December 26th, 2005

My Space Program

I call it "creating space in my little apartment". This morning I unpacked another box of books and managed to get some of them on the shelf, from the New York Public Library Desk Reference (AG6) to Elementary Differential Equations (QA372). Then I spent a half hour kicking back on my beautiful ugly couch.

The Clouds and the Rain

I love mornings like this. I love the soft, shadowless light of an overcast sky, just as the sun is coming up. You can't see the sun but you can watch how the light changes. I like to have my indoor lights off around the times of sunrise and sunset, just to watch the changing natural light without the glare of artificial lamps. You can hear the birds start to talk and chatter about this time too. Sometimes there are sea birds ... I heard somewhere that they're stowaways on the cargo vessels that come in up the river, and that you can tell when a ship is coming in to the Port of Portland by the sea birds.

A light rain is kind of nice because it makes everything shine. I don't care for a heavy downpour (I don't like being cold and wet any better than anybody else does) but a gentle rain is ok with me. I like to hear the cars shooshing by on the wet road.

Kathris

Not that she minds being seduced first thing in the evening. Amira knows how to please her, and seems to have been especially eager this time. She holds the other woman tenderly and permits herself to dissolve into a pool of contentment.

It seems to her that Amira has never fully inhabited her role as queen. Kathris feels a twinge of guilt with this realization, knowing too well the rumors about herself: that she's power-hungry, even a dictator. She tries not to let it anger her, but it does: she's known real dictators. But Amira ... does she know how to wield power responsibly? Does she even care?

Well, somebody has to make the decisions, and some very strange things have been happening lately. She's got a meeting with a delegation of Humans later on tonight, and she'll need time to prepare. Gently she disengages from Amira, bathes, and, for the second time tonight, gets dressed. She goes back to study the space monitor for a long time while Amira lies silent and still in the bed. Then she goes into the study to be alone.

As she leaves the room, she hears Amira stirring; she thinks she also hears her walk once or twice around the room, but she pays no attention to it.

Amira

Sweet taste of guilt in her mouth, she lies still, unmoving, barely breathing.

Kathris is more worried than she'll let on - this much she's sure of. But Kathris doesn't suspect her of anything, as far as she can tell ... she's not sure whether to be relieved or hurt by her mate's lack of jealousy. Still, there's something else on Kathris' mind, and in this last lovemaking, Amira has gotten a clearer picture of it.

Fear.

There's something out there in the big night that Kathris hasn't told her about, that none of her own advisers know of - or if they do, they're not telling her.

Amira's body is still thinking about sex, aching for sex, but she must deny it a little longer. For as long as she's been seeing Joli, she's been able to convince Kathris that she has become sexually unresponsive - the only way Amira can be sure she won't open up her own mind, with its guilty memories, to Kathris.

After what seems an eternity, she hears Kathris leave the room. Then she gets up and walks over to the space monitor.

Dess

The Queen's Courtesan


She isn't sure she's heard correctly.

"Joli ... did you say you're meeting one of the Queens?"

"Uh huh." Joli has quit playing with her hair and is now biting her little finger instead. Dess has only seen her do this two or three times, and it's never a good thing.

"Well, that's ... that's great!" she says, hoping for some response from Joli. Nothing.

Finally she tries the direct approach. "Um ... you don't look excited. Which one is it? Kathris, the scary one? Don't worry, whatever it is, it must be important." She pauses. "Of course, if it's something you can't talk about ..."

Atubis sees it's a good time to be elsewhere, so she says, "I'll be downstairs getting ready for the surface if you need me." Dess hears her climb down the ladder into the quarters below the skydeck.

"Amira," Joli says, almost inaubibly.

There've been times lately when Dess feels she doesn't know Joli anymore, and maybe never did. This isn't one of those times, though, and suddenly Joli looks like the girl she grew up with, out on a minor planet in the middle of nowhere. Something is wrong - badly wrong - but she knows she can get through to Joli somehow. She's got to.

"Hey," she says, and touches Joli gently on the forearm with just the tip of a finger. "You remember that stupid game we used to play back there on Planet 138? The one with the chairs?"

Joli cracks a smile, she can't help it. "Hmmf. We were really bored! They'd put a bunch of chairs in a circle, and someone would play recorded music for a few minutes while we marched around the chairs. When the music stopped, everyone had to try to find a seat, but we were always one chair short - "

Joli is laughing now. " - And there was that one time you and I both tried to sit in the same chair. I got there first, but you tried to sit in my lap. And I said, 'Does this mean we hafta get married now?' "

" ... And that was the closest we ever came to being lovers!" Dess adds. And, she thinks, this is why. She wants to know what's going on with Joli, but she doesn't want to read her mind, doesn't want to make love to her. She just wants Joli to tell her.

Now they're embracing, and Joli's body is shaking; she's not laughing anymore, she's sobbing. "Dess. Dess. Dess," she says softly, forcing the words out of her mouth. "I'm having an affair with Queen Amira."

Dess steels herself and takes a deep breath. So that's it, she thinks. Well, now I know the truth. At least things can't possibly get any worse.