Chapter 1: Stephanie Welch

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 631

 

Stephanie Welch, 37 years old, was born in the Tri-Valley of the East Bay. She is 5’8, has long sandy brown hair, light blue eyes, and sun kiss skin. Stephanie went to school in Livermore, where she met her best friend Holly Jenkins in the 3rd grade.

After graduating from high school, I went to college to study communication and journalism and graduated four years later with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Stephanie met her next best friend, Tina Mills, during her second year in college. Holly, Tina, and Stephanie worked for different media companies doing research, field reporting, and writing projects for three years.

Stephanie got hired at KRPZ Channel 11 as a field reporter and was later promoted to news anchor, and Tina Holly got hired a few months later.

 

 

 

 

This is Stephanie Welch for KRPZ Channel 11 news. The biggest news of my life just landed on my lap, and I can’t even tell anyone. It feels strange looking out this window, not seeing the Earth anymore. It’s so hard to believe that we’re no longer in the Milky Way but in another galaxy. It would have made quite a headline if I could only speak to someone from the television station.
I pull up the calendar on my hologram laptop to see the day that I’ve highlighted. It was Saturday, July 14th at 9:00 pm. It was the day we all set out for the Triangulum galaxy. I remember hearing a couple of officials saying that it would feel like we had just left yesterday. They were right. It feels like we just went yesterday, strangely enough. I’m sitting here laughing inside, but I feel like somebody came and ripped my life away. I’m crying because I’m sitting here thinking about the last Thursday I spent on Earth.
I spent most of Thursday taking care of a few things. I want to get everything done by this afternoon because I will spend the last 24 hours doing other things. I didn’t want to leave Earth with any unfinished business, no matter how minor it may be. I went to the bank to close my account, and I also went to the home mortgage to sign the deed to my house to my best friend, Holly. I am going to surprise her when the time comes.
It was 2:00 pm when I finally finished taking care of my business. I drove to the television station one last time just to have a look. I parked outside the TV station and entered the lobby. Jerry and Tina are the station director at KRPZ. They were standing in the hall when I walked in. The two of them came up to me, and Tina took me in her arms and asked me if I was okay. I just stood there fighting back the tears and nodded my head. Jerry told me that they both understood, and he hugged me. While I was looking around, Tina asked me if I wanted to go back to my office and get something; I told her no. I was about to leave when Jerry asked if I wanted to be on TV tonight. I told him it wasn’t on my mind. Jerry said to me that many people were calling into the television station asking how I was doing; it might be good for me to give an update. I told Jerry I’d give it some thought. I looked at Tina, and I said hologram video chat tonight; you and Holly? Tina asked me when? I’d surprise you. I looked at Jerry and Tina, smiling, turned toward the door, and left.
I got into my car and drove over to Center Point Outdoors Mall. I was planning on doing some shopping before I went home. I started crying as I walked toward my car, knowing that I would miss everyone inside the television station that I had been working with for years.
I get to the mall and park my car right across from Kitchen Mart. I took the $1,400 when I closed my bank account this morning. (I will spend most of it this evening and save some so I can show my future kids what cash looked like before I left Earth). I got out of the car and went shopping at Kitchen Mart. When I entered the store, I looked at the cooking set and a couple of other things. I thought I had to be silly to take a kitchen set with me, but I knew it would be necessary to establish a new home.
Before I took my stuff to check out, I saw some Mason jars; I took some of them and went to checkout. I put all the items I had in the shopping cart on the counter. The lady looked at me and told me there was no charge for my items. I stood there and asked why? The store manager comes over and tells me that my things are free. I say to the store manager: “No, I want to pay for my items.” She looks at me and says, “We all know you’re leaving soon; this is our way of saying goodbye.” I stood there with tears rolling down my cheeks, saying thank you to both.
I took everything I got from Kitchen Mart to my car. I walked over to Computer Palace to look around. When I went into the store, the manager approached me and told me I didn’t have to pay for what I was getting. Before I can say a word, he says thank you for being a great news journalist and that he will miss seeing me on TV. All I could do was smile and start looking around the store. Trying not to cry and holding my emotions together was very difficult because I was falling apart inside. (How much more can I take without completely falling apart?)  Walking through the store was hard after what he said, but I continued to shop.
A couple of cable cords, three cases of can air, a new hologram tablet just in case the one I have goes out on me, and a bunch of other stuff. The store manager walks over to me and asks me if I’m okay? I couldn’t say anything to him because I was an emotional mess. All I could do was stand there, look at him, and hope he understood the expression on my face. It wasn’t easy putting on a brave face and knowing that I was leaving. I smiled a bit and told him I was doing well, but it was a lie. I was an absolute mess. How do you explain to someone that you’ve given up everything you love to live on a planet in a different galaxy that you’ve never heard about? Looking at all the items in the shopping cart, I felt so overwhelmed that I took them to the checkout counter to have them all bagged. As I looked at the store manager and the store clerk, I thanked him and left immediately to go to my car.

