Free Flash Fiction: Winter Solstice in the Black

WSitBI wrote this piece of Flash Fiction set in the Other Systems Universe for Sallie Lundy Frommer’s Blog during the 12 Authors of December Event last year which is where it was originally published. Please don’t be a jerk. It’s just a small piece but I did work hard on it.

In the theory of relativity, time dilation is an actual difference of elapsed time between two events as measured by observers that occurs if one or both of them are traveling at high velocities.

 

 

Winter Solstice in the Black

By Elizabeth Guizzetti

 

Bene’s boots stuck to the beer-stained floor, but he slid onto a barstool and signaled the waiter. “Pilsner.”

Maybe 150 ducats was too much to carry on an outpost, that was little more than a ship-stop on the transport run, but on his timeline, it was Winter Solstice. Bene needed to have a good time this year. Nina always decorated the ship, made pine-nut cookies and bought presents—whether he remembered Winter Solstice or not. Now Nina was gone and he never told her how much he appreciated it.

It wasn’t the holidays for all the people who swarmed around the bar. Though they had all ended up on the station at this moment, they lived upon their own timelines. Their own clocks and calendars. Damn time dilation.

He lifted his glass. His hands weren’t strong anymore and they lost their once impeccable pilot’s timing. So he worked in the laundry and took care of small repairs around his ship for Captain Wilkes—who he liked well enough.  “Happy Winter Solstice, my dear Nina.”

He took a long swig, tasting the mild sweetness, followed by the bite of the hops. When he set his glass down, he saw a girl with grease-stained coveralls staring at him.

“Sir, I’m sorry to bother you…” As she apologetically blathered, Bene took another sip and wished she’d just tell him what she wanted. “My name’s Rachel. We were in grav-pods for Winter Solstice…”

The arrogance of the kid to think she could possibly understand what it was to be covered in liver spots and sitting in a bar alone on Winter Solstice. Bene interrupted, “Get to the arcade where you belong. Plenty of kids there.”

“I don’t have any friends there,” she said.

The melancholy in the girl’s voice resonated in his chest. Bene thought: maybe Nina sent an angel to keep him company. Nina never missed a trick. Bene gestured to the chair next to him. He ordered another beer; she ordered a lemon soda.

He found himself smiling as Rachel spoke. The ward of Captain Laura Jamus, aboard ship, she cooked meals, helped in the engine room, or studied. Yes, she had snuck in the bar. No, Jamus wouldn’t like her being here, but she was busy unloading a delivery.

Their conversation became light. They spoke on their favorite traditions–Rachel liked making holiday cookies too. Her favorite were pepparkakor. They toasted Nina and Rachel’s late mother. And Captains Wilkes and Jamus.

“Know what we need?”

The girl turned away from him and hunched over. She pulled something out of her pocket, but he couldn’t see what. Then she turned back and pushed over a small makeshift package wrapped up in a red handkerchief. “Happy Winter Solstice!”

He said, “I wish I had something for you.”

A middle-aged woman stormed up to the table, her eyes focused on present. Rachel barely got a “Cap!, before Jamus grabbed her arm and snatched the gift from Bene’s hand.

Figuring Rachel would be better off without his interference, Bene ordered another pilsner. She took the risk doing something her guardian wouldn’t like. She admitted as much.

He was at the bottom of his next drink when Jamus showed up again. Crap what does she want? “Hello, Captain Jamus.”

She set down the makeshift package, “When I saw her give you that…I don’t know what I thought…but it wasn’t a Winter Solstice gift of a few store-bought toffees.” Then three ducats on the table. “For her soda.”

Bene expected Jamus to leave, but she did not.

Instead in halting sentences, she said,  “Rachel told me you toasted a ghost. The holidays can be hard….on her.” Her eyes dropped shyly. The woman was out of practice, but she was trying to be friendly. Her voice suggested at the pain of her own loss and how much she both resented and loved the teenager who had been thrust upon her. How often did it happen?

Bene asked her to join him. She glided into Rachel’s vacated seat.

“Rachel’s in her billet thinking about why she shouldn’t sneak into bars, but I told her I’d invite you for supper.”

Bene considered that Rachel was obviously no angel, but maybe Nina sent an impish girl in order to get her captain’s attention. Bene and Jamus both lost loved ones to the Black. Both needed something to celebrate, but didn’t know how.

Yep, Nina never missed a trick.

Copyright 2013 Elizabeth Guizzetti All Rights Reserved.

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