I have to first thank my friend/colleague/fellow writer, Karen Creel, for giving me feedback and letting me bounce ideas off of her.
Here’s what I’ve been thinking about the story in progress: in Measure 3 of Floating to the Ground, there’s so much more back story needed. For the earlier parts of this story, there’s much shifting I likely need to do in order to show the consistency of the feel I want this story to have. I need the level of detail I’ve previously given in order to understand the setting, however, I need to go about it differently and probably place those details in different areas in order to consistently evoke the tone I want this story to maintain. I’ve known from the beginning how I want this story to end, and I know that (at least for now) this is to be a short story, but I have so much reworking to do (not on the emotional elements—those STAY!). Long-term, it would be fun to publish this story (when it’s done) with another short story that I wrote 20 years ago; I promised myself that I would revise and edit that one this year, but I might do my Floating to the Ground revisions first.
If you need to catch up, the earlier parts of Floating to the Ground are as follows: Prelude, Measure 1, and Measure 2—all tagged on this blog in previous posts. Enjoy!
The other night a metal crashing sat me up in my bed. My heart was pounding, and I was gasping for air in the darkness. I couldn’t see anything except for a mixture of moonlight and the dim light of the street lamps from behind my grey curtains. I started breathing more slowly once I realized I had been sleeping; the noise was only in a dream, and I was in my room, instead of in some strange place. Immediately, I thought of Norman: I thought of us; I thought of this place, and I thought of his leaving, which was now only a week away. This was the fourth night in a row like this. It’s the same scenario each night—a crash wakes me up a bit disoriented and scared until I can remember that I’ve been sleeping; it’s of course dark, and then I think of him.
The clock said 3:07. I wondered if Norman was sleeping, or if he was disturbed at night too. I could have asked him sometime; it’s not like I didn’t have the opportunity. I was afraid. Maybe if I brought it up, then he might start his crazy ideas again of how he could (illegally) stay. It wasn’t worth it. So, I guess this was my little secret, for now.
This keeping-stuff-back seemed mutual though. I couldn’t explain what it was, but I knew Norman wasn’t telling me something. He didn’t seem upset or unhappy with me, but he wasn’t completely there when we were together. There was a freedom missing when he talked to me, like he was holding back. Just yesterday we were discussing what he was supposed to expect in his first couple months of The Assignment. It was all very typical: trainings, meetings, more trainings, and then the alternating flight practice (morning or evening, depending on the squadron’s routine). The more he spoke about it, the more his eyes looked like he was being involuntarily pulled away from me. It was like part of him was reaching for me, and yet another part of him wouldn’t look me in the eyes, as if deep inside himself he was pleading for my help without speaking. It was strange because Norman was never like this.
There were only two days left. Darkness was settling on me like a storm descending on land. Even though Norman was still with me, I was increasingly aching to be with him. He came over after work just so we could be together and talk. When I opened the door, it was so satisfying to kiss him because we didn’t have much longer together. We sat on the couch and started talking about The Assignment again briefly.
“I just met with my commander. There’s been a change. I couldn’t bring myself to telling you sooner.” That must have been why he seemed like he was keeping a part of himself from me, I thought.
“What do you mean, a change?” My voice shifted. I couldn’t shield him from my fear in time before it slipped out.
“Confed. 7 wants our squadron on a two-year assignment.”
“But I thought you had to serve within your age window?
“I do.” He slowly explained. “But, we have to start our service within that window. So, even though I’m twenty-one, I have to serve as long as my initial deployment needs me…even if it exceeds the end of my window of service that I signed up for.”
“But that’s not how it works,” I whined. As I said it, I felt like a baby, but I was upset.
“It doesn’t matter how it has worked before. They change the rules, and we can’t question it.”
“I see…” I needed more time to process this, and I didn’t have time. I was upset and shocked and outraged. This wasn’t fair; they couldn’t just change the rules of service. Hearing this one was like the boxer’s blow to the head that sends him to the ground, finishing him off for the round. “And there’s nothing you can do? You can’t fight this? You can’t request permission to terminate your assignment when you turn twenty-two? You can’t change your assignment window?” I knew it was useless, but I had to ask.
“No, I already asked. ‘Orders are final. The good of the Confederation is final’ is all I was told. It was understood that there were no exceptions and no further questions were allowed. This isn’t what I want, Marcia. This isn’t what I planned for when I signed up.”
Norman quickly shifted the conversation to our future, after The Assignment. His eyes looked at the floor, focusing to the left and then quickly to the right. He said, “I think we should get married when I get back.” As he spoke, his eyes radiated, while his voice both invited and spoke with assurance. Even though he had recently seemed a bit closed off, his heart was completely open with me in this moment. “No matter what happens, I don’t want to have to walk away from you again, ever.”
“Of course I want to marry you. You’re my closest friend. I love you.” I was excited and in despair. There was no question I wanted to marry him. But I was also scared for him and scared for me if I lost him.
“I love you too. I’ll have more than enough money to take care of us after The Assignment. I don’t want to wait till then, but there’s nothing I can do.” The surety of Confed. 7’s decision was like the closing of a chapter. My allegiance was to Norman, to my family, but not to my Confederation and not to The Dominion. ~Marcia