Author: Tim Goodwin
Rosetta found herself with some downtime between contracts, and was within shuttle-distance: why not see mom? In person? Why not see Earth?
Her mother, bikinied and martinied, was polite, but opted for air kisses in lieu of hugging her dirty spacer daughter (still hoping all this was a phase) and invited her to the guest room to change for the pool and a welcome home cocktail.
“Your old room, dear,” her mother said. “It has been two years. And please, don’t put any of…” she waved her undrinked hand at Rosetta’s spacesuit, “…on the bed.”
The room was now taupe. All. Taupe. And conspicuously devoid of Rosetta’s Star Trek models and posters of (hunky) solar-racer Traskor Sir Nadjal.
Rosetta dropped her helmet and duffel on the bed and saw her old bathing suit that her mother had dug out.
She had completely forgotten this bathing suit. It was, once, her second skin.
Then she disassembled her suit while pondering the tiny garment: the Yorklaussen, her coveted orange-and-white outer suit, still looking kinda new, although its finger tips were singed from underestimating an electrical panel on Phobos, and its boot latches were starting to slip. She unhooked the mini-PLSS, then her IRP. She shook out of the bulky temp suit. All of it stickered with the dust and grease and scrapes of Rosetta’s new life Out There.
“I hope your suit still fits,” she heard her mother sing-song out.
Rosetta undid her lucky neckerchief as she looked outside. The lawn was still travel brochure-green, the sky still cartoon-blue, the pool still reflected the sun, looking electrified.
It all somehow seemed…smaller.
And of course, her mother was lounging in that same beach chair, as manicured as always. Her skin was (cosmetically) luminous and (synthetically) taut, her hat ridiculously oversized, her sunglasses ridiculously bejeweled. She swiped, lazily, at the pages of a holobloid suspended in front of her, the occasional ad sounding like a musical trinket.
Rosetta remembered laying on her back out there, in this very bathing suit, watching the evening turn on the stars and planets, one by one, while her mother swiped pages or complained about whatever boyfriend she currently hated.
She needs to look up more, Rosetta thought, surprising herself with the revelation.
The last bit of her space suit to take off was her red Skinsuit: the micron-thin, skin-tight base layer that, amongst other magic tricks of science, sent the body’s own electrical output back into the muscles to keep them from atrophying in zero-G. A bacterial layer ate your stink; its picoskeleton kept your organs from wandering. Plus, it had a flap for “undercarriage business” of any and all sorts, so you never had to take it off (although the company that made Skinsuits strongly discouraged this).
The Skinsuit was her spacer body, she joked; taking it off meant being an Earther again.
She looked at all the taupe. Her childhood suddenly felt so far away. Tiny. Two years in space seemed to weigh so much more, it seemed, than eighteen years here.
Another ad chimed outside.
Rosetta put her hand to her collarbone, and made the motion that unlocked her Skinsuit. It whispered to the floor like a spider’s web.
She picked up the bathing suit, stumbled into it with some vigorous swearing, then looked at herself in the mirror and laughed.
It didn’t fit. But Rosetta didn’t mind; it wasn’t the only thing she had outgrown.