Oh, it is so confusing.
We're well on our way back to Terrestra now.
Life was getting even more curious just before we left: Zenoto has got a new president. He’s very young. He wants to build a barrier around the planet so that all entrants can be fully checked before they land. Fair enough, I suppose, but this really goes against the One World Community. His other plans are even more disturbing. He wants to introduce normal currency to Zenoto. This seems such a shame to me. Shouldn't the rest of the universe actually be following the Zenoton way? The universe is going mad, for sure.
Saratina has been in contact. She tried to persuade me to stay on Zandra. She has this incredible belief that people will see sense soon and everything will return to how it was.
"It's sure to get better with Kaleem involved," she said. "And won't you and Petri be better off than on Zandra? Where the medical facilities are better?"
"I suppose we could come back."
"It's a long two-way journey."
"And I'm still worried not having any access to my credits. Nazaret and Marijam are being really kind. But I can't go on like this forever."
"You can. Let them be kind. They like being kind."
Saratina is such a lovely person and always so wise. She almost persuaded me in fact.
Then something really horrible happened. We were attacked as we just walked along the street. We weren't really hurt and lots of people came to help us. The people who did it soon ran away. I still can't stop thinking about it though. One of them - I think it was a man- pushed me over and I fell to the ground. I got a nasty graze on my face and I fell so hard that it's a miracle I didn't break something. Worst of all though was what they said to Petri. "Freaky snazzy girl," they called her. Bless her, though, she just stuck her tongue out at them and then helped me up.
So, we decided we would leave despite what Saratina had said. It wasn't easy telling Kaleem. I made out that we were really looking forward to living in one of the refurbished underground apartments. I couldn't help thinking how great it would be if he came along as well. But I couldn't let him know that and anyway I still can't quite trust him. Yet he was so tender - if a bit clumsy - when he volunteered to wand Petri.
I was already sure we'd made the right decision when it really was confirmed for us. The wands stopped working again, even after this promise of secure delivery. Had someone managed to interfere with them on the way? Oh, the medication is fantastic on Zandra but if the supply's not reliable ... No, we had to go.
I was glad we'd decided that. I'm concerned that on Zandra and on Zenoto in fact we're beginning to ignore Human Rights. I say Human. What was invented on Terrestra before we started the colonies has now been extended to all intelligent life. But some people are trying to take it away.
So there we were, off on a supercraft. I'm relieved that I didn't have to ask Nazaret to pay. We managed to get a grant from Terrestra. They have a special scheme for returning Terrestrans. Petri is apparently of special scientific interest. Who'd have thought it?
The journey started off well enough. I'd forgotten how luxurious a supercraft could be. We were so comfortable. The medics gave Petri a lot of attention and the atmosphere suited her. I was a little sad as we watched Zandra slip away from us but was already looking forward to seeing Terrestra. It is such a beautiful blue planet. The star scape is magnificent. Much better when you're away from the artificial lights on a planet.
There's always plenty to do on a supercraft. Petri loved everything. The food was superb. It would have been so easy to eat too much of it. It's good that the sport facilities are so good and that you can go for really long walks around the decks.
But then one day an alarm started to sound, though, and it was really frightening. We didn't know what it was at first. We hoped it was just a false alarm. It wasn't. And soon we could smell the smoke. There were other unpleasant smells as well. Hot metal. Plastic burning. You could tell even the crew were worried.
Eventually they made that terrifying announcement. "We are going to transfer all lives to another supercraft. The droid fleet will be left to contain the fire and make repairs. This is a difficult manoeuvre and you must listen very carefully to instructions from the crew if this is to be successful."
It was so frightening. It really was. That was their optimistic message? You could hear the tension in their voices. This was them trying to be cool and collected?
It took them some time to hook the linkup between the two supercraft. The fire and the smoke seemed to be getting worse while we waited. Once the tunnel was ready, it was important that we were properly spread out, that we didn't disturb the air in the tunnel more than was necessary. We couldn't talk and I don't think we wanted to. It seemed to take forever to get through.
It was such a relief to walk at last on the more solid ground of the very supercraft on which Kaleem was travelling to Zenoto. I was so glad to see him. We could have died. We didn't though and here we still are. I have come that close to death before but I wasn't aware of it that time until it was all over.
No wonder Kaleem and I ended up making love. Petri would really like us to be a family. That is what my heart says, too. But my head says no, we shouldn't do this. Will Kaleem's role ever let us be together properly again? I think not. Yet it was good to be with him that way again. Just for a short while.
It would have been all right if he hadn't given me the brooch. In the end they fixed our supercraft quite quickly and we were able to do a more normal side dock which made the return journey easier. If only I could have stayed in that bubble a little longer. Yes, I do love him and it's clear he loves me. That's what the brooch means.
