Choosing Theo: Chapter 9

“Ready for what?”

“To choose the males, of course!” Zikas said as he guided her through the large door.

“I have to do that now?” Jade said, astonished.

Inside was a room similar to the room she’d just been in. The far wall was made entirely of glass, and the same women she’d seen earlier were milling around. Each woman, however, was now accompanied by an older man or woman. They were all talking with each other excitedly.

As she walked in the room, all eyes turned on her. Most of the people looking at her gave her a curious once over and then glanced away. Some of the women gave her small smiles or nods. Jade tried her best to smile politely back but had trouble keeping the trepidation she felt off her face.

Earlier in the day, her actions had been fueled by anger and outrage. Now that she was no longer ready to claw someone’s eyes out, all the nervous energy and fear was bubbling back to the surface.

I’m in a room surrounded by aliens, Jade thought, letting that notion sink in. I’m about to marry an alien! I’m trusting some old alien man to tell me the truth about what’ll happen with this guy! What the hell am I doing here?

Just as Jade was preparing to spin around and bolt, a very pretty woman in a pale blue dress started gliding toward her. The woman was tall and lithe. As she walked, the fabric of her dress flowed delicately around her legs, and the light danced off her iridescent markings. The effect was hypnotic. The warm smile spread over the woman’s lips as she drew near, and Jade found herself relaxing.

“Hello,” the woman said, peering down at Jade with beautiful periwinkle eyes. “My name is Asivva. What is yours?”

“My name is Jade,” she answered, feeling like a veritable minion compared to the woman.

“It’s nice to meet you, Jade.”

“It’s nice to…” Jade’s eyes widened in shock. “Wait, you understood me! How are you doing that?”

Asivva laughed. “I’m a member of The Intergalactic Alliance and when I heard that a Class 4 species female had been found, I made sure I had my translator updated so I could speak with you. I assume you must be very confused and nervous. I wanted to make sure you were all right. And, I thought you may be more comfortable talking with another female.” Asivva looked pointedly at Zikas.

Zikas gave Asivva and Jade a quick bow and then ambled over to another older man by the window.

“Wow. That’s really nice of you. Yes, I didn’t realize how nervous I was until I walked in here,” Jade said as she scanned the room again.

“Your first marriage is always nerve-wracking but you will get used to it. After a while you may even look forward to them,” Asivva said nonchalantly.

“Are you getting married tonight too?”

“Oh, no. I’m just here for you. I’m currently in month four of my marriage. I decided to prolong my marriage by three more months.” Asivva smiled. “You’re very beautiful, Jade. I haven’t met many females with your coloring before. Your hair looks like it’s made of fire.”

“Oh, thanks, but I’m nothing compared to you.” Jade eyed the statuesque woman, marveling at how her markings glistened as she moved. Unable to stop herself, Jade blurted, “Do all Clecanians have those markings?”

Asivva glanced at her hand as if she’d forgotten about them. “No. Those of us with Lignas ancestry have them.”

Jade gazed at her, hoping she’d continue. These are aliens! How have I not been asking questions nonstop?

The corner of Asivva’s mouth quirked. “Most Lignas Clecanians live in the city you’re currently in, Tremanta. That’s why you may have seen markings on so many of us.”

So, the hunky, possible jerk Jade was still fantasizing about was not Lignas. “What do Clecanians from other places look like?”

“There are so many variations it’s hard to name them all.” Asivva blew out a long breath. “The Mastana have sharp fangs and darker coloring. Those in the mountains, called Pesque, are much smaller in stature but have loud voices meant to carry for miles. Beautiful winged Clecanians live in structures built high up in cliffs above the sea. There are many races of Clecanian, all with different ancestry and rituals. The marriage ceremony is very different in other parts of Clecania, for example.”

Asivva leaned in conspiratorially and whispered, “Be glad you aren’t marrying a Rotun male. They choose their wives by wrestling them. Potential wives of the Tuvasta males are chased, and whichever male catches the female becomes her husband. They have horns.”

Jade was in awe. Maybe she should stay for longer than a year just so she could learn about all of these different races.

Asivva chuckled at Jade’s dumbstruck expression. “I take it most humans are more similar to one another?”

Nodding in agreement was all Jade could manage. Across the planet, humans had very different cultures, but the media and access to technology were ensuring that cultural and social globalization occurred at a faster pace every year.

Jade was astounded and confused about how an advanced civilization could not only contain so many races that were so physically different but also retained their own identities to such an extreme.

“Yes, our old planet was vast. Races from all over prided themselves on their evolutionary gifts and their cultures. When our ancestors moved to this planet, they sought to separate themselves again rather than come together. Maybe they wanted to preserve some semblance of their old lives by staying separate and keeping their own cultural traditions alive.” Shrugging weakly, Asivva looked in Jade’s eyes. “We came to a new world but clung to our old prejudices. Try to be better than us.”

Jade’s brows drew together, she didn’t have anything against any race. “What do you mean?”

“I’ve read what I could about your race and I see problems that may arise if you don’t have an open mind. Our ways may seem strange to you, but it doesn’t mean they’re wrong. Try to remember that.”

