Space 2315… Peace, Chapter 17

Matt woke up and reached over half-expecting to find Alyssia still lying next to him in bed but when he didn’t feel her, he opened his eyes to find her standing across the room half-dressed for she was only wearing a bra and panties. She was so engrossed in her packing for she didn’t realize that Matt came up behind her.

“Good morning, my love.” He kissed her neck, at which she closed her eyes and smiled as he reached down and caressed the area right under her breasts and brought them down to her stomach which only served to excite her at his very touch. It had been weeks since they had made love with each other and with him touching her that way, it made her ache even more so for a moment of intimacy with him.

“Are you finishing packing?” he asked as he continued to caress her in ways that served to excite her that much more. That and how she could feel how his body was reacting to her state of undress against her backside which only heightened her excitement. “You know, when we’re at my parent’s place, we could have some fun.” He smirked.

She looked over her shoulder. “But won’t your parents know what we’re up to?”

“True,” he began to kiss the back of her neck which made her gasp, “that just means that you won’t be able to scream my name quite so loudly.” As he said that, she turned around in his arms and pressed herself against his obvious erection at which he grunted. “You’re bad.”

“True,” he gave her a peck on the lips, “but you wouldn’t want me any other way.”

“Damn straight.”

He let go of her after which he walked into the bathroom leaving her to continue packing. Meanwhile she thought about how his body reacted to her state of undress. If she was being truthful to herself, she took a bit of a perverse pleasure in that he was indeed physically attracted to her. Why? Maybe it was the fact that she was still hung up on the idea that she was an alien to him yet, despite that, he still found her to be physically attractive and more importantly, he wanted her in his life.

And while she was being truthful, she too found him to be quite attractive and the idea that they would once again have a moment of intimacy at his parents’ place made her ache for it that much more. She looked down at herself and pressed her thighs together in order to get her urges under control.

“Suppressed sex drive, my ass,” she laughed as he came out of the bathroom.

“Excuse me?” he asked. “What did you say?”

“Nothing,” she smirked.

“That wasn’t nothing,” he pointed at her as he sat down on the side of the bed and began to put his socks on.

“I was just commenting on the idea that Zaltaens often say that we have a suppressed sex drive compared to that of…” He spoke up. “Humans?” he asked. “Yeah.” He looked at her across the room still standing there in nothing more than her underwear which only served to excite him once again at the prospects of making love to her again. “I’ve often heard that about Zaltaens as well.” She was about to say something when he continued. “It’s also said that Zaltaens often think of humans as a bunch of sex-crazed lunatics.”

“That’s true.” She put her hands upon her hips. “I thought the same thing when I first came here to Mars. Everything about humanity seemed to focus on sex and it nearly gave me a heart attack. Everything from movies, to music, to fashion, and to the way people act had some kind of sexually charged theme to it when compared to Zaltaen culture where our sexuality was subdued.”

“But what do you think now?” he asked as he got up from the bed to put his pants on.

“Hmm,” she hummed, “as I’ve told you before, my society is generally very conservative and now that I’ve lived among humans for as long as I have, I’ve realized that the conservative attitudes have been weaponized against the people of Zalta.”

“I see,” he reached for his shirt, “that’s one way of looking at it.”

“What other way could there be?” she asked with an annoyed tone of voice as she put her hands on her hips yet again, which brought his attention back to her obvious feminine figure. She couldn’t believe that he was agreeing with the very people of Zalta that were keeping her, her parents, and others like her down.

She was about to ask him another question when he spoke up.

“Conservative values aren’t necessarily a bad thing.” He pointed at her with his index finger. “Sure, they can,” he put his hand down, “be bad if they’re weaponized against the people that they’re supposed to serve as versus being used as a way of keeping the people on a moral path such as what you mentioned.”

She reached up and rubbed her chin as she thought about what he had said, there was definitely some truth in what he had said. Many of Zalta’s conservative values definitely had a moral component to them but in recent centuries many in Zaltaen society, especially in the powerful Houses of Zalta, those conservative rules and values were being used as a hammer upon people like her and her family.

“With that being said, I do generally think that humanity has gone a bit too far in terms sexuality. Like you even said mere moments ago, everything about humanity seems to focus on sex be it movies, music, fashion, relationships, the way people act, etc. and I generally think that we’ve gone too far and that perhaps getting back to some kind of moral code might do humanity some good.”

“Yet,” she smirked, “you have no problems with me living with you, sleeping with you, being,” she slid her hands down her hourglass figure and down her shapely hips and thighs while she sashayed her hips thus once again bringing his attention to her feminine figure, “intimate with you. And not only that but you have no problems when I wear revealing outfits such as that one sundress you like or when I wear shorter skirts and low-cut blouses that show off my ample chest.

“In fact, you even enjoy it when I wear such outfits and don’t,” she pointed at him with her index finger, “sit there and try and deny it.” She was right about that, there was no way for him to deny that; he very much did like it him when she wore such outfits. “I even know about how you like it when I wear these.” She looked down and caressed her nylon-covered thigh at which he gulped; he had no idea that she knew that aspect of him. “Why do you think I often wear them?” He gulped. “With all of that being said, doesn’t this present a double standard on your behalf?”

He rubbed his chin in thought about what she had said.

“I get where you might think that way but remember,” he pointed at her with his index finger, “we are in a committed relationship. We’re not in some kind of fling here, we’ve both committed ourselves to the kind of relationship that we have together.” She nodded slowly as he had said that. “I mean think about it, you even claimed me as your lifelong mate as per Zaltaen cultural beliefs and I said yes; I said yes in that I accepted your claim on me.” She was about to say something when he continued. “And to this day, I take your claim on me very seriously and that I still believe in the promise that I made to you in that I’ll be your lifelong mate for now and until death do us part.”

She bit her lower lip as she thought about how he had said he was still committed to her.

“Hell, if we were to use some of the very old laws, we’d already be married in what’s referred to as a common law marriage.” He watched as her eyebrow rose. “However, those laws haven’t been used in centuries.”

“Oh,” she nodded slowly, “I didn’t think about it that way.”

“But enough about that, you better get dressed before the wardens kick us out.” Just then there was a knock at the door. “Speaking of the devil.” He chuckled. “However,” he leaned over to tie is shoes as he looked up, “I do have to tell you something so that you’re not blindsided when we get to my parents’ place.” She looked back at him as she took hold of her sundress that was hanging over the side of a chair.

“What is it?” she asked as she pulled her sundress over herself.

“Um,” he sighed, “there’s no good way to say this so I’m going to come right out and say it.” He paused for a moment. “My parents are, or rather, my family is… rather well off.” She simply stared back at him with a rather blank expression. “As you’ve probably have noticed, I generally don’t care about cost when we go out on dates.” She just stood there contemplating what that meant. “With that being said, my family has money. I wouldn’t say that we’re rich by any means, but we do live rather comfortably and as you’ve probably already seen, so does Amanda’s family.”

“Yes,” she bit her lower lip, “Amanda has a very nice house. She said that her father works for a company called Olympus Mons Drive Yards. Considering that it has the phrase drive yards in it, I’m going to assume that it has something to do with spaceships.”

“Yes, on both accounts.” He nodded. “Amanda’s father is the head of the fusion reactor design team for Fusion Dynamics which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Olympus Mons Drive Yards and reports directly to the CEO of Olympus Mons Drive Yards, Naomi Lang. As for my family,” he put his hand to his chest, “they also work for Olympus Mons Drive Yards. My father is Chief Systems Analyst and Developer overseeing much of the computer hardware and software that’s used aboard Space Force warships and like Amanda’s father, he also reports directly to the CEO. My mother, however, works as Naomi Lang’s executive secretary.”

“I see.” She thought about how his family was rich and powerful, much like how the powerful Houses of Zalta that kept people like her and her family down. And then the thought of why he, some rich kid from a well-to-do family, would want anything to do with some poor girl from Zalta crept into her mind. Was she nothing more than a charity case to him to make himself feel better about the wealth that he had? She was beginning to wonder if claiming Matt to be her lifelong mate was a mistake and that maybe her mother was right about humans.

“In fact, there’s nowhere the CEO goes while on company grounds without my mother being by her side.” She was about to say something when he came up to her and put his hands on her shoulders. “And I know what you’re thinking.” He came up to her and put his hands on her shoulders and looked into her beautiful purple eyes and smiled. “You’re thinking that I’m some kind of rich kid coming to the rescue of some poor girl from Zalta and that I see you as some kind of charity case.”

She closed her eyes as she sighed. “I’d,” she stuttered, “I’d be lying if the thought didn’t cross my mind.” She breathed in. “However,” she looked down at the floor, “I can imagine that if you saw me like that, you’d never have said yes to my claim on you to be my lifelong mate.”

“You’re right,” he got up from the bed and walked up to her to put his hands on her shoulders, “I wouldn’t have said yes, and I certainly wouldn’t have made the promise that I had made to you, and I certainly wouldn’t take that promise as seriously as I do. And not only that but I wouldn’t have wanted you to move in with me here in this dorm, I wouldn’t have wanted to share a bed with you, and I wouldn’t have wanted to be intimate with you either.”

“But why?” she asked as she put her hands to her chest. “Why me? What makes me,” she slapped her chest with the open palm of her hand, “so special? I’m but a poor girl from Zalta and you… you’re a rich kid. What have I done to deserve this? What have I done to deserve your love?”

It was clear to him that despite her outward appearance of self-confidence, deep down inside she felt inadequate compared to him.

“It’s one of the greatest mysteries of the universe,” he watched as she shook her head, “the mystery of why anyone falls in love with someone. It just happens.” He shrugged. “And I fell in love with you.” He took her into his arms once again and hugged her tightly. “I love you, Alyssia; I care about you, I care… for you.” He stood back and watched as her eyes began to tear up. “Come here honey.” He held his arms out to her.

She stepped forward and took him into his arms and buried her face in his shoulder as she began to cry against him.

“Shh,” he cupped the back of her head in the palm of his hand, “it’s alright. I love you and I always will.”

In that moment as she hugged him, she realized that she had everything she had ever wanted since coming to Mars to live with humans: true acceptance and, of course, love.

As she stepped back, he reached for a tissue and handed it to her. He was about to say something when there was another knock at the door. “Hurry up in there Matthew, I want to get out of here too you know.”

“God damn it,” he whispered, “great job at ruining a touching moment.” She, of course, chuckled. “Come,” he came up beside her and put a hand on her back, “let’s get going before the warden gets really pissed.”

“Yeah,” she turned to him and kissed his cheek, “I love you, Matthew.”

“I love you too, my love.” She smiled as he once again called her ‘his love’. “Come.” He reached for his door handle and sure enough, the warden was behind the door. “About time!” Jessie, the dorm’s student manager stood before them with her hands on her hips. “I’d like to get out of here too, you know!”

“Alyssia and I just had to talk about some stuff before we left.”

Jessie shook her head. “Just get going already!” she pointed off in the distance.

As they finished packing his car in the university parking lot, she half expected him to climb into the driver’s seat but instead, he climbed into the passenger seat and threw her the keys.

“Huh?” she hummed. “Why are you giving me these?”

“So that you can drive, silly.” He chuckled. “You can’t start my car without my keys. I’m going to let you,” he pointed at her with his index finger, “drive.”

“Aren’t you worried about me crashing your car?”

“Nope.” She watched him buckle his seat belt. “Hell, you’re a better driver than I am so come on.” He motioned for her to get into the car. “Let’s get going already, we have a long drive to the other side of Mars.”

She continued to protest. “You know that I only have a learner’s permit. Right?”

“So?” he shrugged as he reached for his door to close it, leaving her standing outside with his keys in her hand. “Come on, get on in already.” She watched as he once again motioned for her to get into the car.

She shook her head and sighed as she walked around to the other side of the car and climbed in and sat down in the driver’s seat.

“There we go. Now was that so hard?” he asked.

“Are you sure about this?” she asked, nervous about driving his car which from the looks of it was obviously expensive.

“Yes!” he exclaimed. “Now start the car and get going.”

“Alright,” she said as she reached for the dashboard and pressed the on button for the car at which car beeped indicating that the car was ready to drive. She looked both ways and slowly pressed the pedal that was referred to as the gas pedal even though the car didn’t run on gas; it ran on battery power.

“By the way, when we’re at my parents place, we’re going to work on getting you your real license.”

