Beth is stretching in the bed. “It’s so silent here,” she thinks, letting her mind wander among her memories. She and the Major have been staying here on Frigellya for three weeks now. They have taken time to visit the planet and followed the suggestions of Abeena, Christopher and Nori. After having spent two days in the castle following their wedding, they both agreed they were not ready to go back to Earth.
—Let’s go back home when my pregnancy will be what it should have been when I announced it: four to five weeks. What do you think?
—I would really appreciate being alone with you, for some time. On Earth, we’re all together. It’s nice, really, but I need a break, and I’m sure you need one too, am I right?
—You are. Honeymoon on Frigellya then?
When they told their plans to Abeena and Christopher, they were given a sort of disc:
—Wherever you will be, this disc will show you where you can find a place to sleep and a meal; just follow the instructions. You’re Frigellya’s guests.
On Frigellya, hosting a stranger was an ancient custom the people were proud of, but years of war had undermined it a lot. Abeena tries to restore this idea and encourage people to practice it again by building a network of official Frigellyan hosts called “Welcome”. Being a member of Welcome gives one the right to have one’s name placed twice in all the draws for events at the Castle and receive help for any outfitting needed to make guests feel good.
Beth and the Major discovered Frigellya by walking a lot during the day, admiring landscapes, observing Frigellya’s wildlife and nature, and meeting lots of people, through meals and night stays.
They traveled from one point to another with their transporter. Even though Beth had already seen some other alien planets, she was absolutely amazed by the colors she saw. Yellow water, blue ground, red trees. This planet seemed to have been created by a mad painter. She also just recently realized how Earthly the main town is, where the Royal Castle stands. And she really understood, talking with people every day, that Earthly trends were considered here as the height of chic. The Major didn’t pay much attention to where they went. He was just happy to be alone with Beth. But he wanted to make her a surprise. One evening, he stayed to talk with their host for a while, telling Beth to go ahead and get ready for bed and that he would arrive soon. Being exhausted, she fell asleep before the Major had a chance to return. After breakfast the next morning, he entered the coordinates of the next place they would visit, which was recommended to him the night before by their hosts. They materialized in front of a big lake.
—Here we can swim, he said. Our bathing suits are under our seats, and look—he pushed a button and the landscape around them disappeared—nobody can see us getting changed. We’ve got an intimacy bubble.
—We’re not in our Dalygaran bodies, objected Beth.
—Well, we can’t stay very long underwater, but you know how to slow down your heartbeats, and we’ll put on some Frigellyan lenses to be able to see underwater. It will be fine.
—Let’s have a try then.
When they were ready, they went out. There was another couple nearby with a pet that looked like a big squirrel yet behaved like a dog, following them everywhere and searching for caresses. It came to see Beth and the Major, sniffed them, and then went quickly back to its family when they called its name. They all waved a greeting.
The newlyweds entered the water hand in hand.
—Ooh, it’s not that warm, said Beth.
—Yeah, I agree. But our host told me yesterday that these are the most beautiful underwater landscapes of the planet, and worth the effort. Ready to try Dalygaran swimming in a human body? he teased her.
—Oh, I’m damned ready.
And she pulled him by the arm until they were both neck deep in the water.
—Don’t forget to let your eyes open, he said.
She smiled at him and concentrated on slowing down her heartbeats. When they were both ready, they glided under the water and began their exploration. They both had to go more frequently to the surface to breathe than if they were in their travel bodies, but they really enjoyed swimming together.
—I’ve never seen such beauty before, said the Major when they had gotten out of the water.
—That was wonderful, all those colored lights down there, coming from plants and animals. And this sort of coral, building amazing forms, as if an imaginative sculptor was trying to create the most improbable constructions.
—You know, at times I had the sensation of looking through a kaleidoscope, when colored fish came and gathered before parting and going to gather with others.
—What’s that, a kaleidoscope?
—Beth, it’s made by humans. Benedict showed me one once, when he invited some guys to his home after my course. He told me it’s a very old thing he got from his great-grandfather. Never heard of it?
—Well, I’m glad to teach you something about your own planet, he answered laughing. A kaleidoscope is a tube that has mirrors and loose pieces of colored glass inside at one end. When you turn the tube while looking in through the other end, you can see the colored pieces gathering in many different ways, showing amazing figures. And down there, it was the same with the fish. I’ll ask Benedict to show you.
—I’m looking forward to seeing that.
Beth recalls these last words as she stretches again in the bed. A hand comes and strokes her hair.
—You’re awake? whispers her husband, leaving a soft kiss on her neck.
