Thursday, November 28, 2013
Instead of the answer fairy interrupting my last entry, I got Imdiko Betra. He’d been avoiding me for the most part the last few days. I haven’t seen him since I found out I had a stowaway on board, in fact. I wasted no time lighting into him.
“You knew all along!” I accused him. “You knew I was pregnant.”
“Yes, Matara. May I come in?” He kept his head bowed , his eyes on the floor.
“I don’t know why I should let you,” I said. “I don’t appreciate having a secret of that magnitude being kept from me. Would you like it if our roles were reversed?”
“No, Matara. I would not.” His voice was quiet. “I’m very sorry that I had to keep silent.”
His admission kind of took the wind out of my sails. It’s hard to be mean to someone when they admit they were in the wrong. For a guy around six-and-a-half-feet tall, Betra does the kicked puppy look pretty damned good.
“Damn it, come in,” I said. I stomped away and dropped onto a seating cushion.
He did so, coming over to gracefully fold his legs to sit Indian-style on the cushion across from mine. I was still calling him a hundred times a jerk in my head, but I had to admit the view was nice. Stupid, handsome Kalquorian.
“So why did you do it?” I asked. I was looking for him to give me a reason to be mad. Darn it, I had to take it out on someone.
“I was sworn to secrecy by my commanding officer,” Betra said. He still wouldn’t look at me. “He explained you weren’t ready to know. That you were in love with the clan who might have fathered the baby and would try to stay with them on Earth, even though they weren’t ready for a Matara.”
“Damned straight I would have,” I grumbled.
Betra sighed. “Then there was concern about another man who might be the yadbis, the biological sire. According to Dr. Nayun, whom you have officially recognized as your father, that potential donor could be a danger to you. Had he known you might be expecting his offspring, he might have blocked your escape. Dr. Nayun, in his capacity as your father, was adamant that you get away before this Dramok Nang found out and caused problems.”
He had a point. Nang had gotten a little crazy in the end. Had he known I might be carrying his child ... I shuddered.
Betra added, “Everyone was quite worried about your well-being, Shalia. They only did what they thought was best for you.”
I glared. “I am not a child, you know. I don’t appreciate being treated like one.”
Betra didn’t answer right away. He turned something over in his mind before speaking again.
He finally looked me in the eye. “You know, I understand that. You are an adult. It’s kind of hard to treat you like one, though.”
I swear my jaw came about an inch from hitting the floor. “What are you talking about?”
Betra flushed, snorted some disbelieving laughter, and shook his head as if he couldn’t quite fathom his own words. “You’re female. We Kalquorian men are supposed to take care of women, especially the ones who are expecting children. You shouldn’t feel stress or be concerned with anything. We men are to take care of all that.”
I regarded him with surprise. “You’re kidding, right?” When he didn’t answer, I felt another wave of shock. “You’re not kidding.”
Betra shrugged. “It does seem crazy now that I’m discussing it with you. I mean, I’ve learned you’re a very strong, mature woman. But this is what I’ve been taught. We men control, protect, and care for the women.”
“Jesus, Mohammed, and Moses,” I breathed. “Control?”
“We make all the decisions for the good of your welfare.”
It explained a lot, especially when it came to how Dad and even Nang had treated me. I wish I had known sooner. “This is how all of you think?”
Betra laughed. “I’m afraid so. And I, of all people, should know better.”
“Why is that?”
“Because you’re a lot like my mother. She didn’t appreciate my fathers trying to run her life ‘for her own good’ either. In fact, she never put up with it.”
I arched an eyebrow at him. “You must have had a loud childhood.”
He chuckled. “Not really. Instead of yelling at them, my mother simply did whatever she wanted, even over my fathers’ objections. And if they dared to keep a secret from her, like we did you, she’d take me on a ‘vacation’ until they apologized and promised to not do it again.”
I had to grin at him. “I think I like your mom.”
