Hanna stopped in the middle of the street, shifting the covered cake plate to her other hand so she could wipe her sweaty palm on her jeans. This was what came of three grown women playing truth or dare while watching the new neighbor move in—not that there had been much to see with that big flutter pod squatting in the way. It was gone now, but there was still nothing to see. Watching an extraterrestrial move in ought to be more entertaining.
More than eight years had passed since the first embassy ships landed, but the aliens kept to themselves, evidently preferring to observe humanity from a distance. The few Talessanins who came to Earth tended to stay in the embassy enclaves, and most people still hadn’t seen one of the aliens in person—especially not in small towns like Freebridge.
Hanna glanced over her shoulder at her own little house, where Rachel and Tiffany peeked through the curtains of her living room window.
There were not two but three Talessanins when they arrived at Mac’s for lunch. Hanna gritted her teeth and waved them over to the table where she waited with Rachel and Tiffany. The addition of the slender, dark-skinned man with the striking amber eyes and quiet, reserved manner blew Rachel’s careful seating arrangement all to bits. Her strategy had been Divide and Conquer: Rachel and Tiffany facing Hanna across the table, with the fourth chair and another one filched from a nearby table placed at the ends for the aliens.
Jon drifted through his house, hardly recognizing the place. He’d had it built in a human style both to blend in better with his new community, and to enhance his experience of Earth culture. Perhaps in time it would come to feel like a home to him, but tonight it only felt artificial and foreign. Strange humans sprawled on his new sofas and beanbag chairs, their conversations dropping to whispers as he passed. Alien music thumped at him from the back yard, where more strangers filled his soaking pool and spilled across the lawn that stretched toward the tree line and the small lake beyond. Tomin was out there dancing with a pack of human women who were clearly fascinated by his forearm fins. Chance leaned against the refrigerator with a rapt expression on his face, listening as Rachel enthusiastically explained the various items of unfamiliar food that filled the platters and bowls covering the kitchen counters. A knot of human men picked over more food in the dining room, arguing energetically about some kind of sporting event. Jon felt like an intruder in his own house.