Month 5, Day 20
Capac looked up as the pair joined him at supper, but he wasn’t particularly pleased to see Bugalu and his shadow, Mac. Her temper has been... unpredictable this past week, from what I’ve heard. And seen. One day when we got to the bridge, she was happy as could be. Other days, mad enough to chew through the bulkhead. And right now, it looks like they’ve argued again. I’ve seen that look on Mac’s face many mornings these past few months, after she’s had to put up with Evans and Adams all night. Usually, all it takes is a touch from Bugalu, or an understanding grimace aimed her way, to smooth some of the anger away, but when it’s him she’s mad at, who’s going to calm her down? Capac leaned toward Bugalu and whispered, “Why did you argue this time?”
Bugalu shot him a sharp look, then glanced at the steaming redhead. “I didn’t argue with her. I don’t know what she’s upset about. She won’t tell me.”
Capac shook his head. “You must really be in the dog house.”
“Or,” Bugalu offered, “maybe she’s mad at somebody else.”
“She would tell you about that, wouldn’t she?”
The helmsman shrugged. “Eventually.”
“Shut up!” Mac gave them both a murderous look, and slammed her fork down onto the table. “Mac called me in for a physical today!”
“What for?” Capac asked, and winced at the withering glare she sent his way. Bugalu seemed abruptly, intensely intrigued by his tray of food.
Mac picked her fork back up and began energetically mixing her mashed potatoes and gravy. “Said he was worried about my sleeping habits,” she growled, and cut off a corner of her hot beef sandwich, then tossed a glare at Bugalu. “Wonder why he suddenly thinks he needs to worry about that?” she muttered as she raised the food to her mouth.
Meaning she thinks Bugalu told the doctor something that got him worried. But how would Bugalu know about her sleeping habits? Unless the rumors about them are true.
“Yes, I told him,” Bugalu confessed. “After having my eyes opened, and talking to Della, the problem is obviously worse than I thought. What we’ve been doing this past week isn’t enough. You need actual sleep, Mac, daily. Two days out of eight is not enough, and your mood these last few days has proved it. I’m worried about you.”
“I’m sick to death of being told what to do!”
“You’re in the Fleet,” he reminded her calmly.
“Doesn’t mean I have to like it!” she declared angrily.
“It can get irritating,” Capac agreed meekly.
“You’re the one who kept telling me you weren’t sleeping,” Bugalu stated. “But you always said it so... matter-of-factly, it seemed like no big deal. Now I know better. Look, everybody knows you know your field-“
“Smit doesn’t,” she snarled.
Bugalu hesitated for half a second. “Okay. I guess not. But everybody else does, and—”
“He’s the only one that matters!” she pointed out forcefully, poking the air between them with her fork. “If I don’t pass his test, I don’t pass! Period!”
“She’s right,” Capac agreed, earning a glare from Bugalu.
“Mac, all I’m saying is that maybe you need to take some time to relax, to lower the stress levels in your body. Just do something fun once in a while. After supper, we could play Atakke, or see a movie. Or if you’d rather, we could—”
She exploded. “Stop telling me what to do!”
“Okay,” he agreed, holding up his hands to try and calm her. “I’m don’t mean to tell you what to do. But I’d like for you to relax, for a change. That’s all.”
“Well, I will!” she declared.
“But I’ll do it the way I want to do it!”
“That’s fine,” he agreed. “What do you want to do?”
She glared at the negro for a long moment, then gave a deep sigh and shook her head. “I have no idea. Maybe I’ll... play solitaire. Or something.”
She used to play a lot of solitaire, she said once. “If you want to play cards, I’m hosting a game tonight.”
Bugalu scowled. “Not a good idea.”
“Who says it’s not?” Mac demanded. “Maybe a card game’s just what I need!”
“Mac, it’s poker, and not just—”
“I know how to play poker!” she declared, jumping to her feet. “When, Capac?”
“1900,” he answered. “My place.
“I’ll be there,” she stated, picked up her barely-touched meal and stomped off.
“I never dreamed I’d ever get Mac to one of my poker games,” Capac muttered, still not sure he believed she would show up.
“You are such an idiot!” Bugalu told him angrily.
“It was her choice. She’s right, you boss her around too much. She has a right to play poker if she wants to.”
“You should have at least told her—”
“Mac’s playing tonight?” Ryan asked from two tables away. “I’m in, Capac!”
“Yeah, me, too!” came another male voice.
“And me!” came another.
“Oh, great!” Bugalu spat. With a final glare at the Peruvian, he got up and left.
Capac was alone again, and somehow, he had earned Bugalu’s anger. I did nothing wrong! She wanted to play cards. As for telling her, surely she knows, right? There’s never been any big secret about my games.