Choosing Theo: Chapter 10

Ugh, another ceremony day over with. Theo thought as he fell onto his couch. How many more of those must I be subjected to? It’s humiliating, standing there being judged.

“It’s pointless,” he growled into his empty living room.

Once per year, every male eligible for marriage in Tremanta was required by law to participate in a ceremony. As he took another swig of his preferred after-ceremony beverage, mott, he surveyed his surroundings, allowing the comfort of his home to soothe him.

Theo had meticulously handpicked each and every item within his house. Visitors, not that he had many, were always surprised when they saw the interior for the first time.

He supposed they imagined his furnishings would reflect what they saw when they looked at him. They expected to find rooms full of uncomfortable, monochromatic, sharp-edged furniture accompanied by cold stone floors and bare black walls.

In fact, Theo preferred the exact opposite. All of his seating was overstuffed and soft. His floors were coated with large, dark-green Saquen leaves and then lacquered. Plush rugs were layered over the natural floor, adding softness to each room. Almost every room in his house contained a fireplace and dim lighting. The combination of light from the fire and soft lighting from above cast each room in a warm glow.

Whenever Theo lost his temper, which happened often, the warmth and comfort of his home calmed him.

Since his graduation from school at age twenty, Theo had spent his life, like many Clecanian males from Tremanta, working for his planet’s government as a kind of mercenary. Over the years, his skill had earned him the reputation of being one of the best in the business. Government officials, celebrities, royals, and dignitaries would request Theo specifically and offer him extravagant amounts of money for both his expertise as well as his discretion. Before long, Theo had amassed a sizable fortune.

He used his money to build a grand house facing the Northern sea, as well as a large parcel of densely forested land. Since Theo no longer needed to make money, he spent most of his time at home and only chose jobs that were interesting to him.

Theo treasured his solitude and despised visits to the city. He especially loathed the ceremony. Taking a big gulp from his bottle, Theo closed his eyes and tried to focus on the quiet crackle of the fire.

He didn’t have much time to relax before he felt an enormous forked tongue slide across his face.

“Ugh!” he yelled as he sat up and wiped the drool off his cheek with his shirt. Sitting before him, looking very pleased with himself, was Cebo, Theo’s giant hound. Theo smiled down at Cebo and patted him on the head.

A rumbling noise emanated from Theo’s stomach, and he realized he hadn’t eaten much today. Cebo cocked his head at the sound.

Resolved to eat something while continuing to drink, he rose and padded to the kitchen. As he searched for food, a wave of fatigue passed over him. Theo grabbed two more bottles of mott instead and flopped back down on the couch, where Cebo was now lying.

Theo drank in silence as he watched the flames dancing in the fireplace and absently stroked Cebo’s head, now heavy in his lap. He’d just finished his second bottle of mott and was halfway through with his third when he heard a knock at the door.

Cebo let out a loud bark and leapt down, dashing to the entryway door. Theo’s head fell back as he groaned. Who the hell would be coming to my house this late?! Maybe if I don’t answer, they’ll go away. Or maybe if I go out there and punch them squarely in the jaw, they’ll go away.

“Theeeooo! I know your home I can hear Cebo growling at me through the door!” shouted a familiar voice.

Theo had known Zikas since Theo was a child. The old male had always been very kind to him and had even helped him through some hard times he’d had while growing up. Theo had too much respect for the male to turn him away.

Slowly he stood and made his way to the door. “What do you want?” he yelled.

“It would be nice if you opened the door for a start. It’s cold out here, and I have some news for you.”

With a grunt, Theo opened the door. Immediately he turned and walked back toward the couch. Cebo, now recognizing the visitor, started jumping up and trying to lick the old male. Normally Theo would help keep Cebo at bay, but he was annoyed tonight and just drunk enough to enjoy watching the male struggle to sidestep the massive beast.

“Yes, Cebo, it’s nice to see you too. Get down! No! Stop it! Theo, control your animal!”

“Enough, Cebo!” shouted Theo.

Reluctantly, Cebo padded toward the fireplace and laid down at Theo’s feet.

“I don’t understand why you chose that creature as a pet. Wazzies are very loving and quiet and don’t attack visitors upon entry.” Zikas shuffled toward the couch while trying to remove copious amounts of drool from his clothes with a small cloth.

“They’re boring. Cebo is unique and loyal.” Theo scratched behind Cebo’s ears, feeling a kinship toward the large, misunderstood creature.

When Zikas reached Theo, he inspected him, then with a glint in his eye, said, “I have some news.”

“What news could be important enough for you to come all the way up here on a Ceremony night? Aren’t you supposed to be with a bride right now?” Theo sneered as he took another swig.

Zikas reached out with a speed impressive for someone his age and snatched the bottle from Theo’s hand.

“Hey! You can’t—” started Theo.

“You have been chosen,” Zikas said looking at Theo excitedly.

Theo glared at Zikas for a few moments and then said, “I’m not in the mood for this shit today.”

“A bride chose you! That’s a good thing!” Zikas said earnestly.

“We both know why this bride chose me. The same reason I was chosen last time. She wants to see the beast in the flesh. Get up close and personal, because she knows I can’t do anything about it and that I won’t know who she is.” Theo yanked the mott out of Zikas’ hand and finished the bottle.

“No, it’s not like that this time. She—”

“I don’t care why she picked me. I’m not going. Now, go away and leave me alone.”

Stiffening, Zikas scowled at Theo. “Fine, don’t believe me, but you will go. It’s against the law to refuse, as you well know.”

“Lock me up then.” Theo shrugged.

“They won’t lock you up. They’ll drag you to The Testing, tie you up, and leave you there. You can go willingly, with dignity, or you can be dragged. Your choice,” Zikas finished, crossing his arms.

“Are you threatening me?” Theo barked as he rose to his full height. Any other male would have cowered in the face of an enraged Theo.

Zikas however leaned in close, looked Theo directly in the eyes, and said, “Yes. I am.”


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