“Attention all travelers. Attention all travelers. Passengers on OLC Intrepid Light should report to Cosmodrome Terminal S for preboarding and cabin assignment. Passengers on OLC Intrepid Light should report to Terminal S for preboarding and cabin assignment. We thank you for your patronage.”
Auburn’s coffee was mostly water at this point, anxious stirring having melted most of the ice. The spaceport terminal was a bustling mass of humans, lyricians, and frames with places to go and people to see and cargo to carry. Everyone had a destination. Everyone had an origin.
The jackalope’s feet were propped atop his duffel bag as he sat on a high stool in the coffee shop just past the security checkpoint. He wasn’t given to nervousness – there’d always been a steadiness about him – but today he was tapping his toes against his luggage and wondering why he’d gone for cold brew instead of wildflower tea. He loved wildflower tea.
Did he? Trellis would make it for him some mornings. Something about the way it was loose leaf, how he always made sure there were mountain dandelion heads in it, floating gently on top of a bittersweet brew with just a few drops of honey.
He did. He did love wildflower tea. But he would never order it himself. Something about where it came from. Something about how the deer always knew exactly what blend of herbs would go together, how the flavors danced across the palate like a choreographed ballet, how they’d sit and lean against each other on the porch as the rain watered the forest and the garden and they’d let the silence do the talking.
“You could stay,” he said flatly, voice sharp-edged.
“I could give up my life, yeah. I’d rather not do that. If you were given the opportunity, wouldn’t you do something like this?” Pleading. It wasn’t like him to beg.
“It’s n-not giving up a life, it’s, it’s building one.” Distant. Fearful. Afraid. Of what, being alone? Auburn thought.
“I want to explore, Trellis. I want to find new opportunities! That’s what the frontier offers. That’s what’s beyond the belt. You’re so damn focused on the trees you can’t see the stars.”
The rain on the roof and the creaking of the branches in the forest outside punctuated the silence between them. For a moment the air was thick enough with tension to choke on. Trellis set about taking the first bite.
“How dare you.” The words hit like timber-fall. He wasn’t stuttering anymore.
His datapad chirped. He turned his arm to look at the message; the haptic interface jumped off the pad’s screen and hung amber text in the middle of the air, but the words may as well have shot him in the chest.
I'm not coming. --T ---------------- Original Follows ---------------- Trellis: My transport for Tethys leaves in twelve hours. You, obviously, mean the world to me -- I cannot begin to stress how sincere about this I am -- and I don't want to leave without sharing a moment and saying goodbye. I love you. I'm going to Orbridge Port Euclid, and I'll be waiting at the cafe stand just off cosmodrome intake. I hope you'll be able to see me. With love; longears.
Seven years and change of love, months of separation at a time, their last real moment together an angry one. This was his last chance to say goodbye.
God damn him.
Auburn gestured for the chord keyboard to reply. He thought a thousand things to say atop ten thousand more. He ground his teeth so hard he nearly chipped a tooth. He gestured away the keyboard and wrapped his hand around the screen to choke it back into standby mode.
He stood up and pushed his chair out, the metal legs making a scraping noise against the concor floor that would have woken the dead even in the din of the terminal’s bustle. He threw his bag over his shoulder and his coffee in the compost, unconsumed.
Guess that’s it then, he said to himself.
He choked back a sob.