Monday, May 6, 2013
Dinner was nice and full of surprises. Mom ate with us and Weln joined our little group as well. I really think Dusa and Esak might be getting serious about having him as their Imdiko. They could certainly choose worse. And it turns out he’s a lemanthev howler, so they could not only complete their clan but their little musical group as well. Earplugs, please. Okay, okay, the lemanthev music isn’t that bad, but I can’t summon up as much enthusiasm as they have for it. Esak and Weln even began to loudly disagree on who was a better pounder: some guy named Din (appropriate, yes?) or another guy named Sugal. Dusa finally put an end to their argument by growling, “Enough!” With that one word, they shut up instantly, though they pulled a few faces at each other. Boy, it must be nice to be a Dramok and have everyone listen to you.
The second surprise was a tall Earther man wandering up to our table in the semi-private dining room. He wasn’t accompanied by any Kalquorians, which is usually the case when an Earther ventures in. He was as buttoned-up as a businessman and smooth as a politician with his trimmed and brushed hair, blue polo shirt, and pressed khakis. His smile couldn’t have been more suspiciously innocent and friendly.
“Good evening, all,” he said. “I’m sorry to interrupt your dinner, but I was recently voted to be the spokesman for the Earthers staying here at the Academy. My name is Matthew King, but everybody calls me Matt.”
Dusa, being in full leader mode after shutting down Esak and Weln’s discussion, took it upon himself to answer for all of us. “I am Dramok Dusa. My Nobek Esak, and our friends Imdiko Weln, Matara Eve, and Matara Shalia.”
Matt nodded to each of us as Dusa pointed us out. “A delight.”
I wondered about his assertion that he’d been ‘voted in’ as the Earther spokesman. I sure hadn’t voted for him or anyone else. Hell, I hadn’t known there was some kind of election. Then I remembered I hadn’t been on exactly friendly terms with my fellow Earthers. So I told myself to shut up with the suspicions, already. After all, Matt was actually speaking with civility to me and *gasp* Kalquorians.
So I plastered on as friendly a smile as he bestowed on us. “Hi, Matt.”
“So you’re the famous Shalia. And this is your mother.” His beam dropped in wattage to be replaced with gentle concern as he spoke to Mom, who was contemplating her reflection in a spoon. “I am so sorry to hear about the awful things that happened to you, Mrs. Monroe. I hope you didn’t suffer too much.”
Mom looked up from her spoon to blink at him. “Huh?”
“Matara Eve suffers from confusion at times,” Dusa said, still being everyone’s Dramok. I thought, look at this guy, lord and master of the dinner table. Okay, I’m being mean. It kind of got on my nerves that Dusa assumed he could answer for me and Mom though. He can be in charge when it comes to sex, but I am an adult and perfectly capable of speaking.
Matt nodded. “I’d heard, but I’m not one to talk about a person who’s present like she’s not.”
Well, that scored a point with me. Matt was turning into an okay guy in my book, even if he was kind of a politician. Or had he been voted spokesperson without campaigning for it? If it had been dumped on him, he had my sympathy.
“May I sit down for a few minutes?” he asked. “Or would it be better if I spoke with everyone at a later time?”
Dusa finally looked to me to get my opinion. It was about time. I nodded. “Please.”
Matt pulled up a chair. “I simply wanted to introduce myself, especially to the Earthers who are making strides in good relations with our Kalquorian rescuers. I know a lot of hurt feelings and concerns exist between our two races, which has led to a lot of problems.”
“Like Matara Eve’s abduction,” Weln said. He scowled as he said it. Mom is important to Weln, and he’d taken her kidnapping pretty badly.
Matt smiled at him like he was a star pupil. “Exactly. I heard all about the wonderful presentation Shalia here gave your people in order to help them help us. I can’t tell you how it disturbs me that her efforts to make this terrible Armageddon situation better resulted in such a heinous act.”
He turned his smile to me. I wondered if Matt’s cheeks ever get tired from holding such a pleasant expression for so long? Maybe his facial muscles were really well developed. “I hear you’re assisting Commander Nang with a similar presentation he wishes to make to us.”
I nodded, cautious again. “I am. If people understood where the Kalquorians are coming from on all this and that they had no intention of setting off Armageddon, more Earther lives might be saved. Everyone wouldn’t be so scared of the Kalquorians’ attempts to rescue us.”
Matt patted my hand. “A noble, selfless cause, especially after what you just went through. I’d like to offer my help, if I may.”
My eyes widened. The majority of Earthers at the Academy are not happy to be among our former enemies. I’d been flat-out ostracized by almost everyone. Now their spokesman, the guy they’d made their mouthpiece, was siding with me?
I couldn’t help but blurt, “Why?”
“Because after your mother was victimized, a lot of people felt ashamed of how they acted. Whether people agree with opening the lines of communication or not, they know there was no excuse for the abduction of an elderly, mentally disabled woman.” Finally the smile disappeared, and anger lit Matt’s brown eyes. “A lot of us want to know the truth of Armageddon, Shalia. I didn’t just hear about your presentation to the Kalquorians; I attended it. That our Holy Leader himself advocated such a thing was a bitter thing to hear. Through your video of that poor woman’s suffering after she was found guilty of her own rape, I saw with fresh eyes how depraved our Church had become. I had known about these things all along. After all, I lived here, didn’t I? I was part of this society. Yet I’d never truly seen it until I looked at it from the standpoint of a stranger.”
I had to agree. After all, as horrified as I’d been making that vid, it had still hit me anew when I used it to tell the Kalquorians of the terrors Earthers had endured under the former regime.
Matt kept talking. “I told those I could trust about your presentation. They told those they trusted. There are still plenty of holdouts when it comes to seeing the Kalquorians as anything but enemies. However, a lot of people are talking about how we need to change our attitudes. It’s like we’re all waking up from a horrible nightmare.” He took a deep breath. “We want to start fresh. This new beginning has come at a terrible price, so we have to make the best of it. We have to do better than we did before. Any way I can help, I’d like to.”
I was happy to hear this. I had thought Nang would be wasting his time with trying to make a presentation to a bunch of hostile Earthers, but it seemed there might be hope after all.
I told Matt, “I’ll mention your willingness to assist to Commander Nang. I’m sure he’ll be grateful to hear of it.”
Matt seemed to be pleased. After a few more pleasantries with the group, he excused himself and left. The rest of our dinner was nice. No hanky-panky due to Dusa and Esak having early shifts first thing in the morning, plus Mom had a hard time settling down for the night. So much is dim for her these days, but she does understand we’ll be leaving Earth soon. She’s in a panic to finish all her knitting for her Kalquorian friends, so she tried to stay up half the night to work on a green-and-white striped cap and scarf. She’s even knitting the biggest mittens I’ve ever seen. I can’t wait to see the look on the recipient’s face, whoever he is.
Matt’s attitude has given me some hope about my poor, crazy species. It’s good to know Earthers can eventually see past their prejudices and fears. Heaven knows, we could all do with feeling a little more safe.