Music Inspiration: Two Steps From Hell- 'Missing Letters'
"The time is always right to do what is right" - Martin Luther King, Jr
Fork In The Road
Amaya fixed the items she'd brought inside her tote since that was all that remained of her Earth life. Band aids. . .helpful. Nail polish. . .useless. Tissues. . .useable. Hair spray. . .she doubted neat hair would impress aliens. Mints. . .Oliver could eat those. Makeup. . .her dark circles needed help. A hand towel. . . .
"This stuff is useless, it's only for a wedding day" she grumbled flatly about the particular items because they weren't 'escape from earth' worthy. If so, she would've brought a suitcase of essentials fit personal care for the next three years. Not to mention, a pair of clothes that weren't seeped with her blood. She halted her rummaging for a moment to sigh in relief about the best parts of leaving her world because that was the positive affirmation she needed now more than anything. There would be no wedding and she was alive on a ship she'd never have believed would work in such a perfect condition. The technology of Christopher's people was amazing and she would ask to learn about his engineering culture to know what kind of future awaited Oliver because he was a bright one. She smiled widely to the silence filling her room as the advanced mothership failed to utter a peep and whispered softly, "I don't have to marry anyone. I feel bad for Davin but. . .this is what I wanted. . .to be with my Oliver. I don't have an obligation to anyone and can do whatever I want."
Looking at the ceiling, she waved an index finger and joked gently, "Take it easy on me next time, lord. I don't think a bullet hole is the answer but you have your mysterious ways."
She'd already hidden the trinket box containing her mementos in the high cabinets of the room to make sure they'd stay safe throughout the trip. Oliver could be quite a scamp when it came to rummaging but she made sure he'd never find that certain box. Not yet anyway.
"How can I tell him his mother's human? From the same kind of people that mistreat him?" she asked to herself with an ashamed tone and brushed strands of her unruly hair back. Even in a ponytail, her thick frizzy black hair managed to irritate her and she frowned to her stubborn mane. Well, at least she'd packed a bottle of smoothing balm for her hair so she wouldn't resemble a poodle. She brushed her palm over the crown of her head with a renewed smile and chuckled softly, "Good thing Oliver has no human phenotypes and didn't inherit this. He has a nice set of thick green scales just like his father."
She rummaged through the bottom of the tote and found nothing of value to be worn either. Only a toothbrush and hair brush were usable but found herself thankful for the former since waking up with dragon strength morning breath would have Oliver and Christopher shooing away from her. Deodorant had been thrown in for nervous sweating so at least her bodily odor wouldn't offend the two poleepkwa. Finding a copy of her vows, she ripped them in half because most of those heartfelt words belonged to one man alone and it wasn't Davin. Still, she may not have married him in the ceremony but they'd signed a marriage license as all couples had to before the wedding to prevent any religious snafus. Knowing that she was legally married didn't help the fact she was a million miles away from her planet and Davin would file for an annulment. That is, if he was told of her desertion and didn't believe an accident or kidnapping happened. She really hoped nobody had caught her on film with Christopher and decided to twist the truth by claiming he'd used her as a shield to shed more bad light on the poleepkwa.
I'm sure Elenor will take care of it for me after all of the second guessing I spoke of, she thought in contemplation and hoped Davin wouldn't pine over her since they'd dated for a few years. The bond tying her to Christopher, unfortunately, was airtight as Oliver connected them and it was one that was unbreakable. They would return together to free the rest of his people but for now, she could do nothing for those on Earth and keep walking with Christopher to achieve his goals. She hated the thought of not fighting for equality for everyone, human or poleepkwa, and wondered what would become of her spot on the firm, I'm sure MNU is having a party.
"Go ahead and celebrate your pants off, I'll be back soon" she declared firmly with a low grumble since she couldn't fight them legally anymore but her disappointment turned to delight when she noticed another helpful item. She grasped the white medicine bottle with a perky smile since she'd definitely need the item and laughed with delight, "Ooh, painkillers. These will be great for the monthly visitor. Ooh, lotion!"
