I watched as Rosie curled her near-perfect auburn hair, smoothing each piece as she went. Every Friday night, since we’d gotten together three and a half years ago, I’d sit in her bathroom and chat with her while she got ready for date night. I never admitted it, but I loved watching her get ready. Watching her confidence climb with every stroke of mascara and spritz of hairspray. I’d tell her she didn’t need it, but it was a moot point. The sunny disposition she got from getting dolled up wasn’t worth deflating with stereotypical ideology. So I just sit here, watching her apply the sparkles that she loved so much to her eyelids. Adding this to the list of things she’d probably never find out about me. But it doesn’t matter, tonight is a special night. Nothing could ruin it. Nothing except this damn rash! I pawed at my arms, scaley and covered in dry skin
Rosie catches me out of the corner of her eye and gives a disapproving huff. “Babe, I told you if you keep scratching your eczema, it’s only going to get worse! Here, I have some oatmeal lotion in the cupboard.” I groan, “Let me help!” She insists, lathering my arm in Aveeno. “So weird. It almost looks…green. You must be digging so much you’re giving yourself a skin infection!” I recoiled at her last statement.
“No! It’s…yes hun I’ll go to the doctor later this week. But could we stay at my place tonight? The cat hair on your bed always gives me hives and makes it worse.” I give her my biggest puppy dog stare, and she sighs. “Fine. If we have to. Your place always skeeves me out, Kaz. It’s so quiet, there’s never any food, and that lizard of yours…He like…gets in your head or something!” She shuddered. “You leave Lloyd out of this!” I scoff, half-serious. “It looks like you’re almost done. I’m going to change.” Little does she know what I have planned. There is an engagement ring waiting in the dresser of my apartment. It’s small, with a crescent moon-shaped diamond, and I know she’s going to love it. I wanted to propose at dinner, but we spend so much time fooling around, I didn’t have time to go back to my place and grab it. I’ll just have to get creative!
I kiss her and head into the bedroom, where the small collection of belongings I’d brought over resided. I pull out a blue dress shirt and some clean black slacks and dress before checking my phone. 4 missed calls, 6 missed texts, and a “Code Red” alert. Well…that explains the “eczema.” I look down, and my sleeve is wet from the inside out. UGH! It’s starting already. I thought these things were good for at LEAST 5 years?!
I clean the slime from my arm and change to a gray dress shirt instead. That’ll at least hide the stains. Rosie comes in sporting a gorgeous velvet green dress, with a sweetheart neckline and a cinched waist that hugged her in all the right places. “Close your mouth before you catch flies, Kazius.” She scolded, before grinning and coming to kiss me. She had wrapped around me, teasing me hints that her makeup was smudge-proof, when my phone buzzed again from my pocket, under her thigh. Her face went stone cold as she got up. “Who is that? Kaz, it’s date night…” She whined.
“I know, baby.” I pause. “It’s my mother.” Oh shit…I said the magic words. Rosie’s face got beet red as she scowled at me. “Your mother? The mother I haven’t gotten to meet, despite being with you for over three years now? The mother who you refuse to tell me anything about? THAT mother?? Kaz, we’ve been together for years now, and I know nothing about your family, and I hate it! I understand they’re odd and backward! I get that gypsies are…unconventional. I KNOW you got in a fight with your parents before you left home, and they want you to marry someone from their…culture. But they don’t even know me! I should at LEAST be able to plead my case. Hell Kaz, they’re from India, not Mars!”
I felt the sweat licking my collar as her petite face puffed up with angry tears. She didn’t know the half of it. But I soothed her anyway, and kissed the tears as they rolled down her cheeks. I did my best to assured her it had nothing to do with her anyway. “Sweetheart, I told you my home life is complicated. I’m so sorry about that, but it isn’t your fault. They haven’t even been on this…in this country in quite some time. You’ll meet them one day soon. I promise. Come on. You’ll feel better after dinner.” She pulled away from me and fixed herself in the bathroom mirror before we started on a leisurely stroll to Cibella’s.