He nodded. “She’s a wonderful woman. I have always adored her strength.”
My shock and amusement were wearing off, leaving me feeling tired and cornered yet again. “I’m not feeling so strong right now, Betra. What am I going to do with a child? With this child? Who’d clan a woman with a baby?”
He blinked at me in surprise. “Many men. In fact, it’s a good thing you’re not on Kalquor right now, smelling the way you do.”
I frowned at him. “Smelling?”
Betra nodded and his nostrils flared as he took a deep breath. “There are a few weeks in the first trimester during which some pregnant Earther Mataras exude a certain aroma. It’s a strange phenomenon, and it doesn’t happen with all of you. It doesn’t ever happen with pregnant Kalquorian women, or so I’m told.”
So that’s why he had been sniffing around me all the time. “So I stink?”
Betra laughed. “Quite the opposite. Actually, you, ah, smell very good.” He reddened. “Your scent is arousing.”
I went all wide-eyed again. “Arousing? Like guys want to be with me? Sexually?”
Betra nodded. “I’ve been keeping a close eye – or would it be nose? – on you. I had to so I could warn off other men if it happened. Your father said you wouldn’t want a bunch of eager Kalquorians on your doorstep so soon after losing the clan you loved.”
“He was right.” I sighed. “Dad is determined to keep me protected, even from all these miles away. Tell me more about this sexy stench I’m putting off.”
“Your pregnancy scent kicked in about a week ago. It lasts about seven to eight weeks.”
“Good God,” I moaned, covering my face with my hands. “That day in the dining room must have been when it started. That’s why you chased them all off.”
“Exactly. The men were responding to you. I had to order them off to make sure they didn’t get too excited and get themselves into trouble.”
I was still worrying over my clanning possibilities now that I was in the mommy way. “I won’t smell like this forever. By the time I get to Kalquor, I won’t be able to lure a clan into my evil clutches. If I don’t freeze the embryo, I’ll have a newborn that will scare them away instead.”
Betra shook his head. “You don’t understand, Shalia. Your child will be irrefutable proof of your fertility. It will make you an even more sought-after mate for many clans.”
I stared at him. “But they’ll have to raise another man’s child. No one’s sure which clan fathered my baby. That other Dramok, one I knew better than to get involved with ... oh, I don’t want to talk about the whole sordid mess. I was a naughty girl. We’ll leave it at that.”
Betra cocked his head at me. “The child you carry will belong to the clan you choose on Kalquor. They will be his or her fathers. Not the men you had sex with.” A smile twisted one side of his mouth. “You do know you’re supposed to be exploring your sexuality, right? That it’s perfectly okay for you to have sex with whoever you want until you join a clan?”
“Stop laughing at me,” I warned him. “It’s not that simple for Earthers. Besides, I was in love with the first clan. I only turned to the other man because I was lonely and scared.”
“You put a lot of emotion in the realm of sex,” Betra said thoughtfully. “It’s not usually casual for you, is it?”
I shook my head. “Not even with Nang. Crazy or not, he made me feel safe. He made me feel good.” I sighed. Emotions when it came to Nang had been so complicated. “Half the time I wanted to be around him, the other half I wanted to crash a shuttle into him.”
Betra laughed at that. “Then you definitely don’t want him to be the father of your child. You should be relieved to give the honor to other men.”
I tried not to think of Dusa’s clan. Of giving their child a different set of fathers. It made my head hurt.
Instead, I asked Betra, “You really think a baby doesn’t hurt my chances of clanning? That whoever I end up with will take care of this child?”
He smiled at me. “They will beg to show you what good fathers they will make for the babe you carry. You have nothing to worry about when it comes to finding a clan, Shalia.”
It made me feel a little better to hear that. I guess I should simply realize that when you’re facing extinction like the Kalquorians are, you’ll take whatever you can get ...even if it means adopting and caring for a child not of your own making.
One question down, a million to go.