Gaping in shocked silence at the words Amoret spit out, it took a few beats for their meaning to manifest sense in Jett’s mind. Yet, the more they made sense, the more questions they produced. Was Amoret leaving because of the Capsule Incident? But that couldn’t be right; it took time to arrange transfers and exams. How long had this been the plan? Why hadn’t Amoret discussed it with her? And now she was going to leave?
“Hey! You can’t just say that and then walk away!” Jett jumped up, planting her fists on her hips, and pinching her brows. She tried to ignore their colleagues in the locker room who were eyeing the lovers’ spat with increasing enthusiasm, forming clusters to observe the rest of it.
Amoret’s shiny, perfect, black hair swung out as she whirled around and took two steps back toward Jett. “Oh, but I can. I’m leaving at the end of the week. You might as well get used to it now.”
Ignoring Amoret’s tone and the brevity of her remaining days on JESS, only because she needed answers, Jett pressed on. “But I don’t understand. Why didn’t you tell me sooner? I could have sent out applications, too. I mean, I’d follow you anywhere.”
Amoret bent forward with a short, mirthless laugh and then wrinkled her nose in that hoity toity manner of hers when she clearly thought something—or someone—was beneath her. “Jett, I’m transferring to a CAADE defense starship. Do you actually think you could ever get approval for a position there? Do you even know how many applicants they get? Everyone in the universe wants to be on a CAADE starship. They only accept the best of the best. They don’t accept…”
She trailed off, letting her eyes drop down the length of Jett’s body with a queer disdain that Jett had never been the recipient of, wordlessly emphasizing her meaning: The Collaborative Air and Astral Defense and Exploration Starships didn’t accept the Jetts of the universe.
“But I thought…” Jett began, and faltered, not sure what she’d thought. The truth was that, in the same way that she didn’t have any career goals, she also hadn’t considered relationship goals. Jett didn’t really have plans for anything in her life because she was always preoccupied with just trying to live through whatever was happening in the moment.
“You didn’t seriously think that I want to be stuck on this stupid space station next to the most boring planet in existence for my whole working life, turning grey like Lieutenant Hill out here at the ends of the universe until I can save enough credits to settle back on a real planet for a few final years of poor health before I knock off, did you?” The expression of pity on Amoret’s face was decidedly more acerbic than authentic. “I’ve told you a million times that I was gonna leave this shitty station. But I guess you weren’t listening.”
Jett’s face was as forlorn as the day she’d gotten the orders to ship out to the aforementioned shitty space station. “Yes, I was. Haven’t I always supported you? I just thought…I dunno, I thought that I’d be going with you.”
Amoret restrained an eyeroll, thinking to herself how many times that “support” was interrupted by Jett’s chaotic catastrophes. Not that they hadn’t had fun at times— if anything, Jett was certainly amusing. Amoret shook her head once more.
“This station has been nothing more than a steppingstone for me, and you’ve been a bit of fun to pass the time,” Amoret told her. “I can’t possibly envision a future with you. The whole patrol we just finished was like the epitome of why I can’t stand the idea of staying with you. How can I be in higher positions with a girlfriend who’s always screwing shit up? How embarrassing would that be having to constantly explain your every disaster? I’ve already spent one too many of my mornings in conversations with the lieutenant and the commander being humiliated because of you. I have zero interest in perpetuating that process. But none of that matters anymore, because I’ve finally been accepted somewhere else, far away from this miserable floating space city and all your fuckups. I’m done with this place and I’m done with you.”
Every word from Amoret was a direct assault on Jett’s heart, each one hitting harder than the one before, and she crumpled onto the bench. She couldn’t even look at Amoret, though she wouldn’t have seen her anyway because the river of salty tears she’d been holding back finally breached their floodgates and distorted her vision as they spilled over her cheeks. She heard Amoret’s familiar groan at what she considered Jett’s infantile display of emotion, and the snickering of the other women in the room. Yet, the humiliation of such a sensational Locker Room Break-up barely registered because her heart was completely shattered.
Somehow, in the tumultuous fog of her mind, Jett had a crystal-clear realization: “So, basically,” she said to Amoret, “you were just using me the whole time we were out there on patrol to get ahead in your career, knowing the whole time that I wouldn’t be a part of it?”
Amoret, on the verge of walking away once again, stopped and turned her gaze squarely on Jett. “What else are you good for?” Then she scoffed. “And, as it turns out, you weren’t much good at that, either.”
Jett’s mouth hung open as Amoret hovered just a second longer as if curious to see whether Jett had any final retort. Jett thought about how Amoret had slept with her, too, and realized that she’d done so knowing she was going to be leaving. What had that been? Last minute fun? But she was afraid to ask out loud because she was afraid of what the answers might be.
Giving up on the lingering silence, Amoret turned on her heels and left the locker room. Jett had often thought of herself as not being good enough for Amoret, but she never imagined Amoret would treat her like she was nothing at all. She couldn’t contain the swelling sobs as it dawned on her that the woman she thought had loved her despite her flaws had only ever been using her.
