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Trink and Beckett soon fell into a routine that lasted them throughout the rest of their journey. Trink spent her time after first consumption socializing with her Katoshian friends. Beckett occasionally joined them, but her preferred to wade through Chandler’s extensive notes with one of the ship’s computers. At second consumption, they would meet with Alexnder, the one meal of the day that he stumbled out of his room, and they would talk quietly about nothing. Trink spent her time between second and third consumptions in the entertainment cubicles, listening to music or watching video. Beckett, again, spent his time analyzing data. After their final meal of the day, Beckett would retire with Trink to her quarters. Most nights, they talked very little about the emotional situation between them. Instead, Trink usually told Beckett stories about Sharula T’ai while nestling in Beckett’s arms.

“Tell me about Denys,” he said the night before the space station docking.

“Which part of the whole sordid tale do you want to hear?”

“I want to hear everything- how you met, why you were attracted to him, and why no one but you like him,”

Trink took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “I met Denys on the research lab on University. I was working on a project, and I needed some scaloric acid from the chemistry division, and he was the only human available to bring it over.”

Scaloric acid was known to humans as “water plus”, but to most other races, the acid was a lethal caustic agent. Due to the unique composition of human skin, the only effect the acid had was to make their skin feel softer and occasionally make them sneeze. To races such as the Katoshians, the acid would eat holes through their integumentary systems, and if a Katoshian was fortunate enough to survive an initial exposure to scaloric acid, it often died days later from sepsis.

In the labs, humans were jokingly called water boys, as they were the only ones who could handle the chemical without fear or chance of personal injury. Denys had been the water boy on call when Trink needed the reagent to catalyze her experiment.

“Okay, who needed the scaloric acid?” he asked, holding the small glass vial of clear liquid aloft. The vial had bright orange bands on it, providing a visual reminder of the dangerous nature of its contents. Denys watched with secret delight as many of the beings in the lab unconsciously moved away from him.

Trink appeared from behind a large glass apparatus. “That’s for me,” she said, waving him over to her work area.

She studied the glass vial he carried. “I don’t need quite that much. About half that should do.”

“I didn’t realize that there were any humans working in the botany lab,” he said, leaning in closer to Trink.

“I'm new,” Trink said, smiling one of her most attractive smiles.

“Good,” he said. “That means you can start fetching the scaloric acid for yourself.” His tone was condescending.

“Perhaps if I were given the code clearance to the hazardous materials locker, I might be able to fetch my own and not have to look at your snide face.”

Denys finally smiled. It was a thin, sarcastic smile, but it was a smile all the same. “I guess I’ll have to bring that up with the lab supervisor. You are?” he asked, handing her the vial.

“Katrina Moule, but you can call me Trink.” She took out a small quantity of the scaloric acid with a pipette and handed him back the vial. “And you are?”

“Denys Leciak. What’s your planet of origin? He asked, scrutinizing her features.

She walked over to a separate workstation, followed by Denys. “Primus,” she replied. She took the pipette of acid and precisely added it to her brewing experiment. She watched for a color change, and seeing none, added the last of her scaloric acid. The color change occurred and she turned her attention back to Denys.

“Really?” he said, his voice full of surprise. “You’re Primus born?”

“Uh-huh,” Trink said, not looking up from her work. “I was born on the North American continent.”

“I am Primus born, too. I was born in the ancient city of Budapest.

Trink nodded. She knew that he was Primus born without him having to say a word. Denys’ head was shaved, in spacer fashion, and he had a series of intricate tattoos on both sides of his head. On the right side, a representation of Sol’s planetary system was displaced, with Primus colorfully accented. On the left side, there was a blue diamond on a green star on a white circle, representing the intergalactic menu designations for humans, as well as a series of dots and lines which she knew meant Primus in Universal Written Code.

“I’ve toured the European continent once or twice with my father, but I don’t ever recall visiting Budapest,” she said, trying purposefully not to stare at the handsome man in front of her.

