Chapter 29:



    Trisha flopped onto the soft bed. It felt like it had been a century since she had been able to lay on something so comfortable. Shortly after her own collapse onto the bed, she was followed by another person who mimicked her ragdolled descent to the soft surface. The little girl rolled and wriggled her way until she was laying more on top of Trisha than laying on the bed.
   Quil sat in the chair just beside the bed. It seemed the single bed and chair was about all that could fit within the small private quarters.
   Trisha dusted the shimmering hair of the little girl out of her face so that she could see Quil better. His eyes still seemed so vacant. She turned her gaze towards the ceiling now. The lights overhead were harsh. She held up a hand, and with one eye closed, she could just about squeeze the light with her fist. “It’s hard to believe it wasn’t that long ago that we were standing at our bridge talking about seeing space.” Though in her perspective, it seemed like she could grab the light with her first, it wasn’t until she opened her other eye that suddenly she could see the depth. The distance between her fist and the light was much greater than what her perspective had lead her to believe.
   Without a reply from Quil, and the gravity tiring her arm, she looked at him. His eyes remained vacant and joyless. An eyebrow cocked half-heartedly.
   “I’m serious, you know.” Her arm wrapped around Fjibii so that she could adjust her gaze to see Quil better. “Things,” she looked at the metallic arm that hung limp by Quil’s side. “Things have changed, haven’t they? Do you think this is just us growing up?”
   His cowlicks lowered into a sharp intent. His eyes cast a heavy gaze towards the girl being coddled by his friend. “Why does she have to be here?” He spat the words.
   Fjibii’s nose crinkled in disgust, “Why do you have a stinky face-”
   Trisha muffled the girls retaliation with her hand. “Where else is she going to go?”
   Quil crossed his arms. “Yeah, but she’s not your sister. Let go of her.”
   Trisha lifted her hand from Fjibii’s mouth. Fjibii could feel Trisha’s embrace tighten around her with a reluctant quiver.
   “She’s scared.” Trisha spoke with a shaky confidence. “She,” her arms tightened more, “she lost someone important to her, you know?” Her embrace loosened just a bit as to make sure she didn’t suffocate Fjibii with her continually tightening hug.
   “You barely know the girl. It’s weird. Stop it.”
   Fjibii broke from Trisha’s grasp. She clenched her fists tight as she stared down the metal-armed boy. “When the inposter mama isn’t here to take care of Chi, I have to be here to take care of Chi. You’re stupid and make Chi sad.”
   Quil’s eyes glanced momentarily towards Trisha. For that single moment he looked deep into her eyes. His gaze sharpened as it moved away from Trisha and to the little girl. With a single finger pressed against the girl’s forehead, he managed to shove her back onto the bed.

   With an audible growl of frustration, she attempted to jump back out of the bed to retaliate, only to feel a hand from behind pull her back to the bed.
   Trisha gave a gentle shake of her head.
   Fjibii still felt that anger inside her, but as she felt the warm hand hold loosely onto her shoulder, she remained still in the bed. She blew the most insulting raspberry she could blow towards Quil, “I don’t like you. Chi needs me.”
   Quil crossed his arms. “Fine. Why don’t you leave my room?”
   Trisha ran a hand down Fjibii’s hand in a calming stroke. “I’ll call Silje.” Her eyes shifted from the little girl to the crossed boy. “I’m still your friend, Quil.”

   There the carret blinked in and out, a familiar friend to Silje. Yet again the lights burdened her eyes; too bright to keep her eyes open, too bright to fall asleep to. Lights that pounded down onto her skull and drilled deep into her conscious. There the lights bounced, reflected, refracted, and imprinted the word “work” on every wrinkle of every cell inside her brain.
   She gave a heavy sigh, releasing the breath that supported her straight posture, lowering her into an arched slump. Her elbow had come to rest on the keyboard, sending a string of LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL’s racing across and down the page in front of her. She could have cared, she could have adjusted her posture, she could have erased the ever increasing number of L’s that filled her screen, but she was mesmerized by her little friend, the carret, trying to keep pace ahead of the ensuing L’s. Their race didn’t stop until the thunderous voice boomed through the office space. “Silje.”
   Caught off guard, she leapt from her seat with an “eep”, ceasing the racing letters, causing her legs - once tucked deep under the desk - to get caught on her workspace, sending a rattle of pens and office supplies as she stumbled backwards, attempting to catch her chair on her descent, only to miss, grab the arm rest, and pull the chair down with herself to the floor.
   “Miss Yuritan,” the man’s commanding voice still echoed amongst the office. “Now is not the time to slack off.”
   Silje winced. She lifted herself carefully from the floor, nursing her rear end. “Captain, what a surprise.”
   “Miss Yuritan,” it seemed with each new encounter she has with the Captain, the creases, wrinkles, and most notably, the bags under his eyes make him appear another year older.
   “Yes sir,” she straightened her hair. “I have submitted,” soft breath, a number, “requests since we last spoke. I am doing my best to upho-”
   A hand to interrupt stopped her. “Silje, I don’t have time to monitor everyone’s work, let alone keep surveillence that you don’t stray from your work so you can go play pretend with some kid.”
