"Cynthia, I'm going out to the campus to tell that idiot Deggeler what he can do with his new variant on my antinova postulate. I don't know when I'll be back." Lydia looked at Cynthia and gave a supercilious teenage sniff. Cynthia hadn't a clue about antinova theory.
"Um, no, Lydia, I don't think so," Cynthia said nervously. "You didn't pick up your room yet."
Lydia slammed her thinkpad down on the counter in disgust. Cynthia winced as she heard the hard clang of plastic on wood, dreading the thought of explaining another temper-damaged computer to the physics department.
"I am not cleaning up my room!" Lydia yelled. "That's a total waste of my time!"
Cynthia would have given anything to have agreed, anything to get Lydia to shut up and go away, but she knew her duty.
"Lydia, you know it's important that you develop self-discipline. Dr. Foster-Montrose was famous for her discipline. And she never, ever left the house without making her bed, with sharp hospital corners. She made the whole household do it her way - I'm sure I've told you about the time she wouldn't let me go to the prom because her quarter didn't bounce high enough on my bed."
Lydia mimicked her mother through most of this story. "Yes, you've told me, over and over, ad nauseum. God, you are so boring!"
"My mother was never bored," Cynthia pointed out. "She had too much self-discipline."
"If she'd had a mother as stupid as you she would have been intensely bored!" Lydia snapped, and stomped to her room.
Cynthia cringed at the slammed door, then sat down at the kitchen table to await the next explosion. She wished again for the millionth time that her grandmother was still alive to tell her exactly how she had managed to raise the obsessive, monstrously disciplined genius who had grown up to be Dr. Lydia Foster-Montrose. Cynthia knew that her grandmother hadn't been any more forceful or tolerant or tenacious than she was herself - in fact, Cynthia's dying mother had specifically selected her as the clone's parent because of her remarkable similarity to her grandmother. And Cynthia had known her grandmother during her own childhood - the old lady was a mushpot. Yet Grandma's Lydia had been so self-disciplined...
Perhaps it was because Paul had left. Lydia Foster had grown up in a two-parent household. She'd despised Paul as a son-in-law, but heartily approved of him as the surrogate father, saying his miserable ineffectuality reminded her exactly of her own dad.
But Paul hadn't lasted. He left one Christmas Eve, after a very ugly scene when little three-year-old Lydia started calling him an incompetent dunderpoop. He said that it had been bad enough taking that kind of abuse from his Nobel-prize-winning Nazi vampire of a mother-in-law; he'd be damned if he'd take it from a snotty-nosed kid with dirty diapers.
The university had tried to make up the loss by sending in a series of mild marshmallow men to live with them over the years, to give a sort of token non-interfering male flavor to the household, but none of them had lasted long. No stipend was enough. They'd finally settled on a room atomizer that shot a faint whiff of testosterone into the air every few days.
If only Lydia would just make her bed. Cynthia had no control over Lydia's academic training (her dying mother had established that curriculum and methodology completely outside of Cynthia's realm) which was perfectly fine with Cynthia. Her job was to help mold Lydia's character, along the same lines as before. And in most ways, she thought she'd done pretty well - her daughter Lydia was every bit as arrogant, intolerant and egomaniacal as her mother had been. But Lydia 2 had this frighteningly almost-human touch of laziness about her, a problem that must be resolved if she was ever to complete Dr. Foster-Montrose's work, which everyone who knew anything about antinova theory kept insisting was critical.
Lydia sauntered back into the kitchen to take a can of soda out of the refrigerator. "Your mother hated you, you know," she said conversationally, and headed back to her room.
"I know," Cynthia said. She'd read the diaries too.
She hadn't hated her mother, exactly, but the woman had been darned hard to love. Her daughter Lydia was too, even as an infant. It seemed so strange, to grow someone in your own body and then be unable to love them. Maybe there was something unnatural about her. Perhaps it was just as well she'd agreed not to have any more children since her mother had been an only child. Although Paul had been kind of sad about it.
Perhaps that was the answer. Perhaps the reason Lydia 2 lacked Cynthia's mother's level of self-discipline was because she, Cynthia, didn't love her as much as Grandma had loved the first Lydia!
The thought of it filled her with a heady, though guilty rush - to think of her being so important to Lydia's development that the giving or withholding of her love could have a major impact on Lydia's character!
She'd never felt so powerful in her life.
Lydia came back into the kitchen, tossing her thinkpad casually into the corner and reaching into the cupboard for some chips.
"I've realized that I don't need you at all," she said to Cynthia. "The dean can arrange for someone to shop and clean for me. You can move out anytime; I'm sure the university will see that you're adequately compensated for your pathetic efforts."
Cynthia looked around at the kitchen of her mother's childhood home, and nodded. "Perhaps that would be just as well. And for the record, Lydia, I'm sorry that my inability to love you has so retarded your development. Even my mother's level of obsession and self-discipline wasn't enough for her to be able to complete her work before she died. Now you're a failure too, and I guess it's all my fault. I suppose the university can try again, grow another copy of my mother, maybe do a little techno-tweaking this time to compensate for detrimental environmental factors." She stood and smiled at Lydia. "I'm going out to do a little apartment hunting. I'll be back later to pack, but don't worry - I'll stay out of your way."
Lydia watched her mother leave, a faint look of horror on her face, then she went back to her room and resolutely made her bed.
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