Monday, October 24, 2016
This morning I gave a class on baby care to the group in charge of the complex’s nursery. Assistant Director Nosdu was on hand as well. He was adorably awkward when he approached me.
“Matara Shalia, it’s regarded unprofessional for my Matara to take advantage of the complex’s amenities now that she is clanned,” he said, his sweet face reddening. He pulled his handheld off his belt. “Yet she – all of us in my clan – have a lot of questions and worries. I have a vid recording program on my handheld, if you don’t mind? We are all feeling overwhelmed.”
I restrained the urge to pat him on the head…a difficult proposition anyway since he towered above me. “Not a problem, Imdiko. In fact, feel free to give your Matara my contact information. Any questions she has, I’ll be glad to answer as best I can. You can talk to me any time too.”
His face lit in a smile that would make an angel weep. It was no wonder the Imdiko was flirted with shamelessly though he was taken and devoted to his Matara. He was too adorable.
With Anrel as my cheerful prop, we went through feeding, napping, diaper changing, and even how to hold an infant. I showed them how important it was that Anrel be allowed to have floor time so she could practice rolling over and pushing up. I was asked a ton of questions, which I answered to the best of my ability.
Some of the children watched by the staff were still in diapers, but none were younger than toddlers. Anrel was their first real baby. Nosdu looked particularly terrified that he might drop her, but once he had Anrel in his arms, he got the same blissed-out expression Cifa often showed. Had the women of the complex seen Nosdu in that moment, they would have hit the floor in adoring faints. There’s something about a handsome man joyfully cuddling a baby that makes you want to drop an egg.
After that, I went to Katrina’s office. Candy was in there too, yapping with our pal as she entered data into the computer system.
“Yay, paperwork,” I cheered for her. “They wasted no time giving you the exciting tasks.”
Katrina snickered and reached for Anrel. “You bet. In his delight of handing this drudgery over, Dramok Firef is probably skipping around the complex like a five-year-old with a new doll.”
The idea of the older director doing such a thing cracked me up. I have a visual imagination, and it included pink bows in the Firef’s long, graying hair.
“So how are things?” I asked Katrina. “Are you holding up okay without your sweethearts?”
“About as well as can be expected, I suppose. I try to stay busy so I’m not dwelling on missing them. We’re comming every day, so I miss them anyway.” She rolled her eyes and gave me a tired smile. “It’s the worst at night. I hate sleeping alone.”
I knew what she meant.
Trying to rescue us from too much depression, I turned to Candy. “How’s the big Stud Man?”
“Gorgeous,” she smirked. “Planning for our little Haven getaway.”
“Lust on the farm,” I laughed. “Have you picked out your sexy overalls yet?”
We hung out with Katrina until lunch. Then Anrel and I went back to our quarters. I was about to settle her for a nap when I saw I had a message waiting. It was Betra’s frequency, so I postponed putting the baby down so she could be a part of our conversation.
I was so happy to see not just Betra but Oses on the vid transmission. The part about not being able to touch them hurt like hell, but this is life now.
“Hi!” I beamed at the pair. “How are you?”
“We’re good. What about you?” Betra smiled back. “Hi Anrel! How’s my other sweetie?”
She squealed at him and held out her arms. That made my stomach lurch. Poor baby wanted her Uncle Betra and couldn’t have him.
“We’re okay,” I told him, ignoring the stab of hurt. “How’s the ship? Back to its former glory?”
“I don’t know that it was ever glorious, but it’s running fine. We have a few upgrades that are nice.”
I looked at the silent Oses. His smile was as gentle as his fierce face would allow it to be. “Hey, big guy. Is everything good with you?”
“As good as it gets,” he said. Such a non-answer, but chatting is not Oses’s strong suit. It was enough to see him.
“So what have you been up to since we left?” Betra asked.
I filled them in on training the childcare staff on how to handle babies, plus the upcoming surgery for Mom. I rolled my eyes at Oses as I told him about Jaon’s reticence in finding me trainers while I was with his clan.
The Nobek’s face darkened a tad. Or maybe I imagined it. At any rate, he wasted no time in looking out for me. “Let me know if he doesn’t come through with the training. I’ll look into who can work with you while you’re on that side of the world.”
