It was true that Maurice was used to disappointment, but this one really was insult to a literal injury. She stared at the sky as grey-purple clouds rolled along the night sky from the roof of the warehouse, the wind herding them away from the stars. Dust fluttered into her eyes and she blinked away tears. Which was hard, because all she wanted to do was cry, but that’s all she had done on the way home from the urgent care clinic on the back of Zo’s bike.
“Four months isn’t… that long,” Zo said next to her on the blanket they had spread out. “The nurse said you had a high chance of filling up a cancellation. So there’s that?”
Maurice shifted in an attempt to get more comfortable. Star gazing would have been easier with a better blanket, but she wasn’t going to complain. It was Zo’s best free idea to keep her awake for the next few hours. Which was hard, because all she wanted to do was sleep and forget.
Forget that her long awaited Mind’s Eye procedure had been cancelled. Apparently, a head injury before a surgery involving the head was deemed too risky. To her, it felt like the doctor was a little too eager and a little too pushy to cancel the appointment. His fingers twitched a bit too much, like he was communicating with his Mind’s Eye at that very moment. On top of that? Because the hit was highly suspect of her not taking precautions of her health, she had voided her deposit. Years of savings from all those deliveries and shifts at the mine- gone.
“Are you mad at me?” Zo asked, voice small.
She wanted to be if it meant having any other emotion than the choking sadness in her throat, but couldn’t. It wasn’t Zo’s fault. It wasn’t even the Cosmos’ fault. It was a bunch of dumb events lining up V O I D.
“I’m not mad,” she sighed.
“Don’t tell me that you’re disappointed. We all know that’s worse.”
Her mouth twitched with a smile and she took in a deep breath of the dusty night air. “I’m not disappointed either.”
“I promise on the stars.”
The clouds continued along and a nice patch of clear sky came into view. The stars felt brighter tonight. She couldn’t put her finger as to why they felt brighter though the hazy memory of her blackout dream kept coming to mind. As far as she knew, there were no dragon constellations above LD-42… but if she was being honest, she could maybe place two main constellations. Maybe. Maybe if someone pointed in the right direction first.
A ship streaked across the sky, leaving a trail of double aqua light behind it. Odd to see a ship at this hour, but none of her business. The feather touch of Zo’s fingers brushing along her hand, however, was suddenly very much her business. For a moment, the sadness and frustration of the Mind’s Eye was gone, replaced with butterflies playing mad drums in her chest. She swallowed hard. If another ship flew by, she told herself, she would touch Zo’s hand back.
One breath… two breaths… three breaths…
No lights zigged or zagged against the night, but it didn’t stop her from watching. “I’ve made a decision.” Zo sat up and looked at her. The wind played with her friend’s hair and the double moons’ light gave her an ethereal glow. “When I win that tournament and become the planet’s Roboter ambassador, I’m going to fast track you to getting a Mind’s Eye.”
Maurice had to look away and watch for ships. “Oh? Big talk from someone who hasn’t competed once.”
Zo huffed some hair from her face. There was a faint light at the back of her neck from the Mind’s Eye. That light stared into her chest and the sadness was quick to gobble up those giddy butterflies and their drums. “I’m tired of letting my fear keep me from competing. We both have put in a lot of work into buffing up Bertrand, and I want to start seeing some results.”
“Someone’s acting all-”
“I’m being serious, Maurice.” The intense look Zo was giving her… She too sat up from the blanket, taking a brief break from ship watching. “I saw the hospital bill and the deposit you lost, and I realized how much I’ve asked of you since Bertrand picked me to be its Pilot.”
“That’s because I’m your friend. Plus, without all this, I wouldn’t have my sweet room or the extra shifts for Wareho.” Zo groaned and covered her face with both hands. That wasn’t quite the reaction she was expecting. Maybe it wasn’t enough assurance. “And then I’ve learned all this cool Pilot and Roboter stuff, and we get to hang out all the time, and-”
“If you weren’t here alone you wouldn’t have gone out to investigate alone and you wouldn’t have been hit by me because I was so worried about you being so alone that I swung without looking at you and then none of all this would have-”
Maurice took Zo’s wrists and tugged her hands away from her face. “Zo. Pause. Refocus. I don’t blame you.” She wasn’t sure where she was suddenly getting all this confidence, but she reached up to tuck some hair behind Zo’s ear. “If not that doctor, it would have been something else keeping me from getting a Mind’s Eye. The Monarchy clearly knows that with it, I’ll be unstoppable.” She could tell Zo wasn’t buying it, and who could blame her? She would have felt the same way if she had somehow gotten Zo barred from competing.
Zo twisted her hands so that they were now holding hers. Oh. This was… definitely unexpected. They had held hands before plenty of times, like during scary movies or on fast rides or when waiting for grades to get posted. But never like… this, in such a serious moment, alone on the rooftop. “What if I moved here…”
This night might as well have been a rollercoaster with all the twists and turns being thrown her way. “You mean here?”
“In the warehouse?”
“Yes? Where else?”
Zo looked down and squeezed their clasping hands. “Uncle Wareho has been dropping hints that it may be time for me to get a place of my own. Something about it boosting my confidence. And so I got to thinking that we both already pay rent on this place, and there’s plenty of old offices that I could use as a room. It would only make sense. Add on what happened tonight…” The squeeze was almost a pincer-like grip now, but Maurice wasn’t paying attention, too focused on the words coming out of Zo’s mouth. Apparently, she was taking too long, because she felt Zo start to pull away. “Forget it. It was a dumb idea.”
“No as in yes it’s a bad idea?”
“What? No as in it’s a great idea. Having you here would be amazing,” she said, realizing she was talking a bit too quickly and eagerly. Maurice took a moment to collect her thoughts and to remember to breathe. “The last couple of months living here, it’s kind of creepy being all alone. I’m kicking myself for not having the idea first.” This was it. This was her moment. She didn’t need some sign to tell her to go. “I-I was also wondering if you-”
From the corner of her eye, she saw something… weird streak by. It didn’t have the twin tails of a ship. At first she thought of a wishing star, but it was too big and moving too slow. She dropped Zo’s hands and scrambled up to the edge of the rooftop. “Zo, was that-”
“Yeah. It was.”