Thursday, December 12, 2013
Betra stopped by to check on me today. Ha! I bet he’s wishing he hadn’t.
Well, I’m supposed to share all my concerns with him, right? That’s his job, to make me happy. And honey, Shalia ain’t happy. Not one bit.
First I raged about not being able to find out who the actual father of my child is. Then I bitched him out again for not telling me I was pregnant sooner. Then I whined about how ridiculously long and involved the whole lottery questionnaire was. He actually smiled at me over that.
“I’m glad you’ve gotten to work on your preferences for mates. Almost halfway done? Excellent, Matara.” He beamed like a proud parent.
“Are you even listening to me, Betra? I’m pissed off here.” I could have shaken his big, yummy-looking but empty-headed self. “I don’t know whether to have this child or put it off. Or put it up for adoption or whatever you people call it. What the hell am I supposed to do?”
“Shalia, you do whatever feels right.” He came to sit next to me on the small couch in the sitting area of my quarters and took my hands in his. “It’s true we don’t reveal the biological father of the child, but that’s for the good of all concerned. It’s much easier for a clan to accept a baby they can call completely their own, with no other man claiming responsibility. And your little one will be fully accepted by whatever clan you end up with. You must let yourself be assured of that.”
I wasn’t buying it. “So you’re telling me that if you clanned a woman and she had a child you knew for a fact you didn’t make, you’d be okay with that?”
Betra got a sad look on his face. Sad enough that my whole angst-ridden self shut her big mouth.
He didn’t speak for several seconds, and I wondered what line I’d overstepped this time. He finally took a deep breath, blew it out, and raised his gaze to mine.
“I would love nothing more than to be a father and a mate. To have a woman who loves me and a son or daughter who look up to me? There is no price that can be put on that, Shalia. Any opportunity to realize such a life where I have people to take care of and love would be welcome.” He smiled, but there was a lot of bitterness in the look. “Biology would make no difference to me. If I was made to be the nurturer of a young one, I would make them happy that they were mine. I’d see to it that child was as happy as it would make me to raise him or her.”
I stared at him. “Then why don’t you? Join a clan and get in on the lottery. Have a family.”
His look darkened. “I cannot clan, Shalia. All clanmates are intimate with each other.”
I shrugged. “So?”
“I do not like being with men in a sexual fashion.” Betra ducked his head as if embarrassed. “I only find pleasure with women.”
Well. And here I thought all Kalquorian males enjoyed being lovers with one another.
Feeling like an idiot and realizing this was a big deal to Betra, I turned my hands palms up so I could hold his. “I’m sorry, Betra,” I said. “I didn’t know.”
He nodded. “It doesn’t happen often. Most of us are happy to find any closeness we can in the absence of females. We are like pack animals for the most part, though we do have what Earthers refer to as ‘lone wolf’ types. Usually, that happens with the Nobeks. But on the whole, we are very social creatures with a need to belong to a larger communal system.”
I thought about his predicament. “Couldn’t you find a heterosexual Dramok and Nobek? Clan with them with the understanding there would be no hanky-panky except with the Matara you eventually find?”
Betra sighed. “I’ve tried that route. One doesn’t clan simply to have a woman, though that’s how it started out back when Mataras became so far and few between. Even then, most of our race was bisexual and the men who clanned formed strong bonds.”
This was a bit much for me to take in. I decided to stick with Betra’s particular issue. “So a clanning of convenience is out of the question?”
He shrugged. “Clanning is for life. Even though I don’t want sex with men, I’d still need to have an intense connection to share a woman with male clanmates. We’d have to be close, like brothers. You don’t get that with just anyone. Finding men like that who don’t want intimacy has proven exceedingly difficult.”
“But you haven’t given up?” I smiled encouragingly.
Betra found a smile of his own. “I go for stretches of time where I do. Then I think about a Matara and children to care for, how wonderful that would be, and I try to find likeminded men again. There’s little hope, but I wish for it anyway.”
“I guess when you hear me complain about having too many options, you’d like to wring my neck.”
He laughed, and it was nice to see him in a better mood again. “Not at all. I know that in your way, you have more difficulties than I.” Betra’s eyes twinkled. “I could always find a woman of another species, perhaps. One with children and no father or fathers to claim them. It’s been done before, though I don’t find any race nearly as appealing as Kalquorian or Earther women.”
I considered. “What about women who don’t want to be with three men, Betra? There has to be some Earther girls who prefer just one man like we’re accustomed to.”
He shrugged. “It’s possible, I suppose. But we wouldn’t be a unit recognized by Kalquorian law. It would mean dealing with clans forever trying to lure my mate away.” Betra shook his head. “I don’t know that I could handle that, especially if children were involved.”
