The purple waves of the Rocbish sea crashed on ash white shores. Unclothed or swim harness clad furry aliens sunbathed, frolicked in the spray.

I paddled after my alien girlfriend until my feet touched sand. An eel thick as a rainbow python brushed up against my leg. Lucky it was friendly. I waded toward dry land.

Clouds obscured planet Pathilon's giant moon, and flocks of dark winged shaped flew past, sounding like a flock of yipping dogs. The creatures, up close, looked like bats with an enormous eye for a head. I'd seen them gathering on the Y shaped natural rock formation I and my date had visited earlier.

Waves lapped against the shore. Salt water brought sand in with the tide, enveloping spherical rocks that resembled Blow Pops (in case you're wondering, the rocks only tasted like rocks).

Bat things yipped in the distance. I could hear the distant lowing of Grunkiahu. Another species of winged creature made strange "Oooh" and "Oh" sounds.

In addition to the tang of salt, the sea brought whiffs of something Windexy. The air also carried food smells from unseen local vendors. I knew I'd gotten too hungry when I started craving their...melted-plastic-and-bandages smelling wares.

Further out of the water, my girlfriend snickered and used her oppossum-like tail to splash water in my face.

I'd been staring again. She really looked good in that purple-black cabbage textured swimsuit. The water glistened on her gray pelt in a way that resembled skin. Abreyas had two sets of breasts, but she definitely had womanly curves.

I had left my towel on the sand, but Pillow, stating that seventy degrees was uncomfortably hot, hadn't brought anything.

As I dried myself, I discovered why. She could shake herself off exactly like a dog!

I froze, absently clutching my towel.

Pillow's pink guinea pig face flushed green with embarrassment. "What."

"N-nothing," I stammered. "It's just...I keep finding more reasons to...like you." I seriously loved her now, but this was only our first date.

She shook herself again. "You're crazy, you know that? I showed you pictures of how an Abreya reproduces and you still want to go through this charade, knowing full well it might not work."

My turn to blush. "So I'm an optimist....And maybe I watch too many movies. You're not exactly telling me no." I glanced down. "Do you have a bellybutton under all that fur?"

Her face took on the tone of an underripe peach. "...You mean that indent in the middle of your stomach?" She shook her head. "Yok. What does that do for you anyway?"

"Nothing. It's a mark left by an umbilical cord after you leave the womb."

Her goat eyes widened. "I hatched from an egg."

"So you don't have one!" I grinned at the mental picture. "Wait, you were looking?"

Her minus sign eyes narrowed. "I think it's only fair, the amount of stares you were giving me!"

I raised my hands in surrender. "Hey, if you're cool with it, I'm cool with it." I raised my shirt to show off my innie.

Pillow got me back by poking me there.

A swarm of anemone scuttled up the sand nearby, stretching their flowers out before the sun. They scurried back on tiny crab legs when we approached.

I changed clothing in a bathroom that looked like a giant conch shell. I probably would have brought something nicer to wear than khaki shorts and another Hawaiian shirt, but no one ever told me how to prepare for a date on the beach, especially with an alien.

Pillow chuckled at me when I came back out. She had on a fancy red-black Rohego, similar to a Chinese qipao with a loincloth skirt. Very formal for her planet. "We definitely must find you something more appropriate for the...restaurant."

She meant a gejzol. They're different. We'll get to that later.

Pillow grabbed my sleeve, rubbing it between her frog fingers. "Like the pattern, though. I think we can find you something similar."

I smirked. "I've got some with surfboards, flamingos and Tabasco sauce bottles. Got anything like that?"

"What's a surfboard?"

"Funny, I thought you'd ask about Tabasco sauce first."

I'd arrived at the beach via Qiovsado, a flying vehicle reminding me of those bulbous helicoptery things you see in Legend of Zelda games.

Public transport. I sat next to strangers. Friendly enough folk, but they smelled like mothballs and electronics packaging chemicals.

Pillow offered me a ride back on her Grunkiahu.

"Y-you sure?"

A couple reasons for my nervousness: It was as romantic as a shared horseback ride...and I'd ended up in the hospital the last time I attempted to ride one.

"Grudon is really gentle and well trained..." The next part she blurted out fast. "I've also installed safety belts on the egga, the saddle, so you can't fall off."

