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art by Billy Sagulo

Patchwork Blouse

James Guin's fiction has appeared in Every Day Fiction, Dark Edifice Online Literary Magazine #4, and will soon appear in Alternate Hilarities. You can find James online at jamesguin.wordpress.com. “Patchwork Blouse” is his first story in Daily Science Fiction.

You stand there watching me try on this blouse.
"It looks nice," you say, and this time you're actually paying attention.
I think about the fights we've had because you never liked to shop. And now here you are pretending like you are enjoying yourself.
"Are you pretending?" I would like to ask, but I don't want to know. I want to remember you like this.
You walk over, place your right hand underneath my hair below my left shoulder blade, and for a few moments we stare in the antique cheval mirror.
"I like these colors," you say. "These different shades of red contrast with your black hair, but it works."
Then you feel my hair between your thumb and index finger, squint your eyes, smile, and examine it like it's some kind of new fabric that you've discovered. But this is not the smile of discovery. It's the smile which tells me you are holding something back.
"Your hair is black like space and this blouse is red like Mars," you want to say. Then go into your lecture about how the iodized rocks on Mars makes the fourth planet from our sun look red when viewing it from the Earth. And "from the Earth" is when I stop listening.
I wish I would have listened to your spiels about the Roman god of war. Maybe you wouldn't go. Maybe you would stay here, on Earth.
But you know if you talk about Mars right now, I will start crying, and I don't want your last memory of me on Earth to be of me crying in a thrift store. Please don't think about me crying while you are building your "patchwork Mars station," as you call it, on the Red Planet.
Instead of going into your lecture about Mars you step back from the mirror and take out your phone. I smile my awkward I don't know what to say or do smile while you take a picture of me in this multi-shades-of-red patchwork blouse.
Looking at your phone, you become lost in the picture and forget about me.
"I want to see," I almost say, but no, this is your discovery smile.
"Tonight, when I get back to the Center, I'm going to upload this picture into the Mars database," you say.
As I hand the old lady at the checkout counter three dollars, you wander around the front of the store inspecting a pale porcelain doll, a black jewelry box, and a red toy rocket ship.
"We need to get back to the Center," you say.
You drive, because it will be the last time you drive a car in g gravity.
Before you walk through the first security checkpoint outside the Mars Center, you say, "Who knows? They may even find a way to eventually bring us back. Figure out how to make fuel from rocks or something like that."
Fuel from rocks. I don't know if that's supposed to be one of your Mars jokes or if you're serious.
We hug. We kiss. It's time for you to go.
After you walk through the first security checkpoint, you stop and turn around. Through the chain-link fence, I see you wave and then you just stand there.
"Go," I mouth.
You just stand there.
Please go, I think.
You turn around. I cry.
Tears flowing, I watch until you disappear into the network of security checkpoints and buildings with logos of the Mars Center plastered all over the sides. Wearing my multi-shades-of-red patchwork blouse, I look up into the night sky and see that red star. Through my tears it sparkles with different shades of red.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

Author Comments

Thanks to the Mars One Foundation, the first human settlement on Mars will begin in 2023. I would like to dedicate “Patchwork Blouse” to my wife who knows I would love to be among those first pioneers, but who also knows that I love her too much to leave her on Earth.

- James E Guin
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