Christopher walked in to see Amaya hugging several hygienic items but she dropped them onto the floor as soon as she noticed his presence. Oh dear, had he seen her hugging inanimate items? Clumsily, she leaned down to grab each item and quickly chucked them onto her new bed to smile modestly at him. After years of living apart, she'd forgotten how it felt to be within feet of him but in the end . . . she couldn't touch him or live in the same living space. It brought new changes for Amaya as she tried to find her comfort zone and she threw her tote over her new finds to smile modestly in welcome, "I was just. . .um. . .what brings you here?"
"Oliver wanted you to tell him a story" he informed with his own modest glance as his antennae dipped but she smiled widely to hearing their son needed her. Even as something as small as helping him sort through clothes or tell a tale brought her delight. Christopher loved to see her face light up at the mere mention of their child and wanted to keep nudging her in the direction of confessing the truth. He wanted to provide her with the most contact possible with Oliver to increase that need as their bond strengthened and explained with a soft trill, "I've been doing so the last few days but I have to make a maintenance check for a few hours. Can you stay with-"
"Of course!" she replied instantly without a single hesitation and thought about what stories her little one would love to hear. He was fascinated by tales of adventure, humor, and friendship but he wasn't picky over what genre his father decided to choose for a bedtime tale. It wasn't a frequent occurrence since the nights in the district were usually riddled with loud noises or gunshots but when Christopher could, he would regale him with tales. Amaya counted on her fingers eagerly as she spouted off ideas that came to mind for input, "I don't know which to recite, there's been so many. He liked the Ugly Duckling but he's always sad at the start and you were just confused, remember? There's the Three Little Pigs or maybe I could tell him one of your old childhood tales?"
"Anything will suffice, Amaya" he assured with a warm trill as she continued to count every story she knew out of memory. Christopher remembered how she used to recount tales during Oliver's first year to lull him to sleep and climbed into bed to read a novel with him if he wasn't tired. They were old joyful memories of the past that he couldn't relive but he could provide a future for his family where they wouldn't have to live in fear.
"Is everything okay on the ship?" she asked softly, not wanting his dream to be short-lived and endanger their lives. Christopher had lived in a district where education had been banned and the only lessons he had were those from his early years on Thalis and those of his mother. He wasn't an engineer or pilot but he tried his best with the automatic navigation system. He nodded to reassure everything was fine and she relaxed her shoulders because one single malfunction would send her running to scoop Oliver into her arms. She sighed nervously to that horrible thought since no human had ever been on alien ship before and lightly tapped his arm to joke, "Don't worry me now."
He shook his head to her playful banter and she smiled widely to cross her arms, glancing at him tenderly to say, "Did you hear how happy Oliver was to say he was free? I worried every single day for him for seven years, Christopher, and it's a huge weight off to know he's safe. You always keep your promises, no matter the high statistics against them or time. I wish it hadn't taken this long or been as disastrous . . . but you're both free and I know that one day, so will your people."
She blinked rapidly to push back tears since they arose any time she spoke of their son and hoped that someday, she could have what she and Christopher shared years ago. That sweet untainted love they held as they build a small life in a bleak district; it didn't matter where they lived as long as they were together. They were older now and had trained themselves to put everyone else first which made her wonder if there was a chance. She loved him beyond anything and would die for him just like she almost did back in the district. He was the only one.
"That will be the first priority when we arrive back home" he promised with a soft purr and reminded himself to find Wikus' cure along the way. If their technology survived and was still intact, the cure would be easier to concoct than assembling rescue for his people. Every time he fell asleep, he wondered whether his people had survived on Thalis and what the current state of their world was. He noticed shredded paper on the floor and asked curiously, "What did you tear?"
"My marriage license" she replied easily with a carefree grin since she was free of an unwilling union and could roam anywhere now. How could she not enjoy this grand opportunity? She was going where no man had gone before! It was an immense relief off her shoulders and turned to ask him, "Why?"
