"The woman, Dusty," matching fingers, Mr. D pressed his hands together, his voice husky, "is my partner, Sarree. And yes, she is Yugo's mother."
"Then Yugo is yours!" I blurted, rising part way out of my chair.
"No," he replied simply.
No? my thoughts spun, and I sat back down. If he wasn't the father, then someone else had to be.
"Here, where couples are together until death separates them, love is not the first consideration: compatibility is. But sometimes that is not enough. And one person cannot love enough to make up for the void."
"You loved her?" It came out in a squeaky whisper.
"I love her."
I couldn't help but glance quickly over my shoulder at Yugo, sleeping without a care in this world. "How can you say that after she deserted you and left her baby out in the desert to die?"
"She had no choice. Yugo was taken from her, unwillingly. Yugo's father died trying to bring him back. That happened, in fact, shortly before you arrived and rescued him."
Although Mr. D looked the picture of calmness, I wondered if he weren't torn up inside. I was, just thinking about all this. "Why did you take us in?"
He thought about that for awhile. "Because," he faltered, "because I had wanted so very much a second chance to right the imbalance in our lives."
I shook my head. "I don't understand."
"I love Sarree, but I didn't know that until after she left. Only then did I understand she could love another."
I could tell he struggled with his feelings by his shaky smile, and I was slightly embarrassed. Yugo stirred and cried out. I popped up out the chair, relieved to go over and cradle him in my arms. "I think he's hungry, again." I handed Mr. D the empty bottle.
With Mr. D busy in the kitchen, I thought about what he had said. Holding Yugo, Sarree's image floated in my thoughts; I got it loud and clear what he wanted most was to be with his mother. All my feelings were a hazy swirl of reds and greens, like anticipating Christmas morning, not because of the presents, but because I would be there with my family. But I couldn't see any faces I knew, only those of Sarree, Yugo and Mr. D. Maybe I was the "eyes" of the dreamer; there but not a part of it.
Yugo longed for his mother. Sarree. A stab of jealousy pierced me, but at the same time, I too, wanted to be home with my mother. We both wanted the same thing.
Mr. D handed the bottle to me without saying anything, like he knew I needed to think through my feelings. I fed Yugo, very careful not hurry him as he lapped at the chalky stuff, burping him every few minutes. He was so happy! I had to smile and even began to hum 'Old McDonald had a farm' to him.
He fell back asleep, and I swear he'd grown the short time I had him in my arms. He was heavier and looked longer as he curled up again on the couch. I didn't want to get up and leave him, happy to sit beside him drifting along our currents of contentment.
Mr. D waited in the dining room, seated once more at the table. We had more to discuss, but the questions no longer seemed that pressing to me. Or maybe, I had to admit to myself, I didn't want to know the answers.
But it's like an itch, the moment you think you're not going to think about it, you have to. I returned to the table and dropped into the chair facing Mr. D. "You said you love Sarree, but does she love you?"
His bushy eyebrows knitted together and I felt the weight of each word he said. "Sarree told me she respects and appreciates me for what I am."
"And you buy that?" I asked.
"It is a kind of love, Dusty. She's sincere and honest and truthful, and that is a sharing of oneself that is also a form of love."
"And she loves Yugo because she's his mother." And, I added to myself, he loves her, his mother.
"Where does that leave me?" All those feelings of jealousy and rejection tumbled out. I had to look away for a minute to catch my breath and swallow my tears. Outside, the sky was dingy gray, the color of dirty laundry. I missed the blue Seattle morning sky and the dark, starry nights. "I love Yugo, too. And I know," I insisted fiercely, "that Yugo loves me, too."
"Yes, he does." responded Mr. D evenly, looking steadily at me.
I felt a gentle prodding of my thoughts. "I'll take him home with me. My Mom would understand, I know she would. And I would give Yugo a good home, too!" I choked on my tears. "I swear it!"
"Childling," Mr. D smoothed away the tears, "there is no question about your love or ability to care for Yugo. But Yugo would not survive in your world."
I shook my head. "I survive here in his, he would in mine."
Mr. D cupped my chin in his hand. "Dusty, look at me. Would Yugo not be a curiosity, an animal to be caged for display in a circus or a zoo?"
"I wouldn't ever let that happen! No! no! I wouldn't!" I was really blubbering now.
He tipped my chin up so that I looked into his eyes. "You wouldn't want it to happen, Dusty, but how could it not? You couldn't very well hide him in your room, not for very long, even if you could find him food."
I swiped at the tears. "Then can I stay with you?"
"Yes, if you wish." He sat back again.
I hadn't expected him to say yes. My tears ended with one hiccup. "Isn't Sarree coming back here?"
"That depends on you." Mr. D nodded, his face softened by his smile.
"What do you mean, Mr. D?" I shook my head, wishing I could shake out my confusion into some kind of order.
"It took a great deal of courage for you to cross the desert and go before the Perfect Council and fight for Yugo's right to live. You have shown the depth of your love and commitment. I have no right to ask you to give up your claim to Yugo, but I must ask you to think very carefully what this means."
There's always a catch, isn't there?
He looked at me without blinking. "You'll be responsible for Yugo until he comes of age. You will be the focus of his life, and always answerable to our society, even in the midst of changes, now." He leaned back, folding his arms across his snowy chest.
To be so powerful! Making decisions that mean something. Changes, which affect others' lives.
Though he spoke ever so softly, his words framed a clear picture of what life here would be like. "You have become a symbol of reformation, the catalyst of the changes that began with your arrival and your challenge to the Perfect Council. It is inevitable that your every action, every word, your daily life, will be watched, analyzed and criticized."
"Sort of like being under a microscope, huh?" I always felt a little sorry for those poor, unsuspecting specimens sandwiched between two slides, eyeballed to death. But then again, to be a part of Yugo's life, forever!
"Yes, Dusty, forever." He said it so quietly that I didn't fully catch the importance of 'forever'.
"Forever is a long time, Dusty."