26: Linnaeus

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"And this is a picture of Luna. She's a female humpback whale, and she's a little sick," I said, pointing to a picture of the whale on my laptop.

Even though my head ached from who-knows-what, Alexa's interest in my work and all the whales I had befriended gave me a way to keep my mind off of it.

"Does she have the throw-ups?" Alexa asked, and I smiled at the child.

"Not exactly. She has little creatures in her body, and they like to take everything that makes her healthy for themselves."

Alexa gasped. "That's so mean!"

"They just want to live too, though. They steal so they can survive."

"Oh. That's still mean."

I nodded. "I think so too. Whales are way cooler than parasites." I smiled, then looked at Nastasya. "Can I keep your niece? She reminds me so much of myself, really."

"I don't think my sister would like that very much, but she's one curious little cat, isn't she?" Nastasya replied.

"Don't let her lose it." I smiled, then looked back at Alexa. "Do you want to look at more whales?"

She shook her head. "I'm bored."

I rose my eyebrows. "Oh. Well, it was fun while it lasted. Nastasya, you can have your niece back."

"Thank you," she said, then turned back to the controls with Robbie and muttered something to him. Robbie laughed, and I sunk into my seat and rested my head on my fist.

"Hey, kid. You wanna color?" Jia asked.

Alexa nodded as Jia got out the crayons and book.

"About half of the pictures are already colored in, so you can just skip over those." Jia handed the supplies to Alexa, and she got started on the first available picture.

"But you just bought that coloring book today," I said.

"Well, after Blaine and I got all the supplies on my list, we sat on the beach and colored the cool pictures. That's it. Nothing else." Jia smiled.

So he came from halfway across the country to color (among other things, apparently). That seemed slightly impractical, but who was I to judge? After our rocky start, Logan only changed his mind about me because we were forced to live together on a secluded island.

I smiled anyway. "That's actually kind of cute. Human courtship rituals can be so creative."

"Don't say it like that," Hailey said. "It makes it sound weird."

"That's what it is, though. I don't like to think of humans as something separate from the rest of the animal kingdom, because we're really not."

"I'm going to guess you're not too experienced in the human courtship ritual arena, then," Hailey said.

My worth wasn't in who liked me, but in what I accomplished. If seeing whales and capturing their pictures and data wasn't enough to make her like me, I wasn't really sure what else I could do to change her mind. What did I even do to her?

"This picture is really bad. They colored the ocean outside the lines," Alexa spoke up, completely interrupting our conversation.

Jia laughed. "Yeah, he said that the lines couldn't confine his genius and that a true artist lets the art tell itself, not the boundaries of society."

"And this tree is red. This is a mess," Alexa said, then continued crayoning a different picture.

I laughed and turned to Nastasya. "Actually, I want to keep her again. She knows what she likes, and that—"

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