February’s Theme: True Love
*Tlay’s culture demands their lifelong partner, their true love try to choose the same object that Tlay had chosen as a child. So far, it hasn’t worked for Tlay. But they are committed to trying again.*
Tlay set out the objects with care, each one arranged perfectly on the little table in the centre of the living room, all atop an elegant table runner, decorated in the traditional manner of their people.
They sighed, rising to their feet to put together the tea.
Tlay fell in love far too easily. Always had. It never worked out. And this ceremony was the reason for that.
Cultural expectation stated Tlay’s true love would pick the object Tlay had chosen as a child. The person with whom Tlay was truly connected would instinctively reach for it. It came with a legend, the one that would be shared over the tea that only came out for this particular occasion. But the scientific and cultural reasoning behind the continuation was mostly centred around the instinctive connections. The idea that one’s childhood self was one’s most instinctive self, the person one grew from. The idea that one’s lifelong companion should share those basic instincts.
Tlay took the tea pot, shaped like nothing so much as a droplet of water as it might slide down a window pane, now filled with the leaves and hot water brewing together. If it was amber when Tlay poured it, that was a bad sign. If it was the red of their blood, the red of flushed cheeks and kiss swollen lips, it was a good one. The clear glass cups, no more than a shot measure, decorated with delicate patterning that matched Tlay’s table runner, would show the colour whatever way it ended up.
Not that Tlay’s companion would know the cultural meaning of any of this.
“It is said,” Tlay said as they picked up the tea to pour. “That true love is real. Soulmates, if you will. People who are made of the same star dust as each other.” They offered the tea cup to their companion, not daring to look lest the liquid be the amber of a warning.
The first time Tlay had done this the tea hadn’t brewed at all. Weak water had coated Tlay’s tongue when they went to drink. The relationship had broken down as soon as Tlay had, equally weak tears spilling over their face. That particular partner hadn’t hung around long enough to find out why Tlay was crying at all.
“It is said that we must find those who are our closest match in order to have happy long lives together. That we are predestined for another and they will present themself at the proper time.”
Tlay closed their eyes and drank. The tea coated their tongue, flavourful.
The last time the tea had been flavourful, Tlay had allowed themself to hope. And their then partner had picked the wrong object. And Tlay had had to end the relationship, had to explain what the problem was and their then partner couldn’t understand why Tlay cared about this so much.
“We each pick an object as a child.” They gestured at the assorted items laid so carefully across the table runner. “When we pair with one of our own, we approach a central board to show the item we chose. When we pair with someone else…” Tlay looked up at their partner. “We ask them to choose, by instinct, the object that most appeals.”
Sapphire nodded once and approached the table.
Tlay expected that Sapphire would take some time to look at each of the items, like partners had in the past. But no. Immediately, Sapphire reached for something. Scooped it up, looked at it, nodded once, and offered it up to Tlay.
“It’s a love heart,” Sapphire said.
Tlay cupped the oddly shaped rock in their hands. The human concept of a love heart, now that Sapphire had mentioned it, Tlay could see it. There was no such concept in Tlay’s culture. Things were matched to show compatibility more than just having a single image that represented romance.
The simplicity with which Sapphire had chosen this object. The way Sapphire just laid it out, as if it were the most casual thing in the world. And the way Sapphire watched Tlay now, hands wringing and weight shifting with nerves. Sapphire knew this was serious, and yet had moved so instinctively.
“Everybody else thinks it’s weird that I chose a rock,” Tlay said.
Sapphire shrugged. “Does that mean I can stay?”
Tlay looked up into Sapphire’s eyes and smiled. “Forever, please. I think I might demand it.”
“Never make me drink that tea again. That was utterly foul.”
Tlay laughed and with it came surprising tears. Apparently they wouldn’t get through a single one of these without crying.
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