Ana led the way upstairs. “I’m not sure how well it will work for you. It isn’t geared for trakors.”
I followed her. “I can handle it!” I clacked in frustration. Why did she have to say that over and over?
Ana turned to me, looking surprised. “I didn’t mean that way.”
I looked up to her, my feelers drooping to the sides. “Please, I need to move out of my place.”
Ana smiled. “And I would love to have you as my roommate, sister.”
Oh my god, it felt so good to hear that. After only two weeks of getting to know each other, the two of us bonded. “I can adjust to a human place.”
With the declining world population due to planetary birth control, large cities across the world experienced negative growth. Over the past thirty years, Orlando received positive growth due to the Trakon Union government establishing their capitol underground near here. Recently, developers bought out old abandoned buildings in the city for gentrification. Before coming here, I looked up the floor plans online for her apartment complex. True enough, the apartment looked small but functional. Even with renovations, the urban neighborhood didn’t get that much of a real estate boost. However, it was located only a mile from the university. The fact it was close to school and predominantly human appealed to the Earth girl in me.
As we reached the second floor, Ana said “The important thing is that you get along with Felicia.”
I followed behind her. “I like cats. At my last foster parent’s house, we had cats. They are great mousers.”
Ana paused, turning to me. “Yes they are, but Felecia stays inside if you don’t mind.” She added on “Also, I don’t want her to play bat-bat with your feelers.”
I touched one of my feelers. “I’ve been with cats before, I’ll be fine.”
Ana chuckled. “I’m sure you will.” She turned and led the way upstairs.
“Here we are,” she motioned to her door located on the third floor. “No AutoLifts unfortunately.”
I looked at the row of apartment doors open to the outside air. “I can handle the stairs.” I shrugged. “Besides, I read that the developers said they would establish those in a few months.”
She turned to me with a smirk. “They said that when I first moved in here almost two years ago.”
I smiled. “I don’t mind.” I tapped my rear feet on the ground. “I’ve got four feet, I can climb stairs.”
Ana chuckled. “Yes you can.” She turned to the door and unlocked it with her fingerprint. “If you move in, we will have to put in new locks so you’ll be able to get in.”
“Deal,” I clicked.
We went in.
From what I remembered from the floor plans, the apartment was small, only 60 square meters. Looking inside, it didn’t disappoint. Her decorating style had a bohemian style, with thrift store purchases and cast off décor from the twenty-first century.
Ana motioned to two doors at the rear. “Those are the bedrooms,” She motioned to another door off to the side. “And that is the bathroom.” She waved to the small kitchenette on the wall. “And no automation. Not even an old style dishwasher.” She motioned to the rest of the place, all one room. “And this concludes the grand tour.” She turned to me with a smirk. “It isn’t that expensive, but not luxurious.”
I looked around the place. Everything had its place without giving a hoarder mentality. “I like it.”
Ana motioned to one of the doors. “And now for the Felicia test. She should accept you, but I want to make sure.” She entered, I followed.
The bedroom had posters on the walls from fashion sources, and a built in dresser next to a narrow closet. On the opposite side the bed stretched from one wall to the other near the door. I was surprised that Ana could lay down considering her height.
On the bed lay a big striped tabby cat fast asleep. Ana walked to the cat and nuzzled her ear. “Hey kitty, I’ve got a friend I’d like you to meet.”
The cat leaned into her hand, purring up a storm.
Ana stepped back. “There’s a trakor lab tech at the vet who takes care of the kitties. Felicia loves him, smelling his feelers and rubbing his hands.”
I approached Felecia with caution, not wanting to startle her.
Felecia looked at me with boredom.
I held my hand out to her, and she sniffed it, then rubbed my hand with her whiskers, again purring. “I think she likes me,” I clicked with a smile.
Ana knocked the back of my thorax. “Yes, and you passed. Congratulations”
We both walked out, letting the kitty get her sleep.
Ana pointed to the other bedroom door. “I hope you don’t mind the smaller room.”
I walked in and looked around. A tiny room with a dresser and smaller closet, at least it was clean. Near the opposite wall was a futon. “A lean-to bed!” I clicked. “Perfect for me!” I had slept in smaller place growing up. I smiled. “It’s perfect!” I turned to her. “I don’t need much room anyway.”
Ana nodded, and then walked out to the bathroom door. “I wasn’t worried about the second bedroom, but this might cause an issue.”
I followed her, looking into the cramped bathroom with a narrow shower. The toilet wasn’t designed for trakors. I shrugged. “I can manage.” I looked up at her. “The university accommodates trakors somewhat, but I’ve used human restrooms fine with my portable chair.”
She nodded to me, then went to the kitchenette wall. “What about this? The appliances are kind of high up.” She looked at me again. “I don’t want to put you on the spot about your height again, but…”
“I can handle it!” I clacked. I proceeded to hoist my front feet up to the counter. “Like this, I can reach to 170 cms.” I reached up, but the upper cupboards were still beyond reach. I whistled in frustration.
Ana grimaced. “We can relocate things for you lower down, and my stuff…”
I got back down to the ground. “Stop treating me like a special project!” I clacked, shaking my balled up hands.
Ana stopped, then stepped back. “Look, Margret, I’m not doing that.” She motioned to me. “You are a lot shorter, that gives you disadvantages…”
I quivered my feelers in anger.
She continued with a smile. “And advantages.” She crossed her arms, leaning back on the counter. “But we need to address it.”
I lowered my feelers, then my head. “I know. I’ve been teased about my height by others.” I looked up to her. “Now that I’m about to move out on my own, now that I’ve been around humans, it seems more pronounced.”
