Surprise! It’s an Outlaw Planet Mate holiday short story, featuring Alice, Faris, Miriam and Perrigaul.
I’ll level with you. This was the original epilogue for Alien’s Heart. It’s very Christmasy. So Christmasy, in fact, that my editor told me it didn’t fit with the tone of the rest of the book and I should rethink a few things.
She had a point. I wanted to give Alice what she really wanted (to see her mom) and tie everything up. It didn’t fit with Alien’s Heart but it was too cozy to ignore. Besides, who doesn’t love catching up with friends?
Copyright 2022 Nancey Cummings
“Be certain,” Perrigaul said.
“Yeah, easier said than done.” Miriam fiddled with the lid to her seasonal peppermint mocha sugary abomination latte, her eyes fixed on her parents’ front door. The Christmas wreath looked tired and faded, like it had been in the sun too long.
Nothing had changed. In the four years since she’d been gone, the house she grew up in looked mostly the same. The blue front door could use a new coat of paint and the hedges were overgrown. No one had bothered to rake the leaves this fall. Miriam wondered if it was because her moms didn’t care about a tidy yard or if they actually listened to her about letting leaves biodegrade over the winter for a healthier ecosystem.
All it took for her parents to listen was being abducted by aliens.
She was projecting, seeing what she wanted to see. Her parents were flirting with their sixties. They were probably tired and going to get around to raking leaves next weekend. Still, the thought made her a little misty eyed.
“You are distressed. We will not attempt reconciliation. Drive, before we are noticed,” Perrigaul ordered, waving a hand at the steering wheel.
Miriam ignored him and finished her latte. Parked on a quiet suburban street, they went unnoticed. Most of the residents were away at work. She hadn’t spotted any nosey neighbors twitching their curtains, but Perrigaul had a point. They could only sit in the car for so long before some concerned busybody called the cops about a suspicious vehicle.
She couldn’t let that happen. No way it would end well. Perrigaul, as much as she loved him, couldn’t pass as human. Not even a little. Thankfully, it was December when they arrived on Earth and they could hide the Nakkoni gentlemen in plain sight under winter clothing. Right now he wore a long coat, a hoodie with the hood up, a scarf wrapped around his face like the weather was freezing and not just autumnal, and gloves. The disguise worked so far, as long as no one knocked on the car window and got a good look.
Perrigaul reached for her hand. “Miriam, my heart, what do you want to do?”
“I don’t know.” She had a month to decide on the trip back to Earth if she wanted to reveal herself to her parents or let them think she ran away or died. It felt wrong not to give them answers or closure, but it also felt wrong to pop in, blather on about aliens, and then dash off again.
“I can’t stay, and they’ll want me to stay,” she said. There was no life on Earth for Perrigaul. He’d have to stay hidden or run the risk of being captured and studied in some nightmares research facility. She saw the movies. They never went well for the aliens. Humans sucked. “This can only be a temporary visit, and I don’t know if it’s fair to rock their world for a temporary visit.”
They sat in silence, the only noise came from the ticking of the cooling engine.
“Earth is not so far a journey,” Perrigaul eventually said.
“What are you saying?”
“We will need to procure more Earth goods and will return. You do not have to decide today.”
“Yeah, that makes sense,” she said. Somehow, knowing that this wasn’t her one and only chance, helped. They had stocked up on coffee, chocolate, and all the little tastes of home that you couldn’t get on Reazus Prime. She enjoyed introducing Perrigaul to her favorite treats, especially all the seasonal peppermint flavors. She was basic that way.
“Are you trying your hand at being a merchant now? Going to build an empire on Earth junk food?” she teased.
His tail thumped against the car seat. “Many baskets for our eggs is a prudent strategy. Also, it is wasteful to go on such a journey with an empty cargo hold.”
Miriam sighed and drummed her fingers on the steering wheel. She didn’t have to decide right now. Her moms had waited four years. They could wait another year or however long it took her and Perrigaul to return.
Nothing significant about that. Just home for the holidays.
But turning away now felt wrong. Cowardly. Miriam wasn’t the kind of person who ran from her problems.
Life was unpredictable and too short. She vowed once that she’d never let an opportunity pass by to tell the people she loved that she, well, loved them. Her moms, for all their flaws, loved her, and she loved them. They deserved to know what happened to her.
Impulsively, because that was her way, she made her decision.
It was Christmas Eve, after all.
“Okay, let’s do this,” she said, climbing out of the car. Perrigaul followed. “You can stay in the car.”
