"We can't tell them," Pinche said. "At least not yet."

"Why not?" Amy demanded. "Pinche I'm not ashamed of you! For God's sake, we have nothing to hide."

"You know they won't understand. You said it yourself, they're stuck in their ways. They aren't ready to accept a relationship like ours. To accept someone like me."

"Maybe I don't care if they're ready. This is the 21st Century, Pinche, maybe they need to wake up and open their minds, whether they want to or not. Love doesn't fit their categories anymore."

Pinche paced slowly, his legs rapping on the mahogany hardwood. "They'll disown you. You'll lose everything."

"What, my inheritance? I don't care about the money, Pinche! I care about you."

"Amy! Stop and think for a minute!"

Amy stopped, startled by the intensity in his tone. Pinche crawled onto the arm of the chocolate leather loveseat and looked her directly in the eyes.

"What are you going to do, Amy? If you tell them and they cut you off, what are we going to do? You don't have a job, you don't have any money of your own, and we both know there's only one way I can put food on the table."

Amy looked out the window. Her eyes were starting to glisten. "I just hate living like this. You're my life, Pinche, everything I do, it's all wrapped up in this, you and me. You know that. And I'm sick of hiding my life from everyone, especially my family."

"So what do you want, Amy? You want me to 'support' us? You want me to go and do that?"

Amy wiped a tear out of her eye. "No."

"Because if that's what you want, I'll do it. We'll go tell your parents right now. 'Hey mom, hey dad, good news! This is my new boyfriend!' and your mom will die of a heart attack, your dad will throw us out of the house, we'll be out of money, and I, the dutiful boyfriend, will climb into a pot of boiling water, turn bright red, and baste myself in butter for your dining pleasure. I'm sure I can keep you alive for at least a couple days! That sounds like a wonderful plan, Amy, just say the word and let's go!"

"Stop it!" Amy screamed, and turned away, hiding her face in her hands. "Why do you have to be such a bastard," she said in a choked whisper.

Pinche hesitated. His antenna twitched. "I'm sorry, Amy," he muttered, and clattered over to her. He placed a consoling claw on her shoulder. "I'm sorry. I'm just frantic about this whole thing. I want to tell them too, but…God. I don't know."

"I can get a job," Amy said through her hands.

"Maybe. Maybe you could be a barista or a waitress or something. Grocery store clerk. But look around you." He waved a claw at the lavishly furnished condo, the floor-to-ceiling windows with their cinematic panorama of the New York skyline. "It would never be like this again. We would be poor."

"I don't care."

The soothing tone in Pinche's voice began to bristle again. "You don't know, Amy. You've lived like this all your life, you don't know what it's like to be destitute. I do. I grew up in a glass tank with twenty brothers and sisters, eating dried food flakes every day and drinking saltwater. No crème brulee there, no Maserati for Sunday joyrides, no nights out at the opera or summers in Milan, just day after day staring at a glass wall and breathing clumps of my own watery shit. When I met you—Amy, I love you, and the joy you've brought to my life just by being who you are is immeasurable, but also—"

Amy suddenly sat up straight and whirled on him with wide eyes and stiff lips. "Is that it? Is that what this is all about, Pinche? Am I your meal ticket out of poverty? You figured you'd just sink your suave little claws into a rich human girl, keep it all nice and quiet and just ride her right into the good life? Is that the idea?"

Pinche stared at her. His eyes were completely still on their stalks. She stared back at him, her chin quivering. The room was silent.

Pinche slowly slid off the couch and tapped over to the phone. He picked it up in one claw and handed it to her. "Call them."

Amy's eyes abruptly filled with tears.

"Tell them what I am, and tell them you love me. Tell them I love you. Tell them I want to meet them."

Amy smiled through the tears. "Pinche…"

Pinche put a claw on the back of her neck and kissed her gently, his mandibles feathering her lower lip. "We'll see what happens," he said. "We'll take it one leg at a time."

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

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