She shrugged. “When I worked in Cuba, they had to accommodate my height, but we did it.”
I looked around the apartment. An idea began to squirrel in my head. “What if I were to pay for upgrades, get full automation, even make the place self-cleaning?”
Ana frowned, standing up straight. “I couldn’t ask you to do that.”
“I can afford it.”
Ana shook her head. “No, that would be too expensive.”
Oh come on! “I want to do this!” I realized how loud I clacked, and stepped back. “Sorry.”
Ana sat down on a… Lazy Boy? “If you can install all of that, why would you want to live here?” She motioned to the front window. “The neighborhood is safe enough for both of our kind, but…”
I plopped down on the carpet, letting my four feet spread out. I wasn’t ready for this conversation, but she was my friend. I hoped she would accept this. “I want to live here,” I hesitated, not wanting to demean her. “Among humans.”
Ana leaned forward in her chair towards me. “You can do that anywhere in Orlando. The city is trakor friendly.”
I leaned forward, putting my hands on the ground, letting my feelers droop. “I want to live like…” I hesitated on my next words.
Ana smiled. “Like an Earth girl?”
I looked at the front window. “Like a human.” Oh my god, I said it out loud.
Ana lost her smile, sitting up straight. “Margret Anderson, are you ashamed of being trakor?”
“No!” I clacked. “I want to live like a human, like those vids from a hundred years ago called SitComs.”
Ana wrinkled her forehead. “What?”
I shrugged, looking down at the carpet. “My sister and I grew up watching those vids, wanting to transform to a human after pupating.” I forced my thorax upright while drawing my feet under my abdomen. “We knew it would never happen, but we wanted to stand tall, walk on only two feet, wrinkle our faces for emotions, make vocal sounds,” I forced myself to face her. “We wanted to Air-Taste! Or as you say, smell!” I looked down at the ground again. “After I started to live with foster parents, I just wanted to be with humans, maybe even be a rebel.” I shrugged my arms. “I’m not from Trakon, I was born here, and I’m an Earth girl.”
I thought she would give me that It’s-Okay-To-Be-Trakor lecture. Instead, she surprised me. She stood up, knelt down by my side, and held her hand out to me. “Would you please move in with me, sister?”
I was speechless. I anticipated dozens of different reactions, not acceptance. Slowly, I smiled. I took her hand, and said “Thank you, I’d like that.”
She put her other hand onto mine. “But we split the costs of the apartment upgrades…”
“No.” I stood up. “I have a confession to make, sister.” It was the first time I ever used term on her. She didn’t seem to mind me saying that. “I have a large dowery from my mother.”
She scrunched her hair above her eyes, her eyebrows. “A dowery?”
Oh sticky, the translator got my words wrong. “Hold on.” I gave a few commands to my arm phone then tried it again. “I mean, an inheritance.”
Ana shrugged. “I figured you meant that. You know English better than I do.”
I clicked laugh, leaning back. “Maybe, but I can’t speak it.”
Ana stood up, looking at the second bedroom. “I do need a roommate. My last one left me high and dry for half the rent when she up and left for Finland.”
Ana stood up then looked around while tapping her chin. “You know, we can make an official trade.”
I stood up, shaking my feelers. “No. You don’t have to…”
She walked to her bedroom. “Too late.” After a few moments, she returned carrying a rectangular cube on a handle. She set it onto her coffee table, then opened it. It looked like a machine which defied any explanation.
“This used to belong to my grandmother, then my mother, now it’s mine.” She began to work the machine.
“What is it?”
“This is an early twenty-first century sewing machine.” She stood up and made a sweeping motion to it. “Ta-Da!”
I walked to it, still trying to figure it out. “Sewing?” She stumped me with an English word I didn’t know.
Ana knelt down and pressed a few buttons. It turned on making a whirling noise.
Startled, I stepped back.
She looked at me with a smile. “You’ve complemented my clothing style.”
I looked at her light blouse with a belt sinched around her waist. I nodded. “Yes, it is nice.”
She looked at my brown dress, the corners of her mouth turning down. “I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, now I can make it official.” She approached me onto one knee, taking my hand into hers. “I’m giving you an Ana makeover!”
My feelers shot straight up. “Really?” This was just like those home fashion vids!
“Yep!” She touched my dress on my abdomen behind me. “I made clothes for my friends back in Cuba, I’ve made a number of outfits here for extra money for both trakors and humans, and I can make you the envy of all eyes on you.”
I looked down at my dress. All of my foster parents never allowed me to have nice clothes due to my low status. I whistled in excitement. “Yes!” I grasped her hand. “I’ve been wanting to get some new clothes once I got ahold of my inheritance, but with class, moving out, making friends, exploring the city, that took all my time.”
Ana smiled, then got on her knees with her arms opened to me. “Can we seal the deal with a hug?”
“Yes!” I stepped into her embrace and hugged her. “Thank you!”
After we hugged, she stepped back and pulled out her phone. “Stand up straight and smile.”
I did that.
She took a picture of me. “First thing’s first. Let’s see what works for you.” She set her phone to project to her wall, then began to give commands to her phone using the Fashion Editor Program. I watched, giving her feedback about what I liked.
While we talked, Felecia came out and parked herself on top of my abdomen, purring up a storm. I felt at home.
I couldn’t believe my luck! I found a great place to live, made friends with a kitty, and now I was going to get a fashion make-over! I’d always to dress like a bohemian rebel, now was my chance!
We spent the day going over styles and colors for my new outfits.