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The Last Goodbye - Short Story

Reading fantasy led me to write short stories in a world similar to but unlike our own.

Photo by Filipe Almeida on Unsplash

Photo by Filipe Almeida on Unsplash

Story

She was sitting at her desk. Her head bent down. She had tied up her wavy hair in a clumsy knot. She had loose strands covering half her face. I always wonder how she manages to see anything. Maybe her big glasses help keep the hair away from her eyes, at least. She pushed back her glass every few minutes. Was it bothering her? I don’t know. Don’t know how to ask her either.

I called out her name, and she turned around in her swirling chair with such force that her keyboard got knocked out. The poor thing was hanging for its life by its chord.

“You are the only one I know who still uses a wired keyboard. Everyone else switched to a holographic keyboard before you were even born.”

She didn’t say anything. She rarely says anything. She just proceeded to put her keyboard back and then made sure everything was working as per her liking before finally getting up from her chair.

The first time I saw her, she was sitting in the same chair, her head bent down in the same way. I think she was wearing a different grey hoodie back then. Her current grey hoodie looks a little less torn. Or maybe she just repaired one of her old ones. She keeps repairing old things. That’s how I met her all those years ago. My spaceship had sustained some damage crossing an asteroid belt. No one in the town had the right parts to repair. So they all pointed me in her direction.

I asked her, “Do you want to eat before or after?”

She bites her lower lip when she struggles to make any decision. So I said, “After” and she nodded in agreement.

I knew I had to decide for her today, just like I had to decide the very first time we got together. It was after two whole years since we first met. I keep travelling from planet to planet on different trade routes. It takes me approximately one year to finish one round. Sometimes I would make a detour depending on what I am carrying and what is the shelf life of my goods. But I kept thinking about the simple girl living all alone in that dingy building.

So I picked up some fresh fruits on my trade route and went to her as soon as I landed. Fruits were my excuse to see her again. I had a whole thank-you-for-fixing-my-ship speech ready. But she took the fruits and sat down at her desk and slowly and carefully peeled and cut the seven pieces of fruits I had brought for her. Then she ate all of that without offering me any, while I kept standing in front of her. She didn’t even have a second chair for me to sit in. She had one chair, one desk and one bed. The rest of the rooms were full of shelves and the shelves were full of… well stuff I don’t know how to explain.

That was not the first time we got together. That happened much later. The next time I went to see her, I needed her to repair my calibration system. When she finished her repairs, she asked me to bring her some books from my trade route. Now I had a reason to come see her again. I didn’t need any more excuses. I had her invitation.

It took me a few more years before I saw her again. By then, she had procured a dining table and two chairs for us to sit and eat together. Her fridge was full of heat-and-eat packaged meals. Many of them were sold by my trade union. But she made soupy noodles for me. They tasted worse than the bland packaged meals but I still finished every last bit of it.

After the meal, she was biting her lip so hard that a little blood came out. That was when I made the decision for her. I kissed her and licked the blood off her lip. I stayed with her for the rest of my stay and on every trip since then.

She doesn’t talk much, but I still learned a lot about her. She has lived her entire life in this very same building. Every nook and corner reflected her persona. One doorframe had horizontal lines with dates next to each. I think they showed her height measurement. The markings ended almost 20 years and at least 15 inches ago. I could almost picture her as a little girl standing at the doorframe and her mother or father marking her height. I think it was her father who raised her alone and taught her all the skills and who left her his collection of knick-knacks from all over the world, like her keyboard.

Tonight we went to the bedroom before dinner. I wanted to take her out to a restaurant in the town. She didn’t refuse, but I know she didn’t want to leave her home. We tried a new cuisine and loved the first few dishes. Then the last dish turned out to be a particularly nasty-smelling fish. She refused to even touch it. We picked popsicles on our way back. The walk was not long, but it got uncomfortable.

My trade union did not renew its trade licence for this planet. There was not enough profit, they said. So this would be my last trip here. I knew I could leave my union and just stay here with her. I even thought about asking her to come with me. But somehow I could not do that either.

We were not meant to be together. Not forever, anyway. I loved her staying in the same house she always lived and she loved my travelling lifestyle. I loved the stability. She loved the change. But at the core, neither of us was ready to leave what we already had for what we admired in the other.

Neither of us slept that night. In the morning, we parted like always, knowing that this will be the last goodbye.

© 2022 Divya Vartika

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