He won. Again.
“I’m too stupid for this,” I said, but without anger or irritation.
“You need to practice, that’s all.” He smiled warmly. When he smiled his eyes were becoming narrow slits bent upward, surrounded by wide, oval ridges, giving him a cute look. His eyes were greyish-blue, the greyish shades perfectly matching his grey skin. “Kotra
is a game that requires a skill and that skill must be trained.”
“Don’t you have some games for engineers?”
“We do but they are not as enjoyable.”
“Oh, you enjoy it, because you win every time we play.”
“Do you want me to let you win?” Would he?
“Don’t you even dare! When I beat you, I want to know it’s my skill, not your pity.”
“I like that you said ‘when,’ not ‘if.’”
“You bet I did!”
We laughed and then an awkward silence came and grew. We’d been silent with each other many times and it’d always been comfortable; like among good friends, who can sit in silence a whole day and still have a good time. However, this time it was different. I was certain it wasn’t only me. His grin slowly faded and his eyes were intently fixed on mine. I wanted to sink in those eyes. He moved closer to me. The tunic he wore rustled quietly, rubbing against the back of the seat that he was leaning on.
“I...” he began, but didn’t finish. Instead, he raised his hand and directed it toward me with his palm. I raised my hand and touched his, like touching through glass. It was the first time I touched his skin. It was cool and a little rough, but pleasant.
I felt a strong urge to kiss him. Did they do that? Would he understand? I moved my face closer to his and our lips met. It was a shy and unsure kiss. I felt his nose ridge on my cheek—the surface of the scales was hard but somehow it felt nice.
We looked at each other, testing our reactions. I think he wasn’t sure I understood everything too. But how to talk about such matters? An academic discussion would destroy such a precious moment. This wasn’t a scientific research, this was something else...something more...something special...
“Karama—” I started but he put two fingers on my lips.
“It’s Tavor now,” he said quietly.
I mouthed his name, not daring to speak it out loud that first time. The way he’d said it—his tone of voice had made it clear it was a big step. I appreciated this moment; its value. This was like a milestone; something had changed, something special had happened. Alea iacta est
I touched his left eye ridge. I traced my finger along its line up to the inverted drop—the chanth
—on his forehead. It was warm inside, warmer than the rest of his skin. He closed his eyes for a moment. And I was sure the shape wasn’t covered with scales, it was bare skin over there. His scales were smooth in touch. I lowered my hand to touch his neck ridge scales but he grabbed my wrist.
“I’m not ready for this yet,” he said.
“Oh?” I was surprised. “Oh.” Disappointed. “Oh!” I realised it must be something special then. I remembered that he had told me about that particular sexual meaning of their neck ridges. “I’ll wait for the time when you’re ready.”
He smiled, touched my cheek and stroke it with his finger. “You look so fragile without ridges,” he said. “So delicate.”
“Does it bother you I don’t have neck ridges?”
He smiled and shook his head. “Not in the least. You’re beautiful the way you are.”
“I like your one row very much,” I said, hoping he wouldn’t take it in the wrong way.
“No, you don’t, but it’s nice of you to say so.”
“I don’t care how many rows you have, I still like them,” I insisted. Was this conversation indecent? He smirked at me and I gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. “I must go. I have a busy day tomorrow.”
“Don’t we all?” he smiled.
We bed farewell and I returned to my room.
I didn’t sleep much that night. I was too excited by what had happened and impatiently looked toward the future.