Copyright© 2015 by Gordon Johnson
"Very well. You have a visitor visa for one month, renewable with a sponsor. Settler status merits permanent residence and a land grant."
"You are welcome, ma'am."
The man now turned to Tom with a smile of recognition. "Hi, Tom. Are you her escort?"
"I am, Fred, for my sins. These two girls are her daughters: Anita is this one, and the baby is Carina."
"Duly noted. Please escort them off the beach, Tom."
"Come along, Margo. Hopefully someone is here to meet us."
The man interposed, "Two ladies up there on the road. One is your wife; the other I don't recognise."
"Thanks, Fred. We'll get off your beach sharpish."
"No-one else aboard?"
"Nope. Special trip: a mercy mission."
"Right. Good luck. See you."
The two adults with their sleeping girls tramped up the sand to the waiting ladies and the car. Observing that the children were asleep, Enid opened the back door and gestured to them both to climb in.
As Tom got to the door, Enid leaned over Anita and kissed him. Jeannette, not to be outdone, patted Enid to make way, slipped in and did the same before he got in the door with his burden. Enid and Jeannette made sure that Margo got in the opposite side, before resuming their front seat positions.
"Home?" enquired Enid of her husband.
"For the moment, please, darling."
"Right." She set the car in silent motion, and directed it towards their house. Everyone stayed silent through the journey of only a few minutes in the relatively quiet streets. There were a few cars on the road, but more in the way of buses and trucks. The traffic was certainly different from at home, Margo reflected.
Drawing up in front of the Pfeiffer home, they decanted gently, the setting sun not disturbing the little ones. Enid locked the car and left it outside.
Once they were all inside, Enid took Tom and Margo to Jeannette's room. There was a cot and a child's bed there, that had not been there before, to Tom's knowledge. His eyebrows rose in surprise.
Enid announced, "You and the girls are sleeping here tonight, Margo. Tomorrow we can start to sort out your life. Tom, deposit Anita on the bed for her mother to deal with. Margo, we'll leave you to yourself for a bit. The bathroom is over there," she pointed. "Tom, out, now."
"Yes, dear." He left with his wife, puzzled over the arrangements she had made for their visitors. Once they were back in the living room, Enid explained. "Jeannette will share our room tonight."
He remarked, "But we only have the one bed."
She retorted, "Yes. So? Tough! We will have to squeeze together, that is all." Tom was left wondering who was to be squeezing whom.
Jeannette announced that the evening meal was about ready to serve. Tom responded, "It was midnight on Earth when we picked up Margo, so I don't know if she will want food. Can you ask her?"
When Enid went off to speak with Margo, Tom moved to the kitchen to confront Jeannette. "Jeannette? Whose idea was it for us to share our bed tonight? Yours?"
"No, Tom. Enid was organising the visitors. She saw about borrowing the cot and small bed from the Lownie Stores. If we want to keep these, we pay for them later, or I can, anyway. I can afford it. Enid thought that it made sense to organise the rooms this way. She said you had already fucked me, so my presence would not be a problem, she thought. I was not so sure if you would feel that way, but it is YOUR home, not mine, so I kept away from that decision."
"Wise girl. I need to have a talk with Enid. She seems to be running both of our lives without consultation. Next she will be talking about marrying you."
"Do you think so Tom? How nice of her! Do you object to the idea?"
"No. It is just that I like to be asked my opinion, rather than she assume that anything she decides will be okay with me."
"I see. Understandable. Can you tell me of any family decision that was not initiated by her, Tom?"
"Of course! Well, let me see ... hmmm ... Not at this precise moment, but there were bound to be times..."
"Yes, I get the idea. Tell me, how did you ask her to marry you? I mean, in what way did it happen?"
"Oh, we went out on a trip to the seaside – her being a farm girl – and we were lying on the beach enjoying being together in the sun." His introspection brought back pleasurable memories. Jeanette had to jog him.
"And then what, Tom?"
"She said, out of the blue, "Are you going to ask me to marry you, Tom?", so I said, "Yes. And what are you going to say when I do?"
"She responded, "I shall say "yes", my darling."
Jeannette prompted, "And?"
He frowned. "And? And what?"
"And, did you ask her?"
"I suppose not. She had already said she would marry me, so it seemed redundant."
"So even your marriage proposal was her idea?"
"I suppose you are right."
"I thought that might be the case. She is the lead person in your marriage, Tom. You are a boss type outside, but in the home, it is Enid who sorts things out."
"Hmmm ... yes. You could be right."
"So today she is simply acting normally between you, isn't she?"
"I expect so."
"Has she ever been drastically wrong in her family decisions?"
"No. Never. I am sure of that."
"So she is probably correct over our sleeping arrangements for tonight?"
"Jeannette! You are boxing me into a corner."
"No. Enid does, regularly. You enjoy things being that way, methinks."
He stopped short, and stared at her, wonderingly. Dammit, what she was saying was correct! Enid DID run things in our family.
He demanded, "Jeannette, end of conversation, please."
"All right, Tom." She smiled sweetly at him.
He murmered, "I just have to live with it..."
Jeannette heard him, and responded cheekily, "First time I have been called an "it"!"
He snapped back, "I didn't mean it that way, and you know it!"
"Oh, Oh. Does that mean you don't want to marry me then?"
