Word Count: 2813
Jonathan lugged a pair of boxes up the stairs, a duffel bag swinging around behind his back. It was slow going, trying to make it up to the fourth story without losing his balance. Finally he made it to the top, and was grateful to find the door already open for him. He slid inside the container apartment and carefully set the boxes down by the door. Looking around he took in the chipped white walls, and the small blue covers blocking appliance connections.
Mikael came in behind him, even more overloaded with four boxes. “Here, let me help with that,” Jonathan said, grabbing a couple boxes off the top.
“Thanks,” Mikael said. “And hey, thanks for helping me with this whole move.” Mikael put his boxes down. The tanned young man was out of uniform, wearing long wide shorts and an open front sweater. His dyed green hair was pulled back into a practical ponytail.
“No problem, I just wish you’d let me do more. I get banged up and they just shrug it off, you break a nail and you could be putting your job in jeopardy.” He said.
“Oh you’re being over dramatic about it,” Mikael said, but he reflexively checked his long nails for damage. “Besides, you’re not as disposable and you make it out to be. I heard from my aunt that you’re having your first on-video interview in a few days.”
“Well, even so a few scrapes and bruises will just add to my rugged charms.” He said. “What even made you decide to move out anyways? Last time we talked you seemed pretty committed to riding it out at your dad’s place.”
“Honestly… the last time we talked. Watching you jump off the colony after that boy, no hesitation… I thought I could use some determination like that. You know?” Mikael answered.
“That was only a few days ago…” Jonathan looked at him surprised.
“I’ll just say that this wasn’t the first time I’d been out looking for a place to stay and leave it at that,” He said. “So, what do you think?”
Jonathan looked at the empty space not much larger than the room he shared with Samantha. A variety of descriptors went through his mind before he picked out the one that seemed right to say at the moment. “Cozy…”
Mikael laughed, “Yeah it’s a bit on the small side.”
“So are you just going to keep working at the stand?” Jonathan asked.
“I’ll keep going on with it for a while, but I’m also taking some business management courses. Getting this place didn’t cost me that much, I’m still a good ways towards buying out a place of my own.” Mikael pulled out a rod as long as his shoulders and pressed a button, dropping the bottom to unfurl a portable mirror. “You don’t have anywhere to be anytime soon, right?”
“That’s about the sum of it, why?” Jonathan said.
Mikael pulled the chair he’d moved in earlier over by the mirror, butting up against the sink that was below it, “Then let me give you a make over. You’re like perfect material.”
Jonathan blushed, “I don’t know…”
“Oh relax, nobody outside this room has to see it. We can just wash it off once you’re done, I’ve already got the water turned on.” Mikael gave him puppy dog eyes, “Please, I need the practice.”
“Yeah right…” Jonathan said. With a sigh of defeat he sat down in the chair and looked at the sink.
Mikael spun him around pulling up a seat of his own. “No peeking until the end… You know, I didn’t think it was possible but up close your eyes are even bluer.”
“Is that a good thing?” Jonathan asked.
“Oh hell yes.” Mikael said. He reached over to the duffel and pulled out a large makeup kit which he set on his knees. “We can emphasize the eyes against the pale skin and frame it with your black hair. Now hold still while I apply the foundation.”
The foundation was a cool liquid that Mikael applied with his hands, gently rubbing it around to cover most of his face. He could feel a slight tickling sensation on his skin that made him want to twitch, but he kept himself contained. “All right now say ah.” Mikael instructed. He opened his mouth wide, but felt the noise was unnecessary. The lipstick felt waxy as it was applied to his upper lip. He could taste it slightly but it didn’t really have a taste he could identify. “Okay, go mm,” Mikael said pursing his lips together to give him the general idea. Jonathan did as he was told, actually slightly amazed when some of the lipstick transitioned to his lower lip. Next came a series of pencil like applicators around his lips and eyes, followed by the blush.
He had to close his eyes for the mascara and eye shadow, the thought of having anything that close to eyes made him skittish for some reason.
“Hold still, we’re almost done.” Mikael said. He used a small brush to put the finishing touches on the make up and finally leaned back to take in the whole view.
“Are we done, can I get a look at it?” Jonathan asked.
“No, now we do the hair!” Mikael laughed.
Jonathan rolled his eyes. Mikael stood up and pulled out a brush and a handful of hair clips. Jonathan winced the few times the brush found a tangle in his hair. It didn’t help that it felt like Mikael was downright pulling his skull out trying to fix them. After a good brushing the clips went in, the pattern felt haphazard to him, but he guessed it would be something he’d just have to see when it was done. Finally finished Mikael walked back around in front of Jonathan and took a good look.