   “Of course, sir,” she bowed, giving her perspective on a few loose strands of hair that dangled in a mess before her eyes. She tossed her hair to the side and ran her fingers to try to straighten them out again. “However, I wanted to report that I received a response from one of the requests I submitted.”
   The captain cocked an eyebrow.
   Realizing he didn’t seem to have a response to her, she gave a shallow bow before before continuing, “AiMiDi replied to our request and said they’d be willing to aid us, however, they requested a meeting with Corp-Two first so that they can go over some stipulations of their aid.”
   He gave a disinterested “hmm,” as he crossed his arms. “Yuritan,”
   She saluted him, “Sir.”
   “Look across this room. What do you see?”
   Apprehensive towards the question, her salute faded into confusion as she scanned the room. “Everyone is working right now.”
   “Assisting with the refugee crisis.” He clarified. “All of them - except one” he jabbed a finger in the air, “realize the dire situation that not just the state of the fleet is in, but, in fact, the entirety of the terran race. Not a single one can even find the time to report to me that some entity accepted our aid request. When a request is accepted, they don’t report to me. They file the the entity’s response so that the next crew member can follow-up on the response.”
   Silje nodded, her ears lowering. “Yes sir.”
   “On the other hand,” the captain’s eyes narrowed, “You, the only foreigner in this body of workers, continues to slack off and ignore the gravity of the situation. To me, I understand you’re just a child. To them, it looks like you don’t care about the lives that are at stake.”
   She hung her head. “Yes s-”
   Before she could even finish her salute, he departed her with only two words to leave her with. “I’m busy.”
   Through shaky hands, Silje managed to lift her collapsed chair from the floor so that she could sink deep into it’s seat. Just as before, she found that she could not support her weight, as her posture descending into a slouched arch, though this time, it was not the beating lights that pushed her over her desk.
   Her L-filled screen waited with her little friend, the blinking carret, but she couldn’t acknowledge it. Through blurry vision, she watched a single glistening drop of water splash across the F key on her keyboard.
   She took a moment to herself. A deep breath in. A gentle wipe of her eyes. And then a slow, descending exhale. A breath that became lost in the stagnant air of the office workers. Here, at her desk, the cubical walls muffled and silenced the busy workers around her. Here, she could meditate to recompose her wall. But that wall she always constructs around herself, something was off. Perhaps it was the flaking morter of the tower, perhaps it was the decaying bricks of her tower, or perhaps it was a newly presented crack that damaged the integrity of it as a whole. She couldn’t seem to diagnose herself. She couldn’t reconstruct that tower of professionalism that she relied on before, and she didn’t want to say what had changed her.
   “Silje,” even though the tone of the girl’s voice from the watch was much more gentle than Silje’s superior, it still made her jump in a fright.
   Silje reached for her glasses and earphones. “What’s wrong, Trisha?” A rebellious voice of a young girl could be heard muffled in the background of Trisha’s call.
   “I don’t want to go, Chi!”

   “I’m sorry, Silje,” Trisha gripped her arm to conceal the guilt. “I know you’re busy. But, thank you for watching her.”
   A small hand swatted Silje in the face. “She’s not Mommy! I want to stay with Chi!”
   Silje’s ears lowered. “I thought we were past this already.”
   “I’m not going!” Fjibii pushed away from Silje before crossing her arms in a pout.
   Trisha leaned down. She matched her eyes with Fjibii. “Fjibii,” She placed her hands on the girl’s shoulders, “You know that you do a good job making me feel better, right?”
   The girl gave a definite nod. “Uhn.” She agreed.
   “My job is to make Quil feel better. I need to do a good job just like you. Do you think I can do it?”
   Fjibii’s eyes traced Trisha’s face as she thought about the question. She looked behind herself to look at Silje, then she moved her eyes back to Trisha. She gave reluctant nod. “Uhn”. She agreed.
   “Thank you, Fjibii.” Trisha hugged her, before stepping back. “Can you try to make Silje feel better while you wait? I promise I will come find you when I am finished.”
   Fjibii’s eyes drifted away from Trisha, turning away from her, so that her eyes could meet Silje.
   Silje smiled and held out a hand to invite Fjibii along.
   “You’re just an inposter.” She grabbed Silje’s hand, “Come on, I’ll teach you how to be Mommy.”
   Trisha gave a grateful smile as she watched Silje take Fjibii’s hand. “Thank you, Silje.” She watched as they walked down the hall, hand in hand. She turned to face the dark room behind her. Quil remained, unmoved, in the same chair, arms crossed.
   Trisha’s eyebrows parted as she approached him. “I want to help you, Quil.” She stared into his hollow, vacant eyes.
   He could feel her gaze on him, but he couldn’t meet her eyes. His eyes remained unfocused on some miscellaneous spot on the floor. There was something about this room that irked him. He wasn’t sure what, but he felt angry. It felt like this room was a prison, trapping him in with ten atmosphere’s of shadows weighing down his right arm. He could feel a itch, right at this shoulder where the cold metal met the warm flesh. The itch annoyed him and teased him until finally he was able to break from his crossed-arm posture so that he could scratch at that itch, feeling his nails scrape across the hardened metal of the prosthetic.
   He kicked the chair out from underneath himself as it’s feet grinded across the floor. Though now at Trisha’s height, and now standing just before her, his eyes still did not meet her gaze, a gaze that he could feel was still locked on him.
