Author: Liya Akoury

Names are strange things. Back on Earth, we inherited our fathers’ names, but there are no fathers here. We’re twelve women and twenty-four girls. So, we’ve done away with them. We also used to have ranks. Yael was “Captain”, then “Levinsky”. Now, she’s just “Yael”. I was “Officer Cohen”, then “Doc”. Now, I’m “Agnessa” when my services are required and “Aggie” otherwise. The others decided that “Agnessa” is their psychotherapist, and “Aggie” is their sister-in-arms.

Bafflingly, Yael still calls me “Doc”. I’ll spare you (“You”? Who am I writing this for exactly?) the psychoanalysis. Yael’s maintained her pathological distrust of “shrinks”. She’s the only one who’s never been my client. To her great credit, from the beginning, she’s trusted my ability to see the crew through the initial years. She simply, categorically, didn’t trust me to see her inner self. This told me more about her than any therapy session ever could.

Enough circumlocution! Granted, you, dear reader (a distant grandchild?), don’t know that I’m stalling. Yael came over last night, after putting the kids to bed. We often meet alone and usually in the evenings. When Yael was “Captain”, she needed to keep a pulse on the group, get input from me. By some inertia, we’ve maintained this habit, though she’s not, strictly speaking, our leader any longer. So we talked of this and that, the schooling of the eldest daughter-dozen (“DD-ones”, Hannah calls them, ever the engineer), and the teething of the youngest (“DD-twos”).

Yael joked, as she often does, about how deserving we all are of a nice, stiff brandy after a long day of building, harvesting, breastfeeding, and cleaning up various bodily fluids. I don’t disagree, but I can hardly remember the taste of alcohol, let alone the exhilaration. In a decade, we might have enough spare resources for wine grapes. We’ll be plastered from the smell alone, from the thought of it. Imagine the girls’ reaction to their twelve mothers, incapacitated, deranged by a fruity drink! I told Yael this, unabashedly. Despite her high castle walls with archers and a crocodile mote, we’ve grown close. She proceeded to feign intoxication, stumbling around my room, slurring her words, paying me bawdy compliments. It wasn’t half bad, at least to an audience of one. I laughed, she kept stumbling.

Then, she sat on my bed – a breach of protocol. We both felt it at once and froze, two fawns in the headlights of this unexpected, unprecedented proximity. Of course, we’ve been this close before. We’ve slept in the same tent, cuddling to fight off the desert chill in our inadequate sleeping bags. We’ve bathed from the same bucket, when the fog harvests yielded enough water. We’ve shat in the same latrine, when Reina fed us spoiled rations. But we’ve never sat on my bed, in my room, alone. The moment stretched out, heavy and charged. We sat, awash in its awareness. Yael met my eyes.

“Aggs…” she said.

That was all. Writing this now, I want to laugh. I’m a psychologist! I’ve carried all of these women through hell. I should be able to predict every word, every micro-expression. I treat them from the comfort of my little ivory tower, but not Yael, never quite Yael. With no apparent warning, she lowered the draw bridge (forgive me, dear granddaughter for these endless medieval metaphors, which probably make no sense to you!). She pierced through the walls with a single word. And not just any word, with my name, releasing it from her lips for the first time, carving it to be special.

So we made love.