I'M A GROWN MAN. I don't need to obey my parents when they say I need to accompany and stay with them at the family summer house! That tradition has been long dead to me for ten years, since I was 20, since I left the nest. But no, they want me to come back because "I'm a young, vulnerable man who apparently can't fend for himself". Who cares if he's taken martial arts (in middle school), has a steady job as a teacher (in a middle school), and has lived on his own for ten years (even if it is 2 kilometers away from his parents' home). That's right, I'm a GROWN MAN who doesn't need to answer his mother's calls.
...Who still has no choice but to go because Mother makes the best fish and chips made from fresh fish straight from the sea and it's safer to be there than to be in the city with all the sweaty teenagers out and about and to be away from all the business of work and just be somewhere else for awhile, I guess. And it's not because I'm a mama's boy, if that's what you're thinking...
Speaking about summer, I hate summer: you get bloody hot days for three insanely long months; you get all disgustingly sweaty; it's so uncomfortable to be outside for more than ten -- no, five -- minutes; and you have nothing to do because you can't go out without being charred alive. And yet, here I am, on the porch of our summer house, armed and ready with a month's worth of packing, and a mind set for staying indoors throughout the whole time.
I gave three half-hearted knocks on the door. My mother answered the door with a smile on her face and her apron on, "come on in, David. I've made some fresh fish and chips~"
"Hallelujah, Mom-- I mean, that's nice, Mother," I half-exclaimed half-mumbled respectively. I threw my suitcase onto the couch before settling down at the kitchen table, sitting snug in the chair, with knife and fork in hand. As soon as the plate touched the table, I dug in, burning my tongue along the way, but who cares: it's Mother's fish and chips for crying out loud! The crispy batter just crunches nicely, and the chips aren't too oily either.
"I'm here!" I heard my sister's voice from the main door, "along with the rest of the pack!" She came in carrying a baby carrier, two kids in one hand, and her husband trailing behind her, carrying multiple suitcases. "Finally, the son has come home!" which was a reference to me. She laughed as she placed the baby carrier on the living room table, letting go of her kids' hands, and gave a peck on Mother's cheek.
"Jennifer! How nice it is for you to come along with the kids and my dear son-in-law!" Mother gave a welcoming kiss to Jennifer's husband on the cheek (who secretly wiped it when she wasn't looking). "It's been so long since I last saw you!"
"It's only been a year, Ma. I come here every year, unlike him," she jabbed me in the ribs while I was in mid-chew. Her daughter followed suit, making it hard for me to swallow any of the hot fish. She laughed at her antics, before proceeding to slap me on the back, making me choke on the hot fish, oh God. I cleaned up whatever was left on the plate before her kids could do anything even worse to me.
As I placed the plate in the kitchen sink, Jennifer's son, whom I teach in school, asked her, "so do I call him Uncle, or Mr Harris?"
"Call him whatever you want -- call him DJ Allen Harris, even!" She chuckled, proud of her nicknaming skills.
"GOD NO NOT THAT DON'T YOU DARE, MICHAEL." He ran away before I could get to him, shouting "DJ ALLEN HARRIS, TURN UP THE MATHEMATICAL MUSIC, MAN! The class will definitely love this!" I wanted to slam my head against the sink, but the importance of my brain was in the way.
"Oh come on, David. Boys will be boys -- and you're always like one!" Mother teased me, laughing with Jennifer. I tried my best to ignore them, dragged my suitcase from the couch, dragged it up the stairs, and headed straight for my usual bedroom. I slammed the door, trying to block out the noise of screaming children and women who laughed at my pitiful plight.
I'm a man: I can't let a bad start to this holiday wear me down! I changed into something cooler, climbed out of my window, down to the little garden shed where my escape bicycle had been hiding for the past 10 years, oiled it a little, before heading for a random direction. I hunched over a little on it -- I obviously outgrew it, but how else do I get out of a house filled with people I don't quite want to socialise with? And besides, it's good to stretch out my legs for awhile by cycling, even if there wasn't much stretching, considering the size of my bicycle...
I cycled along the beach, with the sea on my right and the other summer houses on my left, whizzed past the ice-cream stand, zoomed past the main docks and seafood restaurants, and headed towards the nearby forest. There was a cliff near the beach, and a forest grew there.People would often go there to camp and trek around a bit, while on holiday here. Most people buy houses here since they can enjoy the beach as well as camping and the wilderness during Summer - no need to travel so far to experience both.
