Thursday, December 28, 2017

February 26

We survived the terrifying ‘give-us-your-eggs’ meeting. I have to say, I’m glad that part is over. Relief is my most profound emotion at this point, which is kind of funny given how it all turned out.

When the doors to the meeting room opened to let in the attendees, I expected a slow trickle. I hoped for at least half of the three hundred seats Katrina had set out to be filled.

What we got was women pouring in, filling the room to overflowing. Standing room only. Katrina chuckled in my ear. “Close your mouth, Shalia. You’ll attract flies, and I don’t mean the nice, manly kind.”

I shook my head in disbelief. “Did you promise naked men serving cocktails?”

She grinned. “Not quite as yummy as that. Nevertheless, Emperor Egilka offering a bonus allowance to those women who attend must have done the trick.”

“I love a good bribe,” I grinned. So that was what the two had been putting their heads together about. I had the sneaking suspicion it had been Katrina’s idea.

Drs. Cafir and Conyod also attended, as did my and Hina’s clans. It was wonderful to have the support, because my anxiety level was in the stratosphere.

Katrina introduced me to begin. I did a quick and hopefully not-boring overview of the foundation, along with what we wanted to accomplish. I then turned it over to the emperor.

Egilka’s story of his sister, a bright and beautiful young woman who committed suicide when she’d learned of her infertility, brought a large number of us to tears. He’d provided me a number of stills and vids of her from the first baby shots to the last year of her life—in which the sadness was palpable in her dignified bearing. The vid package played on the large holo monitor behind the emperor.

He unashamedly wept himself as he said, “Our society has placed far too great a burden on its women to save us from extinction. Despite all efforts to undo the damage, Kalquorian women still bear the brunt of our need. I have worked my entire life to find a cure for the infertility and the defects which kill off the majority of our daughters who are born. That cure is out of our reach, however. So we’ve turned to you, our generous Earther friends, to join our clans. To give our culture a chance for survival. Now we ask another favor: help our women, women who dream of bearing healthy daughters of their own, to realize the joy of doing so.”

His emotional speech affected us all greatly. I thought perhaps he had a decent number of the Mataras won over already when I introduced Flencik.

Since the good doctor was speaking mostly about the egg collection procedure itself, we knew it was going to be the driest portion of the presentation, even with the vid I’d produced. He’d told me he expected to put my audience to sleep. “Only a catnap though,” he’d chuckled. “You know how quickly the procedure goes. My explanation will take only two or three minutes more.”

The oversized sweetie hadn’t counted on his appeal. Flencik’s kindness shines through with no effort, as was obvious when he wrapped up and asked for questions. Tons of hands shot up, waving for attention. He called on one woman towards the front. “Yes?”

“Do you already have a Matara?” she asked.

That brought on cheers and applause. Darn if the poor man didn’t blush. With a self-conscious grin, he said, “Yes, I’m lucky to say I am clanned to a beautiful Earther.”

That brought on a chorus of profound disappointment from at least half the room. Emperor Egilka was biting his lips together and staring at the floor. I’m sure I heard him snorting laughter despite his efforts. It was a relief to see him able to lighten up after his emotional story.

“Any other questions?” Flencik asked. There were none now that his clanning status had been verified.

As he passed me on his way to his seat at the back of the stage, he muttered, “That was embarrassing.”

“Ladies love the big men,” I teased. “The curls framing that handsome face can’t be discounted either.” I heard him groan as I stood at the podium to introduce Candy. I ignored Cifa’s narrowed gaze pointed at the poor, innocent Flencik.

Candy’s enthusiastic story of how easy it had been to donate eggs was well received. “It lasted a shorter amount of time than to tell you about it,” she said. “Though I told my boss I needed the afternoon off to recover—which I did with an extended lunch and shopping excursion.” Her gaze lit on my Imdiko clanmate and she pretended surprise. “Oh, hiiii there, Cifa. My boss, everyone. I had nooo idea you’d be here!” She addressed the laughing women again. “I’m also taking unexpected retirement donations, so give until it hurts, ladies.”

Things got heavy again during Hina’s talk. She talked about being pregnant with her first daughter, how she’d known all along the odds against giving birth to a healthy child but not being able to resist hope she’d be one of the lucky ones—only to get the tests back that her unborn baby was profoundly affected by genetic abnormalities.

Thinking about what Hina went through makes the tears run down my cheeks again. She’d continued the pregnancy, wanting those few precious hours of life she’d be allowed to spend with her daughter. Holding the child, telling her she loved her, and watching her slip away. Yes, we had pictures of the baby, whom Hina had named Curo. Despite the deformities, she was as precious as any newborn. The profound love in Hina’s eyes as she looked at her was unguarded. Heart wrenching. As was the story of the spontaneous miscarriage that had ended her second daughter’s existence. I have to hand it to Hina. I don’t imagine for an instant that I would have survived going through what she did. That she didn’t fall apart worse than she did says a lot for her strength.

I was crying as I closed the meeting with my final plea for donations. I wasn’t the only person weeping by any means. Tears were pouring as the women stood up, applauding us. Some were outright bawling. Then they lined up to register to donate or to speak to us from the foundation. Hina, Egilka, and Flencik were crowded by admirers.

It was a blur for a couple of hours. At a certain point, a gleeful Katrina whispered to me that she thought only about a dozen women left without agreeing to contribute. I’m not sure about the exact numbers at the moment, but it’s in the hundreds. Since the presentation was recorded and is set to be shown on the complex’s in-house vid system tomorrow, we may win more.

We’re up and running for real. Like I said, I’m too relieved to have the presentation done and a success to feel any incredible thrill, but maybe that will come later. It’s good to relax and have that particular task over with.

