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[Fiction] Flicker and Mithril Talk About Moving

Doctor Nova Madigan

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"Hey," Meghan said to me, breaking the long silence.

I stopped looking at the poster of Slider which Meghan had hung on the ceiling over her bed and rolled over. She lay there within arm's reach, naked as usual, curled up with her head on her pillow.

"What's up?" I asked.

"It's not what you imagined," she said, meaning our life without Neil, "is it?"

I shut my eyes and let out a long sigh. "No, it's not. I can't run away anymore." I sat halfway up and leaned on my elbow. "We never really had the right kind of foundation. We were both running away from ourselves. We had that in common, you know, but that's not really love, is it? It's more like two survivors clinging to the same piece of driftwood." Now that I'd graduated medical school, I didn't have anything to absorb my attention full-time, and that made our problems harder to ignore.

"I think it's going to be weird as long as we live here in this house," she said, meaning our mansion in Rio de Janeiro. It had been Neil's idea to buy it, and he'd consulted with a young nova named Leech on the idea, not me.

"Yeah," I said, "We ought to move out." I considered that. Where could we go? Anywhere, really, since I can commute anywhere on earth with just a thought. Maybe back to Cleveland; I am comfortable in Cleveland. I understand Cleveland, but Rio was always alien to me. I don't speak Portugese, and I've never been comfortable with the way gross opulence and grinding poverty are jammed together with seemingly no planning at all. Besides which, the tourists are obnoxious.

"Poor Neil. This place is too large for a single man. I wonder what he's going to do with it; hire some housekeepers, I guess." Meghan mused. "Or maybe he could go back to Selena."

"That'd be a hoot," I said, trying to imagine Neil and the cranky cat-woman living together. "It'd tie up a lot of loose threads in his life for sure, considering that she's had his daughter, but I don't think it's going to happen. There's something in their chemistry that just doesn't work."

Meghan, bless her, didn't take the opportunity to wisecrack about my own broken chemistry with Neil.

"Wanna hear something crazy?" Meghan asked.

"Hit me," I replied.

"I miss Cleveland."

I stared at her for a few seconds.

"Really?" I asked.

"Really," Meghan chuckled. "There's something normal about Cleveland that's missing from most places I've lived. I mean, Rio is exciting, but it's like the party never ends around here. That gets old after a while. And Bishkek, well, come on, it was frigging Kyrgyzstan, for crying out loud, so nu-uh. But Cleveland felt like a normal place, where normal people live normal lives and worry about normal things. I like that. There's no pressure to be awesome there. Just. . . just hang out with the normal people and be normal."

She had me already, but I liked what I was hearing. I fished for more.

"You know, you're not really normal. Neither am I. Even in Cleveland, we'll stick out like sore thumbs."

"Oh, for sure," Meghan said, sitting up, "But around here, people see me and they spaz out. They start babbling in really excited Portugese and waving their arms around and snapping photos and calling more people over, and touching on me, and they just get way too worked up about it. In Cleveland, though, they're more like," she affected a bored flat Midwestern accent here "'Oh, hey, it's that nova, Meghan Cutter. How ya doin?'" She ran "how ya doin'" together into one word. She almost sounded like she was from New Jersey instead of Cleveland.

"Yeah," I said with a smile, my first in a few days, "It's definitely a lot more laid-back there. It's like people are so busy worrying about their own lives that they don't have a lot of energy left to freak out about us." I nodded. "Okay, you sold me. We'll find a place in Cleveland."

"Awesome," Meghan said. "Hey, do you think the SBC tower is done yet? Maybe we can get a place there, way up in the penthouse."

She had to ask. The SBC Tower, still under construction, was where I'd first met Michael Lamb, the mysterious figure who kept coming into my life to offer his warped version of guidance-- always against my will.

"Let's not and say we did," I suggested. "I have issues around the SBC Tower. Remind me to tell you the story sometime."

"Okay," Meghan said. She acted like she understood. I wonder if she's been reading my old newspaper articles.

"In any case, Cleveland it is," I said, finalizing the decision.

Meghan smiled and rolled over toward me, and leaned her head on my chest. I pulled her close and wrapped my arms around her. From above, Slider smiled down at us.

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