Anyway, I slowed down as I got closer to the forest. A couple of trekkers and cyclists were there as well, probably taking a lunch break. I cycled deeper and deeper into the forest, towards a somewhat secluded river. A couple of people who come here to fish don't just go the sea, a couple of them know that this river is a pretty good spot too. I used to go there all the time whenever we were here for the summer.
I wasn't the kind of teenager who would go to bonfires at night party on the beach, or the one who hoped to find some sort of "Summer love" while here. I would cycle away to the dock by the river and just stay there. I would learn a couple of fishing techniques from the people who came to fish, and chat with them a little, which was quite pleasant and exciting. I caught a fish once, brought it back in the afternoon, left in the kitchen, came back to find half of it hanging out of a stray cat's mouth, before it scampered out of the kitchen through the window. Anyway, sometimes I would just come here to skip a couple of stones, read a little, fish with the visitors, swim if no one was around, be a loner most of the time...
But it didn't matter! Now, I'm back as a MAN!
... And I'll just do the same stuff I did as a teenager.
I reached the dock, got off my bike, left it under the tree that has stood there for as long as I could remember. I plonked myself in the shade of the tree and just let out the longest sigh I had. I felt the grass under my back, the wind through my hair, the sound of crunching leaves as though someone else is here, and the rustling of bushes-- I sat up.
I peered around me, wondering if someone had followed me. The kids? Nah, they wouldn't bother. Jennifer? Nope, she has no reason to. Mum-- mother, obviously couldn't have gotten this far on her own... I looked around, before spotting a figure between the trees, bundled up in jackets, staring at something across the river. I tried to follow their line of sight, and noticed a dock that wasn't previously there... I decided to get up and go closer to the chubby-looking figure (probably from all the jackets or something), hoping that they could possibly know something about that dock.
I silently crept towards them, tapped them on the back, barely got to say a word, before they suddenly turned on me. Their face was so close to mine I almost stumbled backwards, but they caught my hand. But their hand wasn't the only thing they were holding: I felt something cold, plastic held against my forehead. I tried to see what it was, and barely saw what seemed to be a handle and trigger-- oh God no.
"Please, I-I-I-I didn't mean any h-harm! I--" They clapsed a hand over my mouth, muffling the rest of my sentence.
She (I assume) looked me up and down, from toe to head. "Hm. Human. Male. Incontinent."
I know my life is at stake but: how rude!
"Wait no: incompetent." she corrected herself. Like that was any better.
She released the weapon from my forehead and uncovered my mouth, "well, hello to you too, Miss! And who might you be--"
"Shut up." Again! She shushed me again! I stood there, arms akimbo, offended!
"Well I--" She stared at me, silencing me with her eyes. Good gravy... She circled around me, constantly checking me up and down, "unarmed. Physically: approximately 30 earth-years. Mentally..." she paused, taking her time, "10 earth-years."
She then robotically stuck her hand out as she faced me, obviously satisfied with scanning me, followed by a monotonous "Good evening, male human." I looked at her quizzically and sceptically, "and good afternoon to you too." I mimicked her actions, circling her instead: see if she likes that!
"It's useless: humans do not have the same scanning abilities as we do." She waited for me to give up on circling her before introducing herself: "I'm Celaeno, female, 25 earth-years to make things easier for you, and armed, to your disadvantage." Of course to my disadvantage; she paused before continuing, "And, I'm European."
"You're European?!" I exclaimed, "well, why didn't you say so earlie--"
"I'm from Europa." she said nonchalantly.
"What? Where?" I furrowed my brows, peering closely at her. She returned my gaze, looking at me dead in the eye, and coldly whispers "Jupiter."
"Right..." I said, dragging it out, a small awkward smile tugging on my lips. "You're from Jupiter..." she nodded, affirming it. "Okay, I'll just, go NOW." I dashed towards my bike, stumbling as I picked it up, hopped on and pedaled as hard and as fast as I could, to get as far away as possible from her. I turned my head, and saw her running - or waddling, rather - after me, struggling to get very far and very fast in her jackets. Soon, I heard a "ploof" some distance away behind me, as I saw her fall face first to the ground.
I was free! I WAS FREE FROM SOME CRAZY ALIEN GIRL? I turned around to see how far away I was and whether she was still down. She still was, but she wasn't moving very much. She almost looked like that fall had killed her-- God no, I wouldn't want to be charged for murder, even if it was an alien! An alien court could be even worse... Should I go back? I mean I should, right? I'm the only one she knows here and I can't just abandon her, especially if I have a murder on my hands.
