There is a hermit crab named Ichiro, slightly bolder than his female counterpart, Sylvia. (Truthfully, they might both be boys. Or girls. They might be homosexual hermit crabs. But they've already been named and assigned gender identities.)
Ichiro inches closer to Sylvia, sometimes climbing onto her shell. He is painted orange and white, decorated with a dragon that is supposed to look Chinese. This doesn't impress Sylvia, smug in her natural shell.
Immune to Ichiro's charms, she stays clenched inside. She'll come out only at night, after Ichiro has whispered promises to keep his distance. She eats and drinks. She bathes quickly in salt water, then huddles back down into the damp substrate.
If only he were less flashy, less willing to let the curious humans see his small, twitching eyes. Once, right in front of them, he hurled his body from one shell into another. Then back again. Show off. She prefers a crab more low-key. Authenticity is what she's after. Not theatrics.
But there is no third or fourth hermit. It is just Ichiro and her. She must depend on him for every morsel of socialbility she craves. And hermit crabs are social! Oh yes. The literature says so. If she wants an opinion on the purpleness of her claws or an analyzation of the dream she had the night before, Ichiro is her sole sounding board.
Maybe, she thinks, it will be like an arranged marriage. She might come to love him, in time. And, possibly, sensing her disdain for all things histrionic, Ichiro may quiet. Will she ever feel comfortable enough to molt, to let him see her naked in the Seattle Municipal mist that rains over their habitat twice a day?
She can only wonder. And wait. God forbid, she could live ten years. And then what? Hers is not a species to mate for fun. She'll be stuck on a stick trying to make conversation with a vaudevillian while avoiding big human faces that loom like full, hopeful moons.