art by Liz Clarke
by Jamie Lackey
She sits in a dusty corner of the glass and chrome spaceport, offering solace to everyone. Beings of all shapes and sizes bustle past. Most are tired, lonely. All have need of what she offers.
She holds solace in a delicate porcelain bowl, fine and fragile between her palms. The sweet, clear liquid steams. It smells different to everyone. To her, it smells like roses and chocolate and cool spring rain.
"Would you care for solace?" she asks, making solid eye contact. "It's complimentary."
The traveler glances down, shakes his head, flees.
The next laughs at her.
She tells herself that their rejection doesn't matter. The spaceport will still see that she is paid for her time.
But it wears at her, like fine sand over granite.
The next says yes, takes a sip, asks questions that she's answered a thousand times. Yes, this is her job. Yes, she received professional training. Some days are busier than others.
They never care about her answers. She spends twenty minutes listening to the traveler complain, nodding and smiling or frowning as necessary.
Two more silent headshakes, one slightly regretful, then an enthusiastic yes. He is tall, and his skin is the color of ripe plums. He drains the bowl, smiles, thanks her. For a moment, she can smile back. "What did it smell like to you?" she asks.
He thinks for a moment. "Coffee. And fresh cut grass." He vanishes back into the crowd.