“Too bad. It’s a lovely city,” Denys said. “Maybe I could tell you about it some time.”

Trink smiled, lighting up her face. She had been on University Centauri for several terms and Denys was the first human male who had every approached her socially. “Perhaps that could be arranged,” she said, coyly.

“I have to finish up a few things in the chemistry department,” he said. “Would you like to go to dinner later tonight?”

“I have to finish this reaction out,” she said, pointing to her two elaborate set-ups of glassware and chemicals. “I’ll be done here in about three hours, Primus time, if everything here goes well. I could meet you somewhere after that if it wouldn’t be too late for you.”

“That should work out fine,” said Denys, smiling. “I’ve got to get some data out of the spectrographic analyzer, and you know how long that can take.” Trink smiled and nodded. “Have you ever eaten at Taste?”

Trink bit her lip to keep from laughing. “I’ve eaten there once or twice,” she alluded.

“I’ll meet you there, then.” He gave her a small wave, and left the lab carrying his half-empty vial of scaloric acid.

#####

“So, who is this Romeo?” asked Sharula T’ai. She and Trink were sitting at a small table at the back of the establishment with a good view of the entrance. They had a small bowl of tachas between them. Sharula helped herself liberally to the dehydrated sprouts basted in spices, but Trink had been too nervous to eat much.

“Well,” she sputtered, “his name is Denys Leciak, and he’s Primus born, too.”

Sharula gave a small shudder, jingling her jewelry. She was wearing a purple unitard with a diaphanous red scarf draped over her right shoulder, secured to the unitard by a series of silver jingle pins. Her hair was sectioned into several small braids, the ends enclosed with clatter-tips to keep the braids from unraveling. This was her working outfit, designed to make noise with the slightest movement. When she went on inspections of her facility, she wanted her customers to know she was coming.

“You humans put a great deal of stock in where one is born-it doesn’t make sense to me. You are all humans, and you should be celebrated for who you are-not where you originated.”

Trink snorted. “In the ideal universe, perhaps, Sharula.”

“His name isn’t familiar. I don’t think he’s a customer, if you know what I mean. What does he look like?”

Trink smiled and almost swooned. Sharula grimaced and threw some tachas at her.

“He’s not very tall,” she started, “but he’s perfectly proportioned. Beautiful blue eyes. His head is shaved in spacer fashion, and he has several Primus oriented tattoos on his scalp. He’s got a round face- he looks like a naughty cherub. He is very easy on the eyes.”

“And what intrigues you about him?” Trink had to ask Sharula to repeat herself as Sharula’s words were garbled from her crunching tachas.

“He’s shown an interest in me.”

Sharula screwed her face up. “That’s not the best reason to be intrigued. I thought you humans like to have a sense of deep spiritual connection.”

“It’s enough for me, Sharula, that he’s shown an interest in me. No one else on this rock has ever done that before.”

“Want me to research him for you?”

“Sharula!” Trink’s eyes widened with surprise. “That would be...sleazy.”

Sharula shrugged. “Sleazy doesn’t translate, Trink,” she said, reminding Trink that not all her colloquialisms were easily translated into Universal Code.

“Try the words ‘base’ and ‘low-down’.”

Sharula nodded, not taking her attention too far away from her snack. “That translates better. Trink, researching someone is not a bad thing. Everyone’s life gets looked in on from time to time. There’s nothing ‘sleazy’ about it.”

Sharula toyed with her medallion and kept scanning the restaurant for Denys.

Within a few minutes, Denys appeared at the entrance, and Trink stood up and waved him over to their table. Sharula squinted, carefully studying him as he walked towards their table.

“Don’t remember him,” she whispered to Trink, as she sat back down in her chair. “I don’t care what you think- I'm going to check him out,” she hissed between her teeth, yet still managing to smile at Denys as he neared the table.

Trink stood up again. Sharula, not one to follow human proprieties, remained in her chair. Trink nervously fluffed at her hair. Her spacer-short haircut was growing out, slightly, but she still had the long hair tics.