Even out in space, the man has my back.
“What about you guys?” I asked. “Still in Empire space, no Earther girls to take care of – you must be bored to death.”
“Not quite,” Betra said. “We have safety and fighting drills. We’re dropping off some supplies to Haven Colony and Rel Station since they’re on our way. It’s not all boredom.”
“Plus they fixed the pleasure club,” Oses added with a wicked grin. “It’s up and running just fine, isn’t it, my Imdiko?”
Betra turned beet red. “Shut up,” he muttered through clenched teeth.
“But you were such a hit with the audience last night.” Oses looked like he was doing his best to not fall apart in laughter. “I heard two Dramoks were making inquiries about Betra after that. Along with about a dozen Nobeks stupid enough to think they can mess with what’s mine.”
Betra rolled his eyes. “Idiots,” was all he would say.
“Don’t let anyone push him,” I warned Oses. “I’ll tell his mom on you.”
“Neither he nor Matara Elwa have anything to worry about.” The Nobek continued to tease. “If I can’t touch him, no other man can.”
Betra pretended offense, but he was fighting a smile. “So it’s all about jealousy and nothing to do with protecting me?”
We all cracked up. Anrel crowed along with the rest of us, delighted with the laughter. Betra gave Oses a playful shove and the weapons commander pretended to stagger. They were in good spirits.
I had worried a little that without me serving as a sort of go-between for the men, Betra and Oses would drift apart. It seemed I’d been concerned over nothing. Thank the prophets I’m not that important. I don’t mind the universe…or at least the men I care about…not revolving around me. I just want Betra and Oses to be happy. It’s looking good for those two, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.
Thursday, October 20, 2016
It was well after lunch and I was alone with Anrel when the com went off, wanting my attention. When I saw the frequency, I was glad I had decided to slap on some makeup and dress decently. I was still hung over like nobody’s business, but I thought I could fake being normal for Clan Aslada.
Imdiko Meyso’s handsome, muscled self erupted in front of me when I answered the vid enabler. Paging Dr. Gorgeous, I need an emergency injection, ha-ha-ha. Jeez, even feeling the effects of too much booze doesn’t knock my nymphomaniac libido off. But then, Meyso is delicious. He deserves unrestrained lust.
He gave me a bright smile, one that was less formal than I’ve gotten used to from him. “Hello, Shalia. Am I comming at a bad time?”
“Not at all, but I just put Anrel down for her nap. You don’t get to moon over her this call.”
Meyso pretended to pout, but he’s a little too serious to pull it off that well. “I hope to see her soon, and in person. Her mother as well. I know I scheduled our conference about your mother tomorrow, but I had some free time this evening. I thought you might want to get it out of the way.”
When he said ‘this evening’, I automatically checked the time. Meyso was on another continent and several hours ahead of me. “I can talk now.”
“Terrific. Let me show you exactly what the two surgeries entail.”
“Are you going to do both at the same time?” I asked.
“It will be best for your mother,” Meyso assured me. “Cleaning out those plaques and protein deposits causing her dementia will take the longest amount of time, several hours. The scans done on Earth show moderate to severe build-up. Putting in the chemical regulating device that will treat her bipolar disorder will go quickly once I have that done.”
He showed me a bunch of visual aids, including the scans done of my mom’s brain, a virtual tour of the regulating device implantation procedure, and a simulation of how the brain would begin to respond over time. It was fascinating, but I was cross-eyed with an overload of information before we were halfway through.
“Tell me I don’t have to take a test on everything you explained,” I said when he was done.
He laughed. “It looks like a lot, doesn’t it? I’ve done these types of procedures several times, so I swear to you that she’s in good hands.”
He was so self-assured that I had to trust him. “Okay. Are we still on for you doing this next week?”
“I’ll be doing a preliminary exam and several deep scans in the next few days. Unless I see something surprising, late next week is my plan.” Meyso considered me and got super serious. “Shalia, you should know what to expect once the operation is done.”
I got a bad feeling. “What should I expect?”
“Anything and everything.” He offered a comforting smile. “Brains are never predictable, because they’re attached to the most unpredictable of all creatures: people.”
“You’ve got a point there. So what are you telling me?”
