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!).
This one is probably about a PG-13.
She takes a pill when she gets home, one of the anti-anxiety ones she tries to avoid because they make her so sleepy. Javi herds her into his room, gets her shoes and pants off, then bundles both of them into his bed where he wraps around her like a squid as she closes her eyes. The nebula is there, spinning slowly.
“Did they teach you the shoe trick in training?” she asks. The nebula heaves, orange and green, spins on and on, lazy.
“Yeah. It’s for after uploads–you can kind of lose yourself when you’ve got a couple dozen new star charts shoved into your head. It’s easy to panic. By the time I retired, just the phrase could calm me down.”
“Magic words,” she says, fading fast into the colors thanks to the pill.
“Makes sense, we were a bunch of kids,” he says, but she’s asleep before she can try and soothe the bitter tone from his voice.
When Tace wakes up, Javi is gone and she has her face stuffed into his pillow. She gets up slowly, muzzy-headed from the nap and the meds, and pads to the kitchen to find Linea at the table, reading on the incorporated tablet and drinking coffee. The sunlight from the tiny kitchen window catches in her hair and turns it silver-gold.
She smiles when she sees Tace. “Recovered from Formes, then?” she asks carefully.
“Mostly. Maybe.” She rubs her head and asks, “Is it all over the nets?”
“It … is. But it’s not anything too terrible. I haven’t seen any clear photos. Most of the commentary is of the We didn’t know she was back in Camwenne variety, with a little Is she sick here and there.”
Tace crosses the kitchen and looks over Lin’s shoulder; the security detail and Lin shield her from view of the variety of camera angles; mostly what she can see of herself is her hair and her shoulder. There’s one photo of her with Javi, walking out, but her face doesn’t show. Javi looks worried in it. “You’re very good at ruining pictures,” she says to Lin, amused.
“It’s like muscle memory,” Lin replies with a smile. “What do you need, now? Coffee?”
“Food.” Tace moves to the cupboard where they keep the snacks and is absurdly pleased to find her favorite crisps inside. “Where’s Javi?”
“He went out to get another charger for your handheld,” Lin said. “I stopped by the electronics store and picked you up a new one on my way home. He got it connected–it’s on the counter for you if you want to set it up.”
Tace takes the crisps to the counter and picks up the new device. “It’s so big,” she says–it fits in her hand, just barely–devices are getting bigger again. This news shouldn’t bother her as much as it does.
She sits down right next to Linea; Lin’s smile widens and she slides her foot to hook around Tace’s ankle. “Why aren’t you at work?” Tace murmurs, tapping the phone to wake it. Javi writes from home and occasionally taxis people around when he feels like making extra money; Linea works at the university.
“It’s Festival Week,” Lin replies. “You timed this really well. No school until next week.”
That’s right, Javi mentioned Festival Week. Tace frowns at the screen. “FamFriend, really? Still? And of course I can’t delete it.” She pokes at the screen a couple of times to try and hide the icon, huffs in frustration when she can’t make that happen.
“Here–” Linea reaches over to the phone. “You tap here, then the icon gets bigger, and–zap, hidden.” Her fingers move quickly; Tace thinks she may remember what they did, but she’s not sure.
“No problem. Hey, NewsNow updated recently and is basically eye-bleeding now, so I have this new app for the newsfeeds–”
“I … um. Maybe later?” Tace asks. The sheer amount of news she missed out on, between deployment and recuperation, seems mammoth and insurmountable; add to that how much of it is about her, and she’s not looked at the feeds since she got back planetside. The idea of trying makes her prickly with nerves and an underlying tug of dread that reminds her of the state dining room at Holtzdorrne House.
“I can help you catch up,” Linea says, crooked grin and sliding foot along her ankle. “If that’s what you’re worried about.”
Tace’s head is still cottony, but the twitchy nerves all along her stomach and chest ease away with the sense Tace has of Linea’s skin all over her own, even if they’re fully dressed and only touching a little under the table. “Later,” she says again. “I want–” She loses the word, but it doesn’t matter, Lin knows what she means.
She’s up from her chair and straddling Tace’s lap with a breathy, “Am I hurting you?” before Tace shakes her head, lost in Lin’s eyes and scent and mouth; she has her hands under Lin’s shirt and on her skin and moans into her mouth, and she doesn’t care about devices or apps or anything that has happened in the world or the universe; she spins and undulates in reds and oranges and the silver gold of Linea’s hair, the gold brown pink of her body there in the light of their kitchen window.
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.