The synthetic air of the garden deck was suspiciously fresh today. There were notes of honeysuckle, freshly cut grass and the crispness of an early morning in May. Genevieve strolled across the blades of lush green grass, the earth was soft beneath her feet and she wondered if they had changed the groundsman for the deck. Timothy who used to control the environment for the garden deck was always so grumpy, and Genevieve felt he didn’t add any passion to creating what she missed from Earth.
She had returned to Orbit 79 to visit her parents, they had retired here as they preferred cruising space and planet hopping to the alternative of their small bungalow on Earth. She inhaled the honeysuckle remembering the days that smell filled the molecules of air on Earth before it became so desolate. She knew she should join her parents on Orbit 79 and a lot of her friends had also moved here, but she was determined to complete her work as part of the science team trying to reverse the damage of global warming.
She knelt down touching the cold floor when a soccer ball hit her on the back of her head. Genevieve span around, her auburn waves whacking her cheeks as she glanced to see the familiar green eyes of Harriet. Harriet cracked a smile, it had been a year since she last saw Genevieve and she didn’t expect to see her today. Harriet flicked the ball up with her right foot and caught it in her right hand, she failed to suppress the muscles in her face to prevent her smile. It was so natural when Genevieve was around, her energy was infectious and lifted Harriet to a wholeness she had not experienced before.
Genevieve rubbed the back of her head and studied Harriet as she walked over, taking in her smile, her warmth and the way she brushed her ash blonde hair away from her face revealing the pink skin of her neck.
‘So you’re back?’ Harriets voice was like silk to Genevieves ears.
‘I guess I am,’ Genevieve smiled coyly back at Harriet.
‘And you didn’t think to let me know?’ Harriet gently pushed Genevieves shoulder and widened her smile. Her face was beginning to ache.
‘I guess I didn’t know if I should or if you’d even want to know I was back, but I knew you would probably be here kicking a ball around,’ Genevieve took the football from Harriet and attempted a few keep ups badly.
‘You’re still pretty rusty old girl,’ Harriet nudged Genevieve and swooped the ball away with a deft touch from her left foot.
Genevieve watched the way Harriet pulled out a hair tie, smoothed her hair from her face and kept up the ball with such ease. She could feel her heart fluttering in her chest and the nerves begin to take over her normal motor functions; she could already hear her voice shake as she spoke. Harriet always seemed so calm, which made Genevieve think that perhaps she didn’t quite emotionally hijack Harriet the same way she did her.
The thrill of Harriet being physically close, her particles circulating through the air and pulsating through Genevieve was too much for her body to contain. Her instant reaction to her was always to grin ear to ear, her face muscles always knew exactly how Harriet made her feel and gave the game away every time.
‘Do you want to go for dinner tonight?’ Genevieve stumbled over the words and her voice let her down again, sounding more like the tone of a 15 year old boy struggling through puberty.
The first time Genevieve met Harriet they formed an instant bond. It was as if they were long lost friends finally reunited, like they were pieces of a jigsaw that had finally found their way back to each other. It was a connection you tried to not get carried away with, or at least that is what Genevieve told herself. They had met on Earth seven years ago, before the climate had got so bad and Genevieve never really knew how to articulate how she felt, and so this flirting and awkwardness continued. It had been so long now that Genevieve was convinced she had been friend zoned.
‘That sounds like a great idea,’ Harriet felt a flip in her chest and tried to quash the excitement of spending the evening together. The moment she felt herself get excited her brain went straight to catastrophising mode. She just wants to catch up as friends, after all it has been a while since we have seen each other, Harriet thought.
Genevieve beamed, her whole face lit up and her deep blue eyes sparkled back at Harriet. Harriet always struggled with the unrequited nature of it, she struggled to stay in the gratefulness of their friendship and instead let her mind get carried away with the universe taunting her with something unobtainable.
‘I’ll swing by and get you at 8, and don’t be late,’ Genevieve cringed inside but the words were already out there.
Mary watched as Genevieve walked through the oak door, she could see her spirits had lifted and her cheeks glowing. She continued to chop the tomatoes and turned down the volume of the stereo. Cooking was never quite the same without George Michael reverberating from the kitchen walls. She gave Genevieve an enveloping embrace as only a mother could.
