In the Habitat
on Tetra, late Spring
Her slender foot dangled from the bed at the end of a leg that disappeared under a steep hill of blankets, pillows, and sheets. Pivoting at the ankle, the foot swung serenely from side to side, sometimes completing an arbitrary full circle before momentarily pausing at the beginning of another cycle of motion. Muffled voices and an occasional soft giggle could be heard from beneath the mountain of bedding, leading one to believe the foot to be an indicator of the excess playful energy of its young and beautiful owner.
Blankets, pillows, and sheets shifted slightly just before the toes on the foot gathered together tightly, trying to bend toward the heel without success. The large toe finally crept sideways to cover the middle toe as all of the remaining toes bent and flexed in reaction to some sensation flowing throughout the rest of the body. A loud gasp from beneath the pillows and the toes flared outward, the same invisible motivating force pulling the foot back toward the front of the leg. Straining momentarily, the foot instantly swerved away from the leg to point as straight as if it were about to perform a rapid yet graceful pirouette. Three times the foot repeated this splendid movement, all the while the bedding mountain moved very little.
It was then that the magic began for her. Perhaps it was a well placed hand somewhere on her body with fingers lightly grazing her tenderness or perhaps it was everything: the time, the place, the man. Whatever the motivation, the consequence for her was immediate.
The foot curled tightly and swerved sharply first left, then right. Each toe grappled with the others, using all their strength to pack themselves together as tightly as possible. The giggles gave way to gasps, moans, and finally muffled pleas of "T'aye! T'aye! T'AYE!" before the leg pushed hard to stretch and hold the foot as far away from the bedding mountain as it could. The same toes that had wrestled so earnestly just a moment before now flared away from one another as the foot pointed away and vibrated slightly. A loud, long, sensuous moan of pure pleasure filled the room and...
The door to the room burst open as a tiny hurricane blew in.
"HEY, EVWYBAUDY! IT STAWPPED WAINEEN!"
The three year-old hurricane immediately reversed course to scamper wildly down the hall to the stairs. Her shirt was on backwards and one of her shoes was still safely in her room.
Sitting bolt upright in the middle of the bed, a wide-eyed Lillith panted as her shock and the remnants of her passion subsided. The entire mountain of pillows and many of the blankets had been instantly distributed around the room. Lillith tightly grasped the only remaining sheet to her chest. A male hand reached the top of the bed from below to help in raising a disgruntled head from the floor. In the excitement, William had been accidentally lofted from the bed, landing with a hard thud on the hardwood floor. Their eyes met but neither had the answer as to what just happened. William gave it his best try.
"I guess the sun must be out, hon. The rain is..." An immediate realization hit them both simultaneously.
"Mud!" they exclaimed just before they struggled wildly to get to their feet. At the same moment, a frantic Phil bolted into the room.
"Sir! Mistress!" he gasped, out of breath. "I fear the Little One has evaded my efforts to monitor her activities and my search has brought me here. Have you seen her?"
The sound of the downstairs down slamming made everyone freeze in place to listen for confirmation of their worst fears. Within seconds, two canine barks were followed almost instantly by a sharp, pixie-like scream
"Fware! Stawp spwashin' me! FWARE!"
The mighty Protector of Tetra slumped forward from her kneeling position on the bed to let her head fall in defeat. With her rump left up in the air, she groaned miserably as she pulled a large pillow over the top of her head as if to hide. William reached out and patted her elevated behind tenderly.
"Don't fret about it, hon." he consoled with a sigh. "I'll clean her up this time. It's my turn."
"Just once," the muffled voice of Lillith groaned wearily. "Just once I'd like to see her stay clean all day."
William leaned down to within inches of the pillow shield.
"Give up, Velorian." he said in a mock Arion evil-guy voice. "You are no match for this new power."
"I surrender." she sighed again. "Take the planet. The Mud Child goes too."
On the shore of the Northundran Sea, that afternoon
"... as I am sure that a woman of your charm and beauty can attest, there is no greater bargain than that which enhances all that the Universe sees in you. A sparkling charm or bracelet can only add to your perfection."
