My life went on in monotony. I told Robin about my days and soothed his ego. I knew he was only trying to protect me; and I spent days rejecting Galen’s advances. It was so tempting to give in, to feel his body next to mine, but I knew about the string of shattered hearts that lay in his wake. I wanted to be somebody’s world, not somebody’s conquest. So, my reality fell apart one night when Robin said through the wall, “We’ve been sharing our lives for so many years now,” with his soft voice paused, I imagined his face the way it felt when he was concentrating. “You are my whole world Arienne.” It was everything I’d wanted to hear, but at that very moment I realized that Robin was not the one I wanted to hear it from. I didn’t know who, but not my best friend and confidante.
“Robin, you know how much you mean to me.” Doing my best to be evasive, I asked, “Hey, do you know what happened to that janitor? The nice one, kind of special, he was always so nice. The new one is so abrasive.”
“No,” he sounded disappointed with my lack of returned affection. We were quiet for a while.
“Have you ever noticed that no one who lives in this colony is seen after they’re twenty?” Robin asked.
“Of course they are. After graduation and when we turn 21, we’re all given a job. Well, the functioning people.”
“My point exactly,” Robin said. “What happens to the ones who don’t get a job?”
“I guess I’ve never thought about it.” I mused. “I always dreamed of teaching the little blind students. So, all of the older people here have jobs?” There were a ton of older people walking around.
“I’m not sure. But only so many people retire every year- there can only be around that number of jobs, right? Where do they go when they retire?”
“Maybe there’s a pod cluster we don’t know about...” I suggested.
“They have to go somewhere. And they don’t send them back to earth.” He was ominously quiet.
“You’re scaring me Robin.”
“That’s the point, Arienne. We have to find out where they go. Where WE will go when we turned 21.” I’d always believed I’d be teaching elementary children.
“I’ll ask Galen, his father’s the warden. Maybe he can find out something,” I thought.
“Oh by all means, go asking Galen,” he sneered.
“Shut up Robin and go to sleep.”
I snuck out of world studies the next day (I mean who cares about a planet I’d never be on) and went to the flower garden. I sat and thought about what Robin had said. Where do they all go? We’d never had a funeral. The only older people were the warden and the teachers. All the menial tasks went to various skilled residents over 21- functioning residents. What would they do with me? What if I couldn’t teach, what if there weren’t enough jobs for me?
That’s when I first felt it. A moisture, a mist. It enveloped me. I felt a peace slide over me. Then it seemed to speak. Not out loud, but I could hear it clearly. “Come with me,” it seemed to say. “Fixable are you.”
“Come where? How can you fix me?” But the mist disappeared as quickly as it had come.
“Who are you talking to, little flower?” Normally I would be happy to talk to Galen, but he’d made my mist go away and I was revving up to have a full temper tantrum. Then I remembered my conversation with Robin last night.
“Yes Ari?” I hadn’t realized in my moodiness just how close he’d gotten. His breath was on my cheek.
“Do you know what happens to those without a job when they turn 21?”
“No,” his breath was warm and sweet. “Do you?”
“I have no idea. I thought since your father was the warden you might know,” I sighed.
“Why so glum?” he breathed. I was about to tell him about the mist when I turned my head and his lips found mine. Scoundrel. He’d meant this all along.
The kiss was brief, but my first one and it was perfect. Warm and soft and he was so gentle. Galen put his hand on my cheek and his palm seared my skin. I pulled away.
“Don’t do that again,” I used my most serious voice.
“Oh, little flower, I plan to.” He was getting up to leave. “I’ll let you enjoy your peace.”
“Galen, will you think about what I said? About the jobless?”
“Sure,” he said. “For you.”
“You might as well stop trying. I know you’re just a rogue with a trail of broken hearts.”
“A man has to try.”
Sorry about that, I thought.
“Aren’t you ever in class?” It didn’t make sense to me that he was always so available when I was concerned.
“I’m just as devious as you are. Actually, more so.” I could hear the smile in his voice. I wanted to scold him and tell him I wasn’t devious at all, but then I realized he was right. I heard him chuckle as he left the gardens.
The tingle from his kiss lasted on my lips and I smiled. I wouldn’t admit it to myself, but I looked forward to Galen trying again.