I. Young Love
Diveria is a large world with many places to call home, but there’s one place in particular that few know exists. Deeply surrounded by cavernous walls lies the city of The Quo, home to the quorians. With thirty habitable levels, the city is as wide as it is high. On the outer limits of the eighth floor live the Jruks, a small family of three. Draka, the forty-two-year-old father, Birvena, the forty-one-year-old mother, and Jarvie, the sixteen-year-old son.“ Heading off to school, Mom. See you after,” Jarvie shouted, walking out of the house.
“Meet us at the restaurant later. We have a busy night,” Birvena replied.
Walking to school in the early hours, an unexpected presence rapidly approached him from behind.
Jarvie jumped and spun around.
“Saune! What’d you do that for?” The couple laughed. Even with the excitement, the blue pigmentation of their skin remained unfazed. Ranging from shades of light blue to alluringly rich and deep, almost purple, the quorian community took pride in their radiating tones.
“I couldn’t resist. A scare is more alluring when you least expect it,” she admitted.
He laughed as they shared a kiss, walking together to school.
Jarvie and Saune were the ‘it’ couple amongst the students. They were well-liked, had a solid group of friends, and were genuinely good quorians. Slightly taller than she at 3’5”, Jarvie was considered tall for a quorian, as the average height was three-foot. His prominent eyebrow structure accentuated his ivory hair. While the top was short and choppy, there was a shoulder-length, thick braid in the back. A golden band sinched its end so brightly his steel blue hue reflected off it, complementing her intoxicating purple pigment well. The happiness shared between them exuded to those nearby.
They occasionally received comments from peers on their attractive physique, insisting they’d make beautiful children. Jarvie appreciated the compliments, but Saune didn’t. He knew it awoke a deep fear that haunted her, one that took a while for her to reveal to him.
Her inability to conceive a child.
Initially concerned, Jarvie acknowledged his adoration for her and asked himself, why should I give up on love for a baby I hardly know I want? Saune begged to never speak of her secret, but his passionate love for her made it easy to comply. He promised to never reveal her biggest vulnerability. Once they agreed that it wouldn’t be an issue, their love for one another blossomed.
When the school day ended, the ideal couple said goodbye to their friends and walked home. Saune was without a job, since her parents didn’t require her to work, but Jarvie did.
The Jruk’s owned a successful restaurant on the fifth floor in Restaurant Alley called Draka’s Diner. Family-owned for over twenty years, it was a reliably humble eatery well-known in the city. Since it was Draka’s dream, he decided to name the place after himself.
The young couple routinely visited Draka’s Diner after school to help. Out of respect for Draka and Birvena, Saune would assist Jarvie, as long as she didn’t have any schoolwork. Her intent was to spend time together, which would include working at the diner.
Eventually, the school year came to an end, and both students successfully graduated, with Saune at the top of their class. Jarvie did well, but never fully applied himself since he knew of his future. His parents had always hoped he’d take over Draka’s Diner, which Jarvie was very interested in. They never wanted to force it on him, but secretly hope he’d show interest. As long as he graduated, they promised to teach him what was necessary to ensure the continuation of their successful business.
Saune’s parents had different plans. As successful educators within the community, they expected her to follow in their footsteps. Unfortunately, she had no interest in the field, especially after forming a relationship with Jarvie.
Due to her strong feelings, Saune made a couple decisions that deeply upset her family. Officially abandoning her parent’s dream of going into education, she instead joined Jarvie working at Draka’s Diner. Her parents considered it a poor decision, undervaluing her potential and worth. They wanted the best and brightest for their daughter, so they struggled with her working at a restaurant.
Further disappointment arrived when Jarvie and Saune announced they were moving in together, and proclaiming their love for one another at The Enchanted Reservoir. Draka and Birvena couldn’t be more excited for the young quorians, offering their services to cater the event and to help with planning. Saune’s parents, however, struggled to understand their reality. Jarvie wished they’d discuss the matter between one another, but Saune refused.