 I go back to my car; I put every item I picked up in the back seat at the store. I got in my car, sat there, and began to cry. I let go of all my feelings. I felt nothing but sadness, heartache, and loss. Every time someone asks me how I’m feeling, how can I explain this to you? The truth is, I can’t because I’ve never gone through something like this before. I wipe my eyes clean and pull myself together. I got out of my car walked to the Sunset clothing store to go shopping. It is the last store that I will be shopping at.
 When I got to the store, some of the staff were upfront, and I thought, please don’t do this to me. The store general manager was waiting in front of the store. I just knew she would tell me that anything I wanted in that store would be free.
 The general manager walked up to me, and before she could say anything, I stopped her. I asked her, “Are you going to tell me that everything in the store is free?” She said yes; I told her, “I wanted to spend the $1,400 I currently have. But at this point, I haven’t been able to do that.” She told me to get used to it because people knew I was leaving. She goes on to say, “From what I have heard and understood, every store has decided not to charge you anything that I want. You might want to give that money to a best friend or family member.” I asked her I knew that I was leaving, but why? The general manager explained to me, “That out of all the television stations in town. You are the only news reporter that is leaving, and it is their way of saying thank you.”
 I held myself together and smiled, then walked into the store. While I was shopping, Angela Hunt from the Tri-Valley newspaper walked up and hugged me. She didn’t say anything to me. She smiled and walked away with tears in her eyes. I hurried with my shopping as quickly as possible. I took all my clothes items that I wanted to the checkout counter. The store clerk put all my stuff in a bag and handed it. I started walking towards the door, and before I got there, the assistant manager and the general manager smiled, hugged me, and said, take care.

 I left the store and started walking to my car with the items I got from the store. I opened the rear door of my car, put my bags in, and shut it. I walked to the front of my car, and before I went inside, I saw the store managers and their employees saying goodbye to me. Other people were waving at me too. Open my car door and waved goodbye at them before I got in. I started my car and drove home crying. This was the most emotional shopping I’ve ever done. It was incredible to see everyone whose life I touched while reporting the news.
I was arriving home with everything that I’d got at the stores. I took everything from my car and entered my home. When I got in, I just put everything down by the front door, walked over to the sofa, and just collapsed. I took my viewer phone out of my pocket, and I called Tina, telling her I wanted to go live tonight on television. She asked me what time, and I told her 9:00 tonight. Tina told me she was okay with it, and she’ll keep it open for me. “Any plans this evening,” Tina asked me? “I’ll be walking to Sunset Beach Park shortly,” I told Tina. “Stephanie, I know you’re struggling now. I can tell in your voice, call Holly or me if you need to talk,” Tina said. “I will, Tina, I will,” I said goodbye to Tina and got off the viewer’s phone. I wanted to call Holly, but I knew she was working in the field, so I had to get back to her later. Tina and Holly didn’t want to come with me. It would have been nice to have someone on the colony ship. I will miss my two best friends very much, all I have are pictures and videos of us together.
That Thursday evening, it was five o’clock. I was saying 26 more hours before I had to leave for the colony ship. I got up from the sofa, went over to bags by the door, took the Mason jars out of the bag, and put them on the end table by the loveseat. I walked to my desk and picked up a marker tape, notebook, pencil, and backpack. I took the Mason jars from the table packed them in my bag with the items I took from my desk. Put my gear on my shoulders, picked up my keys, and left the house.
 Sunset Beach Park is only a ten-minute walk, but I was going to take my time. The weather was beautiful, not one cloud in the sky. The wind was very light, and the sun would set in three hours or so. I saw two of my neighbors on my way to Sunset Beach Park. I waved at them and smiled, but I kept ongoing. I wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone right now.

