Rescued By My Alien Protector by Tammy Walsh

Nayok

It wasa beautiful spring day at Auka spaceport. Starships were flying, portals were opening… and it was the worst day of my life.

She was leaving me and I feared I would never see her again.

Her flight was called, and with it, all my dreams of a future with her. The voice on the loudspeaker repeated the call and I wished it would shut up.

Natalie placed her mug on the saucer and looked at me with a conflicted expression. “Well, this is it.”

“Let me take your bag,” I said.

I wanted to take it and run in the opposite direction to the front entrance. I’d hop on the bus, get back to my room, and wait for her. She would follow me and beam with happiness at what I’d done. Then we could work hard and become the couple I knew in my bones we had the potential of being.

Instead, I dragged her carryon luggage toward security. We walked in silence, wasting the few precious moments we had left together. Our smiles sowed seeds of discomfort.

There was so much to say, so much I wanted to tell her…

That our year together didn’t have to be resigned to the bargain bin of history, didn’t have to be something we looked back on in years to come with fondness and wish we could relive again. It could be our future too, I wanted to tell her. It could be something we shared for the rest of our lives. We could always be this happy.

But still, we marched toward that gate of despair that signaled the first day of the rest of our lives. For me, that was turning back and returning to my cesspit of an apartment and my dead-end job. But I was getting ahead of myself. She hadn’t even left yet and I needed to find a way to deal with that first. I needed to figure out how I was meant to get out of this spaceport without breaking down. We’d shared too many happy memories together for this to be it.

I couldn’t afford another cup of coffee or an overpriced bottle of water. I would have to go to the restroom, sit, and spend my time there wishing that this whole thing could have worked out differently.

But it was never going to work out differently. Not after the letter came, telling her she’d been accepted into something called “Stanford Law School”. She’d been in two minds about applying for it, but I encouraged her to try and she did.

“What do you have to lose?” I’d said when secretly, I was hoping she wouldn’t get in, that she would find success there in Auka with me instead.

Then she got accepted and I could see the end looming before me. That date typed in black ink in bold at the bottom of the letter.

I wished I’d never heard of Stanford Law School.

We pulled up in front of the security gate. The passengers handed over their boarding cards and were ushered through the detectors.

Natalie turned to me, clutching her ticket close and reaching out to hug me. I wrapped my only free hand around her and breathed in her scent, the aroma of shilacs in summer, and the strong cream she massaged into her skin every night before bed. Her skin felt even softer with that cream. I got used to the taste. She didn’t mind that I ate most of it, just so I could get a little closer to her skin underneath. Sometimes I thought she did that on purpose, to make me jealous that something was acting as a barrier between us.

She always did like to tease me.

She pulled back from the hug and had tears in her eyes. She tried to prevent me from seeing them by pressing her lips firmly against mine, but I could taste the salt.

“We’ll keep in contact all the time,” she said.

“You’d better,” I replied. “They’re going to keep you very busy.”

“Never that busy. I’ll sneak away to the bathroom.”

“I’ll read your messages every chance I get.”

Natalie nodded and smiled pathetically again, gaining a little strength. She reached into her handbag. “I bought you something.”

“I thought we weren’t buying gifts?” I said.

“It’s nothing much.” But that wasn’t true. If it came from her, it would always be valuable to me.

She came out with something white and shiny that caught the harsh overhead fluorescent light. It was something the humans called a St. Christopher medallion.

“To keep you safe—until I come back,” she said.

“Thank you,” I said. “I’ll wear it always. And I got you something too.”

She gave me a flat look. “I thought you said we’re not buying gifts?”

I shrugged. “It’s nothing much.”

She looked at me with mild annoyance that I had used her own argument against her. I took the pen from my pocket and handed it to her. I used a month’s savings to buy it. I couldn’t get the seller to drop his price but I knew she had to have it the moment I saw it.

“It’s beautiful,” she said.

It was a fountain pen with wild kli circling the edges, worked in silver. “So you can think of me when you’re signing all those important documents.”

“I’ll treasure it always,” she said, clasping it to her chest before gently placing it in her handbag.

The loudspeaker called for her flight once more.

“I have to go.” Natalie held out her hand to take the luggage handle.

I extended it toward her but pulled back. “Don’t go.”

The words were out of my mouth before I could process them. I wasn’t ashamed that I’d said them. I was glad they were out. They were the words that neither of us wanted to say, but they were the words that needed to be said—words that I’d been desperate to utter for the past two weeks. After each time we’d made love and she rolled over to sleep. I would stare at her smooth back and peer around at my roach-infested room and wonder how I was meant to live there by myself.

How I was meant to live without her.

An expression of pure sadness painted her face. She didn’t want to go either. “Nayok…”

“You could stay here. We could get a place together. We could be happy. You can still study law. You don’t have to go to Stanford to study, do you?”

“No.”

My heart leaped at her response. My grin squeezed the tears from my eyes and they spilled down my face. I was nothing but a pot scrubber in a seedy local hotel but I was determined right then and there to make something of myself. I wouldn’t struggle at the bottom of the food chain any longer. Poverty was a sickness passed from one generation to another. But someone in that long line of failure stretching back throughout history could put his foot down and put a stop to it, changing the destiny of all his descendants.

That was going to be me. But I needed the right woman at my side to do it. I needed her.

I needed this human female.

I needed Natalie.

The road would be hard and tough and I would need someone to see every day, someone to support me and help me press forward. I already knew I wouldn’t quit; I could already see what I stood to lose if I failed in my promise. I would work harder than anyone had a right to. We would prosper, get married, and have gorgeous kids. She would become a lawyer too—or anything else her heart desired.

Just so long as we were together when we did it.

I took a step forward to wrap my arms around her…

And pulled back.

Her expression wasn’t filled with the same joy as mine. The tears in her eyes were not motivated by the same emotion mine were. They were the tears of someone who had made up her mind…

And it wasn’t in my favor.

“No,” she repeated.

The word wasn’t a response to my question this time. It was a response to the suggestion that she stay here.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” she said.

Weare an amazing opportunity, I wanted to say, but couldn’t. My lips had already turned numb. My heart shrank to the size of an olteb.

I dried the tears running down my cheeks and suddenly felt stupid. A male Yev didn’t cry. A Yev was strong, tough. I turned so my shoulder came up in a protective pose, a shield against her passive onslaught of rejection.

“We’ll keep in touch,” Natalie said. “It’ll be tough for a while but this isn’t something that comes along every day. They chose me. I have to take advantage of it or I’ll always wonder what could have been.”

“I understand.” And I did. She was moving on to a better life and I would be left here to rot.

I couldn’t blame her. When you had a shot to move up in the world, you took it. No one wanted to spend their lives in the doldrums.

I extended the luggage handle to her and she took it from me. The smooth skin of her hand grazed mine.

It was the last time I touched her.

She approached the kiosk and handed over her ticket. She looked back at me three times before she disappeared, shrinking smaller and smaller as she drew closer to her future and further from me, from her past.

I wished we could keep our promise to each other: that we would stay in touch, that our parting would only delay the dream life I wanted to share with her.

It was a wish that I knew would never be fulfilled.