Old Friends

Like the Prose: Challenge #15 – Write a story with all four narrative styles used in the previous week. (Mine is actually a sequel to Sincerely, Megan)

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I held the postcard in my hand. Like those I’d been receiving since I was in high school, it was a vintage card, postmarked from somewhere in central Iowa, but I knew it had actually originated somewhere much, much further away.

Dear Megan.

It seems impossible that this day would ever arrive, but our worldship is close enough to your Earth that we can engage in a brief visit, if you wish.  We have, of course, been exchanging photographs of one another for several decades by now. My antennae are no longer proudly erect, but are beginning to wilt from age, and you have complained that your facial epidermis bears wrinkles. And yet, I hope that you will be brave, my long-distance friend, and allow me to set foot in your back yard one the evening of your summer solstice. It will be a brief visit. Only fifteen of your minutes. But I do not wish to waste the opportunity.

Your friend,

Xplo!kka’t

I took the card into the house. The summer solstice was a week away. Jasmine, my daughter, was away at a songwriting camp with her partner Noreen. They’d met at college the previous September. Separately, they were each talent, together, they were electric, in songwriting and in love. It was lovely to see.

My husband Jeff was off on Luna Colony for three months. We hated the separations that took me to different parts of the Earth and him to the Moon and Mars, but the saying about absence making the heart grow fonder? Totally true.

I pulled a postcard from the antique secretary my grandmother had willed to me. My first summer of correspondence with my alien friend had turned me into a habitual letter writer, and my grandparents had only encouraged the tendency.

Dear Xplo!kka’t

Of course, you may visit. Fifteen minutes, fifteen seconds, fifteen hours. I’m so excited to meet the person who has been one of my dearest friends for so many years. Be welcome.

Sincerely, Megan.

* * *

“You aren’t really meeting him, are you?” Jeff asked his wife when the call from Luna Colony to New Jersey finally went through.

“Of course, I am,” Megan replied, her voice firm with her decision. “Xplo!kka’t inspired me to become a science journalist, and then to turn my experience into books. Without his encouragement Earth would never have corrected our pollution problem, and we’d likely be dead.”

She didn’t tell him that her spacefaring friend had once confessed that his race was seeking a new homeworld, and that their interest in Earth was not initially friendly, but rather, they looked at the green and blue world as a place to invade, to reform, to claim as their new home. It was only because Megan continued her strange correspondence with the person she’d thought was her husband (though of course they were only schoolmates at the time) that Sol III had been given protected status. Now, her friend was coming to visit. Not his whole worldship, she knew. That wouldn’t be close enough for another several decades. This was a dart pod. Sort of like a super-fast shuttle. And okay, fifteen minutes wasn’t a lot, especially given the span of years and the vastness of space, but it was fifteen minutes more than zero. And until now, zero was all they’d had.

“Do you want me to see if I can come home early? Be there with you?” Jeff asked.

“Can you?” Megan responded, hope lighting up her face.

“I can ask…”

But they both knew it wasn’t likely. Transport was expensive. And slow.

“What if we made sure you Facetimed while he was here?” Megan suggested. “I’d love for you to meet him. As much as you can.”

Slowly, Jeff nodded. “I can do that.” They chatted for a bit more. “I love you, Babe. To the moon and back.” And he grinned at her the way her always did when he made that horrible, horrible joke.

“Love you, too. Around the world.”

And they cut the connection.

* * *

You look in the mirror. You are no longer the teenaged girl who sent a postcard into space and actually got a reply. You’re a grown woman. A wife, a mother, an accomplished journalist. A bestselling author.

You have wrinkles in your face – your husband calls them ‘laugh lines’ and thinks they give you character, and you smile when he says it, just they way he smiles when you tell him you don’t mind that he’s a little paunchy because you find him sexy as much because he’s familiar as for any number of other reasons.

It’s just after twilight on the summer solstice and you’ve moved all the lawn furniture out the way. You hear a whooshing sound in the back yard, and open the back door, iPad in hand, and pause on the threshold.

From this moment on, alien life isn’t just a fantasy, and even though you sort of knew that, you couldn’t quite accept it until now. Because now it’s not just postcards. It’s real.

You step out the door, and down the two steps.

A figure about a third of a meter taller than you, not including the slightly wilted antennae, is descending a ramp.

His voice, when he speaks, is warm and mellifluous, even though the English comes a few seconds after his own language. (But you’re accustomed to that, from your occasional video chats).

“Megan,” he greets. “I am Xplo!kka’t. It is good to meet you, my friend.”

He extends a hand, six digits including an opposable thumb, because you’ve told him a handshake is an appropriate greeting, but you step closer, and push it away.

“I meant to tell you,” you say. “Handshakes are for strangers. Friends hug.” And you gently embrace him.

Because he is bright and adaptive, he follows suit.

When Jeff calls a few minutes later, you are at ease with one another. As old friends should be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Old Friends by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

One thought on “Old Friends

  1. Lovely followup and nicely blended formats. Or genres. Or whatever they re called.

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