As they approached the front door of his childhood home, he waved his CAC near the card reader and the door lock clicked indicating that the door unlocked, he turned the handle to open the door. “Mom!” he shouted as he looked about and found nobody in sight. Alyssia, however, heard shoes upstairs on the second floor thanks to her enhanced Zaltaen hearing. “I’m home! And I’ve brought someone who I want you to meet.”

“Wow,” she whispered as she walked about the living room while looking at various things and eventually found a picture of two people who must have been his mom and dad: Marissa and William. She picked it up and looked at it at which he came up beside her. “This is their wedding photo.”

“Wow,” she whispered as she touched the glass of the photo frame, “your mom looks beautiful.”

“I know,” he put his arm around her, “that she does. That’s a photo,” he pointed at it in her hand, “of my mom and on their wedding day nearly twenty-four years ago.”

“I love her dress.” She touched the glass of the photo frame again. “Is this typical of human weddings?”

“Yeah.” He took hold of the photo frame from her and looked at it before putting it back on the mantle and turned back to her. “It’s typical of most human weddings. The bride, that would the woman,” Matt put his hand on her shoulder, “usually picks out a wedding dress that fits her particular tastes while the groom, the man that is,” she nodded, “usually wears what’s known as a tux or tuxedo which is basically a very fancy looking suit.”

“I see.” She hummed. “So, eventually I’d have to pick out a dress that fits my tastes.”

“That’s right.”

“What’s this about a…” Matt looked up as he saw his mom walk down the stairs. “Oh my God.” Marissa put her hands to her mouth as she saw her son standing down at the bottom of the steps. “Aren’t you going to give your mom a hug after you haven’t seen her for so long?”

Matt, of course, stepped forward and allowed his mom to hug him. “God, it’s been too long.” She said as she cupped the back of his head with her palm and hugged him even tighter as she rocked him back and forth. “I’ve missed you so much.” She kissed the top of his head before letting go of him.

Alyssia, meanwhile, observed how Marissa was dressed and she was dressed much like she imagined an executive secretary would be dressed like for she often saw university faculty dressed much like she was. Marissa was wearing a white business skirt suit that appeared as if it wasn’t just bought in a store for it was too well-fitting for a suit that was simply bought off the rack because it looked like it was specifically tailor-made for her figure. And with said suit she was also wearing black tights and a pair of white high-heeled shoes that had a heel that was so tall that she had wondered how the older woman managed to walk in them. However, not only did she manage to walk in them she also made it look downright effortless; so much so that she looked like she didn’t so much as walk but float above the floor.

It was clear to her that from the way the older woman dressed she exuded raw confidence, professionality, and sexiness; she was everything that she hoped that one day she would be like after she graduated from the university program that she was enrolled in.

“Yeah.” He nodded against her shoulder. “It’s been too long.” He hugged his mom. “It’s been too long and yes; I’ve missed you too.” She let go of her son but not before sneaking in one more kiss on top of his head.

“And you must be Alyssia.” Alyssia nervously nodded as Marissa held her arms out to her. “Come here you.” She felt Matt’s hand on her shoulder gently pushing her towards his mother, at which Marissa took hold of her and hugged her. “It’s so good to finally meet you. Matt can’t stop talking about you, so much so that at some point last year, Emily, his sister, told him that he had to shut up.”

Alyssia, meanwhile, couldn’t help but feel overjoyed at how she had been embraced by Matt’s mother. So much so that she could’ve sworn that it felt as if she was being hugged by her own mother. She figured that no matter the species, a mother figure was a mother figure, and she could feel it in how his mother hugged her. She didn’t even know her, yet she was willing to hug her.

She could feel his mother let go but she didn’t. “Alyssia, it’s time to let go now.”

“Oh sorry.” Alyssia looked down at the floor as she let go of his mother. “It’s just that…” Marissa spoke up. “You have nothing to be sorry about Alyssia. We all need a hug sometimes.”

Marissa stood back and looked Alyssia over. “And now I know why my son talks about you so much.”

Mom!” Matt exclaimed. “Stop embarrassing me.”

“Oh, come on Matt,” Marissa laughed, “I’m just messing with you.” Matt, of course, rolled his eyes. “She’s a very beautiful young woman; I can tell you that.” Alyssia blushed. “Oh, but you are!” Marissa exclaimed. “The photos Matt showed us don’t do you any justice. Come.” Marissa put her hand on Alyssia’s back at which she once again felt a sense of calm come over her. “Come sit down. I’m sure that the both of you are tired from your long drive in.”

“Thank you, Mrs.…”

“Please,” Marissa interrupted her, “call me Marissa. If you’re going to stay with us here in this house, I want you to be comfortable calling me by my name.”

“Thank you, Marissa.” She nodded. “It has been a long drive.” She allowed Marissa to lead her to the couch where she sat down after which Matt sat down next to her. “Would you two like to have something to drink? I have lemonade and iced tea in the fridge.”

Matt looked at Alyssia. “Sure.” She shrugged. “Iced tea please.”

“Certainly.” Marissa nodded slowly and disappeared into the kitchen.

As the door to the kitchen closed, Alyssia turned to Matt. “Your mother seems nice. I was nervous about meeting her, but she put that nervousness to rest when she hugged me.”

“Why were you nervous?” He took ahold of her hand and gently squeezed it. “I told you that she’d be fine with you. Besides, you heard her… I told her so much about you. She kept asking me when she’d finally be able to meet you,” he caressed her nylon-covered thigh, “that’s why I wanted you to come with me. I knew things would be OK just like how it was when you stayed with Amanda at her house.” Just as he said that Marissa came back into the room with two glasses in hand. “There you go you two.”

Alyssia took a sip of the iced tea and took another sip, this time a much larger sip. “Thank you.” She looked at Matt and he nodded as well. “Thanks mom, the iced tea really hit the spot.” He looked about the room. “Where’s my sister? I was hoping to be able see her.”

“She’s at the neighbor’s house.” Marissa thumbed over her shoulder. “She’s babysitting for a couple that’s not unlike the two of you.” She could see how her son wanted more. “Not long after you went back to class, a couple moved in right next door; a Human man and a Zaltaen woman. They have a small child together.” She saw Matt’s face brighten up. “They have a beautiful young daughter.” She looked at her chronometer on her wrist. “It’s 1600 hours14 PM. so that means that she should be back soon.”

Just then, there was a beep at the door and the sound of a mechanical lock unlocking itself and in stepped Emily. “Hey there mom…” she didn’t finish the sentence for the next thing that happened was that Emily screamed much to Alyssia’s dismay because of her enhanced Zaltaen hearing. However, she couldn’t fault her for screaming like that; she knew that if she were in Emily’s shoes, she’d probably do the same thing with her own sister.

Matt!!!” she screamed. “You’re back!” Matt quickly stood up from the couch and caught his sister up in a bear hug. “I’ve missed you so much!” Emily continued to hug her brother.

Meanwhile, Alyssia looked on; it was obvious to her that the two of them had a rather strong sibling bond much like she had with her own sister back on Zalta. Watching them hugging each other brought back memories of her hugging her own sister back to the forefront of her mind and it made her realize just how much she missed her own sister. She closed her eyes and tried to fight back tears of her own but in the end, failed.

Marissa looked at Alyssia as she closed her eyes and saw tears running down her cheeks. “What’s wrong honey?” She reached Alyssia’s hand and took a hold of it. “Is something wrong?” Again, Alyssia was astounded that Marissa, much like Matt acted towards her back when she had first met him, was so kind and gentle towards her even though she had only first met her.

“I’m sorry, it’s just that,” she looked away from Matt and Emily, “watching the two of them hug each other like that reminds me about how much I miss my own sister back on Zalta. I’ve not seen her and my parents since I first came here to Mars.” She felt Marissa squeeze her hand. “Great Maker,” she whispered as she squeezed her eyes shut to try and stop the tears, “I miss them so very much.”

“Aww,” Marissa patted Alyssia’s hand, “I can only imagine how much you miss them. Is your sister younger than you?” Alyssia nodded. “How long since you last talked to them?”

“Nearly a two and a half years ago,” Alyssia watched as Marissa’s mouth opened, “back when I first came here to Mars.” Marissa was about to ask why when Alyssia continued. “You see, my family is quite poor, they can’t afford to come here to Mars. I wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for the lottery that my parents sacrificed so much to enter me into to have a chance at a scholarship from the University of Olympus Mons. My parents wanted me to have a chance at a better life than I’d ever have back on Zalta. There’s very little opportunity on Zalta to be anything more than where you start off, hence why I’m here.

“God,” Marissa whispered, “I can’t even imagine how much you miss them.”

Marissa watched as Alyssia reached up and wiped her eyes and the look that was on Alyssia’s face broke her heart. She couldn’t imagine how much it hurt her to not be able to talk to her parents and due to her job at Olympus Mons Drive Yards as an executive secretary, she knew just how much it cost to place even a five-minute video call to Zalta since they weren’t yet connected to the Human Federation Galactic Internet.

“But Matt has been there for me when I needed him the most; when I feel …” Marissa reached for Alyssia’s knee. “Say no more, I know what you mean.” Marissa patted Alyssia’s knee. “And I’m happy to know that my son is there for you when you need him the most.” She looked up at her son who was still talking to his sister. “I’m very proud of my son, he’s grown up to be a wonderful young man. A caring young man.”

“I’d have to agree with you on that.” Alyssia looked up at Matt and then back at Marissa. “You know,” she happily sighed, “when I first came here to Mars, I knew nobody. I had nothing; I barely had anything but the clothing on my back. The first person I met was Amanda.” Marissa nodded because she knew who Amanda was; she was a good friend of Matt’s. “She welcomed me into her dorm room, and she even took me to breakfast with her. And that’s not all, when she heard that I had a, as she put it… a piss poor tour of the campus, she offered to take me on proper tour while allowing me to ask any question that I wanted.

“Later that night she insisted that I go with her to an on-campus party. I really didn’t want to go since I had no idea what I was doing when it came to socializing with humans, but she insisted that I go with her. It was there that I met your son. When I first met him, I never imagined that I’d fall in love with Matt, let alone any human for that matter. Yet, here I am,” she looked up at Matt and then back at Marissa, “and I’m in love with him. As he’s told me so many times in the past,” she looked down at her lap and closed her eyes, “I can’t imagine my life without him. He’s been there for me in ways that I never imagined.”

“You know,” Marissa reached for Alyssia’s knee, “I’m very happy to hear that my son has made such a positive impact on your life. And yes, I can see that you love my son.”

Meanwhile, Emily smiled. “You seem happy.”

“I am.” Matt nodded. “I am happy, happier than I’ve ever been in my life, and I have to say,” he breathed in deeply as he turned to Alyssia and extended his arm in the air, “that Alyssia has been a big reason why.”

“Alyssia?” Emily asked as she looked past him and saw a young Zaltaen woman sitting on the couch across from where her mother was sitting. “About time Matt brought you here so I can meet you!” She held her arms out at which Alyssia stood up from the couch after which Emily caught her up in a hug. “You should’ve been here this time last year,” Emily stood back, “Matt couldn’t shut up about you. It was always Alyssia this and Alyssia that. At one point I had to tell him to shut up already.”

Matt laughed as he looked at Alyssia. “See what I mean?” He laughed again. “I told you that they had to tell me to shut up about you.” Alyssia, meanwhile, smiled at the thought that he always had her on his mind.

“So alright you two,” Emily sat down on the couch next to Alyssia, “I have got to hear about how the two of you met.

“Well,” Alyssia began, “Matt and I initially met at a party that a couple of friends of Amanda were throwing at which the two of us met. From that that evening on, we did a lot of things together. We’d often go out to the movies, go out and have breakfast or lunch together, go to the university café together… that kind of stuff. However,” Matt spoke up, “because I knew that Zaltaens didn’t have a concept of dating in their culture, I never called it dating to not scare her or push her away. First and foremost, I wanted to be her friend at a time in her life that she needed one the most.” Alyssia spoke up and continued where Matt left off while Emily and Marissa looked at each other knowing exactly what they were talking about. “However, a lot of people often told me that that was the kind of stuff that people often did on dates.”

“I think it’s rather sweet that the two of you started off as friends and eventually became a couple.” She looked at the wedding photo on the mantle. “That’s how William and I started out as, we were friends long before we,” she put her hands up and made an air-quotes gesture, “officially started dating each other. In fact, I think that’s what’s made our marriage endure; we’re friends first, husband and wife a close second.” Emily continued. “Not only that but that’s how things started out with Kalas and I.”