Was Jade one of those people who looked down on other cultures? There was a term for that. She’d learned it in an anthropology class a long time ago. Ethnocentrism. Judging other cultures based on your own culture.

“Did you enjoy The Viewing?” Asivva asked, interrupting Jade’s thoughts.

“Uh. Yes. Well, sort of,” Jade said, taken aback by the sudden question. “Maybe not as much as some of the other women.” She thought back to the smiling women who’d giggled while watching the sexy pirate.

Asivva continued to peer at her for a moment. Jade could almost feel her analytical stare running over Jade’s body, assessing her. Jade shifted nervously. Then, as if Asivva had come to a conclusion, she said, “If you’ll excuse me, I have to go and speak with someone about getting you some extra clothing. Your husband may have clothes waiting, but just to be on the safe side I’ll provide you with a few things in your size until you can pick out your own.”

“Wow. Thank you so much.”

“My pleasure.” Asivva nodded regally at her and then sauntered toward the door.

As Jade stared after Asivva, she was startled by a voice in her ear. “Isn’t she wonderful?”

Jade turned to find that Zikas had returned. Jade chuckled as she said, “She is something.”

The lights in the room dimmed.

“The Choosing is about to start,” Zikas said, his excitement palpable. “Come to the window. Take this as well.” He handed Jade a small pad of paper and a ruby-encrusted pen. “The males will be holding up numbers. When you see the males you want to choose, just draw their numbers here. I realize you can’t read these numbers, so just do your best to copy the symbols, alright?”

“Alright.”

“I’ll be standing back by the wall if you need me.” Zikas gave her a quick squeeze on her shoulder and then walked away.

One by one, the men came just as they had before, except this time they were holding symbols on small white cards. After they stopped in front of the one-way mirror long enough for the women to write their numbers down, they backed against the wall and waited.

Before long, the last man had presented his number and joined the waiting group of men. Altogether, the men gave a low bow and departed. Jade had done her best to copy her three choices, but Clecanian numerals were much more detailed than the numerals she was used to. Hopefully Zikas would be able to figure out what she’d meant to draw.

Jade closed the pad and walked toward Zikas.

“Now we’ll go to your room and talk about your choices!” Zikas said happily.

“Zikas, do you have any alcohol by chance? I could really use a drink right about now,” Jade asked.

“Oh, we do, but I’m sorry you can’t have any yet.”

“What? Why not?” she said, just stopping herself from whining. Nobody likes a whiner!

Zikas gently grabbed her elbow and guided her out of the room and down the hall once again. “Because you haven’t received your off-worlder health clearance yet.”

“What’s—”

Guessing her question before she had finished asking it, Zikas explained, “Right after we talk about your choices and I tell the men you chose that they’ll be moving on to The Testing phase, I’m going to take you to the doctor. They’ll give you various scans and heal any injuries or health-related issues they’re capable of healing. Since you’re an off-worlder, they also need to run a cross check of all ingredients and materials you may come in contact with, to make sure their chemical composition won’t cause you to have any reactions. It wouldn’t be good if on your first night as a Clecanian wife you died from a food you didn’t know was poisonous to you.”

Jade gulped as she realized she hadn’t considered any of that. “Suddenly I’m no longer thirsty.”

“We’re here!” Zikas said, motioning to a dark burgundy door.

The room behind the door looked like it was modeled after a spa from an ancient Indian palace. In every direction Jade looked, she saw vibrant gem-toned fabrics and pillows. The couch in front of her was overstuffed and plush. She wondered whether it’d be out of the question to ask her new husband, whoever he was, to bring it home with them.

To her right, Jade saw an enormous sunken stone bathing pool. Steam rose off the water in curls and beautiful purple flowers similar to water lilies floated on the surface. Jade gazed longingly at the tub. “Is that for bathing? I didn’t think you guys used water baths to bathe, only that weird foam.”

“Our planet is considered a Class 2 planet because we still live a little archaically compared to Class 1 planets. The cleansing unit is useful if you want to get clean in a hurry, but bathing in warm water is a luxury we don’t see the need to replace.”

Jade had noticed that many things she would’ve assumed would be automated on an alien planet were not. Many of the doors she’d used, for example, were normal doors you pushed to open. Clothing, while not tailored in a way she was used to, was surprisingly similar to clothing on Earth. She’d even been provided with thick underwear but unfortunately no bra.

The style of the city and the buildings also didn’t match her preconceived notions about what alien furnishings should look like. In her mind, the decorations of an advanced culture would be minimalist and geometric. Taking in the decorated, colorful room, she realized she’d been wrong.

A part of her relaxed. This might be an alien planet, but this room was close enough to home that she felt comfortable in it.

In the far-left corner of the room, Jade spotted Asivva. She was rifling through a rack of clothing and was so absorbed by her task that she didn’t hear them come in.

“Asivva. Is everything in order?” called Zikas as he walked quickly toward her.

Asivva glanced up and smiled. “Everything is wonderful. I’m excited to hear who she’s picked.” Asivva moved toward the couch and motioned for Jade to join her.

As Jade sat next to Asivva, Zikas retrieved an enormous cerulean blue box from a cabinet near the entrance. He then sat down in a large chair across from Jade and clapped his hands together. “I can’t wait any longer! Who have you picked?”

