Thursday, August 25, 2016
The last time I told men I cared about goodbye, I was the one boarding a shuttle. This time I was the one being left behind.
Katrina was also there with her clan. They’d moved her into her liaison quarters at the complex the day before. She and Ret were tearful during their goodbyes. Wotref looked sad but resolute, as a captain should. Siko looked ready to eat people … but that’s how he usually looks. The only time his glower eased was when he held Anrel and kissed his little becu goodbye.
Tep and Feru’s clans also boarded that shuttle. There were more tears, especially from Tep as he begged me to send him regular updates on Anrel’s progress. Of course I promised to do so. I wouldn’t have her … and she wouldn’t have me … if it hadn’t been for him. I owe him much more than being a pen pal. It’s too bad I’ll never be able to repay him all he deserves.
There weren’t many words between me, Oses, and Betra. We’d said everything over the last few weeks many times over. We just stood there, holding each other and Anrel until the call to board the shuttle came.
Betra rubbed his hands over his leaking eyes. “Weekly updates,” he said in a thick voice.
“From you too,” I said. “That means you as well, Oses.” I gave him a mock fierce look.
He smiled down at me. “Of course. Otherwise, I’ll have to hear Betra nag.”
“I don’t nag,” Betra said, his voice hitching. “I remind with increasing frequency and angst.”
We managed some weak chuckles over that. “Stay safe out there,” I told them.
“We will. Take care of yourself and our little girl.”
Final call to board rang out. Anrel and I got our last kisses, and then Betra and Oses turned away. They both paused at the shuttle’s hatch for one more wave. I blinked tears away so I could see them clearly. I smiled and helped Anrel wave back.
They boarded. Katrina walked over to me and took my hand. The hatch shut. Minutes later, the shuttle rose into the air and flew into the sky, taking away the two best men I knew.
The quick thuds of running feet got our attention. Katrina and I turned to see Candy racing up to us. She scowled at the sky where the shuttle was now nothing more than a pencil dot.
“Damn it, I missed saying goodbye to everyone for the last time. Stidmun’s shuttle took off late, and I was saying goodbye over there.” She looked at our tearful faces. “At least I got back in time to take care of you two.”
Katrina sniffled. “We’re okay, Candy. Did you have a good visit with your Nobek friend?”
“Fantastic, but we can talk about that later. You aren’t starting your duties yet, are you Katrina?”
“Not until tomorrow.”
“Good.” Candy held out her hands to take Anrel from me. “I think you two need to get drunk and laugh and cry while we remember our journey from Earth and miss loved ones. I’ll stay sober and take care of the baby.”
I swiped at my leaking eyes. “Yeah? That does sound like a pretty good plan.”
Katrina nodded. “I’d like that. Thanks Candy.”
She grinned at us. “What are friends for? Come on. I have a whole crate of bohut with your names on it.”
We laughed. Anrel chortled with us, delighted as always to have a reason to smile. Arm in arm, we made our way back to the complex. I’m pleased to report we carried off Candy’s scheme in grand style: we got stinking drunk, cried over our missing sweethearts, and laughed at the funny moments we’d had on our long trip. It was the perfect way to close one era and clean the slate for the next.