He stared at the bits of torn paper as the idea of her and another tugged at his heart. Had they really signed a union contract together? Was she truly bonded with a human? Human customs were still strange to him due to the physical separation between species in the city and he asked calmly for clarification, "You were mated to him then? I was under the impression that it was the day we left."
"Human marriages require a license first before a ceremony takes place so the license was drawn days before and the ceremony was then" she answered softly to make the news easier to bear but it made no difference to her current status. In her mind, she was still Amaya Turin and would not be changing that name anytime soon- not unless he asked it of her with his own customs. His anetenane flattened against his round head in disappointment and she walked over to him to grasp his shoulder to insist, "I told you I didn't want to marry him-"
"And now you are" he broke in quietly and she saw the rapid blinks that told her he was upset. How many times had they fought on this and she'd pointed out all roads would lead to her marriage to Davin? She wished he could speak to her as he used to years ago, trusting her completely, and wanted to gain that lost confidence. He refused to meet her gaze as he stared at the torn papers and murmured faintly, "You're legally bound to him-"
"Not out here and marriages can be annulled if sex hasn't occurred and it hasn't since I told him not until after the ceremony" she admitted sheepishly to the rules of modern marriage in her area and shook her head to shake his disappointment away. Why couldn't he see that she held no love for Davin because his was unrivaled? He was the father to her dearest child and she stated gently, "That's the choice you stuck me with, Christopher. I'm going to Oliver and you should patch up whatever you need to, okay?"
His hand grasped her forearm and she resisted from trailing her fingers over his skin as he asked tentatively, "Do. . .do you wish to go back to him?"
"Would my answer change anything?" she asked softly and gazed into his golden orbs to search for a flicker of that old love that left them breathless after a romp in their bed. She'd never seen him look so tidy in her life as his green skin shone brightly like polished emerald- he really was a handsome person to her. She could only wonder how the garb of the poleepkwa would look and remembered his hasty scribbles of robes with other items that were incredibly foreign to her. Her face became crestfallen to what would await her upon return to Earth and she whispered solemnly, "You'd still want me to be with my people and you'll push me back to them when we return-"
"That will be your choice" he cut in with a sigh as he laid out his real feelings on the matter because his mind had run circles over it. He'd done everything to protect her and where did it get her? She was shot and almost died under his inexperienced medical hands. No, he was taking a different approach this time to keep her safe. He released her arm to allow her to fix a few items for Oliver and explained with a low voice, "My choices did not bring out the expectations I wanted. Both of us were almost killed and that is what we must avoid. . .for Oliver's sake. If you want to stay on my planet, you may. I will no longer make decisions for you because we are capable adults now and the last thing I would want is your resentment. I know. . ."
He cleared his throat, restraining himself from touching her smooth caramel cheek, and spoke softly, "I know that I hurt you by imposing my approval of your marriage and it was wrong of me. I just wanted to keep you safe . . . all I've ever wanted was to protect and make sure you were taken care for."
"Humans are very self-reliant and adaptable . . . but I understand" she forgave easily, knowing her ongoing love for him always played a part in her decisions. His actions came from a good place in his heart and although they backfired, she understood. She sought the same for him and their child, leading her to admit freely, "I've always been happy by your side, you can't erase eighteen years of history together and I won't let you. I want to be around Oliver, I've missed seeing him grow up and this is another chance. . .I will not make the same choice. He's safe now-"
"You must tell him, Amaya" he whispered gingerly to the next step in their journey but she shook her head meekly with fear to the possible consequences. How would he react to that fact? They had weaved an entirely different story from the truth and it could shatter his self-concept and trust for his parents. Amaya wasn't ready to risk that but Christopher knew their child held the kindest little heart he'd known and assured, "He never holds any ill will towards anyone, especially to you. Our son deserves to know and needs his mother."