“Kalas?” Alyssia asked. “That sounds like a Zaltaen name.”

“That’s because Kalas is,” Emily put her finger up, “a Zaltaen. He first came to my school about a year and a half ago, and as you can probably imagine… nobody wanted a thing to do with him. There he was sitting at a lunchroom table all by his lonesome and I could tell that he was quite lonely. My God,” she closed her eyes as she pictured the scene in her mind, “he just looked so lonely all by himself. Add in how others often made fun of him because of his blue hair and pointed ears saying that he looked like something straight out of our science fiction novels, and it was even worse for him. Everyone was making his life miserable. And the bitch of it all is that he was just trying to fit in, and nobody even gave him a chance.

“I walked up to his table and asked if he’d like someone to sit with him at his table. He, of course, looked up at me and I could tell that he had been silently crying but he insisted that he wasn’t, but I didn’t buy it one bit. I knew he had been crying but tried like hell to hide it from others around him. I asked him again if I could sit down at his table and he nervously said yes.

“It took him about a week to come to trust me and to open to me after the initial encounter with me, but I don’t blame him, if I had been treated… or should I say, mistreated like he had been,” she shrugged, “I’d be distrustful of others as well. We quickly became friends and hung out with each other every chance we could get even though others tried to convince me to stay away from him because of what he was and where he came from. We, like you, eventually started dating and yes,” Emily nodded, “I knew that Zaltaens didn’t have a concept of dating, so I started off with rather simple things. We’ve been dating for the last six months.”

“You know,” Alyssia spoke up, “I really do wish that more humans were like you and of course,” she looked at Matt and patted his knee, “my Matthew.” She turned back to look at Emily. “A lot of us have come here to human worlds to try and make a better life for ourselves but a lot of humans have made it difficult for us to do so.” Emily was about to speak up when Alyssia continued. “I know, I get it,” she looked down at her lap, “a lot of humans are distrustful of Zaltaens because of what we did namely hiding among humans for as long as we did and how we lied to all of you. It was wrong of us to do so but those of us who are like me and, of course, your Kalas, weren’t responsible for those decisions.” She looked back up as she felt Matt’s hand on her thigh. “It’s not like we had any say-so in the matter. We’re victims of the fact that we’re Zaltaens. We didn’t ask for this to be on our shoulders, all we ask for is a chance to make a better life.”

“I get it,” Emily reached forward and touched Alyssia’s knee, “I understand. I understand because that’s what Kalas told me, that’s what his family told me when I was invited to their home one evening to sit down and have dinner with them. You have no idea how elated they were to see a human who was willing to put aside our obvious differences along with potential distrust and simply give them a chance. They were also happy to hear that I had wanted to be their son’s friend. I’ve since been invited back numerous times to sit down and have dinner with them.”

“Oh, I know how that feels all too well.” Alyssia sighed. “My Matthew did the same with me in how he showed me acceptance right from the beginning. Today? I don’t know what I’d do without him in my life. He’s been there for me in ways I never imagined, in ways I never thought possible.” She began to tear up at which she felt Matt put his arm around her. “As I told Marissa earlier, I miss my parents and my sister on Zalta very much and Matt has been there for me in my loneliest times.”

“Aww,” Emily cooed, “I’m happy to know that my brother was there for you when you need him the most.”

“Me too.” She looked down at his hand. “He’s been great.” She looked back up at him at which he nodded.

“Anyways, I have to start getting dinner ready if we’re going to be eating any time soon.” Matt watched his mother stand up from her chair. “You three can continue talking with each other if you want to, don’t let me stop you.”

“Anyways,” Alyssia continued as watched Marissa walk off to the kitchen, “as for you and your relationship with Kalas, if you really want to pursue a relationship with him,” she pointed at her to add emphasis to the conversation, “you as the woman in the relationship, will have to put far more effort into the relationship than you’re probably used to. As I understand it, human men take the lead in relationships however in Zaltaen society, women take the lead. You’re going to have to put a lot of work into reassuring him that it’s OK for him to do certain things with you and that you don’t mind if he does. You’re essentially going to have to work against centuries of programming that all Zaltaen men have had drilled into their heads.”

Oh!” Emily exclaimed. “Kalas has already become a lot more comfortable than he was when I first met him. For instance, take last weekend… We went out on a date together and as we were paying each other our goodbyes for the night, he put his hand on my shoulder, and it was like time slowed down. He moved in closer and the next thing I knew our lips met.

“Oh, I could tell that he was nervous as all hell but as I put my hand on the back of his head, I could tell that he became much more confident in said kiss. As the kiss ended, he looked into my eyes and asked me if it was alright that he had kissed me. I, of course, told him yes; yes, that it was alright that he had kissed me and that I had been waiting for some time for him to do just that.

“You should’ve seen the look on his face when I had told him that, he was elated I tell you!” They both chuckled. “Since then, he’s gotten even more comfortable with things like that.” Just as she said that Alyssia heard the click of the front door lock. “I believe that someone’s at the door.”

Both Emily and Matt looked up as William, their father, walked in the door.

“Marissa! I’m home!” He looked about the room and as his gaze fell upon his son, Matthew sprung up from the couch. “Matthew!” He shouted, much to Alyssia’s dismay, but decided not to bring it up. “You’re home!” He ran up to his father and he caught him up in a bearhug. “I’ve missed you.” He hugged his son tightly again. “When did you get in?”

“Just about,” he winced as he heard a bone pop in his back, “an hour ago.” Admittedly, the bone that popped in his back did relieve some stress in his back but still. “Dad? Can you let go? I’d like to be able to breathe.”

William let go of his son and stepped back and that was when he saw Alyssia sitting on the couch. He had to admit that she was quite stunning.

“About time I finally meet the Alyssia that my son couldn’t shut up about last year.” Matt chuckled. “It’s good to finally meet you.”

“Likewise.” Alyssia smiled. “I’m happy to see that I’ve been welcomed into your home.”

“Oh, you’re more than welcome here. I do have to ask,” he asked as he sat down across from the two of them and next to his daughter, “how long have you two been together? Matt has never told us how long you’ve been together although,” he looked at how his son was resting on Alyssia’s thigh, “from how the two of you are sitting together, I’m going to assume that you’ve been together for some time now.”

“You would be right.” Matt answered. “Alyssia and I have been dating for nearly a year now however,” Alyssia spoke up, “we’ve been together for longer than that. We were friends long before we officially started dating. I’d like to say that that’s the reason why our relationship has been so successful, we were friends long before we became a couple.”

“That’s how your mother and I started out as.” William pointed at the wedding photo. “We were friends at work for nearly two years before we both decided to get married. We thought the same way the two of you think,” he pointed at Matt and Alyssia, “our friendship with each other ultimately made our relationship and subsequent marriage stronger. Not only are we friends but we’re in love as well.” He looked up at his wife as she stood over him as she handed him a glass of beer. “Isn’t that right, my love?”

“Yes, it is,” Marissa rubbed her husband’s shoulders, “and to add to how William said that we both wanted to get married, I was the one that proposed to him; I asked him to marry me.”

Alyssia looked up as Marissa had said that. “But I thought that among humans, men are traditionally the one to ask the woman to marry them.”

“Yes,” Marissa looked up from William’s gaze, “human men do normally ask women to marry them but that’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with a woman asking a man to marry them. Humanity has largely gotten over such sexist ways of thinking. It’s accepted far more so than in the past.” Alyssia nodded. “Besides,” William spoke up, “it’s not like I wasn’t going to ask her; she just got to it first. I even had the ring to ask her, she simply asked me first.”

“What happened?” Alyssia asked. “That is, if you don’t mind me asking.”

“We were sitting at the table in our favorite restaurant and I, of course, had the ring that I was going to propose to Marissa with. The only thing was, I didn’t know that she was going to ask me as well.” Marissa spoke where William left off. “Like William said, I had plans to ask him to marry me as well and like him, I too had the ring that I was going to propose to him with.”

“So, what happened?” Alyssia asked.

“We both had a good laugh about it,” Marissa said as she looked over her husband’s shoulder, “and then we, of course, exchanged engagement rings. I got the ring that he bought, and he got the ring that I bought. Six months later, we got married. Isn’t that right, my love?” William reached up and touched his wife’s hand that was on his shoulder. “But why all these questions about engagements, weddings, and marriages Alyssia?”

“No reason.” She lied and she had hoped that Matt’s parents would believe that lie because she didn’t want to freak them out with the fact that she had already claimed Matt as her own and to be her lifelong mate. Emily, however, knew that she had lied; she, after all, knew much more about Zaltaen culture than her parents did.

“However,” Marissa rubbed her husband’s shoulders, “I do have to get dinner started. With that, is there anything you would like to have for dinner? Seeing as how this is your first evening in our house, name it and I’ll be happy to make it for you in honor of you being here with all of us.”

Alyssia thought back to an evening when she and Matt sat down in the campus café and they were having meatloaf, which was, as Matt said, a poor substitute for what his mother made. She remembered how he had said the meatloaf they were having, although decent, was nowhere near as good as the meatloaf that his mother made and that if she ever had the chance to have some, she had better take it.

“Matt told me about your famous meatloaf.” As she said that, Matt chuckled at which Marissa began to laugh. “I see Matt has been talking about my cooking.”

“That he has,” she looked up, “he’s told me that you’re a wonderful cook.”

“Well,” Alyssia watched as Marissa closed her eyes, “I don’t want to gloat, but I do know my way around a kitchen. But if meatloaf is what you want, I’d be more than happy to make it for you tonight.”

“Thank you,” Alyssia bowed her head, “it’s quite generous of you to offer to make it for me. Truth be told, I’ve kind of been looking forward to sample some of what Matt here,” she looked at Matt, “has said is some of the best cooking he’s ever had.”

“Aww,” Marissa cooed, “it would be no problem at all. But in the meantime,” she raised her head towards the stairs leading upstairs, “why don’t you take Alyssia upstairs and help get her settled in. I’m sure that she will need some help unpacking while William and I will get dinner started.”

“Yeah,” Emily stood up from her seat and motioned for her brother and Alyssia to follow, “come on.” She watched as Emily tried to pick up her luggage. “I’ll get it, it’s quite heavy.”

“So?” Emily asked as she looked back at the two of them just as they were about to climb the stairs. “Let me guess, you,” she pointed at Alyssia, “claimed my brother as your mate.” The look on both of their faces said it all. “Listen you two,” she held her hands in the air, “I don’t care. In fact,” she smiled as she watched her brother take ahold of Alyssia’s hand, “I don’t mind. It’s obvious that the two of you are perfect for each other.” She sighed as she closed her eyes. “I just hope that Kalas and I will have a similar kind of relationship that the two of you have together.”

“If you work at it, I’m sure you will.”

“I hope so.” Emily began to climb the stairs behind them. “Anyways, come… let me take you to your room Alyssia.”

“Um,” Matt cleared his throat, “I was planning on Alyssia staying with me in my room.” He watched as his sister stopped at the top of the stairs and turned around. “Oh, come on Emily, you…” His sister put her hand up to stop him. “Firstly, you’re two consenting adults and secondly, I don’t care what the two of you do behind closed doors. The only thing that I want the two of you to know is that my bed is right behind your wall so keep the screaming to a minimum. I’d like to be able to sleep at night.”

“We make no promises.” They said in unison after which they both laughed.

“Then am I to assume that you two are… you know.”

Matt was going to say something when Alyssia spoke up. “I honestly don’t think that it’s any of your business what Matt and I do behind closed doors.” She turned to Matt. “Isn’t that right, honey?” Matt nodded. “I’d have to agree with Alyssia on that, it’s none of your business what Alyssia and I do in the privacy of the bedroom. It’s just like how I know that you wouldn’t ask our own parents what they do in their bedroom. Right?” Emily cocked her head to the side in thought as she looked up at the ceiling. “Not that you would want to know what our parents are doing but that’s beside the point.” Emily chuckled. “Zaltaens are rather private when it comes to things like this and knowing that you’re dating a Zaltaen, I’d think that you’d know that.”

“OK,” Emily held her hands up, “sorry. I didn’t intend to offend you.”

“That’s alright.” Alyssia smiled. “No harm, no foul. Just remember, Zaltaens aren’t exactly as open to talking about things like this when compared to humans. Keep that in mind when dating Kalas.”

“I will.” With that Emily turned about and walked down the stairs leaving Matt and Alyssia standing outside of his bedroom.

