Zistiva was nesting, there was no other word for it. She’d bought a little house, one the right size for her, a mate and a small number of puggles. Of course, not being a bgwi her children wouldn’t actually be puggles but the bgwii used that word for any child of any species being reared in their society and territory. Zistivia herself had been called a puggle as a child, and had begged her mother to braid her hair so it at least resembled the texture of her friends’ long reddy-brown head quills and underlying hair. These days she’d learnt to accept that she didn’t look anything like one of the long beaked bgwii and let her black hair float in light, feathery curls around her head.
It remained though that she’d learned at an early age how to signal like a bgwi, and the little house was a signal, but she wasn’t really sure who she was signalling to. She could take a male bgwi as her mate and then they could adopt a puggle or two who’d been orphaned or whose parents had surrendered them. She could take a male human as her mate, if she could find one as humans were rare in the Transvar, and bear her own live young. Alternatively, she could take a member of a third species, neither bgwi nor human, as her mate and they could adopt while negotiating all the cultural and biological issues. It was easier, for now, to just to work on her nest and see who paid attention.
The little house was repainted, inside and out, and Zistiva had put in the basic furniture it needed. Now she was getting the extras, the things that wouldn’t just show that she would be a prudent mate and mother, but a desirable and nurturing one too. The things that would make the surfaces soft and warm, to help the den and social areas be cosy and snuggly. Mainly throw rugs, quilted seat drapes, and lots and lots of cushions.
Zistiva was in the furnishings market, going through the stalls for the umpteenth time looking for things that she liked, when she saw the cushion. It was oversized but not overfilled so you would be able to smoosh down into it, and the cover was quartered in different blue fabrics: nubbly brocade; shaved velvet; rough silk; and textured linen. Zistiva loved it on sight and reached out a hand to claim it, but as she took hold of it, another hand grabbed it from the other side of the table. Another human hand.
Zistiva turned her gaze upwards so she could get a good look at the owner. He was looking straight back at her. Unlike her he had dark skin. His black hair was longer than hers and it had strands of shiny, dark blue beads hanging through it. His clothes were the same dark blue as the beads, and Zistiva thought that they looked like orhync-style clothes made for a human. That he looked good in them and at ease suggested that he was a familiar with the bird race as Zistiva was with the bgwi.
“I’m sorry,” said the man in a beautiful, deep voice, “But I need this – it’s the only one that’s this colour. Perhaps you could have another one?”
“It’s the only one with the right combination of textures, size and stuffing,” answered Zistiva. “I need it for my common room. Why do you need it?”
“I’m building a display bower,” he said apologetically. “All the decorations need to be blue.”
“I’m sure your harem will appreciate it,” said Zistiva without letting go of the cushion.
“I don’t actually have a harem yet.” He might have been blushing. “This is supposed to help me meet potential members. Are you sure your mate will like this cushion as much as you do?” He didn’t let go of the cushion either.
“I don’t have a mate yet either….” Her voice trailed off and they just looked at each other for a moment. “We could each pay half and then go somewhere quieter and less open to discuss…custody. There’s a little place near here that makes infusions and has an excellent seed cake.”
“That sounds like a very good idea,” he agreed. “My name is Rahnu, and you are?”
“Zistiva.” She smiled.
He smiled back. “It’s a nice name. I could be happy to get used to it.”