Betty’s Coming Out Party
His eyes eased open to see the smiling face of his grand-daughter, Devi, a beautiful young woman, born on Sauria, when his ship was stationed there. Bill had had a woman in every system of the UI Nation. Devi’s mom was his eldest daughter, she had decided to stay on Sauria, when Bill returned to his home planet, Earth; sweet blue Earth. He had been a Captain of freighters, moving fuel from the planets that had it, to those which didn’t. After the battles of the Insurrection, he had decided to stay on Earth, to end his days, and to fulfill his final fantasy. The PTSD had left him emotionally scarred, and he seldom socialized, except in his fantasy. He found his friends in the books on his shelves. His family understood. They didn’t know the whole story, though. What would they think?
He sat up on the edge of his bed; nostrils flaring at the smell the coffee brewing. He was ready for the day; ready to celebrate. Devi greeted him with a big smile and a warm hug, saying enthusiastically: “Happy Birthday, Grandpa!”
Bill replied: “Thank you so much Sweetie, I am sure that it will be a great day with you here.”
“I am turning 78 today.” Bill thought, as he looked back on the years spent moving around the Nation. He thought back to the women he had loved, the children he had fathered, and his beautiful grandchildren; dotted around the Nation. He followed a regular route, and was able to return to each woman, each love, each set of circumstances, and still have love. “I have been pretty blessed.” He thought, “How did I get to be so lucky? I started with the Nation when I was 28, then off I went into the unknown, to seek my fortune, and fortune I found. I did pretty well. I was so proud when they promoted me to Admiral. Good thing that they never knew my secret. Hell, I never realized myself what was going on until I met that woman in Daria. She showed me how to do it. I was delivering fuel around the Nation; I was carefree, since I had family around the Nation. I always had a warm place to rest my head. What more could a man ask, except for Betty?”
Bill still looked like he did before the insurrection; except his beard was gone and his hair a little longer. There was a little salt and pepper in his hair, which he wore in a ponytail at the nape of his neck. His smooth dark skin showed no wrinkles, the boyish twinkle in his eyes still sparkled like diamonds; his smile was still warm and loving. This warm loving look belied the darkness within. He was tortured with anguish from his memories of battle; the noise, the fear, the anger; flashbacks when there is lightening; nightmares most nights. One night he awoke, and found that he was assaulting his wife. That was the last night that he allowed himself to dream; he allowed only day dreams.
This day was his birthday, though, and he was going to dress up, and he was going to celebrate.
“Coffee’s almost ready,” chimed Devi, returning to the kitchen. “Do you want bacon and eggs, or a smoothie today?”
Devi had been Bill’s companion for the past 5 years, ever since he decided to return to Earth. She hesitated at first, she had known about those days on Daria, and Betty, but when Bill offered to pay her 3000 Amber beads per month, a good wage even in the remote planet systems, she decided that he could use her assistance, and persistence. She so wanted Bill to be at ease; at ease with being a retired Admiral, at ease with being a veteran, at ease with being a man, back on Earth, living with his granddaughter, having put the past and all the daydreams behind him.
“I’ll have a smoothie today; I would like to keep it light.” Bill called from the bedroom.
“Are you getting ready for the big celebration tonight? Usually a surprise party surprises the guest of honor, not everyone else. Leave it do you to do everything backwards.” Devi teased.
Devi busied herself with the coffee. She liked to make a ritual out of the simple things in life. She thought ritual injected special meaning into the mundane. That day she chose the cups from her home planet, made from the blue clay, so unique to Sauria, and shining with the diamond glaze that she loved so much. The coffee, a fine medium roast from
, was just finishing brewing, she paused a moment to enjoy the aroma of that lovingly brewed nectar and to get the last few drips into the Carafe. Hawaii
“Grandpa, what are you doing in there? The coffee is ready. Will you be out soon?” she asked.
Bill was starting to prepare for his day. He would lay out the clothes that he would consider wearing; checking each seam to ensure that there are no hanging threads; checking the front of the shirts for stains, he tended to spill more and more on his shirt as he aged. He would check the shoes, are they just right, do they match the rest of the outfit? He would hold up each item that he would consider wearing, survey it from top to bottom, inside and out, “Are there wrinkles? Does it still fit?” He was as meticulous about his clothes as he was about his manner. One outfit, then another, he sat on the edge of his bed, closed his eyes, and thought, “How will I dress? Who will I be?”
He called back to Devi: “I’ll be right out; I’m just planning what to wear.”
“Come on Grandpa; get out of that darned closet! Your coffee is getting cold!”
Devi shuttered as she thought about Grandpa’s wardrobe. Inside his huge closet, he had clothes from Gaia, Sauria, robes from Dune, with the built in filters, thigh high boots from when he was on Pampas, Pirate costumes from Earth, custom fitted uniforms and the ornate formal attire required by his rank, and that special section, at the back of the closet. But, what would he choose for the party that night?
As he sat down to his coffee and smoothie Bill assessed his choices. He had lain out the uniform, no, too military. He had lain out the Pirates costume, no, too silly. He had lain out the outfit he had bought for Betty, exquisite! He visualized how he would look in each outfit for his birthday celebration.
“Have you decided what you want to wear tonight?” Devi asked.
Bill paused for a moment, “I’m not sure. I thought of several ideas, none seemed just right, except, I’m pretty sure that I’ll go with Betty.
Devi looked at Bill, she nodded her head. She went into Bill’s room, and surveyed the clothes, carefully lying out on the bed. She liked the Admiral’s Uniform of the Nation’s Merchant Marines. He looked so distinguished in that. With those spit polished shoes, he certainly made an outstanding statement. She laid that on the top of the pile. She was very proud of her Grandfather, the Admiral.
Bill came into the room, looked at the bed, and said “I decided to wear that wonderful outfit created by that design house on Sauria, Holley’s. Their careful beadwork will make an astonishing splash of color on my jacket.”
Bill felt elated as the morning passed. The despair in his heart was melting away, as he anticipated the looks on his family’s faces. What would they think? Would they still love and accept him?
His hair would be neatly styled, hanging around his shoulders. His makeup would be just so. Even though Devi would prefer that he go without, she would apply the colors and scents that would transform his burly face into that of a very distinguished woman, and help him transform into Betty. He would wear diamonds everywhere, earrings, necklace and tiara. “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.” was Betty’s credo. Tonight, he would introduce his family to his alter-ego, the woman of his fantasy, Betty.