The Scalantran Trader was in full sales-pitch as he trailed along behind Lillith. Looking over the trays of cheap jewelry set out for her, Lillith merely shook her head without looking up from her rather disinterested view of the available items. Her hair bounced a bit, her face distorting for an instant to confirm her rejection of the idea.
"Nope," she said. "I don't wear jewelry, `cept sometimes this."
Lillith fingered a teardrop-shaped crystal in a crude soft steel setting that dangled from a thin pewter chain around her neck. It was her Rose Crystal, the most rare of any of the colors she collected. She loved its deep pink color as the Tetra sun shone through it. In all her journeys to the crystal moon, she had never found another like it. For Lillith, it was a favorite. For the Scalantran, it was the most rare crystal he had ever seen. Its worth on the market was incalculable and he was determined to barter for it.
"Of course you don't!" chimed the ever-pleasant Scalantran. "Obviously you don't have the need to wear much of anything. But wouldn't a small bracelet, perhaps around your ankle be just the thing to highlight your physical wonders?"
Again, Lillith merely shook her head once as she continued to scan the tables.
"Nope. My mate says he likes me just the way I am."
"Your mate?" An opening to a sale just appeared and the Scalantran couldn't be more pleased. "Who better to do everything you can to please? Now I know the Velorian male and every one of them are quite taken with Yendri necklaces. I have just received an entire case of... "
"Beg your pardon?"
"My mate. He's Terran, not Velorian."
The news of a Velorian Protector mating with a mere Terran caused a moment of confusion in the Scalantran's brain, but only for the briefest of moments. There was a sale to be made and the angle had to be calculated quickly. Every bit of information the Scalantran knew about Terrans flashed quickly through his mind. An angle, something to make the sale, did not take long to find.
"Ah," he said with a wide sweep of his hands. "You are married to a Terran! How wonderful!"
"Mah-reed?" asked Lillith, her attention now given completely to the Scalantran. "What's mah-reed."
"Oh, my!" said the Scalantran with great incredulity. "Don't tell me you are not married to the Terran. It would simply not do!"
"It wouldn't?" Lillith started to look worried.
"Oh my, no. You see the Terrans put great importance on the entire ritual of marriage. There are rites to be performed and very many symbols that they hold to have profound importance in the taking of a mate. These symbols speak of their lasting dedication to one mate forever. I really don't know how they do it, but they stay with one mate for their entire lives. Isn't that amazing? They say the power of the symbols have a profound affect on every Terran. Without them, well, a Terran simply has.....nothing." The Scalantran looked quite sad at the thought as he watched Lillith's worried expression deepen.
"Mommy?" Mara'Lyn held up a small trinket, waiting for her mother's approval.
"No, velorinna," mumbled Lillith without really looking. "Put it back." Mara's hand collapsed to her side as her shoulders slumped with the conviction that her mother never lets her have anything.
"The child is yours?" asked the Scalantran, now looking frightened at the prospect.
"Oh, yes. All mine." The episode in the mud had been too recent for Lillith to sound more enthusiastic.
"This is terrible! You cannot have a child with a Terran without being married to him! It's disastrous!"
"It is?" Lillith was now in full worry mode.
"Absolutely. You cannot be sure of a Terran's commitment unless you have gone through the marriage ceremony."
"Oh, not Will'm. He loves me, I know."
"Perhaps he does, Protector, but there is nothing binding you to him. You have to be very careful with these Terrans, I can tell you. They're flighty, hard to understand sometimes. You just can't tell about them sometimes and when you least expect it...pffft!" The quick swing of his hand on the last sound made Lillith blink.
"Not Will'm." she said
"Perhaps." he said, unconvinced. Turning his back to her, he slowly walked back along the tables of trinkets, straightening an occasional misplaced item with a casual coolness of indifference. Lillith followed along right behind him.
"How does one mah-reed?" she asked with an edge of concern.
"It is a very sacred ceremony." he announced, stopping fast enough that she almost walked into him. "You may not be able to perform such an intricate and majestic ceremony as that on Tetra."
"Oh." mumbled Lillith, her disappointment, showing as clearly as it did across her beautiful face, let the Scalantran know that she had taken the bait. It was time to reel her in.
