Allan leaned down towards me. He was strong and tall. Slowly, gently, he kissed me. I felt his dark hair touch my face. His lips were warm against mine. He held his hands away from me, as if he were afraid to touch me.
“No,” he said pulling away. “Hayley, I can’t.”
He was backing away from me now, his green eyes filled with concern.
“Allan…I love you.”
“Don’t,” he said. Allen opened the door and walked out into the dark evening.
I had known Allan for two years. He delivered the canned goods to the hospital cafeteria where I had worked, part time, since I turned sixteen. We were friends but I knew he felt something more. Why won’t he let himself love me?
Later that night, Earth declared what we had all suspected. Oh, sure, there had been rumors before, but to hear it for certain… There are aliens among us. That was it. That was the statement issued by the U.N. Such a short statement, yet it said everything.
The St. Mary Center was a big city hospital, so I heard lots of talk. I always listened with interest as I enjoyed science, especially biology, and was thinking of becoming a nurse. Lately, though, the talk had taken a strange turn. Unknown, unexplained, foreign sicknesses. Instantaneous mutations. A great rise in sudden mental breakdowns. And several babies born that…weren’t exactly human.
When I awoke the next morning to the sound of my alarm clock, I stumbled out of bed. As I looked into my full-length mirror, I realized with a growing horror what Allan had been hiding from me. My stomach turned as I looked from my legs to the mirror and back, panic clawing at my mind. The section between my knee and my foot, on both legs, had grown two feet during the night. I’m a monster! I got back into bed and wiped away the tears that were escaping down my cheeks. Allan…You… I couldn’t finish the thought. Curling myself into a ball, I willed myself back to sleep.
“Hayley, what are you doing? You’ll be late for school.”
“Mom, I’m sick,” I told her, from beneath the covers.
“Really?” Mom pulled back the blanket a little and put her lips to my forehead. “Well, you do feel a bit warm. I guess you can stay home from school.”
As my mother was leaving for work, I wondered if I should tell her. But what could she do? What could anyone do? I felt like crying again but I went back to sleep instead.
When I awoke, I threw off the covers. My legs were again normal sized. Relief swelled up inside. Maybe it had just been a nightmare. I looked at the clock – 2:00 in the afternoon. It hadn’t been a nightmare. Why are they here? Oh, Allan…
Time to get ready for work. I got up.
That evening, Allan came again, near the end of my shift, even though he wasn’t scheduled to work. The cafeteria was empty.
“Allan,” I gasped when I saw him.
His green eyes looked me over carefully. “Hayley, thank God you’re all right.” He stood several meters from me.
“Why wouldn’t I be?” I asked, my voice rising.
“I think you know why. You must know by now.”
I didn’t try to go to him. There was an uncrossable gap between us now.
“Allan,” I said, tears filling my eyes and spilling onto my cheeks. “I…”
“I know,” he said. He gazed at the floor. “But now you know why it can never be.”
“Why have you come?” I asked him.
“I just needed to be sure you were all right.”
I shook my head and continued to stare at him.
“Oh.” Allan shifted under my gaze. Then he glanced around to be sure we were alone. “We… our people had been enslaved by a more powerful species. We had been slaves for many generations. The Terrock were very cruel…They decided that we should be exterminated.” Allan leaned against one of the tables. “My people… we have always been a people of peace. The elders sent some of us away to learn the ways of war. In all the known galaxies, the earthen race is, by far, the most aggressive. You have ways of fighting we could not even comprehend. There have been more wars on Earth than on all the other worlds combined. That is why few others have ever come here before.” He looked up at me. “Humans often value freedom over even their own lives. We needed to learn the courage and valor of your people.”
“And have you?” I asked him, quietly.
Allan looked past me and away. “It was too late. By the time we arrived here, my people…they…they are all gone.”
I longed to comfort him, this stranger whom I had thought I knew. A great sadness filled the space between us.
“What will you do now?”
“What is there to do? We have no home to go back to. If we leave here, we will be hunted down. Here we are safe because the others fear you too much. But…somehow we are poison to you… We that have come are few and are all brothers and sisters…we are overwhelmed by loneliness…” he trailed off. Allan took a small step towards her. “Hayley, I cherish your friendship.” He reached out unconsciously, then drew his hand back. “I am afraid that I will endanger you if I stay near you.”
“Allan, I love you,” I said.
“Just tell me,” I said to him, “do you feel the same about me?”
“Yes, you know I do but…”
“That is enough,” I assured him. “For now, we will be friends but later…who knows what may be.” I smiled at him, my confidence in the future growing. “Your people, how many of you are there? What are they doing now?”
“We are just under seven thousand. We are afraid…hiding. Just trying to survive.”
“That is not good enough,” I said, seriously. “Some should go to school. Some must make contact with influential people in the government and media. Humans need to know why you are here. Together, your people and mine can work together.”
“I will pass your words along,” Allan said. “I believe the others will listen. We seek purpose.” Allan was very solemn.
“I think your people can still have a good future,” I reassured him. How I longed to touch his hair and caress his face.
“I am very glad you are my friend,” he said, smiling a little.
“So am I.”
Now I had found purpose, too. I will become a doctor and a scientist. In time, I know I will discover what keeps us apart. I will find a way we can safely be together. One day…
He smiled at me, with several tables still between us. “Those are two other characteristics that we admire in you humans – your reckless optimism and…your belief in the power of love.”