Lily starting doing Lunch somewhat late in life, at 15.
In Corpus Luminous, children 10 years and older are allowed to Lunch with other children. Engaging in Lunch before age 10 is forbidden, although a special license can be obtained for the rare child under 10 who may be deemed mature enough for Limited Lunching; most children simply decide to wait until 10 or even later.
Occasionally, a precocious eight or nine year old will apply for a license, but it is almost never granted, especially if parental involvement is suspected.
Besides, children under 10 go to schools without Lunch-Zones, so opportunities are extremely limited.
By age 12, children are encouraged, not forced, to start Lunching, but only with other children, never with adults. In fact, any adult caught having Lunch with a child is immediately arrested and sent for life, without a trial, to a special enclave away from the city and fed a special formula of A-hh that eliminates their desire for Lunching or any kind of social interaction.
The rules are simple and clear cut: if you are 18 or over, you don’t do Lunch with a 17 year old, not even if you are one day older than 17 and your potential partner is one day under 18. You simply wait before suggesting Lunch to a minor on the cusp of adulthood. Period.
Furthermore, Lunching among children must be mutually consensual and never forced, even by parents anxious for their children’s social growth. In the matter of Lunching, children decide whether or not to Lunch and with whom.
As a youngster, Lily was more interested in studying hard in the field of nutrition engineering and not at all interested in Lunching. Her goal: to create a special formula of A-hh that would self-replicate--which would make ingesting nutrients practically obsolete--and automatically mutate within each individual in accordance with his or her own physical specs.
At 14, she discovered a live strain of A-hh that could self-replicate on a limited basis, but she had yet to find the key that could keep the culture alive for long--it always died out within 24 hours.
There has to be something about A-hh itself...Never mind, that’s heresy...
Still, only The Great One knew the full recipe–every school child knows this basic fact.
She spent her days poring over cultures in various stages of development: always working, working, working.
When Lily turned 15, her worried mother hired a guide to help Lily make the social transition into Lunching.
The guide, a highly-trained adult specializing in teen issues, was responsible for seeking out suitable candidates and introducing them to Lily, who proved to be a difficult student, and then guiding her through the highly specialized ritual.
But Evy, the guide, was quietly persistent and found a suitable Novice Lunch candidate, a shy quiet prodigy who, by 16, had earned his Ph. D. in Bio-Engineering. Lily felt that Limon was an excellent choice, most likely just as reluctant as Lily about Lunching and also obsessed with his work.
Evy, too, felt that Limon, also a novice, would be an appropriate Luncher for the first time.
Even now, Lily cringes at the memory. In retrospect, she would have done better with a boy who had at least some experience. Even with their guides, it was a disastrous Novice Lunch, with much fumbling and awkwardness--and, ultimately, no Communion.
Ironically, she and Limon are still friendly and often work together on projects, but they have never Lunched together since that first time. It was an unspoken rule between them that they never speak of or revisit that time.
Her subsequent Lunches were much better: Evy found Savia, a more experienced boy, who, for Lily’s second Lunch with him, guided her through the ritual with great technique and understanding.
After a few Lunch Dates with Savia, Lily was hooked and Lunched whenever her busy schedule allowed and was soon having Lunch with several boys.
From time to time, Lily still Lunches with Savia, who has proven to be more confidante than ardent Luncher. Besides, he’s been Dining regularly with Penny, another co-worker. It has been rumored that they are about to apply together for a procreation license. Savia has already admitted that he and Penny have touched lip to lip. A lot, and with exuberance. They have also engaged in serious tonguing, something Lily has never even done, the kind of physical contact reserved for committed couples. She could still Lunch with Savia, of course, but he seemed to be at that stage in a relationship where he had eyes only for Penny. Lunching with Savia could prove to be very sensitive right now, so they will probably switch to Coffee Breaks, at least until the fire cools a bit.
On some level, she will always love Savia; he came into her life at a time when she was frightened and disgusted by the very idea of Lunch, and he understood. In fact, during their First Lunch together, she did not take part in Communion.
At the moment of ingestion, she became afraid and backed out.
“Look, it’s okay, Lily,” he said. “We all have a first time.”
Luckily, Savia’s attendant, a pretty redheaded 16-year-old, girl offered him Communion, and he accepted.
Lily and her attendant, a 13-year-old boy, observed, and it didn’t look so awful.
“Don’t worry about pain,” the attendant, a freckled-face boy, said.. “We have a special tool for the first time. So when you’re ready, we can help.”
Lily would later learn that attendants in general had special latitude and powers when it came to attending their clients. For instance, they were empowered to touch their clients in certain places when the client deemed it necessary, and often they were called upon to finish or participate in Communion, especially with very young or very old Lunchers.
But it was understood that none of it meant anything; attendants are neutral parties, employees hired and train to make sure Lunch is pleasurable, not to develop relationships with their clients. Therefore, attendants are forbidden to develop any kind of relationship with people outside of the Attendants’ Corps.
The Children’s Attendant Corps has always been a mystery to her; growing up, she never saw a child attendant at her school--or any school, for that matter, or in public. She suspects that these children, carefully selected chosen for their sleekness, height, and high I.Q.s, have been raised in special institutions that train children from an early age. Most adult attendants had been young attendants who, after becoming of age, simply decided to continue with the adult corps. They are obviously well-educated, healthy, and smart--one could ask an attendant anything and receive an intelligent answer within minutes, even seconds.
Lily often wonders if encouraging children to do Lunch so young is really such good government policy. She always felt there was something unnatural about children engaging in what seems so, well, adult.
I’ll never nudge my kids to do anything before they’re ready.
Corpus Delicious is copyright 2009-present (Jennifer Semple Siegel), and may not be reposted or republished without permission from the author.