Read A Thing As Good As Sunshine Online

Authors: Juliet Nordeen

A Thing As Good As Sunshine

 

A Thing As Good As
Sunshine

 

Juliet Nordeen

 

Cover Art
compiled from multiple images: thanks to NASA at the www.NASA.gov site for such
amazing images of space, and to Megyarsh at www.everystockphoto.com for their
generosity in providing public domain images.

 

Published
By: ArtChi's Voice

Creative
Power, Unleashed

www.ArtChisVoice.com

 

Copyright 2013 Juliet Nordeen, Electronic Edition, All Rights Reserved

 

 

Other Work by Juliet Nordeen

Novels

Blue
Suede Darlin

(Three
Chapter Preview Included at the end of this E-Book)

Mom is a Dirty Word

 

Shorts

Finding
Family
*~*
Nana
Genevieve
*~*
Stone
Pizza

 

 

 

 

A Thing as Good as
Sunshine

 

by Juliet Nordeen

 

When I
was a little girl, Momma always said it was important to have something good in
your life, a thing as good as sunshine.

It took
me years to realize she didn't mean sunlight the way I knew it: that roughly
circular patch of light that passed through our porthole and traversed across
the scuffed-rock floor and the spinward wall for a few seconds every 86.37
minutes. Momma, like everyone else I'd ever met, had been born and raised
planetside and she knew something in her gut about sunshine that I had yet to
experience in a way that made deep-down-in-my-belly sense.

When I
asked what in her life was as good as sunshine, she always smiled and said,
"You, Honey-Girl."

"But
before me?"

"There
was this cat, once, a big gray tom," she said with a smile on her face.
"I don't know who smuggled him here, or how he found his way to my unit.
He'd be waiting outside my door after every shift. He'd head-butt my shins the
whole time I was prepping dinner and then he'd crawl up into my lap and purr while
I brushed the day's ore dust from his fur."

I
remembered that cat from when I was three or four. The fun I had tracking him through
the recently-harvested veins which had not yet been converted into living
space. He was the same dusty color as the rock. As I crunched clumsily along
the packed gravel floor, he carried himself with royal dignity along the narrow,
arc-shaped ledges cut by the drills, his silent feet never touching the ground.
Mostly I remembered his eyes, when light reflected in their depths, bright gold
and green.

"Whatever
happened to the cat?" I asked Momma.

"He
moved on, to brighten up someone else's life." Momma reached over to hug
me as she looked around our unit. "Had to, I suppose. This place is barely
big enough for the two of us. Three could never fit, even if one was a cat."

Our
unit, well technically Momma's unit, was the standard size allotted to a single
person living inside the mining asteroid, Perseus-Two. Though it was bigger
than the units any of the Drillers or Loaders got — she was technically
Management at Perseus Stellar Mining Corp — it was considerably smaller than
everyone else in her paygrade got because she was
just in Logistics
.

Management
or not, the unit was enough. A narrow bunk cut into the stone with storage
above and below, and a decent mattress. A kitchen bank with a sink, cooker,
storage and prep space. A desk, a table, and a storage box that I'd taken over
as toy box then turned into a junior astronaut's space capsule and now a kind
of hope chest for necessities of life I'd hopefully need someday. We even had our
own tiny bathroom with a toilet, showerhead, and a drain in the floor.

We made it
work, two in the space for one, but it was more work recently than I remembered
it being when I was little. Back then I used to throw tantrums when Momma had
to spend all of first shift working at the receiving docks, now I was grateful
for the long hours to myself. Usually, though, by the time her shift was over,
I'd be stir crazy from hearing my own breath echo off the stone walls and ready
for company, even Momma's.

As
always, the first thing she did when she got home from the dock was strip out
of her dust-coated Outer Layers and then put away her Ledgers. The big fat one
went into the print-locked slot beside the doorway and the thin one she tucked behind
the panel at the back of her under-bunk drawer. After that she took her hair out
of its braid as she walked over to stand behind me. I sat at the small desk in
the corner and completed my studies on her old, down-rev TechPad.

"Got
it cracked, yet?" Momma asked.

She'd
added an advanced astro-orbital docking problem to my normal daily studies
because she said
I'd copped an attitude
after supper the night before. As
an almost-woman with extremely limited social outlets, I figured it was my job
to give her attitude. And it was her job to take it. Apparently, she didn't see
it that way.

"Mostly,"
I said, my prior bad attitude beaten into submission by the hours I'd poured
into the daunting programming task. "But I'm having trouble with the y-axis
roll rate."

She
stood over my shoulder and watched as I picked apart my program code, line-by-line.
There was something in the conservation of momentum section that felt wrong, I
just had to find it.

"You're
humming," Momma said.

I
stopped humming. "No I'm not."

She
laughed. "You were too."

I
ignored her and focused on the code. She stepped away and I heard her futzing
with bowls and warming up the cooker.

"There
it is again," she said, out of the blue a few moments later.

"I'm
not humming," I said. But I had been. I turned my head away so she couldn't
see my smile.

"Okay,
okay. Far be it for me to say that programming shouldn't make you happy."
She continued fixing supper.

I set
down the TechPad and leaned my back against the wall. "Okay, I guess I was
humming."

"Nice
to hear you happy for a change."

