Rupa’s presence allowed me licence to fly more frequently, and for longer, now that it was spring, and for that I was grateful. I did not know what to make of her. She was an entirely different kind of human being to Chan – in looks, in speech, in what could be perceived of her thinking, everything. She was easy to understand but difficult to know. She seemed to lack something that Chan had – some basic but extremely sophisticated human facility to appeal – and in that sense, she was more like me than either of them realised. You will laugh when I say that she seemed alien to me. There was no attraction, at first, in either direction, of that I am sure. Despite the curiosity aroused by being at such close quarters with a second human, I swiftly came to resent her presence as an intrusion on the state of balance Chan and I had struggled so hard to achieve. It had taken me so long to adapt to the uncertainties which stemmed from being memoryless and fallen to earth, and for the two of us to stabilise the lows and highs of my sense of loss and the freedom that followed into something resembling a sustainable future.
No longer could we entwine our legs before the night-time fire; at least, no longer could I feel comfortable doing so, with Rupa sat in the adjoining armchair, sphinxing the room, unsettling me while she put Chan at ease. And instead of listening to Chan’s music, we watched earthbound television, and I failed to see there the poetry that I heard in the earth’s music. Chan and Rupa laughed at the inanities and frivolity, and laughed at me for not laughing. I slammed the door as I left for my shift at Sandy’s, and when I returned Rupa was sitting where I usually sat on the sofa. She was feeling Chan’s bump, smiling with silent, sphinxy joy at the feel of the wriggling feet. The television no longer played in the corner. I wondered how long they had been sitting like that. There was nothing calculated about the way Rupa ignored my presence and continued to fondle Chan’s belly, but there was enough in it to suggest a notion to me that I had not previously considered. I brooded on this notion as I sat in the armchair and ate some cold pasta. In my head I sang an old Badezoid flying song to blot out the exclamation of endearments that my child’s every kick brought from the two women. I finished my functional meal and gradually then I calmed down. (Sandy had earlier remarked what a furious pot washer I seemed to be this evening.) When Rupa offered me back my place on the sofa, I softened and waved her back into her seat. Then Chan smiled at me and we were all at peace. That is, I became part of the peaceable scene that existed before I walked in the door. Gnawing resentment was my cross to bear, mine alone.
Because even within the privacy of our bedroom at night, things were different. Chan wanted to make love less frequently now, and when we did, the wild abandon which had been so confidently ours was now diminished. When I cried out in Badezoid tongue she cupped my mouth for fear of Rupa hearing, and her own moans were self-stifled. We arrived at the same destination, but the journey there was frustrating, stop-start, a mimicking of past couplings. It was odd, for Rupa was a woman of women; she knew their bodies and their needs and surely would not have been surprised to be woken in the night, nor minded.
Increasingly of course there was a fourth member of the household to consider, and its needs were fast becoming paramount. But I understood that and would not mind it. I could feel the engine of history powering up behind us, inaudible at present to all but ourselves. As far as I knew, we were the parents of what would be the universe’s first human-badezoid child. The more I dwelt on it, the more I could not wait to watch over this little one until its fledgling wings were strong enough to bear a grown body’s weight into the air and away beyond my sight. I did not fear that it might turn out to be the true sphinx, a winged one, part human, part lion, part bird, unknowable even to its parents; its unique thoughts and destiny unguessable.
And so Rupa and I sat at breakfast and in the evenings as two inscrutable statues, one wearing a mysterious smile, the other a slight but unmistakeable frown. Between us, exhibiting the supreme rosy glow that was the gift given by a unique interspecies incubation, sat the woman within whom the little sphinx grew, the woman we all needed and who needed us.