"Perhaps, yes, perhaps we can do the next best thing." the Scalantran proposed, his finger pointing straight up in his moment of grand discovery. "It is the symbol of the ring that brings the power of the marriage to bear upon the mate. Perhaps if we had the great symbol, the power would protect you both forever."
"Would it be enough?" she nearly pleaded. "I want to do the right thing."
The Scalantran scanned the sky, deep in thought. Lillith waited to hear her answer. The Scalantran thought of his profits from turning around that crystal.
"Yes." he finally pronounced. "Yes, it would be sufficient." Lillith's smile beamed with joy, but it was cut short by a very serious warning. "It's not as good as being married, but the symbols hold vast powers that bind two beings in love forever."
"That's what I want. Do you have such a thing?" Lillith was almost getting excited at the prospect of it all. The Scalantran patted her on the cheek.
"Let me check."
Rummaging through box after box, the Scalantran finally held up a small blue enclosure that opened with a turn of his wrist.
"This is it. This is the finest ring of Terran marriage in my inventory. The finest, the most beautiful," -- he held the ring up before her face as his voice took on a majestic quality -- "solid ...pure... gold."
Lillith looked for a moment, then scrunched her nose.
"Do you have anything in silver?"
"Oh, no. You don't understand, Protector. It must be gold. These things have always been gold, you see. A tradition that goes back centuries. It's all quite quaint, I must say."
Lillith sighed. "This is a good one?" she asked.
"Oh, yes." replied the smooth trader. "With this, you and he will grow old together."
That sounded wonderful to her. "How much?" she asked quickly..
The Scalantran shrugged. "What do you have to trade?"
"Well," Lillith thought. "I have a few new pieces that you might be interested in."
"Colors?" he asked.
"A few reds, lots of blues and greens. The crystals are very pure."
The Scalantran shook his head.
"Not enough to make it all worthwhile. These rings are very rare out here in this quadrant. Don't you have anything rare of value?"
"That pink crystal is interesting."
"My Rose Crystal? I don't know if I..." Lillith felt the Rose Crystal with her fingers. Its smoothness was a delight.
"I would be willing to trade your future happiness for your Rose Crystal." said the Scalantran with a sincere smile.
"I don't know..."
"How much is he worth to you, Protector?" said the Scalantran with a low, smooth voice. "How much is he worth compared to a simple crystal?"
Lillith knew very well the answer to that. He was everything to her. Her hands slowly slipped the pewter chain from around her neck and collected the crystal and chain together in the palm of her left hand. The sunlight scattered through the crystal bathing her hand in its warm glow. She loved that crystal, but she loved William more. She held out her hand without a word. The Rose Crystal was cheerfully removed by the trader and in its place was put a gold ring.
"How do I make it work?" she asked, looking closely at the ring.
"Choose you moment carefully, its power is strong. When you feel its call, place the ring on the third finger of your left hand. No, that's your right hand, the other hand. Yes. Simply slip the ring on and the Terran will be yours forever."
"Wow." murmured Lillith, her eyes still focused on the ring as she turned it around and around in her hand.
"Yes, quite. It was a pleasure doing business with you, Protector. May I call again on my return trip?"
"T'aye. Thank you for your hel..."
"OKAY, BOYS, PACK IT UP! WE'RE OUTTA HERE!"
Dozens of Scalantran warehouse workers descended on the display tables, drawing them back into the shuttle so fast that the shuttle was aloft and rising through the atmosphere before the dust settled from their feet. Lillith remained transfixed by the powerful token in her hands. Transfixed, that is, until she heard a small familiar voice.
Lillith looked up.
"Uh-oh what, Mara'Lyn?"
Mara raised her hand to display the same trinket that she had asked her mother about earlier.
"Dey f'got dis."
"Ohhh." groaned Lillith, turning quickly to see a tiny speck in the sky disappear. "Oh, well, we'll return it when they come back." Lillith took a closer look at the trinket. "It is kinda cute. Let's see it on you."
Encircling Mara's neck with the piece, Lillith closed the clasp with a subtle snap. Mara craned her neck trying to see it on herself. Both of her tiny hands patted the necklace as if forming a sand castle.
"I'm boo-ful now too."