“Denys, I’d like you to meet my friend, Sharula T’ai.”

Denys, raised with Primus manners extended his had to Sharula, who ignored the gesture.” Charmed, I’m sure,” he replied in a sarcastic tone which wasn’t lost on Sharula.

“Yes, I know you are.” Sharula got out of her chair and smiled thinly at Trink. “Enjoy the evening, Trink. Remember, it’s on me-no arguments.”

Denys quickly filled Sharula’s seat. “You know her? Do you know who she is?” His voice became high-pitched and almost frantic.

Trink sat down as well. “Yes,” she said as plainly as possible. “She’s Sharula T’ai.”

“Do you know what she does?” he asked in a hoarse whisper.

“Yes, Denys, I do.”

“This restaurant is a front for a brothel, Trink. Sharula T’ai runs a brothel.” His tone became angrier, and he grasped her wrist as if to squeeze the knowledge into her.

“Yes, Denys, I know what this place is,” she said as evenly as she could muster. She wrested her wrist out from his grasp and stared at the red finger impressions forming there.

“As a Primus born human, Trink, you should not be seen in the company of someone like that.” His blue eyes darkened, and his round features began to look sharp and cruel.

“If that’s so, Denys, then why are we here? If you knew what this place was, isn’t patronizing the front business just as bad as fraternizing with its owner? And how do you know who she is if this isn’t a place for Primus born humans?”

Denys stammered, unprepared her logical argument. “I chose this place because the food is good and it’s inexpensive.”

“Uh-huh. Well, Denys, I chose to be friends with Sharula T’ai because I find her to be a fascinating individual, and she treats me with the respect that friends have for one another.” Trink pushed herself away from the table. “Sharula T’ai is my friend, and her business is her business. Apparently, you cannot deal with her, and if you can’t deal with her, you needn’t deal with me, either.” She walked away from the table and out of Taste without looking back.

The streets of the University Centauri were quiet. Skiff cabs hovered in small clusters every few meters, waiting for customers. The lights were softly glowing and the hum of the dimmerbugs provided a soothing background music. She passed several skiff stands, preferring to walk on a beautiful night. She liked the crunch of the pavement under her feet. She looked back over her shoulder, just once, to see if Denys were going to come running after her. He didn’t emerge from Taste, so she made her way back to her rented room in silence, enjoying the night air.

#####

Trink didn’t see Denys for almost a month, Primus time. She kept very busy with her research and had little time to think about their disastrous date. She and Tashopli were involved in several native plant forages, and she saw little of her other Primus acquaintances. She seldom saw Sharula, who understood her absences.

Trink and Tashopli had returned from an expedition to the rimlands of the University Centauri. They were fatigued from the lack of oxygen at the high altitudes but were invigorated by the unique foliage that they were studying. Hungry, they went directly to Taste, and were warmly greeted at the door by Sharula T’ai. Sharula had come to enjoy the company of the Katoshian as much as Trink did; however, her tolerance of Tashopli didn’t particularly carry over to other Katoshians.

“You look terrible, Trink” she commented as she took them to her most private table.

Trink looked down at herself and realized that it was true. She was covered with fine gray dust from head to toe, and she assumed she had greasy black smudges on her face after looking at Tashopli’s. Her hair, also coated in dust, was sticking straight up in sharp spikes. Her cheeks were wind burned, and her lips chapped. Tashopli didn’t fare much better. Its bright blue skin had faded to a cadet gray, and its tail had splotches of painful, peeling skin.

“We have spent the past three days in the wilderness, Sharula, gathering and classifying plants, bagging specimens-the whole works.”

“It would have gone much better if the ground rats hadn’t stolen our food the second night,” interjected Tashopli.

“It would have been better still if the plants we were working with weren’t poisonous,” added Trink with a laugh. “Sharula, we could really use some of your good eats. As you can tell, as soon as the shuttle dropped us off in the city, we came straight here. We didn’t bother washing up or even dropping off our specimens.”

