Debbie stared out the small porthole window, grateful for its presence. Outer space was a fantasy for most but here she was, staring out at the vast expanse, both terrifying and beautiful. She shed a tear.
“Debbie? You ok in there?” said Heather from the other side of the door, bringing Debbie back to reality. Wiping her face she called back, “yeah, I’m good. I think it was the ice cream.” Heather laughed. “Been there”, Heather said, “that shit is evil, I almost wish they would stop sending it but it’s better than that bullshit they try to pass off as cake.” “Right?” said Debbie, laughing weakly. Heather told Debbie to call her on the com if she needed anything and headed back to their shared quarters.
They had been out here for months now. Debbie could consult her records and tell you how many, if pressed, but who cared? This was never meant to be a short trip and she knew it when she signed on. She didn’t have anyone waiting for her back home anyway. Whatever that meant. This was as much home to her now as anything else had ever been. She knew this place like the back of her hand, which was why her current situation was so ridiculous.
How would she ever be able to explain this? There was no reason to even bother, really. She made a mistake, got distracted and broke protocol. The procedures were there for her safety. How many times had she talked to Heather about this very thing? Granted, those conversations ended with them struggling to breathe, tears streaming down their faces and sore from laughing so hard. It really was laughable, or at least it was before she knew that this was how she was going to die.
She wasn’t sure what was worse. The dying part, or the saying goodbye part. Maybe she should skip it and just let someone find what was left of her here. There wouldn’t be much of a mess, after all. The vacuum would take care of everything. But she had to say goodbye, to Heather at least.
She picked up the com. “Heather, Heather, Debbie. Can you come here for a sec? I’m still in the head.” “Copy, I’m on my way.” Heather replied, with a little cut off giggle. God damn she was adorable. In moments she was on the other side of the door saying, “Hey girl, it’s really bad, huh? What can I do?” “Just listen.” Debbie replied. “Oh Kaaay…?” Heather said confusion in her voice.
“Heather, I know that this is weird, but I need you to know that the time we have spent together has literally changed my life and please don’t interrupt me because I know you’re about to.” Debbie said in a rush. On the other side of the door, Heather closed her mouth, stifling the words that were about to pour forth, because yeah, Heather thought, this is fucking weird.
Debbie continued, “Back home I had no one who understood me. No one who could see past my face, my body, my social ineptitude. I was always on the outside wanting to be a part of the world but knowing that I would hate being on the inside too. I wasn’t made for people, I accepted that. It’s the main reason I came here. Then I met you, and you treated me like a whole human being. You laughed at the jokes you finally made me feel brave enough to tell. You are beautiful and kind and I am in love with you and again…, I know this is super weird for you to hear. Trust me, it’s super weird to say.” Debbie paused and took a deep breath, letting it out in an audible rush.
Heather made a face at the door. Was she supposed to say something now? She hoped not because she was in shock and had no words in response. She remained quiet.
Debbie felt some peace, having gotten that off her chest. Now to wrap it up. “I don’t expect anything from you, nothing at all. I just needed you to know how amazing I think you are.” She breathed again and prepared to break the news. She figured that it would be less of a blow now since Heather would likely be relieved not to have to sit in this awkwardness for much longer. “I forgot to engage the secondary seal,” said Debbie. “Oh shit!” exclaimed Heather, immediately forgetting all that came before. “Ok, OK. It’s OK!” she stammered, trying to think. Heather’s eyes widened and she smiled, “Debbie!” she said, with glee, “just look for the emergency release! This is exactly what it’s there for!”
Debbie smiled to herself. Yes, this is what that was for, and she had already tried that. “Remember when we had to disable that switch panel for the heating issues?” Debbie said. Heather sat quietly for a moment, thinking. Of course, she remembered, they almost froze to death before they got that mess sorted out. Debbie continued, “the switch control was on that panel.”
Heather and Debbie both sat quietly for a time. What could be said? Finally, Heather spoke. “Can I come in?” Debbie thought about the embarrassment of the predicament she found herself in, but given the circumstances, reached over and unlatched the door. Heather came in, eyes filled with tears. “I’m so sorry, Debbie.” Debbie smiled up at her and shrugged, saying, “Thank you for everything.”
Heather leaned awkwardly in to embrace Debbie. There wasn’t enough room for any of this, but there wasn’t enough time to care. Their cheeks were pressed together, tears mingling there. “Goodbye”, said Debbie, and flushed.