   He pushed past her, giving only a soft whisper, “I don’t want to stay here.”
   Trisha followed just behind him.
   They stepped over refugee after refugee, each one another story of anguish. Quil’s eyes remained forward as stepped over them, giving little acknowledgement to their presence. Trisha looked at each individual, each member of each family, as she looked at their loss, slowing her pace, making her fall behind Quil.
   She caught up with him as he entered the dark room. The room was only lit by the lights of the stars and galaxies that shown through the external displays that wrapped the entirety of the room. There was one glowing anomaly floating amongst the curtains of space. One anomaly that shined brighter than anything else. A golden seam that ripped the still, black fabric of infinity. Quil finally stopped his march as soon as he reached the external display that showed the golden seam. He pressed his fingers against the glass of the panel, before turning around to see Trisha just behind him.
   “At least it’s quiet here,” Though her eyes wanted to drift to the golden seam, she kept her eyes fixed on Quil.
   He moved away from the glass panels of the external displays. He moved past Trisha, until he was able to collapse into the cushion of a sofa that looked out into the pitch silk with glittered stars. From this angle, Trisha towered above him as a dark silhouette. He knew she was still looking at him, but he couldn’t make out any details in her face in the dark room.
   He watched her shuffle to where Quil sat. Now that Trisha no longer occluded his view of the panels opposite of him, their glass panes gave a dim reflection of a brown haired boy with vacant eyes. Quil inspected the metal prosthetic of the the brown-haired boy. His eyes shifted up and down the length of the arm. Once he felt Trisha’s weight shift the cushion of the sofa, he refocused his eyes on the stars just behind the reflection of the boy. Most of their view from this sofa was taken up by the seam that split the fabric. Quil’s eyes stayed trained right on the center of the the seam. He knew he would need to speak.
   He could feel Trisha’s eyes still fixed on him. Her eyes had never left him since they arrived to this room. But, it didn’t feel like she was weighing on him. It wasn’t pressure from her. It felt like something else. So meak and mild, it felt distant. He wasn’t sure the feeling, as it was obscured by the tangents of thoughts that pulsed through his mind and down every vein in his body. He could even feel those tangents slam into the threshold between flesh and mechanic where that itch returned.
   “I don’t understand,” The low tone of his voice barely disturbed the air.
   Trisha’s eyes moved across his face. She looked from his vacant eyes, down to his hands, and back to his vacant eyes.
   “No one seems to care.” briefly broke his gaze from the seam to check Trisha’s reaction.
   A soft breath slowly left his mouth as he recomposed himself. “No one cares about Lilli.”
   Trisha’s brow parted. “It’s not that, it’s that everyone is -”
   “No one really knows her, so why should they care?” “I barely know her, so why do I care so much?” “I just met her, and then -” The flow of his thoughts halted. His eyes danced up and down the golden seam.
   Trisha watched Quil. She watched as his eyes battled with the seam across from him. She waited to see if he could come to a resolve, but no matter how much he thought, he could not come to a resolve for his statement.
   “I didn’t really have a chance to meet her,” She wanted to grab his hand. She wanted to show him that she was close to him, but, he remained to distant, she could not bring herself to make the connection. “Can you tell me about her?”
   She watched as his jaw tightened and his brows lowered. “I don’t know much about her.” He shook his head. “She,” he lingered in the silence of his memories. He thought about every moment he had spent with her, from the moment she had awakened to the last moment he had seen of her. He thought about her overly joyous initial greeting when she first awoke. He thought about how cheerful she skipped through the dilapidated alleys of Platinum Star. He thought about how innocent and naive she attempted to diffuse the years of tentions between Filth and Silje. And then...
   “She’s annoying.” His left hand clenched tight a fist. “She’s clumsy.” Trisha could see his teeth clench down tight. “She’s so stupid.” He turned his head away. “She just acts like a child. She won’t grow up.”
   Trisha placed her hand on Quil’s fist, catching his attention.
   His eyes refocused on her, a look of confusion crossed his face. It was a strange, warm sensation he felt as her oddly rough, yet still so gentle hand rested on his left hand. He could feel that sensation creep through his veins, from his fist, to his heart, and finally to his mind. It was quite an unfamiliar sensation that seemed to ease his mind.
   “I hate talking about myself,” Trisha’s voice was just as gentle and just as odd as the warm sensation of her hand. “You know, when Mom would ask me: ‘what’s wrong’. I’d just tell her that it’s nothing, or that I’m just stupid.” She sighed. “I always had to deflect. I really am stupid.”
   Quil’s eyes narrowed. “What’s your point?”
   “Well, she always knew when I was deflecting. God I hate her,” She took a moment to look away from Quil. It almost seemed like she was trying to recompose herself, but Quil wasn’t really sure what it was she was doing. “If she wanted me to talk,” she swept her hair out of her face, “she’d comfort me, you know, physically.”
   Quil cocked an eyebrow.
   She could feel the small little muscle twitches in his hand as he became more uncomfortable. “You know, like she’d hug me, or hold my hand, or brush my hair. She always knew that,” a pause, “I just needed to be comforted by the love of someone close to me to break down this stupid wall I have to put up around myself sometimes.” She laughed as she pulled her sense of relief through a hand that stroked uncomfortably through her hair. “I really am so stupid.”
