Fiction Fragment Friday
I never imagined being back so soon. After I wrote the first story I just kept thinking about it. I wasn’t happy with how it started. I felt the writing was weak, but that it had gotten better. I had thought out a world and had inner dialogue going for both characters. I was given the feedback that Gemma was too mature and something felt off. After explaining what was really going on in her head I was told I should write that story.
As it turns out this story was told better from a different perspective. Perhaps a combination of both really gives the best overall story. In the end though I sat down to write from Gemma’s perspective and before I knew it had a story almost twice as long at the original that I was much happier with. I don’t know if it is as good on it’s own as it is after reading the original.
Instead of waiting until next week I decided to share this now.
I see him sitting there on the gantry overlooking hydroponics pod three. Brian has been my best friend for as long as I can remember, but he has been so angry lately. His dad died eight months ago on a spacewalk that went really bad. His whole family is hurting, but instead of getting through it together he keeps fighting with his mom. He is just so angry and has nowhere to focus that anger. Thankfully none of that anger has come out in my direction.
I approach him slowly but making sure to step very loudly on the gantry. I don’t want to startle him. When I see his face, I know without a doubt that he had another fight with his mom. “Well, you look grumpy today.” I try to play it off as irreverent but the moment the words come out of my mouth; I am second guessing them. I can’t let him see the insecurities right now though. He is in pain and needs me to be the strong one, so I sit down on the gantry next to him and let my legs dangle over. “Another fight with your mom?” Did that sound understanding I wonder. I hope it did.
He lets out an obnoxious exasperated sigh. I hate it when he does that, but I hide my annoyance as best I can. “It’s just so stupid. I get that she grew up there, but we weren’t even born on Earth. Why do we have to keep celebrating holidays like they do? I mean I get it they weren’t always around all their family so Christmas was a gathering. We can’t ever get away from our families though. It isn’t quality time it’s just another day.” It all flows from him like a river through a dam.
He is ranting. He just wants me to sit here and listen, but I can’t do that. I have to try and help so my mind starts racing. How can I put this in perspective for him to understand? I search my memories and find the perfect thing. “Do you remember when sector four lost power and we all had to migrate to sector seven for two weeks?” I keep my voice level as I ask him.
“Of course. It was the single most terrifying thing that ever happened to me. I woke up floating in the middle of my room.” Of course, he remembers it only happened two years ago. I remember us huddled together in a hallway as he told me what happened. It was the only time he has ever admitted being scared of anything.
“Now do you remember how you felt going back after everything had been repaired?” He had hated having his whole life upended even if it was only for a few weeks.
“Yeah, I was worried, but it was good to be back home. I was completely lost in sector seven. Everything was so different. Where are you going with this?” He avoided looking at me, but I could hear the annoyance in his voice. He just wanted me to sit here and listen to him rant, but instead I was bringing up memories he didn’t want to revisit. I needed to push on though.
“Now think about our parents. They left their home planet. Left behind everything they knew, and they’ll never have that feeling of coming home again. Is it so hard to understand why they want to hold onto things that remind them of it?” The very thought always filled me with awe. That our parents could give up everything to board a generation ship knowing they would never see its final destination. Could I give up everything I knew?
“Earth isn’t their home anymore though. They need to just accept that and move on. We should be making new traditions.” I was close, but not there yet. I could hear the pain in his voice creeping into the annoyance. He was trying very hard to stay angry and that meant that there was something else going on.
I reached my hand down to cover his as a gesture of support. Something happened though. I don’t know if his hand moved or if mine acted on instinct, but instead of just sitting on his hand our fingers intertwined. I had to take a moment to really compose my words. I had been hiding my feelings for over a year now and I wasn’t about to let them slip out now. What was the last thing he said? Oh yeah making new traditions. “We will, but why take this one more thing from them? They gave up so much and they have to think they robbed us of those things.”
When he squeezed back my heart sped up in my chest. “They didn’t though. This is our home. We were born on this ship and some day we will die on it. We can’t miss things we never experienced.” The anger was gone. I was getting through. I was helping and as much as I didn’t want him in pain, I felt good that I was the only one who could get through to him.
“I know that, and you know that, but have you ever told them that?” Boom, mic drop. I nailed it.
“No. It should be obvious though.” He had lost and he knew it. Now would be time for him to change tactics. I wondered what he would pull out to throw me off guard. “And what about this stupid gift giving? We live on a spaceship. Everything we need is provided or can be printed. How are gifts supposed to have any meaning?”
Suddenly it all made sense. I expected deflection, but he deflected with more truth than he intended. I remembered how much he used to love picking out the perfect gift with his dad. It was a bonding moment. “Ah, now I see the real problem. You can’t figure out what to get your mom can you?”
“No. She always somehow comes up with the perfect thing. Dad used to help, but with him gone Jack, and Elizabeth are expecting me to help them. I can’t even figure out what to give her myself and if I screw this up I’m going to ruin everything for mom. I can’t do that to her. Not on the first Christmas without him.”
I could hear the pain in his voice and saw a tear start to form in his eye. He would push me away if I saw him cry. It’s just who he is. I leaned over and hugged him pushing his head into my shoulder. We both knew that he was crying, but this way we could pretend and that was the lifeline that he needed. I gave him a moment to compose himself before speaking. When I thought he had gotten most of it out I whispered into his ear. “You can’t put this all on yourself. It’s too much. Your mom just wants you and the family together. Your only job is to give her that. I’ll help your brother and sister figure out what to give her.” It was the least I could do for them.
“Thank you.” The words sounded so small but filled with so much meaning. He was in pain, and I could be his lifeline. When he finally pulled back our eyes met. I felt a pull deep down in my chest. A need so strong I don’t have words for it. Then before I knew it, he had leaned in and we were kissing.
My brain went into a full meltdown. I had imagined this for so long, but never thought it would actually happen. My mind raced with what it could all mean. Did he feel the same way about me or was he just vulnerable. I wanted a real relationship and if we started something now while he was still mourning it might not last. I had been telling myself for months to just be his friend and not think about more. With his lips on mine though all rational thought left me.
Finally, he pulled back from me. “I’m not sure why I did that.” I could hear fear in his voice.
No, No, No. I can’t have him feeling fear. I had to do something fast, or this would all blow up in my face. Not only would we never be together, but I might lose him as a friend. I couldn’t let him know how much that affected me. I had to be cool, calm, and collected. I got this. “Well, I know, and when you figure it out we can talk about it. For now, though you need help Christmas shopping.” What the hell was I saying? I didn’t know. I had no idea what that meant for him. The line was perfect though.
I jumped to my feet quickly. I needed to break eye contact and hide my blushing. I needed to move now, or my shaky legs were going to give way. I held my hand down to him so he could take it normally this time. “Come on. We’ve got a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it.” There we go I thought to myself. Take control and keep moving forward. Put the next moves all in his hands. Disaster averted I told myself as I dragged him off in search of the perfect Christmas present. My still tingling lips reminded me that I had just gotten mine.