“Stupid brat! All that money and you’re too stupid to speak! How am I supposed to reach my destiny of bringing the Stokke Empire fully into an intergalactic alliance? Years I waited and hoped and all that for you? Everyone will look at me as stupid if I show you to the universe, but I can’t look for a wife while I’m stuck with you. You think I’m happy that you have nowhere else to go? You think I enjoy looking at your silent face every day?” That reminder made the tall, broad shouldered Stokken male stand up from his musing a loud to look at the frail looking human female sitting on the bed watching him finish his dressing routine for the day. She looked so small and frail to him, at least compared to other Stokken women he knew. He’d never met a human before, a pure human that was. Stokkens were part humans. They were the descendants of a human slave colony and the natives that had been on the planet before their masters had brought the humans. Stokkens looked vastly different from each other because they were each made up of a different combination of human and native DNA. Still, the swelling on the girl’s cheek annoyed him. He hadn’t planned to hurt her, he never wanted to hurt her but he had been so angry, so annoyed the night before. One of his colleagues had kept bringing up the fact that he was incompetent since he was unable to find a wife. How joyous would they be if they met the girl destined to be his bride? He nearly reached out to touch the bruise but his annoyance at his own actions made him spin around and head for the door. He had never meant to take out his annoyance on her but her silence goaded him as did the sadness in her eyes. If she would talk he would give her anything she wanted but she never spoke. With a final reminder to have dinner ready for him after work, bit out over his annoyance, he left the quarters.
Liz watched him go, the angry alien man that was her guardian. He said he was a powerful man, that she was lucky he had been the one that got her instead of a less wealthy man but she often wondered if the old saying was true in this case. “Power corrupts.” At first he had been nice but that was over a year ago. Her inability to speak made him think she had no brain. As if a woman with no brain could figure out how to cook him meals every night and prepare the meals for his small dinner parties she wasn’t allowed to attend. He had another one planned for a few days away. It was larger than most, she should order the foods through the synthesizer today so they would be ready for the party. She would make the snack she always did the day of and the robots would place all the dishes just so as they always did. She already had that programmed in their system once the synthesizer started popping out the food. After a year she had it all set up.
Getting up, she pulled on her robe and padded across the open rooms to the synthesizer in the enclosed kitchen area and started the programming. What was he had requested again? That done, she went to the bathroom area to take a shower. She was taking off the head piece he made her wear to look like him when she looked in the mirror. She could see the mark from his hand even though she no longer felt the sting. It was the first time he had struck her, the first time he had been even remotely violent towards her in over a year. Last night had been the first for many things and she hoped the last time he came back angry. However, as she looked in the mirror it wasn’t her face she saw, not really. Her image blurred with that of a lady that looked so similar to her. Liz had learned early on that once violence started, it only got worse. Like mother, like daughter.
Spinning away from the mirror, Liz threw off her robe and stepped into the shower stall. She turned the heat way up in the vain hope of soothing some of her sore muscles while she scrubbed down. As the steam blurred her vision she was haunted by the similarities between her current life and the life she’d known growing up. She vowed it would never happen to her, that she would choose her husband with such care that he never beat her, yet here she was. He didn’t even let her leave the quarters for fear that she would bring him shame by not being able to speak. How could she figure out how to escape if she had no idea what was out there?
Her head was in such a whirl by the time she was done with her shower that she decided it was time to do what she hadn’t done in over a year. After toweling off and putting on the closest things she had to lounge pants and a t-shirt, she went into the massive closet her guardian used as a storage area and waded through his things to the little area in the back corner, behind his ceremonial gear. Finding her bundle, she hugged it tight and waded out of the closet to the couch by the balcony. She had found the bundle in his garbage bin only days after she had woken up in this suite. The day before she’d found the bundle she had seen the t-shirt she’d been wearing when they had taken her in that bin and he’d told her that she was never to touch what was in that bin. When she’d seen this in the bin, deeper this time, she had merely removed and hidden it, not let him see it. It had stayed in that corner for over a year now waiting for a day she needed it enough to risk his wrath. Today was that day, she thought as she put the letter jacket on over her clothes. The jacket had been the first thing her grandfather had given his high school sweet heart and soon to be wife. Her grandmother had given that jacket to her mother when the grandfather had died and Liz had gotten it on her fifteenth birthday when there was no money for presents. For three generations this jacket had been given in love to a dearly loved woman and today Liz needed to be loved. As she swung the jacket on, something hit her hard in the still tender breasts and Liz dug into the deep pocket to see what it was. Scared to hope but anxious to see if it still worked, Liz pressed the button to turn on the iPod. She felt like squealing when the screen lit up and she quickly pushed the buttons to restart the song playing. She remembered she had just gotten a phone call so she’d turned off her iPod, as she was also nearing the library for the meeting, and put it in her pocket, right next to the…yep, the charger was still there.