   Quil looked from Trisha’s eyes down to the hand that Trisha had rested on his still-clenched fist. From the fist, he moved his eyes away, stopping to stare blankly at the golden seam, but eventually moving his attention again to some random dark spot in space. There was nothing interesting about that spot. That spot was opposite of Trisha’s eyes. As long as he focused on that random spot, he didn’t have to look at Trisha. That’s when he could feel the warmth, no longer odd to him, begin to accelerate and break down in his mind. “Every child has this shallow understanding of ‘good and bad’.” Though the audience of the black spot he looked at showed no interest in his words, he could feel a gentle twitch in the hand of the audience behind his gaze as he spoke up. “And children proclaim they want to save the world. But, look at us now. Are we still children? But, I don’t care about being a super hero anymore.”
   “I think that’s part of growing up, right? I’m sure any adult would agree.” Her gentle voice wrapped around him.
   “But that’s what L-” His clenched fist slipped out from underneath her warm hand. His hand swept across his face as he choked back the tears. Just before the distress was able to rock him into uncontrolable fits, a warm hand calmed the rising tension within him. “That’s what she wants.” He resolved. “I know she can’t do it. But I believe her when she says she will with such,” A brief ripple splashing back over him before settled again, “Such naive confidence.” The warmth of the hand on his shoulder had begun to over take and break down the shield he guarded himself with, finally allowing him to bring his eyes back to Trisha. “She is a super hero - to me.”
   Trisha’s eyes danced between Quil’s. She knew he was looking for a response, but only the silence filled in the gaps between them. Trisha managed to give a small nod, “That’s a good way to keep her in her memory -”
   “Enough!” He shook free of Trisha’s warm touch. The cold mechanical arm tremored and twitched uncontrollably before Quil stood up and cursed the prosthetic.
   Trisha had reeled away, flinching from his anger. “I don’t underst-”
   “She’s not dead, Trisha.”
   Trisha stood up to match Quil, “You have to accept that she is gone, Quil.”
   There was another twitch of the mechanical arm. He gripped the seam between flesh and metal in a scowl. “You’re a liar.” The words came out harsh between his scowl. “You’re lying. You’ve always been manipulative.”
   Trisha scoffed, “What are you talking about? Quil,” she stared at the floor, looking away from him. Her next words were coming whether she wanted them to or not, “I love you. I’ve done e -”
   “Exactly!” He jabbed a finger towards her, “You’re controlling and manipulative. You just want me to your self. You make up these lies to keep me to yourself.”
   She did her best to prevent the accusations from sinking deep inside her mind, but she could feel that knife of betrayal twist and drill through her cortex. “Look at our home, Quil.” The golden seam illuminated the cold dark room brightly. Trisha stood to the left, while Quil to the right. And it was Trisha’s motion towards the home that caught his attention.
   “I know.” He spoke soft. “She’s there. I know she is. She’s hurt. She’s in danger. She needs me.”
   Though Trisha matched his soft volume, she spoke in scorn, perhaps burdened by the knife, “It’s not just about you. Everyone has lost their home. The people saved by this fleet no longer have a place to call home, and anyone else that didn’t get off the Lotus,” She turned her back to Quil and clenched her fist, for the moment she would rather focus on the knife Quil had cast then the reality, “they’re dead.”
   “But not her.” Trisha wasn’t sure if he was trying to reason with her, or if he was trying to reason with himself.
   She kept her back turned. “Be thankful you still have your mom, because you’re going to lose your only friend.” To the right of the seam, Quil remained. To the left of the seam, a vacant space.

   She leaned over the railing of the catwalk, one elbow supporting the weight of her head in her hand, while the fingers of her other hand furiously tapped the railing.
   “I’m sorry to keep you waiting,” Silje came running up to where Trisha leaned. “Fjibii is really quite a handful, isn’t she?” She caught her breath as she stepped towards the railing Trisha leaned against. Trisha didn’t move her gaze. Her eyes stayed fixed on the beyond with her head tilted heavily into the palm of the hand her chin rested in.
   Silje’s brow parted in concern, “Were you waiting for a long time?”
   Silje waited for a response, but Trisha still didn’t seem to move other than the tapping of her fingers against the metal railing.
   “You’re not mad at me, are you?” Silje leaned in closer to Trisha. “I’m sorry I’m late, I thought you would be talking to Quil a little while longer. I know he’s struggling.”
   Silje noticed Trisha’s face beginning to break from it’s stern and vacant stare. Her jaw clenched up, she began blinking erradically, a weak and muffled sniffle came from Trisha.
   “Trisha, I’m sorry,” Silje began to lean in to give the teenager a hug, only for Trisha to recoil quite suddenly.
   “Why are you so overbearing? Stop it.” Her words cut deep into Silje.
   “I just thought - “ She could feel her cheeks become flushed as the pit in her stomach grew.
   “Where is Fjibii?”
   “She wanted a drink from the vending machine, but she wouldn’t stop crying until I let her do it alone. I just didn’t know wh-”
   “Alone?” Trisha turned swiftly and sharply towards Silje. “You left a little child alone?”
   Silje nodded slowly, “I thought she would be fine, and she kept cry -”
   Trisha groaned, “What if something bad happens to her?”
