"I love you so very much, Ian O'Shea."
He leaned up to kiss the top of my head, one hand on my back pulling me closer while the other wrapped into my hair. "I love you, Wanderer."
Suddenly, hearing him speak the name I had been known as sounded wrong. "I don't think that's my name anymore..." I raised my head to look at him as I turned the name Wanda over in my thoughts.
"What do you mean?" He looked troubled.
"It doesn't sound right," I tried to explain. "When the Healer put me in Melanie, he told me that until I chose my name, they would call me Wanderer. I never changed it and it's obvious to me now it was because I already had Mel there. I couldn't find my own unique identity. Then Jeb started calling me Wanda and I didn't put any more effort into it. It's quite normal with each new life, for souls to choose a new name. It wasn't until just now I realized that even though I'm still on the same planet, I feel in some ways like a completely new person. Wanderer is part of my past. I literally wandered the galaxies and then through the desert to find the one place I belong but it no longer applies for this new life. I don't want to wander anywhere."
I looked up at the silent stars above me. I'd spent thousands of years travelling among them always wondering what else was out there. I was no longer curious.
Ian was slowly nodding his head trying to understand.
"Would that bother you if I had a different name?" I tried to imagine if Ian suddenly changed his name and how that would affect me.
"Not really. It would only be an adjustment on my part." He brushed a lock of hair out of my eyes. "It makes sense. There were various cultures here on Earth that would choose a new name or be given one at significant life stages." He thought for a moment. "Do you pick out any name you want or is it more specific?"
"I know it already." I could feel my face beaming with enthusiasm to tell him and Ian was smiling in response. "The first part is Elysia. Its origin comes from your ancient Greeks which I had been studying about in San Diego. They used it to describe their blissful heaven but really, after their first human life was over, they believed 'heaven' was their final home. I've found my blissful home so I think it's fitting. "
"Elysia is a beautiful name and it works perfectly." He was looking at me with wonder in his eyes. "You realize Jeb will likely call you something shorter like Elsie or Elly. You might want to choose one before he gets the say."
"I don't mind whatever people decide to call me. They can still use Wanda if they prefer. What matters to me is the name I know is mine."
"You said Elysia was only the first part."
"Yes," I blushed suddenly anxious. "Souls usually choose names similar to those around them. You've probably already guessed the impact our surroundings have since we change every planet. Now, these are my people. I want my name to reflect that so I'd also like a surname."
"Do you have one in mind?"
"Yes...no..." He leveled his gaze to try to look into my eyes but I dropped my head. "I do but I'm not very familiar with the way one acquires it. Some souls came here as partners, others chose to stay with the partner of their human bodies. Those that meet here simply choose to become partners, possibly only for this planet, possibly for longer. There isn't a standard rule or pattern for names and partners with souls. I think for humans, it was more official before we came."
He thought over my words trying to decipher the meaning behind them. "Are you asking how couples here share a last name?"
I realized if I had thought this out I could have asked Mel without overstepping some socially accepted etiquette. "I wish I had my computer at home in order to research and better understand what was customary."
"Do you want my last name?" He asked slowly.
"Well, I don't have human parents to pass down a surname to me and I don't know of any from Pet's memory. I had the impression it wasn't unusual in this country for the female to take the name of the man she vowed to live the rest of her life with. Did I learn wrong?"
"No, that is correct." His full smile had returned to his face. He looked into my eyes with what looked like wonder and possibly an undercurrent of humor. "There are normally a couple formalities before she takes his name but I'm beginning to see how those don't necessarily apply with us. No one pays taxes or has medical insurance anymore." He stated the last sentence as if he was merely thinking out loud.
I didn't know what taxes or medical insurance were but they sounded irrelevant. "Can you tell me what the formalities were?"
It was obvious he was contemplating how to order his words. "Ordinarily one person officially asked the other to spend the rest of their life with them. If that person agreed, then they would go through a ceremony. If there were any name changes, they usually took place after the ceremony."
I thought for a moment. "You already know I've pledged to love you for the rest of my existence. I feel this," I wrapped my arms around him to indicate the bond between us. "I know it with all that I am. I am yours and trust when you told me you were mine."
"This is true." He was enjoying something about the conversation that was escaping me.
"Then, how do we go through that ceremony so I can start using my name?" I asked barely able to restrain my excitement. I was only slightly disappointed to have to wait to become who I knew I already was.
Ian laughed loudly. He shook his head as he slowly sat up to face me. Even when I woke up in my new body he wasn't smiling this way. I couldn't take my eyes off of his. He reached out to take my hands in his. "You're correct. I love you more than I thought it was possible to love another. We have already promised each other forever and I meant every word."
"I did too," I interrupted.
He smiled even wider. "That's why, if it makes you happy, I would be extremely honored to give you my name. I love you, my Elysia O'Shea, now and my forever." Hearing my name in his deep tenor voice confirmed how much I loved it.
He raised my left hand to his lips, closed his eyes, and gently kissed my fourth finger.
His tenderness overwhelmed me. Happiness felt like it enveloped me. I leaned in to kiss him and whispered before our lips met, "You have all my love for all my life." His hand slipped under my hair to wrap around the back of my neck as he kissed me back tenderly.
"Was that the ceremony?" I asked when he eventually pulled his lips away long enough to wrap me into his arms and pull me back down onto his chest. Something about his words had felt more formal and weighted than usual. He kissing my fourth finger had felt more significant than the simple action.
"Yep. Like I said, it really was only a formality."
My tenth life, my blissful heaven, began in a cave in the middle of the desert and I was certain there wasn't anywhere in all the galaxies I'd rather be. It wasn't the cave itself but it was the people inside that were my home.