Sharula picked up the three mental cases of specimens and carried them to the back room. “Next time,” she said as she was toting the cases to a more secure place, “spare me that particular honor.”

Tashopli and Trink were both too hungry and too tired to worry about appearances. They wolfed down the food Sharula had provided, talking animatedly the entire time. Sharula stopped by occasionally and listened to a few of their stories before going off again to do her business and bring them more food.

Sharula had just deposited a large flaky loaf of chala bread on their table, complete with butter and jam and raw ground rat when Sonja and a group of her compatriots appeared.

Tashopli was ripping into the bread with its dust-covered talons, dunking the hunks into the meat when Sonja stopped at their table. She gave a porcine snort and frowned at Trink. She clicked off her translator so that no one could translate her words.

“So, Trink,” she spat. “Still consorting with aliens?” She wrinkled her nose as she stared at Tashopli. Trink was glad that her friend did not know enough about human facial expressions to know that Sonja found it distasteful.

“Tashopli is a friend of mine. Care to join us?” She smiled sarcastically and offered Sonja the empty chair at their table.

“No, thank you, Katrina. I am with humans who prefer not to be soiled by alien company, especially filthy alien company.”

“We’ve been in the rimlands collecting plants. There are no hygiene stations there, not even for the human elite,” Trink countered.

“You look like shit, Trink. For a human of your stature, you show no respect for decorum.” Sonja tugged at Trink’s badly stained tunic to emphasize her point. A small poof of gray dust rose from her sleeve as Sonja pulled at it.

“And for a human of your stature, Sonja, you’re a tactless condescending bitch.” Tashopli threw back its head and rattled its chitinous plates in laughter. Although it could not understand what Sonja was saying, it could understand Trink’s translated reply.

Sonja stormed away from the table; her pig-like features twisted with anger. As Sonja lead her group away from the table, Trink noticed that Denys was among them. He gave her a noncommittal shrug as he walked by, keeping pace with Sonja.

“Fuck,” muttered Trink as she took a slab of chala bread from Tashopli’s grimy talons with her equally soiled hand.

#####

Trink had not learned what had transpired between Sonja and Denys at Taste until much later. Sharula hadn’t felt comfortable revealing their conversation to Trink until after Denys fled Luti. Sharula knew that Trink didn’t approve of her checking out Denys’ background, let alone electronically eavesdropping on his table at Taste.

Sonja had snapped her universal translator back on. Although all her companions were Primus born humans, none of them spoke the same language.

“Fucking ingrate,” snarled Sonja as she flopped down into her chair. Sonja had chosen a table far from Trink’s so that she wouldn’t have to look upon the distasteful scene any longer.

“What should you care?” asked Denys as he, too, settled in to the table. He tried craning his neck to catch a glimpse of Trink but could not see around the small retaining wall.

“It’s important for us true Primus humans to maintain a sense of dignity. We were born on the mother planet, and we have to set an example for those poor colony-born slobs-show them what true humans are.”

“Sonja,” said Colette, a thin blonde with most of her hair shaved away and a Primus tattoo on her scalp as well, “you know that Trink has never really fit in with our circle, even before we all left the planet for University. She and that homosexual father of hers have never exhibited any worthwhile traits.”

“I say we forget about her, Sonja,” said Thomas, who had grown up a few estates away from Trink. “We don’t need her. She’s the one who needs us to look respectable.”

“That’s not the point, Thomas,” snapped Sonja. “With wealth like the Moules have, the off-born look up to Trink and think she is the standard by which Primus humans should be measured. WE need to be the examples.”

“Trink’s wealthy?” asked Denys, incredulously.

“Who do you think provides most of the human food to this rock?” asked Sonja. “Moule Enterprises, that’s who. Trink’s father, Alexander, shops Primus food to half the civilized universe. Are you saying you didn’t recognize the Moule name?”

Deny knew Moule Enterprises as well as his own name. He hadn’t connected the name with Trink. “I didn’t think that Trink could have possible been connected to a family that well off,” said Denys, trying to cover his faux pas.

