(To read the entire chapter, click on the title)
“I’ve got a meeting in a few minutes. But sure, let’s talk,” Aileen said as she nodded and swallowed the sarcasm that rose in her throat. He had a right to say his piece even though his absence over the last two weeks had made his stance clear. Va was probably angry with her, and she guessed, he had a right to be, but it wasn’t as though she’d planned it. Not really, she just hadn’t been careful, and maybe she had been hoping. But he could have taken the necessary precautions. It was just as much his fault as hers.
She could feel the weight of his gaze as he stood looking down at her. Squirming a little, she scooted the desk chair forward so that she was properly fortified behind the desk, not that she feared him, but the heavy wood gave her a greater sense of control.
“So, you’ve been spending a lot of time with Caleb?”
Aileen smiled. He was jealous, “He’s just been loaning me a shoulder.”
“An ear, really,” she said, “I’ve been using him as a sounding board, and he’s been a pretty good listener.”
“You told him?”
“It’s not a secret.”
“I just thought that before you made an announcement, you and I should talk,” he said.
“I didn’t make an announcement. I guess I just needed a friend.”
“So, he is a friend; not just a guy you used to pose for.”
“I guess he is,” she said smiling again when she thought of Caleb. He was a friend. “Over the past couple of weeks, he’s been a patient listener.” And he gave her the warmth she needed right now.
“Hmm,” he said taking a step back, the movement drawing her attention.
“There are things you should know. Things that may affect whether you decide to terminate or not,” Va began as he sifted through his thoughts.
She looked up at him, the smile she had on her face when she’d spoken of Caleb dissolving. “I thought you understood that I want this. I have no intention . . .” she responded.
“There are things about me that . . .” he interrupted.
“There is nothing that you can tell me that would make me consider terminating anything. I don’t care that you’re not ready for the responsibility. I don’t care what incurable disease you claim runs in your family. Have you come here to scare me into having an abortion?” She shuddered, her voice somewhere between angry and incredulous. “I’m not asking you for anything. I don’t need anything from you.”
“It’s not anything like that. I’m not . . . It’s just that this is an important decision and you should know everything. An informed decision is always a better one,” he said.
She laughed, “It’s a baby, not a contract. Look Va, I don’t need you in this. You can just walk away. It’s clear that you want no part of it.”
“But, I don’t want to walk away,” he said.
She waited for more, her heart beating fast because even if she didn’t need him, she wanted him, and hoped that maybe he still wanted her. How pathetic was that? Feeling ashamed, she closed her eyes and turned away from him to fumble with some papers she pulled from a drawer.
“I’m not . . .” he began again.
“Ready,” she finished for him.
“No,” he said, “I mean, I don’t know if I’m ready. Is anyone ever? Fatherhood is a major step.”
“I’m not . . .”
This time she stayed silent, waiting for him to finish.
“I’m not human,” he said.
She laughed, “No,” she shook her head, “fear of fatherhood is a very human trait.”
He smiled at that, but then he looked at her almost sadly and said, “I wish it were that simple.”
He knew he had her attention then, but he didn’t know how to go on. He hadn’t ever had this discussion with a human, and he didn’t know of anyone who had. Apparently, even Cen hadn’t had this discussion with Gavin.
“I am Reveler,” he said.
She was silent, her face a question. When he didn’t say anything else, she asked, “What does that mean?”
“I am not of this world,” he added watching her face.
Pressing her lips together, she smirked. “I told you that I don’t need anything from you, and pretending insanity is not going to change my mind about keeping the baby. Really Va, we’ve never played games with each other and now is certainly not the time to begin.”
There wasn’t much space for pacing in Aileen’s office, but Va made a turn or two as he considered what to say and how to make her believe him. Maybe he could transform, just a hand or a cheek, grow hair or claws, but doing that in the presence of a human was forbidden. And he didn’t want to frighten her; he wanted her to continue to see him as someone she could love.
“My people,” he began again, “did not originate here on Earth.”
“Aileen,” a young woman stood in the doorway, “We’re waiting for you in the conference room.” The woman looked curiously at Va when she said it.
“The intern orientation?” she reminded Aileen looking directly at her now and clearly awaiting further instruction.
“I’ll be there in five minutes. Would you take those folders in for me?” Aileen said pointing to a red stack atop a filing cabinet near the door.
“I’ve really got to go,” Aileen said as she stood gathering and shuffling the stack of papers she’d pulled from her desk drawer. “Maybe we should have this discussion later, somewhere less public.”
“Dinner, tonight after work, my place. I’ll get take out,” Va said stepping back as Aileen made her way around the broad desk which took up much of the room’s space. He kept his hands stiffly at his sides to keep from pulling her into his arms as she scooted pass him.
“OK,” her voice was barely audible. “But really Va. You don’t have too . . .” she said turning back to him as she pulled the door open on her way out.
“Shh,” he said giving her what he hoped was a conciliatory smile, “Let’s just save it all for later when we can speak comfortably.”
She nodded and hurried out.