I cycled back to her, dropped my bicycle and carefully approached her. I shook her arm, "hey, Se-lay-noe, or whatever, are you okay?" No response. I shook her arm a bit more fervently, trying to figure out some sign that she was still alive. "Oh God, you're dead! I can't have a murder on my hands! I'm only thIRTY I CAN'T GO TO JAIL FOR THIS. NOOOOOO-- OH MY GOD LET GO OF ME." I was suddenly grabbed by her and she wouldn't let go. "Well thank God, at least your alive..." I choked, terrified by her sudden death, followed by her sudden resurrection and her sudden tight grip.
"aahm shtoochk," she wailed into the ground, frantically waving her arms and legs about, "aah'v faahloon ahnd aaah coon't got oop." She wailed even more into the ground, trying to roll herself up. I got up, took her by the hand that she was still gripping tightly onto, and heaved her up with whatever strength I could muster. Eventually, she managed to get onto her feet, after multiple tries.
"I think we need to get you some normal clothes..." I huffed, wiping the sweat on my forehead away.
"Yes, some earth clothing would be good. It would be easier to move around as compared to our thick attire." She tried to wave her arms around, only to fall again. I hit my hand against my face: do I really have to pick her up again?
"Just... Stay there for now. I'll go get you some clothes..." I picked up my bicycle again and went on my way back home.
"Dat shunds guuhd." I heard, as she tried to shout in reply.
I hurried back home, sneaked back into the house through the way I had gone out, and tried to look for clothes that she could wear. She can't quite wear mine: they're too big for her. I could always see if Mother had any old clothes up in the attic, but I don't think that would be very inconspicuous for her. I walked around, peeking into the rooms, until I came to my sister's room. Maybe she has clothes that Celaeno could wear?
I sneaked into her room, rummaged around a bit, trying to find something suitable. But since I don't understand women's fashion, I just took whatever I could get: some frilly pink blouse, a pair of jeans, a bra and some underwear, 'cos God knows what an alien woman might need. Just as I got hold of everything I needed, Jennifer came out of the bathroom in her towel. We just kinda awkwardly stared at each other, before anything registered. By the time she realised I had her clothes in my hand, I had dashed towards my room, before I could hear her screams of "WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO DO, DAVID JOHNATHAN ALLEN HARRIS!!!" at the top of her lungs. I stumbled out of the window, almost falling to the ground, hoisted myself onto my bike, and cycled the hell away from home.
When I reached Celaeno, she was still there, lying face flat on the ground. I flipped her over, hoisted her up, got her onto her feet and stuffed the clothes in her arms. I then proceeded to fall to the ground and just catch my breath.
"Thank you, human," she said, before taking the bra and wrapping it around her ears. Good gravy! I took my sister's lingerie?! I got onto my feet, swiped the bra out of her hands, and kinda tossed between my hands, before eventually tossing it into the river. Celaeno just stared at me, puzzled by my sudden reaction. "Was that meant to be worn, or...?"
I waved my hands, as if trying to wave the subject away, before presenting her with the blouse, "here, put this on instead." She took it in her hands, turned it around a couple of times, before sticking her legs into it.
"Goodness, no! You put your arms into it!" I snatched it away from her, trying to demonstrate to her how to put it on, but being a man, I can't wear such a thing - size and all that. She nodded, and seemed to understand, before lifting her arms, and putting it over her jackets. I waved my hands frantically, and she tried to follow suit. If I could hit my head against a tree, I would.
I tried to take it off of her, told her to get out of her jackets, and then she can try again.She gave a confident nod, took the blouse and started stripping in the middle of the forest. I excused myself and went to the dock and looked out at the river: I don't know whether aliens can be naked, or if they look like anything naked or whatever, but you got a give a female being her privacy...? I think I heard someone cycle by, gasp (their eyes widen in shock I assume), lose control, swerve and crash into a tree. I didn't want to look behind me to check - on either Celaeno, or the cyclist.
I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to find Celaeno in the pink blouse (put on the right way, thank God!), jeans and panties on her head--
I snatched the panties off her head, and tossed it into the river. The lacy undergarment drifted towards the matching bra and stayed together for the rest of the day. Well, at least Celaeno looks normal now: coal black hair, in normal clothes, purple eyes-- well, mostly normal. She went to her pile of jackets, rummaged through it like she was looking for something. She found a detachable pocket (really?) from the deepest layer of jackets, and stuck it to the side of her jeans. She shoved her gun-thing into it, miraculously being able to fit. She rummaged through her pocket, (I could hear beeps and alarm noises coming from it), before she took out what looked like a notebook and pen of some sort.
"Name?" she asked me.
