Layover

by T. Gene Davis

“The layover was only two years.”

Hazel let out a breath and crinkled her already wrinkled forehead. “He told me about it.”

Keira bounced her newborn child, more to calm herself than to calm the baby. “We’re newlyweds. How could he die? Was there a malfunction in stasis?”

“Not exactly.”

“What then?” Keira examined the stooped-over aged woman in front of her.

“The layover was extended.”

“Why?”

“He told me once, a few decades ago. I can’t remember. You can check with Interstellar  for the reason. I’m sure it’s in the computers somewhere.”

“I told him we shouldn’t have flown coach. He said we didn’t have the money for guaranteed non-stop planet-to-planet.”

“I’d believe him, if I were you. He spent almost half his salary paying for stasis extensions for you and the baby.”

“Extensions?”

“The two-year layover turned into five years. That five became twelve, and well you can see for yourself.” Hazel waved at herself as if that explained everything.

“I don’t understand,” Keira said carefully.

“Dear, I’m the other woman.”

“Uh.”

“We met after the fourth layover extension.”

Keira looked at the woman. “But, …”

“I’m so old? I was younger than him by at least ten years. I was very young, and he was already biologically 20 years older than you at that point.”

Keira kissed her baby’s mostly bald head, and a tear fell on it. She kissed the tear away.

Hazel looked at the younger woman. “Are you okay?”

“No. My husband is dead of old age, and my baby will never have a father, now. No. I’m not okay.”

“I know this is awkward for you, …” Hazel’s voice trailed off.

“A little.”

“I’m really sorry, but …”

Keira straightened up and wiped her cheek with the back of her sleeve. “But?”

“The layover isn’t over over another three years.”

“But we’re awake.”

“Yes. The money your husband left to pay for stasis has run out, and I only have what I have for my own retirement.”

“What will we do? We don’t know anyone on this planet.”

“You know me. I promised him you could stay at our place until your layover is finished.”

Keira looked at Hazel closely. “You’re very kind. But, …”

“I insist.”

After a pause, Keira accepted the offer and they walked from the terminal together.

Notes …

I couldn’t help but wonder, if airplane flights cause us major headaches, what kind of headaches will spaceflights cause us?

 

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