“Wow, you’ve got something… just wow.” Mikael whistled in appreciation. “You know, while you’re on suspension you could always help me out with the stand…”
“That would just cut into your profits wouldn’t it?” Jonathan said giving him a questioning look.
“Are you kidding, with you there I could get in three times, no four times as many customer.” He replied.
“It can’t be that good.” Jonathan said.
“Take a look,” Mikael swung the chair around for him.
Jonathan forgot to breath as he looked at the woman in the mirror. Her long dark hair fell in waves down one side of her face, the other side being held back by an ornate flower clip. Pale blue lipstick and eyeshadow lightened her face and emphasized the startling blue of her eyes. Long dark lashes completed the look, giving even her amazed stare an almost sensuous air. But more than anything, Jonathan recognized her face as his own.
His chest knotted in fear while a weight lifted from his mind. He giggled at first, then teared up. He turned to Mikael, his vision blurring slightly, “I can look like this again?”
“Yeah, absolutely! We can do it every day during your suspension if you want.” Mikael was surprised by his exuberance.
“Let’s do it!” Jonathan said, staring into the mirror. “Let’s just do it.”
Although his suspension had him out of uniform, he still went down with one of Derek’s classes after finishing his day at the stall. The timing had been too tight to wash off the makeup or do more about the skimpy service uniform than pull on his jacket. To his surprise Derek didn’t seem to recognize him as he got on the bus.
He decided to watch from the open upper layer of the air bus. This time it was a more advanced class, so he could get the chance to see them do some interesting maneuvers. Across from him there was a woman he didn’t recognize that also didn’t have a jumping suit. She was tall with dark hair almost the same shade as his. Dark bags hung under her eyes, but she seemed intensely alert.
The jumpers had already left the bus and it was now sitting below the stopping layer for people. It surprised him when she actually stood up, shaking out her long pants and zipping up her tight vest. She put her hands in her pockets, stood up on the seat and jumped off the side. He watched her fall for a few feet before the anti-gravity really kicked in flinging her upward into the open air at incredible speed.
His eyes couldn’t help but be glued to her as she soared through the air. Even without the flaps of a jump suit she kept complete control of herself. She twisted her legs, using them as flaps against the wind, keeping the force of a wind she wanted to ride against her center of gravity. From insane in place turns to sharp descents, she went through a whole set of tricks surfing on the winds. As he watched he slowly began to understand what she was doing, how each twist interacted with the slipstream itself.
Unlike the gliders that tried to ride as high as possible, she would deliberately dive deep down into the anti-gravity’s control to be shot back into the sky. To her it was not a safety net, but a massive technological trampoline that she could use to regain lost air whenever she needed. It reminded him of what Samantha had taught him on his first jump, but this woman had refined it to an art form in it’s own right.
She came in with the other jumpers after the lesson had ended, though she was clearly far more worn. Derek walked up to her, “Hey, Isabella. Hadn’t seen you in so long I didn’t even recognize you until you got into the air.”
“Yeah, it’s been a long time.” She stretched out, “Almost a decade now, since my last little outing.”
Derek nodded, “I was still just a part of the class back then. Can’t say I’ll ever forget it, but it was ten years ago. I figure bygones can be bygones and all that.” He stuck his hand out.
She took it, and gave him a half smile, “Thanks. I know I didn’t earn it.”
He shrugged, “Well seems like you’ve got a round two. Make the best of it.”
“Yeah, I guess I do.” She smiled. “That reminds me, I assume you know something about this recruit they’re bringing me in to train.”
Jonathan reached up to toy with his hair, watching the clouds roiling in the distance while the airbus did it’s best impression of speeding back to the colony.
“He comes around, from time to time. He’s still rough but fun to watch. It’s like he’s putting raw emotion into his flight, reminds me so much of you sometimes it’s scary.” Derek laughed.
He wondered for a moment who they were talking about. Maybe he needed to get down here more often.
Derek changed the topic to old times and they spent the rest of the ride back talking about things that didn’t catch his interest.
Jonathan sat down on the smooth curb, laying his legs sideways to avoid damaging the long skirts. Unlike Mikael, the uniforms he wore while helping out with the stand were always quite modest. Long purple skirts with intricately laced jackets seemed to be the oder of the day. “So remind me again why I can’t wear something cooler?” Jonathan asked.