Multiple attempts were made to open the dialogue, but Saune wouldn’t allow it. They became discouraged and lost hope. As much as her mother and father wanted to attend the service, they needed to know their daughter was certain.
“You undermine my knowledge,” she uttered to them. “I love you, but I’ll remember your lack of encouragement and support.”
“You mustn’t fault us for worrying,” her father pleaded. “Please sit down and t—”
But it was too late. Saune stormed out of the house, insisting for Jarvie to follow. Though he empathized with her parents, he remained loyal to his wife-to-be.
II. Commitment of Love
Months had passed, and the road to resuming a normal life was imminent. Jarvie and Saune worked full-time in the diner while his parents slowly stepped back to allow the lovebirds to grow and learn. Birvena assisted in planning their Proclamation, spending most of her time with her son, as Saune’s focus was with Draka and the diner. Jarvie was raised in the restaurant, so he graciously supported his wife-to-be’s strong interest in learning the business. He admired her passion and desire to get involved. In support of Saune, he did the majority of the planning, like organizing the catering menu, and discussed any final decisions with her.
Though they remained busy, Saune and Jarvie prioritized spending time with one another, further solidifying a life together. Their new home was another project that kept them occupied, but they still appreciated their lives, feeling lucky to have fallen in love with their best friend.
When the day of their Proclamation arrived, everything was ready to go. Birvena, Jarvie and Saune feverishly worked to ensure a near-perfect execution. Having not spent effort leading up to the Proclamation, Saune was eager for the ceremony. Her main focus was showcasing their everlasting love and life with one another. With unconditional trust in his wife-to-be, Jarvie was happy to have Saune beside him, overlooking the Enchanted Reservoir.
Most of the attendees at their Proclamation of love were friends, with few family members. Seeing as Saune hadn’t spoken to her parents since their argument, neither her nor Jarvie had high expectations they’d attend. Though it disappointed them both, they didn’t allow it to ruin the momentous occasion.
Once the ceremony began, Jarvie and Saune stood beside the Enchanted Reservoir together to hear their Quorian Ruler, Lady Vixa, announce her blessing.
III. The Proclamation
Lady Vixa had been the Quorian Ruler for so long, she was almost due her Blue Diamond Jubilee in honor of achieving one hundred years of service. Though she maintained a quiet and timid demeanor, she spoke at every Proclamation ceremony. Some suggested she lived vicariously through the happiness and love of couples, as she’d remained without a male companion her entire life. There’d been whispers of a female counterpart years ago, but it wasn’t common knowledge.
In honor of their slain King Klai and the genocide that nearly pushed their race into extinction, Proclamation ceremonies were held beside the Enchanted Reservoir, the most sacred section of the city. First Lady Vixa gave her blessing, then Jarvie and Saune professed their love and loyalty to one another. He had spent an exorbitant amount of time wooing her over the years, so family and friends laughed when they confirmed the game was over – they had both won.
After the ceremony commenced, everyone but the Quorian Ruler traveled to Draka’s Diner in Restaurant Alley to celebrate. Jarvie, Saune, and their loved ones ate much delectable food as an abundance of their common drink flowed amongst the crowd – aliquo! Tart, with a sweet, zesty aftertaste, it was the traditional beverage of the city. There was laughter, some dancing, and much chatter about the beautiful couple. It surpassed all of Jarvie’s expectations.
As the evening progressed, quorians slowly made their way home for the night until it was just the final four remaining.
“It’s getting late,” Birvena said with a sigh of relief, happy for the successful day. “Your father and I are going to head home.”
“Are you sure, Mom?” Jarvie looked at his father. “One more bite, Dad?” Both his parents politely declined and walked toward the door to leave.
“We almost forgot this.” Draka tossed a key to the newly married couple.
“I’ll lock up. Don’t worry.” Jarvie chuckled.
“It’ll be your responsibility from now on.”
Jarvie had a puzzled look and felt Saune grip his arm tightly. The two looked at one another, realizing the meaning behind the gesture.
