Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Nano Post 71

PART FOUR: “Behold, I make all things new.”

“Dej, I have something I need to do, and I'll be gone for a couple of days,” Nathan said, a few months later. “Will you be ok by yourself for a while?”

She looked up from the cup of tea she was preparing. “Where are you going? I thought you were done with site scoutings for the month.”

He nodded, trying to chew the bite of bagel that he'd just stuffed into his mouth. Swallowing hard, he cleared his throat and replied, “ahem! Yeah, I thought so to, but this one's just come up. It's for my most important client, and I can't risk getting one wrong. There's too much riding on it.”

He walked across the kitchen and hugged her tightly. “I'm sorry for being away so much, I know it's hard. I promise, after this trip, things will be much easier, and we'll be able to spend more time together. Will you forgive me?”

Dejah smiled quietly, and nodded. “Yeah, I forgive you. Just hurry home, alright?” He nodded, and went back into their bedroom to pack a bag. She watched him go down the hall, then leaned against the counter and closed her eyes.

It's still so hard, she thought wearily. It's still so hard to be here like this, day in and day out, going to work, planning missions for others to complete, and coming back home to tea and bagels. I just want to be out there on the surface again, she cried inwardly, just to be out there where it's wild and dangerous and amazing.

Nathan emerged again, bag in hand, and she pushed the thoughts away. “Have a good trip,” she said, kissing him on the cheek. “Comm me when you get there so I know you landed safe, ok?”

“As always.” he kissed her on the mouth, embracing her tightly. “I'm going to miss you.”

she nodded, and he sighed, moving toward the door. “If you feel lonely, you should go visit Shelle. She's been kind of lonely since Brian started school and the others are in kindergarten. I'm not sure what her schedule at Parsec's is, but she'd love to see you.”

“That's a good idea, I should go do that,” Dejah agreed. “I'll try to stop by today. Now hurry, you don't want to keep anyone waiting for you.”

he nodded, and closed the door. Dejah moved to the window and watched him cross the lawn and head up the street to catch a public transport on the larger cross street.

When he was out of sight, she relaxed, and let herself slump into the couch. It was a Saturday, and there was no need for her to go to the Dandelion offices; the weekend stretched before her, long and empty.

She went into her work space and tried to work a little bit on the project for Mars Heritage; she had a stack of images from the Phoenix site that Charles had sent to her, and she looked at the image on top, trying to remember what it had felt like to look across that plain and see her solitary trail of footprints leading over the horizon and out of sight. She tapped out a few sentences on the keyboard, reread them, and erased them with a sigh. Too cliché, and not really reflective of her actual emotions.

She tried working on the other images in the project for a while, then sighed and got up from the chair.

Dejah grabbed her jacket from the hook by the door and quickly pulled it on before stepping outside and locking the door. The day was bright and sunny, like most days when the dust storms weren't blowing, and she turned her face upward to catch the light of the sun for a few moments before walking down the street.

In twenty minutes, she pushed open the door at 12 Parsecs. It was mostly quiet, except for the ever present gaggle of pilots from the Academy seated around one of the large round tables in the corner, and she slipped into a seat at a small table in a patch of sunlight.

Shelle saw her, and walked over. “Hey Dej! What brings you out here today?”

“Nathan's off on a last minute site check,” she responded, “and he's going to be gone for the whole weekend. I didn't feel much like cooking so I thought I'd drop by for some lunch and see if you needed some company yourself while Max is gone.”

Shelle smiled, her freckles showing golden agaisnt her skin. “Actually, yeah, that would be nice! The house feels pretty empty when the kids are gone to school. I guess I'll hve to get used to it, since Max's schedule is always going to have him gone a lot, and the kids are all in school now. But company would be nice today. I get off in about two hours, is that ok? I can give you a comm when I'm headed home.”

Dejah shook her head, and smiled. “That's ok, I think I'll just grab a bite to eat and wander around the area for a little while. I haven't seen Marcus since I got back from Spirit City, and Nathan mentioned that he's been asking about me, so I'll probably stop in and say hi to him.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Shelle laughed. “So what do you want to eat today, I'll go get it started!”

Thirty minutes later, Dejah was strolling along what had once been the main street of the area, and was now simply an interesting side street, one of many to offer odd shops and restaurants. Marcus' shop looked as dark and dingy from the outside as it always had, but Dejah saw the Open sign in the window, and pushed the door open.

The familiar bell chimed rustily, and she heard Marcus' gruff voice from the rear of the shop. “Hang on a minute, hang on a minute, I'm coming,” followed by indistinguishable muttering.

“Don't trip over anything, Marcus,” she called with a grin. “I'd hate to see you trip over the piles of junk you insist on keeping around.”

There was silence for a moment, then she heard footsteps hurring between the shelves, and Marcus dashed into the front of the store, greying hair in disarray.

“Well, what do you know, it's Ms. Dejah Sorenson, back from the dead to hear some talk about it!”

She laughed, and reached out to shake his hand. “good to see you, too, Marcus. How's business been?”

He shrugged. “Oh, not so great for the store, little better for the printing press. And fantastic for stories about you. Do you have any idea how many crazy reporters came by here while you were in the hospital, trying to get any sort of scoop over the others?” He barked out a half laugh. “I was sorely tempted to just start making up a different wild story for each one of them, but once I heard that you were going to pull through, I knew that you'd pay me back for any of that kind of foolishness. They were pretty frustrated when I told them that you were neither a wild woman, nor the quiet loner type, nor a religious fanatic. They just weren't quite sure how to write about a real Aresian hero any more. I offered to send them to journalism school, but they didn't seem to appreciate that.”

