As dusk had fallen the sky above Jörtzenberg had been a grey amalgam of slate and charcoal; pregnant with the promise of rain. It was a promise it had fulfilled, leaving the Jörtzen streets wet and clean, shinning with the fresh and glossy sheen of recent rain. With the advent of night the grey had gone, replaced with the Cabernet Sauvignon of a wine-dark sky.
Out on the edge of the city, two woman stood alone in a car park, their only company was the red light from the rear headlamps of their battered old Saab, squatting low and menacing like the eyes of some predatory beast. Both of them held their arms tightly crossed over their chests, hugging themselves against the chill of the descending night. They avoided each other’s eyes, speaking only in furtive glances, awkward shuffling and heavy silence.
“Are you sure about this Hilde?” one asked of the other.
Hilde didn’t reply, she looked away, glancing at her watch. The ghostly blue numbers proclaimed the time to be 23:57.
“Why didn’t you tell me about this sooner? I mean, you’re leaving tomorrow morning!”
Hilde still didn’t answer, she seemed distant, her attention more fixed on her watch and the sky.
* 23:59 *
“We’re not talking about a short-haul out to the orbital habs. You’re going to Ares, you’ll be gone for two years. Two whole years. This isn’t going to be like before.” she continued. “What about us?”
Hilde’s watch flashed 00:00 and beeped quietly. A trio of bulk freighters breached through the cloud bank leaving them silhouetted against the ruddy orange false dawn of the city lights. They wallowed in the night sky, fat, heavy and unwieldy in the embrace of gravity, now so far from the zero-G world of their high-liner home. Nav-rudders twitched, electric blue sparks flashed across the bellies of the keel mounted repulsor disks. The night breeze began to burn with the smell of ozone. Hilde at last turned her attention away from the sky.
“This isn’t fair Birget. Don’t make me choose between you and my dream. I’ve been on the waiting list since I was 14!”
“But…” began Birget.
“I’ve been waiting for this for half my life: deep space, the soil of another planet beneath my feet. Do you think all those courses I’ve been taking with the Port Authority were for fun?”
Birget was still, all save a slight quiver upon lips, her eyes took on a dewy wetness at their corners, a herald of oncoming sadness; the calm before the storm, the quiet before the tears.
“Fuck.” sighed Hilde. She turned away from Birget, kicking at the air and running her hand through her hair in exasperation.
“I never planned on…” began Hilde
“Planned on what?” asked Birget her voice catching in her throat.
“I never planned on falling in love.”
They pressed their lips together, it was a gentle kiss, restrained, almost as if they were probing; hoping to divine the nature and tone of this moment. Hilde threaded her finger through the loose strands of Birget’s hair, teasing it out the tight bun which held it. Birget pulled Hilde closer, hugging her tightly, afraid to let her go. Trying, for all she was worth to hold time still, to preserve this one moment in the amber of memory and make it last until the end of days.
Their tentative embrace began to swell into a storming tempest of feeling. The slow, snatched kisses becoming frantic and needy, almost hungry in their mad urgency. It became an outpouring of all they had and all they might have. It was raw. Untempered. Lips locked and tongues entwined. It was an outpouring of love in its most primal and bestial form.
But it could not last. Something inside Birget snapped. The fury and the fire, that frenzied passion that had so filled her was gone, boiling away into a vaporous nothing. Like so many things in life, the moment had been fleeting, a transient slice of eternity; a cloudburst of feeling.
Their lips parted and they pulled away from each other. Together they stood, foreheads pressed together, cradling the head of their partner. Breath fogged the lenses of Birget’s glasses, hiding the welling tears in her eyes, but not their passage down her cheeks, the thin rivulets mapping the lines of her face.
“It’s not fair.” sobbed Birget
“I know.” Said Hilde
Through the lens of past glories, and the distant warmth of their shared victories against the onslaught of life, they hoped. They hoped against all hope that they could be different. A desperate hope that they could make it, whatever it was, work. That any problems they might face could be surmounted and defeated. A quest of the heart born of the visceral need to cling to another soul and find comfort in their arms. To weather the storm not alone, but together.
“Will you wait for me?” asked Hilde
“I’ll try.” said Birget.