   “But she’s just down the hall, she’ll be her in less than a minute.”
   Trisha broke past Silje, paying no attention to her and stepping through the doors, leaving her behind. The hallways just beyond the catwalk seemed just as noisy. Trisha paid no mind, but Silje was quick to notice a similar situation to herself. An older man - presumably the father - arguing with a daughter -presumably stubborn.
   Silje jogged in an attempt to keep pace with Trisha. “Trisha, I’m sorry,” she tried to halt Trisha.
   Trisha spun around quickly, making Silje stop before stumbling into her. “Stop apologizing, stop being overbearing, and stop following me. Leave me alone.”
   That pit of guilt and shame that had manifested in Silje’s stomach had grown quite large at this point. She wanted to respect Trisha’s wishes, but she wanted to take care of Trisha too. She wasn’t sure what to do. As Trisha had moved father away, far away from where Silje could see her clearly, some sort of caring instinct inside her made her burst out, “Trish-” only to be interrupted as a drink can struck her, spilling coffee across her, making her shriek with a “kyaa”.
   The presumably stubborn daughter in the hallway stormed away. “You’re too needy, I’m suffocating, Dad.”
   “It’s like I’m watching a rerun,” Silje muttered to herself as she attempted to dry herself off.
   The man - presumably the father - came running up to Silje. “I’m so sorry about that.” He attempted to grab something from his coat pocket, but after his hands shuffled around one pocket, he shifted his hands to the other pocket just to shuffle around again to find nothing. “I’m so sorry,” he apologized again, now slightly more red in the face.
   “It’s alright,” Silje swept the coffee off her face with her hand. She attempted to find some sort of napkin or hankerchief, but after realizing nothing was available, she shrugged and dried her hand off on her pants.
   “Teenagers, am I right?” The man let out an uncomfortable laughed.
   “Yeah,” Silje replied unconvinced. “Was that your daughter?”
   The man let out another - this time more confident - laugh, “My daughter, and my king.” He reached inside his pocket one last time, convinced that - maybe - he just missed it. “I don’t have my hankerchief with me.”
   “It’s not a problem, I can wash my clothes later. Why are you so calm about your daughter being so angry?”
   “Because we’ve both been through a lot together, her and I.” His eyes looked down the hallway. Neither of the rebellious girls could be seen anymore. “I don’t know about other girls, but I know my little king is a bucket of contradictions right now.”
   Silje also kept her eyes fixed down the hallway. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.” She moved her eyes back to the man.
   The man gave a very comfortable and warm smile, some might say content. “When she’s really angry, she loves me a lot and wants all of my attention. When she’s really sad, she’s angry and doesn’t want to be near me. When she’s happy, she doesn’t want me to know, so she will act angry.”
   Silje grimaced, “It sounds difficult.”
   The man shrugged, that content smile still stretched across his face. “Well, it’s about reading between the lines. Something, I’ll admit, I’m not good at with anyone else except my daughter. She’s the king, she’s got a lot on her mind.”
   “I just don’t know with Trisha. I never know if I am doing the right thing or the wrong thing, but it feels like all the feedback I get from her,” a brief pause and a grimace, “and my boss, is that I’m doing it all wrong.”
   “From the look of things and the sound of things, it seems like your daughter is also a king.”
   Silje’s eyes widened in shock, “No, no, she’s not my daughter,” her hands attempted to brush that idea away, “I take care of her,” another pause for another grimace, “partially, but she’s not my daughter.”
   “Well, that would explain the ears, but I wasn’t going to assume anything. You know, these past few days since coming aboard, you meet all kinds of different folks.” He motioned to a nearby wall, “It’s probably not the most pleasant place to relax, but would you like to take a seat and wait?”
   “If Trisha doesn’t want to see me right now, then I should really go back to work.”
   “Who said she doesn’t want to see you?” The man began to make his way towards the lonely wall he had previously motioned towards. “When my little king is like this, then she has some emotions bottled up that she doesn’t want me to see. She’s gonna let those emotions out, and afterwards she’s going to feel hopeless. That’s when I know my princess is still inside, because the only thing she will want is for me to comfort her.”
   Silje watched as the man lowered himself to the the scuffed and dirtied floor. He gave a pat on a open spot spared of the heaviest floor grime. “Take a seat. She’s going to need you soon. I’ll let you know when it’s okay to go find her. In the mean time, you can tell me about where her parents are.”

   Trisha had stopped storming just before a vending machine (one that is far away from Silje). She had already been standing in front of it for awhile now. At first, when she had arrived, her anger still fumed, and only began to fume more as she noticed nearly every single drink was sold out. But, once her vision blurred as her eyes glanced off into the distance, she wondered where Fjibii was. She never crossed paths with her at all while she was storming down the hallway. She probably went a different direction, but if Trisha were to retrace her steps, she might stumble into Silje.
   She definitely did not want to see Silje again. All she’ll do is fold and say ‘oh, I’m so sorry, Trisha. I’m sorry. Please forgive me,’ and then she’d probably try to hug Trisha or something.
   “Are you going to pick something or what, little girl?” A strong rebellious voice broke Trisha’s thoughts.
   That womans crass mouth made Trisha swiftly face the person. “Why don’t you learn some patience.”
