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By. Maria L. Berg

“I completely trust him,” McKenzie said, slamming the car door and banging her back against the seat while folding her arms across her chest with a hmph. “Why can’t you trust my judgment for once?”

“Honey, I just want what’s best for you and you don’t know anything about this guy. It’s all a bit sudden. And I hate to say it, but you don’t have the best track record. Buckle your seatbelt.”

McKenzie turned toward her mother as she latched the buckle. “He’s not like Christian, or Terence, or Brian–”

“Or Alfons, or Derek, or T. J., or Jason, or–”

“Okay, that’s enough. You know you haven’t always made the best choices either. I mean Dick isn’t exactly a keeper.” McKenzie’s brow furrowed deeper as she scowled, but she had an impish gleam in her eye.

“First of all, young lady, you know your dad hates it when you call him that and after twenty-five years, I’d call him a keeper.”

McKenzie couldn’t stifle a laugh. “I guess so,” she said, “but Tharen is way hotter than Dad. He smells like gardenias and orange blossoms, but subtle, you know, not like perfume, and he sounds like the ocean.” Her voice became dreamy like she was on another planet.

McKenzie’s mother raised an eyebrow and took her eyes off the road long enough to take in her daughter’s blissful gaze out the window. “Yes. I get it. You’re a young woman in love, but that’s a strange description even for you. Have you joined a cult? Is Tharen your guru or spiritual father or something?”

“No, Mom. But you’d be okay with that, wouldn’t you? Would it be better if I was joining a cult? Is that better than moving in with the man I love? Then fine. I’m joining a cult.”

“No. I didn’t mean that. I’m happy for you, but why don’t you just date for a while like a normal couple?”

“We are a normal couple, Mom. We love each other. Can’t you be supportive this one time? This might be the last time you and I see each other. I want to say goodbye on a happy note.”

“Do you really think you’ll be happy so far away from your family and friends? You’ll be a foreigner. Everything will be so strange. I mean the food, the culture, the landscape, everything.”

“It’s okay, Mom, Tharen has a big family and from what he tells me, I’m going to love it there. Hey, the exit’s up ahead on the right. Here. Take a right.”

“Okay. Okay.”

“Now turn left.”

“That’ll take us to the middle of nowhere.”

“Just about.”

“Why are we meeting him way out here? Are you sure he’s not planning on killing us and dumping us in the woods?”

“I told you, Mom, I completely trust him. Okay, we’re here. Stop the car.”

“What are you talking about? All I see is trees.”

“Come on, Mom. Pop the trunk. I need to grab my stuff.”

“So where is this wonderful man of yours? Get cold feet?”

“He’s here and please don’t be rude. He can probably hear you.”

“What do you mean–?”

Suddenly the trees in front of them wrinkled like heat coming off pavement and a tall creature appeared in front of a large mirrored sphere. His “skin” was so black it was like looking into the vastness of space, but when sunlight hit any part of him, it split into the colors of the rainbow like he was made of tiny prisms.

“Isn’t he beautiful?” McKenzie said. “Mom? Are you okay?”

McKenzie’s mom felt queasy and lost the ability to blink and close her mouth.
“McKenzie, when you said he was an alien, I thought you meant an illegal. You know, like a Mexican or a Canadian even. But. . . .”

“I told you he was from outer space. I told you I might never see you again.”

“I thought the space thing was a metaphor for your whirlwind romance and you were just being overly dramatic. You do tend to get excited about these things.”

“Oh, Mom. Please don’t. Come meet him. It’ll be okay.” McKenzie pushed her mom toward Tharen’s outstretched appendage.

“It is nice to meet you Mrs.–”

“Jacobs,” McKenzie offered.

“Mrs. Jacobs. I apologize for our rushed departure. I would have liked to offer McKenzie a more traditional courtship, but the mothership has been detected. We must join them immediately and begin the return voyage. I do hope you understand.”

“Well, he is definitely more polite than your previous pursuits, McKenzie. And you’re right– flowers and the ocean. Is that a suit or your skin? It’s rough like tiny stones and yet soft like peach fuzz.” McKenzie’s mom wiped her hands against the back of her pants trying to be subtle.

“It is a protective flight suit. A similar covering has been prepared for McKenzie. It awaits her aboard the transport,” Tharen said.

“Wow. Um. How Nice.”

“Thanks for the ride, Mom.” McKenzie hugged her mother and kissed her on the cheek. “Tell Dad I love him and that Tharen will take good care of me. Okay?”

“Yes, darling. Now, you’re sure about this. I mean completely sure?”

McKenzie looked up at Tharen and smiled. “Oh, I’m sure.”

“Then I guess this is goodbye. Safe travels, darling.”

McKenzie took Tharen’s arm. They walked up the ramp and entered the craft. The moment the door closed, it silently lifted straight up into the air and was gone.

McKenzie’s mom wobbled back to her car. “What am I going to tell Richard?” she murmured to herself. “Tharen does seem nice, but maybe I’ll tell him she joined a cult. That should explain things. I’ll tell him she joined a cult.”

Maria L. Berg enjoys brisk swims in the Pacific Northwest. Her flash fiction has been published in Five on the Fifth and Waking Writer. When not writing adult fiction, she writes and photo-illustrates Gator McBumpypants adventure stories.

Second Still is a band from Los Angeles, California.