Day 17! And I’m still glad I’m doing this.

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Todays’ Story-a-Day prompt asked about the moments before our story’s inciting incident. Well, I was so happy about revisiting my work-in-progress yesterday, I was eager to look more at the days before my novel, Astrophilia, begins. This made me look more at my protagonist’s relationship that is only mentioned in passing in the book. The resulting scene makes me happy, not because it’s great or anything, but because I learned a few more things about my character–important things that will help me finish my manuscript. Yay!

Thanks for reading.

*

“Did you see the notice?” Val asked. He didn’t wait for an answer. He handed her the paper, wrinkled from being in the bottom of his bag. “I’m applying. You should too.”

Miracle June pushed the paper back at him. They sat together in the social section of the school, one of the few places where they were allowed to talk and acknowledge their friendship. “Do you know how many people will be applying? I can’t compete with that.”

Val worked at smoothing the paper out, pushing his hand across the page to every edge. But the creases prevailed. “We got a better chance than most. See.” He tapped on the word instructor. “Besides, it’ll look strange if you don’t apply.”

Miracle June didn’t want the hassle of filling out all those government forms only to be told no. She’d been teaching for one year and she didn’t for a moment believe the minimum experience required line. This was the Sovereignty they were talking about. “Everyone on Earth’s applying. Not just our district, Val. EVERYONE.”

“Everyone of age,” he said.

“And you’re the governor’s son.” She tilted her head back and stared up at the ceiling. The camera lens embedded in the ceiling reflected her gaze. “That’s at least one person ahead of me.” A governor’s son was given a certain amount of freedom, but even his conversations were recorded.

“One of us has to get this job,” he argued. “It’s the only hope we have.”

Miracle June wanted to apply. The announcement the Hypatian Starliner was looking for someone to fill a position she was actually qualified for opened a well of desire she’d buried under daily checkins, student evaluations, prayer times, and conversations with her mother about Val asking her to marry him.

But now she wanted to see the stars. She wanted to leave Val and everything for whatever was out there. Her sister had the convent. What did she have? Breathing masks and rations and maybe marriage where she could have better masks and rations in the governor’s mansion. Not getting the job would break her heart and she couldn’t face her future with a heart out of whack. “I like my job here,” she said.

Val sighed as he always did when she wasn’t taking him seriously. “You know the air systems are going to eventually collapse, right? You know that anyone with any sense—”

“And money,” she cut in.

“Is finding a way off planet,” he finished, scowling. “And I want us to be the lucky ones. Even if it is just you and not me.”

“Or you without me.” Was he right? The systems had worked for over a hundred years. Panics of collapse were constant and yet so far the machines kept working and air kept being breathable. Most of the time. ON good days.

“I’ll marry you and then you could come with me.”

Miracle June turned her head sharply. Their families expected them to marry, but between the two of them they didn’t talk about it. “If I get it, will you expect me to marry you?”

He avoided her stare and busied himself with putting away the paper and checking all the zippers in his bag and the dials of his breathing apparatus. It wasn’t a good air day. “Just apply.”

Miracle June jumped to her feet. “I’ll apply. But I don’t want to talk about it. Okay?” She picked up her own gear, ignoring the twinge of pain in her back. She’d fill out the paperwork and apply like everyone else. Then she’d throw all thoughts of the Hypatian Starliner into that dark well in her heart and bury them down there. For the first time she was grateful the stars in the night sky had been impossible to see all her life.

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