"I will but I need time, please?" she pleaded softly and he gave nod of reluctance, allowing her to come to terms with the decision. Her stomach was ravaged by nerves and her palms sweated to the thought of breaking Oliver's heart, closing her eyes to subside the lingering shame. It had torn her apart to leave her little hatchling in his white bassinet as he slept and it was a memory that failed to leave her when she was awake or in dreams. She placed both hands over her heart to disclose her fears to Christopher with a worried whisper, "He means everything to me and I want the timing to be perfect. I can't leave him again, I won't return to Earth. . .there isn't anything left for me there. I need to be with our son but he deserves a mother who won't abandon him-"
"You did not abandon him, Amaya" he insisted firmly and she shook her head, adamant that her choice would come to hurt their little youngling wandering the ship. He squeezed her shoulder gently, wanting to comfort her in a platonic manner despite the fact he wanted to embrace her and never let go. His golden eyes peered into hers to bore the reassurance into her mind and stated frankly, "It worked out in the end, nobody knows his link to you," his thumb grazed the side of her cheek gently as he smiled gratefully, "You did what a true mother would: a sacrifice for the well-being of her child. I know how much it hurt you, how it still does . . . but it's over. No more pretending and looking over our shoulders for MNU."
A raggedy breath of relief left her mouth and she managed a weak smile, "It is, isn't it? We don't have to hide our past and Oliver can roam freely- oh, he'll be so happy to run over the grass of your world. He can swim, just like we said he would. . .it's really sinking in, we're leaving my solar system for yours. . .you're free forever."
"Free as a bird" Christopher smiled proudly, trying out the words as if they were his first words all over again. It was indeed surreal to hear the sound and be the one saying it. He squeezed Amaya's shoulders, seeing that bright spark he'd seen during her prepubescent years that urged him to learn to fly (easier said than done), and resisted the urge to press his head to hers. A brief second was all it took to remind him that she wasn't his mate anymore or if she held the same love after lying to her he didn't. Either way, he spoke from the heart with a whisper, "I couldn't have done it without you, Amaya."
"I liked it but can I see the little hobbits again?" Oliver chirped curiously and reached for the book in her hands but she raised her hand to stop him. The youngling believed he'd been impolite in his actions but smiled in relief when Amaya tucked the covers around his form cozily to keep him warm. No, she was never strict with him and he loved that since he relished her undivided attention. He was so happy to have her beside him so she could play and talk to him; the ship didn't feel so lonely with her there.
"There, so you're all warm and no cold drafts can lick those cute little feet" she teased fondly and prodded his covered feet over the blankets, causing him to thrill happily to her joking. She fluffed his pillow with a smile before handing over her old 'Return of the King' copy with black and white illustrations to her expectant son, watching tenderly as his little fingers flipped through the pages to look at his favorite characters. She'd read that book during her secret stays with Christopher at seventeen, switching back and forth with him to read aloud to get into the popular story. By midnight, she had to pry the book from his grasp as she reminded he had to go to work the following morning. A small lapse in judgment resulted with both of them showing their affection with gentle nuzzling until he reminded her of their relationship ban. All those memories seemed so foreign after seven years of being away from Christopher, from everything they shared until it seemed just a twinkle of the past.
"Are hobbits real?" Oliver broke into her reminiscing and she blinked rapidly, smiling at him as if her faltering never occurred. Her son was too involved in the pictures to notice her rumination and kept flipping the pages carefully. The feel of clean crisp pages in his hands delighted him in comparison to yellow tattered pages that held liquid stains.
"No, just imaginary" she answered gently and placed her hand over the digital pad on the wall next to his bed to lower the lights by sweeping her hands downward. His antennae shot up as the dim lighting told him it was time to sleep and he groaned in disappointment, giving her a pout with those large watery pools of his. As a mother, she was both compelled to concede and read further into the night but stuck her hand out for the book as the latter choice won. His antennae flattened as his most charming expression failed for the night and she chuckled fondly, "Time for bed, sweet pea."
