Colonist's Wife
Author:Kylie Scott

She let her feet lead her, since it didn’t much matter where she went. She was out and mingling, blending…sort of.

 

Something drew her up ahead, a change in the light and a mystery fragrance. It smelt far from unpleasant, closer to tantalizing. Not quite foreign but not exactly familiar, either. It smelled like a…like a garden. Scents of earth and foliage grew stronger until she emerged onto a massive platform. The place looked like a hive with the middle removed, giving way to a sprawl of rising jungle. A jungle secreted beneath the ground.

 

Louise stopped dead and stared in slack-jawed wonder. Some of the trees reached almost to the lights embedded in the ceiling three flights above. Amazing. A garden grew up through the center of the colony.

 

With a flash of color, a bird took flight, disappearing deeper within the tangle of greenery. She had never seen anything like it. On Earth, only the rich had access to anything like this. It was unprecedented.

 

Louise rushed to the platform’s edge and gripped the metal railing, hanging over it like an excited kid. Her short hair brushed against her cheeks and the blood rushed to her face. How glorious. There was about a two-story drop to the garden floor. There had to be a way down. Her com would have maps. She patted down her pockets. Damn it. She’d forgotten it.

 

But the lifts would get her there, surely. Yes. She needed to see the garden close up. Needed to walk under the boughs of the trees and feel the grass beneath her feet. The grandeur of nature had seemed a thing of the past, like a myth.

 

A lift opened and a miner in a gray corp suit stepped out, giving her a wide berth when she nearly stumbled into him in her rush. The silver doors slid silently shut and a woman stared back at her. A stranger. She frowned so hard at herself that she screwed up her face. Wrinkled her nose and skewed her mouth. It wasn’t her anymore. She wasn’t “her” anymore. Her father’s green eyes were gone. So too were the red curls care of her mother’s side of the family. Her eyes were dyed dark and her hair too.

 

Normally she avoided mirrors. They were just a reminder that she would never get to be herself again. Never see her family or friends. That life had passed.

 

The silver doors parted and she exhaled in a rush. Everything seemed green and lush and perfect. Everything was alive and growing. The scent of it filled her. She breathed deeply, taking in the damp, rich smell of the soil and the heady fragrance of flowers. Over and over again she took it all in. Her cheeks hurt from smiling.

 

Before her, the doors began to slide shut and she stuck out a hand to halt them. Louise stepped out of the metal cage and into the garden.

 

*

 

 

 

The wife was asleep, exactly how he’d planned it. Adam crept in, careful not to disturb her. He sank down onto the end of the bed, so damn tired his bones felt brittle, sapped of energy.

 

Taka had sat with him for hours, playing endless games of chess and sipping sake long after Rose had gone to bed. And she had gone there with her pretty nose out of joint. The state of his marriage as a topic of discussion had got old fast. Apparently the woman hadn’t met Rose for her tour today despite repeated com requests. As if it was his fault his wife was antisocial. Actually, he could almost appreciate that. Or at least understand it. She might be overwhelmed by all the changes.

 

But no, he hadn’t wanted to discuss his wife or their supposed marriage. Rose had thrown her hands in the air more than once. Taka had raised a brow but said nothing. He’d continued to say nothing until Adam had stumbled to the door, a bit inebriated. Again.

 

“Give it a chance,” his friend had said.

 

But was that what his wife wanted?

 

Adam set a hand back on the mattress and let his head roll onto his shoulder, let the lethargy take him. So damn tired. The low lighting cast shadows but her face seemed clear and softer in sleep, filled with none of the disappointment or distaste of their meeting yesterday. She slept on her side with a hand tucked beneath her cheek like a child. But her other arm lay on the bed, curled up and around her head as if she were hiding herself or guarding against attack, expecting it.

 

Curious. Adam shuffled farther onto the bed to get closer.

 

There was a scent, luring him in, inviting him closer still. The bare curve of her shoulder lay right there, so he leaned over and sniffed. No one would know. Citrusy, lemony—who knew? It was nice. He breathed deeply again and again.

 

Louise made some small noise and rolled onto her back. The hand guarding her head rose and her palm flattened against his chest. Adam held perfectly still, didn’t even dare to breathe. Her fingers pressed into him, not hard enough to push him away, more as if she were stretching, kneading.

 

Her eyes opened, big and dark and sleepy. “Adam?”