Althea fidgeted nervously as she sat in the stella’s waiting room. It would be her turn after the girl who just went in to see the ancient healer. She hoped they wouldn’t be too long. The past week had been almost painful.
She could still hardly believe that she had given herself to Mellis that last night at camp. Maybe there’d been something in the nightbrew they drank around the campfire. Something to explain her irrational behavior. Sure, Mellis was extremely handsome, and had focused his attention on her most of the week. Maybe it was inevitable that she would seek out his kisses several nights in, his gentle fondling not long after, then finally give in to his suggestion that she join him in his tent that final night.
She remembered the hot night where she hardly slept a wink amidst the passionate lovemaking that had ensued… and the sudden realization when morning arrived that she had done nothing to prevent the obvious. A fact that came smashing down on her when the camp staff realized that she had spent the night with a male member of their staff. Mellis wouldn’t work there again, they had ensured her. Not that it would do her any good. Nor did she want him to lose his job because they couldn’t control their hormones! She smiled, remembering. It had felt so good. She would do it again, even at the cost of sitting here in the stella’s office, waiting to discover whether there had been a permanent consequence of her wild night.
During the trip back home, all Althea could do was think about Mellis, wondering where he lived and whether he thought of her. Things had happened so quickly that morning that she hadn’t had a chance to talk to him to exchange PCS codes* or addresses or anything.
Her mother noticed her wistfulness as Althea went about her day-to-day life at home. How could she explain to her mother that everything had changed for her while at camp? She’d been made a woman – and had no regrets about the fact!
The fact Althea had been sick the past two mornings had caught her mother’s attention. The severe, but concerned look in her mother’s eyes made her wonder if she somehow knew!
“Go see the stella!” her mother had insisted that morning. “I can come with you if you need.”
“No. I can go by myself,” Althea had replied. She had been made a woman, after all, she could bloody well behave like it!
Althea had spent much of the past 9 days oscillating between hopes that she was pregnant with hopes that she wasn’t. How would she explain to her mother? But a baby! Wouldn’t that be worth the temporary disapproval of her mother? But what about the summer job she had started? And her final year of school? She was underage as well. Would Mellis get in trouble for that? She hoped not. Would she see him again? Did he know that she would gladly spend more nights with him? And if she was pregnant, would he even find out that they were having a baby? There were too many questions… too many uncertainties.
She sighed as she waited. Why did the stella have to take so long?! She looked at her chrono, wondering whether she would get seen before lunch.
“How are you doing?” her mother asked, joining her.
“I said I could handle this,” Althea replied, surprised that her mother had felt the need to join her at the stella’s clinic after all.
“Someone from the camp called a bit ago,” she said. “There was some concern over a staff member’s behavior. With you.”
“I don’t want him to lose his job!” Althea replied instantly.
“There’s a question about him being charged with a crime due to your age gap.”
“No! I’m every bit as guilty as he was!”
“Actually, they found traces of a Petal Bed mixture in the kitchen. It might not have been your fault at all. It might also save him his job and his freedom unless you feel he took advantage of you unfairly.”
“I guess they told you everything,” Althea replied, realizing her secret was no longer secret.
“They told me that you spent the night in his tent. Considering that you’ve been sick the past two mornings, I’m glad that I suggested you come here. We need to know whether there are consequences. Did he take advantage of you?”
“No… I was a willing participant,” Althea replied, blushing as she said it.
Althea watched as the door to the stella’s room opened and the young woman before her came out, her face full of relief. The stella followed her. The ancient healer looked like everyone’s favorite grandmother, yet was stern as well. Her mother had said previously that the stella had been old when she first met her as a young woman.
“Come in, Althea,” the stella invited. “Mum can come too.”
Althea smiled and approached the old woman, her mother right behind her. She remembered from previous visits that the stella would never ask, “What can I do for you?” she always began by looking the patient up and down. Althea had never asked what the woman was looking for, just stood there until she was done, only sitting when invited.
“Hmmm,” the stella said, waving a crystal wand around her. She looked at her mother. “The young man?”
“Is awaiting to hear from us,” Althea’s mother informed.
The stella nodded. “Petal Bed? That’s serious. Have they found the culprit? Did everyone have it?”
“They didn’t share that much with me.”
Althea felt her ire increase. They spoke as if she wasn’t there, as if she was something to be talked about not to! And how did the stella know about Mellis? Had her mother already talked to her?
“It is as you suspected,” the stella said to her mother, then turned her blue eyes to Althea. “You are pregnant, child. I will give you some tea that you are to drink one or two cups daily until you feel your baby kick. Then, come back. Or sooner if you feel worried about anything.”
“Thank you,” Althea replied, feeling her excitement grow as fast as her fear. How could she be a mother so young?! Could she be a good one?
“The young man faces jail time unless you wish to marry him,” the stella informed.
Althea grinned and nodded. “I would like that very much.”
Her mother nodded as well. “I will let the camp know then. He’ll be on the next boat, I’m sure, from what was said.”
“What? He wants to come?” Althea asked, her grin increasing.
“Yes. The staff said that he was in love with you. You marrying him will also save his job. They understand things like love, hormones and Petal Bed in the nightbrew,” her mother replied, wiping a tear from her eye. “If you love him, then I support your union.”
“Thank you, Mom!” Althea cried, giving her mother a huge hug. Then she looked at the stella, whose own tears glistened in her eyes. “Thank you.”
* PCS = Portable Communications Systems, a company who manufactures a number of portable devices, one of which is worn on the wrist.