It was our favorite restaurant for date night, and they did not disappoint. The food, as always, was excellent. Even though most of it went in a doggie bag, per my usual routine. I told Rosie I had weight loss surgery and a tummy tuck years before meeting her. It was the perfect excuse for never having much of an appetite and the scar down my abdomen. It was also the perfect excuse for why I rarely took my shirt off. I told her I was insecure, and she coddled me in that warm, nurturing way that she does. I was especially happy for that fact as date night usually meant intimacy, but my “scar” had begun oozing just like my arm was. I could explain a lot, but I wasn’t getting out of this one.
I could barely turn the key to my apartment door before she was pawing at me. I couldn’t help myself, I pawed right back as the door swung open. That is until my uninvited guests cleared their throats to alert me to their presence. Rosie yelped, and I jumped about a foot off the ground myself, sending the my leftover alfredo, hurdling across the room.
“Hello, dear.” One of the figures called. They were horrifying and grotesque. Like people, but with crooked faces and backward limbs. There was a poor attempt at makeup on the “woman”, as if a child did it for her. The man was wearing glasses with no lenses, and two left shoes. Their skin appeared loose, as if there was an incredible amount of excess, hanging off their slender frames. It was like something out of “Beetlejuice,” with a splash of “Coraline” mixed in. All the needed were the button eyes.
“Rosie, go wait in my room, put my soundproof headphones on, and don’t come out until I say,” I called behind me, my hands extended to guard her. She froze. “Go!” I call again. The “woman” frowned. I waited until I heard the door close, and the bed springs creak under Rosie’s weight before address the intruders.
“What the HELL are you DOING HERE??? And WHY do you look like that! Jesus Christ!!” I shout at them.
But Mother’s gaze was captured by the fettuccine, dripping down the wall. “Disgusting,” she mouthed. “I’ve never been more grateful for my lack of stomach.”
“Kazius, apologize to your mother immediately! We have been worried SICK about you since you took off on your little run-away stunt! We made these suits with the emergency generator. I realize they aren’t perfect, but it’s the best we could do on short notice. We HAD to get down here and find you!! We know you’ve been ignoring our calls! We know the suit is breaking down!” My father scolded me.
“Dad…I thought I had it figured out! I didn’t come without a plan, but I don’t understand! WHY is the suit breaking down?? I’ve only been gone for four years! I still had another year left!” I looked to him with panic.
But it was mother who answered. “Yes, dear, a standard-issue human skin suit will last a Draxxian roughly 5 years. But the suit is subject to some…sensitivities. When a Draxxian falls in love, we secrete a certain pheromone…”
I roll my eyes and interrupt. “Mom, I took sex ed, I don’t get why it’s relevant. Draxxian uses these suits just for fun with each other, and they don’t break down!”
She takes a firm, but highly annoyed tone. “Honestly boy, you’d think you’d do a little research before getting reckless! Kazius, two Draxxian falling in love will secrete the same pheromone. But a human will secrete an entirely different one, and when that love is reciprocated and the pheromones mix, it causes a chemical reaction in the suit. It causes the suit to melt into your skin. The pheromones will oxidize and create a kind of liquid….” I hold out my arm to show her the “rash.”
“Oh, Kaz!” She cries. “How could you be so stupid? Do you think you’re the first Draxxian this has happened to? The first to fall in love with a human? The warning signs are everywhere! We simply don’t mix! It’s biology, son! It’s already starting! You aren’t able to take it off now! You can’t stay here, you can’t stay in that suit. You can’t be near that girl! Don’t you understand? One more week and that suit will mold to you entirely. You’ll be half-human, half Draxxian! Fine, you ignored us, but surely you must have seen the alerts on your suit’s indicator!!”
Shit!” I exclaim in surprise. I’d been at Rosie’s all week, and the alert system was here. This means now, it’s in the room with her….Rosie burst from my room, holding the alert system, as I suspected she would find.
“Kaz! Kaz, it’s a bomb! There’s a count down and everything! They’re terrorists! Kaz, I’m scared!!” She cried, frantically waving the timer around. I sighed and ran to her. I knew I’d have to tell her, and I knew she wouldn’t take it well. “Baby. It’s not a bomb. Come sit, please. We have to talk.” I gesture to the couch.
“Kaz, are you crazy?! We have to get out of here, we have to get away from those THINGS!” She gestures to my parents.