Colette nodded her head. “It’s just like Sonja says, Denys, she’s a bad example of a Primus human. she has one of the most recognized names in the universe, and no one would think she as connected to such fortune by looking at her.”

“She should be grateful we even allow her to be seen with us,” said Thomas. He had tolerated Trink since childhood because of her father, but had never taken a liking to the shy, awkward child. It had been Thomas who had informed the others about Alexander’s presumed sexual orientation, hoping to drive Trink further away from their association. The Moule wealth, however, was substantial enough that none of them or their families could afford to be overtly hostile to the Moule family.

“I’m surprised she’s even on University Centauri at all,” said Denys. “I thought women with money like that stayed on Primus and married other money.”

Sonja laughed. “Why do you think she’s here? None of the Primus born would want a nasty little creature like Trink, no matter how wealthy she is. Her father’s a shrewd businessman-you can be assured that if she ever marries, none of that fortune would go to her spouse. I think she came to University to troll for an off-born husband.”

“She’ll never find one hanging out with Katoshians and plants,” said Colette. “Perhaps that is why she is always here at Taste-to order off the specials menu since that is the only way she could get sex.”

“Trink is friends with Sharula T’ai,” said Denys, aware the slightest defense of Trink at that time could be dangerous to his social standing within the group.

“Of course, she is,” said Sonja. “Trink is one of her best customers. It stands to reason Sharula T’ai would be her friend.”

Denys shook his head vigorously, knowing that he risked complete alienation. “No, I think Trink and Sharula T’ai are really friends, not just from a business angle.”

“That would make sense,” laughed Thomas. “She’s probably inherited her father’s homosexuality.” The entire table burst out into laughter, and Denys joined in, happy that Sonja hadn’t turned on him.

That night, the servorobots were extremely slow, and no one at the table went home without having food spilled upon him or her. Sharula had made sure that they went out of establishment looking as dirty as Trink had coming in.

#####

Two days later, Trink was in the botanical research lab, using the microtome to shave thin sections of her prepared plant tissue to make slides for anatomical study. Slides were an old-fashioned way to view microscopic structures, but it was still considered the best way by many purists. Computer generated visualizations were excellent but there was something almost sacred about using slides to Trink.

You clean up nicely,” came a voice at her shoulder. Trink looked up from her work and saw Denys standing there, holding a flask of scaloric acid.

“Thanks,” she said as unemotionally as possible. She turned her attention back to her work.

“Are you the one who needed the scaloric acid?” he asked, trying to look apologetic.

“No, it wasn’t me. Try one of the Katoshians over in the organic section.” She walked over to her second lab station, trying to get away from Denys.

“I thought for sure that they told me it was you who needed it,” Denys pressed.

Trink looked up and scowled. “I think it’s pretty obvious, even to a chemist, that I am currently in no need of a catalyst.” She returned to her first station and continued to shave her specimen, ignoring Denys’ presence.

“You know, I am trying to apologize to you, but you aren’t making it very easy,” he said with a restrained laugh. His confession intrigued her enough to make her look up at his cherubic face. She saw his crooked, sincere-appearing smile, and her anger melted away.

“Which particular thing are you apologizing for? Insulting my friends? Ignoring me? Being an asshole?”

“Can I just make a blanket apology, be forgiven, and ask if we can start all over again?”

Trink shrugged noncommittally. “It would depend upon the apology.”

He leaned on the lab bench, getting as close to her face as he could without knocking over her stacks of prepared slides. “I was a jerk. I shouldn’t have insulted you and your friend the other night when I was with Sonja.”

Trink waggled her hand in a comme ci, comme ca motion. “That was an intermediate oral apology, but unfortunately, you must make restitution before forgiveness can be considered.”

Denys paused for a moment. “I was planning on going to Chateau for dinner, and then go to the cinema. They are playing a retrospective of films done before 3-D holography was invented. Would you care to join me?”

Trink shrugged again. “Maybe. Who else will be there?”

