Thursday, January 22, 2015
April 17, part 2
I stared at Betra after he told me all he’d done that day and what he’d discovered. I wanted to say it wasn’t possible. Hell, I wanted to scream that it wasn’t possible. Yet except for a few little details, it all made sense. In the end, I had to admit Betra was probably right.
“How bad is this going to be?” I asked him.
He shrugged. “It all depends on who has to get involved in the matter. I want to keep it as quiet as possible, at least for now. The biggest thing is to find out why this is happening. Once we know that, we can go from there.”
I set my dinner aside, half-eaten. My appetite was gone.
We had a long wait. Betra cleaned up after our meal, insisting I lie down and take it easy. “You’re off bed rest, but it could be late before he shows up ... if he shows up,” he told me.
“I’m sure he will,” I said. “If you’re right about all of this, we can pretty much count on it.”
“At any rate, you’ll wake up when the shouting starts. Feel free to sleep if you like.”
Betra got his room in order while I watched and worried. I’d never felt less like sleeping. Even three hours later when Betra switched off the lights and got into bed with me, I lay wide awake.
Would the ghost come? Would he take the bait and come searching for me?
My heart seemed to beat too fast. Thinking of the hypertension and how stress could put me in bed for another week or longer, I whispered to Betra, who spooned against me. “Can we talk while we wait? I need the distraction.”
“Of course,” he whispered back. “Everything is set for our guest’s appearance.”
“Okay. I’ve been talking to a clan on Kalquor. They’re in the lottery, and they had the highest compatibility rating on my list. They’ve checked out with my Nobek dad and Oses.”
“Really? Tell me about them.”
I was glad Betra didn’t mind me discussing Clan Seot. I had to admit, it was a little uncomfortable talking about potential clanmates with a current lover. I was glad I’d already had a conversation with Oses about them. Had the weapons commander not been so matter-of-fact about it, I never would have dared to bring it up to my more sensitive Imdiko paramour.
I even said, “If talking about them makes you feel bad, just say so. We’ll find another subject.”
Betra’s whisper held no hint of hurt or displeasure. “Not at all, Shalia. I’m glad you want to tell me about them. I’ve been worrying that I would know nothing about the men you might end up with.”
“It doesn’t make things harder considering what we have?”
He took a long time to respond. I felt he was mulling the question over. Is it strange that I was glad Betra didn’t just hand out a quick answer designed to make me feel better? I was grateful to get the truth, no matter how guilty it might make me feel.
At last Betra said, “I will miss you. When we part, you will tear a piece of my heart out. I’m sure it will be hard to find joy in my life for some time after that.”
“Ouch,” I said. “You’re tearing out chunks of my heart right now.”
He chuckled softly. “Don’t let it bother your conscience, please. Knowing that it is coming, I take nothing with you for granted. Besides, our relationship is more than I ever had a right to hope for. With no hope to clan or warrant a Matara of my own, this has been the greatest gift I could ever imagine.”
“Nine months,” I said, tears prickling my eyes. “Nine months in an entire lifetime. I can’t understand how you can be grateful for that.”
“You forget that I have been resigned to having nothing at all. You can’t imagine it, having been on Earth where there were plenty of men, plenty of opportunities for everlasting love. Even if I had been born able to enjoy sex with my own gender, I still would have had little to no chance of finding a female lifemate. That is why I can be thankful for the little fate has sent me.”
I sighed heavily. “I still hate the thought of you alone.”
“But I won’t be. I have Oses now.”
I turned my head, searching to see something of Betra in the almost non-existent light of the room. “Not really. You might like the humiliation thing, but it’s not real sex. Is it?”
Betra laughed softly. “It’s more than we had before. I can’t be everything Oses would like me to be, that is true. But we have something now. Take sex out of the equation, and I can love him as an Imdiko should love his Nobek. His welfare means everything to me. I feel how he wishes to keep me protected. When you take the lust out, that’s what a good clanship boils down to. That’s what I want for us, and I think we can have it. As for the other things I’m not good with ... I have some ideas.”
I couldn’t help sounding hopeful. “Ideas that I can play a part in?”
“Perhaps. You’ve already been a bridge for us.”
I smiled. I was glad to know that when they left me on Kalquor, Oses and Betra had a chance at some sort of decent relationship.
“Now, tell me more about Clan Seot. Particularly this Imdiko ... Cifa was his name?”
We spent probably an hour talking about my most likely suitors. Betra reminded me I needed to vet others as well, and I was glad I could report that I had sent out a message to a second clan. I should be hearing back from them any time now, if they have an interest in me.
Then we went quiet for a bit. I was still well aware we were waiting for the ghost to show up, but I started to get sleepy. I was warm in Betra’s arms. I felt good for him, for all of us. I thought we might be okay in the end.
A frantic beeping from behind me made my eyes fly wide open. It was Betra’s handheld computer he wore on his belt ... and it was telling us the ‘ghost’ was in the room.
Betra was out of bed and dashed to the door in an instant to block it. “Lights up half! Oses, turn the phase device off!”
A moment after the lights came on, Oses shimmered and appeared by the bedside. His eyes were wide with shock.