Monday, December 25, 2017

February 25

My first eggs have found a home—a womb, to be specific. A Kalquorian women has been chosen to receive my donation.

Dr. Flencik sounded like a mad chemist telling me about it. “I’ve already inseminated the eggs with her clanmates’ sperm. Cell division is perfect in both eggs we’ve used. I’ll add genetic material from all three men and the Matara herself next. We’ll implant the embryos in a week.”

A baby or twins with five biological parents. Wow. “How long before you’ll know if everything is moving along okay?” I asked.

“We’ll screen for the anomalies before implantation. Then we’ll keep testing with each checkup. I’m sure we’ll realize if this is going to work within the first three months.”

I had to laugh at myself. I was sitting in my office as I spoke to him. I was literally on the edge of my chair, squirming almost violently. “I can’t imagine how the mother-to-be is feeling. I’m on eggshells, and I’m not her!”

“It’s exciting, isn’t it? Emperor Egilka has commed me at least once each hour since we inseminated, just to comment on the continued success. He’s ecstatic. Okay, I’ll admit it—I’ve been watching the live real-time results running in my office and on my handheld. Kalquorian women are going to have live, healthy daughters. They’ll have you to thank for it.”

I waved him off. “Eventually, someone would have started a similar program. I started the party a little early, that’s all.”

“You’re too modest. It’s been talked about, but nobody could seem to get the ball rolling. Now I understand why. We needed an Earther woman to spearhead the effort. Someone who could sympathize with Kalquorian woman and inspire other Earther women to help them.”

I think he made a big to-do because he’s a nice guy and he figured I needed the pep talk. Dr. Flencik is one of the most unabashedly sweet men I’ve ever met. I’m pretty much of the opinion that it will be Emperor Egilka and Hina’s stories that will tug at my fellow fertile women to donate.

We’ll soon find out. The presentation is tomorrow.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

February 24

It was a big day for Clan Seot today. Our youngest member achieved another milestone.

We were all enjoying a day off, picnicking on top of the home rock in the garden. The sun was shining, and the weather was just right for lounging in the garden. The cooks had provided us with incredible goodies, especially palm-sized fruit-and-spice cakes that Anrel adored.

She ate her own and then pulled herself up, using Cifa to climb to her feet. Once she’d accomplished making herself vertical, she demanded, “Da-da-da-da!” As she imperiously shouted the second word she’d learned, she reached for his half-eaten morsel.

“I hear you, little love,” Cifa chuckled. He broke off an Anrel-sized bite and gave it to her. While she enjoyed her stolen treat, he gobbled the rest. She was surprised to find his hands empty when she’d finished.

Seot sat nearby, near enough for Anrel to reach over with her tiny, plump hand and grab hold of. Using him as a support, she waddled over and demanded tribute from him too. She claimed two bites from her Dramok father, the wee hog.

Her attention went next to Larten, sitting far enough away that she would have had to crawl. No handholds between him and Seot. He laughed and spread his empty hands wide. “All gone, my adored daughter. You have my heart, but not my dessert.”

Sitting next to Larten, I snickered as I nibbled my cake. “You’ll have to move fast to get between a Nobek and food, sweetheart. Let that be a lesson to you.”

Attracted by my voice—and riveted by my cake—Anrel yelled at me. “Ma-ma-ma-ma!”

“You’ve had enough, precious. Keep eating like that, you’ll do more rolling than crawling.”

“Ma-ma-ma-ma!” Her cherub’s face purpled in fury, making us all laugh. That girl loves her cake.

She loves it enough that she let go of Seot’s arm, which she still hung onto. Her purple eyes glaring with intent, she took a step. Then another. And three more wobbling, wide-legged strides to reach me. Well, to reach my food, at any rate.

Her first steps. The way the four of us adults yelled and carried on, an onlooker would have imagined Anrel had cured a terminal disease. Hey, we’re parents. She’s our firstborn. Of course we’re going to be excited.

And yes, I let her have my cake.

Because we’re ridiculous, we had to hold a full-on celebration. Joelle, Elwa’s clan, Katrina, Candy, Cifa’s sibling clans—we invited them all for a big dinner. Because they’re as crazy about Anrel as we are—or maybe because they’re a bunch of partying fools—they immediately put aside whatever plans they’d had and accepted.

Cifa, forever the master of all ceremonies, had it planned within a couple of hours. I commed everyone I could think of to share the news. I even managed to record vid of Anrel repeating her feat, enticing her with a cookie to make it happen. At dinner we got her to do it again for our guests.

You’d have thought a child never walked before, that a baby taking her first steps was a new thing. We all agreed we were absurd to carry on over it as we did, but we still carried on. It was fun to get together and celebrate Anrel’s milestone. No one was about to apologize for it.

I especially enjoyed the chance during the merrymaking to talk to my mother figures, Joelle and Elwa. They both observed I appeared to be doing well with clan life.

“I am,” I affirmed. “Things couldn’t be better.”

“No more visions of running off? Freaking out?” Joelle pressed.

“Not really,” I said. “I’m not sure if it’s because I’m truly over the abandonment nonsense or because I’m distracted by the projects I have going on. Either way, leaving before I can be left hasn’t occurred to me in some time.”

“That is excellent,” Elwa said. “Speaking of all that you have going on, I was considering of holding a benefit dinner for your foundation. What do you think?”

While I was delighted with her plan, what I really think is that I have the best family a woman could ask for. After years of depending on a sick mother who couldn’t be relied on for any real support, I have loyal relatives in every corner. Growing up as an only child, I’d dreamed of a large family. Now I have a huge one, and I couldn’t be happier. Especially with the main core of Seot, Cifa, Larten, and Anrel.

Doing well with clan life? That’s an understatement.