"Ah, right. Da--"
"DAVID JOHNATHAN ALLEN HARRIS." the sound of my sister shouting my name to the heavens rang throughout the forest. I winced as I heard her high-pitched voice; Celaeno stood there unfazed, nodding as she took my name down. I could hear the mad, crunching footsteps as she stomped over to me.
Her hair was dripping wet, she was in her pyjamas, and her face was horribly crinkled and her eyebrows furrowed. "What do you think you were doing with my clothes?! Is this some sort of sick obsession, stealing women's clothes? I haven't seen you for ten years and this is what you resort to? Or is it because--" she gasped, and held her breath, as if she had a sudden epiphany. Strangely, tears started to well up in her eyes as she placed a comforting hand on my shoulder, before she whispered, "or is it because... you've found your true self, one that isn't destined for masculinity? I knew it! No wonder you were always such a loner!"
She flung her arms around me, much to my dismay, before squeezing me so tightly I could feel my eyes pop out of my sockets, "Oh, little brother, you could've told me earlier! I could go shopping with you, we can talk about feelings, I wouldn't have been such a butt to you all these years, and--" She suddenly released me, letting my body drop to the ground like a rag doll. She walked over to Celaeno, staring at her, eyebrows furrowed.
"And who are yo--" Celaeno stopped her mid-sentence with one look, and proceeded to do her circle-check, just as she had done with me.
"Female. Human. Intelligent. 35-years-old. Genetically similar to David." She stuck her hand out after scanning, "good evening, female human."
"Good afternoon to you too..." Jennifer's eyes constantly shifted from me to Celaeno and back, before she asked "who is she and why is she wearing my clothes?" She squinted at me before hurriedly whispering "David,don'ttellmeyoustoleherclothestoo."
"I'm Celaeno, Female, 25-years-old, and European." was her fixed, robotic introduction, "that means I'm fromm Europa--"
"Europe!" I exclaimed, "Europe, that's right!" Celaeno shook her head, "--pa. Europe--pa."
"Europa? Isn't that the moon of--" my sister peered curiously at me, before I interrupted her, "No! No! She just pronouces Europe that way, haha..."
"Right," she turned from me to Celaeno, "and what were you doing out here, apparently with no clothes to the point that my brother needs to steal mine for you?" My sister leaned against a tree, arms crossed.
"She was uh... Camping!" I interrupted Celaeno, trying to come up with a reasonable explanation for all this commotion, "and uh, she was swimming! And was about to come back onto shore, but uh, she realised her stuff was missing! Including her clothes! So uh, I thought that I should help her? And took your clothes, 'cos she can't possibly stay in a towel, right?"
"Wouldn't that mean that she could just go back to her camp to get a new set?" my sister stared at me accusingly, as if this was all a ruse to "hide the fact that I had stolen her clothes", which is probably what she was thinking.
"I could go back across the ri--" I placed a finger on her lips.
"Her camping stuff was stolen too! So she has absolutely nothing with her!" It was almost like I could perpetually perspire, under this sort of fire of my sister's.
"Absolutely nothing, you say?" She looked over my shoulder, "then what's with the jackets?"
"Jackets?" I turned around to find Celaeno wrapping her arms around her pile of jackets, shoved them into that tiny pocket of hers, before walking over to the dock, "I should go now, David. I'm quite tired after all this and I should go home. I'll see you tomorrow, here at 0900 hours."
"Wait, meet you again? But why?" I asked in disbelief: good gravy, dealing with this crazy woman again?
"Are you not my guide?" She looked back at me quizzically.
"Am I not incompetent, just as you said?"
"All the better for you to be my guide." She smiled, before tossing herself into the river, and appeared at the other dock in a few seconds. Goodness...
"Well she's a strange one," my sister said nonchalantly, slapping a hand on my back, "you meet the strangest people, Dave. Then again, you don't meet a lot of people so I guess your choices have started to get narrow!" She tried to crack a joke, but even she could tell that there wasn't something quite right. "But seriously? She's European?" she hush-asked. I shrugged.
We both took a leisurely cycle back to the house, not saying much along the way. By the time we reached back, it was time for dinner, which was marinated cod, thank Mumm-- Mother! The night went by pretty uneventfully: children poking me in the ribs, Mother and Jennifer making fun of me, me not caring much about it I guess, thinking about Celaeno...
Sooner or later, everyone went upstairs to their own rooms to sleep, and some time in the middle of the night I heard Jennifer tell her husband, "you know that honeymoon present you got for me?"
A little pause.
"yeah, it's in the river right now. Thank David for that!"