Unrequited

‘Jamie! Dinner time! Clara shouts as she walks in.

Thank God. I am so hungry. I swear my stomach has been gurgling like a bathtub for three hours.

As soon as I see Clara, though, my hungry considerably wanes and I am left rooted to the spot. Everyone always says that uniforms are sexy, and I am not an exception. To others, it’s just tan slacks and a dark green polo shirt, but to me, she is a Grecian Goddess.

Too far? Not even.

‘Hi, Jamie.’ She says as she puts my foot down, ‘How are you today?’

I take a small step forward—well, as small as I possibly can. My long legs kind of get in the way of making small scaled movements.

‘Hey, buddy,’ she says now that I am near to her. She raises a hand to stroke my shoulder. I get the shivers at her touch. ‘How’s Elsie going?’

My stomach plummets. Elsie is my enclosure-mate, and fellow species member. Clara and her friends have basically arranged our marriage and I am not ok with it. I snort in response to Clara’s question and stick out my tongue.

‘You two make a baby yet?’ She smiles at me.

As if on a timer, Elsie strolls over and helps herself to the food. I can almost hear her stomach sighing in relief.

‘Jamie’s got a crush!’ Elsie snorts between mouthfuls.

‘Shut up, you bitch.’ I glare at her.

‘She’ll never go for you,’ she laughs, ‘She’s human.’

‘And I’ll never go for you, so I guess neither of us get what we want.’

She gasps, ‘I … I … How dare you?!’

‘See?’ Clara says, smiling, ‘Elsie wants dinner! Suppose she’s eating for two?’ She nudges my leg with her elbow. I roll my eyes and start backing away from them both.

As soon as my back is turned, Clara begins to gather the food buckets and removing herself from the enclosure.

‘Make beautiful babies, you two!’ she calls over her shoulder.

The following day, Elsie breaks her silence—something I was actually enjoying quite a bit.

‘We may as well look as though we are getting along. We are being watched after all.’

My eyes drift to the “looking area” of our enclosure. There is a row of people—fat, thin, young, old and infant—all eagerly watching our interaction.

She’s right …

I nudge the side of her neck with my head and stalk away.

‘That’s all you get,’ I mumble.

I can’t help wishing I had nudged Clara instead …

About ten minutes later, the sky begins to cry, and washes away the line of visitors on our doorstep and at our windows.

Droplets gently drip from the leaves of our trees and lull me into hypnosis.

Clara started working here when I was only a few months old. I was already taller than her.

She visited me every day and logged my progress in a small, blue ring-bound notebook. Before I knew it, Clara was the best part of my day. I would hang out by the door whilst my mother would scold me for being so foolish—much like Elsie.

There was about a month, or so, where it was just me, Clara and the enclosure. My mother had died in attempt to give birth to my younger sister, who also died soon after. Elsie was brought to me for simultaneous company and procreation—neither of which I have granted her … yet.

I overheard Clara talking to Mitchell, her colleague, that she suspects Elsie is barren—it’s the only explanation she can accommodate. If only she knew that I am saving myself. Elsie’s African charm doesn’t attract me. No, sir.

‘Jamie,’ Elsie says quietly, ‘You can’t let Clara think I can’t have babies. She’ll send me home! Do you know how hard on the neck that much travel is?’

‘I can’t …’

‘But, Jamie,’ Elsie sighs, ‘She’s human. Nothing can happen.’

‘I love her.’

‘And she knows that. But she wants nothing more than for you to be a dad. Don’t you want a gangly, impressionable enclosure-mate who thinks the world of you?’

‘Dinner, you two!’ Clara calls. I turn my head slightly to see her dragging in a large bucket of food. I watch as she struggles to haul it in. Elsie immediately makes her way over.

‘Jamie, you know I’m right,’ she says as she leans down to sneak something from the bucket.

‘Oi, you!’ Clara laughs and swats playfully at Elsie’s head, ‘Not yet! Patience.’

‘I’m running out of that.’ Elsie mutters.

After Clara sets out our food, and both Elsie and I have begun to eat, she leans against a tree trunk.

‘Now, you two, I really need you to try really hard to make a baby this week. Mitchell is going to make a decision by the end of the week about whether we send Elsie back and get another girl. She’s named Patty, and she’s not half so beautiful. I don’t think I can handle saying goodbye to Elsie and I’m sure you don’t want to leave do you beautiful?’ She addresses Elsie.

Guilt sits like a pound of pebbles in the bottom of my belly.

‘Please,’ she murmurs, ‘try again … for me.’

And with that, she departs. How could I refuse her her deepest wish? I sigh.

‘Okay,’ I mutter, ‘I’ll do it Els.’

‘Thank you, Jamie.’ Elsie smiles at me, ‘Look at it this way: she’ll love you more if you do this for her. Trust me.’

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