There were too many things rolling around in my head as I went back home that night. I had just had a major turning point in my personal life when I kissed Angie. I was going to go on one of the greatest scientific expeditions since the mission to terraform Mars. If we found life in the waters of Europa, it would be a discovery unheard of anywhere. We would have finally found extra-terrestrial life! That is so cool! And yet, I found myself unable to be happy about this.
After I pulled back from the kiss, Angie started to sob. She fell apart in my arms, holding me so tight that I felt myself hurting with her. The girl was begging me not to go, but I couldn’t do that. Every single emotional bone in my body wanted to just throw this away in a heartbeat. But I knew that if I did that, then I was wasting what could be the greatest chance I’ll ever get. This kind of thing happens once every thousand lifetimes to one special person. I had to make sure that this person was me. It was killing me inside, but what else could I do.
Needless to say, Angie was several different kinds of pissed. She stormed off with me crying after her not to go. We could have gone home. Could have gone back to my place and talked this out. Introduced her to my parents and came out. They were chill about stuff. If anything, I bet my mom would be over the moon. I wouldn’t be one of those girls who brought home some guy that they couldn’t like, and also wouldn’t be some stupid Earthling who gets knocked up in my teens. I could avoid all that. I’m sure that they’d be happy.
I got home crying, but nobody was there to greet me except my cat. It was a new breed that was specially-adapted to live on Mars. As with any great voyage, pests became a problem. Like the sea-faring ships of old, there were rats. Having a cat onboard a cargo ship was commonplace. And they got out on Mars and have made the most of it. This new breed has a deep red fur that blends right in with the red sands of Mars. It’s like a small tiger, in a way, minus the stripes. They had patches of black that would make them indistinguishable from the rock formations outside. It was kind of impressive.
This cat’s name was was Olympe, a shortened version of one of the tallest mountains on Mars.
The kitty walks up to me and rubs against my leg. She always seems to know exactly what to do. I pick her up and head to my room. Once there, she jumps down and hops on to the bed, knowing that that is where I am going to throw myself once I get my book bag off my shoulder. Sure enough, I plop down on the bed and curl up into a ball. It was something I did when I was little, when I was sad. It was like crawling into myself. Her face was in my mind, her really short hair that stood up in the front, her very soft and delicate smile on the few occasions when it appeared. The pictures in my head made what I was doing that much harder. Why did she have to tell me now? Why couldn’t it have been after I come home and am part of a team of heroes? It seems like all the shit that goes wrong in my life always happens all at once. It’s annoying as fuck.
I pass out in that position and have a strange dream. My body is floating in water. There is a light above me as I am floating in an ocean. There are light below me too. In fact, they’re everywhere. They drift in all places, around me. I am in some kind of suit. There are displays in front of me, but I don’t know what they mean. The lights are gathering around the lights coming off of my suit. Am I drawing them to me? Something inside tells me to hit a sensor on the arm of the suit. The lights from me die down, and the other lights now move out and around. They are gathering above. What’s up there? A jet on my shoulder moves me upward as I look. There are more lights than just the ones around me. Something else is up there. Something big. It has lights too, but they are different. The tiny lights of the creatures around me are soft. These ones are piercing the dark water. Beacons! I start to head up there, feeling that it’s a place of safety. A voice suddenly calls.
“Ellie! Ellie, are you okay?!” The voice sounds familiar. I wonder who it is as the world gets more and more dark…
It is dark outside when I come to. I sit up, hearing voices downstairs. The parents are home. The smell of food greets me. Dad was always the superior cook. For all of my mother’s qualities, the kitchen is not at all a place she should be. She has screwed up instant food. No joke. I get downstairs, rubbing my eyes and sniffing. Tonight is stir fry. That makes me a bit happier.
“Hey honey!” Dad greets. “So, what’s the news on the drawing?! Did you win?!”
Mom looks up as well, though she appears nervous. She had never wanted me to enter that, truth be told. She was worried sick that something bad would happen and that I would end up dead or something. She was a spacephobe. Every time we took a shuttle on vacation to Earth, she would be a nervous wreck the entire way. The elevator to the surface was even worse.
I smile at them, feeling some of the happiness coming back. “You’re looking at a girl who’s going to Europa!”
Dad came over and hugged me tight. He was a big huggy bear, but I knew that. It was a nice feeling. Mom smiled, but I could tell that she was still nervous. Whatever. I had bigger things on my mind. I sat down at the table and waited for dinner to be served, catching up on some news from my Band.
Mom happened to notice the look on my face, sitting down to the side of me. “Hey honey. You’re looking a little down. Everything alright?”
I looked up at her, trying to smile. “Yeah, it’s just been a long day. Lots of people congratulating me, lots of homework. You know.” I wasn’t ready to have the conversation I had been wanting to have earlier. Maybe I would tell them when I got a Net link up at the base on Europa. Let them have some time to think on it. Like I said, they’re chill people, but best not to put a person’s chill level to the test.
The days became a lot more routine after the one where I was told that I was going to Jupiter. Back to homework and studies. Angie wouldn’t even speak to me anymore. Part of me felt increasingly terrible about that, as it felt like she was abandoning us before we even had a chance to see where the two of us could go. But whatever. Naturally, Lucas was every kind of excited. As the days on the calender flew by, I was getting excited again. A man from the mission came to my house, had me sign some stuff and told me all about what I would be doing on the mission. I had been selected for operator duty for some of the drones we would be using! If I did well, I might even be trained on using one of the submersibles that would be used for live-sample grabbing, if a sample had to be analyzed in the field.