—Yeah, she answers, turning around to see his face and give him a smile. I feel so good here, you know.
—I feel good, too. But our honeymoon is at its end. This is our last day in the Castle.
—You’re going to see Nori this morning in the fencing room, aren’t you?
—Yes, we want to practice together once more before you and I leave.
They both sit up in the bed.
—I … I’m a bit frustrated that I can’t fight with you two. But in a Dalygaran travel body, there will be no problem. This body is not pregnant…
—Beth, we didn’t talk about this, but remember, travel pills are slowing down your metabolism much in the same way that 12-hour travels cost you only one hour of your Earthly life. It’s like you missed 11 hours. In other words, physiologically, your body has lived one hour, while the clock has ticked 12, meaning that all our vital function are drastically slowed down. But it’s not without consequences…
—Oh, you’re right. It can’t be good for the baby, having its growth slowed down that way…
— Beth, as far as I know, it’s unsafe for both mother and child. Remember what it had done to you, when things lasted a long time. You collapsed. Even if we just use this kind of pill for an hour or two, it has a cost: it weakens our body.
—And I need it to be strong, for us two to be healthy, she said, passing her hand on her belly. I can’t go on taking this pill being pregnant. Well, if I won’t be mindraveling for the next 8 months, maybe it’s time for me to unleash my drawing skills…
—I’d love to see that. You’re a wonderful artist.
—But I wouldn’t be able to see our heart daughter for several months either…
—Beth, we’ll find a solution. We always do. And remember, we’re supposed to get married on Dalygaran too, at the next Gold Ring Rise, in three months. I can assure you, we’ll be there.
—How if I can’t use the travel body?
—How about using our own bodies?
—We’ll need space suits!
—I’ll never get married in a space suit, I swear.
—We can’t breathe properly on Dalygaran. Without a spacesuit or a travel body, it’s impossible for us to go and stay.
—Well, I’ll have to speak with Mira and Reymo first. I’ve got an idea. Maybe with a little work, we can make it possible.
—An idea…, which is?
—How about a Frigellyan transporter able to follow us as we walk with a minimalist security bubble. It would work like an invisible spacesuit. We could be safe, and among Dalygaran people. I think it’d be a good thing if everybody could see us as we really are the day of our wedding. You’re the Savior, and few people know what you really look like.
—I’m not the savior.
—Of course you are. You got a national celebration, remember?
—I don’t think I deserve…
—Beth, you stopped a disaster. People love you. You can’t do anything against this.
—I surrender. I’ll go with you to this ceremony with my big belly.
The Major laughs.
—You’ll be gorgeous.
He hugs her.
—David, aren’t you going to be late to your session with Nori?
—Do you want me to stay with you?
—Don’t be silly. I planned a walk in the gardens with Abeena and little Lucia.
—No regret about going back home tonight?
—As you wisely said before we decided to stay here for weeks, everything has an end. Hopefully, my Frigellyan wedding dress will adjust to my morphology that has changed a little bit during this time. Nobody will see anything. And that’s better, because we’re supposed to come back directly from the reception.
—I can feel something is bothering you.
—I lie to my family and friends all the time, you know. And why? Because if I choose to tell the truth, I’ll just burden them . People couldn’t talk about what they know about us. I’d made them liars in turn. It’s unfair. And If I fail to choose someone strong enough to keep our secrets, what would we do? Wipe out this person’s memory? Time and space travel rules are so harsh, David. How can I choose who will receive that burden?
—You already know, Beth. You made your first choice, and you did it right.
—You helped me to lighten the weight of the secret for my father.
—Yes, I had this opportunity and I took it. In this case, you can only rely on what you think is right.
—I know. But I’m so afraid of making a mistake one day.
—Beth, everybody makes mistakes. Believe me.
—You’ve got much more experience than m…
—I’ve been human for less time than you. And it happens I’m lost. Have this in mind: I need you Beth. You’re my sunray on Earth. You make my life there worth it. Without you, I would just be an uprooted, most likely depressed, guy. And what my experience tells me is that making a bad decision is so easy. You and I are of those who always try to correct the bad things they’ve done. And I don’t want you to be afraid, I want you to be confident, because whatever you do, I will always be on your side. And I know, you’ll be the same for me. This is our wedding vow. We’ll overcome any obstacle together. Ok?
Beth kisses her husband.
—I’m sure you’re late for your session with Nori now, she whispers.
—Not yet! In 10 minutes I’ll be ready. He won’t hold it against me if I’m a few minutes late.
—Sure. Hurry up. I’ll see you for lunch.