I sighed. “You Kalquorians might have to make some changes, especially as more and more women come available. If enough of us show up, the clan system might not be needed.”
“In my lifetime? I somehow doubt it. Few Earther women are going to Kalquor so far. We’re nowhere near solving our extinction problem.”
“You gotta have hope,” I told him.
Hope. That’s what we all ultimately live on, isn’t it? When things are good, we hope they’ll stay that way. When things aren’t so good, we hope they’ll turn around, and the faster the better, thanks. We hope for that job promotion, for that pay raise, for our loved ones to never fall ill, for disappointment to never find us.
And then there are those who simply hope to find love the way they need it. Someone to share their lives with, who will love them back forever. That might be the big one. I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t want to be special to someone else. Poor Betra, who wants to be a husband and father without having to give himself to other men like his society dictates he needs to for the Empire’s survival. I have to say, my heart genuinely aches for him.
I have another hope: that my poor liaison finds a way to have the love he deserves.
Betra changed the subject. “We need to discuss how you are to handle the males on this ship, Matara.”
I gave him a completely straight face. “I have no intentions of handling anyone, Imdiko.”
He stared at me in confusion at first. After a few moments he got it and laughed. “That’s funny,” he told me. “However, should you decide to go on with the pregnancy, you’ll have to be ready for the attention when you start showing it. Plus you have that added concern of your scent right now.”
“Yeah, about that,” I said. “How long do I have to put up with the whole smell thing again? I’ve noticed you stopped flaring your nostrils so much.”
Betra flushed red. “I’m not checking for signs any more. I know you have the scent on you.” He took a handheld off his belt and consulted it. “Those women who give off the scent usually do so for about seven weeks. You started that two weeks ago, so you’ve got approximately another five weeks. Maybe a little longer, but that would be the average.”
“Great,” I sighed. “Would perfume mask it?”
He smiled sympathetically. “It would take a great deal of perfume, probably an amount that would render you and anyone around you nauseous.”
“Terrific,” I snorted. “I deal with enough of that already.”
Betra nodded. “It’s a problem. However, telling the men on this ship no very firmly should be enough to keep them from grabbing you. If they persist, ask them who their commanding officer is. That will tell them you mean business.” He arched an eyebrow at me. “Don’t be nice, Shalia. You don’t have to be polite. We will not put up with any man who tries to insist he can’t control himself around you. Feel free to scream and curse at him. Punching and kicking are also acceptable when it comes to getting your point across.”
I digested that bit, then made note of something. “You certainly don’t seem to have a problem.”
He reddened yet again. “I will not lie and say I don’t find the aroma alluring. It is somewhat difficult to be in your presence without certain thoughts occurring.”
Well, well. I thought my jaw would thud against the floor at that bit of information.
Betra scowled. “We Kalquorians are not animals. There is no excuse for anyone trying to push his interests on you.”
“Okay,” I said. “If someone gets too friendly and won’t back off, I have free rein to beat their ass.”
Betra snickered. “And invite any other Kalquorians in the vicinity to help. I guarantee, they will be pleased to oblige.”
I thought about something he’d said earlier. “You said I’d also attract interest when I show the pregnancy? What kind of freak wants to get cozy with a woman pregnant with someone else’s child?”
The liaison looked surprised. “You are joking, right?”
I snorted. “No, you are joking. Big belly, bloated all over, waddling like a duck? There is nothing attractive about that, if you ask me.”
Betra shook his head. “I don’t know whether to be sad or amused that you say such things.” His eyes went distant. “I have seen a few women heavy with their soon-to-be-born children. Round and ripe, filled with life. They were radiant with the nearness of their motherhood, ready to bring new beings into the world. Such magnificence begged to be touched and worshipped. What man could resist such a miracle?”
I stared at him, my mouth hanging open once more. Was he for real? Betra seemed to be near religious ecstasy as he described his vision of a pregnant woman. You’d think he’d met the Virgin Mary on her way to Bethlehem to give birth to Jesus.
He blinked and came back to himself to see me gaping. Betra rolled his eyes as if exasperated.
“You Earthers. You have such strange ideas. I don’t think I will understand you any better when I am 200 years old than I do now. At any rate, the drill will be the same for any men who approach you without your leave. Tell them no, and if they don’t listen, yell for help. Don’t fight later in the pregnancy, because you might hurt yourself.”
“Or I could sit my round, ripe, fat ass on the guy and squash him,” I suggested sweetly.
Betra left not long after that, shaking his head as he went. Kalquorians. If I could live 200 years, I wouldn’t understand them either.