 When I arrived at Sunset Beach Park, it was quiet. There weren’t a lot of people around. Usually, many people would be on this warm sunny evening, but it was tranquil. I walk along the beach, looking for things to pick up. It didn’t take long to find a spot. I removed my backpack from my shoulders and placed it on the sand. Unzipped, it took the Mason jars out, opened the pot, and scooted some sand inside it. I wrote Sunset Beach Park Sand on top of the lid with a marker from my backpack and put it back on the jar. I did the same with the other three pots, putting stones in one, sticks, leaves in another, and ocean water in the fourth jar. Before putting the lids back on the jars, the last thing I did was to grab a patch of grass and put it with the rocks. I put the Mason jars back into my backpack, picked up the pack, and walked to the picnic table to sit and write in my notebook.

 Before taking out my notebook, I started writing about everything I saw on the beach. Of course, there weren’t a lot of people around. I pulled my viewer phone out of my pocket and listened to jazz music as I was writing. The song that began playing was Island Breeze, and it’s a Jazzy R&B style that was perfect. It was such a relaxing song that I didn’t even pull my notebook out of my backpack. I got up from the table and went to the shore, stood there for a minute, closed my eyes, and extended my arms. The gentle breeze went through my hair like I didn’t have a care in the world. It was my last night on this beach, and I wanted to remember it. I opened my eyes and stood there, singing a gentle island breeze from the song on my viewer phone. I started to cry a little because I knew I would miss being here. I spent many days coming to this beach to relax get away from the hustle and bustle of the day’s work. Spending a couple of hours on the beach,  I just walked around and enjoyed it all before going home.

 The time had come for me to go home. I went back to the picnic table where my backpack was, zipped up, put the bag on my shoulder, and began walking home. Before I left the beach, I turned around for one more look. I smiled and cried a little bit because the memories of this place would last for the rest of my life. On my way home, I passed up my neighbor Amy. She’s out walking her dog, and she stopped for a minute just to talk to me. Amy told me that she would miss seeing me and talking to me at times. She hugged me, said goodbye, and left.

I put my backpack on the end table by the love seat and shut the front door when I got home. Slowly, I took the mason’s jars out of my backpack and set them on the table, and walked into the kitchen to get myself something to eat before going live on television tonight.

 I didn’t know what I was going to say. The one thing I’m sure of is that it’s going to be difficult. What to Eat, what to eat, what to eat? I was saying that to myself over and over. I decided to have a sandwich, salad, and a soda this evening. The way I was feeling, I didn’t want anything heavy tonight. My stomach was tied up in knots, and I was already an emotional mess. I made myself a ham and Swiss cheese sandwich with tomatoes, lettuce, mayo, a garden salad and took a soda out of the refrigerator.


 I took my food to the backyard patio table sat down to eat. It’s quiet around here. The only thing I could hear was the traffic from a highway in the distance and the birds. I live in a charming neighborhood. Some houses have an Art Deco style, and others have a modern contemporary look. A few places have the old charm that makes you feel like you live out in the country. Weeping willows, oaks, and cherry blossoms trees made the neighborhood beautiful.
 
