Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
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Kviye walked Samir back down a boardwalk that thinned out somewhat, both in terms of pedestrians and the shops that remained open, and judging by the noise coming from the tavern, it seemed that they had all funneled there instead. On their way back to Valyen’s home, Samir shared stories of the space stations he’d visited, mostly Human and Winti though their intention was to reach the borders of the Adaract Hive before heading to Iastret and Mraboran space, perhaps all the way to the Thorian Empire itself. The names meant little to her, shiny distractions as she planned conversations she wasn’t sure how to have.
They parted when they reached the garage – Samir returned to the guest house while she inserted herself into the remnants of the evening clean-up in the kitchen as if she’d never left, silently grabbing a pot from Kviye’s mom and scrubbing it. She was certain her absence was noted, but not even Valyen had bothered to comment on it.
Well after the whole house had gone dark and quiet, Kviye lay in Valyen’s bed with her eyes opened, promises from the whole galaxy whispering in her ear.
Her friend insisted that as a guest, Kviye would have the bed and Valyen would have the thin mattress on the floor, and when Valyen was in that kind of mood there was no fighting it. So for the sake of not having to hear Valyen sulk in her own bed refusing to sleep, Kviye acquiesced, though now it was her who was unable to fall asleep, and not for a lack of trying.
“Seriously Kvee, I can’t sleep with you thinking this loud,” Valyen grumbled in the dark.
“Sorry, I’ll try to keep it down.” Was she breathing too hard? Or sighing unintentionally? In any case, Kviye had no interest in making this Valyen’s burden, so she turned on her side and tried to keep her breath low as she went through the possibilities in her head, all the ways her life could go if she went through with the decision she had already made – watching her father struggle to find work, leaving him for months or possibly years, finding her way out there without him, without Valyen, without Adri. And the stars, always the stars in the background promising a thousand different worlds to see.
“I can still hear you, you know?”
“How?” Kviye sat up in bed looking in the direction of the lump on the floor, hardly visible in the reflected planet-light streaming through the window.
“I don’t know, just do,” the lump grumbled back and then reluctantly unfurled and also sat up. “You’re not thinking what I think you’re thinking, are you?”
“Samir said there’s space for me on the Oshken.”
Kviye didn’t mean to leave her friend in silence. She had been looking for a response – the right mix of lightness, earnestness and apology. Instead, it was Valyen who had to break the silence.
“Do I need to break your other leg?” She asked with a sigh of resignation.
“You might have to.”
It was Valyen’s turn to soak them in quiet as she stared off into some indeterminate point in the darkness of her room.
“Are you mad at me?” Kviye whispered.
“Me being anything won’t make a bit of difference, will it? You’re gone either way.”
“That’s not fair. You make it sound like it’s just about leaving.”
“Then what is it, Kvee?”
She had for Valyen only part of an answer. Samir couldn’t make any promises and neither would Kviye, nor would she feed Valyen’s hopes just to justify her own burning desire to leave behind everything she knew and everyone she loved.
“You heard Captain Mokob,” Kviye said. “He was able to buy the Oshken with the money he made comet chasing, and I don’t need anything that big. Just something to replace the skiff, maybe connect our moon to our closest neighbours. Who knows the kind of things they might have that we would find helpful.” If Valyen didn’t hear it then, then she wasn’t ready for it.
“Kviye, these comet chasers are all about tall tales and talking themselves up, they’re worse than the fishers. And besides, I’m sure your dad will be the first to tell you that this is a ridiculous idea.”
“I’m not sure my dad will be the first to tell me anything. I don’t know if you noticed but we’ve barely talked since the crash. He’ll say ‘good morning’ and ‘good night’ but other than that, any conversation we have is just listening to each other talk to other people at the dinner table.”
“He still loves you. The crash didn’t change that.”
“That’s’ about the only thing it hasn’t changed.” Kviye sat looking out the window; there was a light on in a window of the guest house and the pale storm on the surface of the gas giant was visible just above the top of the building. “If I could make enough to get another ship, things could go back to normal. I would be flying, and he would have something to do. And we could forget the crash ever happened.”
Kviye knew though that the crash would never allow itself to be forgotten. On clear days when she looked up into the sky, it would transform into the fast-approaching ground and the wound in her leg would groan. Or when she’d sit alone in the dark, she could hear the wind and the rain and a voice calling her name from a distance, first her mother’s and then Valyen’s.
She wondered if Valyen was experiencing the same thing from her own perspective – entangled in the memories of the skiff streaking white across the sky, coming down somewhere behind the hills that encircled Zhakitrinbur.
After a long while, Valyen said, “Kvee, I want you to know, that no matter what I may’ve said, whatever you decide, I’ll be there.” She finally looked at Kviye then, her eyes pale and determined. “Do you understand?”
She didn’t then, as Kviye would later realize, but she agreed anyway. “I understand. Thank you.”
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Michael is a husband, father of two, lawyer, writer, and is currently working on his first novel, at a snail's pace. A very leisurely snail. All opinions are author's own.