He handed back the book with a sullen 'oh' and cuddled into his warm covers to blink up at her with a light clack of his little mandibles. His left hand clasped over her wrist before she could move her hand to shut off the lights completely and he requested shyly, "Please stay with me? I. . .", he broke off weakly before whispering glumly, "I don't like the dark and father's not here, I. . ."
Amaya nodded silently with sympathy as she took his fear for the dark into account and wished she'd know that particular fact about him. There was still so much she didn't know about her son and the littlest things were the most important to her. A mother should know such things. She'd fed and cared for him; loving him every minute for as much as she could during her free months with him . . . did he know how much she loved him?
No, but I'm to blame for that, she thought glumly and slipped into the large bed Oliver shared with his father (the habit of sleeping next to him wasn't easy to let go of). The beds of the poleepkwa were the softest she'd ever slept in as the mattress contoured to one's body shape. It was almost like a cloud! It was longer than the average human bed due to the taller height and the width varied, depending on one's living status. The room had been Laura's and with three children in her arms upon arrival during the exodus, received a bed to hold her and the children. Poleepkwa had no issue with their children sleeping in bed with them during young ages and practiced it for bonding since they were a collectivistic society.
The blankets, however, were of cotton since the survivors had used them for protection against the cold and for food when they'd been trapped over Jo'burg. Christopher had wrapped himself in one blanket with his siblings and when hunger had struck, eaten part of the fabric to pacify the aching in their stomachs. Amaya couldn't imagine the horror of those days and admired how far Christopher had come but he would push onwards to uplift his people.
She couldn't huddle Oliver close like a mother or risk questions but he didn't care, cuddling up against her without a word to purr contently for not having to be alone. He felt safe and cared for whenever Amaya was nearby and with his father leaving to keep the ship in perfect condition, he longed for company. Human children of his age could do without constant companionship but poleepkwa younglings craved it, even sitting next to another would do. His father was lucky to have friends like Jane, Paul, Adam, and Amaya since he never felt alone and could curl up against them to simply snooze in comfort. Amaya rubbed his back gently to ease his worry about loneliness and promised quietly with a caring smile, "I'll make sure you don't spend a minute alone in the dark, okay?"
"Mm-hmm" he agreed thankfully and shifted under the blankets to curl up cozily against her. Body heat and physical contact were wonders for children, leading him to bundle up beside her with a purr as he asked quietly, "Are you scared of the dark?"
"When I was a youngling like you, yes, but I've always been more scared of MNU" she admitted gently as her first meeting with MNU and Christopher popped fresh into her mind. Goodness, she hoped her little one hadn't suffered such things. She'd had nightmares for weeks about that frightening quarantine zone and had longed to know what had become of the first alien she'd met. Fate had a strange way of bringing them together for the long haul and Amaya was happy to be along for the ride.
Oliver whimpered next to her, clutching the overlarge black shirt Christopher allowed her to borrow for sleeping. The sound caught her off-guard and she hugged him closer immediately to cease whatever fear had seized him. Was the dark already scaring her little one? Oliver's hands didn't weaken their grip and he trembled for a brief moment before squeaking softly, "They scared me. I was playing because father worried over fuel and they . . . they pointed guns a-and I-I thought. . ."
Oliver warbled weakly against her chest with shame and Amaya held him tightly at the idea of those bastards laying a hand on him. His soft sullen sounds broke her heart as he clutched her and she kept him close to her side. She could barely hear his words as he whispered fearfully to admit, "I thought they want to kill me. . .I was so scared. . .but father shoved me inside before they could. H-He always protects me."
"Because he loves you immensely" she said with a proud grateful smile, knowing Christopher would sacrifice his own life in a heartbeat for their child. Oliver purred contently as she enveloped him tightly in a hug that took his fear for MNU and the dark away, filling his heart with warmth. Meanwhile, she promised herself that Oliver would never step foot on her planet again. How dare a company armed head to foot in weaponry point a gun at an innocent child? What could his slim form possibly do? He was small! God, her species was pathetic in letting MNU have complete control over an entire species. His wary warbling turned into sleepy purrs as he rested in her arms and she made sure he was tucked in comfortably as she promised, "I'll make sure no humans scare you again, okay? I'm here to look after you whenever your papa's not around. Nobody will ever harm you while we're alive."
