The End of the Day
by Eric J. Krause
Mary took a deep breath and slumped down onto the couch. Why did each and every day always have to be so hard? But he slept now, and he'd be out for hours. If David woke him, he could deal with the fallout.
Sometimes self-pity overtook her when the adrenaline wore off, but she wouldn't allow that to happen tonight. David would be here soon, and she wanted to have a good time. Especially if this relationship was headed where she hoped.
The next thing she knew, David shook her shoulders. "Soups on."
She blinked and saw the shadows of night had infiltrated the living room. Wonderful aromas wafting from the kitchen snapped her fully awake. "How long have you been here?"
He kissed her forehead. "Not long. It's takeout."
She glanced back at the hallway, and David chuckled. "He's dead to the world until morning. I checked on him right after I got here. He's doing that cute little snore-growl."
Mary shuddered. "I don't know how you can call that cute."
He kissed her on the lips. "How can you not think it's cute? He's your kid."
"I know, but . . ."
He pulled her to her feet and engulfed her in a hug. "I'm sure NASA would still take your call. I kept the card."
She hesitated, not sure what to say. She'd thrown hers out to take away temptation. But if David still had one . . .
"Is dinner all set?"
He nodded. "All plated. Just needs to get to the table."
She gave his hand a squeeze. "Okay. Get it on, and I'll be there in just a sec." She headed down the hall to his room. He lay in his crib, his green, scaly face puffing out and deflating with each breath, and he indeed made that half-snore, half-growl David was so fond of. His greasy little body lay flat against the mattress, as if made of nothing solid. She rubbed her ribs, the blossoming bruise he'd given her just that morning, for proof that he was indeed made of harder material than any creature native to Earth.
What if he'd been cute? Would that make a difference? She wanted to say no, but who was she kidding? If he looked like a cuddly little teddy bear, a puppy, or anything else she liked, she'd have been thrilled. Heck, if he'd even looked mostly human, she'd have been proud to call him son. But this part lizard, part fish being that'd slithered out of her six months prior still felt . . . felt . . . alien. It was all she could do to say and think "him" rather than "it."
As she returned to the living room, she saw not only dinner--a garden salad, a bacon-topped grilled chicken sandwich, and fries--at the table, but her cell phone and the card with NASA's phone number on it. David sat in his seat and smiled.
"You gave it a go. More than most women who went through this can say. I'm proud of you. You have nothing to feel bad about."
Everything he said made sense, but tears still rolled down her cheeks. "I feel like I'm failing him. Like this was a motherhood test and I flunked."
He shook his head. "I think you passed with flying colors. You'll make a wonderful mother when we choose to have kids."
She gasped and felt a warm feeling in her chest when he admitted he wanted her to have his children.
His smile showed he didn't miss her reaction, but his face turned serious. "This wasn't your choice. That thing shouldn't be. They might not have physically touched you, but those aliens raped you. Raped you and half the women on the planet."
The tears came faster, but he was right. She couldn't do this anymore. That thing--she no longer wanted to think of it as her baby--need to go. Whatever home NASA would give it was better than any she could.
She picked up the phone and dialed.