Wherein we reach the conclusion of this short story. Note how I phrased that. The 6055 words of parts 1-8 were from a glimpse of something I had at church three weeks ago. It took about five days to write it all down. Once complete, I thought it would be a nice addition to my second short story collection.
Until last Sunday, when another reel started playing in my head. Picking up right where this one ends, with Allen up in his room using his tablet to read Ryland’s bio on the Naval Academy’s page. The next day he’s back at the Galveston base and the following day at his job, doing in port maintenance on TNS Liberty. And that’s only what I’ve seen so far. I do know Allen develops a friendship with another sailor and it is quite possible that the Mexicans, Cubans, or some other power, have slipped a submarine into the Gulf of Mexico to interdict commercial shipping.
Saying all that to say this: thanks for reading along with this short story and look forward to its novella in 2022!
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Dinner immediately got off on the wrong foot. With the early spring temperature outside plummeting, they were at the dining table, where Alan indicated for Ryland to sit at his right, where she flatly refused. “A guest may sit anywhere. That is for an honored guest. I made your wife cry; so, for this visit, I refuse your offer.” In the uncomfortable pause, his son moved two chairs away, leaving only four on the oblong table. He took the one to the right and indicated Ryland the opposite.
“But we’re still just friends, Allen!” she had laughed, sitting down. “Friends stand side-by-side, looking at the same thing! It’s lovers who stand face-to-face, looking at each other!”
Roberta took the next silence as an opportunity to say a blessing. His son clasped his hands together while their visitor raised hers, palms up, to either side. Alan lowered his head and for once thanked God he had never had to detain someone like this madwoman.
The meal itself was amazingly free of controversy. While most of the questions went to their guest, they were related to the Academy and the Navy, and, for her part, she stayed on topic. When it appeared as if everyone was finished, Roberta suggested opening a bottle of wine.
“Y’all go ahead, but I must be leaving soon,” Ryland explained. Allen looked as if she had stabbed him. “Oh, control yourself, boyfriend! I have to drive west of Austin to go to Mass with my parents tomorrow morning! Sheesh! Here!”
She stood and walked around the table. With surprising strength, she dragged Allen’s chair away from the table and sat on his lap. Her arms about his neck, she hooded her eyes and opened her mouth a fraction.
Closing his eyes to his mother and father on his right and left, Allen would not this chance slip. It was only when their guest began to moan that his father coughed sharply. They separated slowly, with a tiny filament of saliva breaking their contact.
“Wow!” Ryland breathed, lightly brushing the fingers of her left hand across Allen’s scar. “So that’s what kissing is like! We’ll have to do that again, soon!”
She stood out of his lap and took a deep breath.
“You… you’ve never even kissed anyone?” Allen asked.
“Romantically? Nope. I liked that! I wonder if,” she put the spread fingers of her right hand below her belly, almost to her crotch, “you’ll feel as good in here!”
“Ryland!” Allen yelled, beginning to stand. She pushed him back into his chair and turned to his father.
“I’m off. To my first family. Maybe you and my friend can, away from your wife, make him older about his family and how they touch on mine?” Ryland leaned over to speak into Allen’s ear, but loud enough they all heard her. “I’m back on base late Monday. See you that night in the machine shop; I’ve an idea about the turbo-compressor I want to try!”
Ryland Rigó took two full steps back and bowed from her waist, as her mother and Aunt Fausta taught her.
“Thank you very much for allowing me into your home. Thank you more for your son. I think this is going to be a lot of fun!”
Before anyone could reply or move, the screen door banged shut and they heard a CNG motor purr to life.
The silence continued for nearly half a minute until Alan slammed his right hand down onto the table hard enough to make the dishes and flatware jump and his wife issue a gasp of surprise. He stared at his son.
“Your mother and I are not going to do one goddam thing to help you,” he tilted his head to indicate outside, “with her. She’s a goddam force of nature. If you want her, really want her, then this is all you. I will say this, though: you show the tiniest weakness, she’ll stomp on you like a bug.”
He leaned back in his creaking chair, sparing a glance to Robbi before returning his eyes to his son.
“Well?” he asked.
“A princess?” his son gave a dry laugh. “That’s nothing. She’s going to be my wife. No. She is my wife, she just doesn’t know it yet!”
He stood suddenly.
“I’ll help with the dishes. But, I’m leaving for Galveston tomorrow, not Monday.”