Monday, July 3, 2017

December 26

I went to the complex’s offices this morning to tell Katrina I was back. The moment I entered with Anrel, she jumped up with a glad cry and a gazillion questions. “Shalia! Anrel! When did you get in? How was the cruise? Was it cut short? I thought you weren’t due back for a few more days.”

She enveloped us in a hug. Naturally, I had to surrender my child yet again to one of her more ardent admirers. But I didn’t begrudge Katrina the attention, seeing as how I’d snatched Anrel from most of her fan base. For her part, Anrel shrieked with glee to see her grammy again. There was much hugging and kissing and babbling for several seconds.

Finally, Katrina gave me a bright grin. “Have you had breakfast? I could cope with some coffee if you haven’t.”

“That would be great. I fed Anrel first thing, but I’m ready to stuff my face. How are you?”

“Busy. Another ship full of the future mothers of Kalquor came in four days ago. This place is getting busier by the minute.”

We went to the dining hall. “Oh, who am I kidding?” Katrina sighed as we queued up at the buffet. “Second breakfast it is.”

I laughed. It was so good to see her again. We got our food and sat down at a small table so we could converse privately. I took Anrel back and bounced her on my knee as I ate.

“Where’s Candy? Still snuggled away somewhere with Stidmun?” Katrina asked after giving me a few moments to shovel food down my throat.

“Actually, they’re still on the cruise. I left early.”

Katrina’s brows rose. “Uh oh. Clan Seot was a bust? They seemed so wonderful. You glowed when you were around them.”

Though I kept my voice light, a throb of hurt set up shop in my chest again. “They are wonderful. In fact, I plan to join their clan, once I work through whatever’s gunking up my good sense. Or two weeks, whichever comes first.” It was my one ray of hope, that I’d be with Seot, Cifa, and Larten again no matter what. That I’d go to them, a clearheaded Shalia who could give them nothing but the best of what I have to offer.

I told Katrina the tale, ending with, “I’m determined to get this right. I’m going to whip myself into shape so I don’t inflict my stupid on them. I’m praying Feru has a clue for me, if not the outright answer.”

Katrina was quiet for some time, playing with her food. I finished my breakfast, chased it with the last of my coffee, and contemplated another cup.

I was about to ask her if she had any idea what might be eating at me, when she said, “It’s always something with you, isn’t it, Shalia?”

I blinked at the anger in her tone. “What?”

Katrina stared at me, her brows creasing as she frowned. “Do you know what a gift it is to be with the men you love? To be able to see them every day, spend all the time in the world with them? Yet at the first sign of trouble, you run off. You did it with Clan Aslada too, just because you got bored with waiting for them to come home from work.”

“With the understanding that I would be going back…which obviously isn’t going to happen now, but I didn’t know it at the time,” I said, my head spinning.

“You keep doing the same damned thing,” Katrina told me. “You got involved with some clan on Earth, knowing you would walk away from them. Then you did it with Betra and Oses. Is that your plan, Shalia? To leave a trail of men behind you while you wail about how awful it is that you can’t keep anyone around?”

My mouth hung open. I couldn’t believe Katrina was dressing me down like that. She left me speechless.

She gathered her tray and stood up. “I’m sorry you feel like you have to ‘find yourself’ or whatever nonsense it is that keeps you throwing aside every chance at happiness that comes your way. But it’s damned hard to feel sympathy for you when I’d do anything – anything – to be with my clan. If you really loved Clan Seot, you’d still be on that boat showing them how you feel.”

She walked off, leaving me sitting there in shocked silence.

I guess I can see why she’d think that way. Katrina really misses Clan Wotref. She’s hurting. I suppose it does seem selfish of me to leave the clan I adore from her perspective. But I’m not being selfish. I’m trying to make things the best they can be for the men I love. Of course I want to be with them! Every moment I’m not is torture…which is why I can understand where Katrina is coming from.

It still hurts that she doesn’t realize that I’m doing my best. Maybe after I’ve reunited with my clan we can heal this rift that’s come between us. I sure hope so.

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