Going back to Norquay’s house felt wrong and right. She spent a year there and couldn’t imagine staying elsewhere. What if he decided that now she was well enough to be on her own? She was, she could handle it, but she didn’t want to handle it. She squared her shoulders before she knocked on the door.

Maybe she should have talked to Jade first, but she was mentally and physically tired.

“There is no need to knock, you live here.” Norquay opened the door stepping back to let her pass.

She noticed he didn’t brush up against her or make her feel like she didn’t have plenty of breathing room.

“Did you eat dinner?”

She shook her head one donut didn’t equal dinner. Maybe now that she was back in polite society she should go on a diet. Her clothes were a little tight. Her father’s voice came back to her telling her how she was slovenly and suffered from the deadly sins of gluttony and laziness. Never mind all the steroids she was on as a child. After a while, she preferred herself fluffier.

“I’m hungry now that you mentioned it.”

“How was your day?” He pulled out her barstool before going to the fridge.

“Norquay are you cooking?” Teak asked looking surprised.

“I can cook, old man.”

“I’ll give you old.” He turned around to leave.

“Where are you going?”

“To watch a movie, or take a shower, maybe I’ll walk around semi-naked, or read a book.”

Red placed her hand over her mouth as Norquay looked at Teak.

“You make it seem like I never cook.”

“You don’t, so, I have to go enjoy this time I have to myself. Let’s hope he doesn’t poison us.” Teak winked at Red and left the room.

“There are times I am tempted to put him out of his misery.”

Red gave up the fight and laughed. Already she could see the love between them.

“What are you cooking?”

Norquay looked at the door again before looking at her. “STeaks? How hard could they be?”

“Why don’t we make dinner together?”

“You’re the guest.”

“I think after a year I have worn out guest status.”

“I spend more time with my head in a book than I do in the kitchen. What should we make?”

“STeak is good and easy. We’ll make something different when I’m not as tired.”

“Red—”

“Don’t say it. I can help you cook, and I want to help you cook. Let’s go with a classic, sTeak, baked potato, and a salad. We’ll have to cheat on the baked potato and use the microwave.”

“No cheating we can use this.” He pointed to something silver on the counter that reminded her of a toaster oven from a hundred years in the future. “This will cook the potato as if it came from your oven without drying it out in fifteen minutes.”

“Does this have a name?”

He said it in what must have been his language. “There is no translation into your language, not even a rough one.”

“Do you have a lot of words that don’t translate?”

“We do, but you also have words in your language that we have no words for in ours.”

“Like?” They were washing the potatoes.

“Luck is one, divorce is another.”

“What about serendipity?”

“It is another name for luck.”

“Luck has been my friend for a long time. I was lucky to finish high school when so many girls didn’t. I was lucky to get away from my home and lucky to become part of the government. My luck didn’t run out until I went home last year. Even then, I was lucky. I got away, and I ended up here.”

“I believe I am beginning to enjoy the word luck.” They washed and cut the vegetables for the salad after they put the potatoes in. She showed him how to cook the sTeak in the oven without overcooking it. When Teak came back, they were all smiles laughing over silly things that meant nothing.

“Did how cook this without help?”

“Define help,” Norquay said.

“That’s what I thought. Did you help Red?”

“She did.”

“I did. It was nice to be useful again.”

“Then it was worth risking my health on his cooking.” Teak gave her a smile that said he was kidding. “Where did you learn to cook?”

“My mom, she’s an excellent cook, and she always loved it.”

“Your father must be well fed.”

Her smile disappeared. “He is, not that he appreciates it.”

“If she looks like you and can cook, he should be a happy man.”

“Yeah.” She stuffed another bite of sTeak into her mouth and said nothing.

Norquay and Teak exchanged looks but stayed silent.

“I should go to my room.” Teak wouldn’t let her help with the dishes. “I can find somewhere else to stay tomorrow so you can walk around the house semi-naked.” She forced a smile.

“When you only now realize that you’re hated,” Norquay said softly.

“I don’t hate you.”

“Really? You’re condemning me to watch him walking around the house semi-naked. I call that hate.” His lips turned down making her chuckle.

“I wouldn’t want to do that.”

“Thank you,” Teak said. “I keep trying to tell him there is no reason to be jealous of my hard body. He’s a historian no one expects him to be hard. Some females even like soft men.”

Red shook her head with a solemn look on her face. “I know women who are married to men that are soft.” She petted Norquay’s muscled arm.

“Ancient one, give me the strength I need to ignore them.” Red and Teak burst out laughing.

“Get out of my kitchen both of you. Red this is your home unless you want to live somewhere else.”

They wandered into the living room.

“Tell me about these women?”

She blinked her eyes not understanding until their conversation from the came back.

“Having a nice body is nice, but most people don’t marry for that.”

“You said most.”

“Everyone’s different. Most people are looking for love, their soulmate. The person who makes their heart beat faster and the one person that brings a smile to their faces. This person will listen to them, play with them, be there for them when times get hard. It seems like a lot to ask, but with the right person it works out. It’s not magic, don’t get it confused. They work at their relationship and loving each other.”

“Is that the kind of relationship you want?” Norquay was sitting on the other end of the couch facing her.

“Yeah, I dreamed of something like that as a child even though I knew I wasn’t destined to have it.”

He nodded and pretended interest in a book he had lying nearby.

“No more questions?”

“Women like their privacy,” he parroted.

“Em?”

“Yeah, she came in with her eyes on fire and demanded that you come to stay with her.”

“What happened?”

“I assured her that you had all the privacy you needed. Neither Teak nor I would bother you.”

“I know you sat at the door.” She lowered her eyes and found herself playing with the hem of the shirt she was wearing. “After a while, I joined you on the floor. Leaning up against the door.”

