Mella’s shoulders slumped and she exhaled heavily. When would Jans learn? She snapped the intercom on.
“What now, Jans?” She didn’t bother checking the biometrics. She knew it was him hunched there on her doorstep, rain pelting onto his shoulders.
On the monitor, he straightened. “Mella, I know you think we’re over, and I know why. Just, give me tonight. I have something that I really need to show you.”
His gaze, even through the camera, held a hint of pleading, though nowhere near the groveling she’d expected. Intrigued despite herself, Mella still hesitated.
She knew what he was like, how he’d get tentacles in her again, eat up all her free time with silly, old-fashioned nonsense — which she did enjoy, of course. But they were done. Through. She’d had enough. He wasn’t serious enough, wouldn’t get a job. Just kept studying stars.
“Show me now, on-camera.”
“I can’t. You have to come with me. This is the last time. I promise.” He raised two fingers and crossed his heart, a silly grin overbalancing his face.
She melted. Damn love.
“Fine. But this is the last time.”
He led her to the tram, the rain stuttering down around them like a curtain. She reached for her credit wand to pay, but he swiped his. A minute later the tram rattled into view and they boarded, joining the homeless and low-credit holders. Only Jans, of all the people Mella knew, would ever consent to riding the trams. Then again, he was almost one of those low-crediters himself.
From the Main Station, Jans took her to a pod-rental kiosk. She waited under an awning while he spoke with the attendant-avatar, then returned with keys and a huge grin. They raced to a wide 2-seater, built for distance, as the rain began pelting down hard and fast.
Flushed and laughing, it took a minute for Mella’s head to remember what was going on.
“You can afford this?”
“Don’t worry,” he said, and pushed the ignition.
Two hours later, Mella was cranky and stiff, still stuffed into the rental-pod like a guest in a tomb-hotel.
“Couldn’t we have gone to a sim shop?”
“Not for this.”
“What? Nothing’s here. It’s getting dark out, and all I see are trees and dark.”
“You’ll see. It’ll be good, I promise.”
She wanted to say, “You’ve promised things before,” but she held her tongue. After all, they’d been there. It’s why they were through. Even though Jans had a hard time recalling that. She slumped down to wait, kicking herself for coming.
Jans’s voice simmered with excitement as he whispered into her ear. Mella popped upright, taking in the scene around them. They were parked on a rocky hilltop, with nothing around but trees and stones. Darkness draped the world below, and stars pierced the night sky all around. They were far from the rain, and home.
Jans led her from the car to a promontory, where he spread a blanket for them. She looked quizzically at him, her lips pursing into a frown.
“This you couldn’t sim?”
He swept by her, sat, then leaned back and looked up at the stars. She shrugged a shoulder and joined him.
As she raised a bored gaze skyward, a streak raced across the sky.
“Oh!” Her skin prickled at the strangely beautiful sight. “A meteor. But…” She turned to him.
“A meteorite,” Jans corrected, still staring at the sky. “Now hush. Listen. Listen hard.”
Mella concentrated, but all she heard was… nothing. Well, she heard a soft breeze slip among the evergreens behind them. And Jans’s shoulder jostled pebbles as he slipped nearer to her. And her own heartbeat, thumping in her chest.
“Look at the sky. And listen there.” His breath rustled her hair.
She looked. Another meteorite blazed across the sky. And another. There was no sound. Soon the sky was awash with racing arcs, maybe ten or twenty a minute. And then…a wide arc illuminated the sky. A deep sound, low and ponderous, caught Mella’s ear. Her breathing froze. She shivered.
“You heard it!”
She saw the joy in Jans’s face, nodded to him. She couldn’t break the silence of her awe. They turned back, listening for the meteorites’ dying gasps. She reached out in the dark and grabbed his hand, squeezed it.
In silence, he drove the rented pod directly to her door. At her apartment, Mella hesitated. Would he…? She squared her shoulders. No.
He thrust a paper into her hands. Mella grabbed it automatically. She looked from it, thick and neatly folded, to Jans, who stared straight ahead, hands on the levers.
“Read it when you get inside. And… call me. If you want.”
“Jans, I — .”
He shook his head. “No. Go. I made a promise. I won’t call you again.”
“Thanks for the meteorites, Jans. And those sounds. They were a miracle.”
She slid the door open and ran into her apartment without looking back. The pod shussed away in the wet street. Minutes later, still leaning on her door, Mella looked at the folded note in her hands and frowned. He always did this. Wowed her with simple joys, the occasional treat. But he wouldn’t work, lived on public support. He was a dead end.
She caught herself before the paper fell from her fingertips into the recycler. She unfolded it and read. It was from Consolidated Spaceways Freight, welcoming Jans as a new Logistics Analyst, Luna Station. She stared long at the words before the meaning came clear: Jans had a job!
At the bottom, he’d scrawled, “I promised you a miracle. Tonight I gave you the stars. Next month, if you come with me, I’ll give you the Moon.”
M.E. Garber lives in Ohio with her husband and dog. She writes strange things and blogs at megarber.wordpress.com.