Lift Your Gaze to the Stars: A Party, A Trap Part 1

On November 10, 2021, P.T. Wyant posted at a Wednesday Words prompt involving an old woman in uniform, a peace treaty, and a party.

This involved a freebie story in a work in progress I haven’t thought of in a long time, Lift Your Gaze to the Stars. I started writing this and it swelled to the point where I had to break it in two. This is Part 1.

The elderly woman sat at the fringe of the party. Not looking at anyone, Keeping her gnarled hands folded even as she clutched her knuckles. 

Few would have noticed her agitation. I was one of the few. Not to mention I was shocked by how much she’d aged in my absence. 

I sat down next to her. Not wanting to touch her. Not wanting to abandon. “Hello, Aunt Illya.”

“Hello, Dylan.” She glanced in my direction, allowing her weathered features to soften a bit. “Have a nice visit with your father and his mad Italian relatives?”

“Nice and yes, utterly mad. Of course they obsess over how to grow the best tomatoes while on a floating chiesa.” I smiled a little at the memory of La Madonna della Universa and the nuns who ran it. All of whom were my father’s cousins. “I only just got back.”

“Of course you did.” She smiled a little out of the corner of her mouth. “You always tried to take care of us. All of us.”

Her smile faded at the sound of silvery laughter drifting from the center of the party. 

“Aunt Illya, don’t do this.” I almost reached out for her hand. “We can go-“

“No.” She pressed her lips together in a thin line. “This is Marchen and Sasha’s chance to meet people. Yours, too, Dylan.” She fixed a watery gray eye upon me. “You should be saying hello to your mother. This peace treaty is her triumph.”

Bitterness laced each word as she gazed at the gleaming white figure, the center of attention for the crowd. 

Yes, Evelyn Stuart had engineered a peace treaty with the Ambience, brokering a new understanding with the alien race Aunt Illya, a.k.a. Captain Ilona Gambretti dedicated her life to fighting. Peace was like a slap in her face. 

Peace sounded well and good, but I didn’t trust my mother. She was up to something. Aunt Illya didn’t trust the Ambience. Their motivations for anything was murky. 

Inviting an old soldier like Ilona Gambretti, one who had once been Evelyn’s friend and lover was offering an olive branch exuding a stinging sap. 

“You should speak to her,” Aunt Illya said again, but her hands began to tremble. 

“If Evelyn Stuart feels a need to talk to me, she can come over here. This will force her to talk to you as well, Aunt Illya.” I locked my gaze with Ilona’s, forced her to look at me. 

I decided to reach out. 

I took one of her hands, pressed it gently. “Besides you’re my true mother, Aunt Illya. All Evelyn Stuart ever did was give birth to me. I’m half-convinced that in itself was an experiment. To see if she possessed any maternal feelings. Or any feelings at all.”

“Dylan!” Aunt Ilya scolded, but her gray eyes twinkled. She was amused by my words even if she wouldn’t admit it. “No matter what else Evie might be, she’s still your mother. Show a little respect.” 

“Delighted to see you’re at least attempting to teach my son manners, Ilona, even if he stubbornly refuses to learn.”

I froze in the shadow which fell over us, the shadow of many people looming over us. In the forefront was my mother. 

Her silvery-blonde hair was swept up on the top of her head by ambience diamonds. They lined her white cowled tunic. Not a line touched her smooth brow. Evelyn Stuart refused to show any touch of weakness or humanity, including age. 

No one else dared to wear white, although almost everyone around her dressed in similar tunics of dove-gray. They gazed at Aunt Illya and myself with wide, eager eyes. Just waiting to see what the outsiders might do. 

One of Evelyn’s lackeys, standing slightly behind her was Marchen Gambretti, Aunt Illya’s own daughter. She ducked her head, avoiding looking directly at her mother or me. 

Evelyn gazed at us both in slow appraisal. It was like being caught in the gaze of a space serpent.

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