Below is the next bit of my novella, Dropping Slow, which I am posting serially during the month of June, as part of the Every Single Day Challenge to raise money for Sharon the Light. If you’re enjoying the story, please feel free to donate via my Crowdrise page ($10 minimum donation) or directly, at this link (no minimum donation). Everyone who donates will receive an ebook copy of Dropping Slow, once it’s all posted (if you donate directly, please leave a comment to let me know!).
“Can you say ‘cat’?” Trini asks, mischief in her smile, and Tace obediently makes the ca sound. They move through dog, and cow, and bird. She can’t make all the sounds yet; the ones that do come out frustrate her more. She spits “Piiii” for pig and Trini’s expression turns into something that stirs a memory in the far back corner of Tace’s head, makes her think of hiding and the sweet sugar taste of candy, the smell of pine.
“Can you say ‘shit’?”
Tace blinks at her sister and says nothing at all.
“Okay, how about ‘ass’?”
Tace opens her mouth to try and laughs instead. It’s hoarse and grating, not at all her old laugh, but Trini grins wider.
Tace shuts her mouth suddenly and and chases the abruptly remembered word as it surfaces in her mind; Trini knows the searching face now and says nothing, waits for whatever will happen.
What happens is Tace, hand knotting in the sheet, looking her sister straight in the eye and carefully enunciating, “Fuck.”
Slowly, slowly words come back, seeping into her head one by one. The memories she finds seem just that: found, stumbled over, once misplaced. Tace can see the holes where they might go. And as the words drip back, Trini begins probing at the memories.
“Mother?” she asks.
“Dying?” Tace tries. Because she is; she has been their whole lives, ill and kept going by nanites and spite, but dying’s the only word she can find for it.
And Tace grins and says, “Ass” so Trini will laugh. When it subsides, Tace looks for words and finally asks, “You’re here. Is that bad?”
Trini smiles at her maternally; her posture changes in a way Tace remembers being taught. “No, love. I’m Cisara of Harekannan; nothing I do is bad.”
“Home?” Trini asks her one day, and the jolt of Tace’s heart scatters her words across her mind like pebbles across concrete. Curly hair and bright green eyes, poems and history and the best smiles, the safest arms, the library and the market and …
“Orange. Orange door,” she says.
Trini’s voice is casual, “Is that all?”
No,” she says, breathless and far away in her head. “Linea and Javi.”
She doesn’t see the breath Trini releases, distracted by the memory of their arms and smiles, missing them, the comfort of them both.
Trini has shown her vids before. There is no casual communication from the med bay, and Tace isn’t up for it, anyway, but their parents have sent video messages, stiff and smiling and telling her how proud of her they are. There was a funny one from their old security team; Tace only remembered a couple of them, but they told stories about chasing her and Trini around when they were kids that prompted a few fuzzy memories. Her platoon, stationed on Homshoi now, but that vid brought back only memories of the battle–calls through the comm links, the impact of the raider ship’s wing into the side of her Stryke, Torvald and Francine arguing at each other over coming after her–and Trini shut it off halfway through, put the security detail back on until Tace stopped shaking.
Trini seems uncertain as she pulls today’s up, and she climbs into the bed next to Tace before she starts it.
Javi and Lin, on their couch, both of them fiddling with the recorder until Lin gently smacks Javi’s hand away and says, “Give me that, you’re terrible at this,” and they both laugh, nervously, as she angles it.
All words gone. She stares at Javi’s curls, how wide his mouth is as he smiles; Lin’s hair is shorter than before Tace left, golden and cut close to her scalp, and her hands fold over Javi’s on her knee, graceful and long-fingered.
“Hi, Tace!” Javi says, waving at the screen. Lin waves, too.
“We miss you,” they say at the same time, then look at each other and laugh again.
“We miss you a lot,” Lin says to the camera, her slanted smile tilting her mouth. Her voice goes wavery. “We’re so proud of you, love.”
Javi puts a hand over Lin’s; his voice is steady, but his smile isn’t. “Trini says you’re working really hard in PT and speech therapy and–just, keep going, okay?”
Lin nods sharply. “Yes, work hard and get better enough to come home, Tace.”
“We love you, Lieutenant,” Javi says, and Lin might be crying a little as they blow her kisses and Javi leans in to turn off the recorder.
Tace watches the vid twice more, holding Trini’s hand through it all. “Was this a good surprise?” Trini asks.
Tace nods sharply, like Lin in the video, no words in her anywhere, just longing.
copyright 2017 by Laura E. Price. Feel free to link to this story–signal boosting is welcome!–but please don’t reproduce it without permission.