Sunday 30 July 2023

Sunday Serial: The House of Clementine by Gill James, orange juice,


Rozia’s Ulog

Hi everyone,

Just a quick update. I'm sorry it’s been so long.  I'm not sure where the time went. 

We quickly got used to life back on Terrestra. It was almost as if we've never been away. Except of course Terrestra had moved on too and we've been living somewhere quite different. We took one of the refurbished former Z Zone underground apartments. They're almost unrecognisable and really luxurious now. Each has its own piece of cultivated land above ground level and we've actually managed to grow some fruit and vegetables. Being underground was better for Petri and we could go up on to the surface to deal with the garden at night. Some people thought we were a bit strange until we explained about Petri's illness.

"So why didn't you stay on Zandra?" they asked.

They couldn't grasp how difficult it had become there for outsiders like us. Surprisingly, Terrestrans have become really tolerant. Who'd have thought it? They accepted us anyway.

I managed to get work as a research assistant and rarely had to go to meets. I've been looking into super-crop growing. It's all so easy on Terrestra. Since the poison cloud went the planet has become really fertile again.

Petri enjoyed her schooling. She even managed to get to the meets and got to know the other kids. The medication isn't too bad here. They were able to give her enough to allow her a few hours in daylight without getting too uncomfortable.

At first we communicated with Kaleem quite a bit. I always made sure he could see I was wearing the brooch. In fact I never take it off - even though it's quite annoying when Petri keeps asking when we're going to get attached. It got really awkward though. He could never say much about what he's doing. I told him a little bit about my work and how Petri's doing. I've explained about the changes on Terrestra. Then there didn't seem anything more to talk about.

I was almost afraid of saying too much. I wanted to tell him how much I missed him. I'd have come back to Zandra in a heartbeat if he'd asked me. I just didn't dare say it, though. I had no idea what he was thinking. He looked so sad all the time and he was quite quiet. Can the Peace Child ever have a permanent attachment?

It became really worrying when he was tried and then confined on Zenoto. I'm sure they were listening in to all of our conversations. Perhaps that was why he didn't say much. I suppose also as he couldn't get out often he hadn't really got a lot to talk about.

He did tell me about some of the things that were going on on Zenoto. It was changing. The Zenotons were trusting each other less. It used to be almost like paradise. Now they were ready to stab each other in the back. It was no longer the Zenoto we all knew and respected. It had become like any other planet. Worse than many, in fact.

Then of course he had to go and disappear. Typical Peace Child trick. I tried to tell myself this was a good reason why I should give up all thoughts of ever being with him again. I should try and make my life on Terrestra really work.

Petri, of course, saw through me.

"You should track him down. Find out where he's got to. Let him know what you're thinking."

I always have to do what Petri says. She is so wise.

I got in touch with Nazaret and Marijam. They hadn't heard anything either and Marijam was clearly as worried as I was. Nazaret was more pragmatic, though. "Peace Child stuff again. You know what it's like. Anyway, no news is good news. We would have heard if anything bad had happened."

Then we did hear. He had been found. He was well. He had reconciled two opposing parties again. The threat was gone.

"You should get in touch," said Nazaret. "He'll be pleased. But he'll be shy about making the first move."

"Go on then. Do it," said Petri as soon as we finished the communication.

Well it took me a couple of days to get round to it.

He seemed shy at first, it was true. But as soon as I saw him I knew I wanted to be with him again. I think he wanted that too though he only told me in a roundabout way. It was all sorted, he said. Zenoto and Zandra would go back to the way they had been. The discontent was over. Trust would soon come back. "It would be safe again here for you and Petri," he'd said. "Will you come back?"

"I'll think about it," I said.

"There's nothing to think about," said Petri after Kaleem had disappeared from the screen. She was right, there wasn't.

Two days later I contacted him again and told him we would be back on Zandra as soon as possible.                                   

We had to wait weeks before we could get a place on a supercraft, even with Kaleem paying. But we're off tomorrow. We're a little scared after what happened on the way here and I'm still a bit apprehensive about being with Kaleem again but it seems like the right thing to do. Yes, I'm sure it is.

