Reads: 172

Aerope climbed up the circular sandalwood steps that spiraled out from a mock-recycled steel pole. She crossed the warm floor of the long upstairs hallway and opened the laundry chute. After setting the shoes, socks, jeans, and shirt in the ready tray, she selected “throw away.” Thinking better of it, she retrieved the socks. Then she closed the door and hit enter. A faint grate of metal as the tray dropped out and the clothes fell. She walked back down the stairs and to the kitchen where she retrieved two chocolate-covered marshmallow-and-cookie packages from the pantry chute. Another five dollars. She made a mental note to skip superberry tea at dinner. Eryx walked in.

“Here, this is for you,” Aerope said, handing him one of the chocolate-covered marshmallow-and-cookie packages. His eyes lit up.

“Can I have it hot?” he asked.

Aerope slumped. Naturally. He always asked for it that way. Silently she took back the package, placed it in the in-wall heatfreeze, dialed the temperature on the touchscreen, and hit enter. After three seconds the appliance dinged. She took the package out.

“Here.” Eryx seized it gleefully. “Don’t get chocolate on the carpet.”

“I won’t,” he promised. And he skipped away.

Aerope slumped against the wall. The doctor had said that frustration would always exhaust her, because of her genetic something-or-other, but she always forgot just long enough to get good and frustrated. Now a nap sounded wonderful. She glanced up at the digital clock embedded in the wall. No, she was due for yogabend and cardioresistance in thirty minutes. I could always cancel, she thought.

The answer immediately shot back: No! Your looks are everything. Don’t you dare risk them.

She was helpless to those words.

Eryx suddenly bounced into the room, beaming like a lightbulb turned all the way up. “Mommy, will you play a game with me?”

“Depends,” she said wearily. “How much do we have to move around?”

“I just wanna do a story with you.”

“You can do stories on your own.”

“But I wanna do them with you.”

She wanted to say no. She wanted to turn him away, to say she was tired, to tell him Mommy didn’t have time or energy for listening to a recorded voice read out a digital storybook. She wanted to push him away with words--they were already wrapping themselves around her tongue--but then she looked at him and his eyes were...

...they were bright with hope. Simple, untarnished hope, the way flowers would grow despite city ordinances, the way light from Beyond would shift and change without permission from the Council, the way the ground would sometimes shake gently and not ask if it was alright to. She realized that thought made no sense, and yet to her it was more Reasonable than anything they’d ever taught her in the temple. She had it not in her soul to bring a boot down on that hope.

“Alright.” She heaved the word out like an old engine coughing up exhaust. “But pick a short one. I have to exercise in half an hour.”

The supernova of glee that filled Eryx’s eyes made her wonder if he’d heard anything beyond the first word. Quickly getting two caffeine pills from the dispenser in the doorframe, Aerope followed the son into the living room. She swallowed the pills without liquid.

That’ll worry them, she thought wryly. No one else she knew could do that, except Scylla who hadn’t gone a day without pills in ten years. They’ll think I’m turning into a Disabled and they’ll cut off the pill supply and then we’ll send them the doctor’s warrant and they’ll turn it on again but make me go to classes and I’ll be the only one there who isn’t actually Disabled.

Smirking at the thought, she joined Eryx on the sofa.

Submitted: January 29, 2013

© Copyright 2022 Iskah E Shirah. All rights reserved.


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