You are here

Letting Go

She realized her mistake almost immediately. As she withdrew her hand, his tears disappeared, his face relaxed, and his demeanor transformed. Suddenly it was as if she were talking a completely different man. Where the previous one seemed distracted and nervous, this new man presented a calm reserve almost instantly. His hands had retreated from reach as his arms rested on the table like a wall guarding his heart.

"As I was saying, you have enough money to live a very comfortable life on any planet you choose. Or, if you choose, you could live a life of travel. There are many resort planets, resort islands, ships, stations and moons where people enjoy all the best comforts." He took a short sip of his water before continuing. "There are a variety of human inhabited planets you could choose, except Earth, of course."

That last part sunk in, 'except Earth...'. The thought drowned out the discussion of forest worlds and big city shopping. 'except Earth...' The reality of her life sunk in deep. Permanently banned from the only home she'd ever known. Her friends and family dead almost a thousand years. A stranger in a strange land, no way back up the rabbit hole or back through the looking glass. This was it. This was her life now.

The thought of her father dead all these years, her brothers, her sister, all her friends, gone and dead. The thoughts threatened to choke her. A lump rose in her throat, tears welled up, and the sound of blood roared in her ears as she tried to hold it back.

Suddenly she became aware of the silence and saw through tear filled eyes the man in front of her transformed again. His arms still rested on the table, but were more relaxed. He had leaned slightly towards her and was watching attentively, the hint of a tear again in his eyes.

Softly, almost a whisper, he said "I'm sorry. I know what it's like to have lost your family. I know that money can't replace those people we love most. I wanted nothing more than for you to live a happy and fulfilled life and never feel the pains that I felt."

The soft words and the transformation stunned her out of sadness. She simply stared at the man, now soft and comforting, attentive and familiar. She waited for that tear to fall, just one tear to prove that he was human and not some machine. She remembered what she had come to do, to make a connection with this man, to find a way to his heart.

At that moment she resolved to reach out and take his hand and this time to not let go. But as she reached out to touch him he boomed "NO" and shoved himself back from the table. The move shocked her back into her seat.

Again he seemed to be transformed before her, his eyes lit with fear, his gray hair disheveled, and his face visibly aged. As he composed himself, relaxed, smoothed his hair down and straightened his crisp white suit, she saw a much different man. This man was old and frail. She saw wrinkles she hadn't noticed before and sagging skin around his jaw. She began to wonder if she had really ever seen him at all before. She wondered how she could have missed all of the details.

"I apologize" he said cooly. "I've been ill as of late. Nothing serious, but I'd like to be careful not to pass it on. No reason for anyone else to be uncomfortable because of me." He gave her a brief smile. "I'm afraid I've made this situation more frustrating for you than I expected. Please accept my apologies. I'll have Camwegan bring over some information on places that might suit your taste as well as how to access your money when you need it." Then before she could get in a word he stood and looked across the dining hall. "What a happy coincidence. There she is now."

Looking over her shoulder she saw the ebullience machine that was Camwegan Navarre. Her auburn hair a radiant halo framing a perpetually smiling face. Only he called her Camwegan while everyone else simply called her Cam. But it made no difference to Cam what she was called, she was the type of person who was happy in the calling. Cam beamed brighter at the sight of her friend and waved a friendly wave.

"What are you doing here all alone, " Cam asked.

"Alone?" She turned and realized, once again, he had slipped away. She had lost her chance.