“Well now,” he reached for his door handle, “welcome to my room.” He pushed the door open, and he stepped in. “The room in which I grew up.”

Alyssia stepped in and looked about the room. It was exactly as what she imagined it would be like, very much like his room back at the university. She walked over to his bed and sat down and laid back on his pillow and closed her eyes as she felt herself comfortably sink into the bed. Her moment of bliss was interrupted as she felt him lie down next to her and take a hold of her hand.

“So,” he began, “what do you think of my mom?”

She turned to him. “I can see why you insisted that I come with you. Your mom,” she sighed, “she’s lovely. Besides from you, I’ve never been hugged like that before. She’s wonderful. I didn’t want to let go. I guess that no matter what species you come from, a mother is a mother and motherly instincts are the same.”

Meanwhile, down in the kitchen, Marissa was putting the meatloaf into the oven. “God,” she stood back, “I hope Alyssia likes it.” As she said that, William came up behind her and kissed her neck. “I’m sure she will.”

“I hope so.” She walked over to the kitchen table and sat down and crossed her legs. “What do you think?”

“About what?” One look at his wife told him what she meant. “Oh, you mean about our son dating Alyssia.”

“What else could I be talking about?” She looked at her husband with a deadpan look on her face.

“Well,” he leaned against the kitchen counter, “if how they hold each other’s hands, how they smile at each other, and otherwise,” he chuckled, “can’t keep their hands off each other,” she too chuckled, “then they are very much like we were back when we were their age. Do you remember how we were back then? When we were twenty-four years old? Do you remember how I used to touch you? How it used to excite you?” He watched as his wife closed her eyes, smiled, and fondly remembered how they once were years ago. “Do you remember?”

“Yeah,” she sighed, “I do remember those days.”

“What happened to us? I miss that spark. What happened to it?”

He watched as Marissa, his wife, sighed, but this time not in a happy way like she had before. “We became parents, that’s what happened; we had children to raise, and we put our needs on the back burner of life.”

“I know,” he sighed, “but seeing our son and his girlfriend got me thinking that we should,” he knelt before his wife and caressed her nylon-covered thighs, “get away from it all. No kids, just the two of us. Somewhere nice, somewhere romantic.” He watched as his wife’s face lit up as she looked up at him. “It’s been so long that the two of us have just had some time to ourselves, time where we can have fun with each other, some time for some much-needed intimacy. A second honeymoon of sorts.”

“Wow,” she whispered, “what brought this on?” she asked while thinking about all the things that she would do with him in bed.

“Oh, I don’t know.” He smirked as he continued to caress her thighs, which she had to admit, it had been years since he had touched her like that, and she liked it; she even craved it. It was like a part of her had been woken up and she wanted more. She put her hands atop his and continued to caress her thighs with his hands. There was something about how he touched her made her feel young again and she wanted so much more and the idea of spending time alone with each other sounded better and better with the feeling of his mere touch.

“I just saw how our son and his girlfriend were and it made me think about what we’ve not had in a long time. You know…” He couldn’t finish that sentence for the next thing he knew, his wife stood up and caught him up in a hug the likes that of which he hadn’t seen or felt in years. She could feel how he was physically reacting when she pressed herself again him and reached down around his front. “My God,” he gasped as he felt her feel the length of himself inside his pants against her, “you’ve not done that in years.”

“I know.” He grunted as she wrapped her arms around him at which he could feel her firm breasts pressed up against his chest which made him want to reach down around her and fondle her still very firm and youthful backside. “I think it’s a great idea. And yes,” she kissed him and looked into his eyes, “we do need that.” She smiled and their lips met. “Where do you think we should go?”

“I’ve been thinking we should go to Sirius.”

“Oh wow,” she grinned, “you really have thought about this.” He nodded as he continued to touch his wife in ways that he hadn’t touched her in years, and he could once again feel himself experiencing the kind of exhilaration that he hadn’t felt since they had gotten married. “Make the plans.”

That was when Emily walked in on them in the kitchen and shielded her eyes. “Mom! Dad! Stop it already. You’re going to make me sick.” She ran out of the room.

Her parents laughed as they let go but not before William got one more surprise in, he reached for his wife’s backside and gave it a slight pinch as she walked away which caused her to yelp and nearly stumble out of her high-heeled shoes that she was still wearing with her business suit that she was wearing.

“You’re bad!” She wagged her finger at him. She turned around and walked away from him and as she had done so, he could’ve sworn that he had seen her put a little bit more sway in her hips to tease him. “Damn,” he whispered, “I miss that kind of stuff.”

“So.” Marissa said as she sat down and sensually crossed her legs while her husband looked on. “I’m thinking of doing Alyssia a favor.”

“Like what?” he asked as he looked at his wife from across the room while she was bobbing her foot up and down.

“Do you know if we still have that datalink to Zalta?”

“Marissa,” he pointed at her and changed his voice from that of a playful tone to a more serious tone, “what are you thinking about?”

“Since Alyssia hasn’t spoken to her family in so long, I’m thinking that maybe we can establish a video link to Zalta so that she could talk with her parents.” He rubbed his chin. “What do you think? I think that it would do her a lot of good. You should’ve seen her; she was in tears when she saw Matt and Emily hug each other after Matt had been at college for so long. Now imagine two and a half years like she has.”

“I feel for her,” he leaned against the kitchen sink counter, “I really do. I can’t even imagine how much she misses them but love, I don’t know.” He looked down at the floor. “You know as well as I do that that datalink is for official use only. And not only that but there’s only a few hundred megabits of bandwidth between here and Zalta and much of that is dedicated for scientific purposes. You know that, right?” She nodded. “I don’t know if it’s possible.”

“How long until the Galactic Internet link to Zalta is established?”

“Last time I checked on the project,” he looked up at the ceiling, “we’re having some difficulty because of a nebula that’s in between us and Zalta but we haven’t given up yet. That’s what’s taken so long to get the link established. If it weren’t for that pesky nebula, we’d have had that Galactic Internet link established a year ago.

“As of right now, we have a link but there’s severe packet loss and every so often, that packet loss reaches nearly fifty percent; that’s unacceptable for real-time communication. We’ve been able to establish a link via Alpha Centauri but it’s not exactly an optimal setup considering that it adds more latency than we’d like and not only that, but we’d have to increase the amount of bandwidth between the Sol system and Alpha Centauri to allow that link to handle all the traffic going to Alpha Centauri and the data traffic going to and from Zalta.”

“So next week?” she asked, hoping that would be true. A good part of her knew that it was probably not.

“Not by a long shot.” She looked down as he said that. “I can see that it means a lot to you that you’d like to give Alyssia this opportunity.”

“Of course, I do!” she exclaimed. “She misses her family. I saw the look on her face; she was crying, I tell you. I watched as the tears streamed down her face which as you know that’s rather unusual for a Zaltaen. She misses them so much. A video call would help lift her spirits tremendously.”

“I’ll see what I can do but I make no promises. Maybe Naomi can do something that I can’t, she’s the CEO after all; she’s got more pull than I do.”

“Yeah,” she picked up her datapad and dialed Naomi’s commlink ID, “maybe. I just don’t like asking her for anything. I’ve never asked for a favor in all the time that I’ve worked for the company. I rose through the ranks of the company based upon my,” she put her hand on her chest, “merits, and she knows it.” She held her datapad to her head. “Hello Naomi,” she began, “this is Marissa. I hope that I didn’t catch you at a bad time.” A second later she heard her voice. “Oh no, that’s alright. Is there something wrong?”

“Oh no,” she looked up at her husband who was leaning against the counter across the room, “I just need to ask you a favor.”

“It must be something important if you’ve come to ask me for a favor. You’ve never asked for anything in the time that you’ve worked for me.”

“I need a video link to Zalta.” There was a long pause. “Naomi?” she asked. “Are you there?”

“Marissa, that’s a tall request and you should know that. That datalink is used only for scientific purposes due to limited bandwidth. Why are you asking about this?”

“It’s for someone who Matt, my son, knows.”

“Matthew?” she asked. “How’s he doing?”

“He’s doing good, better than good really. He’s home from university on break and he has his girlfriend here staying with us and it just so happens that his girlfriend is a Zaltaen.” She could hear her humming from the other side of the call. “Her name is Alyssia and she’s not talked to her parents in over two years since she came here to Mars because her family can’t afford to call her and as you can probably imagine, she misses them so much. I was hoping that maybe you could establish a video link to Zalta so that she could talk with her parents; it would mean so much to her if she could talk to them.”

There was silence on the other side of the call.

“I’ll see what I can do but I make no promises. I’ll get back to you on this.”

“Naomi,” she paused, “it would mean so much to my son and her if she could talk to her parents.”

“I know that but again, I’ll see what I can do. Don’t get me wrong, I feel for this…” Marissa spoke up. “Her name is Alyssia.” Naomi spoke up again. “I feel for Alyssia, I really do; but it comes down to network resources.”

“I know,” Marissa sighed, “if you can’t, so be it; I’d understand. If you can’t, at least I can tell Alyssia that we at least tried. I know that it would go a long way to making her feel welcome here with all of us if I least tried.” She heard Naomi sigh. “Good night, sorry to bother you.” With that the call ended.

“What did she say?” her husband asked.

“She said that she’d try but like you said, it comes down to network resources and like you said, it comes down to the fact that the data link to Zalta is…” William spoke up. “Yes, it’s primarily used for scientific research and exchange with Zalta.”

“Hey,” he leaned forward, “at least you’re trying to help her.”

“I know,” she sighed, “I just wish that I could do so much more for her. Our son is being there for her the best that he can be and believe me, he’s doing a wonderful job, but family is family; you can’t replace family no matter how hard you try.”

“What’s this about family?” Emily asked as she walked back into the kitchen. “What are you two talking about?”

“We’re talking about trying to get a video link set up between here and Zalta so that Alyssia can talk with her parents back home on Zalta.”

“Ah,” Emily leaned against the kitchen sink counters where her father was standing, “I take it that it’s easier said than done.” Her mother nodded. “Yeah, I’ve heard from Kalas that communication with Zalta, even today, isn’t easy at all and is quite expensive. He’s got what we’d call grandparents on Zalta that he’s not talked with in months.”

“I know,” William patted his daughter’s hand, “that’s why we’re trying to make this happen but it’s like you said, it’s easier said than done.”

“What were you talking about?” Matt asked as he and Alyssia walked into the kitchen.

“Oh nothing,” Marissa said all while hoping that both her son and Alyssia would buy it, “we were just talking about her school. That’s all.” Both Matt and Alyssia looked at each other, they didn’t buy their excuse however, they didn’t want to press the issue. “Anyways, Alyssia and I are heading out to do somewhere while dinner is cooking. Is that alright?”

“Yeah sure,” Marissa looked up at the two of them, “just be back here by 1800 hours26 PM.. Dinner will be served around that time.”

“We promise.” Both Matt and Alyssia said in unison. With that the two of them walked out the front door.

“Now that they’re gone, we can continue.” Emily leaned against the counter again. “What do you think are the chances of getting that datalink to Zalta?” She watched her mother shrug her shoulders. “Great. That’s what I thought.”

Meanwhile, Alyssia looked at Matt as she took hold of his hand as they walked side-by-side much like they’d done for so long. “What do you think they were talking about?” Matt, of course, shrugged his shoulders. “I have no idea. Where do you want to go?” Alyssia was the one that shrugged her shoulders. “Remember, I’ve not been here to this part of Mars, so I have no idea. I figured that you had a plan.”

“Well, maybe since my parents are making dinner, I thought we’d go to the store and pick up a pie and some ice cream for dessert.” He looked at her. “Wouldn’t that be nice to have after dinner? I brought you along so that you can pick out the pie you want.”

“Sounds good to me, I’d love to have some pie and ice cream.”

Later that evening as the time came closer to 1800 hours36 PM., Alyssia and Matt were walking back to his childhood home. They were walking along when suddenly, a small child darted out from the inside of a house and ran out in front of them.

“Iryssia! Come back here!” A young Zaltaen woman shouted while running out of the same house that the child came out of. Matt froze in place as he saw the young Zaltaen child bolt out of the house. Alyssia, however, was quick to hand the bag with the pie and ice cream to Matt in order to sprint in front of the child and catch her up in her arms.

“Now why did you run away from your mother?” she asked in Zaltaen at which the young child looked at her confused after which she asked the young child the same question again in English at which it appeared that the young child understood.

