Month 6 Day 31
As they got their meals, Mac asked, “MacG, could you join us? Since I’ve got you both here, there’s something I’d like to say.”
That’s odd. Mac usually ‘goes with the flow’. If MacGregor joined us without an invite, she’d be fine with it. If he sat someplace else, she’d be fine with that, too, would tell him some other time. So what does she want to tell us?
Mac led them to a corner table as far from the crowd as she could get. She pulled the table away from one wall, and Bugalu grabbed a chair from nearby for her. “Thanks,” Mac said and sat with her back to the wall. That behavior usually means someone’s pestered her. Which doesn’t make sense, since she spent the afternoon with Kolla. She wasn’t paranoid when I found them.
MacGregor set his tray on the table but didn’t sit. “Normally, I’d happily join you,” the doctor stated. “But not today. I keep thinking I’ve forgotten to do something. From the glare the captain’s giving me, I’d better go find out what I’ve done. Or haven’t done. Another time?”
Mac tried to keep her disappointment hidden. “Of course.” After MacGregor picked up his tray and left, she told Bugalu, “You may have to fill him in. I don’t know if I can say this a second time.” Then she sat, staring at her food. Her mouth opened occasionally, but shut again without any words emerging.
Bugalu placed his hand lightly over her balled fist. “Mac?”
She glanced at him, returned her gaze to her plate as her face flushed. “Guess I know why you never talked about this, despite all my pestering, Bugs.” She returned to silence. He could feel her hand quiver. “I didn’t think it would be this hard.”
Bugalu leaned forward. “We don’t have to talk right now,” he whispered. “It can wait until we’re at your place.”
“If I put it off, I might never say it,” she responded.
“Then spit it out and we’ll deal with it.”
She nodded and glanced around. “Remember how you found us this afternoon? Kolla and me?”
Bugalu nodded. “Like my sisters when they were discussing boys.”
“That’s what we were doing,” Mac stated, staring down at her plate.
What - exactly - does she mean? “Things like ‘George is so cute, but Bob is gross’? That kind of talk?”
She glanced around again, her face bright red. “No. Kolla just got married. And nobody had explained to her what to expect. After the ceremony.”
Mac’s mother wasn’t allowed to explain it to her. Was this the blind leading the blind? “Could you help her?”
She gave a brief grimace of irritation. “Sometimes, Yukosk society sounds like Gaelunde,” Mac responded, and reached for the salt shaker. “Kolla was told her mother was... what was that word?... ‘without self-esteem’. And didn’t know which man had given her a child. Which sounds stupid, phrased like that. Like a man hands an infant to a woman.” She put the salt down. “She had no idea what would happen when they were alone. She decided she should let me know... the mechanics. She assumed I was as un-informed as she was. Well, less informed, because she’s been through it few times by now. She says it wasn’t bad, but it sounds awful.”
Bugalu lowered his voice another notch. “Most women like it.”
Mac’s fork quivered above her green beans, and she hissed, “It sounds like… Bob.”
“Bob?” Who’s Bob? That can’t be S’thyme’s first name. Can it?
“George is cute, but Bob is gross,” she repeated.
“Oh.” Bugalu considered what she’d said. “If all she told you was the mechanics, that could sound… weird. I guess. If she had explained the emotions… but you might not have paid attention to that, because it’s so far outside your experience. Sorry, but you still don’t know everything about sex.”
She raised her red face far enough to give him a sour look through her eyelashes. “I imagine not, but this was a chance I couldn’t skip. And she needed to talk.”
“The emotions are the important part.” Bugalu smiled and raised his voice to a more normal tone. “I figured you’d study the mechanics on your own. Like every other subject that caught your imagination.”
Her head came up, her brow wrinkled with confusion. “How?” Her face drained as she realized others could have heard her.
“The same way you studied everything else,” he returned. “With books.”
“Really?” she squeaked, and considered the possibility. “I should visit the library.”
“Hey, Shorty.” Tall Bear stood a respectable distance away with a tray of food.
“Hey, Tall-ey,” Mac responded.
“Hope I’m not intruding,” the AmerInd stated.
“Nope,” Mac said. “Join us, we’re all done planning the secret birthday party.”
Bugalu smiled. Trying to give us a reason for whispering so intensely. Not bad, until someone realizes - eventually - that such party hasn’t happened.
TB sat down and studied Mac’s face. “What’s the final decision, Short Stuff? You coming or going?”
Mac didn’t show any surprise. “Well, Tall Drink, after much consideration, I guess I’ll stick around for a while.”
“Good. Wasn’t sure, after you faced off with Smythe last night.”
“You heard about that?” Mac asked uncertainly.
“The whole ship has heard by now,” Bugalu told her.
TB stated, “Can’t imagine what was going through your mind.”
Mac pushed her potatoes around her plate. “Smit... wasn’t using the rules I expected.”
“Yeah, that’s bad, when they change the rules and don’t tell you,” TB agreed. “Who’s the birthday party for?”
“We don’t know,” Bugalu inserted. “That’s the secret.”
Mac laughed. “Exactly!”
TB shook his head and moved on. “How you feeling? You look a ton better, but... not well rested.”
Mac grimaced. “Don’t tell the docs, but I’m napping, not regular sleep. 4 hours in the morning, then I meet Kolla for lunch and she hands me over to Bugsy when he gets off. Then another 4 hour nap before I go on duty.”
“You haven’t been signaling me to meet you for lunch,” TB stated quietly.
“Oh, blast! Knew I was forgetting something! Sorry, Bear, but I eat when I get off duty, after my first nap, before my 2nd nap, and before I go on duty. I haven’t been eating during my mid-shift break.” She glanced around and lowered her voice. “I go to the observation deck and try to relax.”
“I don’t like that,” Bugalu decided. “You should get a full night’s sleep. Now that you don’t have to study all the time, I wish you’d get to a ‘normal’ schedule.”
“I know,” Mac agreed. “I overslept today and was half an hour late meeting Kolla. And 4 meals a day... I’m going to balloon! But, when we leave Yukosk in another week or... 10 days? I’ve lost track. After that, I can sleep the day shift, eat only 3 meals. And get to the gym. Dog can probably run 2 laps around the ship for every 1 of mine these days.”
“She misses you,” TB stated. “She’s planning a day together for you 2 next shore leave.”
“Sounds good.” Mac tried to stifle a yawn. “Makes me tired just thinking about it,” she stated, and climbed to her feet. “My next nap is calling, Bugs. Good to see you, Bear.”
They watched her leave. “Is she really going to sleep?” TB asked. “Or is she headed for the library?”
“I don’t think she’s desperate for answers this minute, and the library will still be there after we leave Yukosk,” Bugalu answered. “She tries to get enough sleep, but her schedule is weird right now.” I’ll check on her later. “How long have you 2 been having lunch together?” And how did he talk her into it?