I was eating a sandwich when my viewer phone rang. When I answered it, Jerry was on the other end. He wondered if I was still going live tonight at 9:00, and I said yes. “The game plan is to set up my hologram laptop in the den and go live from there.” That’s what I said to him, and he said okay. I told him I had to finish eating and call him when I was ready. I spent the call, and I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to say live on television tonight. I took a deep breath, and I didn’t want to cry while I was live on television. It would just push me over the edge. It was about 8:00, and the sun would be setting soon, so I got up from the patio table and went inside with my dishes. The plate the bowl went into the sink, and I put my soda in the refrigerator.
 I went to get my hologram laptop off the desk and set it up in the den. I just wanted to make sure it was all set up before I went to watch the sunset in my backyard for the last time. My emotions were starting to get to me. I knew if I didn’t get control of my feeling, I’d end up crying on television.
 After setting up the hologram laptop, I went outside to the backyard to watch the sunset. I pulled my viewer phone out of my pocket and played Island Breeze, my favorite song for watching the sun go down. The tears started building up in my eyes as I listened to this song. I told myself this was the last time I would watch the sunset in my backyard. It was hard to believe that in less than 24 hours, I would be leaving for the colony ship. Every second that went by, the sun was getting lower and lower in the sky. It was hard trying to fight back my tears, but eventually, I ended up crying anyway. I went back into my house, closed the back door, went to the bathroom to clean my face so no one would know I was crying. It’s almost nine o’clock, so I went into the den to start things. The hologram laptop was already on, so I connected to the video conference and called Jerry to tell him I was ready. Tina joined the video conference, and she looked at me and said, “Are you okay?” I told Tina, “Look at my face, you tell me.” Tina looked at my face, and she understood what I was going through. Jerry also joined the video conference and told me what would happen. He said to me that Holly would begin first. Then, five minutes later, she would hand it over to me. Tina tells me to take my time, that I can talk as long as I want, and when I’m finished, I’ll hand it over to Holly so she can finish.
 The 9 o’clock news started, and Holly was talking. She was telling everybody that I would be speaking soon. Jerry told me to get ready, and he started counting down. When he got to zero, he told me, you’re live. For the first couple of seconds, I couldn’t say anything. I watched Tina in a small video box in the upper right corner of my screen. She knew what was getting ready to happen. Finally, I began to speak. Hi, this is Stephanie Welch. I’d like to thank everyone for calling the television station to see if I’m all right. It has been an emotional day for me. I was trying to get the next set of words to say, but before I realized it, I burst into tears and began to cry on live television. Jerry told the control room to send it back to Holly. This time, I couldn’t control my feelings. I was crying hard. Tina was having a hard time trying to get me to calm down. Even she was tearing up. “Stephanie, Stephanie, it’s alright, it’s alright,” Tina told me. Wiping the tears off my face, I looked at Tina, “Can you and Holly come by tonight? I don’t want to be by myself?” I asked Tina. “Yes, yes, both of us will be there,” Tina told me. I said thank you, and I closed the video conferencing.
I didn’t mean to fall apart live on television, but it happened anyway. All I wanted to do was say thank you to everyone who called the television station to see how I was doing. There were other things I wanted to say. But the words just couldn’t come out of my mouth.
I got up and walked into the living room and sat down on the sofa. For several minutes, I close my eyes to relax my mind and gather my thoughts. When I opened my eyes, looked around my living room, smiled somewhat because of all the work my dad and I did to fix the living room.
 My father and I have worked extensively in this house. We painted the living room white with pink along the baseline. The furniture is a modern contemporary rustic style. I had ceiling lighting and Art Deco lamps in every corner, and the living room floor was a light walnut hardwood finish. I can still hear my mom telling my dad not to work Stephanie so hard and take it easy. I miss my mother and father so much, but they died a year ago in a car accident. If the two of them were alive, they probably told me that I am silly to want to leave Earth to live on another planet.