“It could be Matara Eve wakes and is able to talk and act normally right from the start. It’s more likely she’ll have a few issues as her brain fires back up and adjusts to the changes. She could be groggy for a week or so in that scenario. Then again, she may experience a much longer time to re-acquire her faculties.”
“Her age and overall health is a consideration too,” I opined.
“It is. You Earthers have a saying; hope for the best, but plan for the worst.” His hand moved as if to give me a comforting pat, but he remembered we spoke through vid. He snorted at himself. “I wish I could be more reassuring than that.”
“Honesty is best,” I said. I was glad he was being upfront about what lay ahead. “When do you want me to get there?”
“I’m not sure. Let me do those deep scans and I’ll get back to you. Once I have the surgery date locked down, you’ll need to plan on being here about two months, and keep that time frame loose.” He threw up his hands. “As far as I’m concerned, you could come right away. However, I want to check on Aslada and Jaon’s schedules. Hey, speaking of the two rogues—” his gaze shifted to one side and he grinned at someone I couldn’t see.
Dramok Aslada and Nobek Jaon stepped into view. Rawr. Hot multiplied three times over.
They bowed and smiled at me. Aslada was the first to speak. “Hello, Shalia. You look stunning today. Did you have a good visit with your friends these last two weeks?”
I ignored the stab of grief as best I could, reminded of my long goodbye to Oses and Betra. “It was wonderful. We took a whirlwind tour of Kalquor and had the best time.”
“And Anrel? Where is that sweet child?”
“Napping,” Meyso said in an overly sad tone. He winked at me. “We were just discussing Matara Eve’s procedures. I’ve tentatively scheduled them for next week, pending everyone’s schedules and tests.”
“I’ve managed to shift some of my work for the next several weeks,” Jaon said. “I should be available as long as no emergencies pop up.”
“I have also lightened my schedule as much as possible,” Aslada said cheerfully. “We are at your service, Shalia. Name what you need in place before you arrive.”
I had a sudden thought. “If I could get someone to oversee my training while I’m there, that would be wonderful. Physical conditioning, blade work, and fighting.”
Jaon’s demeanor shifted. “You’re on Kalquor now. Besides, you’ll be with me much of the time. There is no reason for you to have to train, particularly in blades and fighting.”
He almost seemed offended. Did he think I was insulting his ability to keep me and Anrel safe? Had I run afoul of his macho sensibilities?
Hoping Jaon wasn’t about to start thumping his chest, I tried a diplomatic smile. “I feel safe knowing you’ll be there. However, I enjoy training. I like feeling confident I can face whatever comes at me. So I’d appreciate you finding the best possible instructors while I’m there for my mother and while we get to know each other.”
Jaon’s brows drew close together. He couldn’t have been more obvious that he was not on board with my request. He wanted to play protector to my damsel-in-distress.
My first ladylike reaction was to play nice, but the grownup part of me insisted his ego was not my problem. I was on the verge of pointing out I don’t do the helpless lady bit, not even for a delicious piece of ass like him. That’s when Aslada stepped in.
Smooth as silk, he said in an easy tone, “That’s not a problem. Is it, my Nobek? You’ll be able to secure excellent instructors for Shalia’s continued training while she’s here.”
Aslada’s demeanor was casual, his words spoken with an effortless smile. Yet I could damned near taste the command in his statement. It wasn’t overt, no definable hint in tone, expression, or posture. But it was there. My hair rose on my head as I sensed it in all its power. It was like hearing a distant rumble of thunder, only to have lightning strike inches away.
Jaon wasn’t happy, but he nodded to Aslada. “Of course. If it means so much to you, Shalia, I will secure the training.”
“Thank you.” I was still watching Aslada. My respect for him had rocketed right off the charts. He had that Dramok thing down to perfection.
We talked about other things, like what sights they could take me to see and what entertainments we could enjoy during my visit. I have to give Jaon credit; once we dropped the subject of my training, he let it go without any sign he’d been affronted. He was as conscientious and attentive as he’d ever been to me, even asking if he could pick out my soaksuit for relaxing in their lake. His grin was a naughty leer that sent my pulse racing. Wet and wild times are ahead, apparently. Yow.