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Location: The Aurora Colony, Main Library
Year: 2666 AD
A dead man’s eyes punctured my soul.
My mouth felt dry. It felt drier than the Mojave Desert, drier than Phoenix, and definitely drier than the sunny-side of Luna. The man gripped a half-zipped bag that hung over his shoulder. He took no notice of me and crossed the library, with a distinct and familiar swagger. Chad’s swagger.
But it couldn’t be.
The typical hushed buzz of library life hummed around me like a familiar song. School children read in little nooks on their glowing glass tablets. A frizzy red head studied herself to near collapse in a corner, eyes puffy and red. Another typical day at Aurora Library.
I hadn’t seen the man’s complete face, just the profile, but I could have sworn it was Chad. But that was impossible. Chad was dead. My hands shook and I leaned against counter. I watched the back of the man’s head as he hurried to the Young Adult Romance section.
He looked tan and muscular, who obviously worked outside a lot, perhaps a construction worker. As a booming colony, Aurora had a lot of those. But a construction worker going to the Young Adult Romance section? He paused and slumped his muscular shoulders to peer at a book.
Fear, hope, and dread churned my insides into mush. What kind of man liked Young Adult Romance?
He had been such a sap.
“One day, we’ll get away from all of this, Narina,” he had said to me on Earth, lacing his words with kisses. I can still taste them sometimes.
But no. This was impossible. I shook my head and turned away. You are so stupid. Get yourself together. Your husband is gone. Dead. Deader than a door nail on ice.
Why was I doing this to myself? I looked at the book shelf I was organizing. Aurora’s Flora and Fauna. Boring. I needed boring. I began to finish managing the books.
Outside, the hum of Main Street suddenly grew in volume as a particularly loud flying car roared by the library. Through the windows, I watched it streak by, all angles, silver and orange paint, and hot air.
After Chad’s death, I had found that I was the proud owner of a powerful terraforming company called Gen-Seed. But I couldn’t let Chad go. I’d wallowed in depression for a year before deciding to make a change. I sold Gen-Seed to the highest bidder and moved to Aurora. Aurora touted as the most successful colony in humanity’s history. I decided I wanted to help encourage learning at the far end of the galaxy and hope that gave me some purpose. I’d never been good with business but books... books I knew.
Plus, Chad used to say that he dreamed of just dropping his business and running off with me somewhere—like Aurora. And of course, he never had. But it was what he would have wanted though.
Thump! I jumped and peered through the gaps of the shelf to see who’d made the noise. The same mysterious man walked by. His blond hair gleamed under the warm lighting, exactly like Chad’s.
I instinctively ducked and watched him near the check-out desk.
My heart rammed against my chest. What should I do? Fleeting fantasies of talking with him crossed my mind—of chasing him—calling his name.
No. I shook my head and gave myself a sad smile. This is my mind playing tricks on me. I won’t do anything. In fact, I doubt if I saw this man again, he’d look like Chad at all. It’s all in my head.
He finished checking out and began to stuff his glass tablet into his bag. But he fumbled and dropped it. He bent to pick it up and a large red apple slipped out of his half zipped bag and rolled onto the floor. He didn’t seem to notice and walked out of the library.
Before I gave myself time to think, I dropped the books I was filing, weaved through the aisles, and hurried to the red apple on the grey floor. I grabbed it and rushed through the exit and into the fresh Aurora air.
A sapphire sky vaulted over me like a cathedral. Flying cars soared, weaving through tall grey and blue buildings. A small shopping center buzzed with customers. Blue holograms advertised wares. Green trees waved and sighed in a slight breeze. The aroma of freshly baked bread and steak wafted over me.
Chad—no—the man—was walking across the full parking lot. I weaved through the lot, gripping the apple for dear life. He stopped by a sleek orange car, swiped his pass key, and the door opened.
I wanted to call out his name but I didn’t dare. What if it wasn’t Chad? It couldn’t be Chad after all.
My legs wouldn’t move.
Air refused to fill my lungs.
I felt trapped by fear, doubt, and hope.
The man dropped his bag into the car. I bit my trembling lip. What if? What if it was him? What if it was the man I loved? What if, for some inconceivable reason, Chad was still alive?
I gripped the apple harder, until I felt it bruise. I opened my mouth to shout. I forced my lips to move.
“Ch-Chad!” I screamed.
The man jerked around. His blue eyes bore into mine and recognition registered. He knew me. Hope. Unbelief. Pure emotion swelled and surged in me like a storm. My legs grew weak and I leaned against the nearest car. It couldn’t be. My dead husband lived.
A gorgeous, yet familiar, brunette sauntered across the parking lot from the direction of the shopping center. She held a newborn baby in a pink suit. She greeted Chad in a soft tone, taking his attention off me. He still looked stunned, but managed a smile as she reached him.
She kissed him.
I fell to my knees. Fire exploding in my mind. It seared my insides as a lump stormed up my throat. This woman—Maya—had used to be Chad’s assistant. He’d hired her six months before his—alleged—death. In fact, she had supposedly died in the same accident as Chad.
Chad helped Maya strap the baby in. They both got in and the flying car hummed to life. For a moment, his eyes locked with mine. His eyes seemed to fill with remorse, but in an instant, it was gone. He clenched his jaw and the car roared into the sky.
So he’d done it.
He’d finally run away from the craziness of life, the obligations, and his business. He’d chosen his dream. But without me.
I began to sob and I couldn’t stop.