City Girl

“’Scuse me, is this the sunbound dock?”

Harrison started and nearly dropped the bouquet he was holding. He hadn’t heard the woman approach. “Uh… yeah, it should be.”

“Thanks. Is this seat taken?”

He shook his head mutely in response. Vibrant. It was the first adjective that popped into his mind, and it stayed there as she sat down and pulled out a compact. Every movement was sure and determined, as if she knew precisely what action she planned to take and followed through every time. He watched in awe.

“Are you going to Prime?”

The unexpected question reminded him of his manners, and Harrison quickly averted his eyes. Prime was the first colonized planet in this system, and by this point it was entirely city, filled with excitement and flashing lights. “Ah, no. Not all the way.”

“That’s a shame. Nothing else interesting along this flightpath.”

Harrison was shocked at her casual attitude. He couldn’t imagine saying such things to a stranger. “I, uh… I guess not,” he agreed lamely. Serena—the intended recipient of the flowers—lived on one of the residential planets in the system, zoned to keep it from growing too congested but with regulations that prohibited any sort of bad neighbors.

“Can’t see the point of suburbs, personally.” The woman pulled out a red lipstick, applying it expertly, even while speaking. “If I want a city, I’ll go to the city. If I want the country, I’ll go to one of the outer farmworlds instead. Trying to compromise, trying to have everything—it doesn’t work. In the end you wind up with nothing at all. Not worth it, really.” The thick chemical smell of the lipstick pressed against his senses, and Harrison found it impossible not to notice how smoothly it went on as she rubbed her lips together, never taking her eyes off of the mirror.

What he said was: “That’s a very interesting point of view.” What he meant was: Serena never wears lipstick.

“I like to think that all of my points of view are interesting.” She capped the lipstick and rummaged in her purse for a moment, coming up with a light green compact that she offered to him. “Here you go.”

Harrison blinked. “Uh… what?”

“It’s makeup. For your black eye.” She turned and looked at him for the first time. The whoosh of air signaled the approach of the next ship on the outbound dock, and she raised her voice to speak over it. “Your skin’s about the same tone as mine, and this is the foundation I use to cover things like that. I figured you might appreciate it.” She inclined her chin, indicating the bedraggled roses. “And so will she.”

Two ship gongs sounded, one from the transport pulling into the station and one from the trnsport that would arrive momentarily to whisk this woman away. Harrison’s cheeks flared red. He hadn’t realized the bruise on his face was that obvious. “What do you mean, ‘she’?” he asked, quickly trying to change the subject.

“The woman you brought those flowers for.”

The station was filled with noise and clatter, filtered through the air systems. On the opposite dock, passengers were unloading, but Harrison didn’t pay attention. He picked up the roses. “Actually, I brought them for you.”

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