Jade flipped her notebook open and handed it to Zikas. He grabbed it eagerly.

If she remembered correctly, this was the number the sexy pirate had held up. She didn’t intend on choosing him in the end, but he looked like such an interesting guy. She couldn’t resist the opportunity to learn more about him.

“Ooh, Fejo. Good choice. He’s very charming and funny.” Asivva nodded approvingly.

Zikas pulled out a large folder from the blue box and handed it to Jade.

“It also appears he’s never been married. He’ll be very eager to please you,” Zikas said with a wink.

“Who’s next?” Asivva urged.

Zikas flipped to the next page and shrugged. “Athnu. He’s a favorite among the females this year, I think. If you really want him, I would have no doubt he’d choose you, but I don’t like him for you.”

“Why not?” Jade frowned as she pictured the gorgeous man who’d walked into the hallway first.

“Well, he’s very good looking, so all the females like him.” Zikas paused here, thinking about his next words. “I’ll just say he spends a great deal of time making sure he looks attractive, and if all you want is to look at him, you’ll have a very happy marriage.”

Jade and Asivva exchanged amused glances and then started laughing.

Zikas’ face reddened. He sheepishly added, “You strike me as the kind of female who prefers to be engaged in conversation from time to time.”

“That is very true, and I appreciate your honesty. Let’s take him out of the running,” Jade said, crumpling Athnu’s number.

“I think that would be best.” Asivva smirked.

Jade chuckled and felt some of her tension lifting. These aliens weren’t so bad. If she was honest with herself, she could even admit that this was the most human contact she’d experienced in a long time, even if they were non-human. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d relaxed with a group of people and laughed.

“Alright, last on your list is…” As Zikas studied the last page, his face fell and he peered up at Jade, his confusion clear. “Are you sure you copied this number correctly?”

“Why, who is it?” Asivva chimed in.

Zikas silently handed her the paper, and the grin on her face also faded.

“What? What’s wrong with him?” Jade said as she glanced between the two of them. Damn. She knew the hunky man with the black tattoos was too good to be true. He must be an awful guy. That’s why the women acted like that around him. Well, sexy pirate it is!

“Nothing, nothing. His name is Theo. Asivva and I have both known him all his life. He’s a very good male,” Zikas muttered while sharing a knowing look with Asivva.

“One of the best I know,” Asivva agreed.

“Then what’s the problem?” Jade said, baffled.

As she sat there staring at the bewildered faces of her two new friends, she remembered the odd reaction this man had received at The Viewing. Theo, also known as “devastatingly sexy god of war” man, seemed to frighten and disgust the women in the room. The reaction her choice was getting from Asivva and Zikas was different but no less bizarre.

“Some women acted weird when they saw him at The Viewing too, but I didn’t understand why. What am I missing? Is he cruel or something? Will he hurt me? Some of the girls seemed scared of him.”

A flash of anger crossed Asivva’s face as she said, “He’d never do anything to hurt any female.”

“Then as I said before, what’s the problem? What aren’t you telling me?”

Zikas and Asivva both looked at Jade quizzically. Asivva started to mouth something but then thought better of it.

Zikas was the first to speak when he said, “You’re a very beautiful female. You could have any male you wanted. We’re just confused as to why you picked Theo.”

“I’m not sure I follow you,” Jade said in a puzzled tone. “I know he’s a little rough around the edges, but I thought he was the most attractive guy there. I really only chose the other two as backups in case he didn’t want me.”

Asivva snorted and then immediately clapped her hands over her mouth.

“Most females find his scars unappealing,” Zikas explained. “He’s never been chosen and I don’t think he ever expected to be chosen. He won’t be prepared for a wife.”

Asivva jerked her head toward Zikas. “You’re right, he never expects anyone to choose him. He only comes to these because he’s required. Normally he leaves immediately after The Choosing.”

Zikas stood abruptly and addressed Jade. “Are you sure you want to marry Theo?”

“Well, I thought so, but now I’m having second thoughts!”

“We were both just shocked that you’d choose him.” Zikas regarded Jade seriously. “If you’re patient, Jade, you’ll see that there are very few better males than Theo.”

“Before giving Zikas your final choices,” Asivva quickly added, “you should know that Theo hasn’t needed or wanted to try and impress a female in a long time. It’s very likely he’ll not have the faintest idea how to behave with you,” she warned. “That being said, I think you should take a chance on him.”

“Okay, I’ll trust you both, but it’s on your heads if this goes wrong.” Jade said, nibbling her bottom lip.

Zikas nervously rifled through the box of files. He handed a slim folder to Asivva and backed away toward the door. “I’ll go and give Theo and Fejo the good news. Asivva, while I’m gone, can you please explain the information in those folders to Jade? After she’s had a chance to examine their scores, escort her to the physician and then help her to get ready for The Testing.”

“Good luck talking to Theo.” Asivva glanced at Jade briefly. “He enjoys having a drink or two after the ceremonies are over.”

As Zikas exited the room, Jade heard him let out a long groan.

Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Options

not work with dark mode
Reset