[Sena has the plush-lion hair tie. Add description about this as early as possible.]
   The woman flicked Trisha across the nose, “Chill out, pipsqueek, I just want a drink.” One of the woman’s hands paddled Trisha out of the way so that she could access the vending machine. She stared the vending machine down, inspecting it from top to bottom. She placed a finger on a particular spot on the machine and aligned the aim of her fist with a few slow, false swings before finally smashing her fist into the vending machine. There was a metal thud and a shudder just behind the vending machine door. One of the lights for one of the best drinks in the machine changed from being out of stock to suddenly having stock.
   The woman touched her watch to the machine and pressed the now-in-stock button.
   Trisha cocked an eyebrow.
   “I jammed the machine so I can have my favorite drink, so what?” She cracked the can of tart flavored drink open, “It’s better than all that coffee shit. Did you want one?” The woman stepped to the side for Trisha.
   Trisha nodded, “Sorry to snap at you so suddenly. I’ve just been thinking about a lot of stuff.” She tapped her watch against the machine and pressed the button for the tart flavor.
   “Tell me about it,” she leaned her weight against the wall and let gravity take her to the floor, legs splayed, she took a sip of her drink and stared out the monitors that lined the wall opposite of her. She looked at the mess her skirt was in, to most a seating position most unladylike, but to her, one hand on her drink, the other haphazardly tossed her skirt until at least covered her well enough. “I’m so sick of this tin can. What’s your deal?”
   Trisha cracked her can and sat next to her. “It’s difficult. Doesn’t matter.”
   She took a sip of her can, let out a small burp and stared for a brief moment into the infinite stars. “I’m pretty sick of relying on my dadd-” she cleared her throat, “on my father for company.” She glanced over at Trisha. Her eyes danced across Trisha’s clothing. “I recognize that uniform. That’s the Nusiphera-Hana, Junior High School Four’s uniform, isn’t it?”
   Trisha looked down across her clothes. It just occured to her that she was still wearing the same clothes from the day the G.I.E. had touched down on the Lotus. “Yeah, it is.” She grimaced, “I don’t have any other clothes with me.”
   The woman laughed. “I can smell that.”
   Trisha’s face turned red as she inched her body away from the woman. “I didn’t really have an opportunity to change clothes before,” she paused, “before everything was gone.”
   “I know, I’m not blaming you. I’m still in my uniform.” Her nose wrinkled as she pinched a corner of her clothes to hold it in disgust.
   “Do you attend Nusiphera-Hana, High School Three?”
   The woman shook her head. “No, no,” Her eyes looked back to the stars on the displays. “I took the tram to the town over, Bonnet. There’s a private high school there that I,” her eyes glanced over to Trisha then back to the stars, “Well, I used to attend. School sucked,”
   “Tell me about it.”
   “But, actually, I enjoyed going to school - well, not school, but afterwards.”
   Trisha tilted her head, “I don’t know how you can enjoy school. And isn’t the ride pretty long?” She took a sip of her drink.
   “Oh yeah, the ride sucked. But I enjoyed having some time to myself. But, actually the fun was after school. I love my friends. We’d always have some stuff to do after school. Maybe go shopping, go to the arcade, or sometimes get in trouble under the bridge. I miss them,” she grimaced to herself before taking a small and weak sip off the top of her can.
   Trisha’s eyes lit up with shock as she glanced over. “What you do mean? Were they still on the Lotus after the evacuation?”
   She tossed her head. “No.” She gave a weak smile. “They were evacuated to a different ship. Lucky them, they got to stay together, meanwhile I’m stuck in this dump without any friends.” Trisha noticed the woman’s hands tighten her grip on the can. “I wonder if they even think about me.” She shook her head and took a large gulp of her drink. “They’re probably having lots of fun without me, but meanwhile I don’t have anyone except my dad.”
   Something about her words had struck Trisha quite sorrowfully. She had a tough time placing where the pain came from, but she did know is that she had trouble keeping eye contact with the woman next to her. “What about your Mom? Was she on the Lotus when, you know,” she trailed off.
   The woman laughed a weak and regret-filled laugh. “No, sorry to mislead you twice now. She passed away a couple years ago.” The woman shifted her leg. It bounced restlessly. “She had a terminal disease. Actually, it was a curable disease too, that’s the funny part. My Mom was just so stubborn that she didn’t go to the doctor. Even when the symptoms became worse, her hard-headedness made her believe that a little rest was all she needed.” She wiped her face as the leg continued to bounce uncontrollably. “I hate her so much. She’s so fucking stupid.” She faced away from Trisha, looking towards an undefined vacant space.
   Trisha had managed to keep her eyes on the woman. And now that the woman was unable to keep eye contact with Trisha, Trisha felt like she needed to help her. Her hand hesitated reaching and retracting in indecision before finally she was able to commit and place the hand on the womans shoulder.
   The woman twirled around quite suddenly, “What are you doing?”
   Trisha reeled back in surprise and embarassment, “You were, I mean, I thought, you-” She grimaced, recomposing herself. “I wanted to help you.”
   The woman sized Trisha up before letting out a rather calm laugh. One hand let go of the drink to be displayed before Trisha. “Hold my hand instead.”