“Because you’re still fourteen. Getting you out there in skimpy skirts would just be creepy. Besides, you’re doing more than well enough as you are.” Mikael took a seat next to him, the stand closed for the moment. “I haven’t been this busy for this much of the day in a long time.”
The woman who worked the shaved ice stand across the way from them walked over with two colorful balls of shaved ice. She handed one to each of them and gave Jonathan a big wink, “I don’t know where you’ve been keeping her, Mikael, but she’s quite the secret weapon. Sales are up for the entire street.”
Mikael put his hand on Jonathan’s shoulder, “Well don’t get too used to it. My friend here is just on a vacation from their guild, they’ll be back at work soon without us.”
She pouted for a moment, then smiled, “At the very least, don’t be a stranger. Come by whenever you like.”
“I will,” Jonathan said softly. He couldn’t help smiling. It felt like the smile was just welling up inside of him, trying to break out.
A familiar figure turned onto the street, only a little ways from them. Master Gwain had apparently cut her hair, the white stood out more against the orange with her roots exposed by the pixie cut. She caught sight of Mikael and marched down the street towards them apparently all business.
“Mikael! Robert told me you moved out.” She said coming to a stop in front of him.
“That’s right I did. We need our space so I’m giving him some.” Mikael said, holding his ground.
“Mikael…” She actually took a seat next to him. “Look, your father is going through a tough time right now. Leaving him alone may only make things worse.”
Mikael leaned back looking up into the sky, “It’s not like I’m not you know. Dad wasn’t the only one in our family who loved mom. But all we do now is fight, he doesn’t go to work and I can’t hardly speak to him.”
She sighed, “I’m sorry, Mikael. I didn’t mean to… I just… Sometimes I forget you have trouble too. You’re too damn solid all the time.” She laughed to herself. “Look, I’ll move in with Robert for a while. He may not listen to you, but he damn well knows better than not to listen to his big sister.”
Master Gwain looked over at Mikael then her eyes wandered to Jonathan where they pretty much immediately stopped. “Jonathan!?”
“Uh… hi?” Jonathan squeaked out, feeling his cheeks burn with the fire a thousand suns.
“He wanted to help me out around the stand. I thought it might keep him busy while he was still suspended.” Mikael said.
“Is there… something wrong with this?” Jonathan asked. He couldn’t help worrying that he’d broken some sort of unwritten rule.
She shook her head and gathered her wits before speaking again, “No, there is nothing wrong with it. I was just surprised. And you, I’m willing to bet you added a little push of your own. You are compensating him correctly, right?”
“More than right. He doubled my business on the first day and today he tripled it. Keep going this way and I’ll be making five times as much by the time he comes off suspension. That’s the kind of boost you make sure to do right by.” He said, hooking his arm around Jonathan’s shoulders.
“Right…” She said.
“Hey, I heard Aunt Isabella was coming out of retirement.” Mikael said.
“Aunt Isabella?” Jonathan asked, feeling like he’d heard the name before.
“She would be Master Caemor to you. And the answer is yes, she is.” Master Gwain said.
“Are you two going to…” Mikael trailed off.
“No. We’re not.” She looked wistful and turned her gaze to Jonathan. “Whatever was between us, it’s long over. There is no point reopening old wounds.”
“Should I give you two some space?” Jonathan asked. He felt as though he were beginning to intrude on things he probably shouldn’t be hearing.
“What are you talking about. You’re practically family at this point, Jonathan.” Mikael said.
“Yeah, you are…” Master Gwain said. She shed a tear, only noticing it once it was rolling down her cheek. “Oh… Oh, I’m sorry. Anyways, I should be getting back to work. You both take care now.” She hurried off.
“Well… I sure messed that up.” Mikael said.
“What? I don’t understand, what just happened?” Jonathan said. He felt confused and worried, had he been wrong after all?
“Aunt Margret and Aunt Isabella tried to have kids of their own once. They got into some experimental program for fertilizing an egg with the genetic material of another egg. I mean it was more complicated than that, obviously, but point is it was totally experimental. Unfortunately it didn’t work out, none of their contributions wound up being viable. I was just a kid then, but it’s kind of obvious looking back that that’s when things between them really started going downhill.” Mikael said. “And now I feel like a total jerk. I mean, you’re just the right age.”
Jonathan thought about the hug he’d received just after saving that boy. It suddenly made a whole lot more sense to him now. “You know, suddenly I know exactly what you mean.”