Chapter 6

Griffin stared at the chair in disbelief. Where could she have gone?

Maybe she's in the front room. He looked past the kitchen table to the front room where the couch was. Selita wasn't there either.

Did she go back to my bedroom? He set the dishes down, turned off the faucet, and headed down the hallway to his room with a swift pace. A quick peek beyond the doorframe revealed that she wasn't there either.

Had she found the bathroom? He looked there too, but there was still no sign of her.

He became more alarmed by the second. What if she got out and someone sees her? He jogged back down the hallway. A glance across the front room reminded him that he hadn't locked the front door.

Shit.

He ran to the door and whipped it open. He looked to the right of the corridor. Nothing. He looked to the left. Nothing.

But wait, there was something. A speck of color lying on the ground in the distance. He made haste to it, and when he finally approached it he saw that it was a brightly colored feather. Griffin knew of no bird that could sport such a brilliantly vivid feather; there could only be one explanation. Selita.

He took a step past the feather but then came to an abrupt halt. He turned around and picked up the feather for safekeeping. It really is beautiful.

After carefully tucking it into the pocket of his jeans so as not to bend or break it, he continued down the dimly lit corridor. In the distance he thought he saw an array of feathers trailing on the ground disappear around a corner on the right. He quickened his pace.

When he turned the corner he saw that an opening in this corridor led to the small park-esque courtyard located in the middle of the apartment complex. The break in the dull wall shed refreshing daylight into the corridor, and Griffin strode through the opening onto the concrete path that led to the courtyard.

There were small trees and shrubs surrounding the path that hid his view from the distant courtyard. Suddenly Griffin remembered the pool. With Selita being as curious as she is, she could get into some serious trouble if she found it. How was he supposed to know if she could swim or not?

I have to find her before she finds the pool.

He quickened his pace to a slight jog. He didn't want to sprint so as to avoid appearing suspicious. He didn't live in the…purest of communities. The people that lived here didn't accomplish much in their lives, other than joining gangs, getting in trouble with the law, and becoming a "true thug".

The thought of what could happen to Selita if she were to come across one of these lowlifes sickened and enraged him. They could hurt her, or…much worse. She did appear almost naked, you know, and despite the bird-like features, she could still pass for being a young, attractive half-woman.

Finally the restroom building that stood in front of the pool came into view. He couldn't see Selita around the right portion of the pool, but she could still be somewhere on the left because the restrooms hid that portion from view. Griffin decided to run the last twenty-five feet as a result of his growing anxiety. He had an increasingly intensifying gut-wrenching hunch that Selita was almost certainly on the other side of that building near the pool.

As he rounded the corner, his hunch proved to be correct. There she was, bent over the pool with her feet dangling precariously over the edge. She was bent so low that her face was about a foot away from the surface, and her eyes gazed into the water with such an intensity that Griffin knew she was fascinated by it.

"Selita!" He called.

His holler startled her, and as a result set her off balance. She squealed in alarm as she teetered over the edge, too far for comfort. Griffin rushed to her and held her fast by the waist, steadying her. She sighed in relief.

"What are you doing out here?" Griffin hissed in her ear.

"I just wanted to see what outside was like," she replied innocently.

Griffin pulled her by the waist a few paces back from the edge of the pool. He then placed his hands on her shoulders and turned her around to face him.

"Do you know what could have happened to you if you fell in?" He demanded, his voice beginning to rise.

Selita looked up at him with her big black eyes. Apparently even Taks use the puppy-dog face. "I was just curious."

"I don't care! What would have happened if you fell in and I wasn't there? You could have drowned!" He was yelling now.

Selita flinched at his tone. "I—I'm sorry. I didn't mean for you to worry…"

"Didn't mean for me to worry?! Then why on Earth would you leave without a word? You didn't even tell me where you were going! What if you got lost and I never found you?"

Selita looked down. "I said I was sorry okay?" She looked back up with watery eyes. "You don't have to keep yelling at me!" She whipped around and stormed away to the other side of the restroom building.

Griffin sighed. Had he overreacted? It seemed like he had made such a scene. Luckily, no one had senn, because ever came to this part of the courtyard because the pool was extremely unkempt. No one ever cleaned it, so instead of a pool it was more like a swamp. Full of mud, dead leaves and branches. Sometimes he had even spotted a dead animal or two. How they got there, he would never know. A thick layer of sickly green slime lay on top of the surface, and a coating of gray-brown muck coated the walls and floor of the pool as a result of dust and dirt blown in by wind sinking to the bottom. Griffin absent-mindedly wondered how long it must have been neglected for it to reach such a state. There was no way to tell, because it had always been like this, ever since he first moved into the complex.

After thinking to himself for a few minutes to let Selita cool off a bit, he decided it was time to apologize. He approached the restrooms and turned the corner. Selita was slouched on the ground with her knees up, arms resting on her knees and her head buried in her arms. The sound of crunching leaves under his footsteps alerted her, and she looked up at him and sniffed. It was apparent that she had cried a bit, but not nearly as much as before.