“Just me. If there is anyone we know there, it will be a coincidence.”

Trink chewed on her lip. His behavior had been reprehensible, but as she refused to utilize Sharula’s connections, she was lonely for male company. His face was sweet and sincere. She knew Sharula would lambaste her for waffling so easily, but she didn’t want Denys to disappear again.

“If I decide to go, I’ll meet you in front of Chateau at half-up.”

Denys pondered her vague answer. “I guess that will be all right. Hopefully, I’ll see you there.”

#####

“And that’s all it took?” asked Beckett, as he cradled Trink in his arms. “One lame apology and he wins over your heart?”

Trink shrugged, staring at the wall instead of looking at Beckett. “It’s so hard to explain. He was very sweet to me, and until he came to Luti, he treated me very well. He was attentive to my needs and whenever he smiled, he looked like an angel. I couldn’t resist him. He smiled a lot,” she added with a sigh.

“What motivated his apology? From what I’ve gathered from you and Sharula T’ai, Denys was a self-serving, egotistical man. Apologizing to you doesn’t seem in character,” Beckett observed.

“I didn’t know what his real motivations were until it was all over. I always suspected it, though, in the back of my mind. Sharula told me about him on the trip home to Primus after he left me. I didn’t want to believe the reasons, even though I knew Sharula wouldn’t lie to me. I didn’t want to acknowledge what I knew was the truth. Sharula, of course, knew what was going on, but she didn’t feel it was appropriate for her to tell me. She was hoping that I would pick up on her not-so subtle hints and get rid of him before things got as involved as they did. Sharula believed in free will and didn’t want to influence me unjustly, and she knew that I wouldn’t have believed her even if she were to tell me. If being with Denys made me happy, then that’s what she wanted for me.”

“I can’t imagine Sharula showing that much tact.”

“Sharula liked to hint, and she hoped that I would come to her ‘correct’ conclusion. She was there that night when Sonja and Denys were there at Taste. She recorded their conversation and realized what was happening. She couldn’t tell me what she had done- I had told her that I wasn’t interested in having Denys investigated, and she wouldn’t jeopardize our friendship by proving that he was worth investigating. At that time, Sharula and I were just starting to be very close friends, she hadn’t yet asked my mother for the favor, and she didn’t want to ruin our relationship.”

“What did she find out?” Beckett pulled her closer, smelling her freshly washed hair. She smelled of jasmine and oranges. Sharula had always smelt of musk and sand. Every time he looked for a glimmer of Sharula T’ai, he found only Trink.

“Sonja, pissed at me for standing up for myself, began to sing my praises to everyone at the table. She cursed me from every possible angle, including my family. That night, Denys discovered that my father was THE Alexander Moule, influential interstellar grocer for the Primus born.”

“He wanted your money.”

Trink nodded, sadly. “Ironic, isn’t it? Me ex-fiancé pretended to love me because of my father, my best friend befriended me because of my mother, and you make love to me because you believe that I was once Sharula T’ai. It seems no one wants to be around me, for me.”

Trink burrowed as closely as she could to Beckett. “Denys’ family is very wealthy in their own right and they are descended from an illustrious and ancient family. However, they can’t come close to matching my father’s fortune. Denys studied chemistry at University-not a subject that would have given him financial freedom on Primus. He needed someone like me, an heiress. It didn’t hurt that I was naïve and terribly attracted to him.”

She wiped away some hot, angry tears, flinging the moisture to the cold floor. “He thought it was going to be an easy charade. It was easy for him to make me fall in love with him-he knew how to play my affections and to make me want him. He did it well, and I was completely fooled. Even Sharula, with all her broad hints, couldn’t make me see him for what he really was.”

“When did you know your relationship was in trouble?”

