I woke up with an idea for Thanksgiving-themed Friday Flash. I guess I like using the holidays as a springboard for shorts *grins* And in other news, I'm so excited about our first Christmas in our Very Own Home that I went out today and got our Christmas tree!!! (Already. Yup, it'll be a dried out shrub by Christmas :P)
Humans and Aliens
The spray of steaming water came to a stop as the shower control panel flashed from blue to orange. Vivica raised her arms. A gust of warm air spiraled around her body, drying her in seven seconds.
Vivica dressed quickly. Her palmcon flashed blue and she held it to her hand, not bothering to affix it properly before creating a thought, I’m going primitive and won’t be communicating today! Hugs and happy Thanksgiving!!! She added warm fuzzies to the thought before releasing it from her mind and skimming the communications sent to her. Most were conversations she didn’t bother accessing, but… a Private Thought from Liam?
Her heart pounded. Did Liam want to begin communicating? She couldn’t suppress the smile at her lips. It was more than the fact that Liam was cute-- what morphling wasn’t? But Liam, he had a way of looking at her--
Why did she always let herself get carried away when it came to him? Fine, he was one of the few nice genuinely nice morphlings at school, but that didn’t change the fact that most of his kind thought they were superior. It wasn’t a coincidence that morphlings were tracked for space travel, while earthlings ended up testing for classes like Fundamentals of Programming. Sure, let the earthlings do all the encoding.
She set the palmcon aside and headed downstairs, her mind made up. If she accessed the Private Thought, Liam would see that she’d accessed it. Whatever Liam wanted, it could wait.
The smell of cinnamon rolls filled the house and that-- combined with the sight of Mom in the kitchen opening a feast box-- made it really feel like Thanksgiving.
“Good morning sugar-shine,” Mom said, her soft brown eyes crinkling in a smile. “Want to help?”
“Definitely,” Vivica said, starting on one of the smaller boxes. It looked like the utensil box. As soon as she had it opened she recognized the food holders and stirrers, but something new caught her attention. Twin blades affixed to a handle. “What’s this?”
Mom checked the insert card. “It looks like a skinner. It’s for removing the outer layer of skin from vegetables.”
Vivica checked the side of the box and felt a gush of excitement. “You decided to try a lower primitivity level this year!”
“What can I say? You talked me into it.”
“Stellar!” Vivica loved creating their own food, just like earthlings did centuries ago, before instant molecular generation made food preparation obsolete. Not that she’d want to do it every day, of course.
“Why don’t you generate a cinnamon roll while I get the rest of these boxes opened,” Mom said.
Oh, the cinnamon roll scent was only an artificial air enhancement. Vivica didn’t complain, though. It was tradition that Mom lifted the parental food controls for holidays, and cinnamon rolls were her favorite.
In two seconds she was cramming her mouth full of the soft, icing-covered rolls. “These are celestial,” she said, generating another. “Where are the vegetables? I want to try out the skinner.”
“The food box is over there,” Mom said, reading the virturkey manual.
Vivica licked her fingers and found the food box. It opened with a faint hiss and a billow of chill mist.
“Be sure to seal it properly,” Mom said. “The last thing we need is to have a ruined feast with all our visitors coming.”
“Who’s coming besides Gram?” she asked, her fingers going numb as she dug through the icy food box.
“Uncle Nando and Annia,” Mom said.
Vivica almost squealed-- that meant baby Mayica would be coming too!
“And Liam from school. You know him, right?”
Liam? The numbness in her fingers went straight to her chest. “Why? He’s not family, and-- and-- they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving-- and why?”
“His parents have been sent on interplanetary assignments, you know that.” Mom sent her a sharp glance. “I might teach Social Ideology but I’m not blind to the cliques at school. You’ll be civil to him--”
“They’re the ones who aren’t civil, acting all high-and-mighty with their telepathic powers--”
“Stop it. All morphlings don’t act that way. Liam’s a kind boy and I’m not letting one of my students sit alone in a dormitory on Thanksgiving.”
Vivica exhaled shakily.
“Try to think outside your sphere, Vivica. He’s curious about the custom, and I think a little lonely without his parents.” Mom rubbed the frown from her brow, looking tired. “Didn’t he send you a palmcon about this? He told me he’d let you know.”
Vivica felt herself blush at the memory of what she’d thought that message from Liam might have been. How stupid was she? Of course he was only letting her know that he was coming to Thanksgiving. A morphling would never date an earthling.
Liam approached the Hanover household-- Vivica’s home-- unsure of what to expect. He understood the disdain many earthlings felt for morphlings. Centuries of oppression against them couldn’t be erased in a few generations’ time, especially since Vivica’s kind had almost been obliterated in the aftermath of the Invasion.
But all morphlings weren’t the same.
He shifted the platter of food he brought and pushed the notifier bell.
“Hi Vivica,” he said when she answered the door.
“Hello.” Her mouth turned down, her gaze wary.
He didn’t need to analyze her mood to know she wasn’t thrilled to see him.
She moved out of the doorway and he stepped inside, inhaling deeply. The scents merged together, baking bread and sizzling virturkey, apples and brown sugar, all of it too complicated to be mere artificial air enhancements. “It smells great in here. Did you participate in the feast preparation?”
She nodded, her eyes downcast as she pressed the doorway access pad to shut it.
His lips parted, as if his body anticipated his need to fill the silence, but his mind came up with nothing to say.
Ms. Hanover came to the entryway. “I’m so glad you could make it, Liam,” she said, her smile warm and welcoming.
“Um, this is from my mom,” he said, handing her the platter of janifrass his mom teleported this morning. “She sends her gratitude for including me in your celebration today.”