"No, it doesn't!" He faltered, "I mean ... damn ... it is a bit early for that. I need to find out what Enid thinks."
"So, yes, perhaps I defer to her in almost everything. That is because I love her dearly, and if you want to be loved, you will have to stop antagonising me, my girl."
Jeannette granted him a small victory. "Very well, I apologise. I will do what it needs to help you to love me, apart from you doing your duty by fucking me."
"Tom? Are you annoying Jeannette? I hope not."
Enid had returned from settling Margo in. "Margo fancies a little food. She is not very hungry, but wants to be sociable and show her appreciation for her rescue. I have told her what we have prepared, but it is too heavy for her stomach, which thinks it is still night-time, so I agreed to do her an omelette."
Tom brightened up. "So the rest of us have to take larger portions of tonight's dinner?"
"Yes, darling. Basically, that means you. It is pasta cheese, so you get a big bowl. Jeannette and I have to watch our figures for the moment, so we won't take so much. If Jeannette "takes", it will be months before she starts to show out front."
As they ate their evening meal, with Margo sitting with them, picking at her omelette, they discussed some practicalities.
"If Margo wants to become a settler, she needs to apply for a land grant, and decide on a house there or in town. Being without a man, and with a toddler and a babe in arms, renting a flat in Metropolis is probably her best option."
"How much do these cost, Enid?" Margo enquired.
"It varies with the flat, due to factors like number of bedrooms and other facilities, and whether it is a small block or a taller housing block. Small ones are more desirable as it cuts down on stairs and lifts, but some folk like the higher rise buildings, for the view you get. You can discuss it with the letting officials tomorrow. There is no shortage of accommodation: The colony did a blitz on Metropolis. They had hundreds of plumbers and carpenters doing conversions for months, and when they finished here, they moved to the next city and started all over again."
"Next city?" Margo was confused. "I thought it was the one city, Metropolis."
"Yes, but that was the first one we moved into. The original settlers, Braalians and Lubarians, built six cities in all. They are of a standard design, so were all identical. The last one has been granted to the Towatans, and humans have been occupying the first two, so there are another three empty cities just waiting for us. The Colony plan is to take things slowly, and move into another city as the previous ones start to fill up with residents. Most new settlers, because of the land grants, end up on the land, near one of the new settlements that have been springing up."
Margo asked, "Are these new settlements appearing at random, or is there a planned program of settlement?"
Tom laughed. "It is a bit of both, Margo. The best places for new settlements is near the railway line, so that you have good transport links for the city facilities of shops and utilities such as hospitals and sports centres, high school, swimming pool, and the like. The railway also helps with heavy cargo haulage, in the absence of proper roads.
"The small communities have a local school, usually a single shop, and so on. Sometimes the Colony Administration pinpoints a good spot for a village, near a resource such as iron, coal, sand and stone quarries, and fresh water lakes and rivers. In such cases, the railway line gets directed to such communities."
"Railway lines? So you have a rail network already?" asked Margo.
"Yes, but we had help. The aliens had linked their six cities with a double line railway connection, so we took it over and extended it to link all the human settlements. We mostly use the trains we found here, but we are building our own rolling stock as we expand. We even built an engine from imported parts, before we discovered the alien railway.
"The passenger carriages had to be adapted, like the cities. The seats were too low, so we had to add booster cushions to make the seating acceptable for human use. Our ladies sewing circles manufactured seat covers for these cushions, using material with the local rail company logo. Once that was done, the ladies continued making them as collectors' items for tourists to buy. We have a busy tourist industry these days. The rail company regards it as good publicity for them, so keeps supplying the cloth."
Margo ate the last of her omelette, and yawned. "Tom, do you mind if I get to bed? I have been up most of the night."
"Oh, sorry, Margo. By all means, get yourself some kip."
"You don't know the word? It is British slang for a sleep or a nap."
"Yes, that's what I need. May I say goodnight?"
In minute she was in her bedroom, getting into her sleepwear. In ten minutes her snores could be heard outside the door.
Enid remarked, "I hope her kids can cope with her snoring!"
Jeannette commented, "She is likely lying on her back, exhausted. She probably doesn't snore much, normally."
Enid said in turn, "I hope you don't snore, Jeannette."
She smiled disarmingly, "Not when I have a man beside me, Enid."
"Ah, yes. We shall see how that works out, won't we?"
"Well, if I snore, just kick me out of bed, Enid."
"Tom will have to do that, for he is going to be in the middle."
Tom raised his eyes to the skies, but said nothing.
When the trio finally did turn in for the night, it was Enid who did the organising. She showed Jeannette where everything was in the bedroom and adjoining bathroom, so that Jeannette could get ready for bed first. Enid then did her own preparations, then allowed Tom to do his own.
Jeannette was in the bed, but not Enid. She sat on the bedside chair and waited for her husband. When he was ready, she got him to get into bed, and she followed him. That placed Tom in the middle, as promised.
He tried to lie on his back, as being the most neutral position he could imagine, but the space did not allow for that, so he turned to cuddle up to Enid, and Jeannette cuddled up to him.
His hand moved up and cupped Enid's breast. She allowed that for a while, then told Tom to turn round, as she wanted to cuddle up to him. Once he had turned over, he found that his outer arm was similarly best arranged round Jeannette, and once again a breast was automatically cupped by his hand.