"I'd like that" he purred fondly and nuzzled his head under her chin, bringing up locked memories of his hatchling days in her mind. The stark realization was that that little hatchling was long gone and her son was a growing youngling just like his father had been when they met. He had no memory of her that they could share- he wouldn't match hers and vice versa- and the thought both compelled her to tell him the truth and to hide it so he wouldn't feel abandoned. She remained awake with her thoughts while Oliver was snug enough to fall asleep instantly, lightly mumbling under his breath, "You stay forever."
Amaya remained with her son for hours, content with hearing the soft sounds of his breathing and his incoherent mumbles of dreamland as he slept peacefully. All she wanted was for him to lead a happy and stress-free life; a complete opposite of what his father endured. She flinched in surprise when the door to their quarter opened and heard Christopher's feet tap against the metal flooring as he entered the dark room. Goodness, time flew by when she was beside Oliver.
"He's asleep" Amaya whispered to him as she tried to pinpoint where Christopher was in the dark and felt the bed shift lightly as he collapsed onto it to sleep. She liked their mattresses, they were extremely soft and vibrations were rarely left when another joined the bed which made for easy slumbering. Christopher merely grunted in return and she assumed he was tired after patching up another level of the ship and running diagnostics. It was a humongous ship and there was only one person to maintain everything. Since their escape, he was meticulous on making sure every level was patched up (especially the engine room) to make sure nothing could go wrong during the journey. In the morning shift, he would skip ahead a few light years to keep their schedule on track and not overburden the recently dormant ship.
"I'm going to head back-" she brought up to break the pin dropping silence that every soundproof room on the ship had and to return Christopher's privacy.
"No, you can stay and besides, I'm sure he's already clinging to you" he broke in tiredly with a yawn and wrapped himself up in the warm blankets, gently squeezing his son's arm to let him know he was there. Oliver merely whimpered in his sleep and kept his grip on Amaya's shirt as he slept on without a disturbance. Christopher's fingers grazed over Amaya's forearm as she held the youngling close and the familiar soft skin brought prickles of bittersweet delight after years without his touch. His voice delighted her ears in the darkness as he informed quietly with exhaustion, "The bed is large enough for all of us so sleep. Oliver will be happy to see you in the morning cycle."
She smiled in the dark and felt the tiny puffs of Oliver's breath against her neck causing her to respond fondly, "So will I. Hmm, my little ray of sunshine."
"Tell him soon Amaya, that is all I will say" Christopher advised one last time since the ship gave them the time and safe refuge for her to admit the truth rather than waiting when they landed on Thalis. They would all need to be strong to tread forward and he wouldn't have Oliver worried over their mission and lineage.
Amaya blended into the quiet room as she ruminated over that decision as one part wanted to spare Oliver the pain of her leave and the other wanted her son back. She had to do what was best for her child and Christopher knew best after she entrusted his care to him. Nobody else knew their son better and she snuggled into the sheets to hold her dear child as she agreed quietly, "You're right, I will."
Yes, it was time everything was divulged to Oliver but she would tread carefully with her words to prevent horrible fallout.
A/N: I was actually going to wait another chapter for Amaya to spill the beans but I can't find my outline for this story (cue dramatic 'why?'). There are so many notebooks in my house that I've grouped them all together and hope I didn't throw them out- I do so after every semester for classes I'll never use with my major. Hopefully, I'll be able to find my notepad soon but for now, I'll be writing off the top of my head and hope I didn't skip over something important. Thank you all for following the story since it should've been updated sooner but what can you do when life and book issues get in the way? Enjoy your holidays around the world, readers!