“I am with you in all things, my heart.”
That made her happy. More than her sugary lattes. More than a sunset on a pink sand beach. More than anything.
“You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what my moms say or do; I don’t care. I have you, and I wouldn’t change a thing.”
She pressed a kiss to his cheek, enjoying the soft scratch of his scales against her lips, then pressed the doorbell.
The sound of the familiar chimes hit harder than she expected. She was home.
The door swung open. Before Miriam could blink, she was wrapped up in the tightest embrace.
“I knew you’d come home! I just knew it,” Sue repeated a dozen times, hugging and stroking Miriam’s hair. Eventually Sue pulled back, gripping Miriam by the shoulders like she was reluctant to break contact.
She gave Miriam a once-over, then eyed Perrigaul lurking behind her. “Do you need deprogramming? Lisa and I have been saving. I don’t know what bull that cult filled your head with, but I won’t let you go back. We’ll do whatever we have to.”
“I wasn’t in a cult,” Miriam managed to say.
“A wellness program that won’t let you contact your family is a cult.”
“I was abducted by aliens,” Miriam said, ripping that bandage right off.
Sue snorted. “Honey, that’s why you need deprogramming.”
“I was on a planet called— You know what? Perrigaul, just show her.” Miriam stepped to the side as Perrigaul lowered his hood.
Sue gasped, then waved them inside the house. “Lisa! You better come down here.”
The stocking on the mantle almost did her in. They hung her stocking, not knowing if she were dead, alive, or in a cult. It was such a hopeful gesture and it was exactly what she’d expect her moms to do.
A scream broke that train of thought.
Lisa flung herself at Miriam. Her curling brown hair had gone entirely gray. “Where have you been? Don’t you ever disappear like that again, young lady.”
“I didn’t do it on purpose. I was abducted by aliens, Mom.”
“Ssh. That’s what the cult wanted you to believe. You were probably in Idaho or Phoenix.”
“Okay, those locations seem random. I was in space.”
“Who’s the guy in the mask?” Lisa pulled Miriam in for another hug and whispered in her ear. “We can get you a safehouse if you need to hide from him.”
“Mom—” Miriam said at the same instant Sue called Lisa’s name, and Perrigaul demanded silence. Of course her moms couldn’t understand him. They turned their dual gaze to him, not impressed.
He shrugged off his coat, and both her moms saw the tail.
There was more screaming, some tears, and eventually hugs. Once her moms got over the shock of aliens, they quickly accepted Perrigaul as their new son-in-law, and proceeded with the traditional Martin family smothering via food. Perrigaul occasionally tossed her a pleading look, helpless to resist candy canes, snowman cookies with sprinkles, and chocolate covered pretzels.
There was no place like home for the holidays.
Unbelievably, her mom still kept a spare key under a pot on the front porch.
Alice knocked before unlocking the door. “Mom? I’m home,” she said, opening the door. “Merry Christmas.”
For a moment, Alice blinked in the dim light of the foyer. The house was the same, right down to the lemon and beeswax smell. Shoes were haphazardly stacked to one side of the foyer, somehow gathering around the shoe rack and missing it entirely. Mail had been dumped on a narrow table, along with her mother’s handbag and keys.
Alice set down the box of donuts and the coffee carrier tray on the table, knocking a few envelopes to the floor.
Natalie appeared in a doorway, wiping her hands on a dishtowel. The pure shock on her face—Alice didn’t have the words to describe how it hurt her heart.
“Surprise,” Alice said, feeling like an ass because that was not the right thing to say after being missing for years. “I brought donuts.”
Yeah, that was even worse.
Natalie screamed, then flung herself at Alice. Caught in a bone-crushing hug, Alice rubbed her mom’s back. Her mom cried, full-body sobs. “I’m okay. I’m sorry,” Alice repeated.
Finally, Natalie pulled away. Her hands covered her mouth. Tears rolled down her cheeks. “How? How is this possible?”
Natalie smacked Alice on the arm. “Do not start with me. I thought you were dead! I thought Travis—”
Her mother huffed, eyes red and puffy. “He had an alibi. Where have you been? What happened to you?”
“I’ll tell you, but I need you to listen. Don’t start shouting that I’m lying or off my rocker,” Alice said.
“I always listen.”
“Let’s sit down. I brought coffee and donuts.”
“Four years vanished and you brought coffee and donuts on Christmas eve,” Natalie grumbled but moved into the living room.