Jett tried to ignore the gasps, snorts, and snickers from the other women in the locker room who were gawking at her, but she found it impossible to ignore the things they said:
“Wow, Moody, you must have really screwed up this time.”
“You are like a constant state of chaotic drama, Jett.”
“We’re all done with you, Moody. When will you be shipped out too? I wouldn’t want to show my fa—“
The tittering stopped abruptly when the robust figure of the astral flight sergeant, Tori Poet, appeared at the end of Jett’s locker row in her bath robe and pink bunny slippers with a warning stare focused on the bemused spectators. Sergeant Poet was a five-foot two mass of buxom curves, bodacious ass, and absolute authority. New crew learned very quickly that if they made remarks or jokes about her surname, the sergeant, in exchange, made up impromptu poems that usually involved rhyming orders for the offending party to get on the floor at her feet for punitive exercises. While the veteran astral flight crewmembers dreaded these types of incidents, it was obviously a great source of delight to Sergeant Poet who often chuckled at the ability to dish out her own form of poetic justice.
None of the crewmembers in the locker room was eager to offer Sergeant Poet that kind of delight, especially since it was the end of their shift.
Sergeant Poet saw Jett looking like she was drowning in a puddle of tears on the bench, pinched her eyebrows in confusion, and threw an even harsher glare back at the other women that gave some of them a sudden urge to run, which they resisted from the fear of reprimands on the following day. The sergeant, on the other hand, could not even imagine what trouble Officer Moody had gotten into this time, but she knew that the pathetic woman’s past chaotic episodes usually only produced dejected brooding rather than a deluge of utter wretchedness.
“Something funny to y’all?” Sergeant Poet asked the gawkers. When no one replied, she continued: “Somebody better have an answer.”
The problem with answering the sergeant was that a response tended to be just as punitive as no response. But they dared not drag their feet, either. One woman decided to sacrifice herself and informed Sergeant Poet that Moody “had just been dumped by Officer Yeong.”
Sergeant Poet stood nodding as she looked at each one of the women until they began to shift uneasily. “Yeah,” she said, returning her eyes to the woman who answered her. “Yeah, that’s real funny, isn’t it? I bet that’s just as funny as it was when that technician…What was his name? Steve…? Sam…? Well, whatever his name was, dumped you right on your ass because he caught sight of a gorgeous blonde tech who, apparently, could really work a wrench which, as I heard: You couldn’t.”
While the woman’s face became the same shade as a radish, the other women clamped their hands over their dropped jaws right after mouthing Oh shit at one another. Sergeant Poet took a step toward Jett but then stopped, squinting at another woman in the group. She tilted her head and looked up at the ceiling as if she were thinking.
“Damn, didn’t you get divorced just before you were transferred out here because your hubs didn’t want to work here, nor did he want to deal with a long-distance marriage? That’s some real funny shit, huh?” When her eyes came down from their fixation on the ceiling, they looked like fully loaded cannons ready to fire at will.
The woman she’d addressed went pale and her mouth turned into an O shape, though she stayed silent. None of the women dared to challenge the sergeant’s verbal assaults, either, lest she unleash her wrath on them as well. Sergeant Poet nodded at them again with a disapproving smirk.
“Are y’all still laughing? Or are y’all done being entertained?” Poet’s questions prompted each woman to immediately turn away from her and find something in their lockers or their bags to busy themselves with. The sergeant tutted with a lack of surprise at their sudden loss of humor.
Jett was staring blindly at the metal lockers in front of her, clutching at the front of her flight uniform, tears still streaming down her face. She didn’t really want the sergeant to sit next to her, because she hated being pitied more than she hated screwing up. She wanted to melt into the floor and disappear forever, but that wasn’t going to happen any more than telling the sergeant to leave her alone would.
The sergeant didn’t say anything as she plopped down next to Jett with a sigh. She put one arm around the miserable woman’s shoulders and tugged at one of her hands, clasping it in her own when Moody finally let go of her uniform. Jett could see the pinkness of Sergeant Poet’s palms and the deep brown of her forearm contrasting with Jett’s lighter shade of tan. Their hands rested on Jett’s lap and they sat in silence for a few minutes as the sergeant massaged and squeezed Jett’s bicep. Jett was surprised to find that the unexpected kindness was genuinely soothing.
When the tearful flood began to recede and Jett’s heavy sobs turned into sniffles, the sergeant patted her arm and said, “You know, I heard today that The Cosmic Cinnamon Bun Café has a new cake called the Pinwheel Galaxy that is swirling with dark chocolate and caramel, and I have been dying all day to try it. I think we should get dressed, and I think we should both go out and treat ourselves. I think we deserve it. Plus, I know there’s nothing you like more than cake.”
There was nothing and no one—except maybe Sergeant Poet for the first time ever—in the whole universe that Jett Moody liked more than cake right at that moment.
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