The Alchemist's Wife
by Melody Marie Sage
I remember we celebrated with the dark chocolate torte at L’oiseau D’or. Its glossy black ganache was splashed with a comet trail of 24 carat gold stars. The gilt leaf dissolved tasteless on my tongue. The idea of it was titillation enough.
Ian talked about the project, and I pretended to listen to him, enjoying the sound of his voice, the exuberant parabolas he made with his hands. I was an artist. Chemistry, nanotechnology, bionics, and their various intersects, did not interest me. Colors did: the yellow candle flame flickering on his irises, the flush at the base of his throat, the creamy ivory tablecloth beneath my fingers. I smiled into my champagne. No, that is not entirely true. I loved learning about science in school, but Ian was on another level. He virtually spoke his own language. Only a select few of his colleagues could parse the intricacies of his logic. Now, I wish I had listened more closely.
My breath fogs the glass while I look out upon the tundra, its false infinity of frostbitten grass surrounding us on all sides like the sea. Ian comes up behind me and rests his chin in the crook of my neck.
“What are you thinking about?” he asks.
“Nothing,” I say, putting my hand to his cheek.
We continue with our morning routine, moving deftly around each other in the tight quarters. He starts the generator for the kettle. I mix the powdered eggs with water. Some things have changed in the months since we came here. We no longer turn on the hand-cranked radio. Instead, we listen to the wind rattling the windows, the fall of sleet on the metal roof, while blowing companionably on our steaming cups of oolong tea, which we have learned to enjoy just as well without slices of lemon.
Paper flowers bloom across the gray walls of the bunker, cascading over our heads, their glued edges curling. Six weeks after we arrived, when the final outcome was clear, Ian began cutting them from his collection of books on natural history.