“Rosie…these are my parents. This is why I didn’t want you to meet them. This isn’t what they truly look like…Rosie…they’re aliens. Draxxian, to be precise. They aren’t from Mars, like you said earlier, but the planet Mabroria. And so am I. We wear suits to make us look human, but mine isn’t working. My rash, my scar, all of it is because my skinsuit is breaking down. It’s turning me half-human. That isn’t a bomb you’re holding. It’s an alert system for the suit.”
She let out a half laugh, half cry sort of noise. “Kazius. This isn’t funny. This isn’t funny at ALL.”
I sighed. “Mom, dad, please take them off. Please show her.” Mom gives me a gentle smile “It’s true, honey. I’m sorry.”
They peel off the piles of flesh and poorly styled human suits. In their place stood tall, green creatures, four large eyes, antennas, and lanky arms and legs, and glistening scaled flesh. Mother extended her hand to Rosie, but she doubled back in terror.
“Go…I..uhm…Gotta go. Goodbye, Kaz.” Before I could stop her, she bolted out the door.
“Probably for the best, dear. Now you can come home, and we can see if there’s still hope to unmold you from that suit!
I whipped around in a fury. “THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT! GET OUT! LEAVE! GO HOME! I DON’T WANT TO GO HOME, I WANT TO BE WITH ROSIE.”
“I see this girl means a great deal to you. We understand your decision, and we support you. Be safe, son. Please keep us updated.” My father nodded to mother, and they signaled for the beam to send them home, and disappeared, pulling the leftover skin suits with them.
Lloyd let out a croak from the corner. Naturally, he was alien too. My life companion, from home. He didn’t eat much, he was quiet, and despite the radio silence, he had a telepathic way of bringing me a solution when I didn’t know what to do. This time was no different. His tiny croaks told me all I needed to know. I texted Rosie. I told her I was sorry, and to call when she was ready. Then I curled up in my bed, and I forgot the world existed around me for several days until finally, my phone lit up. A text from Rosie.
“I am not mad that you are an alien. I love you, and I accept you no matter what form you take on. I am mad that you kept it a secret from me. You made me think your parents hated me, or that you were talking to someone else. I’m mad you kept a whole other life from me. I saw the ring, Kaz. And I wish like hell I could accept it. But we can’t start a life together built on lies. You need to start fessing up…and fast. Coffee at Stark’s, around 11, if you’re free? ”
“Anything for you. I’m so sorry, Rosie. I love you.” I reply. I look at the clock. 9:30. I have roughly an hour to shower and get the 3-days-in-bed stench off of me. On the plus side, with being away from Rosie, my “skin” was starting to clear. That would reverse soon, I’m sure. I force myself up and into the bathroom. How would I adjust to life as a half-human? What would I look like when my skin molds to the suit entirely? It didn’t matter. Rosie was worth it. I only hope she still accepts me when it’s over. I comb my hair, carefully avoiding the nubs of my antennas poking through my suit. I’m about to head out, when I think twice and grab the small velvet box from my drawer.
I see her in the glass front of the coffee shop. Her face is raw and puffed from crying, but she looks so perfect, in the mesmerizing way she always has. I consider leaving. She deserves so much more than the drama I bring to the table. But she spots me, standing across the street, staring like an oaf. And she smiles.
“I really wanted to stay mad at you. To chew you out and tell you I had ultimatums and all that. But I can’t. I love you. And I missed you so much. I’m just so happy you’re safe.” She sobbed and threw her arms around me. “And your skin! It’s better! Kaz, I’m so sorry. I don’t really understand what’s going on with you, all I know is I want to do everything I can to be there for you and help it.”
As I held her close, speechless to her overwhelming love, I felt my arm begin to itch again. I sat with her and explained what was going on with the suit. That I would morph after being too close to her. But she just nodded. I told her it didn’t matter to me that I wanted to be with her, and I only hope she would accept the strange changes I would undergo in the next few weeks. I felt the weight of her engagement ring in my pocket and pull it out.
“I wanted to do this a bit differently, but I feel this is as good a time as any.” I got to one knee and took her hand. “Please say you’ll be with me always, scales and all.” She pulled me to my feet and hugged me tightly, running her hands through my hair, pausing as she felt my antennas poke through.
“Only if you promise to cut holes in your top hat for these, at the wedding.” She grinned, and I kissed her deeply. I never suspected my secret would come out the way it did, but for once in my life, I can embrace the little green weirdo I truly am, and now I have someone in my life who embraces it with me.
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