“I saw you walking along, I wanted to meet you.” The child responded in an awfully cute high-pitched voice that was typical of a child of that age. “Who are you? Are you new here?”

“Iryssia,” the young Zaltaen woman said as she came walking up to them, “you should know better than to run up to strangers.” She held her arms out. “Come to mommy.” The young child squirmed in Alyssia’s arms at which she carefully let the child down and allowed the somewhat older, but young, Zaltaen woman pick her daughter up. “I’m sorry about that, Iryssia here is curious when it comes to new people. My name’s,” she put her hand to her chest, “Dalas.”

“That’s alright.” Matt spoke up. “But no, we’re not new here. I’m Matt, short for Matthew.” He pointed off in the distance. “My home is just three doors down.”

“Matthew?” The young Zaltaen woman asked. “Then you must be Emily’s older brother.” Matt slowly nodded. “Emily has told me so much about you, she’s told me that she misses you. Are you here for long?”

“Only three months.” Matt turned to Alyssia. “Alyssia and I are here on break from university, she’s staying with me at my parent’s house while we’re on break.”

“Then am I to assume that the two of you are together?”

“If you mean that Matthew and I are a couple, then yes… we are.”

“That’s great!” Dalas exclaimed. “It’s nice to hear of more humans being receptive to having relationships with Zaltaens.” She looked back over her back as James, her husband, came walking out the front door. “For instance, James and I have been together for nearly five years.”

“Five years?” Alyssia asked. “Then that means that you two were together back when Zaltaens were still under disguise among humans.” James came up beside his wife. “Yes, Dalas and I have been together that long. Though, when I first met Dalas, I knew her as Janet; that was her undercover name.”

Alyssia nodded; she had heard of many such stories from those who had come back from Human space. Some of them were like Dalas but others didn’t turn out quite so well.

“The day we had all received our orders to drop our disguises, I went over to see him at his house right here on Mars. I was so nervous about what was going to happen between us, but I didn’t want to, as humans say, ghost him because I knew he was developing feelings for me, and I was developing feelings for him as well. That made things very clear for me, he deserved to know the truth of who and what I really was.

“I walked into his kitchen since he had given me a key to his place. There he was, chopping up some carrots at the kitchen counter to make his famous beef stew and when he saw me walk in the door, he stopped to hug me, but I took a step back. He, of course, wondered why because I had always been so open to him hugging me in the past but this time, I was hesitant to do so.

“I told him there was something important that I needed to tell him so I told him that he probably should sit down. He did as I suggested, and it was then that I began to tell him that I wasn’t who he thought I was. He was, of course, confused and rightfully so but I told him to hold on and so that’s when I pulled something out of my pocket and pressed a button to turn off my optical camouflage that had been hiding my real identity.”

“There I was,” James began where Dalas had finished, “I watched as the young woman that I once knew as Janet disappear before my eyes and there, standing before me, was not Janet but Dalas as you see here. I mean yes, she looked like Janet except she was a Zaltaen.”

“What happened?” Alyssia asked. “That is, if you don’t mind me asking.”

“She began to tell me that she was an alien from another world that was sent by her people to live among humans and to gather intelligence on us. She went onto tell me how sorry she was for lying to me about what and who she was over the two years we had been dating at which she dropped to her knees and began to cry as she begged and pleaded with me to forgive her and that she had been under orders not to reveal anything about who and what she truly was and that she had developed feelings for me much like I had for her. I remember holding my hands out to her to help her to her feet and stood up and hugged her at which I welcomed her not as Janet but as Dalas into my life.

“That evening we had dinner together, my famous beef stew, and from that moment on, we began our life together. And to make a long story short, a year later we got married and six months later, Iryssia,” he looked down at the small child clinging to his leg, “came along and we’ve been happily married ever since.” Dalas looked down at her stomach and spoke up. “And as you can see,” she caressed her stomach, “I have another child on the way; a baby boy that we hope to welcome into our family a month from now. However,” she watched as Emily came walking over, “I believe that someone is trying to get your attention.”

“Hey you two!” Emily yelled as she came running up to them at which Iryssia ran up to Emily at which she reached down and picked the small child up. “Dinner is going to be served in like five minutes. Where have the two of you been?”

“I’m sorry Emily,” Dalas held her arms out to take Iryssia off Emily, “it was our fault. We got to talking. Tell your mom that it was my fault for keeping them for so long.”

“I will.” Emily smiled as she put the child back down on the ground. “Now run along back to your mommy and daddy.” Emily gave the child a little nudge. “Run along cutie pie.” Iryssia ran back to her dad at which he picked her up in his arms and kissed her.

“Maybe we can pick this conversation up at another time.”

“We would like that.”

“Come on you two, dinner is almost ready and I’m sure that you two don’t want dinner to get cold.”

As the two of three of them walked back into the house, Marissa looked up. “About time you two came back. Dinner is about to served.” That was when she saw that her son was carrying a pie and a tub of ice cream in his hands. “And you brought pie and ice cream! That’s wonderful.” She came up to her son and took ahold of the pie tin. “Yeah, Alyssia picked it out. She chose blueberry pie seeing as how she’s never had it before.”

“Yeah,” Alyssia sat down at the table, “I’ve had cherry, apple, and rhubarb pie but never blueberry before; that’s why when I saw it at the store, I had to have it.”

“Well then,” Marissa put the pie tin down on the table, “it was thoughtful of you to get some dessert for us all.” Just as she said that the sound of the timer in the stove began to beep. “And that’s the timer for the main course.” She turned back to her son and Alyssia. “Why don’t the two of you choose a wine to go with dinner.”

He looked up at his mom. “Alright mom.” He put a hand on Alyssia’s back. “Come my dear, let’s choose a wine that we all can have with dinner.”

“But I don’t know much about wine.” Alyssia complained. “I can’t imagine that I’d be of any help choosing something to drink.”

“That’s alright,” he chuckled as he patted her on her back, “neither do I. I’m much more of a beer and whiskey kind of person much like you have become yourself.” She looked at him out of the corner of her eye. “We’ll just choose something that sounds good.” She, of course, simply shrugged her shoulders. “That’s the spirit,” he approached the rather expansive wine rack that his parents kept and grabbed a bottle, “this here is some kind of flavored Moscato.” He examined the label. “Blueberry-flavored Moscato to be specific.”


“Uh-huh,” he hummed, “what do you think?”

“I guess so.” She shrugged her shoulders once again.

“Come,” he handed the bottle to her, “let’s get back to the table.” As he said that his sister called them. “Matt? Alyssia? Come to dinner.” Matt put his hand on her back. “Come, let’s get back to the table before my sister gets annoyed, and you don’t want to see that happen.”

As the two of them walked into the dining room, Matt and Alyssia saw everyone sitting at the table save for Marissa who was standing over the table. “Please,” Marissa motioned for them to sit down, “we’ve been waiting for the two of you.”

“Wow,” Alyssia looked down at the plate before her, “this is amazing. Thank you. Thank you so very much.” She was about to sit down when Marissa hummed. “Not yet, we in this family say grace before we eat.” She looked at her son, Matt. “Would you like to lead us in grace since you’ve not been with us in some time?”

Matt, of course, lowered his head and closed his eyes. “Dear Lord.” Alyssia looked around the table and they too lowered their heads and closed her eyes so she figured that she would do the same. “We thank you Lord for what we’re about to receive this day, but we especially thank you for the family that we have gathered here around this table.” She felt him take hold of her hand. “I’d also like to thank you for sending Alyssia my way.” She smiled as she heard him say that. “She’s enriched my life in ways that I could never have imagined, and I can’t imagine my life without her in it; please bless her and keep her safe.” He paused for a second. “Amen.” Everyone at the table uttered ‘Amen.’ Then there was a moment of silence. He looked up at Alyssia as he gave her hand a squeeze. “Is there anything you’d like to say Alyssia?”

Alyssia bowed her head. “Oh, Great Maker, we’re gathered here today in Your honor to give you thanks for everything and everyone that we have here at this table this day. Please bless and keep them safe. And as Matt said moments ago, I too want to give you thanks for him because as he said about me, I can’t imagine my life without him in it for he opened his heart to me and gave me a wonderful new life full of love, companionship, and whole new universe of possibilities that I never thought possible before I met him. Please bless him and keep him safe.” She then uttered a word that nobody (except for Emily) at the table understood but they imagined it was some kind of Zaltaen word that was used at the end of a prayer much like the word ‘Amen’ was used by them.

“Alyssia,” Matt interlaced his fingers with hers, “that was beautiful. Thank you. I really do appreciate your kind words for me.”

“Likewise, Alyssia.” Marissa smiled. “Please,” she pulled out a chair, “please take a seat.”

Alyssia looked at the plate before her. It had a more than generous helping of the meatloaf along with a sizable dollop mashed potatoes along with portion of green beans. She picked her fork up and looked around the table and it looked like everyone was waiting on her. She looked back down at her plate before her and used the fork to cut off a piece of the meatloaf and put it in her mouth.

As she tasted it, she closed her eyes and hummed. “Great Maker,” she whispered, “this is excellent.” She opened her eyes and looked about the table. “Now I know why Matt kept telling me that I had to taste his mom’s meatloaf.” Marissa, meanwhile, let out a deep breath when she saw that Alyssia reacted in approval. “It’s so much better than what we get on campus.”

“I should hope so!” Marissa exclaimed. “This is homemade.”

“I can tell.” Alyssia put another piece of the meatloaf in her mouth and hummed as she chewed it. “It’s amazing. Thank you.”

“It was my pleasure to make it for you and don’t be afraid to ask for more, we have a lot more where that came from.”

As they all finished dessert, Alyssia got up from the table and began to walk around picking up the dirty plates from around the table. When Marissa saw this, she spoke up. “Alyssia? What are you doing? You don’t have to do that, you’re the guest of the house.”

“While that may be true,” Alyssia picked up another plate and stacked them atop the other plate she had picked up moments ago, “among Zaltaens its tradition that the guest helps in the cleanup after a meal.” She looked up at Marissa as she picked another plate up. “After all, you have put so much effort into making dinner that it’s only right that I help in the cleanup.”

Matt was about to pick up a plate when his father, William, put his hand on his son’s shoulder. “Why don’t you let your mother and Alyssia take care of things? It’s been some time since we’ve had any father and son time.” Matt looked at her mother. “Go ahead son, Alyssia and I will take care of things. Go have some quality time with your father; I’m sure he will have something that he wants to show you.”

“It’s alright,” Alyssia took the plate from Matt, “go have some time with your father. I want to spend some time with your mother and your sister, Emily.” Emily looked up at the sound of her name. “Yeah Matt,” Emily spoke up, “go have fun with your father. Last I heard, he has a nice bottle of whiskey that he was saving for when you came home.” Matt looked at his father. “Yep, I have a very special Scotch that I’ve been saving just for this occasion.”

Matt walked off leaving his girlfriend with his sister and his mother.

“Come,” Marissa put a hand on Alyssia’s back, “come into the kitchen with Emily and I and we’ll help.”

As they finished up preparing to put the dishes in the dishwasher, both Emily and Marissa sat down at the table, folded their arms, and looked at Alyssia. Upon seeing how the two of them were looking at her, she instantly became nervous.

“Why are the two of you looking at me that way?”

“OK Alyssia, tell us the real reason why you were asking about marriages and weddings because your no reason answer,” Marissa made an air quotes gesture with her fingers, “doesn’t cut it.” She folded her arms across her chest. “You may be a Zaltaen but that doesn’t mean that I can’t read you like an open book. What’s your real reason?”

Alyssia walked across the room and sat down at the table. “Alright,” she folded her hands, “how much do the two of you know about Zaltaen culture?” She watched as Marissa shrugged her shoulders. “On Zalta, it’s tradition that a noblewoman of Zalta chooses who she wants in her life.” Marissa looked at Emily as Alyssia continued. “It’s the woman who chooses who she wants to have as her lifelong mate.”

“And let me guess,” Emily spoke up, “you chose my brother to be your lifelong mate.”

“Yes,” Alyssia looked down at the table while Marissa looked up at the ceiling, “I claimed Matthew as my lifelong mate. I may not be a noblewoman of Zalta, but I decided to claim Matthew as my mate.”

“And what did my son say?” Marissa asked as her gaze came back down to where Alyssia was sitting.

