Red sat on the couch waiting for a reaction. Any reaction would do. They had both been silent since she uttered those last words.
“I should have ridden with the two of you,” Teak came into the living room stopping to stare at them. “Dinner is done.”
They were sitting on the couch. Her at one end him at the other. She bet that they looked like some weird oddly matched bookend. What was there to say when he acted like she didn’t exist?
“We’ll be in soon,” Norquay told him turning his head, but not his body.
“I’ll make plates.”
“Look, but don’t touch. Reach, but not for the stars. It’s a lesson you learn when it looks like you’ve been thrown away. When everyone around you is waiting for you to go down in a hail of glory, like a crashing star. When you keep everything tucked in your chest until you sit outside a door and listen to the fury, to the ache, to the pain of someone who has been violated. When you know better than to talk, but suffering reaches out in a blind desire to touch suffering. Red, you’re the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Beauty on the outside fades over time, it becomes less stunning. You have that beauty, but your beautiful inside. That’s the real secret of beauty, it never fades. It keeps the outside beautiful no matter the age. I don’t want to hurt you Red. I know better than to reach for the impossible.”
“My life has been mapped out for me from the time I was born a female. I couldn’t do what I wanted; I made a habit of making everyone around pissed off by breaking their rules. It didn’t matter, in the end, I knew I would have to conform. Marry the asshole. Have his children, suffer the same fate as my mother. Then he raped me. What an eye-opener to suddenly be completely unhinged from the collective. To no longer have to think like them. To see the world with different eyes. For the blinders to be ripped off. I no longer see men as if they have the right to whatever they want. I see the predator in them. The one that carried the club and felt the right to fight and kill dinosaurs. I no longer see mankind as an extremely advanced race. Hell, we can’t keep from killing our planet, or stay away from political infighting. Top that with the fact that we are killing each other every day. But this is the world I live in. There’s not another asking for survivors of the human race to join it. Instead, of sticking my head in the sand I am finally holding it up high.
“I might not deserve anything better, but I’m going to reach for it, anyway. I might not deserve you, but that won’t keep me from fighting for you.” She stood up and went to stand in front of him. “I’m scared as hell Norquay. My one and only sexual encounter was being raped. I refuse to let that fear rule my life. It’s not leaving, I know that. It lives within me and always will. The only decision I have where it is concerned is who will rule my life, me or it? I choose me.” Red leaned over placing a kiss against his closed lips before she went into the kitchen.
She sat at the table waiting for Teak to say something. “Norquay is still in the living room.”
“Let him be. He needs time to think.”
“Maybe I should leave?”
“Why would you do that? A challenge is good for him. The reminder that he’s not dead. It hurts when you realize your life is going on when so many have come to an end. You may think that awareness is instantaneous. It isn’t, sometimes it comes in stages, or times it waits, weeks, months, or years until that one moment when every defense is down, and you are laid bare. Then it attacks as surely as a byema protecting her cub. Every day he sat outside your door feeling your pain and sharing his, those defenses came down until he was laid bare. I do not blame you; I thank you for giving me back my son.”
She dashed at the tears she was determined not to cry. The tears weren’t for Norquay. They were for the child inside of her that wished she had a father like that. Maybe they were for her mother that never got away.
“Thank you,” it came out on a breath, barely a whisper, but she knew Teak heard her.
They ate in silence after she helped Teak with dishes she went for a walk.
“It’s cold out here?” Em called when Red came into sight. She was sitting in front of a fire with Jade.
“Why are you out tonight?”
Em turned to look at Jade. “She wanted to take a walk.”
Jade pointed to a third seat around the fire. Red slipped into it a loud sigh coming from her lips.
“I can feel the pain coming from my people. It’s an ebb and flow that’s constantly in the background of my mind. At times, one person’s pain will eclipse the whole race of pain. Today that person is Norquay,” Jade told her.
“Why are you telling me this?”