"You always were beautiful, my velorinna. Come on, let's go home and show Daddy."
"Yes, and Phil too."
In the bedroom of the habitat, later that night
Lillith snuggled up behind William in their bed. As was her habit, she chose bedtime for conversation.
"Hm?" he croaked through the oncoming sleep.
"Will'm, if I were Terran, would you mah-reed me?"
"Mah-reed me. Would you?"
William rolled over to face her. He pushed away the drowsiness as best he could.
"Of course I would, hon. In a second." He kissed her lightly and settled back to sleep. "Besides, we're married now."
"Uh-uh." she corrected as she shook her head. "We didn't do all that ceremony stuff and symbol stuff."
William opened his eyes and sat up a bit, leaning on his arm. He saw a very serious young face looking deep into his eyes for answers.
"Lillith, I love you. You love me. We're together and we'll be together forever. We don't need all that stuff. Besides, that's a Terran thing. We're on Tetra. What's the point?"
"I dunno." she shrugged. "I just thought you needed mah-reed, that's all. You know, to get bound up with me."
William leaned forward and smiled.
"I thought we agreed that we wouldn't do that stuff in the house anymore since Mara was born." he teased.
"You know what I mean." she scolded with a slight smile.
"Yes, hon, I know, I know." he said as he laughed. "Don't worry about all of that. Have you been talking with Phil?"
"No, I heard about this from the trader."
"Oh," remarked William as he rolled his eyes. "Those guys. Don't listen to them, honey. They just want to take your money. Now, come on, let's get some sleep. Okay?"
Lillith smiled slightly and nodded. She met his kiss with her own and stroked his side as he settled with his back to her to let her sleep against him as she liked to. Lillith remained sitting up, thinking. William would surely want to keep her from worrying - it was like him to do that. The Scalantran did sound like he knew what he was talking about. And William did say he would gladly marry her if they were on Terra. Lillith looked down at him. Her love for him was so deep. She couldn't imagine life without him. She would do anything for him, as he would for her. It seemed like such a little thing to insure their life together. That, more than anything else, was what she wanted. For him. Anything for him.
Reaching under the bed, Lillith removed the small blue box and opened its hinged top. The gold ring glistened in the moonlight from the window. She knew better than to put gold around herself, but this was so very important. She had to do what she had to do. The ring slid easily out of the box. Lillith closed her eyes.
"For our love forever." she murmured as she slid the ring on the third finger of her left hand.
The room felt as if it was spinning a bit as a sudden weakness took over her body. For a moment, she even felt a bit nauseous, but that quickly passed. It was a welcome thing to lie down to sleep, fatigue taking her over. It would be alright, she thought, she'll be fine in the morning. Just fine.
The following morning
"Come on, sleepy-head. Let's get going."
William was already on his feet. He grabbed Lillith's foot as he walked briskly by the foot of the bed.
"Noooo." she groaned.
"No, what, you slacker." he teased. "Come on, hon. We have a big day today."
Lillith rolled slightly and pulled up into a slight fetal position.
"Mmph. I don't feel so good." she groaned.
William smiled at her obvious delaying tactic. Lillith never got sick. It was impossible. He crawled over her, prepared to wrestle her out of bed, when he noticed that her color wasn't right. She did appear to be sick.
"Oh, shit, Lillith! You really are feeling bad, aren't you."
His answer was a slight nod. She tried to open her eyes, but couldn't seem to focus. Her voice was extremely weak.
"I'll be fine, Will'm. Give me a minute."
William was already checking her forehead for fever.
"You're burning up, hon. What the heck is going on?" William was getting nervous.
"G'morn', Daddy. Can we have biscuits?" said a little voice behind William. He turned to see Mara'Lyn waiting for the answer still dressed in her little nightgown.
"In a while, bunny. Mommy's not feeling well."
Mara's eyes widened a bit as she scampered to the bedside to check on her mother. Lillith heard her and turned her head to smile weakly. Mara smiled back and patted her mother's shoulder.
"Don' you worry, Mommy. We'll fix you wight up. Do you want Fware?"
"No, I don't think Flare can help right now, velorinna." said Lillith through a wider smile. "I'll be fine. Why don't you go feed Flare and we'll be down in a minute."
