Flight From Earth

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Part Five: Dawn

Orbiter

Launch Site: Cape Canaveral

Time and Date: September 27th, 2007 11:34 UTC

Last Contact: October 31st, 2018

“Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall.”

Ray Bradbury

22

“You’re not going to go for dessert?” My father’s brown eyes under black, bushy eyebrows faced me and my heart melted.

“I don’t think so, but thanks dad.” I smiled and found that I couldn’t maintain eye contact.

“Are you okay?” My mother leaned closer and I felt her shoulder brush against me at our bench facing our table.

I looked up, “I’m okay.” The lies were among the most difficult that I had ever told.

“You just seem… like something is bothering you.” My mother’s frown brought lines of worry across her face. “You know that you can tell us anything. If not here,” she motioned to the tables of colonists finishing up the gnocchi served as tonight’s dinner. “Then in our dorm when we get home.”

“Thanks mom.” I glanced over to my dad whose scrunched up face registered equal concern.

The meal had been painful. I had tried to treat tonight like any other night, but it was not. I had found myself more than once staring at my parents trying to memorize every detail of their face. Each separate wave in my mother’s hair, the tone of my father’s voice, and the grey specks scattered throughout eyebrows and their hair. I didn’t want the dinner to end, but at the same time needed it to come to a close.

“No dessert for me tonight, I’m ready when you are,” I offered as I put both hands on the brown tray holding the plate with streaks of red pasta sauce. Although I didn’t feel like eating, I forced down the bites knowing that the journey ahead required everything I had.

“Okay,” my father seemed skeptical in his eyes, but stood up.

The three of us took their trays to the recycling and cleaning station and prepped them for Zed and Fatima. It was their night for dishes. Exiting as a row, we stepped into the connector. My mom put an arm around me as we made our way forward in silence.

Outside, the last light was dying as shadows stretched out from the complex. Inside, my heart was breaking but I vowed that I would not cry in front of them. The three of us silently made our way down the tube with only the sounds of our footfalls. So far, I had made it without revealing the jumble of turmoil brewing inside. We exited out the connector to arrive in front of our domicile. This place had taught me to be a good soldier in that regard. Hiding feelings and lying were skills that had been acquired in a very short time of living here.

Passing through the door, we arrived in the dorm. All three of us paused and stood in a small triangle near the center.

“Is there something you want to tell us here?” My father reached out and put a hand on my shoulder.

I will miss this so much.

My eyes dropped to the floor.

“I’m just scared,” I offered. This was a truth at least.

My mother and father leaned in and for the first time in a long time, the family huddled together and hugged quietly.

“We understand,” my mother whispered.

“No, you don’t,” the words just slipped out.

“We are trying. But you’re right. We can’t understand exactly how you’re feeling.”

“By bringing you here, we have put you in a challenging position…”

I pulled back and stared at them. “No, don’t ever say that.” My eyes welled. “No matter what happens, you can never question coming here. You’ve always done right by our family, and although there’s craziness here— Earth is dying. You should never question our coming here.” This was true. I sniffled and stifled the tears.

My mom offered the slightest, sad smile on her full lips. “You are more than we could have ever asked for in a daughter.”

I shook my head, “Mom, I do some of the dumbest things sometimes, I know that. But I hope that you know,” I felt something in my throat as my eyes welled again, “that I try to be the person that you raised me to be.” A few tears left wet tracks on my cheeks as they streaked downwards.

“You do a great job,” my mother hugged me tight. “We love you for that.”

“And when you do rebel, we also know that we are partly to blame for that,” my father wrapped his long arms around the both of us. “You are our daughter.”

After another few seconds, I pulled back and reached up to wipe the tears away. “I hope so. I hope that you always remember that. No matter what I do.”

“We do. No one is perfect.” My mother’s voice struck a chord that radiated sympathy.

“We love you, exactly as you are.” My dad’s words were perfectly timed.

I looked from one to the other as the three of us stood in a circle in our small room.

I never want to forget this, I stared at them. I promise that I’ll be back with proof of another colony. I’m going to change things around here. No more secrets.

“Please never…” I wanted to tell them never to give up, never to doubt me. “Lose faith in me.”

“We never could,” my father reached out and grabbed my hand. “Is there anything you want to share with us?”

I shook my head, “It’s just scary. You know, the idea that we might be alone up here for a while on Mars.”

My mom nodded. “We understand. This Arrival has made your father and I determined to return next year.”

My eyes took in my parents as I stared at them. They were so full of hope and didn’t understand the wheels were already in motion. This statement, more than any other, steeled my determination to carry out my plan.

They don’t understand that something much worse is going on here…

“I know,” I worked at hiding my fear and knew that it was time to bring this conversation to a close. “I love you both.” I wiped my eyes again with both hands. “I’m going to brush my teeth and turn in early.”

“We love you,” my mother said.

“So very much,” my father added.

I turned and headed to the bathroom knowing that there was a possibility that I might not have a conversation with my parents again for a long time. On the other side, I locked the door and leaned with back against the metal frame. The tears flowed freely now as I reached up and wiped them away.

I’m going to expose them.

I took a deep breath and gathered myself. Going over to the sink, I rinsed my face and looked in the mirror as I dried my cheeks.

Hours from now, I would be alone in the desert on my way to a new world.

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