With my onboard boiler, I was forever overheating, especially now it was summer. The only way to stay sufficiently cool was to lie still, or as still as possible when a new life was beating a tattoo inside you with its possibly alien limbs. Or beating its future wings. I lay on the bed listening alternately to the music of and in my body and music played into my ears. Potting was by now beyond me; occasionally I sketched. My subjects were the coastal shack where I sometimes worked; its shape and how it was set into the fall of the land towards the sea were as familiar to me as the hands I put to work there. Or I would draw the wild slim alien as he sat on the bed against the angled ceiling of the room. Or Rupa, when she brought me iced drinks or an ice pack and stopped to talk to me.
She never asked me about the alien and what I really thought, but sometimes I would find myself talking about him to her, and then, just occasionally, I thought I could see hunger in the set of her mouth, however hard she tried to displace it with the curl of a gently sceptical eyebrow. The alien when he came up brought no offerings but instead – possessor of my body – felt for kicks, felt my breasts, marvelled at how hot my forehead was, brushed hair away from it, and otherwise did his best to make me both irritable and full of heart. When I shooed him away I immediately wanted him back. He was in one of his nervous phases again. At first I though it was the proximity to fatherhood, but then I got to wondering if it was something to do with Rupa.
Both of them were creatures of discretion; usually they could marshal an internal emotional explosion without it registering on their faces. A tightness around the mouth and eyes gave Rupa away, while the alien’s gait assumed an extra awkwardness as he stood braced against the wind of feeling, wind he could master gliding through the air, but not on the ground, earthbound. I began to sense that something had passed between them, but I would never be sure what. Just a few weeks from bringing a new life into the universe, I wasn’t going to let myself be dragged under with anxiety about it. People made their choices good and bad, but I knew I would go on with or without them, even with a broken or hardened heart. I’d done it before. And a baby only multiplied that. Made the breaking or the hardening less likely.
And then where one day there was tension, the next it was gone. While I was confined, they must have reached an understanding. If they had acted on attraction, I was sure I would know. I would feel it. I knew the signs, after all. Even if one had made an attempt and the other repelled, I would know. You can’t disguise that kind of awkwardness between two people. So when I saw them together, more or less at ease, I reckoned they must have talked, and one of them must have had the sense to rationalise the situation. Deflate it. I doubted it was the alien – he had a system of logic, but it didn’t apply to him personally. He went with the tides. It was part of what I loved about him. He gave himself the wrong name when he baptised himself Bill. William, well alright. Or maybe Daniel, from the surname he had spontaneously coined when the paramedics queried his name. Though that would have made us Dan and Chan, and we’d have had no peace from Sandy when we presented ourselves together at his bar.
‘What are we going to call the baby?’ I said as he sat on the bed one day. Curiously this was a conversation we – an atypical human-badezoid couple, after all – had not yet had.
‘I remember so few of the names we called ourselves. It’s one of my blind spots.’
‘But you remembered about the Gedavippio and the Peldastiquon.’
‘Through fear, I guess. Once encountered, never forgotten.’
‘Well, obviously we don’t want to call him after those bird-murdering bastards, if he’s a boy. That might be a little too destiny-shaping.’
‘It would be good to have one human name, one Badezoid. I keep trying to remember – my mother’s name, my own.’
‘Ah, if I could only remember my name.’ He didn’t like to be teased, but if he was so good at irritating me, I didn’t see why I shouldn’t have fun with him from time to time. He was a long way from fully appreciating earthling humour. We knocked some human names back and forth for a while. Then I decided to set him a little test.
‘Perhaps, if it’s a girl, we should call her Rupa. That would only be fair, after all she’s done for us.’ That set his frame rigid.
‘Okay,’ he said, uncertainly. Sometimes he was so guileless he was unreadable.
I didn’t blame Rupa. I didn’t think she would ever have set out to ensnare him. But somehow she managed to be both self-contained and softly magnetic and at close quarters I would have to say that I too was a little in love with her. And I knew her curiosity might be aroused by William – whose wouldn’t by a giant shaggy Australian who was convinced he was from outer space? And that her implacably stoic nature might be ruffled by proximity to him. But I don’t think even in our great need of her help that I would have invited her into my house if I could trust her. I just wasn’t that intent on self-destruction.