After breaking down on live television, Tina and Holly finally showed up at my house. I got up to let them both in, and when I opened the door, Tina and Holly both hugged me. “I am so sorry that I cried on live TV,” I told him both. Holly told me it was alright. They understood how I was feeling. Tina asked me if it was okay to come in or just let us stand here at the front door? I smiled and pulled them both in by their arms and closed the front door. “Look at what I got.” Said Holly. She pulled three bottles of wine out of the bag she had brought with her. Tina went into the kitchen to get three wine glasses out of the cabinet and returned to the living room. Holly opened a Snowy Mountain Pink Blush Wine bottle and served us some wine. We usually all be talking each other’s ears off but not tonight. Holly sat next to me on the sofa, and Tina sat over on the love seat. (I wish I could talk to both because I need them right now while I’m standing here looking out this window into deep space.)
They both looked at each other, knowing that tonight would be long and difficult for me. “What shall we all do tonight?” Tina asked me. I told her, “how about you both help me pack.” The two of them laughed, and Holly said, “Haven’t you started packing yet?” I told her no that I hadn’t even taken my luggage out of the upstairs closet. Tina took a big sigh and told me, let’s get started.
We all got up and went upstairs to the closet in the hallway to take the luggage out. I had eight pieces of luggage, a large tote bag, two large duffle bags, two large suitcases, two medium, and one small suitcase. Tina and Holly help me pull the luggage out into the hallway. Tina asked me, that’s all, and I said no. “There are another two big duffle bags with wheels, that’s in another room,” I told them that there was a limit of 10 pieces of luggage, no lockers, and no boxes. Holly looked at all the bags in the hall, and she laughed a bit, and she said, “where do we start?” I pointed at my bedroom, where I had all my clothes everywhere.
Tina walked into my bedroom, laughed, then said. “Oh my God, we’re going to be here all damn night.” Holly and I laughed, and I told Tina, “If it were just me, I would be here all damn night trying to pack this crap up. But I’m glad both of you are here.” They smiled at me and said at any time.
 I asked Holly if she could go to the other bedroom by the bathroom to pack up everything I had set out, everything in the closet using duffle bags; I sat next to the daybed. It took a couple of hours to get my stuff packed. I had everything scattered around my house, including my room, day room, bathroom, downstairs bathroom, den, some things in the kitchen, and guest room.  All the baggage was placed next to the front door, so it was easy for me to pick it up on my way out. We finished the bottle of wine that Holly had opened, and there were still two bottles remaining. It was a little after midnight, early Friday morning, and already my emotions began to affect me. In about 19 hours, I’m going to the airport to board the shuttlecraft to the colony ship. Looking at Tina and Holly, I started to cry because they were my best friends, and they both meant the world to me. We traveled the world together, did different things, shared secrets, and were very supportive of one another. Holly told me, “Please don’t cry.” Tina held my hand and wiped away the tears from my eyes, telling me, “Don’t worry; everything will be okay. Get some sleep; you have a long day ahead. Plus, Holly and I are supposed to be at work at 7:00 am.” I just stood by the front door and told them both I knew. They hugged me, and before they left, Holly said. “We’ll see you later this afternoon at 1:30 to take you to the airport.” I smiled and softly said okay. Tina opened the front door, and both walked to their cars. I waved to both of them and closed the front door. Before going upstairs to bed, I put the mason jars into a carrying case. I turned off all the lights downstairs and went upstairs to my bedroom.
When I got to my bedroom, I picked up the remote control, turned on the tv, and picked comedy tv. I selected Neon City to play all night. It’s a delightful comedy about a family living in a classy part of town. Before I went to bed to get some sleep, I needed to sign the back of my car title and the deed to my house. I was giving it all to Holly; I knew she was looking for a home and a good car, too. I’m keeping the 1400 minus 200 to myself; I’m giving it to Tina.
I sat down on my bed and pulled the folder with the car title deed to the house from my nightstand, and signed my name where it needed to be. The folder was put back on the nightstand, and I just sat there and watched tv until I fell asleep. When I woke up, it was 7:00 in the morning, and I don’t know what time I fell asleep last night. I told myself that I would be leaving in less than 12 hours. I got up out of bed, took the clothes I had on the edge of the bed, and went to take a shower. It feels so strange walking into the bathroom for the last time to shower. The sad fact is that everything I do today will be my last time. I was in the bathroom for about 40 minutes just showering and doing other things. Around 8:00, I came out of the bathroom fully clothed and ready to begin this day. The dirty towels I used I put into the basket, and I took the dirty clothes I had on downstairs to be washed. Leaving my clothes behind wasn’t an option. I took all my clothes with me—the dirty towels. I didn’t care because I packed all the clean towels in the hallway closet last night.