Mary loved her kitchen, the dark oak doors and the old farmhouse feel reminded her of home. She missed her old house, but she also was more than aware that the planet wasn’t what it was and their native land was no longer safe. She hated that Genevieve had stayed behind, she longed for her to join them on Orbit 79, but she knew her daughter well. She had agreed to a mission, and she would not stop until it was complete.
She watched as Genevieve sat at the kitchen bench, turning up the volume on ‘Cowboys and Angels’ and already getting lost in her own thoughts. The oak door creaked open as Terry walked in, he looked over at his wife before giving her a big kiss hello. Mary peered at him over her reading glasses, her grey curls covering her left eye and then she carefully wiped the red lipstick mark she had left on his lips. His blue eyes sparkled at Mary, before he went over to greet his daughter.
‘Gen, my darling, how has your day been?’ His voice filled the room.
‘It’s been good, really good actually,’ she looked wistfully into the distance.
‘Deep down you are still that secretive 15 year old girl! Are you not going to divulge why?’ He smirked.
‘I’m just going to catch up with Harriet tonight, that’s all. Be nice to catch up with an old friend,’ she started turning the pages of the newspaper to try and give the appearance of being nonchalant.
‘That’s wonderful, how is she? Such a lovely young girl’ He rubbed the top of his balding head and grabbed the paper from her.
‘She seemed well. We didn’t really talk long, hence the catch up for dinner. I’m sure I’ll be able to fill you in after that,’ she got up from her chair and pushed her dad gently for stealing the paper before heading to her room.
She lay on her back on the bed, she raised her hand and swept it through the air opening the browser on her ceiling. She tapped on the virtual menu and opened her photos, she flicked through the albums until she found the one from four years ago. She took a deep breath as she opened it, she knew off by heart where the picture was and when she got mid way through the album she saw Harriets tousled ash hair, her head in the nook between Genevieves chin and shoulder. Her cheeks flushed, her warm smile and her virescent eyes full of wonder. Genevieve looked at herself, how free she looked, her disarranged wavy hair and her crimson cheeks. She smiled remembering the hockey tour they were on, and the exact moment the picture was taken.
She remembered how she went to tell Harriet that she had a crush on her right after taking the picture, before Harriets crush, Kimba, gatecrashed. Kimba had a honing device for when Genevieve planned to say something significant to Harriet and would appear right at the critical moment. Genevieve couldn’t stand her, not just because Harriet obviously was crushing on Kimba, but because of the way Kimba did just enough to string her along without ‘technically cheating’ on her girlfriend.
Genevieve sighed as the crappy memory took over the good one and shut down the browser. The problem with Genevieve was that the moment something felt like it was going well, something would usually come along to take it away and she didn’t trust the peace she felt with Harriet. She didn’t feel worthy enough of Harriet, and kept waiting for the moment that Harriet would tell her that she had met someone to finally put an end to her silly fantasy.
Harriet heard the tap on the door, and checked the mirror one last time. She put a final touch of lipstick on, checked her teeth and her face, and took a deep breath before letting Genevieve in. Genevieves big blue eyes were full of such joy and melted Harriets nerves away.
‘Wow, you look amazing,’ Harriet sighed before catching herself… ‘for an old goat.’
‘Hey! I am only a year older than you and for that I am not giving you any complements for the rest of the evening.’
‘You never do, so it’ll be no different to any other evening really… it’s just insult after insult after insult,’ Harriet fake rolled her eyes and smiled.
‘Shall we?’ Genevieve stepped aside to allow Harriet out and they strolled to the upper deck which had a cool New York vibe to it. The concrete jungle surrounded them as they walked arm in arm laughing.
Genevieve opened the door to let Harriet in. 1920’s music swimmingly met them at the door, the dark wooden panels and cute little booths with candles in the dimly lit room screamed romance. It was just the vibe Genevieve was going for in her last ditch attempt to tell Harriet how she felt.
‘Kimba called just before you arrived and asked how you were. She heard you were back,’ Harriet didn’t even look up from the cocktail menu and so didn’t see Genevieves flicker of annoyance.
