It was a marriage proposal, a truly alien one at that. Could she find either happiness or sanity with such a situation?
The still-life tableau continued for what seemed an interminable time. Glancing from one wife to another, Vicky became aware that orbs of light were swirling around the room. The orbs, she finally realized, were either eyes or their equivalent. None of them were human. Vicky didn’t know any way she could come to that conclusion logically, but there it was. One particular set of eyes gradually came to the fore. She could recognize them anywhere. They belonged to Paul. The rest of him appeared in a way that felt almost natural.
He was smiling hopefully at her even as his eyes consumed her. Vicky needed to bring this otherworldly experience into reality as she knew it. The alternative that she would be lost forever in this fantasy.
“There are cultures on this planet where they arrange marriages through third parties. What we do here calls for those directly involved to make their feelings known to one another. These ladies made a compelling case, but that’s nowhere near enough. What are you on about, buster?”
“I did not exist as a human until a step before the door of the bank when I opened the account. The real account I was there to open was with you. As the wives told you, there is nobody human with whom I can join other than you. I’ve seen many examples of marriage proposals, but what I am telling you is nothing I can say to anyone else at any other time. Would you please stay with me?”
“Living with you would be fascinating, more so than any existence I could imagine. On the other hand, that name you made up, Fortek, is nasty and I will never be Mrs. Fortek.”
“The name was an invention of the moment. If you don’t accept that last name, I’ll take yours. It is not a problem. What is your surname?”
“You would be Paul Nicholls?”
“Your data systems are simple to adjust. You would not object to being Mrs. Vicky Nicholls?”
“The married lady addition to my name will take a bit for me to handle, but I wouldn’t mind it. Are you sufficiently human for us to have children?”
There was the usual pause as Paul queried up the line. “The answer is affirmative. It is one reason for us being here. The wives are doing it their way. You and I will try it the other way.”
Vicky laughed. “That almost sounded kinky, Mr. Nicholls. Okay, let’s do it. How does it work with your people?”
“We’ve done everything necessary. The wives will help us get to the farm.”
“Will they still be around?”
“They’re available whenever we need them.”
The orbs of light, which retreated when Paul made his entrance, now returned with reinforcements. A moment later, there was a brilliant flash of white light and Vicky found herself in front of Paul’s farmhouse. Even in the early evening darkness, it was obvious the place had a fresh coat of paint along with some tasteful landscaping. Her truck was right behind her.
“I got the impression that you were trying to keep a low profile. If the dark ones picked up on what we were doing before, this would certainly get their attention.”
“That was the whole point of the exercise. We let the dark ones know that we are here in force and will not go away. It will be a while before they try anything. Tomorrow, when you go to the bank, you’ll find everyone knows we’re married, and have been for several years. All records show the appropriate things.”
- * * *
“You should start having children, Vicky. You’re not getting any younger, and with your place starting to make money, it is a waste to keep running into town with what they pay here.”
Julie was in Vicky’s office. At the moment, they were the only ones in the bank. Vicky agreed with Julie but couldn’t let the old bat think she had the best of the situation.
“You know how farm income works. Just because we’re doing well with the farmers’ market now, that doesn’t mean it will continue. In any case, coming in here gives me a chance to think.”
Julie wouldn’t let that pass. “We all know what you think about, too. I’m amazed you can tear yourself away from that hunk, Paul, to come to work.”
Okay, that occupied a good part of her thoughts, but not in the way Julie put it. “If I stayed home, it would be in an empty house. Paul is clearing additional acreage for the quinoa next spring. He’s also laying out the area where the vineyard will go.”
The additional point was that the three wives were all on hand for the project. Also, they were setting up defenses capable of sheltering both Alma and Holdrege from the dark ones. If she even hinted at such a thing, Julie wouldn’t understand in the first place, and such news would be grist for Julie’s rumor mill. In this case, it would be how Vicky’s was going crazy.
“I suppose you’re plotting how to take over the bank from Roger,” Julie suggested.
Vicky had a flashback to the moments before Paul first walked into the bank. It was nearly the same conversation. “That would be a promotion. At the same time, Roger isn’t going anywhere. No, I think about lots of things.”
“Maybe you hope to see some those UFO’s folks have seen lately.”
Vicky was glad the conversation moved on. “I hadn’t thought about what people said at all. Do you think there’s anything to the stories?”
“When I stopped at the cafe this morning, they talked about nothing else. Several there saw lights above the Republican River east of town. They were white, green, and blue.”
That would be part of the defensive barrier Paul and the three wives worked on. There was a great deal more to it, but nothing the local population was likely to see.
“That is interesting. Did those witnesses happen to mention what kind of beverages they were consuming at the time?”
The door of the bank opened then, and Grace hustled in.
“I didn’t get enough of a change order yesterday,” she said to Julie. “Could you get me some fast? I’ve got people waiting back at the cafe.”
Julie hurried to the teller’s station as Roger came in with the three Feds. That gave Vicky a moment of unease, but Roger smiled as he headed for his office. The Fed in charge nodded pleasantly at Vicky as he passed. “I hope you’re having a good morning, Mrs. Nicholls. My wife called and wondered if you could bring some of both kinds of amaranth tomorrow morning.”
Vicky wondered if she was supposed to know his name, and Paul’s voice came to her. “He is James Wilson and is now on our side. We can get him some amaranth.”
Vicky smiled and nodded to the Fed. “I am having an excellent day, Mr. Wilson. We can take care of you. How much of each kind would you like?”
Alma wasn’t a big town, but anyone who thought it was boring didn’t know where to look.
Would you like to see more of Vicky? Let me know.