“It’s from the fancy bakery downtown.” Alice hadn’t been prepared for how strange it felt to be back home. Things were familiar, but they weren’t comfortable. Little details had changed. Her favorite dim sum place closed, replaced with a Cajun seafood restaurant. Tiny, subtle things that reminded her this wasn’t her home.
Just as well. She was here on a mission.
“Maybe this would be easier if you tell me what you think happened to me,” Alice said.
Natalie was too distracted to hear the front door open and close. She held Alice’s hand and stroked her hair, like she was trying to convince herself she wasn’t dreaming. “You went camping. The police found your car at the state park and the campsite… It was a mess. Real bad. They thought a bear attacked you or a wolf, maybe. Then they found out the other teacher was missing too.”
“Miriam, she’s a librarian.”
“Yes. The police found her car, too. There was a murder podcast—”
“There was a murder podcast about us?”
“Camp Lost Librarians,” Natalie said.
Alice laughed. That was ridiculous.
“It’s not funny! The Camp Losties—”
“The who now?”
“The listeners of the podcast,” her mother said, sounding impatient. “They raised a lot of awareness about you and your… struggles with Travis. They made his life hell, frankly. He had a rock-solid alibi, but everyone thought he did it. He left town last year.”
Alice nodded. She hadn’t parted on the best terms with her ex-husband, but he didn’t deserve to be vilified as a murderer.
“So, what happened? Obviously not murdered or mauled by a wild animal.”
“Okay, this is going to sound insane, but I’m ripping the bandage off. I was abducted by aliens,” Alice said.
Natalie blinked. Her eyes were red and her face thin. “How dare you lie to me, Alice Louisa Serrano. I don’t care what trouble you got yourself mixed up in. Drugs. Rare book smuggling. I don’t know and I don’t care, but I expect the truth.”
“Mom. Mom, look at me,” Alice said, reaching for Natalie’s hands. “I’m telling the truth, and there’s someone you need to meet. Two someones. Come on in, Faris.”
Faris entered the room, ducking his head as he passed through the doorway. He held their baby against his torso. He wore a long cloak, the cheap fabric kind stocked for Halloween, with the hood up.
He pushed the hood back and Natalie gasped.
“This is my husband, Faris, and our baby girl, Keira,” Alice said. She took Keira from him, kissing her peachy cheeks.
“He’s not…” Natalie stumbled over her words.
“His name is Faris, Mom,” Alice said.
Alice grinned. “Yeah, that was my first impression, too.” She nudged him with her foot. “Say something,” she hissed.
“I am pleased to meet you, Natalie Serrano,” he said in rough English. They had practiced all morning. His translator allowed him to understand all the languages spoken on Earth but did not help him speak the language.
Natalie blinked again and turned to Alice. “He talks.”
“Not a lot. He can understand us, though. He’s got a chip implanted in his brain that does the translating. I have one, too.” With her free hand, she folded her ear forward. “See the scar?”
Natalie brushed a finger over the small scar. “This is real. You’re really here with an alien, and you had a baby.”
“Your granddaughter.” Alice’s voice grew thick. She knew her mother would accept her strange new family, but she was still frightened of being rejected. She hadn’t realized how much she needed her mother’s support until her mom was standing right in front of her.
Cautiously, her mother approached. Wariness vanished as she got a good look at the baby. Babies had that effect on people. Alice was partial, but didn’t think it was bragging to say that her baby was cuter than most. For one, Keira had a scattering of peach-colored scales across her nose and cheeks like freckles. She had wispy black hair which would probably fall out, but right now it was softer than spun sugar. And, of course, the tail. At the moment, Keira was happily chewing on her own tail.
“Her name is Keira,” Alice said.
“Keira,” her mother repeated. The baby gurgled and gave a gummy smile.
Natalie smiled back. The worry inside Alice eased. This would work.
“She has a tail,” her mother said.
“Oh, yes. It’s surprisingly strong. It hurts when she whacks me with it. But you don’t mean to hurt your mama. You’re just excited,” Alice said to Keira, her voice growing soft and silly. Keira made an excited noise and waved her tail with enthusiasm.
“May I?” Natalie asked.
“Absolutely.” Alice shifted Keira into her mother’s arms.
Grandmother and granddaughter stared at each other. The tail went wild. Keira laughed. Natalie made a gentle, surprised noise. Alice cried.
Faris gathered her in his arms. He rubbed her back, letting her cry on his shoulder. “What distresses you?”
“Nothing,” Alice said, whipping at her eyes. “I’m tired, and Keira was fussy all night and I’m just so happy right now.”
Natalie watched them, her gaze darting between the baby and Faris comforting Alice.