‘Is she still cheating… I mean, dating that girl? I forget her name,’ Genevieve knew her name but wanted to sound like she didn’t really care about Kimba’s comings and goings.
‘Now, now Gen, I know you’re not Kimba’s greatest fan. But yes, she is still with Sasha.’
‘Poor girl. Sorry, sorry, I know you and Kimba are really good friends,’ Genevieve glanced slyly over the top of her menu to gauge Harriet’s reaction.
‘She’s your friend too Genevieve, I know you two don’t always see eye to eye but you have been playing on the same hockey team for ten years.’
‘I know, we just have different values I guess and so we’ll never be close. But you two seem pretty close?’ Genevieve couldn’t help herself for fishing. She didn’t know what it was, it didn’t matter how much she tried to be happy for whomever Harriet chose to be with, but Kimba sent her into a jealous fog and she couldn’t get out of it.
‘We’re good friends, yes. I don’t know how we’ve ended up on this topic of Kimba, we have much better things to talk about… such as you and your project team. How is everything going?’ Harriet changed the subject, she always sensed Genevieve had a bee in her bonnet when it came to Kimba. Kimba had been a good friend to Harriet, there was a time where there could have been something more with Kimba – but the way she treated Sasha had put her off.
‘Not great to be honest. We are pretty sure it’s lost cause and the damage is completely irreversible. It’s heartbreaking and it won’t sustain human life for much longer. We’re going to have to speed up the process of finding an alternative planet for us to live on because the various stations orbiting Earth won’t sustain human life for much longer without some serious technological advancements in terms of fuel and maintenance,’ Genevieve trailed off realising she had totally brought the mood of the evening down before getting lost in her thoughts. Great, first you sound like a green eyed monster and now you are being totally depressing. You’re really opening this up for ‘hey Harriet, let’s be more than friends.’ Idiot. ‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to bring the mood down.’
‘Jesus, I didn’t realise it was that bad. Does that mean you get to come back?’ Harriet asked hopefully.
‘There is an option, but I don’t really have a lot to come back for. Well, obviously mum and dad, but career prospects… love life…’ she paused fishing for Harriet to interject.
The final part of Genevieves sentence jolted Harriets chest. She knew they were only friends but hearing her say that there was no prospect of a love life here was a sudden reality check. It hurt a lot more than she had anticipated.
‘Oh, well, I guess if there’s nothing really here for you then I guess I can see why there is no reason to rush back,’ she couldn’t hide her disappointment and she could swear Genevieve could see straight through it.
Genevieve walked Harriet to her door and they both loitered awkwardly in the doorway. Genevieve took in the large numbers on the door and suddenly made a realisation, she started giggling.
’69,’ she sniggered.
‘Oh my goodness, will you ever grow up?’ Harriet laughed with her.
‘One minute I’m old and the next I need to grow up…’ they both continued to chuckle.
Genevieve took Harriets hand and looked at her as they laughed. She could feel the heat pulsate through her fingertips, she could never explain the pull and the desire to just be in Harriets energy. That was the only way she could explain it, this feeling of always wanting more. She ached to be closer.
‘When do you head back?’ Harriet asked as her face eased from laughter to a smile.
‘Tomorrow late morning,’ Genevieve looked at her feet. If she maintained eye contact she would well up again.
‘That’s unexpectedly soon, I wasn’t really prepared for that,’ Harriets voice wavered and she was unsure what to say next. Her only thought was to ask Genevieve to stay. She wanted to be the reason Genevieve would stay.
They hugged tightly, their bodies merging as if pieces of a puzzle being connected back together and neither one of them wanted to break it. They relaxed into each other as their bodies blended into one. Genevieve broke it first, pulling away suddenly before Harriet could see the tears rolling down her cheeks. Harriet turned and walked through the door, closing it behind her and leaning back against it as it closed. It was too much, and as she went to walk to her room she heard muffled voices the other side of the door.
‘Gen darling,’ she recognised the voice as Mary, Genevieves mum. ‘What are you doing? Are you crying?’
