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“Robert!” He grumbled for a moment and I saw his hand clench and release. “I think I’m more confused now. How am I supposed to impress them when I have no accomplishments?”
“There are often things more impressive than accomplishments. What do you know about them?”
“They’ve been married for thirty-eight years. They retired last year when they sold their restaurants.”
“Yes, he was a chef and she managed the business side of it. They had a couple of restaurants in the city that they had owned for a number of years.”
“Okay, I think we can work with that. Are there any meals from your home that you could prepare for them?”
He ran his fingers through his beard and thought about it for a moment, “Yes, I believe I have a few of my favorites that I could recreate for them. I would need to see if I can substitute ingredients.”
“Perfect. You can hit up the market on your way home tomorrow and we’ll start working on those recipes. You’ve probably cooked up enough dishes to have a good idea of what you might need.”
“That’s questionable.” He said, “Your food is very different from mine.”
“It should be fun figuring it out then.” I felt a bite on my line and reeled it in a moment later. “You think you have something you can do for fish?”
Har’elday thought for a moment, “At least one that might work. I’m not sure how well bass would mesh with other flavors, it’s not as stout as gampore, but we can find out tomorrow.”
“I look forward to it.” I kneeled on the edge of the dock and put the fish into the basket. After I cast again, I had to follow up and ask, “What kinds of desserts can you make from your home recipes?”
Har’elday chuckled, “Oh Robert, again with the deserts. If you ever stop farming, you’ll gain fifty pounds the first month from your sweet tooth.”
I couldn’t really argue with that, so I mockingly mumbled as I focused back on the water. He avoided that question, but I hoped I put the idea firmly into his head. We continued fishing and, once the sun finally disappeared, I took the opportunity to point out some of my favorite constellations and the stories behind them. I had recently introduced him to ancient Greek and Roman mythology and thought he would appreciate how those stories survived the ages.
“I was always envious of those that didn’t live so close to the poles. We saw the same stars all year long. Despite the heat from traveling to the other tribes, I always loved the nights.”
“Is that why you wanted to join your space program?”
“It played a very big part. I think I romanticized the idea of outer space being so vast and unknown just through the comparison of where I grew up and where I traveled. I was aware that other tribes had stories like you are telling me, but my people never developed them. I figured that if my tribe couldn’t have those stories, I would go out there and make my own.”
“You have certainly done that! Can you imagine if they named a constellation after you and told your story there?” I pointed to the stars and began to draw an imaginary constellation, “Har’elday, the great explorer. He fell in love with the stars and chose to explore them forever.”
He smiled and joined in, “But in his journey, he discovered a lost tribe. With them, he found what he had truly been seeking and chose to remain among them.”
“A beautiful maiden had captured his heart. She challenged his mind and was really good at jutabo.”
“Robert,” he looked over at me and I just grinned as big as I could, “did you need to go there with it?”
“All of these constellation stories involve romance, why shouldn’t yours? And are you saying she’s not good at it?”
Har’elday shook his head and looked away, “I regret telling you things sometimes.” He reeled in his line and put another fish in the basket. “We have enough fish, can we go now before you continue your story?”
“You’re going to have to get over your reluctance of discussing more intimate matters. There’s going to be a point in your relationship where things are going to go to the next level and you’re probably going to need to have a…”
“Robert, please stop.” He started taking fish out of the basket and dispatched them before placing them in the ice water of the cooler. “The issue I have is discussing things with you. Shannon and I are capable of having these conversations and various matters have been discussed. We have a lot of similarities in our cultural beliefs concerning intimacy and we plan to honor those beliefs.” Har’elday placed the cooler in the back of the truck and I stood there looking at him. “What is it now?”
I turned and picked up the tackle box and took it to the truck, “Now I’m curious about something.” He rolled his eyes and waited on me, “Does that mean that you two haven’t… you know… had sex?”
“We both believe that is a sacred union that should only be shared with one’s betrothed.”
I expected something along those lines, but not quite to that extent. “Fair enough. I got married pretty young, so I don’t know how I would have made it to either of your ages.”
“Were there others before Maggie?”
“No, she was my one and only. I was too scared that I’d knock a girl up and I wanted some stability in my life before I became a father. We took our time before we decided to try to have kids, but we waited too long and the first cancer ended that hope.”
“We haven’t talked about children yet. I’m not even sure if we could have a child.”
