Monday, June 19, 2017
December 24, part 1
I must be going crazy. One moment, I’m positive things are going so perfect that it scares me. Then – boom! The bottom drops out.
Last night’s sex was mind blowing. Perhaps the best I’ve had. Afterward, the men held me as we snuggled together like a pile of puppies. We talked about the remainder of the cruise. Of what we’d do when we got back home. Of various festivals held throughout the year that the clan enjoyed and wanted to take me to. And even long-range plans. We were talking about a future that had us all together, and it felt incredible to make such plans. So incredible that as I fell asleep, I thought I might just accept Clan Seot as the one I would join. I thought perhaps I’d do it first thing in the morning.
Morning came, and I woke. As I lay there between the men, I started to second-guess everything. After all, I was supposed to give Clan Aslada a chance to make their case, drama and mama-free. And had I determined which was the better clan to raise Anrel? Clan Seot was more hands-on, but the manny Clan Seot had hired, Imdiko Snoy, was devoted to her. There wasn’t anything Clan Aslada wouldn’t give my child.
I kept telling myself to slow down with the choosing. I’d promised I’d keep things at a pace that would allow me to tease out all the stuff that wasn’t pretty about any clan I considered. And whether the negatives were the kinds I could live with or deal breakers. I had plenty of time to decide, didn’t I? Ah, but there was another concern.
Unable to stay in bed with the three men who were unaware they were wrecking all my carefully laid plans, I slipped out of the sheets. Three pairs of purple eyes blinked at me.
“Bathroom,” I said, and rushed off for desperately needed alone time.
I locked the door behind me and confronted myself before the lavatory mirror as I belted my robe on. “This is not a game, Shalia. They clan for life. No divorce. No do-overs. And it’s not just my future I’m deciding, but Anrel’s too. I can’t fuck this up.”
It had felt so right the night before though. Even forgetting the brain-busting sex, there was the warmth, the camaraderie. And maybe more. I thought I was getting emotionally invested with this clan, like I had with Clan Dusa and Betra and Oses. And even Nang. Good heavens, look at what a mistake that had been. What if I was getting hooked on men as screwy as Nang?
I needed perspective. Thinking of those I knew I could trust, I decided to vent to Betra. Sure, he was two days away as far as com reception was concerned, but I could at least record a message.
I spoke into my portable unit, left on a shelf as I’d gotten dressed the day before. I’d hardly used it since coming on board, forgetting it in the bathroom or sleeping room most of the time. I was glad it was in there then, allowing me to pour my cares out to Betra.
I told him everything that had happened thus far on the cruise, and how I’d been on the brink of becoming Clan Seot’s Matara. “I’m being stupid. I know, what’s new? Ha ha. But Betra, it’s too soon for me to make a decision like this. Much too soon. Didn’t I just have a fall-out with Cifa? What if he’s too damned protective of his company’s precious image in every project we do together? What if that passive-aggressive sniping wasn’t a one-off?
“Plus Seot gets whatever he wants with a word. I swear, Betra, it’s like mind control, and I don’t care when it’s happening even if I recognize it. I can’t be ready to fling all my independence to him just because he uses that tone of voice or that look. Sure, he checks in for everyone’s opinion as long as we’re not behaving like assholes, but is it just window dressing? Does that democracy change when I commit to his clan?
“I know I’m finding problems where there aren’t any yet. But I can’t agree to let Anrel be parented by any men but the best. The worst part is, I can’t guarantee that no matter how I try or how long I wait. So what do I do? I’m with a clan that seems great on paper, but can I really trust it?”
I sighed, knowing how crazy I sounded. “Am I making any sense at all? I’m scared I’ll screw up by not clanning these guys while I can…before they come to their senses…but I’m scared I’ll screw up by clanning them and finding out they’re the wrong clan.
“That’s what it boils down to, those two things. I don’t think I’m good enough for them to wait for me to take my time like I planned to. On the other hand, I’m terrified they’re not the right clan to be fathers to Anrel. I know you can’t make this decision for me, Betra, but I’d do just about anything to talk this out with you in real time. You know me at my nutsy-est. You know how to get me to see the forest for the trees. I feel like there’s something I should understand about this, that it’s staring me in the face and would settle all my questions once and for all. But for the life of me, I can’t figure out what that thing is! Help me, Betra.”
There wasn’t much to say beyond that. I signed off and saved the message. I wasn’t sure if I would send it or not. I thought I probably would. The emotional highs and lows of my relationship with Clan Seot was becoming far too extreme for me to cope with.
Before I exited the bath, I stopped to think about why I was getting so crazy-worked up about things. Because I was. I don’t think I could have been more overwhelmed by the emotions sweeping through me. The terror and dread filling my stomach made no sense when I considered my options. The feelings were there, however. There had to be a reason why I felt that way…but I’ll be damned if I knew what it was.
So I took a deep breath to settle myself. It took several more before I could compose my face into a pleasant expression to greet the guys with. I finally managed it, however, and I ordered the door to unlock and open.
Larten stood there just on the other side of the door. “I was waiting for my turn,” he said, his face grave. Behind him, Seot and Cifa were on the sleeping mat in their shorts and playing with the baby. They were laughing.
“It’s all yours,” I said, recovering from Larten’s startling appearance. I hadn’t expected him to be right there.