“I’m fine. I’m fine,” Alice repeated, pulling away. “It’s a lot, you know.”
“He’s not the one who took you?” Natalie asked, her own voice a bit wobbly from tears.
“No, Mom. He rescued me.”
“I robbed a train and stole her out of spite,” Faris said, sounding quite pleased with himself.
“Rescued me,” Alice repeated, thankful her mother couldn’t understand exactly what he said. She’d explain all the details later, just not now. “I don’t know what happened to the people who took me. My memories are still fuzzy.”
“Perhaps you should consume the coffee while it is at an acceptable temperature?” Faris suggested.
Natalie turned to Alice for a translation.
“He says we should drink the coffee before it gets cold,” she said.
They sat down on the couch, Natalie still cradling Keira. “How old is she?”
“Three months,” Alice said. “The trip here took a month. Before that, I wasn’t fit to travel. Motion sickness. And before that, we didn’t have a ship that could make such a long journey. Not all spaceships are created equal… and I’m babbling.”
Natalie smiled. “It’s wonderful. I missed your babbling. Alice was always talking when she was little, my little chatterbox,” she said, directing this to Faris.
“That has not changed,” he replied.
“I think I can guess what he said,” Natalie remarked.
“You probably have a lot of questions,” Alice said.
“So many. I don’t know where to start. Actually, what happened to the lady who was with you? Marion?”
“Miriam. She’s remarkably well. We were separated for a time,” Alice said, trying to quickly describe being stored in a stasis chamber like a frozen popsicle and then thawed out. “But we found her. Right now, she’s across town at her parents’ house.”
“You know, those podcast people thought she was in cahoots with your ex-husband to get you out of the picture,” her mother said.
“Miriam couldn’t stand Travis—and why? We were already divorced. There was no picture to get out of.”
Natalie shrugged her shoulders. “It wasn’t a popular theory.”
“It’s a garbage theory,” Alice snapped. She flexed her hands. “Actually, that doesn’t matter. That’s not why we’re here.”
She took a deep breath before starting her rehearsed speech. “I want you to come with us. I know it’s a lot to ask you to leave Earth, but we can’t stay here. Faris and Keira are my life. You know what humans are like. They’d be in danger here and I won’t leave them, but I don’t want to leave you. So come with us,” she said, the words tumbling out. So much for practicing. Then, she added, “Please.”
“Yes,” her mother said instantly.
“I know we just dumped a lot on you, but please think about it. Don’t make me play the cute baby card, but I am not above it. Keira needs her grandma,” Alice said.
A strong hand landed on her shoulder. Faris said, “My mate, you do not listen.”
“Yes,” Natalie repeated. “I’m retired, and I’ve always wanted to go traveling. Why not?”
Alice sighed with relief. She had been almost one hundred percent certain her mother would agree, but doubt niggled at her. “That’s amazing.”
“I’ll need to get my affairs in order, or however you say that without sounding sinister,” Natalie said. Then smirked. “Although it might be fun to disappear in the middle of the night and become an urban legend.”
“Or podcast material.”
Let me know what you think! What characters would you like to catch up with?
A former prison planet is no place for a soft heart.
Perrigaul’s a survivor. He’s also a thief, a con artist, and very occasionally a murderer. What he is not is a nanny, yet here he is stuck with an impossibly tempting human female.
Miriam is soft and kindhearted and completely unsuitable for this outlaw planet.
How can Perrigal keep her safe from the worst the planet has to offer? How can he keep her safe from him?
Alien’s Heart is a fast-paced romance with banter, backstabbing and a Happily Ever After. It follows events in Alien’s Challenge but can be read on it’s own.
Stop me if you’ve heard this story before. One minute Alice is camping, trying to connect with nature, then there’s a blinding white light. Gravity must have quit because Alice and her sleeping bag are floating off the ground.
Classic alien abduction.
She wakes up on an alien planet full of, you know, aliens. Outlaws. Rules are optional and people are property. So not cool. Then there’s a train robbery and she’s getting abducted. Again.
But this guy? He’s a giant lizard man, just a solid wall of muscle, scales, and bad attitude. He’s dangerous and he’s gone into a mating fever, which he says is her fault.
So what is she going to do about it?
Better question, what is tall, dark and grumpy going to do about it?
Two decades ago Faris was exiled to this prison planet. Only the strong survive here.
He’s too old for a mating fever, but his body has other ideas. The human female was not part of the plan, an ordinary smash and grab, but she’s his now and he does not share.