“Are you telling me…?”
“Yes.” Draka glanced at Saune. “The restaurant belongs to you both. Your mother and I know you are ready to accept the responsibility and turn this diner into the best restaurant it can be.”
Saune yelled with excitement and ran over to hug her in-laws. Jarvie stood in place, unable to move, deeply touched by their gift. Birvena walked over to her son and embraced him.
“I know you will take great care of this place. You both will.”
“Thank you, Mom.” He fought back the tears that threatened to roll down his face.
“You found a beautiful wife. Make sure to hold onto her, she’s special.” Jarvie and his mother looked at Saune. He was amazed by her beauty.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Jarvie said.
Birvena was gleaming from the happiness exuding from her son. She leaned in beside his head and whispered, “So when can we expect grandchildren?”
Jarvie didn’t know how to respond. They had agreed never to tell anyone else of Saune’s condition. Even though it pained him to lie to his mother, he had to honor his wife’s request. Fortunately, Saune arrived and hugged his mother. With a sense of relief, he gave his father a tight, but quick, hug to express his gratitude.
As the four of them walked out of Draka’s Diner, Birvena and Draka shared in the excitement to see how the younger generation would improve upon the fruits of their labor. They watched as Jarvie handed Saune the key, and for the first time, locked their new business behind them.
After the four said their goodbyes, Jarvie and Saune headed home.
“All in all a great day,” she said.
“Yes…” he said with hesitation.
“What?” she asked. “What is it?”
“Huh?” He turned his head to her. “Oh, nothing. It isn’t important.”
Saune stopped, wanting to ensure her husband’s happiness on such an important day. “Tell me. I won’t leave until you do.”
With a determined look, Jarvie knew she was too stubborn to let it go.
“My mom asked me when she could expect us to grow our family,” he blurted out. Saune’s eyes widened.
“What did you tell her?”
“I never had a chance to answer. You came over to hug her and the conversation ended.”
“Okay.” She paused. Silence momentarily lingered until she spoke again. “It’s been a long day. Let’s head home and we can discuss it tomorrow. Let’s just enjoy the success of today.” She smiled.
Though he was curious how the conversation would be, he agreed it was for the best.
Neither one said much when they returned home and they each fell asleep within seconds of lying in bed. It was the most relaxed either had felt in a long time.
IV. The Children
Days had gone by and the conversation of children had never occurred. After officially obtaining the ownership of Draka’s Diner, the couple shifted their focus into maintaining its popularity and success. Saune spent her time organizing the financials while Jarvie focused on sharpening and exploring his culinary skills for their already popular menu. They both had the happiness of their customers as their main priority.
Located on the fifth floor of The Quo, Restaurant Alley was the hub for all the eateries, but Draka’s Diner had an ideal, central location. With spacious indoor and outdoor seating, it couldn’t be missed. Draka and Birvena considered themselves lucky to have obtained the structure years ago. While many had offered to take it off their hands, they’d always refused, knowing Jarvie would one day take it over, passing it down through the generations.
One evening, while Saune was closing up and Jarvie was cleaning, Birvena walked in, shocking them both.
“Hello, my favorite children! How’re you two doing?”
Jarvie chuckled, sensing his mother had had one too many aliquos. “Just closing up,” he said. “Seems like you’re having a great time, Mom.” He laughed.
“Be nice, Jarv!” Birvena shouted joyfully while Saune struggled to hold back her own laughter. “Besides, an aliquo sounds good right about now.”
“Then by all means,” Saune remarked. She walked toward the bar and began concocting a few drinks for them all, placing out three glasses.
“You’re having a drink!?” Birvena asked. “I guess that means no grandchildren yet.” She sighed with a smile.
Saune dropped a bottle, clearly uncomfortable by the comment.
“Mom, did you real—”
“What’s the harm in asking? Once I became a mother, I couldn’t wait to become a grandmother!”
Jarvie and Saune glanced at one another. Neither of them knew what to say, but the awkwardness was palpable.