“He accepted my claim on him to be my lifelong mate. At first, he seemed a little hesitant and it made me think that I had made a huge mistake, but he accepted my claim on him.” She watched as Marissa looked at her daughter across the table. “He told me that he wants me in his life as much as I want him in my life.” She, of course, chose to leave out the conversation that they had had together back at the dorm.

“We know,” Emily reached for Alyssia’s hand, “we can see that.” Marissa spoke up. “Emily’s right.” Alyssia sighed. “It’s plain to see that the two love each other and I can’t imagine my son being with anyone better than you.”

It was then that Alyssia sighed and leaned against the table as she once again remembered how she nearly ruined things between them back at the dorm. “And to think that I very nearly ruined things between us.”

“How so?” Emily asked as she touched Alyssia’s hand.

“As I said before,” Alyssia looked down at the table in front of her and closed her eyes, “my family back on Zalta is poor. Dirt poor. We barely have a shack to protect us from the rain and here I am, with all of you in this,” she looked up and around the room, “fancy house.” She was about to continue when Marissa spoke up. “And you think that my son looked at you as if you were a charity case. Someone who he could save.” Alyssia slowly lowered her head as she once again thought about how wrong she was. “Alyssia.” She felt Marissa take hold of her hand. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Take it from me, Matthew’s mother.” Alyssia looked up. “My son is head over heels in love with you. I can see that in how he looks at you.” Marissa squeezed Alyssia’s hand. “There’s no mistaking what he feels for you. He loves you very much.”

“But what about…” Alyssia couldn’t finish the sentence. “Listen honey,” Marissa looked around the kitchen and then back at Alyssia, “do you think my husband and I always had this kind of life? This house?” Alyssia simply looked at Marissa and blinked her eyes. “When I first met William, I was a nobody at the company. I worked in the mailroom handling packages while William was an intern. An unpaid intern. We had been together for nearly a year and suddenly, Matthew came along. We didn’t have a pot to piss in, yet we had a child on the way. So yes,” Marissa squeezed Alyssia’s hand once again, “we know how it feels to come from nothing. We know how it feels to worry about whether we were going to have something to eat the next day all while we had a child to take care of. We were, as you say, dirt poor.”

Alyssia was about to say something when Marissa continued.

“Everything was going good for some time until a couple of years later, William was laid off. We didn’t know what to do, we nearly lost our house. We had a six-year-old child and Emily was about to be born. So yes Alyssia,” she squeezed Alyssia’s hand, “we know what it feels like. We’ve been there. Though we do have money,” Marissa continued, “we never flaunt it or lord it over others.”

“And not only that,” Emily spoke up, “Marissa and I want you to know that you’re welcome here anytime.” Emily reached for Alyssia’s hand. “And I know that you and I will get along great. Maybe you and I can go do stuff together while Matt does stuff with his father. You know, we can go shopping and we can go do other girl things that I’m sure that Matt would absolutely hate going along with.” Alyssia chuckled as Emily looked at Alyssia’s fingernails. “Have you ever had a manicure?”

“A manicure?” Alyssia asked. “What’s that?”

“It’s when women go and have their fingernails done.” Alyssia looked at Emily, still very much confused. “It’s when women get their fingernails trimmed and painted. That kind of stuff.” Emily looked up. “We can even get you a makeover. Imagine how Matt would react to a complete new you.”

Alyssia began to think. She knew what a makeover was, Amanda had tried to take her to have one done the year before when she had stayed with her.

“I think it would be a great idea!” Marissa exclaimed. “It could be a great way for the two of you to bond since if you and Matt do intend to get married,” Alyssia looked at Marissa, “and you can’t sit there and tell me that you don’t want to marry my son.” Alyssia bit her lower lip. “Yeah, I thought so; it’s plain as day. And since you will be marrying into our family, Emily will be your sister-in-law. I think it would be great for the two of you to get to know each other.”

“What about you?” Alyssia asked. “Will you come along?”

“I’ll try,” Marissa picked her datapad up and looked at it, “but if work calls like it so often does,” she rolled her eyes, “I have to cut and run at a moment’s notice.”

“I get it.”

That was when Marissa’s datapad chimed indicating that she had received a notification. She picked it up and looked at it, it was an email from Naomi. She opened the email and her face lit up.

“Mom?” Emily asked. “What’s up?”

“Alyssia,” Marissa reached for Alyssia’s hand, “I have a wonderful surprise for you.” Alyssia turned to her as she put her datapad down on the table and locked it. “Naomi, the CEO of Olympus Mons Drive Yards has granted my favor. Early Monday morning, you and Matt are to come with me to work and it will be there that you will have one half hour of access to the Zaltaen data net.”

What?!” Alyssia whispered as she clamped her hands over her mouth. She could hardly believe what she was hearing. “Are you saying that I’ll be able to video chat with my parents and my sister back on Zalta?”

“Uh-huh,” Marissa hummed. “That’s exactly…” She couldn’t finish for Alyssia practically threw herself at Marissa and caught her up in a hug. “Great Maker!” Alyssia exclaimed. “You have no idea what this means to me!” She hugged Marissa tightly, almost too tightly until she heard Marissa grunt in pain. “Oh, Great Maker,” Alyssia backed away quickly, “I’m sorry. I’m so… so very sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.” She looked down. “I didn’t mean to hurt you. It’s just that…” she felt Marissa take ahold of her hand. “It’s alright, I know you didn’t mean it; you just got caught up in the excitement of being able to talk to your family.”

“Yeah,” Alyssia whispered. She hung her head low and whispered once again. “But why?” She looked back up at Marissa with tears streaming down her face. “Why help me like this?” Her voice cracked as her emotions got the best of her. “You hardly know me. You just met me. Why help me like this?”

“Because honey,” Marissa leaned forward and reached for her knee, “when I heard that you haven’t talked to your family in over two years and I saw how much it hurt you, my heart broke for you.” She watched as tears continued to fall down Alyssia’s face. “Nobody should have to go without talking to their family for that long.” Marissa smiled. “Come here honey.” She stood up and held her arms open.

Alyssia nervously stood up from her chair and just as nervously walked up to Marissa at which Marissa took her into her arms and immediately upon feeling Marissa’s arms around her, Alyssia broke down crying in her arms. Upon seeing her, Emily jumped up from her chair and joined in on the hug.

“There, there honey.” Marissa rubbed Alyssia’s back. “It’s alright, I have you.”

Meanwhile, William put a hand on his son’s shoulder and led him down the hall to his den. As they approached the door, Matt stopped, and William looked back. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s just that this is your den, your private den. You’ve never let me into your inner sanctum, your Fortress of Solitude, before.” William chuckled at how his son used a Superman reference. “Why now?” he asked. “What makes things different now?”

“The difference is before you were a child.” William patted his son’s back rather hard which made him cough for he didn’t expect that. “Now you’re a man.”

Matt smiled as a sense of pride came over himself. He was a man now.

“Come.” Matt watched as his father opened the door to his den. “Come in.”

He, of course, welcomed his father’s invitation into his private den and looked about the room. It was everything that he thought his father’s private room would have including what looked like two large chairs, a large bookcase, a desk with an office chair situated behind it, and what looked like to him was a fully stocked bar based upon his experience of seeing bars in restaurants.

“Please,” William motioned for his son to sit down, “take a seat son.”

Matt looked about the room once again and sat down in one of the two large seats in the room and as he sat down, he sank into it. He let out a sigh of contentment and closed his eyes as he sat back. As he had done so, he heard two heavy glasses get put down on a table, not unlike the two heavy glasses that he and Alyssia had used some time ago when they shared a special bottle of Scotch together. That was quickly followed up by the squeak of a cork being pulled out of a bottle followed by the sound of a bottle clanking against a glass.

“Here son.” Matt opened his eyes and saw his father hand him a glass. “Have a drink with your father.”

Matt reached up and took the glass from his father’s hand and carefully sniffed the glass, there was no mistaking that there was bourbon in the glass.

“What kind of bourbon is it?”

“Jefferson’s Reserve Twin Oak.”

Matt nodded as he once again sniffed the glass.

“Thank you.” Matt put the glass to his lips and took a small sip of the bourbon and was immediately impressed. “Wow,” he took another sip, “I’m impressed.”

“You should be.” William sat back. “I’ve been saving it for a special occasion.” Matt took another sip. “And that occasion is now. I’ve been saving it for the moment my son became a man.” He watched as a smile came across his son’s face at the idea that his father thought of himself as a man. “You’ve become a man son. And how do I know that?” William asked. “You’ve taken it upon yourself to want to build a life, to build a legacy with someone you love.” William looked at the glass of bourbon in his hand. “My father did the same with me back when I told my father that I wanted to marry your mother. Now I’m doing the same with you.”

Matt was confused. “But I haven’t said anything about wanting to marry her.”

“You didn’t need to.” Matt looked down at himself as his father said that about him, it was like his father was reading his thoughts. “I know you, you’re my son; I can see how much you care about Alyssia just from how you act around her, how you look at her. It’s the same way I looked at your mother back when we were your age. And you do want to marry her. Right?”

Yes!” he exclaimed and then looked down into his still filled glass of bourbon. “I do indeed want to marry her. Obviously,” he looked back up at his father, “not right now,” he laughed, “we both have two or three more years of schooling to do before we get married.”

“Obviously.” William nodded. “I’m happy to know that you realize that school has to come first for the two of you if you two indeed want to get married.”

After talking with his dad and drinking some more bourbon with him, Matt walked out of his father’s den and up the stairs to his bedroom and as he walked into his bedroom, he found Alyssia already lying on his bed. “Hey there Alyssia,” he walked over to his bed and crawled atop the bed and was about to kiss her when she noticed that she had been crying. “What’s wrong?” She sniffled. “What happened? Why have you been crying? Did my mother or my sister say something wrong?”

“It’s just that…” He was about to storm out of the room when she called after him. “Matt!” He stopped in his tracks. “It’s nothing like that.” He turned around. “It’s nothing like that at all.”

“Then what happened?” he asked as he put his hands upon his hips. “I want to know if they said something that hurt you.”

“As you know, I’ve not been able to talk to my family back on Zalta for over two years. Your mother offered me the…” She watched as he jumped onto the bed. “Oh my God,” he exclaimed as he jumped atop her and hugged her tightly, “I’m so happy for you. I know what it means for you to be able to talk to them.”

“I know,” she looked up into his blue eyes as she wrapped her arms around him, “your mother offered me the ability to talk to them. She apparently pulled in a favor from someone who she works for at where she works.” She picked her head up off the pillow and was about to kiss him when she smelled alcohol on his breath. “Wait. Have you been drinking?”

“Um,” he licked his lips as he looked down at her beautiful purple eyes, “yeah, I have been. My father gave me a glass of bourbon while we were talking.”

“Ah,” she sighed, “I certainly hope you’re not too drunk.”

“Nah,” he scoffed, “I only had a little bit; not too much. I’m good.”

She sighed. “Matt?” She looked up at him as he lay atop her. “I want you there with me when I talk to my parents and my sister.”

“But I thought you said that they…” She reached up and touched his lips thus stopping him mid-sentence. “I know what I said but I still want you there. I want you there as moral support but most importantly, I want you to be there with me so I can tell them about you,” she smiled, “about us. I want them to know about us, how we’re together.”

“OK.” He closed in for a kiss. “I’ll be there for you, I promise.”

“Now, do you have any of that bourbon that you had with your father?”

“How do you know what kind of whiskey that I had?”

“Duh,” she laughed, “I have an enhanced sense of smell. I can tell that you had,” she took another sniff, “I believe it was something by Jefferson’s Reserve.”

“Wow,” he began to laugh, “that nose of yours amazing.” She laughed as he put her head down atop her ample chest as if it was a pillow and felt her arms around him. “I’m happy you came with me.”

“Me too.” She kissed the top of his head. “Your mother is amazing.”

“Yeah,” he sighed, “that she is. And she’s an even better mom.”

“Yeah, that she is.” She sighed. “She reminds me of my mom.” She heard him yawn. “Oh, come now… don’t be like that.” He picked his head up off her chest. “You promised me that we’d have sex tonight.” He began to laugh as he sat up and began to take his shirt off while she began to undress herself.

Meanwhile in William and Marissa’s bedroom, Marissa picked her head up off the pillow as she heard Alyssia’s voice scream Matt’s name. “What was that?” She turned to William. “I heard Alyssia’s voice.”

William began to laugh. “I do believe that our son is having some… shall we say, fun with his girlfriend.” He moved over onto his side and touched his wife sending a chill up her spine. “Something that I hope one day you and I will be able to do again.”