‘No mum, I’m ok,’ Harriet pressed her ear up against the door.
‘I saw you and Harriet hugging for a very long time. Were you on a date?’
‘No mum, I told you, Harriet doesn’t think of me in that way and I don’t think she ever has.’
‘Why don’t you tell her how you feel?’ Harriet felt like her ear was pressed so hard to the door that she could fall through at any minute.
‘Is it that obvious!?’ Genevieve exclaimed and to Harriets joy she annunciated well.
‘Only to me darling, but you should tell her how you feel. Life is far too short for anything else than authenticity. You should know that by now darling…’ the voices started to fade and Harriets heart was pounding in her chest.
She was frozen with an absolute fear. She suddenly wasn’t sure she had heard things correctly and if she had heard things correctly what was she supposed to do about it? Her feet were welded to the spot. They had such a wonderful friendship, even over the distance Genevieve always checked in and was always there. She was reliable, she was loyal and she was never close enough. But Harriet wasn’t sure if she felt enough to tell her, to tell her to stay and to tell her that she wanted to be closer than friends. There was so much that could go wrong. Her head swam and she wasn’t sure how she was supposed to process the conversation she had overheard.
Genevieve hugged her mum and dad goodbye. The trip hadn’t quite gone to plan, but she was pleased she got to see Harriet and spend time with her parents. She hopped on the shuttle heading for the flight deck. She had a sinking feeling in her gut that she hadn’t done enough, she wasn’t brave enough to face the potential rejection but she also knew she still had her friend, and that was enough. She couldn’t bear the thought of not having Harriet in her life.
She loaded her bags on the bay and had the familiar sinking feeling as she went to board the ship. How did you really know if you were ready for something anyway? She had been single for so long, she didn’t even know if she would be a good partner and what if she fucked it up? Why would Harriet even find her attractive? She was her goofy friend, she was more like a loyal puppy than someone she would want to ravish. One day someone would want to be more than just her friend… she just had to be patient, but oh, how she longed for Harriet to be the one to cross that line. Equally she didn’t really know how much time they had left, or even if the mission to find another planet would be successful.
She walked to her seat and went to strap herself in. The usual pre-flight announcements were made and Genevieve got out her book to read on her device. Her thoughts started to turn back to the mission, and maybe that was the best place for her mind to be.
‘Genevieve Walker, Genevieve Walker, please can you attend the flight deck,’ the flight attendants voice came over the tannoy.
Genevieve was confused, she unclasped her straps and walked back out to the flight deck. To her surprise, Harriet stood waiting, her eyes scanning the various people passing by until she made eye contact with Genevieve. Harriet tentatively started to smile and Genevieve continued to look confused.
‘What’s going on? Is everything ok? Has something happened?’ Genevieve stuttered.
‘Oh goodness, I didn’t really think this through at all. I didn’t mean to panic you Gen. I… err… I… everything is ok. Nothing is going on, everything is ok and nothing has happened,’ Harriet paused, she couldn’t get enough oxygen into her lungs. She felt as though everything was pressing down on her… even though she had heard the words, she had convinced herself overnight it was a false memory and her wishful thinking had got the better of her.
‘I don’t want you to go Gen. I’d like you to stay, I want to be the reason that you stay or maybe I shouldn’t be so demanding… I’d like to be the reason that you would stay. This has never really been enough for me. Every time you go I miss you like crazy and every time you come back I just want you to stay. I never really knew what that meant, apart from our friendship never really being enough. My biggest fear is losing you, and that stems from a fear of fucking this up… and all the fear leads back to is wanting to give this a go more than anything else in the world and how much I care about you. This is risky as fuck but I am willing to give it a go if you are?’ Harriet was terrified.
Genevieve was stunned into silence. She reached for Harriets hands nervously and held them tenderly, she pulled very slightly at her wrists and Harriet nervously took a step forward. Genevieve leant her head in towards Harriet as their mouths met and Harriets lips curled into a smile.
‘Is that a yes?’ Harriet looked up nervously at Genevieve.
‘Of course it’s a fucking yes, now help me get my bags off that ship,’ Genevieve grinned before kissing Harriet again.