By AmyBeth Inverness
For the forever lovers, whose affection and dedication knows no time.
Written and published by AmyBeth Inverness
Copyright 2016 AmyBeth Inverness
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: The following is a work of fiction. All people, places, and events are purely products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual people, places, or events is entirely coincidental.
License Notes Shakespir Edition
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Cover design by AmyBeth Inverness
Juaquin hovered over Gracie’s wheelchair, forming an umbrella with his body to shield her from the sea of humanity exiting the ship they’d all been cooped up in for the past two days. He studied the signs, looking for words in Spanish amidst all the unfamiliar languages.
“Ooh,” Gracie moaned, her white knuckles grasping the handles of her chair. She was securely strapped in, but there was nothing to keep them connected to the so-called floor. The station supposedly had a small gravitational pull, but he felt like they were still in freefall.
His wife turned her face up to him, her worried eyes seeking reassurance. He gave her his best smile. “Va a estar bien,” he said. “Everything will be all right, mi amor. I just need to figure out which line to get in.”
Customs was confusing. All the young people seemed to know exactly where to go and what to do. They hurried along, not minding the microgravity one bit. Finally, he spotted a sign indicating immigration as opposed to tourists or locals.
When they were almost up to the booth, the customs official inside noticed them and spoke something into her comm. A moment later, a uniformed woman approached, greeting them with a smile and speaking in Spanish.
“Mr. and Mrs. Vega? I’m Theresa. Biltmore Village let us know you were coming. Can I help you with anything?”
Jauquin breathed a sigh of relief. “Sí!Gracias.”
With Theresa’s help, and that of a rather muscular young man named Randall who spoke no Spanish at all, they made it through customs and into comfortable seats in a passenger cabin on the Gator Vator. Gracie’s chair was stowed safely behind them. She clung to Juaquin’s hand tightly, hardly speaking more than “Gracias” or “De Nada” when spoken to. He wished he could do something more to calm her sensitive stomach, but all he could do was to keep her supplied with lemon drops and tuck away the stray hairs that constantly escaped her braid.
The elevator from the station down to Zhuólù took about four hours. Gracie perked up a bit when the lunar surface came into view, isolated domes and vaults of various shapes and designs all connected by strings that he knew to be the truba, the subway tunnels that ran all over the moon.
“We’re almost there, Gracie,” Juaquin said, leaning over to kiss her forehead. They were beginning to feel the delicate pull of the moon’s gravity, a very welcome feel after two days of microgravity.
“Te amo,” she whispered. She still seemed tired, but there was a new light in her eyes. Juaquin watched her, ignoring the spectacular lunar vista outside his window. Her face was much more interesting, and far dearer to him.
When they finally touched down in Zhuólù, one of Luna’s largest cities, they were greeted by a young man who spoke Spanish with a heavy Catalonian accent. “Welcome to Luna, and to Zhuólù, Mr. and Mrs. Vega. This is Mrs. Smith.” He gestured to a white-haired lady wearing a fashionable suit. “She’s been with Biltmore Village for ten years now, and she’ll be riding back with us.”
Juaquin thanked him then sat down next to Gracie’s wheelchair to wait for their luggage. They’d sold or given away almost everything they owned, but the things they couldn’t part with added up to several trunks and suitcases. It had been expensive to take it all from Earth, but it was all worth it if it made Gracie happy.
“Español?” Mrs. Smith asked, one penciled-in eyebrow raised.
Juaquin and Gracie both nodded, relieved to find a Spanish speaker in a city that primarily spoke Mandarin Chinese. “Call me Juaquin. And this is Gracie.”
“I’m Justice,” said Mrs. Smith. “So what brings you to the Moon?”
Juaquin was about to answer, but to his surprise Gracie spoke first. “Oh, the usual for people our age. Retirement on a world with low gravity to ease our aching bodies.”
“I noticed the wheelchair. May I ask what keeps you there?”
Juaquin split his attention between the women’s conversation and the activity going on around him. Although he’d seen movies from the moon, it was entirely different being there. People moved differently. They glided along in low bounces, as if they were performing an underwater ballet. It was disorienting and surreal.
After just a half hour, their host returned with two porters each pulling a cart with everything the Vegas owned in the world. Juaquin carefully checked the list and ensured that they had everything, then he checked his link to make sure he tipped the appropriate amount. He couldn’t afford to be too generous.
The porters loaded everything into a streamlined trailer with the retirement community’s logo emblazoned on the side. Gracie tried to stand up, but as soon as she wobbled, Juaquin swooped in to catch her. Finding that his wife was as light as air in lunar gravity, he grinned at her and carried her to the car as if he was carrying her over the threshold of their newlywed apartment. She clung tightly, her arms around his neck, although a slight smile was beginning to curve her lips.
He watched in fascination as the low riding car made its way through the streets until it drove directly onto a large subway car.
“I’m so sorry for your loss,” Gracie was saying. Juaquin’s ears perked up. He hadn’t been paying attention to their conversation.
“Thank you. We had eighty-three wonderful years together. Even though the last sixty of those years were spent on the Moon, he wanted his ashes scattered back on Earth.” Mrs. Smith patten Gracie’s knee.