“Ooh,” she cooed, “I like the way you think.”

Emily, however, didn’t take it as well as William and Marissa did, for she banged on the wall behind her bed. “Will you two cool it down in there?!” She banged on the wall again.

The next morning, at around 1030 hours410:30 AM., Matt opened his eyes to see Alyssia staring back at him with those oh-so-beautiful purple eyes of hers that he often found himself lost in.

“Good morning, Matt.” She caressed his naked chest. “Did you sleep well?”

“With you, I always sleep well.” She smiled as she closed in for a kiss. “I love you, Alyssia.” As he said that, their lips met, and she put her head down on his chest as he kissed the top of her head.

“What do you have planned for the day?” She looked up at him.

She closed his eyes as he thought, there were so many things to do now that they didn’t have to worry about going to class, doing homework, and other such school-related things. They had the time to have some fun and he wanted to show her all the things that they could do in the town that he had grown up in.

“First, I was thinking that the two of us would go for breakfast at a nice little diner a little way away that my friends and I always went to before class back when I was still attending high school here.” She nodded; she very much liked the idea. “And then maybe we can visit the Mars Botanical Gardens. I heard there’s a new exhibit they just put together that showcases a variety of plants and flowers from Zalta.”

“Wow,” she whispered, “that sounds nice.” She caressed his naked chest once again. “I’d be nice to see a little of home.”

“I know, that’s why I thought it would be a nice thing to do with you.” He kissed the top of her head again. “And then maybe we can go out for dinner together though it will be a bit of a drive.” She shrugged. “The place I want to go is on the other side of the planet.”

“That’s alright, sounds good to me.”

“Well now,” Marissa looked up as her son came down the stairs and into the living room, “about time,” she looked at her chronometer on her wrist, “the two of you got up. You two have been asleep for hours.”

“Yeah well,” he reached up and rubbed the back of his head, “Alyssia and I needed some sleep. We were up since 0500 hours55 AM. the previous day.” He watched his mom gulp. “What are you up to?” He looked his mother over and saw that she was dressed to go to work. “Where are you running off to? I thought you had the weekends off.”

“Work.” She reached for the front door. “There’s,” she looked back at her son, “an emergency board meeting that I have to attend.” She looked down at her waiting high-heeled shoes and slid her nylon-covered feet into them. “It won’t be too long,” she closed her eyes and sighed, “I hope.”

“Well,” he shrugged, “Alyssia and I plan on getting some breakfast together and then visit the Mars Botanical Gardens.” He watched as his mom nodded. “They have a Zaltaen plant exhibit that I want to go see with her.”

“That sounds nice.” She reached for the front door. “Go run along with your girlfriend and have fun.” With that she walked out the door leaving Matt standing in the middle of the living room all by himself until he heard footfalls coming down the stairs. He looked over to the stairs and saw Alyssia walking down the stairs wearing a purple-colored blouse, a short, pleated miniskirt, along with a pair of boots and what looked like the same pair of nylons that she was wearing the day before with her sundress.

“Wow,” he watched her descend the stairs, “you look wonderful.”

“Was that your mom leaving?” She asked as she came up to Matt and as she walked up to him, he put his arms around her and hugged her as he breathed in the scent of her perfume. “I thought you said that she has the weekends off.”

“I did,” he said as he fondled her shapely backside, “however she said that she had some kind of emergency board meeting to attend.” As he said that, Emily walked in from the kitchen. “You know, I heard you two last night.” She pointed at Alyssia. “I heard your scream loud and clear right through my bedroom wall.”

“Sorry.” Alyssia blushed. “I didn’t mean to; it’s just been a while since…” Emily held her hand up. “That’s alright, I accept your apology. However,” Emily pointed at Alyssia again, “just don’t make it a habit. OK?” Alyssia shrugged. “That’s all I ask. Anyways,” she looked Alyssia over again, “I like your outfit, it really looks good on you.”

“Thank you,” Alyssia looked down at herself and tugged at one of the pleats of her skirt and then back up at Emily, “as I told you last night, Amanda has been a big help in regards of helping me blend into human society. This is such an outfit that she helped me pick out last year.”

“And later today after I’m done babysitting little Iryssia, I’ll take you out shopping. But in the meantime,” Emily reached for the door, “I’ve got to get going.” She opened the front door and was about to walk out when she turned back to her brother. “Have fun with your girlfriend.”

“We will.”

As the two of them walked into the diner, he immediately recognized a friend of his from back in the day. “Jen?” Matt called out to her hoping that she would recognize his voice.

“Matt?” she asked as she turned around at the sound of her name. “Matt!” she exclaimed. “Oh my God!” Matt held his arms out as she ran up to him. “How the hell are you?”

Alyssia watched as Jen wrapped her arms around her boyfriend. At first, she was rather jealous and what Zaltaen woman wouldn’t? After all, Zaltaen women knew not to mess with another woman’s chosen mate; it just was the way things were done. Yet as she watched the two of them hug each other, there was nothing in that hug; at least, not when compared to the hugs that she often shared with Matt. There was nothing intimate or sexual about that hug, it was simply a hug between two long-time friends.

“How have you been? I’ve not seen you since,” she backed away from him, “hell, I think it was graduation that we last saw each other. Wow,” she looked him over, “university life has treated you well, I hardly recognized you.”

Just then another person came up and slapped Matt on his back. “Hey man! Look what the cat dragged in!” Alyssia shook her head for she still couldn’t understand the human compulsion to insult someone, even as a joke. “It’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other. What’s up? What have you been up to all this time?”

“Oh, you know… classes, work, socializing, spending time with my girlfriend.”

Girlfriend?” both Jen and Anthony asked in unison. “You?” Anthony asked. “You, Mr. I Can’t Talk to Women has a girlfriend?” Jen jabbed Anthony in the side. “Ouch. What did you do that for?” Anthony complained as he rubbed his side where Jen had jabbed him. “You can’t say I’m wrong about that.”

Meanwhile, Alyssia stood back while she listened to the two of them ribbing Matt and once again couldn’t understand why two of his friends would insult him like that, yet he took all of it in stride without a single complaint. In fact, he even laughed about their jokes and found them to be just as funny as how Jen and Anthony found them to be.

“You may be right but,” Jen stood with her hands on her hips, “that doesn’t mean you had to say it.”

Alyssia watched as Jen had done that to Anthony, she thought that perhaps even with humans there was a limit as to the insults that friends might throw at each other.

“Oh, alright.” Anthony looked at the ground. “Sorry dude, Jen’s right; I’m sorry, I took things too far.”

“Oh,” Matt shook his head and laughed, “I know you didn’t mean it and yeah, you’re right.” He nodded slightly. “I know that I was that way back then but I’m better now.”

“So, when are we going to meet your girlfriend?” Jen asked with a hint of impatience in her voice, she wanted to finally meet Matt’s girlfriend.

“Well,” Matt turned around and looked over at where Alyssia was standing. “Come here Alyssia,” he extended his hand out to her, “come meet my friends.”

Alyssia came over to where Matt was standing at Matt’s suggestion and as she walked over to him, he put his arm around her. “Guys, meet Alyssia; my girlfriend.”

Their reaction was a mixture of both shock and disbelief. “Uh,” both Jen and Anthony stammered. Eventually Jen found her voice. “You,” stuttered, “you know that she’s a Zaltaen, right?”

“Uh-huh,” Matt hummed, “I know she is. What of it?” He paused to let that question sink into their heads. “Why does it matter what she is or where she comes from? It’s never mattered to me. From the very beginning of our friendship and eventual relationship, what she is or what world she comes from has never mattered to me one bit. All that matters is what we have together.” He turned to her. “Isn’t that right, honey?”

Honey?!” Both Jen and Anthony asked.

Just then the hostess came up to Jen. “Your table is ready.”

“Say?” Jen asked. “Do you two want to join us? We’d love to have you join us where we can continue this little talk.”

“Alyssia?” Matt asked. “Do you want to join them?” She shrugged. “Ok, we’ll join you at your table.”

As the hostess took the four of them to a table, Jen and Anthony sat on one side of the table while Matt and Alyssia sat on the other side. As Matt and Alyssia sat down next to each other, Anthony and Jen watched the two of them and it was clear to them that the two of them had something serious going on between them.

“So,” Jen spoke up, “how long have the two of you been together?”

“We’ve been together,” Matt made the air-quotes gesture with his fingers, “officially for a year.”

“Officially?” Anthony asked. “What do you mean by that?”

“Well,” Alyssia spoke up, “Matt and I initially met at an on-campus party of sorts that Amanda was putting on.” Matt spoke up where Alyssia left off. “To continue where Alyssia left off, Alyssia and I first started off as friends and we were friends for nearly a year until Alyssia asked me what we were.”

“What do you mean by that?” Jen asked.

“Well, Amanda and I got to talking one evening and it was then that Amanda had told me that many of the things that Matt and I were doing could have been considered dating. You know, things like going out to eat, going to the movies, and otherwise spending time with each other.” Jen nodded; she knew where Alyssia was going. “One evening Matt and I had gone out and I was rather dressed up for the occasion and it was that evening I asked him what we were and what we were doing. I told him what Amanda had told me and I asked him what we were and what we were doing.”

Matt spoke up. “It was then that I told her Amanda was right and that what much of what we were doing could’ve been considered dating but I never called it dating because I knew that Zaltaens didn’t have a concept of dating, at least not as Humans have it, thus I didn’t want to pressure her into something she wasn’t comfortable doing and I certainly didn’t want to scare her away.”

“Ah,” Jen hummed, “I get it. However, I take it that things changed from that point on.”

“Yes,” Alyssia spoke up, “things did change and in a big way; at least from my,” she put her hand to her chest, “perspective. Initially Matt had told me that he’d take things slow with me and that if I felt even remotely uncomfortable, he’d slow down. It was then that I told him that I didn’t want that and that I didn’t want him to feel like he had to hold back.

“I went onto tell him that I had seen how other humans interacted with each other and that I’d seen people touch and kiss each other while on dates.” Jen and Anthony looked at each other. “I told him that I wanted the same thing and that I wanted us to grow closer.”

“And by closer?” Jen asked. “Are you saying that you’re…” Jen hesitated.

“If you’re asking if,” Alyssia looked down and took ahold of Matt’s hand and interlaced her fingers with his, “we love each other,” Jen nodded, “then yes; we do. Isn’t that right, my love?” She turned to Matt. “Yes, we are.” He smiled. “I can’t imagine my life without her in it.”

“Wow,” Jen whispered. “Congratulations!” Anthony exclaimed. “That’s amazing. Isn’t that right, Jen?” He looked at her. “Right Jen?”

Yeah!” Jen exclaimed. “I’m happy for you, for the both of you really. It’s nice to see that Matt has found someone to be happy with.”

“Thank you,” he gave Alyssia’s hand a gentle squeeze, “we both appreciate it.”

“I do have to ask, and I don’t want to be insulting but,” Anthony began but waited until Alyssia motioned for him to continue, “but most Zaltaens don’t have a very positive opinion of humanity; they generally look down upon us for various reasons some of which I really,” he shook his head slightly, “don’t blame them for. I’m not the first person to say that humanity has issues, and I certainly won’t be the last; that’s for sure.”

“That’s generally true of Zaltaens and to be truthful, I’m embarrassed to admit that at one point, back when I first came here to Mars, I too had the same opinion about humanity. I could give you a litany of negative words to describe humanity but then,” she shrugged, “we’d be here all day.”

“Well?” Jen looked at how Alyssia was holding Matt’s hand, but she couldn’t imagine her wanting to touch Matt in such a way if she still had such negative opinions about humanity. “What changed? How did your opinion of humanity change? What do you think of humanity now?”

“A lot of the way that I view humanity now has been influenced by the people who I first encountered at the university and how they welcomed me into their lives. Nobody wanted to share a dorm with me when they found out that I was a Zaltaen. Their response was always either,” she made an air quotes gesture with her fingers, “no way or hell no.” She put her hands down on the table. “However, the last person who they assigned me with was Amanda and as I understand it, you guys know who Amanda is.”

“Uh-huh,” Jen hummed, “Amanda’s great, we’ve known her for years. You could never meet a nicer person that day.”

“Oh, I know!” Alyssia exclaimed. “She not only didn’t reject me right from the beginning, but she showed genuine interest in getting to know me. When she asked me if I had a tour of the campus, I told her that the person who the administration had assigned to give me the tour gave a less than half-hearted tour, she took it upon herself to give me a proper tour.

