I peeled my one-hundred-and-tenth pel fruit in preparation of the upcoming Ancestors’ Day festival. I only needed five more for the traditional Ancestors’ Day pel jam. I didn’t mind the tedious work. Peeling fruit came with a stool upon which to rest and plenty of time to daydream about Jarlath.
Bright memories of the time I spent with Jarlath yesterday frolicked through my mind. The look on Jarlath’s face when I had asked if he wanted to kiss me. I realized I’d giggled and looked around to see if anyone noticed. I should have been more careful to at least look like I was paying attention to my task, but the kitchen was so busy preparing for the feast, no one noticed.
I had worked hard since I first found my way down to the kitchens, I thought I deserved a small amount of slack. A woman needs time to fall in love. With an alien. I suppose I am the alien, here. I looked around, dropping peeled pel number one-hundred-and-fourteen into the bucket.
Thulid, the castle’s Master of the Kitchens, stopped by my bucket while inspecting the kitchens. Purple scales aged to a lovely shade of lavender, Thulid leaned his appreciable gut against my worktable and peered into my bucket of peeled pel.
“How are you settling into the kitchens, Mellida?” His deep, rumbling voice rolled over me like a soft, old blanket. Memories of Grandpa floated through my head.
“I’m well, Thulid. I was just finishing up with the pel for the jam.”
Thulid laughed and patted me on the back. “Wonderful. Once we get this jarred, you should go on home. Tomorrow is a long day for all of us.”
“Thanks, Thulid. I will do that. It has been too long since I weeded my garden, and I believe I may have a new crop of billin leaf, too.”
“Just in time for Ancestor’s Day.” He smiled at me and moved on. Thulid maintained a dignified, kind, air most days. Let him catch you abandoning your post at a prep table or oven, and I swore he looked like a scaly Gordon Ramsey.
I was a tiny human, compared to the D’Tali rushing around me. At five-foot six-inches tall, I wasn’t tiny for a human woman, but these dinosaur men surrounding me all towered above six feet. I peeled the last pel and dropped it in the bucket, wiping sweat from my brow.
I set my knife down and grabbed the handle of the full bucket. I hefted it in two hands and waddled over to the cooler, a dark room of stone blocks chilled by water diverted from the river. I was strong, for a Human woman, but everything here was made for people taller than the average Human.
I hefted the slightly-too-large bucket to a shelf next to some aging numa cheese. I stopped for a moment to catch my breath. Within seconds my mind drifted back to Jarlath. After yesterday, I dreamt of kissing him, of what it would be like to run my hands over the bumps of his shiny scales.
Arms encircled my waist. I yelped and spun, arm drawn back, ready to fight. My heart pounded in my chest. Jarlath chuckled, drawing his face out of range of my curled fist.
“Oh, you!” I slapped his shoulder, not that he would notice through all that muscle. My hand felt up his bicep until his twitching pecs distracted me. The silly grin on his face and his dancing pecs set me to laughing hard enough to tear up.
“Did you miss me?”
I tried to back away, laughing. I turned and walked to the kitchen.
“Maybe. Ask me tomorrow.”
Jarlath followed me through the kitchen.
“So, you are asking me to join you in the Human Dating ritual, yes? I mean, I can only imagine what human men must be like, but—with as fast as rumors fly after Amber sneaks off to her favorite tavern—I heard Human men were often strange even in the eyes of Human women.”
I laughed. I laughed a lot around Jarlath. I passed under the arch and into the kitchen’s courtyard. The kitchen staff smiled at Jarlath as we passed. He patted backs and snuck appreciative bites of their dishes.
“You have the best job, Mellida, around this delicious food every day. I would eat myself sick the first day.”
I chuckled, grabbing his hand and dragging him to the far side of the courtyard.
“Yes, I am happy to see you.”
He tugged on my hand. I followed along like dancing a waltz. Jarlath drew me close, wrapping his arms around me. His big hands cupped my cheek. His gentle fingers stroked my lips. My heart galloped.
“This is ‘later’, Mell. I have come to collect my promised kiss.”
I gasped. “I made no such promise. I said, ‘I’ll think about it’.”
He grinned, running his hand up and down my back. My fingers traced the contour of his collarbone.
“And? Did you?” The longer he gazed into my eyes, the further in I fell. My entire essence glowed with golden warmth. Each second we were together, those golden threads bound us more tightly.
