TERRAN VALENTINE (short fiction)

Cindy & Cragg

 

Cragg handed Cindy a box of chocolates and a rose.

“Is this acceptable?” he asked.

She sniffed the flower. “Sure.”

“Ease up on the romance, big guy,” said Laura. “You’ll spoil her.”

Cragg had trouble with sarcasm, but Laura had given him enough exposure to have a loose grasp on the concept. He usually simply assumed Laura was being sarcastic, to be safe.

“Did I do something wrong?” he asked.

“No, not at all,” said Cindy. “It’s very sweet. Isn’t it, Laura?”

“Oh, yeah. Sweet.” Laura glanced up from her phone. Boulder sat curled beside her, and she petted him with her other hand. “You’re quite the Casanova, big guy. So what are you two up to tonight?”

The Saturnite folded his hands. “I thought the offerings were enough. I assumed the mandatory dinner wasn’t important at this stage of our relationship.”

“Mandatory dinner,” said Laura. “You sweet talker, you.”

Cindy’s arms weren’t wide enough to hug him. She put her head and hands on his chest. “It’s fine, Cragg. I appreciate the effort.”

“Pick up some candy and flowers on your way from work. That’s some effort.” Laura stood. “I’m just kidding you, big guy. You’re just being the stoic rock monster we’ve come to know and love.” She tucked her phone into her pocket. “I have to go. My date’s here.”

Cindy said, “You have a date?”

“I’m allowed to have dates. I’m a young woman on the verge of blossoming.”

“Who is this guy?” asked Cindy. “Have we met him?”

“Oh, Mom. C’mon.”

She added an eye roll as if it would clarify her point.

“It’s not even a date,” said Laura. “Just a bunch of us hanging out.”

“Then why did you call it a date?” asked Cindy.

“I misspoke. You know us dumb kids. We say stupid stuff all the time.”

Cindy was unconvinced.

Laura exhaled long and loud. “Fine. I’ll go grab him so you can meet him. But, guys, you have to promise to be cool. Like don’t be all parent-y.” She pointed to Cragg. “And you, don’t do that thing you do.”

“I wasn’t aware I did a thing,” he said.

“You know that thing you do. That thing where you stand there, not saying anything, looking all frowny and judgmental and dangerous.”

Cragg frowned. He narrowed his emerald eyes.

“That. Don’t do that,” she said. “Please, please. I need you to be cool.”

“Oh, we’ll be cool,” said Cindy with a coy smile.

“Yes. Cool,” agreed Cragg.

Shaking her head, Laura went outside to fetch her date.

“I’m not fully versed in Terran dating rituals,” said Cragg. “Should I destroy him if we decide he is unworthy?”

“Just be nice,” said Cindy. “I remember introducing my dates to my parents. We’ll show her cool.”

Cragg said nothing.

“She’s right. You do that thing a lot.”

Laura returned with her date, a young man with messy hair. His shirt was one size too big and his jeans one size too small. He gazed down at his feet, only raising his head when Laura said his name during the introductions.

“Andre, this is my Mom and her boyfriend Cragg.”

“Pleased to meet you, ma’am, sir,” mumbled Andre.

Boulder sniffed Andre’s sneakers.

“A pleasure to meet you too,” said Cindy.

“Declare your intentions,” said Cragg.

“Oh god,” said Laura.

Cragg took a step forward. Andre, who couldn’t have weighed more than 150 pounds, slouched.

“I don’t have any intentions, sir,” said Andre apologetically.

“Cragg’s just kidding,” said Laura. “It’s Saturnite humor.”

“Only a fool trusts someone who obscures their goals,” said Cragg. “Every mission has parameters.”

“It’s a date. Not a mission,” said Laura.

Andre raised his head and looked at her. “Wait. Is this a date?”

“What?” Laura forced a staccato laugh. “No, it’s just a bunch of friends hanging out. That’s not a date. I mean, it could be a date if that’s what you wanted.” She looked away. “If you wanted it to be, but not that it has to be one.”

“No, I’d like that,” he said without mumbling. “I mean, if you’d like that.”

She smiled and blushed. “I’d like that.”

Andre looked up at the Saturnite towering over him. “I guess it’s a date, if that’s okay with you, sir.”

“If Laura deems this agreeable, than I find it acceptable.”

Andre and Laura left. Cindy and Cragg watched as the boy and girl jumped into a car full of friends and pulled away.

“Were we cool?” asked Cragg.

“No, but I don’t think Laura will hold it against us,” said Cindy.

She took his hand. “Now, come on. It’s Valentine’s Day. We’re going out. You bet your ass there’s still a mandatory dinner.”

“Very well. Do you have a place in mind?”

“Doesn’t matter,” she said. “Just as long as my best guy is there.”

Cindy kissed his hand, and Cragg smiled.

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