“I’d love to have children. Hopefully we can make you a grandmother soon,” Saune responded. Birvena gleamed, elated by the prospect. The two females embraced one another while Jarvie stood opposite, confused by the exchange.
“I’m not sure that’s best for us,” he said, stoic.
“Don’t be foolish, son. It might seem scary, but it’s certainly worth every struggle.”
“I agree, Jarvie! Let’s try to have children soon, okay?”
Jarvie stared at his wife in confusion and shock. With his mother between them, he was limited in his reaction and words, so he simply expressed a smile and nodded. Saune and Birvena spoke a little more about baby names and clothing while the three of them enjoyed their aliquo.
When Birvena tossed back the drink and left the newlyweds for the evening, Jarvie quickly locked the door behind him, and the newly Proclaimed couple had their first fight. Saune was adamant about having children while Jarvie shouted back, questioning how it was possible.
“We both know you aren’t able to have a child!” he shouted. “Why would you tell my mother you could!?” Jarvie regretted his words the moment they left his lips. Saune didn’t say another word that night, or the next. She didn’t speak to him for four days after his comment. Though he tried many times to apologize and seek forgiveness, the offense was too deep.
Within the quorian community, it was expected for the females to bear children. While some may choose not to, their current Quorian Ruler included, there was a stigma surrounding the decision. Saune knew from a young age she wouldn’t be able to have children, which Jarvie had accepted. He understood children wouldn’t be an option for them, so he was startled by her revelation to his mother that they would. Regardless, he tried to express his sorrow, but his efforts had failed. Saune was deeply offended.
V. The Act
Three weeks had gone by with minimal communication between the two newlyweds. Though guests could sense the tension, Jarvie and Saune continued to manage Draka’s Diner without issue or struggle. Jarvie didn’t want to disappoint his parents, but he worried they’d noticed a shift. Saune continued to maintain finances and business affairs, but she was quiet, somber.
One morning before they opened, Draka and Birvena stopped by. Both children were startled to see them, but grew more concerned when they locked the door behind them. Even though only four quorians remained inside the restaurant, the air was thin, heavy.
“Do you still have a key?” Jarvie commented.
“Don’t be smart with me,” his father whipped. “What’s going on between you two? Something’s up.”
“Things have been strange these last few weeks. Are there problems with the diner?” Birvena looked at Saune, knowing she balanced the books.
“Nope, business is great,” Saune replied, looking down at the numbers in green below.
Draka and Birvena continued to pry, proving they weren’t leaving without an answer. As Jarvie began to conjure up a lie to ease his parent’s curiosity, Saune burst out with a response.
“I want to have children, but Jarvie refuses.”
Jarvie couldn’t believe what he had heard. Words escaped him. His parents were immediately outraged. They berated him, questioning his goals and his outlook on life. Draka felt the shame it would bring upon their family. He felt it would tarnish all his years of building up their family reputation. Birvena started to cry at the prospect of never being a grandmother. Neither parent could fathom their son’s reasoning.
Staring at his mother and father, Jarvie felt as if his heart had been ripped from his chest. Seeing them crumble as the love of his life manipulated his family crushed him. Though he wanted to yell the truth and defend his honor, he couldn’t. Jarvie’s pain and anger was deep, but his love for her still surpassed any other emotion.
Remaining silent, Jarvie walked out of the diner and left behind the three quorians he loved most. He expected someone to follow him, but after pausing, he realized he was alone. It was three against one.
How could this be? he wondered.
VI. A Reversal
Isolated and alone, Jarvie wandered throughout the city for a few days. He avoided his home and the diner, refusing to contact his parents or his wife. He couldn’t make sense of the situation. Jarvie felt he was a good quorian that did what was expected of him and was well-liked within the community. All he wanted was a simple life.
Tempted to reveal the truth, he realized there was no winning scenario. He could remain quiet and continue to protect the love of his life from her shameful secret, or reveal the truth and lose her forever, while tarnishing her name within the community. He struggled to identify where his loyalty resided. After much deliberation, he was no closer to a resolution, but knew he needed to return home.