Griffin sighed and squatted down next to her. "I'm sorry. I know now that I overreacted."

Selita's eyes shifted to staring absently into space and said nothing but nodded instead.

Seeing as a mere apology was futile, he switched to insulting himself. "Okay, if you couldn't already tell, not only do I overreact, but I'm also an insensitive asshole."

A tiny smile plucked at the corners of her lips, but it disappeared swiftly.

Okay, so self insults don't work either. He decided to just explain himself instead. "I just…get upset when I'm worried. I didn't want anything bad to happen to you because I would feel like it would be my fault. I can't take that kind of guilt. You must understand that, right?"

Selita looked back at him. "I do."

"I just want you to be more careful, okay?" Griffin made sure his voice was soft.

"Okay."

Griffin smiled in an attempt to get her to smile. He liked her smile. He thought it was pretty. He missed her smile.

At first he got nothing in return, but finally she let herself smile too.

"Want a hug?" He asked.

"What's a 'hug'?"

"Let me show you."

He reached over and took her hands in his. "We have to stand up first." They stood up.

Griffin leaned into her and attempted to wrap his arms around the middle of her back, but her wings were long enough to prevent him from doing so. He settled with placing them around her lower back, a little closer to her rear than he had hoped for, making him uncomfortable. Not that he didn't like it, though.

Her arms stayed rigidly at her sides.

"Now you wrap your arms around my neck," he instructed her.

She did as she was told, and Griffin realized that their faces were now only inches apart. They were both just the right height; he being taller than her but not too tall. He soon found himself gazing into her black eyes and once again lost himself in their endless depths. But this time, it felt different. It felt like he was literally losing himself, as in his mind, because he seemed to feel consumed by some kind of inescapable trance. He then began to feel the same penetrating force creeping up on his mind.

He blinked, stepped away from Selita, and the feeling was gone. "What is that?"

"What is what?"

"That weird feeling…it usually happens almost every time I look into your eyes."

"What does it feel like?"

"Like someone…or something, rather, is like entering my mind and reading my memories and thoughts."

"Oh, that feeling."

"You know it?"

"Yeah, it's what Taks do."

"What exactly do they…'do'?"

"We can sort of…read the minds of others. We can see their memories and read their thoughts, like you said."

"But…why? How?"

"I'm not sure how…it's really hard to explain. Besides, not every Tak can do it. Only certain ones. It's like a special power, but all Taks have some form of a special power. We call these powers mocs. These mocs divide us into social classes."

"Okay…so what's the point of your uh…'moc'?"

"To learn about others. It's how I learned the basics of your language when we first met. It was how I was able to speak English to you."

"Interesting. What determines who has what kind of moc?"

"Well, it is predetermined from hatching. I'm not sure exactly what it is…but I know it's connected to the personality and nature of the individual. As you can already tell, I'm very curious…so it makes sense that my special power is involved with learning."

"Fascinating. But I still don't quite understand the exact purpose of the mocs. How would it benefit your existence?"

"Well, on Ùzemí, the Pozos (that's what the Taks with the moc I have are called) would be consulted whenever our planet was visited by a foreign civilization. They would be able to learn about their culture before they even arrived, and so they would know what would and wouldn't offend them. We use this moc mainly to keep the peace with outsiders, that's why we've never had any wars."

No wars? Amazing. "You mean civilizations from other parts of the planet, right?

"Oh, no. From other planets."

Wow. So there really are civilizations out there with that kind of technology.

"I see. Your world is so much more interesting than mine."

"No! I love your Earth."

Griffin smiled, and Selita returned it with one of her own.

"Come one, let's go back to the apartment."

"So that's what it's called?" Selita asked as they began to walk back along the path.

He chuckled. "Yes, I live in an apartment."

"Oh, we live in domácís."

"What are they like?"

"Similar to yours. Only less…advanced I guess."

"Less advanced? What do you mean?"

"They're less modern…more primitive I suppose."

"Ah, I see."

"We're a young civilization."

"Makes sense then."

Selita nodded.

Griffin was amazed by the difference in her vocabulary from when he had his first conversation with her earlier that morning. He almost felt like he was talking with a human being.

"Griffin, why do your people hug?"

Griffin was thoughtful for a moment. "Well, there could be many reasons, but I guess the main one would be to comfort each other."

"Oh, I see." Selita paused. "Well, I like it."

Griffin automatically responded "Me too," out of pure reflexive courtesy. But the more he thought about it, the more he realized that it was true. He had enjoyed hugging Selita. And he had even thought about doing more than just hugging… He realized that was insane, and almost sick, but he couldn't deny his desire for more. The conflicting emotions he now felt left him more confused than he had ever been in his life.

Where is this relationship going?