" `kay." said Mara, running rapidly from the room with a determination to help. She nearly ran over Phil.
"The warmest of good mornings, Little One."
"Hi, Phil! Mommy's sick, so I gotta feed Fware!"
"That seems appropriate...sick?" Phil trundled rapidly to the bed. "Mistress? Sir? Is there a problem?"
William shook his head slowly.
"I don't know, Phil. It looks like gold poisoning, but she's been with me all night. There's no way for that to happen."
"Perhaps she ingested something inadvertently?" offered Phil.
"That wouldn't bother her. It has to encircle a part of her, but like I said, she's been right here all night. Jeez, Phil, she looks so sick."
William stroked Lillith's head lightly, holding her hand with his other. Phil noticed something different.
"Sir? There appears to be a gold device affixed to her hand."
"What?" The realization that the reason for Lillith's sickness had been in his hand all along made William feel stupid at best. He hadn't noticed the slim golden band on her finger as he concentrated so hard on the rest of her. He leaned down close to her to speak.
"Lillith? Lillith, honey. Can you hear me alright?"
"Uh-huh." she muttered, her eyes opening to mere slits.
"Honey, you have a gold band on your finger. Where did it come from?"
"Mah-reed." she groaned.
"Mah-reed? Married?" Looking at Phil, William lowered his voice. "Oh, shit, Phil. She was asking about marriage last night. She must have gotten a ring somewhere." He turned back to Lillith, a deeply pained look on his face. "Is it that important to you, Lillith? Is it so important that you'd do this to yourself?"
"Don't...want you....to go. I...love you...so much."
William's hand began to shake as his emotions tore at his heart. He pressed his lips to her hand only to roll his face away as tears filled his eyes.
"You crazy, wonderful woman, you don't need this. There isn't a ring in the Universe that could be a symbol of even half of the love we feel for each other. Don't you see, you don't have to worry about Terran ceremonies to make those vows. I've sworn my love for you every day of my life with you, in a thousand different ways. I swear my life to you. Do you hear me, Lillith? My life is yours forever. That's makes us more married than any ring."
"Mah-reed." she mumbled again, the fever deepening.
William straightened up, set his jaw, and sighed. There wasn't a thing he wouldn't do for her. He was going to set everything right, no matter what it took.
"Phil, come on out into the hall for a second." he said with a nod toward the door. Stepping outside the room, William spoke in a hushed voice. "What do you know about Terran marriages, Phil."
Other than their existence, very little, sir."
William nodded, peering around the corner of the doorway at Lillith.
"You need information, Phil. I went to my brother's wedding, so it should all be in there somewhere." William held out his upturned hand. "Go ahead and take it."
"As you wish, sir."
Phil touched William's hand with one of his legs. Their eyes closed just as an amber glow enveloped them both. It only took a moment for Phil to find and collect the required information. The glow faded and they broke contact.
"Quite elaborate, sir."
"Yeah, well, nix the band at the reception. That should simplify things." commented William. "Okay, go ahead and take off. I've got to get that ring off and take care of a few other things. I'll catch up with you later." William stood.
"As you wish, sir." said Phil as he trundled down the stairs.
"Lillith? Honey, I've moved you to the floor so the bed doesn't catch fire. I'm going to remove the ring. Are you ready?" William was leaning over a very still Lillith. Her breathing was shallow, but she could still nod slightly. "Okay, here we go."
William hadn't lived with a Velorian all these years with his eyes closed. He knew very well what would happen when he removed that gold band. He leaned forward to her, ready to jump out of the way when the ring broke contact with her finger. It was snug, but he rotated it slightly back and forth until it slipped over her first knuckle. It was now clear to slip free with only a slight tug. He steadied himself and pulled.
The force of the inrushing energy was the fiercest he had ever seen. The arcs of blue energy from the Matrix lanced out to pockmark the walls and ceiling as winds of a corona whipped everything not bolted down around in a vortex. There was nothing bolted down in the bedroom, so William was pelted with everything they owned.
