Unexpected Date Night

“Mama! Mama! Loh-en’s toys!” Melia’s high, piping voice soared above the general din of the marketplace.

“I know sweetie. We’ll stop by and visit with Loren after we do our shopping, okay? We just need a couple more things for dinner.” Serena did her best to keep the exasperation and fatigue out of her voice. Normally, market days with Melia were a fun outing, with lots of exploring, questions, and sneaking in educational bits (well, those were fun for Serena). Today, however, Serena was exhausted from too little sleep, worry over Jake who was two days overdue with no word, and the usual, ongoing stress provided by the university with its never-ending requests for forms, details, and justifications.

“Is Daddy coming home tonight?” Melia asked, her brows creased in a worried frown.

“I think so, baby. That’s why we need to get a few more things for dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow,” Serena said. She ran a soothing hand over Melia’s head.

It didn’t take long to pick up the last few items and Melia skipped ahead of Serena as they made their way back to Loren’s booth. The Taland native sold fantastical wooden toys that were self-propelled, and which were, Melia insisted, magical. Loren and Melia had taken a shine to each other, and Loren had “hired” Melia to be his toy-tester. The little girl reveled in her position, carefully testing every toy Loren gave her and providing detailed critiques.

“Good morning, Serena, Miss Melia! I’m so glad you’re here, Miss Melia. I have some new toys for you to test.” Loren smiled and his crest rose in a riot of color, a Taland sign of happiness.

Melia immediately went over to the table at the back of Loren’s booth and picked up the toy he indicated. She carefully placed it on the floor and began putting it through its paces. Serena returned Loren’s smile.

“Thanks so much. I could use a little break right now,” she said.

Loren gazed at her thoughtfully, his head tilted to one side, giving him even more of a bird-like appearance.

“You do look tired. Is Jake coming home soon?” he asked in a soft voice.

“He was supposed to be back two days ago, but I haven’t heard anything,” Serena replied. She tried to keep the worry from her voice.

“If you’d like company, you are welcome to come over tonight for dinner. Avadi would love to see the little one,” Loren offered.

“Oh, I’d…” Serena broke off as her comms unit pinged. She pulled it out of her pocket and glanced down. Her face lit up with a smile of relief. “Oh! It’s Jake. He is coming back tonight. In fact he should be here in a couple of hours.”

Loren grinned. “In that case, I will change my offer to asking if you would allow the little one to spend tomorrow night with us. Tomorrow because I know Melia will want to see her father after such a long time away, but I think you and Jake need some time for just the two of you.”

Serena smiled at the older Taland who had become such a good friend to her and Jake. “Loren, that would be wonderful. I know Melia would love to stay with you and Avadi. She thinks of you as her grandparents.”

Loren’s crest rose to its full height, and he gave a small bow. “We are honored to be thought of as such.”

“And Jake and I get an unexpected date night!” Serena laughed. “Thank you!”


This week’s MOTE challenge was delivered to me by Padre: An unexpected date night. If you need a brief distraction from your daily stresses, head on over to MOTE and pay a visit to different worlds.

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