I stared. "You...did that just for me?"

She gave me a slight nod, face blushing green.

"And you've studied how humans reproduce and how we might not be compatible."

Her blush deepened. "Maybe? Anyways, aldoyi or jufadoyi, I...value our friendship."

Her Grunkiahu looked very noble, very healthy, and more sedate than the one that initially landed me under Ms. Pulsa Pillow's medical supervision.

She patted the beast's massive turkey-like body. "David, say dusaq to Grudon."

At the sound of the word, the creature's big ears perked up, dinosaur tail thumping in dog fashion.

I laughed. "Crouton? That's actually its name?"

The bird thing curled its baby elephant trunk and mooed at me.

"It's Grudon. What's so funny?"

"A crouton is a piece of crunchy seasoned bread you put in salads."

She rolled her minus signs. "Let me guess. You put Tabasco sauce on them."

"Um, sometimes."

"Well don't put any on dear Grudon. I haven't forgotten your jokes about turkey drumsticks."

"Awww..." I stroked the Grunk's long neck, brushed its wattle. "Who would eat something magnificent like this guy?"

Egga look like motorcycle seats, but they'd been shaped to fit around the creature's vast wings. Pillow helped me up into the back. Since alien safety belts had suckers instead of buckles, she also had to take care of that. I rode `bitch' (it's a technical term) because she had decades more flight experience, and I obviously had a lot to learn.

The big bird did an ostrich run through the clusters of tethered Grunks and parked air vehicles, flapping its wings. I don't know how it's scientifically possible for a bird the size of a horse to take to the air, but it works. We rose above immense palm trees like something out of earth's prehistory, flying for a good dozen miles or so. A lot of amazing architecture up in those tree branches, and I'm not talking Ewok villages. I saw mansions and industrial buildings.

I asked Pillow to explain her name.

"It means something different in Wava. Pilowaka, beautiful bright eyed flower."

We passed through a flock of the other birds I had heard, but not seen earlier. They had a lot in common with pigeons, but they didn't seem to have heads. At times, they would become brightly colored, to the point where you thought you were looking at animated cartoon characters.

"Cacurtarru" is a catch-all phrase that literally means "Mind your tail." Abreyas apply it to any situation where a tail or other limb roves somewhere it shouldn't. Pillow blurted it unthinkingly.

I flinched, put my hands to my sides. "I thought you said it was okay to sit close and hold on to your waist."

She colored green. "It is. I forgot you were human for a moment. I...understand you like me..."

My turn to blush. "Sorry, I can't help it. It's...involuntary."

Pillow's face bore the tone of a poker table. "You can stop talking now."

To call the Olwokopu a shopping mall would be an oversimplification. The structure measured larger than two football stadiums put together, its architecture seemingly modeled after a celery root. Instead of neatly compartmentalized shops (though a percentage of them did stand within its large beehive-like cells) many vendors squatted on rugs, oftentimes intentionally tripping shoppers with their tails to get their attention. Another occasion to say cacurtarru.

We stabled Grudon, strolling the complex.

Noise filled the air, the buzz of non-English conversation, the discordant tones of Abreya music, the bleating and honking of a random pet. The walls, when you could see them, were decorated with colorful banners, and tile resembling mold.

The melted-plastic-and-bandage smells were stronger now, blended with other food scents, especially jehalv, the naphthalene smelling stuff dominating their dishes like curry in India.

Holographic Abreyas in harnesses threw balls to each other, a broadcast of a zero gravity game called Cefobid.

Quite a crowd. A couple times I had to hold Pillow's tail to avoid getting lost.

We passed through a jehalv thick section where they sold oversized edible insects: Two foot long millipedes and silverfish in a rainbow of colors, twelve inch cockroaches, flying bugs the size of golf balls, spiders bigger than your fist, all sauteed and prepared more or less gourmet.

I should have had an inkling about what Pillow wanted me to wear when I saw the females and males of the Abreya species wearing rompers and dress-like outfits, among other feminine things. Still, it caught me off guard when we stopped and looked around.

I expected something like a department store, but the chamber I entered had a lot of open floor space, the product residing mostly in little packages in lockboxes along the walls. The reason for this arrangement became clearer when I stepped across a circle on the floor and found myself in a holographic tunic and leggings.