The diner needs me, he thought.
My family needs me.
Back at the diner, Jarvie immediately noticed it was packed. He headed directly for the entrance, reminding himself to remain professional, pushing aside their personal issues. Passing through the entryway, he noticed Saune behind the counter, his father in the kitchen, and his mother serving customers. As he walked behind the counter, his father noticed him, grabbed him by the arm, and dragged him outside. The two walked beside the building in a secluded alley.
“You have brought such shame upon this family,” he said through gritted teeth. “How dare you walk in like nothing happened.”
Jarvie’s blackened eyes widened. “You’re overreacting, Dad. Let me come in and we can talk abo—”
“No,” he grunted. “You go home, if Saune will allow you to. You underestimate the humiliation you’ve caused. Not only to our family, but to your wife.” Draka paused, struggling with the urge to say or act in a manner he may regret. “You left us here with no idea where you ran off to, leaving Saune alone to run the place. We had no idea if something had happened to you. How could you be so stupid!?” He felt himself becoming enraged and he forcibly exhaled.
“And you think your reaction right now is justified?”
“Clearly you returned home to cause more carnage. I suggest you leave and don’t bother to return.” Draka snapped, livid.
“Get out of here, Dad.” Jarvie waved his hand and turned back to the diner. “I’m going to speak wit—”
“Oh no you’re not.” Draka pushed his son back, light enough that he didn’t lose his footing. Jarvie followed Draka as he walked back toward the entrance, but stopped when he noticed Birvena and Saune walking outside. His father explained his interaction with Jarvie to the females and stormed back indoors.
Birvena walked toward her son and burst into tears.
“How could you…I just…” She struggled to hug her son, but felt too much pain. She couldn’t understand why her only child would choose to turn against his family.
“How could I what?” he asked. Jarvie felt the anger coursing through his body. Expressing frustration toward his mother brought him some guilt, but he felt justified.
“Saune told us everything. I can’t believe you. All we wanted was to keep our familial pride and you obliterated that.” Stunned once again, he was speechless. As Birvena sulked back inside, Jarvie looked up and made eye contact with his wife.
“What have you done!?” he shouted. “What did you tell them, Saune?” Jarvie spoke amongst the crowd of patrons eating at the diner.
“The truth.” She burst into tears. “You don’t want to have children with me!” she yelled. Anyone who wasn’t watching them before was now glued to the commotion.
“So this is it?” He stared at the unrecognizable quorian in front of him. Though her actions were foreign, her appearance remained unchanged. Jarvie couldn’t control his love for her. He hoped beneath her pain and struggle, the Saune he knew and loved still lingered. “You know I love you more than I love myself, Saune.”
“I know…” For just a moment, Jarvie noticed a slight sadness in her face, but as she turned around to leave, there was a shift. “Don’t bother coming back here, Jarvie. You’ll receive your ex-Proclamation papers with a settlement from your parents.”
“You can’t be serious, Saune. This is my family’s diner.”
Draka opened the door to help her inside. “Correction, this is our diner, Jarvie. Not yours. You heard your wife. Now go.”
Maintaining eye contact, Saune sneered and winked at Jarvie before returning inside. The crowd was so focused on his next move, that no one but him noticed her villainous expression. Alone amongst a crowd of patrons, Jarvie was confused. Not only was he uncertain of what had become of Saune, but how so much could’ve changed in three days. He knew she was clever, but he had underestimated her intelligence, and overestimated her love.
VII. Draka’s Corner
Two weeks after he was exiled from his family unit, Jarvie moved to the fifteenth-floor with an old classmate. They weren’t close, but he was kind enough to help. Whenever his friend inquired about what happened, Jarvie revealed very little, refusing to share Saune’s secret, even after all she had done.
Somehow aware of his location, a quorian mailer arrived at their door with a package intended for his eyes only. Quickly opening the brown parcel, he sighed, struggling to accept his reality. He couldn’t escape what was in front of him.
