Arlene grimaced. "They're not savages."
"Neither is he your uncle," Derrick told Kyan. "I don't want you calling him that."
"Don't worry, I'll make sure that your son remembers he's a human boy and not the nephew of a plant." Arlene moved closer to Derrick, slipping her arm around his back. "What're you really worried about?"
Derrick enfolded her in his arms. "I just want you to be careful out there. I'm not used to having you and Kyan so far out of my sight."
Arlene kissed her husband reassuringly, and whispered in his ear, "We'll be back before you know it."
The rest of the evening passed in a blur of preparations. Arlene planned to leave at dawn because it gave her sisters-in-law less of a chance to interfere. She knew they were afraid of the tumbler town, and she didn't want them filling Kyan's head with nonsense stories right as they were about to leave. Until now, they'd held their tongues, not believing she'd go through with it. Tomorrow, it would be too real, and she knew they would make a scene.
In the dark of morning Arlene finished the last minute packing, and Kyan played a game he called "packing." He put a few of his toys in and out of his own little knapsack, while Arlene packed everything he'd really need. Sleatoo met them at the edge of town, and Arlene entered a different world. That morning she'd been the wife of a farmer, and secondly she'd been a scientist. From the moment she kissed her husband goodbye, sending him out to work the fields, she was on sabbatical and could be a scientist first.
* * *
The tumbler village glowed with balls of light in the distance. Sleatoo told her the balls were hives of sun-bees, kept by a caste of beekeepers. Sleatoo's closest relative was a beekeeper, but Arlene didn't understand the relationship between them. In six years of talking to Sleatoo, Arlene could never get far enough past the language barrier to really understand the familial structure of tumbler society.