Post-Wedding Reception; Maratela Bay – Planet Durea
Waking up any time before five a.m. is an ungodly hour. I do a fairly decent job convincing myself that I’m handling it well, but it still takes a good while to reach full consciousness. A pot of coffee, a quick shower, and to the closet – I manage to coherently put myself together as I got ready to leave. A shave and a sweatshirt, keys and coat, I make two coffees to go and make my way outside to start the car. The world was still asleep as a light wind from the bay carried salty air past the house we were staying at for the past three days.
Myself and others I knew had been invited to a wedding of a mutual friend on Planet Durea along the beautiful Maratela Bay. Miles and miles of rocky coastline stretched up and down the peninsula dotted with lighthouses, condos, and rental houses. We pooled our money together to put a few couples together in one house. Not that it mattered – most of the time was spent preparing for the wedding and spending extra time on the coastline. My mission this morning was to drop Yuri off at the spaceport to catch a ride off-planet. She liked to leave early and, with myself being more familiar with the port, everyone unanimously voted for me to drop her off. It was prudence, they said. That…and they could nurse their hangovers for a few extra hours.
Car started, coffees in their holders, I make my way back inside to see how she is coming along. Yuri sets her bags by the door and puts on her coat before taking one last look around to make sure she has everything.
“Hey” she says in a hushed tone and easy smile. Her long, red coat was a contrast to her black pants and shirt, her signature high heels, and diamond earrings. With shining, straight hair past her shoulders and almond shaped amber eyes, prominent cheeks with soft skin, Yuri’s soft presence had a way of putting men at ease. Being around her was like noticing something for the first time that had always been around but you just…never really noticed until now.
“Morning” I say while reaching for her bags. She doesn’t try to stop me, just grabs her purse and finishes her coffee. “All ready?” She smiles behind closed lips and nods her head, running a finger to tuck hair behind one ear, and follows me out the door. Bags in the trunk, strapped in, I put the car in gear and slowly turn us out.
“Thanks for doing this” she says as if she thought I would protest.
“Oh…yeah” I reply, pretending to be distracted by other vehicles on an abandoned street. Mirrors checked – yup, still no one else around. “There’s coffee. I hope it helps. Take it with you while you wait for your flight.” She nods and takes the warm cup, a few gentle blows for good measure.
Yuri and I had met before. Once. A few years back I was with a group of friends where she met Chris, who she’s been with since, but other than that it has just been familiar pictures and third party condolences. These last few days we exchanged a few words here and there, just to be polite, but we didn’t really talk that much. Last night at the wedding we danced together, twice, which was pressed upon us – the first one, anyways. We actually seemed to get along ok, those small moments together talking more than just a few words.
Meanwhile, we head for the onramp and slip past orange streetlights along the highway. With only one or two other cars out this early, we were able to just cruise along. The car was filled with dull blue from the instruments, orange lights slowly slipping over and away, and the scent of Yumi’s perfume mixed with creamer and coffee. She makes small talk of nothing important, but she seemed interested in what I had to say nonetheless.
“Do you think it will be years before we all get together again?” Yuri asks.
“Uhh” I say, checking the empty rear view mirror, “I hope not. I thought it was good to see everyone again.” She nods and fiddles with her coffee.
“It was. I had a good time. I’ve only been off my planet once or twice, really. So this was a good change. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to space travel. I sit away from the windows and pretend it’s a regular flight.” She lets out a nervous little chuckle, her voice and expressions making me smile a little, as well.
“Damn” I say to myself as we crest over a hill and see the lines of dotted red lights in front of us. “Of course” I say while slowing down to get in line, “why wouldn’t we get stuck with less than two miles to go?” Yuri checks her watch and reassures me that we will be fine. I look around for a better line to get in, but it appears we would have to fight for every inch to reach the far lane. Yuri helps navigate and let me know who’s letting us in and who isn’t – not our idea of an easy morning.
“Just stay here” she says, gesturing through the windshield, “these lanes merge to the port.”
“Right” I say, relaxing as I listen to the sounds around us and, I noticed, we never turned on the radio. Ships fly overhead, their engines taking me back on the Argo, the things that waited for me when I returned to man the ship in a few days. It’s quiet in the car – stale, really – where we waited for nothing, it seemed. I turn and look behind us for an opening. “Are they going to let me over?”
