His answer left me not much the wiser.
‘Well, there’s an exoskeletal formation on each shoulder which protrudes from what you call the scapula. What in a free translation from the Badezoid we might call the ‘oriel’, as in the protruding window. Let me feel yours.’
He reached over and put his long arms under my top, feeling the shape of my shoulder blades, and tutting in a way he’d picked up from Sandy as he presided over his optics. Just as I was relaxing into the connection that was being established between skin and sleepy brain, he stopped as abruptly as he had started.
‘Your scapulae are disguised by all that potter’s wheel muscle of yours. But in the bar and on the beach I’ve noticed that many humans have quite pronounced or pointed bone structures there, which are not dissimilar to the Badezoid child’s. I think there might be a genetic relationship between our species that is lost in the mists of time. That is of course something which could now be tested.’
I gave him a ‘we are not submitting ourselves to tests’ look.
‘Anyway, the casing of the Badezoid’s fledgling wings is embedded in the scapula and is not necessarily that much more pronounced than a human’s, though inevitably Badezoid shoulders develop more powerfully than yours’.
I though about mentioning Björn Borg at this point but the flippancy would almost certainly be lost on Bill. I was by now inured to human inferiority and Badezoid superiority. Besides, it was flattering to hear that my shoulders disproved the general rule. At least, I think it was.
‘It might look a little odd if the baby does carry the genetic coding to develop wings, but if it did, the protuberances could still be in the spectrum of what is humanly possible and explicable. But the ridges might raise some eyebrows.’
‘Badezoid babies have a ridge along the underside of each arm, from which an additional part of the wing structure sprouts at a varying age – the shoulder wings overlap with these so that the arms become part of an impervious whole. If you look along my arms you can just make out the scarring where mine were cut away. In places.’
I peered at his now wingless arms, raised nevertheless as if for flight, and looked for seams as you might in the stitched-up sides of an ancient teddy bear. It was difficult to see by lamp and flame alone, and I was too comfortably heavy to get up and turn the main light on. I made a mental note to check on another occasion, but I’d made more than one thorough exploration of his arms before now, kissing the length of them, and not noticed any ridges. I trusted my lips as much as my eyes in that respect.
What a strange state I was in. Pregnant by a man who genuinely seemed to believe he was an alien, and against all rational analysis instinctively inclined to give maternal credence to the notion that my baby might appear from the womb with a pair of wings. It was as if in taking his seed into me I had out of reproductive necessity become part-Badezoid myself.
Was this the birth of a new species, a story that would one day be embellished to become a set of magnificent fables – a creation myth – or simply a series of delusions told by a madman and believed by a woman not much less insane, day after deluded day? That I still did not know; I believed he wasn’t entirely sure either, or that the baby when it came would offer us proof one way or the other.
My dreams that night defied rational analysis too. As dreams should; but these were such as I had never had before, going beyond those I remembered from my previous pregnancies, before each successive would-be life was unfairly, harshly snuffed out. I dreamt of walking with Bill through what in the dream and on waking I knew was a forest on Badezon; the scale of the trees was unearthly and their unfamiliarity magical. Badezon appeared as a deserted world in which the alien and I roamed together, as if we had been given the planet to populate. The wild slim alien’s wings were spread like a cloak around my shoulders as we drifted along a short distance above the sandy forest floor. And the love we made hidden among waterside trees that bore some resemblance to weeping willows woke me with a start. For a moment the vivid reality of the dream took away my breath, and the whole of me heaved with waves and wings of desire.