“Juaquin and I have been married for fifty-two years. I’m quite sure neither of us are going back to Earth, not even in the form of ashes.”
“Do you have family there?”
“Our daughter lives in Los Angeles with her family. But that’s so far away from Mexico City, being on the Moon doesn’t seem all that much farther away.”
Juaquin felt the distance as a tangible thread connecting him back to the planet of his birth. He had always been close to his daughter, and even though she’d only visited home three times since moving to Los Angeles with her husband, they talked every single day.
Thinking of his daughter, he took out his link and sent her a message that they were safely on the lunar surface and would soon be in their new home. His charge was running low. He’d have to make sure he plugged it in when they reached Biltmore Village.
“I came home one day, and he was just gone,” Mrs. Smith was saying. “Silly me, I let the charge in my link run down and I didn’t even notice it. I was out shopping. When I got back, he was nowhere to be found. Fortunately, one of the neighbors saw me come in and rushed over to let me know they’d taken him to the hospital.”
“I can’t imagine how that must have been for you,” Gracie said with sweet sympathy.
“It was too late,” Mrs. Smith spoke calmly, as if she’d already come to terms with her recent loss. “It went quick for him, which was good. He knew I loved him. I may not have been able to have some long dramatic deathbed goodbye, but I don’t think that’s really necessary. Not for people who spend their entire lives together.”
Juaquin tuned out the conversation. He’d held Gracie’s hand not just once, but three times when they thought it was her deathbed. But each time, she’d proven them wrong and bounced back. Just this latest time, a year ago, her bounce had landed her in the wheelchair.
Gracie was visibly exhausted by the time they arrived at the retirement village in the outlying suburbs of the city. Mrs. Smith promised to come by later when they’d had a chance to get settled, and their host led them to the tiny bungalow that would be their retirement home.
Juaquin carried his wife over the threshold, her sleepy head on his shoulder. It was only a few steps from the living room to the bedroom. The bed looked just like the ones in the catalog, and he tucked her into it.
“Are you all right?” he asked, watching her face carefully to make sure she didn’t give him false reassurance.
“I’m feeling much better, actually. Just very tired.” She actually moved herself around in the bed, something she hadn’t been able to do back on Earth. “Why don’t you do the grand tour while I take a nap?”
He studied her eyes and decided she was being honest with him. He kissed her one last time, then followed their host, who was waiting outside, to the main office.
“Is it night?” Juaquin asked, noticing that it was dark outside every skylight high above them, although the street was brightly lit.
“It’s day four of the lunar night, but it’s actually four o’clock in the afternoon, local time. All of Luna uses Greenwich Mean Time.”
Juaquin nodded. It was a fact he’d been aware of, but never really thought about. Reading about life on the moon was one thing. Actually being there was very, very different.
Juaquin met the manager and the people who worked in the office, then roamed around the tiny town with a very young and eager volunteer who reminded him of his granddaughter.
Back at his little bungalow, she asked if there was anything else he needed. “No thank you,” he said. “I think I’ll just take a little nap before dinner.”
He tried to be as quiet as possible as he came inside. He noticed that one of the trunks was open, and wondered if Gracie had woken up.
Juaquin stepped carefully (it was still like getting his sea legs, but he was getting used to it) to the bedroom to find it empty. “Gracie?” he called, checking the bathroom and then every other corner of the tiny home.
She was nowhere to be found.
His stomach churned and he hit his head on the ceiling when he jumped at a strange sound. Realizing it was just the doorbell, he rushed to yank the door open.
Mrs. Smith was there. “Oh good! You’re back. Come quickly! You need to see this.”
A thousand horrid scenarios passed through his mind and he cursed himself for dragging his poor disabled wife halfway across the universe when he could have kept her comfortable in their home back in Mexico.
At the end of the street was a little park. Gathered there were a handful of people, watching a most beautiful and fluid flower flow and dance before them.
It was Gracie. She wore her China Poblana, the traditional dress of Mexican folk-dancers. It was bright yellow, with ribbons in purples and every shade of blue ringing the ruffled hem. She danced El Jarabe Tapatío, but in slow motion. Even the ripples of her flowing skirt danced in slow motion, falling with the slowness of one-sixth the gravity they were used to. She was suspended in time, like the day he’d first met her and the Earth stood still.
She was gorgeous.
She was gracious.
She was happy.
Gracie finished the dance and collapsed onto a bench between two applauding women. Juaquin rushed to her, tripping awkwardly in his hurry. He ended up flat on his face, but he picked himself up. It seemed ridiculous to ask her if she was all right when she so obviously was. “My Gracie,” was all he could say.
A smattering of other languages startled him, but they all held the same friendly tone. Gracie held out her hand and he slid onto the bench between his wife and a smiling woman with a dark black complexion and bright red hair.
“Juaquin, do you remember when I said I would follow you to the ends of the Earth?”
He nodded, entranced by his wife’s newfound energy.
“Well, I did, didn’t I? And then I followed you even farther.” She kissed him, and the chorus of other voices cooed approval. “My husband, my love, I am so very glad I did.”