Dejah rolled her eyes. “Marcus, you are incorrigible. Oh, I have something here that you might like to see.” she pulled the chain of her necklace over her head, and grabbed the pendants that hung from it. One was the meteorite pendant that Nathan had given her years ago; the other was the fragment of solar panel.

Marcus peered at her jewelry. “I regonize the one, of course, but I'm not even sure what the other one is made of. Synthetic, I take it?”

She nodded. “It's a little fragment of a solar panel from the Phoenix Lander. One of my crew who did the extrication managed to snag it, and the other helped make it into a necklace. But it's a real part of the Phoenix, something that traveled millions of miles just to give us the chance to get here.”

Marcus touched it lightly, and Dejah tipped the necklace into his hand. “Here, go ahead and take a good look at it. It doesn't look like much, but when you consider where it's been...”

The older man held the pendant delicately, turning it over in his palm. “Seems to grow warm to the touch. That's quite some souvenir you have there.” He handed the necklace back, and she hung it over her neck again, slipping th pendants inside her shirt.

“All joking aside, that really was quite a journey you made,” he commented, leaning on the front counter. “Never seen anything like it, but damned if it wasn't the sort of thign I always wanted to see. Forget being a role model for the young ones coming up, you've made some old men who just wanted to see some spirit very happy indeed.” He looked at her over the tops of his glasses. “But I hear you've been grounded, got to stay inside the dome now. Was it worth it?”

Dejah swallowed, a ssudden lump appearing in her throat. She had a sudden flash of rememberance: purple hills under a sky filled with stars, a line of footprints fading off over the horizon for miles, a few glints of metal shining proudly in the dust.

She smiled, blinking back a tear, and nodded. “Yes. It was worth it. It might not be for everyone but...it was worth it.”

“Glad to hear it,” marcus said quietly. “Very glad to hear it.”

Dejah bid goodbye to Marcus, and headed back down the street toward the restaurant. Shelle would be getting off work in twenty minutes, and it was no use trying to go anywhere else in that short of a time.

When she walked back into the restaurant, it was empty, and Shelle sat at a table in the sun, feet propped on the chair across from her, and a cup of coffee steaming in her hand. She looked at towards the door as Dejah walked in and waved. “Hey! Come join me over here, I'm just waiting for my relief to get here. It's pretty dead today.”

Dejah sat down in the chair across from Shelle as the waitress put her feet on the floor. “isn't that a little weird for a Saturday?”

Shelle shrugged. “It's hard to tell how the weekends are going to go actually. Sometimes we're absolultely slammed, other times it's so dead we'd do better to close up early for the afternoon.”

The two women chatted about work for a few minutes, until Shelle's replacement arrived, then they donned their jackets and headed back out to the sunny street. Max and Shelle lived close to the downtown area, and it was only a five minute walk to their home.

Shelle unlocked the door, and held it open for Dejah, who thanked her.

The house was warm and welcoming, but Dejah could detect a few expensive things that she was sure Max's inheritance had paid for. Shelle waved Dejah over to a comfortable chair, and sat down in a rocking chair nearby.

“So I hear that you and Nathan decided to stay in Spirit City,” shelle noted with a smile. “I'm really glad to hear that, I'd hate to see you leave. Seems like everyone is spreading out these days; it's hard to make friends before they just up and move to some other dome across the planet. The kids keep losing playmates, and it's been pretty discouraging for Sally. She's so sensitive and quiet, she doesn't make friends that easily.”

Dejah nodded, pulling her feet up under her. “Yeah, we're both going to stay. Nathan's work is here, and it just worked out better that way. Besides, I can be a free agent now—I'm still working for Dandelion, but there's a lot of opportunities for other stuff for mars Heritage and some others.” She shrugged. “Not ideal, but I've learned that the ideal isn't always possible.”

the late Sunday evening was beginning to get cold when Nathan opened the door of their home. “Dej?” he called. “Dej, I'm home!”

Dejah walked out of the work room and greeted him with a kiss. “Hey! Welcome back. How did it go?”

Nathan smiled, and Dejah thought she saw an odd look in his eye. “Oh, it's perfect. Everything is as good as I could hope for, or better. I just have to wait for the client to see it and approve it, but I think they're going to be very happy. It's some of my best work.”

“Sound great,” Dejah replied, only half listening. She punched the power button on the electric kettle and waited for it to boil. Nathan walked up behind her in the kitchen, and wrapped his arms around her waist.

“Dejah, honey, we haven't been away together in years. I've got some vacation time coming up, and I have to use it before the end of the year. What do you say we take the next few days and just get away for a while?”

“Oh, I don't know,” she responded, carefully pouring the now boiling water into a cup. “You just got back, it seems awfully soon to be heading out again. You don't have to hurry for my sake, I've been fine.” She dropped a tea bag into the cup to steep.

Nathan grabbed her hands, and bent down to look her in the eyes. “Dejah, this is important to me, too. I know that you don't like being stuck in the Dome, and I really want to take you out of here for a little while. Please, just...just trust me, this one time.”

The look in his eyes made her pause. He didn't look angry, or frustrated, or even tired. Just sad and...something else. A little hopeful, she wondered.

“alright. I can pack some stuff and be ready to go tomorrow morning, I just need to let a few people know that i'll be away from my projects for a few days.”

Nathan smiled in relief, and gave her a hug. “You won't regret it, Dej, I promise.”

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