 After putting my clothes in the washing machine, I went into the kitchen to make some coffee and toast with peanut butter. Notification on my viewer phone went off, and it was a message from Tina and Holly, asking me if I was up and how I was doing. I sent them a text to tell them I’m doing fine and that I’ll be driving around later this morning. A little after 9:00, when I finished washing and drying, I took the clothes I washed and stuffed them in the bag by the front door. Looking at the hologram’s home viewer, I went over there and recorded a message for Holly. It was an open house video, which talked about the house, and a personal statement. It will play in every room of the house when she enters one. In 4 hours, Tina and Holly are coming to pick me up. There is no way in hell that I will sit in the house that long. So, I grabbed my hologram tablet my keys off the desk and headed out the front door. My car was parked in the driveway. I walked over to it and got in. I didn’t know; I don’t care, and I’ll figure it out while I’m driving. It was my last day on Earth, and I wanted to make all the memories I could before I left.
I decided to drive around the bay area to make some videos, then move to a few parks and other places. Three and a half hours later, the time had come for me to go home. Tina and Holly will be there soon, and I wanted to take all my luggage outside to the front of the house before they arrive.
 I went back to my house 30 minutes before they arrived, parked my car in the driveway, and entered the house. Before I took the luggage outside to the front, I made a final check to make sure I got everything I wanted to take with me. I put my hologram laptop, hologram tablet, and one of the bottles of wine into my backpack. The hologram home viewer I switched to sleep mode because I left a video I made this morning for Holly to watch after I was gone, with a note. I start carrying my luggage outside to ready to be loaded. I returned inside to pick up my backpack and put it on my shoulder. For a couple of minutes, I walked around the house for the last time, and yes, I was crying again. I’ve been in this house for five years, and I’m going to leave it. I went out the front door with a final glance and locked it behind me.  Tina and Holly arrived in the company van to take me to the airport. When they got out of the truck, I stood in the front walkway crying. There was nothing I could say but stand there. Tina and Holly approached me, took me in their arms, hugged me, and cried too. They didn’t have anything to say because they knew the time had come for me to go. Holly went and opened the van’s back door so that we could load my bags in the back. It took us five minutes to pack everything in the back of the truck. Tina closed the doors and asked me, am I ready to go? I looked at Tina, and I told her I wasn’t, but I knew I had to leave. Before getting into the van, I took out my keys to the house and the car. The folder that had the deed to the house car title and the envelope that had $1,200, I took out of my backpack. I gave Holly the folder and the envelope to Tina, and I told them to hold on to it if I changed my mind. (I will not change my mind because I had a choice to walk away when I was given the option. Six months ago, the director of the settlement program allowed everyone to leave and not go. But once you confirmed that you are going, there was no backing out.) Tina tapped me on my shoulder and said to me. “Let’s go; you’re not going to get to the airport standing around.” We chuckled when Tina said that. I took one last look at my house and my car before getting in the van. When I got in, I told Tina, let’s go. As the truck was moving away, I felt lost and empty inside. I was leaving a piece of myself behind, never to see it again. Some of my neighbors were outside, and I said goodbye to them as we drove by. We turned onto the main road going to the airport, and I looked at the neighborhood for the last time as we drove away. It takes 40 minutes to get to the airport as long as we’re not sitting in traffic. We talked and laughed a bit on the way, and of course, we even cried a little.


Submitted: March 07, 2022

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