Suddenly Carrie Underwood’s All-American Girl came on. Oh the memories of high school and college. She had gotten the impression that Eric was getting ready to pop the question before she was taken away. The next song to come on was The More Boys I Meet, which got her thinking about Eric, who would have been her future, and the man who now was all she had. When I Can’t Live a Lie came on, she gladly skipped it. Liz knew if given the chance to walk away from him and his world, she would gladly take it and never look back. The next song was Mama’s Song and it nearly made Liz cry before she skipped to the next song. Eric would have been just what her mother would have wanted for her only child but instead she was stuck with a life with a guy who probably hated her when she didn’t know his name and she couldn’t make a sound. Life just wasn’t fair. The next song was So Small and it caught her attention for a moment. “Sometimes that mountain you’ve been climbing is just a grain of sand and what you’ve been up there searching for forever is in your hands. When you figure out love is all that matters after all, it sure makes everything else seem so small. It’s so easy to get lost inside, a problem that seems so big at the time, It’s like a river that’s so wide it swallows you whole, while you’re sitting round thinking about what you can’t change and worrying about all the wrong things time’s flying by, Moving so fast you better make it count cause you can’t get it back.” Love was amazing but how could she find it here? As time went by, he just got worse as he couldn’t get rid of her. Someday would she look back and laugh at how easy it was now? Would it only get harder? Would it get as bad as it had with her mother where she was bruised daily, unable to walk most days? “What you’ve been up there searching for forever is in your hands”. She needed her freedom, was that in her hands already? What was stopping her? She had no clue what was out there, beyond the garden walls surrounding the building. Could she make it out there without help, without a voice? Suddenly she saw action in the sky; a space ship was taking off and heading for the stars from the other side of the city. The realization took her out of her thoughts and she heard her iPod. “Someday we’ll find a place here in this world, This is our temporary home, It’s not where we belong, windows and rooms that we’re passing through. This is just a stop on the way to where we’re going. I’m not afraid because I know this is our temporary home.” The song told of a foster child, a new mother with no place to go, and a dying man each saying that phrase to comfort someone. How appropriate. Liz remembered a choice made years before on that idea. She had needed money for college so she had decided to join the Navy on the idea that a few years’ free travel and free college was a fair trade off for a few years checking readings and fiddling with computers. That decision had been one she never really regretted it. Okay so there were the days, but everyone has those days when they just want to crawl in bed and never get out. Overall the fun outweighed the bad. Maybe she could find a way to do that again. A few years on space ships while she figured out where she belonged in this large universe could be just the thing for her. It had worked before.
As Crazy Dreams came on Liz knew that whatever power had helped her mother all those years and led Liz through some tough decisions was guiding her yet again, it was time to go. “Never let a bad day be enough, to go and talk you into giving up.” Maybe everyone needed a bad day to jumpstart them back into reality. That in mind she stood up and hurried through the suite to her closet. Once she’d changed, she packed a few toiletries and change of clothes to wear as pajamas as well as some socks, underwear and two extra shirts to the song Undo It. Zipping the duffle bag she’d found in the closet, Liz looked at the sink under the mirror that still held the head piece he insisted she wear. Deciding to leave it there she went to the synthesizer to get some fruit and snacks to tide her over for a day or two and went to the door. Her iPod was saying “I guess it’s gonna have to hurt, I guess I’m gonna have to cry and let go of some things I love to get onto the other side. I guess it’s gonna break me down like falling when you’re trying to fly. Sad but sometimes moving on with the rest of your life starts with goodbye. I know there’s a blue horizon somewhere up ahead just waiting for me. But getting there means leaving things behind, sometimes life’s so bittersweet,” as she opened the door and walked down the small flight of stairs. As the door closed behind her, she looked back for a moment but she knew it would get worse. There was no refuge there; she’d have to make it on her own without his help from now on. Like mother, like daughter.