Lillith raised into the air bent backward in an extreme arc. Her mouth was wide open and a blue glow filled it from deep within her. Levitating a few feet overhead, the Matrix filled her, restoring the lost essence of her until she was whole again. As quickly as it had started, the winds and arcing subsided, and Lillith fell roughly to the floor with a thud.
William sat nearby, his arms filled with Lillith's tourist pillows and anything else that flew by within reach. The damage to the room was considerable, but repairable. William hesitated, waiting to see if it was completely over, before flinging away his load and checking on her.
"Lillith? Lillith!" He stroked her cheek lightly until her eyes slowly opened.
"Hi-eee." she cooed, her sweet smile brightening her tired face.
"Hi." he cooed back. "You feeling better?"
"Good." he said as he lifted her from the floor and set her back on the bed. He tended to her lovingly, tucking the covers around her and setting her pillows. She watched him fret over her without a word, loving every minute of it. She was important to him, she could see that. Finally, he looked into her eyes with a smile and lightly stroked her hair back.
"Comfortable?" he asked.
"Uh-huh." she said through her smile. "In every way."
They kissed. The touch of the lips of the other felt as new as the first time. They both felt a glorious rush from it and there was a subtle regret as they parted.
"You rest a while longer, honey. I'm going to go take care of something very important and I'll be back soon. I'll ask the Tetrites to look in on you, alright? Promise me you'll stay in bed until I return."
"I promise, darling. I'll be fine. You go ahead."
He kissed her hand, picked up the ring, and walked from the room quickly.
Twenty minutes later, Lillith heard the engines of the Sabre whine up to full power just before it shot into the Tetra sky from the launch rail. Climbing nearly vertically, the Sabre was out of sight in less than a minute.
She wondered where he was going, but wondered more about when he would come back.
Early that evening
She had watched the Sabre land from the bedroom window. It was amazing how much sand that craft kicked up behind it as it settled over the landscape. The Sabre taxied noisily back to the revetment and shutdown. Even before the engines had spooled down completely, William had the hatch open to descend the ladder. He spotted her leaning out of the upstairs bedroom window and returned her enthusiastic wave.
"I'll be right down!" she exclaimed.
"No no! Stay there! I'll be right up."
Lillith was a little disappointed. She had stayed in the room and rested all day, as she had promised, and was feeling terrific now. She was bored and wanted to get back outside. Normally, she would have simply done as she pleased, but she had promised. For Lillith, a promise was to be fulfilled, especially to William. A broken promise was as bad as a lie to Lillith.
William knew that she wanted to get out of the room and he ran quickly up the stairs to get to her. As soon as he walked into the bedroom, he had an armful of Velorian Protector around his neck hugging him firmly.
"Oh, Will'm, I'm so sorry for what I did. That was dumb."
"No it wasn't, Lillith. It was loving and tender and wonderful, but very scary and it made me think a lot about our relationship. Come with me."
Taking her by the hand, William led Lillith down the stairs to the back door of the house. When he slowly opened it, Lillith's eyes grew almost as large as the Tetra moons.
A canopy of green leaves and colorful flowers extended from over the door out to a white curved trellis about twenty feet away. Standing on a platform within the trellis stood Phil, looking as much like a Justice of the Peace as he could, holding a service manual for the Sabre as a replica of the Book of Vows. On both sides of a small aisle that led from the door to Phil, dozens of Tetrites craned their heads to look back at the couple who now stepped out under the canopy.
Oh, Will'm! It's lovely! What is it?" asked Lillith breathlessly.
"This is a Terran marriage ceremony, hon, and ..."
"OH, WILL'M!" squeaked Lillith excitedly as she bounced up on the balls of her feet and covered her mouth with both hands. "Really? Is this a mah-reed?"
"You bet, Lillith." said William taking her hands from her mouth to hold in his. "Will you marry me?"
"Oh, yes! YES! With all my heart, yes! Then we'll always be together!"
"That's right, Lillith. This will make it all forever." Nothing could keep William from giving her what she wanted. Lillith nodded and stiffened as if she were about to make a high dive.
"Okay, I'm ready." she announced.
