It was nearly one o’clock in the morning, but I still could not get to sleep. I just tossed and turned in bed, while Harshan lay snoring softly on the other side of the bed. He was curled up and facing away from me, which was a good thing, since I had my night stand lamp on.
How to get to sleep? How ironic! On Homeland, the twenty-seven hour day made it seem that I was sleepy all the time; now that I’m back to Earth and its familiar twenty-four hour days, I can’t sleep at all! I turned again, and scrunched the pillow under my head. I counted the flowers on the wallpaper in mother’s guest room, and tried to find a way to sleep. (There were twenty-seven red ones and forty-eight blue ones.) The wallpaper is worn, I decided. She really should paint or re-paper this room; but if I tell her that, she’ll trick me into doing it for her.
I tried reading, but that just got me involved in the plot and I ended up more awake than ever. I tried warm milk, but that just made me get up and go to the bathroom! I tried a snack, but that just got crumbs in the bed. I had to get up and sweep them out. Then I tried turning off the light and lying real still, but it just made me feel dumb and not sleepy at all.
I suppose I should tell you what was bothering me.
That was the day we ran into my old friend Janice. She’s married and has two children; a little baby girl and a excessively cute little boy. He has such a precious little voice, and the way he explored the world around him was so endearing. In fact, he looks a lot like Harshan’s baby pictures! It was just like watching a miniature Harshan walking around, and that really tore my heart to shreds—imagine, having two of him to love!
I even remember the conversation I had with Janice.
“How many children are you and Harshan going to have?” Janice asked.
“Oh, we’re not going to have any at all,” I answered, “You see, Harshan’s not Hue..” I started to say ‘Human,’ but that obviously wouldn’t do, and I couldn’t think of a last-minute replacement for the word.
“That’s all right,” Janice said in a hushed, confidential tone. “I can never pronounce those medical terms either!” She turned to see if anyone was in earshot. “I’m really sorry to hear that about Harshan, but I’m sure that everything will work out just fine.” she soothed. “I won’t tell a soul!” she added.
I didn’t dare laugh back then, but it’s really funny now!
It comes down to this: despite everything I’ve done to avoid it, I find myself wanting to have children.
But that’s impossible! Humans and Homelanders are indistinguishable in appearance; and for most medical purposes, they are the same. It’s only when you get down to the genetic level that you find that we are even more different than penguins and cauliflowers. I bear full responsibility for my predicament; no one forced me to marry an extraterrestrial! (I’ve never heard of a shotgun wedding where the gun was pointed at the bride.) We love each other very dearly, more than I thought was possible in fact; but I can’t have children any more than if I’d married a cauliflower.
Back when we were on Homeland and before we were married, I made some inquiries at Snodgrass University—with a little help from my friend Lanni Hargelstope. There is simply no way for a genetic engineer to intervene so that Harshan and I could have children. With not a little sarcasm, they informed me that technology and magic are still separate disciplines.
Harshan is a good lover and a wonderful husband, and our marriage is worth any sacrifice I could make. If I could do it all over again, I’d do it quicker. Just because you make a sacrifice for a very good reason doesn’t mean it’s not going to hurt. After all, that’s why it’s called a sacrifice!
It was like having a debate society inside my head. They wouldn’t sit down and shut up so I could sleep! I shook Harshan’s arm until he was half awake.
“Melissaleoma! Lask maren?” he asked thickly.
“No, nothing is wrong, Harshaneoma. I need to talk to you,” I explained in Thorgelfaynese.
“But it’s… it’s…” He struggled to focus his eyes on the clock and to figure out the time, “It’s three o’clock in the morning! We have to go to work!” he whined in a little-boy voice, “Can we go to sleep?”
“You can, perhaps, but I can’t sleep at all.”
By this time Harshan was wide awake and sat up in bed, “Melissa, are you not feeling well? Is something wrong?” I shook my head no. “I guess it is true that Human women wake their husbands up in the middle of the night for mysterious reasons!” A very charming smile and a pleasant wink accompanied that remark.
Harshan is incredibly adorable, no matter what the circumstance. I never cease to be amazed at how he can make me forget the world with one caring glance—but this time, not even his blue eyes could pierce deeply enough to erase this problem.
“Harshan, I am sorry, but I just keep thinking about Janice’s little boy. He was so cute, and he even looked like you when you were that age,” I explained.
“Now how could you possibly know how I looked at that age?” Harshan chuckled.
“Your mother showed me..” I began.
“My mother showed you my baby pictures,” he said, and covered his face with his right hand, “That mother of mine! Sometimes she does the most embarrassing things!” He reached for the water glass on his night stand, took a sip, and put it back.
“Maybe she didn’t show me all of them,” I said defensively, “because all the ones I saw were very cute! And, I must tell you, she did it before the wedding.”
Harshan went on about his mother a little longer, but then he realized what my problem was. “Melissa, you want a child!”
“Yes,” I admitted with a lump in my throat. I wiped my eyes and steadied my voice, “I didn’t think I would want children; and since I knew that we couldn’t have any of our own, I tried to get myself used to that idea.” I paused while I remembered that cute little boy squatting down to watch a tiny brown bug crawl across the sidewalk, “But when I saw Janice’s son, every single defense came tumbling down.”
“There are more ways to go than fast and slow,” Harshan reminded me. He told me that when I asked how the spaceship went four light years in only four days without going faster than light; but it is a Thorgelfaynese idiom that means there are more ways of doing things than are obvious. “We could adopt a child!” he said slowly.
“I.. I hadn’t really considered that,” I admitted. I played with edge of my nightie for a moment. “But now that you bring it up, I’ll think about it. It just wouldn’t be the same as having our own child!” I moaned.
“No, it wouldn’t,” Harshan said emphatically, “it would be even better! Having a baby in the biological way only takes ten months.”
“Nine months,” I corrected.
“Whatever,” Harshan said, dismissing the detail. “On the other hand, raising a child takes many years.”
“But it’s not the same!” I insisted. “It wouldn’t be my child… or your child either!”
“From a physical standpoint, you are right,” he acknowledged, “but from another viewpoint, an adopted child is even more special.”
“How so?” I asked quietly from behind a little sniff.
“It is only natural to love your own child,” he explained, and I nodded, “But it takes a very remarkable person to love an adopted child!”
“That’s another way of looking at it,” I said softly.
“Imagine, on this planet alone there are thousands of children who are homeless waifs and have poor prospects for the future—simply because there aren’t enough remarkable people to love them and adopt them.” He took a breath and continued with passionate emphasis, “Somewhere out there, there’s a little child—just like Janice’s—who is lost in the world without a mommy or a daddy, or anybody at all!”
I pictured Janice’s boy as an orphan, and the thought cut through my heart like a knife. “You may have a point,” I conceded, deep in thought. “I even might even go along with this idea, under one condition.”
“And what would that be?” Harshan said. He reached out to stroke the hair behind my neck and pulled my face toward his.
“Whatever child we adopt has to be pretty special!” I stipulated.
Harshan pulled me closer to him and started kissing me. That alone made me feel much better. “Any child we adopt will end up being pretty special,” he said, “because the ‘special’ part is the part we will add.”
Next thing I knew it was morning, and from the look of things, we had slept the whole night with the lamp on!