Non-verbal communication in courtship


"I'm bored. The whole city is so dull! Don't you find it impossibly dull, darling? I certainly do."

Sighing, Hemmings looked up from his essay.

"Boredom is only a manifestation of –"

"Yes, yes, I know: Boredom is a manifestation of one's own inability to occupy one's mind on higher order thinking. But darling, don't you see how dreadfully boring that answer is? It completely supports my own thesis," Chokey stated, beaming. She had caught her brother out, and they both knew it. "What are you doing anyway?"

Hemmings leaned over his notebook. "Nothing. Working."

"Yes, but on what?"

"Nothing. Just... A theory. You don't like my thoughtsmithing, anyway. Why don't you go visit Tiff, or Cheeser, or Fink-Nottle? I'm sure they're not boring," he added a touch sourly.

Chokey sidled over to his desk, her hands behind her back. "Their parents have taken them to the GenAm to try to sort out that ghastly mess at the Academy. I don't know why they bother – nothing will happen until it happens. I should much rather think they'd do better to wait, like us." She leaned over his shoulder. "So what are you thoughtsmithing?"

Hemmings twisted in his seat, blocking her view of his notebook. "I... I'm simply exploring a theory on interpersonal responses to non-verbal behaviours. You wouldn't be interested."

"Oh." Chokey stepped back from her brother and then, in a move well practiced over the years, she dodged to the other side of him and grabbed his notebook before jumping out of his reach.

Chokey read aloud: "In terms of courtship, to what extent can one rely on words? Surely it is the space between words, that which is unsaid, that truly 'speaks'? Indeed, if love is to have any sense at all, it must be that which is so intrinsic to the meaning of all things sensual, that is, the gaze –"

Hemmings flew across the room, crashing into Chokey, grabbing his notebook from her. He held it high above his head, far out of the dwarf's reach. But it was too late.

"Oh, darling! You're writing about flirting! How wonderful!"

"I am not writing about flirting," Hemmings replied, drawing himself up. "I'm simply exploring certain aspects of communication in regards to interpersonal social development. Like I said."

Chokey gave him the kind of look only a sister can give. "I don't know why you wouldn't want me to see this. You know I simply long for you to find someone special. Who is it?"

Hemmings shook his head furiously, his normally pale face scarlet. "Shut up. It's nothing. Go away."

"Oh, don't be such a rotten spoilsport. Tell me who you're writing about. You know I'll find out anyway. If you don't tell me, I shall have no choice but to ask around," Chokey added, grinning at him in a manner that made it very clear she would be more than happy to do so.

"You're a terrible sister. I'm glad I'm adopted," Hemmings grumbled, flopping back down in his chair in defeat.

"No I'm not, and no you're not. Come on, out with it."

"It doesn't matter anyway. I don't intend to do anything about it."

Chokey opened her mouth to tease him, and then noticed the expression on his face. Instead, she took a seat on the sofa by his writing desk. "Why not?"

"He's... the person I'm researching, I mean... He's not interested in me. He likes someone else. I was trying to understand how it was I knew. How I knew he wouldn't... I think it's in the things that aren't said."

If Chokey had been speaking with anyone else, she would have argued the point. But she knew her brother well enough to know that if he had come to a conclusion, it would have been at the expense of a great deal of thought. That didn't mean he was right, of course, but it did mean that he believed it.

"Oh, darling. How dreadful."

Hemmings brushed his hair behind his pointed ear. "It's alright. I don't... I mean, I'm not in love or anything. I just thought... well, I thought I ought to think on it, that's all."

Chokey got up and put her arm around his shoulder.

"I know it's not the same, but you do know I love you, don't you?"

A smile ghosted across his lips. "It's not really comparable. But thank you."

"You're very welcome." Chokey paused, thinking. And then she said, "And I dare say you've done some awfully good thinking."

"I always do good thinking," Hemmings replied, his tone regaining some of its usual haughtiness. "That's why none of your friends like me."

"Oh well," Chokey said airily, "If it comes to that, I don't think they like me much, either. Nor I them. I know! Why don't we go outside? There's bound to be something happening. We could go to the market."

"I don't know..."

"I really am dreadfully bored, darling. And the house is so depressing. Please? For me?"

Hemmings glanced down at his notebook, and the lines of thoughtsmithery he'd produced. Chokey nudged him.

"I'll buy you a cake," she said.

Hemmings' lips twitched. "Very well. If you insist."

"Oh, I do."

Her brother stood, fussing over his shirt and waistcoat, while Chokey waited. And then he held out his arm for her.

"Chokey..." He began.

"Yes, darling?"

"I'm glad I'm adopted."

Chokey grinned at him.

"I know," she said. "Me too."