I ask before turning back around. Yuri takes her turn to look back and briefly kisses my lips as we pass. I felt my heart leap for a moment – a quick jolt running through my body at that moment. We pretended as if it didn’t happen while she calls out which car to wait for as we continue to inch over.
Finally in the lane, we relax as we no longer have to fight for a spot. A drink of coffee, a cleared throat, noticing nothing in the darkness out the window, Yuri slips her hand forward and runs her fingers over mine before we lock our hands atop one another. It’s difficult not to notice her perfume. It’s hard not to return the kiss. It’s impossible to not think of what else we could do with what remained of the night. We don’t turn our hands in each others. We don’t pull and lightly touch on the ends of fingers. We just stay as we are.
There’s somewhat of a phenomena when two people are together within the mix of time. They usually lock hands and hold on tight when the element of time overcomes space and events. Either they have been apart too long or there’s not enough time. It was difficult to determine which category we fell into.
“Maybe you’ll be late” I finally say, looking to a ship slowly passing by overhead as though it was hers. “There’s always another leaving later in the day.” Yuri chuckles and gets a better hold on my hand with a squeeze.
“Maybe” she says, “but then what do we tell people? We just sat and waited?”
I shrug and smile. “It would be the only gentlemanly thing to do by making sure you made it safely.” That does get a little laugh from her.
She shakes her head a couple times, still a tight smile, “No.” Yuri sets down her coffee and links her arm in mine, her head lightly laying on my shoulder as we inch along in traffic. I rest my cheek on her smooth hair, a gentle kiss planted on her head. She grips my arm a little tighter.
“I can just go, too” I say, my lips against her hair as I feel the warmth of her body next to mine, “right now.”
“And what?” she asks dispassionately, “You’ll leave Veronica?” We stay like this next to each other, both of us thinking the same thing without letting the other know. Both of us are liars, knowing we were telling each other flagrant lies if we insinuated otherwise. She lifts her head and looks over to the cars beside me for a moment. I turn to her slightly before our eyes meet. It was a natural thing, something that wasn’t going to be stopped as we leaned into each other – a light and gentle kiss that grew with permanence as seconds slipped by. We take advantage of the moment and gently repeat the gesture, allowing time to stop for a few moments if only within the vehicle.
Eventually we make it to the offloading dock with the rest of the early morning travelers. Her bags loaded onto a cart, yellow hazards flashing, vehicles inching in and out of loitering spaces, we stick to the business of getting her ready while trying to ignore what just happened.
“Ok” I say in a matter-of-fact tone, closing the trunk as we turn to one another. The sounds of ship engines shutter as they slip overhead, the darkness of the remaining night still lingering around us as if the morning sun were delayed due to some cosmic event.
Yuri inches towards me, reaches out, and takes my open coat ends in her hands before pulling herself close. “Why didn’t you pull me away those years ago?” she muffles into my shoulder. I didn’t really have an answer, save for the fact that she had already been talking to Chris by the time I even noticed.
“I don’t know” I say with arms around her, lips against her silky hair. “I was a fool” is all I can bring myself to say. It didn’t really matter what I said at that moment – just say something.
She reaches into her coat and pulls out a square envelope, slipping it into my coat pocket and resuming her previous hold on me. I reach for her face, a gentle hand on a soft cheek as we slip into each other one more time. Her skin was cool against mine, her kisses stretched thin between eager passions. We hold one another there, saying goodbye while apologizing to one another without words – feigning oblivion while making up for moments that should have already passed between us.
“If things were different…” she says, preemptively wiping under her eye.
“Yuri” I say dismissively.
“No” she says, looking to my face with hands on my shoulders, gripping tightly. “If things were different.”
“Yes” I finally say while looking to the ground, around, then back to her. “Of course. There would be us.” She nods as is satisfied with my confession though she already knew the answer. There’s something about hearing what you already know from someone else that makes it really true.
A few stolen kisses. A few moments ticking by. Her name is called over the speakers as others pass us by on their way to their flights. A few last words, those of reassurance and things that may come before she takes hold of the cart and makes her way inside to board.
The car door closes with a solid thud as I am left with dim, glowing blue lights and the fading fragrance of her perfume. I reach into my pocket and pull out her note and touching it to my nose. It has her scent. I look it over before returning it to its proper place…