He caught the way Vivica glanced at him. He couldn’t read her thoughts without touching palms, and for that he was grateful.
“Tell your mother, it’s a pleasure to have you,” Ms. Hanover said. “Vivica, take Liam into the family room and introduce him to everyone, while I finish up. Dinner will be ready in a few minutes.”
Vivica’s lips formed a thin line. “Come on, Liam.”
Vivica’s grandmother greeted him courteously, but he sensed falseness in her reception. The rest of her family welcomed him brightly, even little Mayica with her gummy grin. He couldn’t help laughing as her emotions washed over him with an openness he wasn’t accustomed to. Earthlings were usually careful with their feelings, and morphlings were born already possessing telepathic speech and cognitive abilities. Babies were quite unique in their artless expression of emotion.
Mayica gurgled in speech patterns mimicking enthusiasm, her arms and legs synchronized to her excitement. Liam relinquished himself to the desire to make her laugh.
Pressure built in the back of his mind and he glanced up, the trace of a smile still on his lips as he met Vivica’s gaze.
Her cheeks flushed with heat and Liam blinked, his mind faltering. She turned away, and suddenly he very much wanted to read her thoughts.
“Dinner’s ready,” Ms. Hanover called.
Everyone headed to the dining area, complimenting Vivica and her mother on the food spread out on the table. He and Vivica were seated beside each other, a fact that sent his senses into overload. He didn’t know what to make of that, or of the increase in heart rate he detected in Vivica. He shouldn’t be reading her vitals. It was a step away from analyzing her emotions and that was unforgivably rude. But she was so close. Her breathing so unsteady… almost as if… as if she--
“Before we take our turns saying what we’re thankful for this year,” Vivica’s father said, holding her mother’s hand in a strictly earthling form of affection, “I’d like to welcome Liam. I hope this is the first of many visits from you and your family.”
Liam found it difficult to meet anyone’s gaze, and dropped his. “Thank you,” he said.
Each member of the family gave thanks for something, and he didn’t miss Vivica’s grandmother’s severe tone when she said, “I’m thankful to be living in a free world. Some people seem to want to forget that it wasn’t always that way.”
The atmosphere changed, the air becoming tighter.
“Yes,” Ms. Hanover said smoothly, “thanks to earthling rights activists like Liam’s family, much has changed for the better over the past century.”
Everyone seemed to relax, and Mr. Hanover carved up the virturkey, which glistened in shades of deep, caramelized browns over moist white protein. The dishes were all rich with flavor, with unusual combinations like chopped bread soaked in a savory juice, or starchy vegetables mixed with cream.
“No thank you,” he said, “I’ve almost doubled my caloric needs already.”
He sensed everyone’s humor before their laughter bubbled across the table. Vivica offered him a smile, and he again wondered about her heart rate earlier, the way blood had rushed to her cheeks.
It was almost like an attraction response.
That thought left his mind blank.
Everyone headed for the family room again as the smell of baking apple and pumpkin pastries filled the air. Some of Vivica’s family members played games, others engaged in verbal communication.
“Hey,” Vivica said, sitting in front of some kind of fire producing device. “Want to roast marshmallow?”
He sat beside her, again overwhelmed by his sensory response to being so close to her. She was a very lovely earthling. Beautiful. And passionate. She let her emotions out more often than any other earthling he knew.
She took two skewers and pierced a large mass of puffed sugar on the end of each, offering him one. Liam followed her lead, sticking his skewer into the flames, twirling it around and around like the thoughts that now turned in his mind.
She glanced up, her eyes glowing in the dim light.
“Would you ever consider…” his voice failed him, and his heart, which had beat the same steady rhythm since the day he was born, stuttered abnormally. He breathed deep, startled.
“Your marshmallow’s burning,” she said, tipping his skewer up. She leaned forward and blew.
His gaze remained on her lips. He forced them up to her eyes. “Do you want to do something sometime? Outside of school?”
She turned her face down, hiding from him. “You mean, socialize?”
No, not like socialize.
“Never mind, that was a thoughtless suggestion,” she said, her eyes sparkling with a challenge he didn’t understand. “Morphlings don’t socialize with humans.”
He sucked in a breath. The words human and alien were the worst kind of derogatory slurs, antiquated from the time of the Invasion. “I guess you’d notice more than I do,” he said, getting up. “Seeing as I’m an emotionless alien.”
Her mouth fell open. “Liam, wait.”
He’d never felt so close to anger before. How did she see him, if she could use that kind of word? He grit his teeth. How could he have allowed himself to use a similar one?
He paused in front of Vivica’s parents. “It’s been a pleasure, Ms. Hanover, Mr. Hanover.” He lifted his palm respectfully and they did the same, albeit slowly. “I’ll be leaving now.”
He reached the entryway but before he could hit the access pad Vivica caught up to him.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “I’m so stupid, I have no right--”
“You have every right to your feelings. You were lumping me with the prejudiced morphlings that inundate your life.” His speech pattern was too fast. He was allowing emotion to blur his mind and he couldn’t stop himself. “I’m aware of the systems in place that keep earthlings from advancing, and I can’t change what morphlings have done in the past, but I have a right to my feelings too.”
“What do you feel?”
He took her hand, pressing her palm to his. Their minds overlapped and he shuddered, his eyes sliding closed. Emotions coursed through his body and flowed into hers. This is what I feel.
He lowered his hand and their fingers interlaced. Her pupils were dilated. Her lips parted. He should apologize, but he wasn’t sorry. He’d seen her thoughts too, one in particular that she’d had over and over. He was having the same thought now, and he lifted her chin and kissed her.