"You seem happier," Jali says softly as she hands me another small book. 

   I smile, and nod. I don't just seem happy. For once in my life I am happy. I am safe. No one has hit me. I have friends. I am allowed to read and learn. Everything is perfect. 

  "What else would you like to know about the Harvest. It's only four days away," Jali says, and I shrug as I open my book. 

  I haven't asked about the Harvest very much because whatever happens I don't have a choice in the matter. I am apart of an alien competition, and when it ends, a male will ask me to be his. 

  "You don't have a single question," she asks, almost desperately, and I look at her. 

  "If you had a choice, what planet would you want to live on," I ask, and she smiles. 

   She sits down at the small table and leans forward excitedly. 

  "During our training they have us tour the planets and get familiar with each planet's customs. I really enjoyed it. My favorite places were Shikaz, Glortinon, and Vaal. The planets were beautiful, and so were the people. They reminded me of Kea and our personalities. Especially the planet Glortinon. It's lovely, and the people there are even more so," Jali says with unbridled enthusiasm, and I nod. 

  "Then I will focus on the Glortinon champions," I reply, and Jali's smile wobbles. 

  "You don't seem too excited," Jali says softly, and I shrug before turning the page in the children's book. 

  "I am more focused on learning and trying to reclaim what was stolen from me. I want to learn. I don't really care who I end up with. That's just a part of this, right? I don't have much of a choice," I reply, and she looks down at the book I requested with a frown on her brightly colored face. 

"That's not true at all. You have a choice. You can refuse to seal your bond and live as a single woman," Jali says, and I look up at her with big eyes. 

  "Really? I wouldn't get sent back," I ask, and she shakes her head. 

  The light in her eyes and the excitement on her face has disappeared. She looks saddened by my feelings. 

  "No one will ever force you to bind your life with another. I am hoping once you meet the right male, you will want that commitment, but no, you are not forced. You will live on the planet of the male who would have been your mate. You would become a citizen there," she explains, and I give her a genuine smile. 

I thought my health had been traded for commitment, and I was ready to accept the bargain. But to be honest, the thought of trusting a man and letting him touch me was giving me anxiety. 

I can be free. I don't have to commit. 

"Fiadh, please keep an open mind. These males are nothing like the evil men you lived with. I know you have faced more trauma than anyone ever should, but please consider giving him a chance. He would be kind to you and patient. He will understand you need to build trust," Jali says, and I search her eyes. 

I feel conflicted. I want to be loved, but men are dangerous and mean. I have known nothing else from them. But I don't think Jali would be pleading with me like this if the males coming to compete would mistreat me. 

"I will see how I feel. I won't decide either way until I am certain about how I feel," I whisper, and she gives me a small smile. 

"Thank you," she says, and I nod before looking down at my book. 

   I will give them a chance, but this is the most freedom I have ever had. I won't hand it back to any man. Whoever chooses me will have to be the kindest male in the galaxy. If he isn't, I will choose to be single and free. 

"You know we can d******d knowledge to the brain," Jali says, and I stop for a second.

  She grins at my reaction and nods. 

  "It's the same technology that allows the different languages to be understood and stored. Many planets use it to cover the more difficult lessons in school. I could give you all the basic knowledge of a high school graduate from Earth. It is relatively simple. Many prefer a more hands-on way of learning, but maybe in your case," Jali says hopefully, and I nod eagerly as my face stretches into a massive smile. 

  She stands up rather quickly, and I follow in a rush. She giggles at my enthusiasm but heads for my bedroom door with hurried steps. I keep right on her tail as she takes me out of the compound we stay in. She isn't saying anything and something about the way she is acting tells me this is a secret mission—something to be done quickly and quietly. 

  We go about a mile up the street before Jali turns toward a blue building. When we slip inside, she takes my hand and pulls me into the first room, confirming my suspicions. 

  "Wait here. We normally have to request clearance, but I know you are excited. I will disclose what I have done after. I will get scolded, but it will be fine," Jali whispers, and I snicker at her facial expression.

  When we were walking, I was behind her, so I couldn't see the guilt on her face. She looks genuinely upset to be breaking a rule, and it is adorable.

"Oh, be quiet," she whispers with a smile before slipping back out of the room, leaving me standing there. 

   I barely manage to reign in my laugh after she leaves, but I do. She is gone for maybe five minutes, and when she returns, she looks even guiltier.

  "What," I whisper, and she looks at me sadly before glancing down at the instrument in her hand. 

  "We have more levels of Earth education than I thought. I brought you higher level education as well. It's primarily writing and grammar education, but I figured you would enjoy it," she replies, and I realize she is upset because she took more than she originally planned. 

  I immediately pull her into my arms and hug her. I pour out my appreciation through physical touch, and she instantly responds by hugging me back. 

  "Thank you," I say with emotion coating every word, and she sighs softly. 

  "Your welcome, sweet girl," she whispers back, and I pull away. 

    She smiles at me, and I smile back before looking at the small device in her hand. 

  "It won't hurt at all. It will upload the information to the device already implanted in your brain," she says, and I nod, not caring about the pain. 

  This pain would be voluntary and beneficial to my life. I would accept it even if she told me it would be excruciating.

She holds up the device, and I freeze on instinct. She places the tip on the side of my head before pressing a large red button that I can barely see. There is a brief buzz and a small zap before she lowers it with a smile. 

  "You now have a complete Earth education. You no longer need to practice reading with children books," she whispers and again, I hug her. 

  My arms are actually attempting to crush her, but she doesn't wince. She laughs. We stay like that for a few more seconds before I release her. I have happy tears streaming down my face, but I don't care. 

I'm happy. 

Related chapters

Latest chapter Protection Status