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Back - Part V

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EVVIE LEFT Gwen to her thoughts and her misery.

She took her confusion, her worry, and her shuddering heart upstairs. She needed quiet, needed space to (fall apart) think. To process it.

Mark was already in the shower, washing off the sweat and grime and dirt of a day's worth of dusty work in the barn. The room held the faint hint of barnyard and next spring's harvest. His clothes were draped over the wicker chair in the corner. Evvie suspected that he had helped Basil and Gwen bury the spaceship: there were long dark streaks of soil that ran up the shins of the jeans. Keeping one ear open for Gwennie, Evvie tidied the bedroom, putting Mark's clothes into the laundry hamper, turning down the sheets. She refolded the laundry on the foot of the bed, put it all away, dusted the top of the dresser with a sock destined for the wash.

Anything to keep her hands busy and her brain occupied. When she'd run out of things to do, she sat on the edge of the bed and waited. When Mark came out of the bathroom he was in a fresh tee-shirt and jeans. Neither of them wanted to drop into unconsciousness just yet.

Not with strangers (soldiers) in the house. Not with this new world under their roof.

"How you feeling?" Mark asked, sitting beside her. He smelled like soap and cheap shampoo. Evvie locked her hand with his, grateful for the warmth and support and solidity of him, the blunt fingers, the rough bitten-down nails. He didn't seem ruffled at all, which Evvie knew was mostly just the stoic farmer act. Inside, he was churning just as much as she.

"I don't know anymore," Evvie admitted softly. "Aliens? Time travel?"

"It's a hell of a lot to swallow," Mark agreed.

Evvie licked her lips, debated telling Mark what she had learned.

She decided to share — she needed to. Whatever they spoke of would stay between them. Evvie felt like it was building, words like pressure behind that lump in her throat that could strangle her.

"Gwen talked about what happened," Evvie blurted.

Mark said, "Yeah?" There was a world of curiosity in that one syllable.

"Said it was nothing like those B-movies with the guys in rubber suits. That they were running. Needed help and shelter." She pressed her face into his shoulder, took a shaking breath. Then Evvie told him everything: about Gwen's team and the way Specialists were suddenly being assassinated, and their covert training, and the mole. Evvie left out the parts about Gwen and Basil and Kalp's relationship, about same-gender marriages, about proper alien family units. If Evvie didn't talk about it, she wouldn't have to deal. But Mark's lazy drawl masked a keen mind. He had to have inferred at least as much from

Gwen's sobbing confession on the back lawn as his wife had. "Imagine that, Evvie," Mark said, bypassing the elephant sitting on the tips of each of their tongues. "Can you imagine waking up in the morning, seein' one of those things, all spaghetti limbs and lope shoulders and furry faces, walkin' its kid to catch the school bus at the end of the lane? An' it'll be normal?"

Evvie tried to envision it, a creature in a plaid shirt and rough worn jeans, all blue and furred and humanoid...or human-ish — or whatever reaching adjective was amateurishly employed to evoke a head, two arms, two legs, upright walking and emotive in the old pulp serials of her brother's youth. The sort of heavy-handed fantasy from which the plot of this wild day felt as if it'd been pilfered.

"One of 'those things' betrayed them," Evvie whispered. "That's why this is happening. I think..."

"Their...friend?" Mark asked, not comfortable with the concept. What about VD? Evvie thought suddenly, absurdly. Have they cured them in two thousand twelve? What if the aliens brought something new with them? What about that gay disease? All these fags, allowed to marry, allowed to take more than one that where the world is going? "Wise up," Gwen said. Like it's the dark ages. She chewed her bottom lip for a second, tried to see it from Gwen's perspective. She'd grown up in a world where men could marry men, where women could marry women, where AIDS and gays and those sorts of things sounded...common. Here Evvie was reacting like her own mother when Evvie had told her that pre-marital sex was okay, and she had — 

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