“He didn’t want me to go to Luti. He wanted me to finish my education and then return home to Primus. He wanted us to enter the marriage contract once we both got back to Primus and live off my father’s generosity at the estate. He found out, however, that Luti was the one subject on which I was not going to bend. We had several fights in the days it took me to get my affairs together on University Centauri, but my mind was made up, and I went. I went without him, and I went without Sharula. Denys knew he had to come to Luti himself in order to secure my affections again, especially after he found out that Sharula was planning on opening her own brand of business on the planet. He knew Sharula was holding her tongue about him-she had told him that to his face. He couldn’t risk me being around Sharula without him.”

“Once he got to Luti, Luti got to him. Twilight planets are difficult, and Luti was hard on Denys. He wasn’t in love with his work. He couldn’t appreciate anything about the planet. He didn’t lie on his back to gaze at the moon Skiw or dance in the streets when Redle and Cutr eclipsed each other. He decided that my fortune wasn’t worth his staying around any longer, so he left. When he left, I knew he was never in love with me.”

“Why did Sharula T’ai come to Luti? Did you ask her to come?”

Trink shook her head vigorously. “Oh, no. She came of her own accord. She said she missed me-that she liked having me around. She found me...interesting.”

“Sounds like Sharula was in love with you, Trink. Did the two of you?” he asked hesitantly.

Again, Trink shook her head. “There was nothing sexual between us, I can assure you. There was this... bond between me and her. I can’t explain it any better than that.” She rubbed the top of her head against his stubbled chin.

“I missed her, that first half-turn I spent on Luti. I sent her messages, occasionally visited over an interstellar transmission link. Once I even had my father send her some food as a present. I loved my work on Luti, so the distance didn’t seem like a terrible thing. I didn’t need anything but perlion and black chlorophyll. I didn’t need her, but she came anyway,” Trink sighed.

“Sharula missed me. She needed my friendship more than I needed hers, so she came to Luti. She declared Luti a ‘delightful diversion.’ She was particularly excited when she arrived as Chandler had recently agreed to do the favor for her.”

“Chandler had agreed to do the research project for Sharula T’ai before she relocated to Luti?” asked Beckett.

“Yes, amazingly, she did. She didn’t love Luti the way I do, but she came to appreciate it. She especially enjoyed the eclipse festivals-she said it made more people in the mood for her business.” Trink and Beckett both chuckled softly.

“Luti was a lot more fun once she came. Sharula fit in well with the Katoshians, whether she wanted to or not, and with Luti being a closed community, it made bartering the preferred currency. Sharula would rather trade favors than earn a profit. With Luti’s strict vacation policies, we took several trips together- we took Denys with us, but he was more an afterthought.” Her voice saddened when she mentioned Denys.

“Did you really try to tap off cyanide gas after Denys left you?”

Trink didn’t reply at first. She broke free of Beckett’s arms and buried herself further into her blankets. “Yes, I did,” she whispered so softly that Beckett almost hadn’t heard her.

Beckett pulled himself up in the bed, exposing his shirtless chest. “You didn’t need Denys. It sounds like you were doing fine without him, Trink. Trying to commit suicide doesn’t make sense to me.”

“You really want me to tell you all, don’t you?” Her fingers traced the lines of his ribs and toyed with the small thatch of crinkly brown chest hairs. She didn’t need to feel the nod of his head or hear his voice say yes. His answer was in his silence.

“I know Sharula told you about the miscarriage. I miscarried and ended up in the hospital. When he came to visit me, I told him about the baby- Sharula was the only one who had known. He laughed and tried to blame its paternity on one of ‘Sharula’s studs’. The baby was his, but he wouldn’t accept it.”

“The pregnancy was an accident, but I thought it would strengthen our relationship. Foolish Trink. I just wanted all that pain to go away. And when we got back to Primus, I found myself wanting. I thought I wanted him. I thought he would come back to me if I were on Primus. I was mistaken.”

Trink turned to face Beckett and nestled against him. Beckett resisted slightly at first. He wasn’t used to sharing his bed with anyone. Trink was warm against his body, soft and needing. He embraced the warmth and drew her close to him, protecting her as she slept.


Submitted: June 11, 2021

© Copyright 2021 drpixystix. All rights reserved.

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