Today’s What’s Your Name post features the Letter W. The name picked at random fromt he first page of my naming book is…
Walburga: Feminine diminutive of Valborga.
Quentin could barely look at me. I’m not sure what I expected after five years, but a ‘hey, Dad’, would have been better than the cold shoulder. Xena’s following me around like a lost puppy, and although I’m grateful for her understanding, I’m not sure how to explain to her that five years has changed a lot of things for me; for us.
Sabine, sensing my need for space, asks Xena to help her set a fire and cook breakfast. The two sisters were always a great team in the kitchen and the aromas wafting around the house, curb my anger a little- my anger at Val for telling Quentin the way he did. He may as well have said ‘Hey, buddy, even though your Dad should be the one to tell you, I’m going to drop the bomb shell that we’re aliens that crashed on a scout ship in 1983, and have been stuck on this damn planet, escaping ignorant government bastards who want to stick probes in every orifice, for the past thirty three years.’ Has it really been thirty three years? Shit.
Val sits on the porch smoking, whilst Quentin writes in a leather bound book that he hasn’t put down since they arrived. When he sees me watching, he slams it shut and stares off at the horizon.
“A word, Val,” I say, ignoring his side smile. Quentin doesn’t look to move. “Alone?”
“Whatever you two have to say, you can say it in front of me. I’m done being the last to know shit,” Quentin snaps. “I mean, I’m part alien, right? I’m part involved in all of this.”
Val flicks his cigarette butt into the dirt, and I glare at him. “You know how much Walburga hated it when you did that!” I snatch it from the dirt and thrust it into his chest.
“Yeah, I also remember Walburga telling you to stop being such a patronising, condesending asshole toward me,” he retorts. He’s still smiling, mostly because he knows I hate how he can be so blase about absolutely anything in life.
“I wouldn’t have to be condesending and patronising if you acted like a grown man once in a while. Someone has to look out for you.”
“Really? Where have you been for the past five years, Tate? I’ve managed quite well by myself. In fact, better than quite well; if it wasn’t for me your family would be dead or worse. And what thanks have I had?”
He’s right, and my stomach sinks. “Thank you, Val. I mean it, thank you.”
We stand in awkward silence for a few moments. “I shouldn’t have told the kid. That was your place. I’m sorry,” Val says. He extends his hand to me, and I take it, pulling him into an embrace. “I knew you’d get the location,” he adds.
“Of course, Walburga was the only mother I’ve ever known,” I say. Standing on this porch is bittersweet. I always felt safe here, and Walburga took us all in without a second thought. We lived here for four years until she died. For a ninety year old woman, she had a potty mouth and a fiery spirit, but she was the first person we met who showed us that not all humans were like the T.D.E.D.
Val and I were in a team of new recruits, sent on a scout run of earth. We were both just nineteen years old, raised from birth for the specific role of exploration that we failed on our first flight. We were chased for a year by the T.D.E.D before we happened upon this farmhouse. We holed up in the barn for a few nights, but then the frost came, and Walburga came out with blankets and hot chocolate. She’d known we were there all along. Within weeks we were living in the main house and working the farm for our keep. She knew the truth, and still she opened her house and her heart to us.
“The best woman I’ve ever known,” Val says, quietly.
“Who’s Walburga?” Quentin asks.
“A great woman. A kind woman. She would have loved to have met you.” I place a hand on his shoulder, surprised that he doesn’t pull away. “Once we realised our ship was attained by the T.D.E.D, and there was no chance of returning home, she made me promise I’d have a family and children. I’m sorry, it didn’t work out as I had hoped.”
Quentin shrugs. “I guess you were keeping me and Mum safe. So, what now?”
“Now, we hide. I’ve managed okay for five years, but it won’t be easy. This is life now, son. I wish it could have been different for everyone.”
Val tucks his hands in his pockets and kicks at the dirt. “It still could be.” He doesn’t make eye contact, a tell he has when he’s about to suggest something stupid or dangerous. “The T.D.E.D still have the scout ship. The ship itself is scrap metal, but the comm box will still be there. They have no clue what it is or how to use it, but it’s Ulric’s most prized possession. All we need to do is get that box, and we go home. We can go home, Tate.”
“How do you know all this?” I ask.
“Because I’ve been working for the T.D.E.D for the past twelve months, and they sure as hell have that box. I’m done hiding and running. I’m done with this fucking planet, Tate. I want off.”
“Even if the box is still functioning, how the hell are we going to get it from the T.D.E.D? We’re the two most wanted aliens on their radar. We’ll not get within ten miles of headquarters.”
Val laughs, and there’s a glint in his eye that I haven’t seen since we first launched the scout ship. “We won’t, but they will.” He points to the horizon and a truck speeds toward us, kicking up the dry dirt. “You’re not the only one who understood the message about this location.”
“No way,” I say, watching the truck approach with unbridled excitement.
Sabine and Xena appear at the sound of the approaching vehicle, and the five of us watch as the truck skids to a stop, and four people jump out: Lex, Neema, Yas, and Marko.
“You’re a sight for sore eyes,” Lex calls out.
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. The gang is alive, and they’re all here. I wish Walburga was here to see this.
Content belongs to KJ.Chapman