“Well, if you two do get married, don’t wait too long to find out.” He nodded solemnly and we got in the truck and drove home. The drive was silent, I don’t think either of us knew where to continue the conversation from there.
I was on auto-pilot and was surprised when I parked the truck at the house. We unloaded the truck, stored the fish for tomorrow night’s dinner, and washed up before heading to bed. I turned on the radio in my room and laid there for a while. Normally I wanted it to be quiet, but I had too much running around in my head and needed the music to drown it out. Do I need to have the sex talk with Har’elday? That was one thing I didn’t miss by not having kids. My dad didn’t bother trying to give it to me until the week before my wedding, and by that point I pretty much knew everything so it just came off as odd.
Once you’d seen every animal on the farm breed, there wasn’t a whole lot else you needed to know about the mechanics of it. I imagined Har’elday would be coming from a similar standpoint, given his interest in biology, but he was also rather shy about such topics. After running through various scenarios in my head, I decided to breach the subject at breakfast and see what direction it headed. Thankfully, working that out did the trick and I turned the radio off and fell asleep.
The next morning, Har’elday came downstairs a few minutes after I did and he sat down at the bar while the coffee finished brewing. “What do you feel like having this morning?”
He looked curiously at the fridge and pantry for a moment before commenting, “How about we keep it simple? Eggs, bacon, and toast.”
“Sounds good to me.” I gathered the ingredients on the counter while Har’elday got the griddle out and prepped it. He started with the bacon, I whipped up the eggs, and then he hopped over to the toaster with the bread. “I don’t think I’ve asked this, but is Shannon a good cook?”
He chuckled and looked at me oddly, “Her dad is a chef, what do you think?”
“That wasn’t too silly of a question. You never know. She could have a blind spot in that area. She has to have one somewhere, cause you certainly haven’t mentioned any flaws.”
“Flaws are very subjective.” He wagged his finger at me, “I have learned that many of my customs can be quite tedious for her to deal with.”
He rolled his eyes and continued, “Perhaps I am blind to them, but nothing readily comes to mind.”
“That’s good. And that’s something to keep in mind as time goes on. Everyone starts to notice habits that get on their nerves after a while, especially once you live together. But if you can reflect back on all of the things that made you fall in love with her, it’ll help put things in perspective.”
“So I should ignore these irritants that I come across?”
“I wouldn’t say that. It may be for the best if you can bring up issues in a loving way and try to get them resolved. You should strive to get to a place where you can talk about those types of issues in a respectful way.”
“I don’t see how this can be difficult to achieve. We have accomplished such a feat.”
“Ha! You haven’t seen anything yet. Just wait until the first time you do something to make her mad. If you ask her what’s wrong when she looks upset and she says nothing or I’m fine then you should know that it’s the opposite. Women are… different.”
“That doesn’t seem logical, I doubt Shannon would do that.”
I did my best to stifle a laugh, “Ah, to be young and naive. Just remember that I’ll be here to help translate.”
Har’elday waved his hand at me dismissively, “I will be fine.”
Breakfast was ready before long and we ate it quickly while talking about the plans to plant the garlic in a couple of weeks. The morning chores went by quickly and it wasn’t long before we were back in for lunch and discussing what he needed to get from the grocery store that afternoon. Our chat was interrupted by the perimeter alarm going off. We looked at each other, “I didn’t think anyone was coming over.”
He quickly rose and made his way to the fake wall we installed in the pantry. “Let me know when it’s clear.”
I walked over to the front door and saw a car coming about half-way down my drive. We installed a security system as a precaution shortly after the events of last year and this was the first time we had anyone drop by unannounced. “I don’t recognize the car.” I shouted to Har’elday. We had talked about taking some of the early warning systems down recently since we hadn’t heard anything in months, but my pessimism was enough to push back against that argument. The car came to a stop and a tall, broad-chested man stepped out of the car. His wide-brimmed cowboy hat and dark sunglasses obscured much about him, but something seemed familiar.
He stopped a few feet from the door and stared back at me, “It’s been a while, Robert. Can we talk?” He calmly took off his sunglasses and waited for my response.
After an awkward pause I asked, “I’m sorry, who are you?”
He chuckled a bit and took off his hat, “I didn’t think I had changed that much since high school. Does the name Gary Marshall ring a bell?”
* * * *
Continue to Chapter 12 Part 1! Coming January 11!