“She even sat down with me in the campus café and had lunch with me. There she was, sitting across the table from me having lunch with me for no other reason but to be nice to me.” She looked up at the ceiling. “Great Maker.” She closed her eyes and Jen could’ve sworn that she had seen a tear drop down Alyssia’s face which surprised her for most Zaltaens that she encountered were rather emotionally distant. “I had never imagined that a human would want to sit down and share a meal with me that day.

“Later that evening, Amanda insisted that I come with her to a party of sorts to kick off the beginning of the semester. I really didn’t want to go since I didn’t know anybody, but she insisted that I go with her. It was there that I met,” she turned to Matt, “Matt so it was a good thing that she insisted that I go with her. To add a little hilarity to the situation, we had bonded over chicken wings of all things.”

“Let me guess,” Anthony pointed at her, “jalapeño ranch boneless wings.”

“Yep!” Alyssia exclaimed. “That evening Matt and I talked and the next morning, Matt came by my place and offered to take me out for breakfast where we continued from the night before. From that point on, we became friends, good friends in fact, and we then started to hang out with each other every chance we could get and as they say, the rest is history.”

“Hmm,” Jen hummed, “that sounds nice. Sometimes starting out as friends like,” she took hold of Anthony’s hand, “leads to an even stronger relationship. That’s how Anthony and I started out. We grew up across the street from each other, we were childhood friends from the moment that Anthony and his parents moved in across the street. Now look at us,” she looked down at his hand, “we’re married.”

Just then the waitress came to table. “Alright guys, what do you all want to start off with?” Jen looked up. “Coffee for me.” Anthony spoke up. “Me too, coffee for me as well.” The waitress looked to Matt and Alyssia. “And for you two?” Alyssia spoke up. “Matt and I will have coffee as well.” The waitress nodded and walked way.

“That’s funny, that’s what Marissa,” she looked at Matt, “Matt’s mom told me as well.”

“I do have a question though,” Anthony spoke up, “I’ve heard that Zaltaen women choose who they want to be with and mate with. Is there any truth to that about Zaltaens? To be honest,” he shrugged, “it’s kind of hard separating facts from all the disinformation out there and trust me, there’s a lot of that out there about Zaltaens.”

Alyssia nodded and hummed while Jen and Anthony glanced at each other out of the corner of their eyes wondering just what that meant when it came to Matt’s relationship with Alyssia.

“Um,” Jen nervously bit her lower lip with her front teeth, “as a Zaltaen woman, have… you,” she pointed at Alyssia with her index finger, “chosen who you want to be with?”

“Yes,” Alyssia nodded slowly, “noblewomen of Zalta are the ones who choose who they want to mate. I,” she put her hand to her chest, “may not be a noblewoman of Zalta but that hasn’t stopped me from claiming who I want as my lifelong mate.” She looked down at Matt’s hand, took her hand away from her chest and once again took hold of it. Meanwhile, Jen and Anthony’s jaws dropped open. “And Matthew here,” she gave his hand a slight squeeze, “is the one who I’ve claimed as my own, the one that I want to be my mate and who I want to spend my life with.”

“Holy shit.” Anthony whispered. “And Matt,” he looked up from Alyssia’s hand that was holding his, “you have no problems with this?” Matt shook his head. “That is, being chosen by her like she has chosen you.” He winced as Jen jabbed him with her elbow.

“Anthony,” Matt looked at Anthony, “why would I have a problem with Alyssia choosing me to be her mate?” Matt looked at Alyssia and then back at Anthony. “I mean, look at her; she’s a beautiful woman but most importantly, she has a kind heart and a wonderfully warm personality.” Alyssia smiled as he told his friends what he thought about her. “What more could I ask for in a life partner?” He looked up at the two of them sitting across the table from him. “And not only that but I love her, and I know in my heart that she loves me as well. So again,” he shrugged, “why would I have a problem with her choosing me to be her mate like she has?” He looked back at her. “Right honey?”

“Yes, I do love you.” She turned to him and kissed Matt, which shocked the hell out of Jen and Anthony. “Why are you two so shocked by this?”

“Again,” Anthony stumbled for words as Jen spoke up. “I think what Anthony is trying to say is that we thought that Zaltaens don’t have these kinds of feelings. I’ve never seen a Zaltaen act this way. Most of the time they’re rather cold, uninviting, and otherwise emotionally reserved. It’s rather out of the ordinary for a Zaltaen to act the way you are.”

“Well, I’m different.” Alyssia chuckled. “In the time that I’ve known Matt, I’ve come to be… shall we say, more connected with my emotions.”

Just as she said that the waitress came to the table. “Alright guys, what are all of you having this morning?”

Jen and Anthony put their order in and soon it came to Matt and Alyssia to put their order in. “I’ll have the meat lover’s omelet.”

“And you honey?” the waitress looked to Alyssia. “I’ll have the same.” The waitress was about to walk away when Alyssia called to her. “Oh, and I want a big stack of blue berry pancakes as well.” The waitress took their order down and walked away.

“Wow,” Jen whispered, “are you really going to eat all of that?”

“Yes.” Matt chuckled for he knew how much she often ate. “I consume about double the number of calories that humans consume, double that of even what human men consume to maintain my bodily systems. It all comes down to my alien physiology that evolved to live on a higher gravity world.” The waitress hummed, nodded, and walked away.

“And when you say higher gravity world,” Jen began, “exactly what do you mean by that?”

“Zalta 4-A, my home world, has a gravity of 1.5 as versus the 1 of Terra.”

Shit!” Anthony cursed. “That would mean that everything on your world is about half-again as heavy as it typically is on Terra.” Alyssia nodded to confirm his math. “Wow,” Jen whispered, “remind me to never go to your planet.”

“Exactly Anthony, and because of that everything about my body from my cardiovascular, pulmonary, skeletal, to my muscular systems are much stronger than that of humans; even human males. My metabolism is also boosted to support my bodily systems, so I have to eat more than humans do.” She turned to Jen. “As for my home world’s gravity, yeah… humans wouldn’t be able to survive there or at least it wouldn’t be very fun; however, Zalta 4-B is a lot more hospitable to humans with a gravity of only 1 much like Terra.”

“What’s Zalta 4-B like?”

“I’ve never been there before,” Alyssia shrugged her shoulders, “I can only give you hearsay about how the world is like but from what I hear, it’s kind of like how your Sirius is like. Beautiful, tropical, knocked out beaches, ski slopes, that sort of thing. But again, I can’t give you any firsthand knowledge about the world.”

“You’ve never been there?”

“No,” Alyssia shook her head, “my family is much too poor to be able to afford to go to Zalta 4-B. It’s more of a place for the rich and powerful of my world to get away and otherwise enjoy life while most Zaltaens, such as those of my family, barely scrape by.”

“Your family is poor?” Jen asked as one of her eyebrows rose.

“Yes, sadly,” Alyssia looked down at the table, “my family is… quite poor.”

“Aww,” Jen said as she took a hold of Alyssia’s hand.

“The only reason why I’m even here is because of the scholarship program that Olympus Mon University opened to those of my world. My parents sacrificed much to enter me into the lottery of sorts to win a chance to come here to Mars and get a chance at a better life than what I would’ve if I had stayed back on Zalta.”

“That’s awful!” Jen exclaimed. “The part about your family having to sacrifice so much, that is.”

“What do your parents do for a living?” Anthony asked. “That is, if you don’t mind me asking.”

“My father is but a simple street merchant that barely scrapes by while my mother is a maid for a powerful political House.”

“House?” Jen asked. “What are those?”

“On Zalta, we have what are called Houses which basically amount to what were the powerful political families that once ruled much of Europe on Terra during the mid-second millennium AD.” Jen nodded. “It is for one of those Houses that my mother works as a housekeeper cleaning their huge homes. My mother often comes home positively exhausted after a day at work.”

“And I’m assuming that they don’t very pay well.”

“You would be correct in that assumption, Anthony.” Alyssia closed her eyes and hung her head low as Jen grumbled about inequality. “I’ve not talked to them or seen them since I came here to Mars nearly two years ago. I can’t go home, and I can’t even talk to them, because literally I can’t afford it.”

Jesus.” Anthony whispered. “I can’t imagine not being able to see or talk to my parents for that long. It must be very hard on you.”

“It is and what makes it so much harder on me is that I miss my parents and my sister… terribly.” Matt put an arm around her and brought her close. “But I have some really good people in my life to help me deal with that. Amanda and, of course,” she turned to Matt, “Matt has been an amazing source of strength for me. I don’t know what I’d do without him in my life.”

“Trust me,” Matt spoke up, “there’s been nights that I’ve held her as she cried after reading a letter from her family. I’ve been there for her every time she needed me. And as I told her, that’s what love is all about; being there for each other in one’s time of need.”

“Aww,” Jen reached for Alyssia’s hand, “I feel so sorry for you.”

“Thank you.” Alyssia gave Jen’s hand a gentle squeeze. “Thankfully I have the people I have in my life, and I wake up every morning thanking the Great Maker for putting them in my life like She has. I feel so incredibly blessed to have the people who I’ve come to know in my life.” She turned to Matt. “Isn’t that right, honey? I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“Yes,” Matt kissed the top of her head as she smiled, “and I thank God for you as well for I too don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“Wow,” Jen whispered, “you two are really great for each other.”

“I’d like to think that way about us too.” Matt took ahold of her hand. “Isn’t that, right?” He watched as Alyssia sniffled and nodded her head.

“Anyways, can we change the subject?” Alyssia wiped her eyes with her napkin. “Anything really, I just don’t want to talk about how much I miss my parents back home. It’s not easy for me at all.”

“Of course, honey.” Jen patted her hand. “Alright.” She paused as a waitress came up to the table and refilled their coffee cups. “It’s been great talking to you. Most Zaltaens, at least the ones that I’ve met, seem a little, oh I don’t know… standoffish, withdrawn, even unapproachable. You don’t seem to be like that at all.”

“Oh, I used to be like that back when I first came here to Mars but in the time since then, I’ve come a long way. All thanks to the people who I’ve gotten to know.”

Just as she said that a Zaltaen waitress that couldn’t have been much younger than Alyssia served their food and the four of them began to eat and otherwise continue to talk.

Later that afternoon as the four of them were leaving the diner, Anthony patted Matt on his back. “It’s been good to see you after so long. I hope next time it won’t be too long between visits.”

“Yeah,” Matt shook his hand after which he brought him into a hug, “I hope so too. It was nice catching up on old times.” He looked over at Alyssia who was still talking with Jen. “We better get going if we have plans to visit the arboretum.”

“See you guys.” Jen smiled. “It’s been good to see you too.”

Matt and Alyssia walked off leaving Jen and Anthony looking on as the two of them walked away.

“So?” Anthony asked. “What do you think of those two?”

“I think they make a cute couple. I’ve not seen Matt so happy in years.” She began to walk with Anthony by her side. “I think they’re good for each other.” She put her arm around him. “Don’t you think?”

“Yeah,” he sighed, “that they are. And yes, you’re right.” He couldn’t be happier for his friend. “He’s the happiest I’ve ever seen him.”

Meanwhile, Matt looked down at Alyssia’s hand and then up at her. “What do you think of Jen and Anthony?”

“I like them, I like them a lot; I just wish we had more time to talk with them. They’re…” she looked down at his hand that was holding hers, “they’re a lot like you. Understanding and caring… I’m glad to have been able to meet them. You have some wonderful friends.” He looked down at her hand and then brought his arms around her. “Yes, yes… I do. They’re some of the best people I know and I’m glad to have run into them and, of course, for you to have met them.

Later that night, Matt came into the room after taking his shower and crawled into bed with Alyssia however she didn’t react the way that she normally reacted.

“What’s wrong, honey?” He went to put his arms around her, but she flinched. “Honey, tell me what’s wrong.” There was still silence from her. “Are you worried about what your mother will say?” He heard her sniffle. “Honey.” She turned to him and he saw the tears going down her face. “What ever happens, whatever she tells you tomorrow, I’ll be there for you every step of the way. And most importantly, my family will be there for you as well.”

She latched onto him and hugged him tightly like her life depended upon on and as the seconds drifted away, she fell asleep at which he too fell asleep with his arms around her.

Continue to Chapter 18…

Last updated on Wednesday, October 25th, 2023 at 7:50 AM by trparky.

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