Thursday, October 15, 2015
It was a long night. I dozed in and out, suffering awful nightmares when I did sleep. Typical nightmares one has when worried about their child, I guess. I was searching everywhere for Anrel and couldn’t find her. I had a few dreams where I was back on Earth. One was from when I was in hiding with Mom. I kept asking her, “Where is my baby?” She just looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. “What are you talking about, Shalia? I think you must have dementia.” Ha, I don’t need Freud to figure out the symbolism there.
In another dream, I was back at the rescue site. It was under attack and I was again looking for Anrel. Then there must have been half a dozen dreams of me going all over the ship searching for her. The night was not restful in the least.
I finally woke for the day. Betra was there, sitting on a seating cushion between Anrel’s incubator and my borrowed bed. He smiled as I blinked, my head pounding from fatigue and worry.
“I’d say good morning, but from the way you were moaning in your sleep, I doubt that’s the case,” he said.
“Jeez, I feel awful,” I told him, sitting up. “It’s worse than a hangover. Is she okay?”
I leaned over him to look at my daughter. All the readouts were in the green, indicating she was within normal medical parameters.
“She’s fine,” Betra said. “If you’ve got an appetite, eat your breakfast before it gets cold. It’s outside the door.”
His fingertips brushed my cheek. I looked into his purple eyes, barely able to breathe for hope.
He gave me a sad smile. “I’ve been an ass. I’m sorry.”
I shook my head. “You care. Maybe more than you should, but it’s still nothing to apologize for. I’m just sorry I’m the cause for you being upset.”
“It’s not your fault, Shalia. I’m the idiot being jealous when I know better.” Betra shook his head at himself. “I thought I was fine, that I would be able to let go without regret once you found a good clan. Instead, I wanted to find something to hit them all with.”
“I don’t even know that Seot’s bunch will be my clan,” I pointed out. “If you think about it, there’s nothing to be jealous about yet.”
“That’s what I’ve been telling myself these last few days. My damned heart doesn’t want to hear it though.”
I was worried he was about to tell me we were done for good. Yet I just couldn’t bear not knowing what was going on ... it’s worse than wondering. “So where do we stand?” I asked.
He shrugged. “I’m going to stop being a jerk and thinking only about myself. Anrel is having difficulties. She needs me. You need me, and that’s more important than anything else. I am here and I will stay here for the two of you until you either kick my ass out or we reach Kalquor.”
Hearing him say that took away some of the loneliness I’d felt since we left the wormholes. I reached my arms out to him. “I’m so glad, Betra. I’ve missed you more than I can say.”
Kissing him was like coming home after a long absence. I won’t lie and say it wasn’t an absolute relief to have his arms around me. I wish I was stronger emotionally and mentally. I wish I could say I don’t need every part of my support system. But the truth is, I feel a lot more vulnerable without Betra, like some major part of my defenses are missing. With him, I feel almost whole.
We sat like that, him perched on the side of the bed, me crowded up against him, my face buried in his chest. Damn, it felt good to be with Betra again.
After a few minutes, he gently pushed me back and motioned towards the door. “Go eat. I know you can’t function without coffee on a normal day. I’m sure you didn’t sleep worth a damn last night.”
“Obvious, isn’t it?” I said. Now that the first rush of happiness had been given its due, I was feeling the exhaustion again.
I went out and sucked down my coffee like a woman dying of thirst. Bless those Kalquorians in the kitchen who learned how to brew it right. Heaven help the Empire if it doesn’t figure out a way to keep my coffee coming.
I tucked into breakfast, eating fairly quickly. Then I went back into Anrel’s room. Betra talked to me, telling me about speaking to his parents and a few friends on Kalquor while we were in range of the wormholes. He was pleased to report everyone who matters to him at home was doing well.
“You should have seen their shock when I introduced them to Oses,” he chuckled. “They can’t believe I have a relationship with a man, even though it’s not what any of them would consider typical.”
“Are they happy for you?” I asked.
“To a degree. They’re cautious about the matter for right now,” Betra said. “They’ve always accepted how I feel about being intimate with men and that it was unlikely I’d ever clan. At first they believed I was pulling a prank on them. Then they worried I was being pressured into doing what is ‘normal’.”
“You have great parents to care so much.”
Betra nodded. “It may take some time for them to understand that though Oses and I don’t have what most clanmates do, we’re making what we do have work for us. But they’ll get there.”
“No doubt your Nobek father is searching through Oses’ records to make sure he’s the right Nobek for his son.” I laughed, thinking how the protective breed was predictable in that regard.
“I’m sure he is. I think they’re also concerned about our age difference.” Betra laughed too and shook his head. “What did you call him when you first met? ‘Old Man Oses’. I never thought about it before, but he’s older than my mother and two of my fathers.”
“Which is probably why he manages to be so patient with the likes of us youngsters,” I said.
“Oh, Resan commed. I hope you don’t mind that I answered your unit. I didn’t want it to wake you.”
“What did he want?” Though I had a good idea.
“He complained about you missing rehab yesterday. I explained about Anrel, but he’s not happy that you didn’t com and cancel.”
In my sweetest, most syrupy tone I said, “If you talk to him again, tell him I said ‘fuck off’.”
My comment surprised a burst of laughter from Betra. He smothered it behind his hand to avoid disturbing Anrel. “You two really do rub each other wrong. He questioned me thoroughly on how sick Anrel is. He seems to think you’ll use any excuse to get out of therapy.”
“He pushes too hard and too fast. That time I got so upset I walked to Oses’ office before I was ready? Resan got the report and instead of approval he told me ‘It’s about time.’ He’s a jerk.”
“He’s the best rehab guy on the ship,” was Betra’s mild rebuke. “Oses swears by him.”
“I don’t care if he’s the best in the universe. If he thinks I’m leaving Anrel before she pulls out of this—”
Tep came in, interrupting us. He looked over Anrel’s reports from the night before, checked her vitals, and scanned the latest test results.
“She’s doing better with this first round of medication,” Tep told us. “Oxygen levels have increased. Responses are good. We’re on the right track with this.”
Good news all around. Maybe I’ll sleep a night through in the near future.