“I trust you, but I also feel like you will become one of us. You can’t do that without understanding, I won’t take that away from Norquay. Yet, there are some things I need you to understand. Things he can’t tell you because he didn’t grow up human. On Porcorian, family is everything. You are the line you were born into. Norquay’s line is old and respected. He was expected to be like them, but he wasn’t. His father disowned him at a young age, but his mother didn’t. She did leave him, when he was young, but technically able to take care of himself. She didn’t do it out of anger, but love. Red, you might understand that. If she had kept him close, he would have been killed the same way she was.
“Not that it mattered to the porcoyan people. As far as they were concerned, he was nothing and no one. I think you have an idea about the rest of the story. He sees himself as the village idiot and you as the untouchable queen, in human thought.”
“It doesn’t matter what someone is if they can’t see it for themselves.”
“You’re right. Why? I mean why are you here?”
“They call Lyrek and me the royals. The royals are tied to their people on a level I never could have understood before becoming queen. When I thought of king and queen, I must confess I thought of England. I was so far off the track it wasn’t funny. Every time I step wrong it has a lot to do with my thinking being so different from the porcoyan’s. but that is also why they are still here almost a year and a half since I met Lyrek.” Jade smiled, the shadows that lingered in her eyes disappearing with it. “I wanted you to understand a little of the male you are thinking of claiming.”
“How did you know?”
Jade reached down and touched the earth. Her brown eyes became as gold as Lyrek’s.
“Call it the curse of becoming a queen. Go you aren’t dressed warmly enough to be out here.”
“I will. One last question. If I take Norquay, or he takes me, will I change?”
“Change is inevitable,” Em told her. Her eyes flashed from blue to espresso and back again.
“Goodnight my queen, goodnight lady Em.” She walked back to the house quickly.
The walk to the house seemed to take forever as she wondered about Norquay, his family, and herself, and her family.
“Have you eaten?” She found him sitting in the same position as earlier.
“Come on. You can ponder the fate of the universe after you eat. Teak made spaghetti. I’ll cook more noodles and heat up the sauce and you’ll be good to go. Come on,” she walked over to him holding out her hand.
“I’m sure your noodles will be better, but don’t tell him I said that.” He took her hand jumping to his feet.
Red decided she liked holding his hand so held on as she led him to the kitchen. She puttered around making him a plate as she talked about nothing important.
“Sing for me, Red?”
“I’m not… sure.”
“Yo, yo, yo I used to fuck with those ken doll types, mwah. Them fem doll types. I had to switch up hems I like…”
Norquay burst out into laughter as Red tried to give off gangster vibe.
“Who? What? Red you continue to surprise me.”
She grinned at him and stopped humming. “T.H.U.G by Todrick Hall. I was walking down the street one day and heard a song by someone I never heard of before. When I asked the teen, he told me. This singer he stands for everything my father hates. I must admit I love him for that. I’ll show you the video after if you don’t mind, we can watch the whole thing. I like it.”
“I’d like that.”
She sat with him while he ate. He had an economy of movement that she was just paying attention to. He was always contained as if he was making the smallest impression possible on the world around him. That made his unhindered laughter with her precious.
She took his plate when he was done while he wiped down the table and the stove.
In a different world, the one that existed a year ago, or even a week ago, she’d never be able to instigate contact. She held out her hand, stomach queasy at the thought of rejection. When his hand slipped into hers warm and solid, a part of her that was always in turmoil calmed down. There was always a first time. She pulled up Forbidden by Todrick Hall then sat back to see how Norquay would take it.
“Your world is all about the forbidden.”
“No, we’re all about stopping the forbidden. In some cases, that’s the right thing to do. I just don’t think everything we call forbidden should be called that. Murder should be forbidden, but we understand justified self-defense. Loving someone of a different race used to be forbidden. Hell, there were laws against it, just like loving someone of the same sex.”
Norquay took her hand as they went to her room.
“Thank you, Red. Tonight has been wonderful as well as educational.”
“I watched Forbidden and followed it up with Frozen by Disney. They have both been informational. Sometimes you have to defy the world to be yourself.” He leaned over and kissed her before he walked away.