Memoir: Nala's Not So Bad

“So what did Troy say when you told him we were hitting the eastern rim?”

“Oh he was pissed, but you know how that goes. His girlfriend always drags him to those little bungalow getaways down by Jurona, and he complains like he hates it because he’d rather be out doing what we’re doing, you know she keeps him under her thumb. I’m just glad he finally found a keeper.”

“Keeper? I dunno, baby, I think he should have should have found a girl in the corps, or at least a girl raised by the corps. When you guys get back from your rotations she’s like a barnacle. You don’t think he’s gonna feel smothered?”

“I think he likes her because he gets smothered. You remember that girl he dated last year? I couldn’t believe he—“

“Oh you mean that total bitch that got drunk and puked all over the place because I had the audacity to do shots with you and Troyle?”

“Yeah that one.”

“…you’re probably right. They’re gonna have little baby Troyles and one of them is gonna be named Ciro somewhere, maybe a middle name. Man I thought you guys were gay when I first met you.”

“You thought wrong.”

“Oh yeah…I thought wrong. Last time I saw two dudes hanging out so much with matching tattoos and mohawks was when Dina and I went to that gentlemen’s show on Caprica. It was an educated guess.”

She leans in from her space beside him on a long, wooden bench to plant a kiss on his stubbly cheek. Before them is a plate of shellfish and a pair of long-necked golden beer bottles on a blue and white tablecloth made up of some sort of slip-resistant plastic product. The restaurant was a small family owned place, and the patio that they were eating on was swarming with flies. The draw to the two lovers was that it was well within view of the coastline of Canceron’s eastern rim and the sun was starting to dip into the ocean.

“Gentlemen’s show? That sounds like a nightmare filled with bags of balls bouncing all over the place.” Ciro grins, leaning into the kiss as he uses his bare hands to crack one of the long, orange and white crustacean shells, exposing the white meat inside.

“You don’t know the half of it. I was single then and we hadn’t met. This is the sort of thing I get to take to my grave you little barbarian. Are you doing that to impress me? I’ll admit it’s impressive…in a sort of toddler smashing things sort of way.” She says with a laugh, brushing some of her long, dark hair away from her eyes. Her smile is genuine and to play along she reaches in and grabs one of the crab’s legs, trying to break it in half.

She’s beautiful to him. Vanessa Dannika is a dark skinned tomboy, with long, coal black hair that hangs to the center of her back. Her slender body is lightly tattooed and in the prime shape of her life, with a muscular abdomen that rests just below the blue string bikini top that ties at the base of her neck and the center of her back, sending cloth strands to dangle against her skin. She’s pulled on an old, frayed pair of black jean shorts that show off her legs and a small, missing patch on the left cheek that lets Ciro get a glimpse of the matching bikini bottoms she wears underneath. They’re a favorite of his. She knows this.

“Oh who’s a toddler now?” Ciro laughs, reaching out from his beer with a hand that’s filthy, covered in crab. He wraps his fingers around the neck of the bottle and brings it to his lips.

“I’m a frakkin’ toddler. Don’t judge, Ciro. You started this. I’m gonna…” Her words trail off into a long, groaning growl as she tries to break the crab’s leg. She only manages to get a small portion to snap. She narrows her eyes, and her long, black hair whips about as she turns to look at the man beside her.

“Are you doing steroids?”

“Yes.” Ciro replies, setting his beer down, doing his best to hide his smirk.

She stares at him for a few moments before rolling her eyes, the side of her lips pulling into a sweet, playful grin. “You’re cute, but you’re a jackass, you know that?”

“You’ve mentioned it once or twice, Nessa.” Ciro replies, resting the elbow of one of his muscular tattooed arms on the table’s top. The tops of his shoulders are lightly sunburnt, and the loose-fitting gray tank-top he wears offers little protection from the ocean breeze that cools with every approaching second of nightfall. The black and white striped swimming trunks offer a bit more coverage, hanging down just a little past his kneecaps.

Bringing up one knee, he turns to straddle the bench facing her. In his hand is a morsel of crab meat, one that he offers to her. She reaches out to his wrist with a slender, tanned arm that’s tattooed to mid-bicep with the emblem of her marine battalion. The dark, shadowed black and white ink sends feathers of hawk-like wings around her arm as she tightens her grip, almost expecting him to smash the meat into her face. Only then does she give him a demure, sexy glare from under her bangs and lean in to wrap her lips around his fingers.

Playfully, she bites down on his knuckle and winks, leaning back to reach for her beer. She presses her thumb over the mouth of the bottle, she up-ends it, forcing the beer to mix with the lime that’s been stuffed inside of the bottle’s glass neck. Her thumb slips aside, allowing the bottle to vent so that it doesn’t spray, and then brings the bottle to her lips for a long pull.

“What did Troyle say about trying to get back here?” Vanessa asks, lifting her eyebrows well under the fence of her bangs.

“I think he’s good for it. Nala likes the ocean, and she’s been meaning to get away from her parents anyway. I guess her mom’s freaking out about her dating a sniper. Her dad doesn’t mind so much but I think she liked him better when she thought he worked motor pool.”

“I talked with my CO about it, she says transfer shouldn’t be too much of a problem for me. I’ve got a spotless record and everyone likes medics.” She pauses, biting her lip before she speaks again. “What if I didn’t re-up?”

Ciro’s eyes go soft, leveling onto the woman before him. “You’d be spending a lot of time with Nala, would you miss the guys?”

“Oh they’ll get along without me and Nala’s not so bad. Besides, you know Lacey and I talk. She said she could teach me hot to cut hair. Her shop’s pretty cool with all that loud music and lots of hair dying. I could get into that.” She beams, small dimples forming beside her lips.

“So this is the part where you reveal to me that you and Lacey have formed a pact?” Ciro grins, reaching for the cloth towel on the table. Wiping his hands clean, he keeps his eyes on Vanessa’s. “You wanna get pulled away from the corps to cut hair and scheme?”

“No. I want to get pulled away from the corps to live with you.” She replies, her voice lowering so that he can feel the weight of her words. “Our place on Scorpia’s fine but we both know it’s not home. I go civilian, you’ll have a home. I’ll be in it.”

Ciro locks eyes with her. They’ve talked about this before, but for the first time she’s actually starting to turn the idea from theory into a concrete plan. Slowly his head nods, and a boyish grin falls over one side of his face. “Let me talk to Troyle when we get back. I’ll let him know we’ve made our minds. He’ll understand if he doesn’t follow, but I think he will.” It’s his answer. He wants this too.

She leans in to take the side of his face gently in her hands and brushes her lips against his. It’s a raw, emotional kiss. It’s a thank you. It’s a step in a direction she’s wanted to move for over a year. When she breaks the kiss, she rests her forehead against his.

“I love you, Ciro Sondray.”

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