"I
guess I found my thing as good as sunshine."

Momma
stopped mixing protein powder into our soup and looked at me with her mouth
hanging open. "Coding asteroid docking vectors is as good as
sunshine?"

"No,
not coding." I smiled as I crossed my arms and gave myself a little hug.
"Sheng Tian."

Momma
dropped her spoon; it clattered off the counter, splattering drops of soup on
the cupboard and the floor. Precious calories that now would never get into
either of us.

She
stared at me for a minute and then stepped over to grab her Com from the
bunkside table. She pushed three buttons and then said in a tone as flat as a
dust-filled crater, "Pria, I need to see you. Now. It's Honey-Girl."

I don't
know if Auntie Pria had anything to say in response, but it wasn't likely
because Momma thumbed-off her Com and sank down onto the bunk. The slackness in
her face frightened me as much as her glazed stare into the corner.

Sometimes,
most times, I didn't want to be touched, by anyone, but as we waited for Auntie
Pria to arrive, I really needed the reassurance of sitting next to Momma and
holding her hand. Her eyes focused on me sadly as I got out of my chair and
moved across the room to sit by her side. Her hand was cold when I reached out
to touch it, but her eyes warmed.

"He's
just amazing, Momma," I said.

She nodded
and bowed her head.

"When
I'm with him, I feel warm all over like the blankets feel after we've been
sleeping in them for hours. And it's exciting, like when we have a
micro-asteroid collision. Not the part when the rock rings and the klaxons
sound, and we're running for the respirator. But after, when the All Clear
sounds and those prickles dance across my skin and I know that Perseus is huge
and its rock is solid and can protect us from anything." I leaned over and
patted the three meter thick, bare rock wall that separated our unit from the
vacuum of space beyond.

Momma
swallowed hard then she patted my hand. "I know, Honey-Girl. I know
exactly what you mean."

Her
reaction puzzled me. Any time we talked about her sunshiny things, me or the cat,
she always relaxed her posture and smiled. Her shoulders were as tense as rock.

Just as
I was going to ask Momma to explain, the door chimed and Auntie Pria stepped
in. Her mouth was tight and her wide eyes stood out against her chocolate skin.
She checked out Momma and then me, relief crossed her face.

Momma
said, "Honey-Girl has met a boy."

Auntie
leaned against the door as it slid shut. She tilted her head and her eyes darted
around the room, but she wasn't focusing at anything inside the unit. This was
what she did when she was working through something in her mind. Something that
clearly wasn't as good as sunshine.

Pria
crossed over and sat on Momma's other side. Her hand, smooth and warm, reached
over and clasped over both mine and Momma's.

"It's
done," Auntie said in her pragmatic medic's tone of voice, "and
what's done can't be undone. We have to control the situation."

Momma's
flat stare mixed with Pria's take charge attitude catalyzed a cold sensation in
the middle of my belly. "Auntie?" I asked.

Auntie
got up and pulled the chair over from the desk. She placed it in the middle of
the room, opposite us on the bunk, and straddled it. "So who's the lucky
guy?" she asked me.

"Sheng
Tian." Just saying his name made me smile and Auntie smiled back at me.

"She
was humming," Momma said.

"I
see."

I was
glad things were clear to Auntie because I was getting more and more confused.
"He's my sunshine. That's not bad," I said.

"He's
Chinese?" Auntie asked. She looked at Momma like that was a good thing.

I nodded.

"Where
did you two meet?"

"The
laundry pod in Spinward Three."

Momma spat
out a dry chuckle. "He works in the laundry? That's ironic."

"What?
No," I said, confused about what Momma thought was ironic about a Chinese
man cleaning clothes. "He's a Driller. He was there doing his own laundry,
like me."

Auntie
Pria turned her interrogator's stare to Momma. "She was doing the laundry?
On her own?"

"Third
shift only," Momma said.

Coming
to Momma's defense I said, "There's never hardly anyone there at third
shift. I'm careful." I started to feel ashamed of myself and wish I'd
never opened my big mouth about Sheng Tian.

Auntie
Pria stood up and paced between the door and the corner desk. She murmured
quietly, "He's Chinese, and she's not, that might work in our favor. And
he's a Driller, probably not from a family of status." She stopped in
front of me and squatted down so she could look into my eyes. "How close
are you two?"

I
blushed. No mirror required to know it, either. My neck, my cheeks, and my ears
got instantaneously hot and I knew my skin was probably redder than my
strawberry blonde hair.

Auntie
Pria stood up and restarted her pacing. Momma dropped her head into her hands
and I heard her swear under her breath.

Pria
stopped. "We need to talk to him. Now."

I didn't
understand the urgency, but that was Pria's medic's voice again. This was more
serious than I was ready for. I had just wanted to share my sunshiny news with
Momma. "He'll be in the Astrolab," I said, trying to help.

Momma
looked up. "You said he was a Driller."

"He
is," I said, "on first shift. But he's an Apprentice Navigator, too.
Second shift. That's why he's always in the laundry on third."

"That's
bad," Momma said to Pria. "Worse than bad."

Momma's
tone. Auntie's frown. Their conspiratorial glances at each other. They were all
wrong. This was supposed to be sunshine; happiness and love and goodness. I
blew up. "Would you two please tell me what the hell is wrong."

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