"Relax, Lillith." William whispered. "It's a ceremony, not a test of courage." He smiled. "Then again, some folks say it's both." His joke help Lillith relax a bit, so he provided a little instruction. "Okay, hon. When the music starts, we'll walk slowly up to Phil. Okay? Just follow my lead."
"Music?" she asked.
"Music." he confirmed. William nodded at Phil who nodded at a small group of Tetrites along the side of the canopy. The droning sound of "Here Comes the Bride" being hummed by a dozen Tetrites of various sizes filled the air. William took Lillith's arm in his and began the slow march toward Phil.
Just as they reached Phil, Mara'lyn, flowers filling her hair, walked out from behind Phil's stand holding one of Lillith's smaller tourist pillows, a purple one with gold fringe that said "Daytona Rocks" on one side - the side facing down at the moment. On top was a small cloth covering the entire surface of the pillow. She stepped up next to her Daddy and smiled wickedly at her mother.
Phil signaled the "band" to stop the music, which all but one did immediately. The largest Tetrite continued solo with a sonorous bass hum, completely engrossed in the music, until abruptly silenced with a rude tap on the head by the nearby soprano. Silence returned and William began.
"Lillith, you are my life and my love for eternity. Your wish to be married has made it mine as well and so we are here today. As you well know, we require a symbol of our lasting love, something appropriate that expresses the true value of what we have together. A gold ring is nothing compared to what you and I have together and it has been discarded. So let this symbolize to the Universe so much better what we have together and show to anyone that I dearly love you and will forever."
William pinched the cloth over the pillow and raised it quickly. There, nestled safely on a bed of satin, was the Rose Crystal, chain and all.
"Oh, Will'm!" cried Lillith through an emotional whisper. She was nearly overcome with excitement as he placed it around her neck and clicked the clasp shut. "How did you get it back?"
"I'm pretty good at negotiating with the Scalantrans, dear." said William. Phil cleared his throat nervously, knowing what that meant. "It was worth a gold ring once, it was worth a gold ring again. That's all."
Lillith felt the smooth, familiar stone with her slender fingers. The same stone she loved almost as much as the man who returned it to her. The same stone that now represented to that man just how much she truly did love him. The same stone that would symbolize their love forever.
"It's all so wonderful, Will'm." said Lillith, looking once more at everything around them. "Is this how it is on Terra?"
"Yes, dear. Just like this." William placed his hand on her's, turning them toward Phil. "Okay, Phil, we're ready."
With the information he had received from William, Phil calmly began.
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to join this man and this woman in matrimony...."
Later that evening, just before sunset
Tiny legs negotiated each step one at a time, each hand too occupied with a cookie each to hold on to a railing. Waiting patiently at the bottom of the stairs, a large blue dog watched each cookie with great appreciation, her eyes never veering from the round treats.
"Fware! I awweady gave you one! Go 'way!" Mara'Lyn's command fell on deaf ears as Flare merely sat down, licking her chops in anticipation. It wasn't until William's voice boomed from the doorway that Flare backed away.
"Flare! Go lay down!"
With a groan, Flare lowered to the ground as Mara passed. As soon as she did, Flare followed at a respectable distance, never losing sight of those delicious cookies.
Sitting comfortably on a rock, Phil waited patiently for Mara to arrive. Trundling unsteadily around the rocks, Mara simply handed Phil a cookie without a word. He thanked her and watched her climb upon the next rock to join him. Flare took up position next to her and sat, never taking her eyes off the remaining cookie until Mara placed it into her mouth. Or tried to. The cookie was wider than her mouth and her cheeks bulged until her teeth finally forced their way through the cookie. A small piece broke away to fall to the ground, but Flare quickly found it and consumed it whole.
"It is a wonderful sunset, Little One. Do you not agree?" commented Phil as he discreetly finished a portion of his cookie.
"Yep." she concurred. "Pwetty cool." She learned much from her father.
From the front door of the habitat, William and Lillith watched the sunset together, she nestled in his arms, the Rose Crystal safely around her neck. The day had been as rare and as valuable as the beautiful crystal that had helped make it so. As rare and as valuable as the sight of a Tetrite, their daughter, and a large blue dog seated in a row together silhouetted against a blazing red sunset on a distant planet called Tetra.
and suggestions are always appreciated!