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“Do you want me to take you home?”
Chen didn’t look at her as he spoke and Shanti couldn’t look in his eyes, so she shut hers. She couldn’t find her voice, so she nodded.
With her eyes still closed, she felt him reach out his arms to her. Without thinking Shanti went into them. He wrapped her up tight. She fit so perfectly into the mold of his body.
Shanti rested her head against his chest.
“Show me.” He said into her ear.
“Show you what?” she whispered. Her voice was so low that maybe it was just a thought.
“Show me your home and I will take you there.”
“I told you, we are energy. From the short time that you’ve been with us, the water in your body has been transforming to pure energy. I can teleport you to your home if you show it to me.”
Shanti looked up at him. “Will it hurt?”
Chen looked into her eyes. He nodded his head. “Yes, it will hurt very much.”
Shanti knew he wasn’t speaking of the teleporting journey.
“See it clear in your mind,” he said.
Shanti closed her eyes and tried to picture her home. But her nose was surrounded by the smell of Chen. She breathed in and his scent went into her mouth. Thoughts of their first kiss, of her taking him into her mouth, of him entering her body, they all swelled in her mind.
“Focus on home, Shanti.”
Shanti tried to bring up her small house in her mind. She tried to see the brick, the lawn, her street. But it was all hazy in the cocoon of Chen’s strong arms.
“I see it,” he said.
Disappointment swelled in her heart. She felt the earth fall away from her feet. But no, that was Chen teleporting her. She opened her eyes, or she think she did. All around her she saw the same yellow mist of energy she’d seen inside the ship, in the energy mines. But the energy was so familiar to her. She knew it was Chen and herself. She watched as their essence mingled, unable to tell herself from him.
We are one. He’d said that to her, and it was true.
Shanti blinked. And when she opened her eyes once more, she saw her brick house, her lawn, her door, her car.
Her feet felt wobbly underneath her, but Chen held her strong.
He took a step away from her, but stopped. Shanti realized the reason he stopped was because her fingers dug into his robes. Her body and mind warred with what to do. Her mind dictated that she could not go with him. Her body insisted that she could not be without him.
She stared up into his eyes. His head was covered once more in a hood, but his large eyes were locked on her.
“Would you get out of the middle of the street! You’re blocking the road.”
Shanti looked over Chen’s shoulder to see one of her neighbors. His fishing gear poked out the back of his pick up. The engine revved in time with his heavy breathing.
“First she tries to block me going to work with her hair-brained fungus idea. Now she’s trying to block me getting home.”
Chen turned to the man. The fisherman’s eyes went wide at the sight of Chen. He put his foot on the pedal and swerved around, speeding down the street.
Shanti gave Chen a tug onto the sidewalk.
From across the street she heard a screen door shut. Another neighbor’s face disappeared behind their blinds, their door slammed shut.
It was just like when she left when they’d rejected her attempts to help them. No one had missed her.
Shanti felt Chen begin to pull away from her. Shanti dug her fingers into his robe. Chen stopped and peered down at her hands, then up into her eyes.
“I just remembered,” she said, panting as though she’d just run a marathon. “I have some blueberries in the freezer. Would you like to come inside?”
Shanti unlocked her door, then shut them both inside. Everything was as she’d left it. Her recliner sat next to her bookshelf beneath a soft lamp. Her desk was cleared of all paperwork since she’d been released from working with the Bay Restoration Project. Shanti looked around her home, unsure of what she’d come back here for?
She felt Chen at her back. Her body went in motion, as though on autopilot, to the kitchen. She went to the freezer and grabbed the bag of berries. They were covered in frostbite.
“I’m sorry they’re not fresh.”
Chen removed his hood and took the bag from her. He emptied a few berries into his hand. Instantly the water fell from them and the berries plumped to life.
Chen smiled and popped a few into his mouth. His eyes closed in ecstasy. When he opened them, he handed the remaining berries to her.
Shanti took a few from his hand and popped them into her mouth. They were delicious. She opened her eyes to watch Chen chew. Berry juices burst in the corner of his mouth. Shanti reached up and wiped the juice away. Her hand stand at the corner of his mouth.
She stared at his lips as the moved, chewing the berries, then swallowing.
Chen rested his hand on her wrist. Her hand was still on his cheek.
“I’m never going to see you again,” she whispered. “Am I?”
He didn’t answer.
“Can’t you come back?”
Chen shook his head no.
“What will you do now? Will you leave and choose another female to be your mate? The first one you see? Don’t choose from this neighborhood. None of these women wold suit you.”
“I made a mistake,” Chen said.
Those words made Shanti’s heart sink. Chen wrapped his other hand around her waist. He brought his forehead down against hers. But he went no further.
“It is not in my nature to take what is not freely offered,” he said. “I’m sorry that I was not clear. I’m sorry that I caused you stress. It was never my intention.”
Chen released her and headed for her door. He turned the knob. Shanti’s heart raced as the door creaked open. Chen turned and stood in the doorway, facing her. Shanti’s palms sweat. She was breathing so shallowly she thought she might hyperventilate and pass out.
Chen’s heel was at the threshold. “There is no other choice. There will never be another you. You are my one and only.”
Shanti grasped the door jamb. “Are you going to go crazy, like the Marred Ones?”
“I will be sad with out you. But Hsing and I will still have each other. We can balance each other out. And the ship will help us. We will be fine.”
In all their time together, Shanti knew with certainty that Chen had never lied to her. Until this very moment.
“I wanted to…to be with you, Chen.” Shanti noted that it was the tense of the verb that made her stutter.
“I just can’t leave. I…”
Why couldn’t she leave?
What was here for her?
Her parents were gone. Shanti was so used to traveling so much that she had no deep connected friends. And when she’d tried to settle down in this community, they rejected her ideas and solutions.
Chen touched the place in his robes where he’d stashed the coral algae. “You have saved our lives, Shanti. You will live in all of our hearts.”
Chen took a step backwards over the threshold. Shanti reached out and grasped his robes.
“No,” she said.
“I don’t want you to go.” She wrapped her arms around his neck.
Chen rested his lips at her brow. “I cannot stay, my only.”
Shanti’s foot edged closer to the threshold of the door. She pressed her body into Chen’s. It still fit perfectly. He felt like home.
Behind him she saw dark shadows move along the sidewalk. Her nosey neighbors, there to judge her love life now. But once Chen stepped over the threshold, she wouldn’t have a love life any longer. She saw it clearly, her heart was entwined with his. She loved him. They’d worked well together. He listened to her. She’d never find someone else like him in this world, or the next.
“I’m coming with you.”
Chen tilted up her chin. His eyes looked down at her full of brightness and love. “You’ll come home?”
Shanti nodded. Chen leaned in to kiss her. But his lips never met hers.
His body was yanked back out of her arms. Shanti reached out as his body sailed back and then up into the air.
Two hooded figures clutched him. Shanti only had a moment before she saw a dark gray, and a light yellow Eloheem grab Chen. Their faces were uncovered, their eyes dark. Chen looked up at them, true horror and fear traveled from his eyes to her gut.
“Stay back,” he shouted into her head.
But she didn’t she leaped across the threshold towards him. But by the time her foot hit the grass, they’d all disappeared into thin air.