   Trisha looked from the woman’s eyes down to her hand. She placed her hand in the womans hand, where she clasped Trisha’s hand quite snuggly.
   The restless leg seemed to relax from it’s bouncing, instead a new restlessness settled into her foot as it wagged back and worth. “After she passed away, it was just me and my dad. Daddy didn’t take it too well. For the first year after her passing, he struggled,” a pause for reconsideration, “a lot. He didn’t do anything. He stopped going to work, he stopped paying our bills, he even stopped making trips to the supermarket. I had to be the head of household.” She glanced at the hands clasped together. “He’s kind of always been really clingy since then, but at least he’s gotten better about doing things now.” Her foot wagging stopped. Her eyes never really moved from the clasped hands, instead a gentle warm smile came over her. Even still with her eyes focused on the hands, “What about you,” she paused a moment, finally able to take her eyes off of the clasped hands, “What’s your name anyways, pipsqueak?”
   “Trisha,” her hand tightened around the other hand.
   “Nice. I’m Sena.” Her hand responded to Trisha’s hand by tightening equally. “So what about you, Trisha? What’s your deal?”
   Trisha’s eyes looked at the clasped hands to Sena’s eyes, occasionally looking at the lion plush tied into her hair, but mostly looking at the hands and eyes. Sena’s face did seem stern, but beneath the strong eyes and tight jaw, a small peaked through. To Trisha, it also was a very warm smile - quite comforting.
   “C’mon, you know that cheesy saying going around, right?” Sena coaxed Trisha, “’We’re all in this together’ or some nonsense like that. I think that means you aren’t suffering alone, or” she placed her drink down a moment to scratch the back of her head, “or well, you don’t have to deal with your problems alone.”
   Trisha’s hand loosened as she looked away. She began rather quiet, barely a whisper, “My best-friend is an ass.” She began crescendoing with each sentence, “He’s lost. He’s obsessed with this dum-” Trisha cut herself off, “He’s obsessed with this girl, but she died with the Lotus. And now he’s so self-absorbed and delusional, and worst of all he’s concocting these fake theories about me and everyone aboard this ship,” Trisha launched from her seated position (her drink spilled) before launching a right hook into the wall, “He’s stopped caring about our friendship - again - and he’s just saying mean things about me.” The cescendo still rose, though now a faltering strength behind the volume, “He’s so oblivious to everyone treating him like a fucking prince to help him cope with his loss, he hasn’t even noticed the fact that he’s one of the few percent of people to actually get a room meanwhile the rest of us sleep under the bright fucking lights. He,” A choke in the crescendo, “He hasn’t even noticed,” another choke. She took heavy breath to recompose herself, “He hasn’t even noticed my parents are gone. They’re dead. They didn’t make it to the evacuation.”The crescendo broke completely now, as her voice wavered and faltered. “He’s all that I have left, and he just wants,” She tried to recompose herself, “he just wants,” the more she tried, the more her vision blurred, “he just,” no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t choke the words out. “And Silje,” her knees began to buckle, “why does she have to be so nice?” She managed another, much weaker right hook against the wall. “Why is she always taking care of me?” Her weight began to pull her back to the floor, but she still had another right hook for the wall. “She’s so stupid. I hate her. I love her so much, I want her to go away.” She collapsed onto her knees now, she could barely manage a punch. “I hate her, but I love her so much.”
   Sena reached over, pulling Trisha and herself together. Trisha’s face burried under Sena’s arm where she could hide the tears. Sena stroked Trisha’s dirty hair. Her leg began to bounce uncontrollably again. It bounced faster and faster. She tried to continue to embrace Trisha but she kept needing to wipe her eyes or her nose until finally the bouncing leg stopped, she couldn’t keep up with wiping her face, and so the tears began to flow freely from her as well. She leaned her head against Trisha’s back where the tears soaked into Trisha’s clothes.
   “You stink,” Sena managed to squeak out between her sobs.
   Muffled words came from Trisha’s sobs underneath Sena’s arm, “You too.”
   The weeping between the two shifted from heaves of sadness to heaves of laughter as they collected themselves.
   “It feels good right?” Sena recovered as she wiped a tear from her face.
   Trisha unburied her head from beneath Sena’s arm and gave a nod.
   “I can never talk to Dad about this stuff.” She grimaced, “but sometimes, it just gets all stuffed up and I just want to punch something.”
   Trisha wiped a straggler tear that crept down her cheek. “Why can’t you tell your dad?”
   She looked away for a moment as her eyebrows parted. She scratched the back of her head. She felt her lop-sided ponytail come loose just a bit. She pulled tight her hairs so that the cute little plush lion hair-tie straightened up. “It’s not about me.” She looked back at Trisha, struggled to make eye contact and then looked away again. “I mean, I guess it is about me. But he also has problems. I already told you he’s overbearing. I just don’t want him to wrap himself up in all of my business.” One of her hands squeezed the little plush lion. “I’m strong enough, I don’t need him to babysit me all the time. And -” She grimaced again, and, yet again, tried to meet Trisha’s eyes. Rather than turning her head away from making eye contact, instead she simply turned her gaze to the floor. “And he’s struggled to be,” She shrugged, “I don’t know - normal again, I guess you’d say. He was so distressed from my mom passing, that,” a pause, “I just don’t want to see him like that again. He doesn’t need my shit to deal with.”