“I felt like I could touch you through the door.”

She smiled looking at him. “I felt that way too.”

“Movie?”

She nodded. “I was visiting my mother that night.”

He stopped moving to let her talk if she wanted to.

“My mom is married to a minister, pastor, preacher, take your pick for what to call him. Some call him a man of God.”

“Not you?”

“Not me. I am in no way innocent, stupid, or unaware of the ways of the world. I know that there can be evil in every sect. My father is just evil. For the life of me, I can’t understand how it happened to him. Part of me blames how he was raised. I guess that leads us into the Nature vs. Nurture debate. None that matters to me. I grew up with him, I had to live that life. I don’t care how he got that way; I care that he made my life a living hell.”

She moved to the edge of the couch staring into the fireplace. The flames hypnotized her as they jumped around.

“I love a fireplace. When I was young and my dad was gone, my mother would make us a special place on the floor to snuggle and watch the fire. Not everything about my childhood was bad. I’m aware of how good I had it. Some children didn’t have mothers that took care of them as mine did. That’s why I was home, to see my mom. Thanksgiving was in a week and I knew I wouldn’t be there. My dad pulled a fast one and brought the man I was promised to over.”

Norquay growled, but Red was too deep in her thoughts to pay attention to the sound.

“I’m supposed to be skinny, barefoot, and pregnant. To be honest that should have already happened. By now, I should have at least four children, enough to keep me out of trouble. Matthew thought,” a shudder went through her at the thought of him. “He thought that if he raped me, I would get pregnant and have nowhere to go. Do I look like an idiot? I’ve been on birth control since I left there. The only thing he did was set me free.”

“Free?”

“There is the law of the land and then the law of Cambridge. They do not match up. In Cambridge, every female has to be a virgin until her wedding day. They check.” Her eyes met his, and he knew the pain wasn’t something she could bury.

“You were…”

“It’s the law of the land,” she whispered.

“I don’t understand.”

“I’m not sure I can explain it. A long time ago, I’m talking about the sixties and seventies a woman was not allowed to have a credit card or a bank account in her own name. It’s how things were. We were and to some, still are considered to be an extension of a man. While some parts of America moved on others didn’t. Cambridge was one of those parts that didn’t move. Unmarried women can be pulled into the gynecologist’s office to check that their maidenhead is still intact. It’s my body, right? If you fail the test you are punished within an inch of your life.”

She pushed back onto the couch then slumped. The last of her energy reserves were gone.

Now that he knew the story, he could stop looking at her with his beautiful blue eyes as if she were a prize.

Norquay put on a movie. She wasn’t watching it too lost in a world of pity. His hand slid across the couch until his fingers brushed against hers. She lifted her hand, and he entwined their fingers.

This is okay she thought coming out of her funk. Sitting here holding hands with him. She never held hands before, this was nice. Who knew? She liked it. Yeah, this was okay. Finally, she watched the movie.

 

***

 

“Can I come in?” Red knocked on the door to Norquay’s office. They had breakfasted a couple of hours ago, which left her walking around bored. His office was filled with books. There were so many spines she couldn’t read, then she realized there were quite a few she could. Historian, check. His desk was oak, and he had one of those old looking professor chairs done in brown. She had never wanted to play teacher and student before, but she was willing to give it a try. Oh, what about naughty librarian?

She needed to stop. Thoughts she used to keep buried deep no longer felt the need to hide.

“Come in, have a seat.”

“Am I interrupting?” She took a seat on one of his comfortable chairs when the thought of being bent over it with her ass in the air made her cheeks heat.

“No.” He turned those blue eyes on her making her want to squirm in her chair. She shouldn’t be attracted to him, but she was. The thought of living the rest of her life in a vacuum with no touch scared her, especially since she had gotten a good look at what that meant from a porcoyan’s point of view.

“Are you alright?”

“I’m fine, I spent the whole year of doing nothing, my body is playing catch up.”

“Don’t push it.”

Damn, when did ‘push it’ become entwined with dirty sexy thoughts? Deep breath, you’re making up for lost time. You don’t want to explore Norquay’s body with your tongue. Yes, she did.

“Do you mind if I ask you a couple of questions about happened that night?”

His question poured cold water on her libido. She thought their talk two days ago said it all. “I don’t mind.”

“How did you get back to your car?”

That quickly she was back there. Her broken body on the cold ground.

“I was scared I was going to pass out. I was lying on the cold ground. I pulled myself to where I left the car.” She saw his hands ball up but didn’t call attention to them. Her car made her father livid the first time he saw it. He demanded she give it back. That wasn’t happening. The douche bag, on the other hand, wanted it for himself. That wasn’t happening either.

“I remember getting in the car starting it up. I was trying to decide where to go and then I blacked out.”

“You didn’t program it to return here?”

“I don’t think so. I can’t be sure, but I was thinking of going to that little town not too far from here. Is it important?”

“Probably not, but I’d like to know how the car knew to come here.”

“You act like it’s sentient.”

“It’s not, not really. We believe in the circle of life, that everything is connected, and that includes whatever we design. Your car was made by us which means it’s connected to us on some level. That’s my theory. Ask someone else and they may look at you like you’re crazy. I believe being on a foreign planet means we need to understand ourselves to a deeper degree.”

She thought about roots and customs and things that as humans they no longer did. The reason it was left behind could be for any reason. Some should be left behind like the ones she learned growing up. Some are left behind because of the desire to fit in or assimilate. The world seemed to be happiest when everyone looked like each other and acted the same. A long time ago she watched twilight zone. There was an episode where everyone was expected to pick a shape and have their body changed into that. They would live at that age with those looks until they died. Funny how life mirrored fiction.

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