Trading empty chairs for empty cushions (780 Words)

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InfinteStarsDev

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The inviting smell of synthetic coffee and the hubbub of voices had evaporated a while ago and the only other customers, a young couple, were leaving. The chair in front of Lochem was still empty. Time was up.

He had to make a decision. It was clear now that Angelique never intended to meet him here. She knew him too well. She knew that this was a decision he had to make for himself. If she had done as he had asked and met with him today, he wouldn’t have had the strength to give the alternative a second thought.

If I go, I won’t have to deal with this kind of shit anymore. No more fights about nothing. No more compromises and concessions. There will be more than enough challenges to keep my mind and body occupied...

But it wasn’t all that bad though? We had plenty of good times. There is still something there worth saving. Worth fighting for. If I go– If I go all of that dies here.

But if I don’t go what does that say about me? Am I selfish enough to stay and fight for one person while I must fight for everyone? If I don’t go, I won’t be able to live with myself. No matter how much I love her, if I stay others might lose their loved ones.

But Angelique won’t be the only thing I leave behind. I probably won’t ever see mom and dad again. I won’t be there to protect Mayvheen when she is old enough for boys to start noticing her. I won’t be there to earth gaze with her or tell her bedside stories. No more hugs. I won't– There won't even be time to say goodbye. No! I can't do that to her.
He couldn’t leave May. She was too young to understand. He had to stay, even if it’s just for her. He had valid reasons not to go. With what had happened, everyone would understand. No one would blame him or think less of him. He had made up his mind.


A weight lifted from his heart. He stood up, slinging his go-bag onto his shoulder. It felt so much lighter than it did this morning.

The young waitress had been waiting for him at the counter. He knew she had been anxious for him to leave so she could close up, but she had been too kind to rush him.

“How much do I owe?” He asked, smiling at her.

“Nothing. It’s on me.”

“No please, you were so kind waiting on me the whole afternoon.”

“You are a protectorate soldier, it's the least I could do.”

“How did you–?”

“You bag. I saw the emblem.”

“Oh.”

“I Uhm. I heard the first transports are shipping out for Mars tonight. Is that where you are going?”

“No.”

“Oh. I just assumed–”

“It’s OK. Thank you for the coffee. I’m actually going home.”

The young woman smiled at him awkwardly as he started walking out of the cafe.

“Erm, sir?”

“Yes?”

“Thank you.”

“For what?”

“If it wasn’t for people like you, none of us would have a home to go to. I just wanted you to know.”

He stood in the doorway looking back at her. She seemed sincere, but his silence was clearly making her uncomfortable.

“What I mean– I meant– We’re all doing our part, but it seems insignificant when compared to what people like you are doing.”

Lochem nodded at the young woman who immediately seemed relieved. He stared at her for a moment longer and then left, closing the door softly behind him.

---

Mayvheen kneeled on the soft cushion on the floor, staring at Earth through the large lunar windows. She was already dressed for bedtime. She squeezed the ferret teddy against her chest and glanced over to the empty cushion next to her.

No one had explained anything to her. She was still just a child, but she understood. She had seen the holo broadcasts and overheard the anxious whispers between mom and dad. She was too young to read, but she saw the screen adverts of dashing, young, uniformed men and women standing with inviting arms and bright smiles. She had heard mom crying into her pillow late at night. She had noticed the recent change in her brother, a reluctant silence in his eyes when they had been together. She understood.

“Mayvheen, it’s time for bed!”

Mayvheen got up. She didn’t feel like asking for five more minutes tonight. She walked towards the door and flicked the switch while looking back at the two empty cushions basking in the soft light of Earth's glow.
 

TexasPoet

When Is It Dark Enough?
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The conversation with the waitress is wonderful. I like this use of italics for internal thought. I like this story and would read it if it were published.

The title...I don’t know....maybe something shorter...catchier? “Binary”...the image repeats so many times in the story....stay/go, earth/moon, earth/Mars, good guy/bad guys, the protector/the protected, the brother/sister.

Well done. No other nits.

tp
 

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