaking, dear." Hathor gently chastises her with a small smile, to which Stella stops with an embarrassed look, bowing her head slightly and doing so.
"So?" Hathor asks when she's done, urging her on.
"So, how's business, mom? I mean, you're still tailoring, right?"
Hathor seems a bit surprised by the question, but takes it as in stride as she can. "Of course, it's always been my passion, you know. Well, I'm sure you do, with how many times I... Y-yes." She gives a nervous laugh. She starts to say something else, but stops, until she meets Stella's level gaze. It was surprisingly neutral, not the kind of expression Hathor was used to from her daughter. She met it for some time, and started again. "I'm sorry about that, Stella." She says, sincerity evident in the plainness of her words. "I was one of those parents, wasn't I?"
Stella is silent for a moment, chewing idly on the cube of beef between her jaws. It wasn't a very idle action for one of her anatomy, but the idea was there. The apprehension was clear in the way she kept her eyes locked with Hathor's.
"Dear..." Hathor starts, but Stella holds up one finger to stop her.
She chews. And then she swallows.
"Sorry, I was still chewing and didn't want you to think I stopped paying attention..." She gives a sheepish smile. Hathor lets out a sigh, nearly slumping in her chair, eliciting a small, guilty laugh from Stella. "I'm sorry, mom! Really."
"Oh dear, I'm going to have to get used to you being a mature adult now..." Hathor cradles her head against the table with a wry smile. "I can't believe how much you've changed..."
"Neither can I, sometimes... But you're the same as ever, aren't you? I guess you haven't really had a reason to, though."
"I've always been so much slower than you, Stella, you know that..."
"I think I'm just too fast for you, more like."
"What in the world is the difference?"
Stella shrugs, downing another spoonful of soup. "The monk I met said a lot of reverse stuff like that. I dunno why, either. I tried to do it too, though."
"A monk? I haven't heard anything about a monk." Hathor remarks with curiosity. "What were you doing with a monk?"
"Oh, I met him after I got out of prison the last-"
"P-p-prison?!" Hathor drops her spoon, getting spatters of broth all over the place. "You went to prison?! The last time?!"
"Woah woah woah it was only, like," She starts frantically, then stops when she realized there was no way to label the number as 'only'.
"Y-yeah," She slumps a bit in her chair, guilt washing over her. "I went to prison for petty crime. A lot."
Hathor seems at a loss for words, unsure of how to respond to the revelation.
"While I was in there, there was this old guy that talked to me, though, he was in there for life. The last time he got really mad that he kept seeing me in there and yelled at me a lot. Told me I was wasting my life, and uh... I kinda was. So I left Friezant and started wandering. And then I ran into the monk, and started studying under him."
She seems extra guilty now.
"I, uh... Burnt that nice outfit you made for me so I could be an ascetic."
A hurt look flashes across Hathor's face, but it fades away as quickly as it came. Ten years had given her quite a bit of time to understand more, and Stella's tale made her feel more sad than anything.
"And... And after that? You were working at Mr. Linebeck's, so..."
"Yeah, I started to get really poor and I was having a hard time feeding myself... Plus it was always really cold, everywhere."
A memory flashed into Hathor's mind of the whole family cuddling in bed to warm the two cold-blooded members with Hathor's natural heat.
"So I asked Mr. Linebeck for a job after I found a room at an inn, and well, there I was. He, uh, got me to stop being weird by making me Employee of the Month." She grins with embarrassed pride.
Hathor's expression softens at the smile, and she reaches out for Stella's hand, holding it gently in hers.
"Well, I won't... Won't hold any of it against you. You've obviously learned a lot along the way, so I'm very proud of you..." She smiles in a very motherly fashion. "You've grown so much, dear, I can tell just looking at you."
"Mom, sheesh..." Stella looks away, flushing slightly in embarrassment. "Getting all sappy..."
Hathor chuckles, gently squeezing her hand. "I'll even forgive you for burning my best work, too. I still have the design lying around somewhere, so I can make it again."
The design, truthfully, sat on its own in a locked drawer, where it wouldn't be going anywhere anytime soon. Definitely not just lying around somewhere.
"Aw, mom... I'll pay you for this one, okay?"
"Oh no, I'm not making my own daughter pay for her clothes. That would be just cruel."
"No buts, missy."
Stella is summarily silenced, and sits sheepishly for a short second.
"...Can I help, at least?"
Yet another surprising sentence for Hathor. "O-oh. Well, um... O-of course you can."
She perks up quickly, and smiles widely. "Yes! I would love your help, dear."
Stella smiles back, and goes to finish her stew, only to find that it's grown cold. "Oh... I guess we got emotional for a bit too long." She also notes the broth stains on the tablecloth, and Hathor's dress. "Oh no, your dress, mom..."
Hathor waves it off, still smiling. "It's okay. Would you hand me your bowl, please, dear?"
Stella does so, and Hathor conjures a flame from her free hand, holding it under the bowl. Soon, it returns to its original temperature, and she hands it back to Stella. "There you go. Nice and warm again."
"Thanks, mom." She resumes eating along with her mother, and the rest of the meal passes fairly quietly, with brief moments of normal chitchat.
The stew tasted particularly good.
What do you think of the planetarium?
That beautiful twinkling of eternity that will never fade, no matter what.
All of the stars in all of the skies are waiting for you.