Pillow gave me a thoughtful look, led me to a different circle. It turned out that each spot on this giant Twister game offered a different style outfit, and a tail operated control on the floor flipped through patterns, or styles if your chosen spot was occupied by another shopper.

She did find me something Hawaiian looking, but, you know, it had a skirt. "I like that tunic thing better. Can't I wear that one instead?"

"What's wrong with this one?" It was clear what she thought about that other outfit.

"Pillow..." I sighed. "There's a commandment in my religious book against wearing women's clothing."

"What are you talking about? This is a male's garment. The bodice is completely flat. It's like...those Roman people you told me about."

Still, I balked. If nothing else, it would be an affront to my masculinity.

Pillow noticed my hesitation. "If you're concerned about what I think you are, you shouldn't be. You'd be wearing it at a female's request."

I swallowed. "Will it...impress the female?"

Her rodent mouth curled in a smirk. "It might."

The interior of the gejzol had a design that reminded me of foam rubber under a microscope. I didn't expect we would end up wading through the place to get served. Of course, I also expected chairs.

Our server brought us through their indoor lake to a big Pathilonian version of a Victoria Water Lily, suggesting we recline on the spongy surface. Instead of plates, we ate off giant leaves as we drifted across the water.

I ordered what Pillow was having, something called Bub Tig kai Ahjuntu. It came with a mound of rice textured stuff shaped like dry cat food. The entree itself, an insectoid catfish thing, reminded me of teriyaki beef combined with stale eggnog. Another side: A mound of cockroach things, flavored of blue cheese, bubble gum and sour cream and onion potato chips.

Musicians played music on flute-violin instruments. With all the atonality, it sounded like a horror movie soundtrack. Abreyas called that romantic. We sipped from mugs of some vinegary mango-chocolate substance.

I straightened my skirt. "I feel so naked. I swear I'm getting stared at." It had been an awkward Grunkiahu flight as well, but I still couldn't formulate polite words to comment on the experience.

Pillow brought a tongful of cat food stuff to her mouth. "You're not from this planet. How is this different from any other time you've been stared at?"

"I don't have hairy legs like you guys do."

"They're hairy enough...and very nice."

I chuckled, reddening a little. "You didn't have to buy my dress."

"It's an Ipsego."

I rubbed my face. "Anyways, you didn't have to buy it. I got money."

"I'm pretty sure you wouldn't be wearing that if I hadn't made the suggestion, so..."

"Fair point... At least let me pay for dinner."

To be honest, I felt she did owe me something for making me walk around in such a girly outfit, but it wasn't a cheap girly outfit. She agreed to let me buy, though.

"I know this is only our first date..." Pillow sliced her Bub Tig with a device that reminded me of a box cutter. "But if we keep on with this, how do you plan to find out if we're physically compatible?"

I scooped a tongful of bugs into my mouth. I had been that hungry. "Well, I mean, if and when we decide to get married, we'd have to experiment, figure out how everything...works...together."

She blushed. "You'd actually go through all that trouble? What if it doesn't work?"

"What if? Both our religious scriptures have similar commandments about marriage and sexual purity..."

Pillow nodded slowly, swallowed a slice of Bub Tig. "So you don't care if the only thing that comes out of our marriage is a bunch of unproductive experiments?"

"I actually care too much. I think God has a weird sense of humor. He might end up doing something we don't expect."

"But wouldn't marrying me have some built in expectation?"

Having cleared out the cheese bubble gum insects, I made a larger dent in the fish-beetle thing. "Maybe. But so would not marrying you." I cleared my throat. "But like you said, this is just the first date. We don't even know if this is going too go anywhere."

She pecked me on the lips. "You never know."

Since we had no precipitation in the forecast, the gejzol's dome had been left open. Above us, we could see the starry night sky, the immense moon. After we had consumed our leafy `plates', we both rolled over on our backs, shoulder to shoulder, gazing upwards.

"You think you can spot earth up there somewhere?" I mused.

"You'd probably need a really powerful telescope for that." Then Pillow chuckled.

"What?"

"I was just thinking, it's hard enough to plan for a wedding when everyone is on the same planet!"