   Trisha reached for Sena’s hand, clasping them together in a warm embrace yet again. A soothing comfort seemed to wash between the girls, bridged by their connection.
   “Well, you love your dad right?”
   Sena still struggled to make eye contact with Trisha, but it was clear her cheeks turned red. “Well you love Silje, right?”
   Trisha’s face turned an equal shade of red. It took a moment for both of them to muster their honesty, but it seemed to come at the same time as they spoke in harmony, “I do.”
   And to each others answers, they both were able to share a short and awkward laugh.
   “I’ll remember that.” Sena smiled, “I’ll hold that against you.”
   Trisha nudged Sena with her shoulder. “It’s a secret. So shut up.”
   Sena laughed to herself, “We’ll see.”
   Trisha’s grip around Sena’s hand tightened. “You love your dad, and he loves you.”
   “Yeah, what’s your point?”
   Trisha was able to make eye contact with Sena. “Well, maybe he’s kind of tough to deal with sometimes, but he’s your only father.” Sena was busy fidgeting with her ponytail. “He would probably feel happy to know you have problems, just like a normal girl would.”
   The plush lion booped Trisha’s nose, “Raar!”
   Trisha laughed before correcting her previous phrasing, “He would be happy to know you have problems just like a normal lion would.”
   Sena gave a satisfied nod before tying the lion around yet another lopsided ponytail.
   “I guess, we don’t really get to choose who our family is,” Trisha looked away for a moment to look at the two hands clasped together. “We’re just stuck with the people that love us the most.”
   Sena laughed to herself. She too looked at the hands clasped together. “So, I guess that means you’re stuck with S-”
   “Chi!” Fjibii’s voice didn’t just echo down the hallway, but resonated quite sharply, taking all of Trisha’s attention. Her gaze snapped the direction the voice came to see the little girl sprinting towards Trisha’s spot. She immediately bounced from her sitting position next to Sena, to standing, just in time for Fjibii’s full petite weight to collide with Trisha.
   “Fjibii?” Trisha cocked an eyebrow. “Where have you been?”
   Silje came running up in a slow jog just behind Fjibii. She bowed to catch her breath for a moment before finally letting a relieving breath loose as her eyes met Trisha’s. “I’m so-” she cut herself off, grimacing before rephrasing her words into something that sounded far more unnatural to her, “I’m thankful I found her,” she struggled around the words. “She was looking for you after she got her drink.”
   Trisha’s eyes moved from Silje to Fjibii.
   “Chi!” Fjibii let go of Trisha for a moment to shuffle around in her pocket, “Look what I found!” She pulled out the tab from a drink can. “Look, it’s green! Did you know they are green some times?”
   Silje scratched uncomfortably at her arm, “She was lost,” she barely managed to choke the words out. “It’s my fault, I’m so - “ She looked away, “I’m -” She wanted to say it, but she thought Trisha didn’t want to hear it, but what could she do? She made a mistake and she wanted to apologize, but how could she, what was the right thing -
   Trisha collided into Silje with all of her bodyweight, knocking Silje back a few steps. Trisha embraced Silje, burying her face deep into Silje. “It’s okay. You can say it. I’m sorry too.”
   Silje gently placed one hand on Trisha’s hair and the other gently embraced her. “I’m sorry, Trisha.”
   In the distance, further down the hall a man stood, somewhat awkwardly a witness to the unfolding events. Sena’s face cracked with a bittersweet smile. She rose from her seat.
   She stepped past Trisha and the loving people who embraced her. “I guess you’re right,” Sena spoke underneath her breath, “We don’t get to choose who our family is.”

    TRISHA: im glad u talked to ur dad :)
   SENA: n wat about u n the telkian?
   TRISHA: were working on it ;^-^
   TRISHA: lets meet tom.
   SENA: Yes! (≧◡≦)
   SENA: Maybe we can find a shower...
   TRISHA: ╥﹏╥
   SENA: Daddy n i are gonna sleep. gnight.
   SENA: Shut up dont say anything.
   TRISHA: lol wasnt gonna say anything. gnight.
   “What ya doin’?” Fjibii grasped at Trisha’s watch so that she could get a better view of the screen from her lounging position across Trisha’s lap.
   Still aglow with a smile, Trisha shook her head. “I’m just talking to my new friend.”
   Fjibii stared surprised at Trisha. “You look different.”
   Trisha laughed uncomfortably before moving her eyes away from Fjibii. “What does that mean?”
   Fjibii rolled and shuffled her body around until she found a more cozy spot amidst her lap-based pillow. “It’s like when Mommy would give me a hug.” She closed her eyes. “Without that mean boy,” she took in a relaxing breath that washed a relaxing wave across her, “you’re different.”
   Trisha smiled, though it felt bittersweet. The glow faded from her now that the screen of her watch had dimmed, and the gentle inhale-exhale of Fjibii could be heard faintly over the hum of the ship and the overhead lights. Trisha looked at the sleeping face of the girl on her lap. She ran her hand through the pale gold hair of the girl, gently as to make sure not to wake her. “Good night, Fjibii.” She whispered.
   Each time her hand passed through the strands of silken gold hair, her strength to push through any tangles or friction became less and less until she too finally fell asleep.