It is another late night and still, I cannot sleep. So instead, I traverse the muddied path that leads to the gates of Beacon. A swim in the bathing room might help me clear my mind.
Recently, my thoughts have become heavy. The absence of my family and friends has weighed on me for years, but lately the pain feels as if it is from a fresh wound. I had always believed that once my people found this planet, our lives would begin again. And that seems to be true for everyone, except for me.
This rainy season has dragged on for months now. It is almost as if the weather here is a reflection of my dour mood. Though, to be fair, I am not the only one who has been impacted by the unending dreariness of the rain. We all have, really. But the resourceful humans, who also make Beacon their home, have decided to do something about it.
For the past few weeks they have been organizing a holiday to break up the monotony of the season. Between all the decorating and planning, it is obvious that the mood in the village has been lifting. More and more often, I find myself drawn here, wanting to be a part of it all. I long to be a member of a community and feel connected to something larger again.
If I am truly honest, though, what I really find myself longing for is family. Each night at the village’s communal dinner, I see my King and his mate together. Their loving bond is potent, the very foundation of family. And they are not the only ones. Others have found mates here too. It seems that all around me Vendari are Awakening to the humans. I shake the thought from my mind and climb the steps leading to the bathing room.
Lost in my own ruminations, I do not immediately notice the human climbing from the pool. Her position is on the opposite end of the room and she does not hear me enter. I stop suddenly in my tracks. Her body is slender and her flesh as milky white as snow. She is nude. Water cascades down her back and over her pert and rounded ass. I instantly recognize this human as my dear friend Holly. One of the newest members of our village.
Normally, Vendari are not modest about nudity, but something inside me heats and I feel as if I am spying on my human friend. Embarrassed, I turn and hurry from the room, hoping Holly did not notice me. But to my dismay, she calls my name and I hear her soft, bare feet slapping against stone, pursuing me. I slow to a halt just outside.
“Gorrard? Hey! I thought that was you!” She beams at me, cinching a thin white robe at her waist. She steps into the rain without regard for the cold, wet spray and stops right in front of me. “What are you doing up so late? Planning on going for a swim?”
“No,” I tell her quickly, but as she waits for me to offer her some other explanation for my presence, I realize I have none. “Yes, I mean. I did not think the bathing room would be occupied at this hour,” I tell her.
“It isn’t,” she says, with a bright smile. “Everyone else is sleeping. You’re more than welcome to join me, if you want.”
“I thought you were getting out?” I ask.
“I don’t have to be.”
“I would hate to disrupt your plans for the evening—” I begin, but she stops me.
“Gorrard, you aren’t disrupting anything. As a matter of fact, you’re my absolute favorite person to spend time with,” she tells me, smoothing her hand up my good arm. “Come on, let’s go for a swim together,” she urges. “You can keep me company.”
My honor wavers and I want to say yes, if only to steal another look at her soft and feminine form.
“Holly, an old male like me has no business swimming alone at night with a young and beautiful female like you,” I tell her. Unfortunately, my words only make her smile deepen.
“I’d hardly call you old,” she laughs. “And you’re not so bad looking yourself,” she says, a little more seriously.
Her hand resting on my arm draws my attention downward. That’s when I notice the state of the thin robe she wears. Rain pelts the flimsy material and renders it nearly translucent. It clings to her body and my eyes fall to the soft swell of her breasts.
I do not know if it is my loneliness or the intimate bond that Holly and I have built over the past few weeks, but in that moment, I nearly agree to join her. Thankfully, voices at the gates tear my attention from the young and beautiful female in front of me.
It is Rennek and his mate, Kate, returning from the airfield. Protectively I step in front of Holly, not wanting them to see her practically exposed body peeking through her robe.
Now that others are here, it is as if a spell has been broken. I suddenly feel very embarrassed for allowing myself to become so enchanted by the idea of taking a nude dip in the pool with Holly. She is my friend, a friend that relies on me for support. I should not be ogling her when she is vulnerable.
“Excuse me, Holly,” I say, turning her around and giving an encouraging push toward her room. “I must go speak with my king.”
I ignore the annoyed sound she makes at me and hurry to join Rennek and Kate. “Welcome back,” I call.
“Hey Gorrard!” Kate waves when she sees me.
“How was the meeting with Madreed?” I ask as I join them, and we all make our way up the temple steps to get out of the rain. Effortfully, I try not to look back to see if Holly is still standing there.
“Good. She expects to have information soon about possible locations of more humans,” Rennek tells me. “Perhaps you might be of some assistance on our current subject, Gorrard. We all know the other colonies are busy building up their villages, but Kate and I were just discussing what the outcome might be if we requested their aid in recovering more humans.”
“Wait! Before you answer that,” Kate interrupts, “Speaking of the other colonies. I noticed a comm on our main link today that was addressed to you,” she tells me, and I groan out loud.
“Yes, Kate, I saw it as well,” I assure her.
“And? Do you ever plan on responding to this poor girl?” she presses.
Since the other kingdoms arrived on Elysia, an old friend of mine has been trying to contact me, and Kate has made it her own personal mission to have us reconnect.
“I do not wish to speak with Yemala, Kate. The last time I saw her we were both youths. I am no longer a young male, yet Yemala has been in cryo for the past thirty years. She has not aged.”
“But you were both adults, right?”
“Only just barely,” I sigh.
“Look, Gorrard, this girl has been holding a torch for you all this time. The least you can do is go see her.”
“For Yemala it has not been so long,” I remind her. “In time she will forget about me and find interest in a male her own age.”
“But you two have a history!”
“For me it is ancient history. Besides, I do not even know if Yemala would recognize me after…” I trail off, not wanting to point out my scars, broken horn, and cybernetic arm.
“Gorrard, don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re a handsome guy. Yemala would have to be blind not to see that.”
“Kate, it is his decision to make,” Rennek tells his wife. She whines in protest but takes his hand in hers.
“I know, I’m sorry, Gorrard. I just want to see you happy.”
“You need not apologize. I appreciate your concern,” I say, giving her a slight bow.
“This is the last thing I’ll say,” she tells me. “At the very least, you should go see her. You both deserve the closure.”
My focus is drawn to Kate’s hand in Rennek’s. For a moment, my mind flashes to Holly’s gentle touch on my arm, but I push that thought from my consciousness. I have been lonely for such a long time. Too long, really.
“What were you saying about recruiting help from the other colonies?” I ask, changing the subject.
The three of us talk a short while longer, and I assure Rennek and Kate that the other kingdoms would be very much willing to devote resources to the recovery of more humans. Vendari thrive off of protecting those in need, they would be honored at the request for assistance.
It is even later now, so, I bid Rennek and Kate goodnight and head back to my ship in the airfield. Though I have been invited to live in the village, I choose instead to remain on my ship. It is lonelier than the village, but I think it is where my friends Gile and Mire feel more comfortable, so I stay out there for them.
The walk back to my ship is a slow one, and I lose myself in thought. I am ashamed by my reaction to Holly this evening. Holly is my friend. She relies on me. To look upon her with hungry eyes feels like a violation of the trust she has in me.
I force myself to think instead of the times I shared with Yemala so many years ago. We were so young then. Still, at the time I thought she might be the female I would one day Awaken to. Slowly, I start to talk myself into going to see her, if only for closure. But then I think of all the messages she has tried to send me over the past few months and I begin to hope for something more. I wonder if perhaps it is not too late for me after all.
By the time I reach my ship I am resolved. Tomorrow I will go and see Yemala and I will let fate decide what is in store for the two of us.