“Did I what?”
“Did you think about kissing me.”
I bit my lip. A blush crept over my face. “Maybe.”
His strong hand stroked my hair. I stretched up on my toes, yet could not reach Jarlath’s face. I grabbed it with two hands and pulled him down to meet me. Soft and gentle, belly fluttering wildly, I pressed my lips to his.
My lips tingled against his. Warm, golden energy flared to life within me. He slid his hand behind my neck, cradling my skull and returned my kiss as if born to it. My lips parted. Our tongues danced.
A small moan escaped my lips. I drew away. We both drew ragged gasps of breath. Never had I felt a kiss like that. For a moment, the rest of the world stood still around us.
“I have to go.” My voice sounded hoarse to my ears. I stepped back, but my fingers lingered. Jarlath spoke not a word. He watched me walk to the kitchens. He looked like he might break in two were we to part.
I returned to the pel fruit in a heady daze. I blessed the long hours cooking on the line while chasing my dream of being the chef at my own restaurant, for my hands knew the recipe. My head, well, had no chance of escaping reruns of that kiss.
It turned out I only needed one-hundred-and-one pel fruit for the jam, so I whipped up a quick pel cake. The cake baked while I filled jars. Making the jam filled the kitchen with humidity. Sweat ran down my back and between my breasts. The humidity might have made me miserable, but the cake turned out perfect.
I tidied my stations, washing my tools, utensils, and dishes. Jarvic, a young, orange-scaled D’Tali with a flair for spice, fussed at me for washing my own dishes. The kitchen labor was well divided, and dishes were, technically, Jarvic’s job, but I had spent so much time in commercial kitchens on Earth, I felt compelled to clean up.
Wiped out from my day, I checked the jars of jam one last time, happy they all sealed well. I gathered my things, stuffing them in a leather pack I picked up at the market last month.
I stopped by Thulid’s office and collected my pay. Thulid insisted we all be paid before Ancestor’s day so we could all enjoy the festival. I stuffed the coins in my bra, thankful the other Human women and I had found a tailor who would work with our needs.
We had gone through several unsatisfactory solutions for human breasts, limited, as we were, by available materials, but the tailor found an imported Aetamian fabric with superior stretch.
We settled on a demi-bra design. The tailor made each piece to fit and, I must admit, custom tailored clothes fit so much better than off-the-rack on Earth.
As good as the bra was, the tailored trousers we had talked the tailor into making us may have been the best pants I had ever owned. I had had the pair I now wore made from a lighter fabric to keep cool while working in the kitchens.
I picked up the pel cake and walked to the Auxiliary Barracks where many of the prison guards, including Jarlath, were billeted.
My tired legs felt heavy, but my heart floated in my chest, light and free. I stopped at the barracks’ door and asked the young D’Tali guard stationed there if he would tell Jarlath he had a visitor. The young guard’s eyes about fell out of his head, seeing—and talking to—a Human woman.
“Yes, mi’lady.” He snapped off a quick salute and sprinted inside to find Jarlath. I sighed about the ‘mi’lady’. I was a cook, not a ‘lady’. When other girls asked for dolls, I asked for fake food and a play kitchen.
Jarlath arrived, smiling wide. He stroked my hair, eyes huge. That golden fog between us pulsed more strongly each passing second.
“Mell.” He took my free hand and gazed into my eyes.
“I brought you a cake, since I had to run you off, earlier.” I pushed the boxed cake into his hands.
“Thank you, it smells delicious.”
Kalan popped his head out of the prison gate and shouted at Jarlath.
“Jarlath, we need you in here. Hezric opened his mouth again and Toc’s tossing the old man around like a mad valanx.” Kalan disappeared behind the gate. Loud shouts rang out and I heard the crashing of bowls on iron bars.
“I have to go, Mell…” Jarlath’s head whipped back and forth between me and the door.
I grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled him down to me. I planted a hot kiss on his lips then looked him directly in his love-addled eyes.
“Don’t get hurt.”
He smiled at me.
“I promise.” He turned on his heel and ran back through the gate, pel cake in hand.
I sighed and made my way to my small cottage not too far from the kitchens. I apologized to my poor, weedy garden, promising to tend it tomorrow.
Legs leaden and happier than I remember, I found myself in bed, still clothed. I drifted off to dreams of Jarlath and his electric kisses.