My next post will be from Zandra!   



Kaleem bit his nails as he waited at the supercraft docking station. It was busy today. Trade was working well within the One World Community now. Zenotons had become frequent visitors as they came to teach the Zandrians the mechanics of the non-monetary trade system. Zandrians were eager to learn. It had taken Rozia and Petri a while to secure their place on a supercraft. Terrestrans were finding a new lust for interplanetary travel.

At least they’d been in touch. Petri was excited about coming back. And every time Kaleem had spoken to Rozia she had been wearing her brooch. A good sign perhaps. But what would it be like when they got there? Would they be awkward with each other?

A Zenoton craft had docked just a few minutes before and its passengers were making their way into the waiting area. They had that confused look that all supercraft travellers had on arrival: they were bemused by the slight change in gravitational pull and the difference in air make up. Plus these seemed not to be seasoned travellers.

An attached couple fumbled clumsily. Oh come on. Why couldn’t they get this hall cleared faster? 

They wouldn’t let Rozia’s supercraft disembark until these people were out of the building. Their supercraft had left the stand and he could see Rozia’s hovering a little way away.

As the Zenotons made their way to the exit, the supercraft from Terrestra glided nearer. They always looked like huge whales as they moved gently into place. This one was moving a little too slowly, though, for his liking. It took several minutes that seemed like hours for it to finish docking, for the doors to open and the passengers to start making their way along the corridors. He watched the video hoping that they would appear any moment. What seemed like thousands of Terrestrans and a few Zandrians filed by. No sign of them. Had they changed their minds?

 Of course not. He shouldn’t be so silly. They’d spoken to him from the supercraft only two days ago. They’d been excited about getting here then. But what if they’d now decided to stay on the craft and return to Terrestra on her?

He bit his lip anxiously as the passengers carried on filing past.

Still no sign of them but then he spotted somebody he did know. It was so clear now why they had cast Karlo Dunston as him in the film. They did look quite alike. Especially today.

Karlo made his way over to Kaleem. He offered him a Terrestran handshake. “Howdy, alter-ego.” He nodded. “Love the eye shadow.”

Oh goodness. He’d almost forgotten about that. What would Rozia and Petri make of it? But they’d seen it and not commented. How strange.

Karlo rubbed Kaleem’s shoulder. “I was thinking of doing something similar. Being a bit snazzier. Seeing you like this gives me permission somehow.”

“So, what took you to Terrestra?”

“Family matters. Plus I fancied the trip.”

“Family matters?” Kaleem had always thought he was the only Terrestran / Zandrian hybrid.

Karlo laughed. “Bro, your father wasn’t the only one to sow a few wild oats.”

He wasn’t? “So were you…?”

“No, no. I was developed in a tube. But note my name begins with ‘K’!” He tapped the side of his nose. “Terrestra wasn’t as isolated as it thought it was. There were more visitors than you’d imagine.”

What? Was this Hidden Information?     

 Then he saw them.

They walked slowly past the camera. Petri was skipping ahead and then running back to Rozia. Petri waved up at the camera. Of course she’d figured out that he would be watching them arrive. In just a few minutes they would be with him.

“You must excuse me,” he murmured to Karlo. ”I can see my visitors.”

Karlo nodded. “Catch up some time then?”

They shook hands again and Kaleem returned to looking at the screens.   

Then there they were, at the barrier. Petri rushed forward and flung her arms round him.

“You’re looking good,” Kaleem whispered. He looked over her head towards Rozia who was clearly holding back. She was smiling though and then she started walking slowly towards him.

Petri was now dancing around him. “We’ve come back for ever, you know. Rozia says if you’ll have us. You will have us, won’t you?” 

“Of course I will. You know that, surely.”

Rozia was almost there. He could see that she was wearing the brooch. She was grinning now.

“Welcome home,” he said, when she was finally standing right next to him.  

She nodded and pulled him into an embrace.   


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