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Luke has dark, thick, wavy hair. Kalna always thinks of those couple of lines from her roommate’s favorite song, Mr. Sandman, when she runs her fingers through it. “A lonely heart like Pagliacci, and lots of wavy hair like Liberace…”

Growing up a wealthy female in Rajasthan, she’d had no control over anything. Her mother, her sisters, the help, for the gods’ sakes, dictated how she walked, how she dressed and spoke and learned. When she’d broken free, won a scholarship to St. Andrews, furtively switched majors from her father’s chosen Music degree to Chemistry, it was the first time she’d dictated her own life.

She liked the power, and joined groups and clubs merely to climb to positions of responsibility within them. She took pride in being indispensable, helpful, knowing that people relied on her to take care of them. THe respect she garnered, the power she held, was intoxicating. Sometimes, she wished her mother, and her sisters, and the help were there to see her take charge.

Then, when dashing to the gates of St. Salvators College, leaping over the cursed Patrick Hamilton cobblestones, she had run bang into a tall, lean man sprinting in the opposite direction. She had fallen half-onto him, smacking her elbow painfully onto a thumb drive-like device that had flown out of his pocket. The next thing she knew, after the initial nausea and disorientation caused by a sudden jerk at her intestines, was that she was most certainly not near the cobblestones anymore, although she thought she might not be finishing her degree anyway. Out the window, she could see the Earth. The planet Earth, the whole thing, a blue and green marble, with the Iberian Peninsula pointing at her like a mocking finger. She’d gasped something which her mother, and her sisters, and the help would certainly not approve, and the rangy man had spun around with a startled yelp.

After a mind-boggling conversation in which they determined that yes, she was on a space ship (space-and-time ship, excuse her), no, the man (Luke, as it turned out- she’d choked back laughter, and privately thought he was much sexier than Mark Hamill) had not kidnapped her, and yes, she bloody well was staying, and there was nothing he could do about it, she’d taken to time-and-space travel like an Izarian squid to nitrogen dioxide.

Eventually, she realized that Luke was not as mentally put-together as he seemed to be. Not in a mentally-deranged stalker sort of way, but the way her father’s friends who’d fought in the Kargil War were slightly off. She did what she did best, and took charge.

She got the man talking, spilling stories about a millenia-long life, of being exiled from his home planet and having to live out the lives of scores of lovers and friends alone. A Pagliacci-like heart, indeed. She comforted him, and felt a deep sense of satisfaction when he began to turn to her for consolation. If some of the comfort ended up being of a more carnal fashion than her mother, sisters, and help would approve of, that was none of their business.

During their talks, Luke would often end up leaning on her shoulder, with her fingers running through his thick waves of hair. She took to carding her fingers through it at every available opportunity.

Right now, she is standing on the surface of a planet possessed of an extremely rigid class structure. It reminds her vividly of her life back in Jaipur, where she was marked and claimed; her father’s, her suitor’s, her house’s. Since the two of them haven’t anything overt -rings, or matching tattoos, or any other sort of mark- to distinguish them, show which one has the power, she gently pushes Luke to his knees in front of her, thrilling at how easily he goes. She plunges a hand into his hair, and grasps a handful, keeping his head at a slightly uncomfortable angle. An alien party passes her, who, despite their blue tinge and great height, remind her of her mother, and her sisters, and the help, and spare her an approving, deferential glance. She strokes her kneeling man’s hair, and smiles. She has power, and anyone can see.





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sunny.all.day. said...
Oct. 12, 2011 at 8:18 pm
this is really good! I've read 2 other of your short stories with the same characters, and I love the depth you've given them! Just one suggestion; for the last paragraph, you've put it in present tense, which kind of goes against the whole story because the rest is told in past tense. I think there's a more accurate term for it but I can't think of it right now... 
 
AfanenThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Oct. 13, 2011 at 12:49 am
Ugh, yes. I really wanted to show that Kalna's got some control over her own life now, hence the present tense. I agree, though, it's jarring. 
 
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