He’d hoped they couldn’t find him, or that she wouldn’t actually send them, but he was wrong. The time had come and Jarvie couldn’t deny it any longer. To his surprise, there was more inside the package. His eyes widened when he realized what it was.
“This…is a lot,” he whispered. He was stunned to see such a large amount of jinugery inside, knowing it was from his parents. Though relieved to have the means for a fresh start, it meant the finality of the life he once had. Not only had he lost his wife, but the financial means meant his parents had no desire to speak with him.
To avoid prolonging the inevitable, Jarvie headed down to Restaurant Alley that night to deliver Saune the papers. He made sure to remain hidden as he observed his former family. What he witnessed put a knot in his stomach. Inside Draka’s Diner were Saune and both his parents laughing, as they closed it for the night. It seemed to him they appeared unfazed by the entire ordeal, as if it never happened. No pain, no stress. Jarvie didn’t think he could’ve felt worse than he did, but he was wrong. Struggling to maintain his composure, he remained in the shadows until they departed.
He walked up to the diner and slid the signed documents under the locked door. It was done.
Jarvie observed the diner for a while, gazing inside, reminiscing on the memories from his childhood through the Proclamation that changed everything. One tear rolled down his slate-blue cheek as he reminded himself he was raised in this diner. He couldn’t believe what had happened and how it had gotten so bad.
Wiping the tear away and giving the building one final pat, he walked away, knowing he couldn’t return for a while, perhaps forever. Though he had every right to hate Saune, he couldn’t if he tried. He still felt adoration for her, she was the love of his life, and it was that emotion that allowed him to maintain her secret of infertility, even at the expense of his own family.
As time progressed, Jarvie conceded to the fact that he needed to start anew elsewhere. Since his parents and Saune lived on the eighth, he decided it’d be best to settle higher up. Due to his father’s crippling fear of heights, his family rarely visited the higher floors of the city. After some research, he decided to relocate to the twenty-fourth floor. It was more expensive, but the price of seclusion was worth it.
Time didn’t heal wounds for Jarvie, but it allowed him to make peace with the situation. While the pain remained deep, time and distance allowed him to contain the emotion and store it away. It allowed him space to continue, with no desire to revive the terrible feelings again.
In the weeks following the move to the twenty-fourth floor, he opened up his very own shack called Draka’s Corner. Initially torn about the name, he decided it was a final way to honor his family. Even through all the turmoil, he appreciated his parents for the knowledge and wisdom they had bestowed upon him throughout his life. If it weren’t for Draka, Jarvie would’ve never been able to nurture a business.
Draka’s Corner opened with success, although he only focused on serving drinks. The bar had limited indoor space, which was only accessible to Jarvie. Patrons were welcome there to enjoy a beverage and momentarily relax. The shack had a unique look, but Jarvie cherished it. Draka’s Corner was his.
On the day he opened, his first customer was a local quorian that lived nearby. As expected, he ordered the traditional quorian drink – aliquo. Jarvie chuckled, remembering the last joyful memory he had of his mother when she entered the diner intoxicated. Mixing the cocktail up, he served it to his guest, pleased to have made his first drink, and his first sale. Proud of the transaction, Jarvie asked the guest if he could keep the receipt as a souvenir to hang in the bar, to which the quorian agreed.
After he signed the paper and handed it to Jarvie, they shook hands and formally introduced themselves.
“Nice to meet you.” Jarvie chuckled. “I’m Jarvie Jruk!” he remarked as the patron took a sip of the drink.
“Ooh, you make a mean aliquo. It’s delicious,” his patron said with a smile. “The name’s Smolar. I live down the way and the pleasure is all mine.”
Until We Meet Again…
Interested in more?
Jarvie’s Resilience is one of many short stories you’ll soon find in Archaic Deception: Anthology I (release TBD). Until then, check out the initial installment of the series with The Guardian of Emblems.