They pulled out all the stops for this mission. I was given a bit of a digital tour of the facility, and holy shit! It was like living in a resort! The rooms were all very standard. No surprise there. Desks that would be integrated into the systems of the underwater station, named “Atlantis.” There was also a bed and a display for any station-wide alerts. But the rest of the place looked awesome! I couldn’t wait to see it in real life. The flight was in two weeks.
Needless to say, Lucas, the teachers and my Dad were completely stoked when the night before came. I had packed what they listed. Most things would be provided for. I was sitting in my room, petting the cat when there was a knock at the door.
The door opens and I see Mom standing there. She’s looking all serious, while trying to put on a happy face.
“So, you all packed and ready?” she asks softly.
“Yup. Got all things to specifications.” My smile can’t quit. In the months that had passed, since Angie stopped talking to me, it got easier to not think about her. It all felt like a dream to me.
Mom sat on the bed, a bit away from me. “I wish I knew what to say. I’m sure that you’ll be safe.”
I somehow doubted that.
“The man showed us all the safety protocols they had. Looks like they planned for everything. And I know my girl. You have a gift at being able to get in and out of stuff.” She smiled over at me, something nostalgic. “I remember when you were five, and you were given your first Band. You started tinkering with it that day, trying to see what it could do. Every time we gave you something, you would bury yourself in trying to make it better. I always loved that. Now you’re headed off to do something amazing, all by yourself. You’ve grown up so much.” Her eyes started to get foggy. “But don’t you go growing up too fast, alright? I don’t want to lose my little girl.”
I reached out and put my hand on her shoulder. “Mom, you aren’t losing me. I’m just gonna be far away. And it’s only for six months. By the end of the second Cycle next year, I’ll be right back here, telling you all about it! And that little girl isn’t going anywhere. She’ll always be with you, all derpy and clumsy.” The two of us got a laugh.
We hugged tight, and I knew that it would be okay. I loved my parents. Even if they didn’t always get me.
It was late. My Band let out a beeping noise. I pressed on the sensor in the center and a display came up. It was Angie! She was calling. I took out the ear-piece and put it in.
“Hey,” I greeted.
“Hey, you at home?”
An odd question. “Sure. Why?”
“I’m at the front door. Didn’t want to knock. Mind coming out?”
My heart was beating fast. I got up, threw on some pants and went downstairs. There was a kind of eerie calm about the house right now. I opened the door and saw her standing there, shivering a little. It got cold at night.
“Hey you!” I said softly, closing the door.
“Hey.” She smiled at me, and it made my insides flutter.
We stood there for a while, before both of us tried to talk at once. We giggled and I leaned against the door.
She shuffled her feet a bit, finally looking up. “I’m sorry about what I said, and what I did. I…I never meant to hurt you, Ellie.”
The words made every part of me quiver.
“And I, I don’t want you to forget about me. So, I came to give you something, so you wouldn’t.”
That got my attention. “What is it?!”
She held out a box, looking excited. “Open it!”
Like I had to be asked twice. I grabbed the box and opened it up, instantly feeling tears come to my eyes. It was a necklace. From it hung a round design with a kind of swirling point coming down from it. There was something above it. It was two Venus symbols, locked together.
“So you always know – we’re linked together.”
I put the necklace on. I’d only ever take it off the sleep. It was a promise I made with myself. Afterwards, I pulled her in tight against me, kissing her. We were like that for some time, until I finally pulled back and smiled at her.
“I love you, Ellie!”
“I love you too, Angie.”
“And I’ll be waiting at the Starport when you get home! Right there! Just you wait!”
“I’ll run to you.”
We kissed again. When we pulled apart, she took my hand. Letting go of her fingers, it was the hardest thing I had ever done. After what felt like an eternity, I went back inside. It was then that I saw my parents standing there.
“So, who was the girl?” Dad asked, giving me a smirk.
My cheeks went red as a beet.
Morning came. At 0700 hours, I had to be at the Starport. A shuttle was just taking off when our car arrived. I grabbed my duffel bag and walked over to the entrance. The Mars Starport was one of the largest in the solar system. Since there were mining operations in the Asteroid Belt, we got a lot of traffic of workers and supplies that came here. We also had a lot of civilian traffic, what with Mars being one of the hottest tourist destinations. After I got in and checked my ticket, I was greeted by the man who had come to visit us. He was clearly with the Interplanetary Defense Forces (IDF). His uniform was much more official.
After some nice chit-chat with the parentals, it was off to the gate.
Dad was all warm and fuzzy. “Now you make sure to write us every day! I know the delay will stop video chat, but the instant you are there I want to hear everything!” He hugged me tight.
“Alright, Dad! Don’t go getting all teary-eyed.” I stuck out my tongue at him, with him whacking me on the shoulder.
Mom walked up. “Alright honey. This is it.” She put her arms around me. “I’m sure you’ll do great. When you get home, we’ll be having a party for our hero daughter!”
I hugged her as well. “Thanks Mom.”
After the final goodbyes I grabbed my bag and followed the man, named Lieutenant Frank Williams, toward the shuttle that was waiting. I saw Lucas running over, eager to talk. He was excited in the extreme. His Dad was going over to my parents. His parents had divorced after his mother had had some mental problems. I never made a thing about it. He had enough on his plate as it was. His Dad was a nice guy, though he was in government so he wasn’t around a whole lot.
I looked back one last time and saw the thing that made my day – Angie. She stood there, waving to me. I waved back, blowing her a kiss. The necklace was hanging down over my hoodie.
Until next time, a quote,
“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” -G. K. Chesterton