Once And For All by Hanne Larsson

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Two weeks since her re-entry, with barely five words shared between them.

Emma’s feet take longer to settle with each trip away. She’s slowly remembering what it is to just be in her husband’s everyday. But she’s still full to bursting of twinkly spotted black, of pirouetting round the planet, of dreaming to go further, of understanding the logic in her immediate system, of watching the infinite silence. In space she knows her role, but here…?

Then, three days back, the NASA letter dropped through the letterbox. Still unopened, it whispers sweet little nothings to her, so different from her husband’s ones. The otherworldly against the earth-solid: she cradles it against her ear, hoping for space sound echoes.

Eternal youth beckons on Mars whereas here her wrinkles will only deepen. Out there, space repeats and repeats. Out there, she will be clear of this leaden gravity coalescing around her feet, forever more.

But Mars is too big. It demands discussion.

This time she must voice her desire rather than let him read the letter. This time she must meet her husband’s ever-hopeful eyes, meet them head on when she speaks and try to not see the hurt scatter like space dust across his face. Because before, she would always come back. Mars is one-way.

She finds him in the kitchen, stirring something that smells of that wine-drenched trip to Italy between missions where they re-discovered each other. For once she feels guilt at leaving him behind.

‘I love you.’

He turns to her, spoon in hand, smiling at the words. Bundling her into an embrace – squeezed against his tomato and wine stains – she finally allows her angularities to mould against his curves. All of him, so close, actually grounds her.

No, she’ll turn NASA down; they’ve got Earth to explore this time and forever.

‘I know, but… and there’ll never be an easy time to say this. I’m leaving you, Emma. I can’t wait…’ His voice is muffled against her hair, but the words reverberate through to her feet.

And she’s floating above herself; all the solidity she thought she knew meaningless against his sighing statement. Emma pulls away, her mouth dry, splitting the envelope open, needing the promise of Mars.

We’re sorry to inform you that you’ve not been selected…

Her tears fall first, and then that elusive gravity pools and settles around her feet, once and for all.

*****

Hanne uses her many-cultured upbringing and environmental scientist training for story/poetry fodder. Her stories have been published by The Common Breath, The Drabble, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Hammond House, Lunate Fiction and Green Stories. She is a member of Dahlia Book’s ‘A Brief Pause’ cohort for 2021. She tweets occasionally

Previous pubs can be found here:

1. Lunate: https://lunate.co.uk/flash/the-aching-wait-by-hanne-larson

2. I,S&T – https://inksweatandtears.co.uk/hanne-larsson/

3. The Drabble – https://thedrabble.wordpress.com/2021/03/07/once-twice-the-snow-fell/

Socials: Twitter – @hannelarsson; Insta – @larssonwrites

Cover Image by WikiImages

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