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art by Seth Alan Bareiss

Strange Attractors

S. B. Divya is a lover of science, math, and fiction. When she isn't designing high speed communications systems, raising her daughter, feeding the cats, or enjoying dinner with her husband, she writes. She dreams of some day finishing and publishing an epic science fiction novel, but mostly she works on short fiction and blogs at www.eff-words.com.

The first time, we stayed together for fifty years. The divorce was my doing. I fell apart a few months after we received our permanent extensions, at a hotel on Nassau, the same one where we'd taken our honeymoon. We were sitting side by side on a balcony, basking in the sun and the moist, salt tinged air.
"We're truly forever now," I said, fixing my gaze on the hazy blue horizon and not his face. "What if this isn't right? What if there's another woman out there who'd make you happier?"
"Not this again," he groaned. "After all these years, how can you be so insecure?"
"Wrong answer," I said. "If you'd told me that I'm the only one you'd ever want, I would have believed you."
I walked out of that room and refused to see him again, not even to serve the documents.
We were apart for nearly a decade before we both decided that we were better with each other than anyone else.
"Should we, maybe, have kids?" he said tentatively as we laid in bed on our second honeymoon. His pale skin glowed in the moonlight, and his copper hair sparkled and curled around my dark fingers.
I looked up into his clear hazel eyes. "I think I'd like that. How about we start tomorrow?"
He laughed, a deep, drum-like thrum which always made me warm inside. "Sure, why not?" He planted a kiss on my nose. "I love that you can still surprise me."
We raised three children and stayed together for sixty-two more years. That sounds like a lot of progeny to spawn in a few decades, but we really wanted to travel, and once we were off Earth that avenue would be closed. We waited until the kids were grown and settled, or as settled as a person can be with a scant thirty years of experience, and then had nearly two blissful decades of tourism around the Solar System.
Our favorite spot was Ganymede station's view lounge. We were curled up together on a sofa watching Jupiter's psychedelic storms.
"It's utterly mesmerizing," I said. "Have you seen the vids of L2-Vega?"
"That reminds me, while I was at the bar, I overheard someone say that they've opened a new portal to Vega."
"Fantastic," I exclaimed, sitting up straight. A second portal meant the system would open to tourists. "We could do it, you know. We have the funds now that kids aren't drawing on them."
"We could afford it," he said, "but I don't know about going away for that long. The round trip time penalty is, what, around forty years? We'd miss seeing so much of the kids' lives."
I waved my hand dismissively. "They're adults. They should learn to be on their own. Besides, it'll be a while yet before they have the credit for babies. This is the best time to go, and our funds aren't going to be so high forever. We got lucky with the portal manufacturer we chose."
"It wasn't luck," he protested.
"Fine, fine, it was your skill and timing, but you haven't always struck the gold mine. Remember the ion engine flop?"
"How could I forget? You bring it up at least once every five years. Haven't I more than made up for it since then?"
"Of course," I soothed, not mentioning the influx of credit I had brought in with my patents. "I am so proud of what you've done, and I love you, and I think we should take advantage of our situation and see the galaxy."
He shook his head and sent copper braids flying around his face in the low station gravity. "I won't go," he said, "but I won't ask you to stay, either."
Nothing I said would change his mind and so I blame him for our second split. I went. He stayed, the stubborn fool.
The third time was a couple of centuries later, and we had changed so much that we didn't recognize each other. I saw her at a portal in the Gliese system, solar wings shimmering in the starlight, hair shorn, and limbs contracted into travel buds. I was still mostly human in appearance for I'd been traveling too much to keep up with technology, but I had gone neuter-male and had added a lot of radiation protection to my organs. That had been exhilarating in so many ways until I saw her. I felt a flash of envy, but the attraction overcame it, and I struck up a conversation once she was in station.
We talked incessantly for hours, flush with early romance, and then she said, "Let me show you my fourth level descendants back on Earth." She extended a biowire, but I didn't have a port. It's easy to blow your money once you leave the Milky Way.
"That's all right," she said, smiling. She extruded a light cube and placed it in my grateful hand. I pushed it into my wrist.
"What beautiful babies," I exclaimed as the images scrolled before my eyes. And they were indeed, all chubby and wide-eyed and adorably Homo sapiens. Then I saw the family portrait, four generations arranged artfully in rows--all except for their great grandmother.
"That's-- you--," I stopped, lost for words.
Her brow creased with a delicate furrow of puzzlement. I copied over a few of my own memories and passed the cube back to her. The crease disappeared, and she closed her crystalline eyes for a few eternal minutes. When they opened, they were clear hazel and glistening with tears.
"I thought you'd gone forever," she whispered.
I smiled and leaned in for a kiss. "Forever is a long time."
The End
This story was first published on Monday, June 9th, 2014

Author Comments

I spend a lot of time, some might say too much, thinking about gender, post-humanism, and feminism. This particular story came about when those background ruminations percolated with the upcoming Valentine's Day. It is my (very short) vision of what romance could look like in the future.

- S.B. Divya
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