It was something he found on Zenoto. It is really beautiful. Black Tulpen and red roses. The flowers of lust and love. A piece of jewellery crafted with love. I couldn't throw that back at him. But Petri and I were going back to a new life on Terrestra. He was off to Zenoto, on the other side of the universe. When that mission was over he'd be back to Zandra until the next one happened and I couldn't see Petri and me ever leaving Terrestra again. How could this ever work?
Yet it seemed right to keep the brooch and it has become precious to me.
It was so hard leaving him again.
Ella kept trying to communicate with Kaleem. Yes Ella. Not Executive Tyler. He had turned down over forty calls from her. Sooner or later he was going to have to answer one of them. But not just yet. Not after what he and Rozia had gone through and not after his recent illness.
What had that been, though, with Rozia? It had been tenderness and love. The brooch belonged to her and she was going to look after it. But her determination to stay on Terrestra with Petri was devastating. How could they maintain a relationship over that distance? Could he go back to Terrestra? It might be possible. But not yet. Not while he had this mission. He had to take this slowly. And even if they worked something out there would always be missions. That was the problem with being the Peace Child.
Ella of course could no longer fit into his life. Sure, she was a beautiful woman and intelligent as well. But there was no way he could be with her that way now if he was to try to get back with Rozia. He could no longer consider himself a single man.
His communicator bleeped again. Ella. He sighed and accepted the call.
"Hi." She was pale and had dark rings around her eyes.
"So, how are you?"
Ella shrugged. "Tired. Missing you."
She mustn't. Best to ignore that idea. "They're keeping you busy then?"
She nodded. "With this crisis on they certainly are. Well, you know. You're involved too."
This was true enough. But he wasn't losing sleep over it even if he grumbled to himself about it often enough. If anything he felt a glow inside and he was sure it was making him look brighter. That's what being with Rozia had done to him. "You need to put your foot down. Tell them what's what. Isn't Patrick being supportive?"
Tears started flowing from Ella's eyes. "I think he knows about us."
This could be disastrous. Kaleem could hear a thudding in his ears. "What makes you think that?"
Ella took a deep breath. "He's avoiding me as much as possible. He's making sarcastic comments about you."
"Why don't you ask the Peace Child? Surely he can do better than a mere junior executive? Why don't you get your precious Kaleem to explain?"
"But he hasn't actually accused you of ... sleeping with me?"
"No, but." She bit her lip and looked down.
"We've not had sex for almost a month now. He's not made any effort and if I approach him he turns away."
"Might he be tired as well?"
Ella sighed and shook her head. "He actually asked me yesterday if we ought to detach."
Ah. "And do you want to?"
She looked straight at him. "On you?"
"On whether you would become my attachment."
"I thought we were just having some fun."
"It would be a problem if we were caught out. It would look really bad. But if we became attached it would be all right."
"Do you want to stay with Patrick? Do you still love him? Have you ever loved him?"
"I did. I could again if I can get him out of this moodiness. But I actually love you more." She looked away from him.
Oh dear. Was she going to cry again? Unfamiliar feelings stirred in Kaleem. He wanted to take her in his arms and comfort her. This would be a bit difficult over all the light years. This was so different too from the usual lustful feeling he had towards her. He bit his lip.
She looked at him again. "Don’t you feel the same way?"
He couldn't. That brooch he'd given Rozia meant such a lot. Now though the more familiar feelings came back. She was so beautiful and sexy. He felt an uncomfortable erection growing. He suspected it wouldn't go away on its own. Oh, he was such a bastard.
"I'm sorry, I don't."
Ella nodded. "I was afraid you would say that. Is there someone else?"
He managed to nod.
Ella pursed her lips. "I knew it." She sighed. "I guess I'll just have to work on Patrick."
"He's a good man."
Ella snorted. "You know, I only accepted his proposal to attach because I thought it might finally help me to get over you."
"Are you? Are you really?" Her eyes flashed. "I was just a game to you, wasn't I?"
"No. Not really. I was besotted with you. Still am. But I can't call that love." What a stupid thing to say.
"Oh, you're a bastard. An absolute bastard."
Now she’d said it. Kaleem nodded. "You're right."
"Well it's finished now. Never come near me again. There is no way we can carry on the way we were. You bastard." The screen went black.
She was so right. He was not fit to be called human. But all he could think of was the countless times they'd made love and how glorious it had been. How addicted he'd been to her.
About the Peace Child Series:
Everything about Kaleem marks him out form the rest: the blond hair and dark skin, the uncomfortable cave where he lives and the fact that he doesn’t know his father. He’s used to unwelcome attention, but even so he’d feel better if some strange old man didn’t keep following him around.
That man introduces himself and begins to explain the Babel Prophecy – and everything in Kaleem’s life changes forever.
Gill James is published by The Red Telephone, Butterfly and Chapeltown.
She edits CafeLit.
She writes for the online community news magazine: Talking About My Generation
She is a Lecturer in Creative Writing and has an MA in Writing for Children and PhD in Creative and Critical Writing
See other episodes: https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/search/label/The%20House%20of%20Clementine