I met her two days before the rocket was due to leave, carrying me away to a new planet, a new job, a new life. I’d spent half my worldly wealth on that ticket, and just thinking about it made me grin from ear to ear.
“That’s why I wanted to talk with you,” she said as we lay tangled amid the sheets, watching the sun rise through the broken blinds of her apartment. “You were so lively, so happy. Just looking at you made me smile.”
“I know the feeling.” I ran my fingers across the scars above her left breast, remnants of an accident years before. “You’re amazing, you know that?”
“Amazing enough for a second date?” She smiled at me. We both knew I was going to say yes.
“I’m not sure last night counts as a date,” I said. “A couple of beers and a game of pool isn’t very romantic.”
“Then let’s have our first date now.” She leapt up and pulled on her jeans. “I’ll buy you breakfast.”
“You’re looking pretty miserable for a guy who just got laid.” Frank tightened a strap on his harness. It was our last chance to practise emergency procedures before the flight, and like everything else we’d done since the age of twelve, we were doing it together.
Almost everything, anyway.
“She bought me blueberry pancakes for breakfast.” I sighed.
“You love blueberry pancakes.” Frank looked at me with concern. “What’s the problem?”
“I think I love her. I don’t want to leave her behind.”
“Shit, buddy.” He placed a hand on my shoulder. “That’s tough. But you’ve only known her for one night.”
“What if she’s the one?”
“Then lets hope you find the two when we make planet fall. That’ll take your mind off it.”
I shifted from one foot to the other, jittery and impatient as I stood outside the restaurant. After fifteen minutes a waiter came out.
“Excuse me, sir, but are you waiting to meet a woman?” He described her hair and build.
“Yes,” I said, and then a horrible thought hit me. “Is something wrong?”
“Not at all.” He smiled. “She was even earlier than you. She is waiting inside.”
I practically ran past him and over to the table where she sat, looking even more beautiful than I remembered. Then I froze, unsure how to behave around the love of my life, who I’d met twenty-four hours before.
“Come here.” She reached up, kissed me, and then pushed me down into the seat across from hers.
“I need to tell you something.” My heart hammered so fast I thought it might explode. There was no way I could keep the words in. “I’m leaving tomorrow. I’ve got a ticket on a transport to the colonies.”
“Oh.” Her face fell. “I…”
“Wait.” I reached into my pocket and pulled out a plastic chit, the ticket I’d spent the remaining half of my worldly wealth on. “I know this is crazy, I know we’ve only just met, but I’ve never felt this way before. Will you come with me?”
Mouth hanging open, she stared at the ticket.
“Oh, god.” She blinked. “Oh, I’m so sorry…”
“No, I’m sorry.” I could feel my soul shrivelling as I shoved the ticket back into my pocket. “You don’t know me. This was a dumb idea.”
“You ass!” She grabbed my collar and hauled me halfway across the table before planting a kiss. “It’s the most wonderful, romantic idea. But I can’t.”
She took my hand in hers and placed it on her chest, where scars were visible at the top of her dress.
“It’s my heart,” she said. “The accident destroyed it. Paramedics put in an emergency replacement, one of those Japanese hearts that unfolds like origami and keeps everything in place. It’s the only reason I’m still alive, but it could never take the pressure of space travel.” She kissed my fingers, and there were tears in her eyes. “We have tonight. Let’s enjoy it while it lasts.”
I didn’t have to be at the observation platform to know she would be there, watching my ship take off on a journey from which it would never return.
“Amazing, isn’t it?” I said as I walked up behind her.
She turned, eyes wide.
“What are you doing here?” she asked. “You’re meant to be in space.”
“It’s my heart,” I said. “Turns out it’s made of origami too. It would have folded up and died without you.”
* * *
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