She wakes up, looks at the time. 12:46 AM. It’s been twenty minutes since the last time she went through this step.
She stretches her arm toward the opposite side of the bed.
Her hand meets emptiness. Emptiness and cool sheets.
She closes her eyes and sends a silent prayer to the universe.
She had always known, of course, that being married to someone in the Space Fleet would be challenging: long hours, dog watches on the bridge of the spaceship where they live, missions to unknown planets…
For the actual officers, for the crew, these things are, at best, par for the course. For people like her -for the ordinary people who share their lives with the brave men and women in uniform – the reality is a vastly different one.
They carve out their lives in between the remote assignments. An hour here. An afternoon there. They hold off on plans to acquire pets, to have children, to plan for the future after the tour of duty is finished, until that magical retirement date is in sight.
Well, they try to.
But life isn’t so easily controlled.
So, while her partner is off the ship, she listens to the comm-box the captain – an older woman with short white hair – provides to all the officers’ significant others in such situations. She listens in on the chatter from within the space rover – the small crafts used for remote missions – and smiles at the easy banter between the crewmates.
And when the chatter goes silent, when the signal is too weak, too far away, or the remote team is dealing with situations too sensitive to be broadcast to unsecure receivers, she has nights like this, where sleep comes only in snatches and the face of the clock seems to mock her, melting into the darkness like wax from a flickering candle.
And of course, because it’s digital. Because everything is digital, she doesn’t even have the comforting tick-tock, tick-tock to lull her to sleep.
She opens her eyes.
She looks at the clock.
Sure, she could ask the ship’s AI to just tell her the time, but she’s half-convinced it’s becoming tired of answering her.
Her partner’s side of the bed remains empty.
She closes her eyes again.