Author : Laura Bradford

He chased her even as her ship touched the stars.

At night he gazed through the glass of his telescope, feeling tiny compared to the evening sky, but his days were all routine: get up, go to work, watch the flying cars crisscross and block his chance to catch the faintest patch of gold in the sky. The streets of the city felt empty, even if a thousand people passed by him every day.

He waited in her favorite café, ignoring the news reports flashing on the screen behind the counter. The world continued on without her–how could it, and how could it not? Now he could only count the remaining days until she returned. She had blasted away in her golden ship during the first snow of October, as he stood in a sea of snowflakes for one last goodbye. How she loved the winter, always dressing in a hat and scarf to laugh at the face of frost and chill. What was happening now to amuse her in the dark and swirling expanse of space?

To distract himself he kept busy, tinkering on gadgets or mapping the stars. She would have taken him if she could, he knew that, but his land-locked heart couldn’t survive the journey. Besides, he had a job, clients, commitments. The world had roped him in while she sprang free, not even halted by gravity. So he waited, one fixed point in a shuffling world.

One day nearing spring, a crackly message sounded on his inter-stellar radio, bringing a sentence that gave him an unsafe amount of hope and longing: “I wish you could see the sunset on Mars.”

So she’d be home soon. He collected every scrap of paper he could find and added detail to his navigational charts: color, texture, a red planet, a path with a yellow dot reaching home. A tiny hologram of the ship spun over his desk, and he sighed and slipped a sky-blue map beneath it, the ship’s shadow quivering over the surface of the world.

Her ship touched down as the last of the snows melted, and the first buds twinkled under half-frozen dew. The hatch opened and there stood his pilot, all honey-colored hair and blue eyes.

“You won’t believe what I’ve found,” she said. “The contributions this mission made to science–”

He swept her in his arms and kissed her. “I’ve missed you.”

She smiled. “I brought a photo. Now you can see it.”

It showed a dusty red sky with light filtering through, the sunset on Mars: an image he had guessed at in his dreams, a souvenir from space. He hugged her and said, “It’s lovely, Zoe, but how long are you staying?”

“Forever.” But even as she said it, she raised her eyes to the sky.

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