Everybody is still in Sylvester and Paul’s kitchen when somebody rings at the door. As Sylvester is busy in clearing the table with Lucia’s help, Paul goes to open it.
– Mira, Reymo, you’re ringing now, that’s new…
– We thought it fit the situation… We’re on an official mission, answers Mira proudly.
– Yes, I can see you’re wearing your officer’s badges.
– Actually, we’re looking for Beth and David. Nobody’s answering at their place, says Reymo.
Paul shouts through the apartment,
– David, Beth, it’s Mira and Reymo looking for you. Maybe they could tell us if Lucia’s started to walk.
Beth, just finishing an orange juice, stands up promptly and goes to whisper into Lucia’s ear,
– Go to your room. These are past Reymo and Mira for you. They must not see you. Get out of here. Hurry.
Lucia obeys without protest.
– We’re coming to the kitchen, shouts Paul.
Mira and Reymo are somewhat taken aback, finding Paul’s behavior a bit strange, even though, having seen him regularly during his stays on Frigellya with Sylvester, they are aware that he can sometimes act oddly.
As they arrive in the kitchen, Sylvester closes the dishwasher door and runs the cleaning cycle, even though Beth and the Major have not finished their drinks yet.
Mira feels as though they are all behaving like a bunch of guilty ones, but of what she has no idea. As for Sylvester, he knows that the two Frigellyans have sharp observation skills and he couldn’t wait to remove the plates and glasses. They would have noticed the table had too many settings… Everybody is smiling without saying anything, until Beth gets up to greet her friends, in a fully Frigellyan manner, one after the other. Mira and Reymo relax, greeting the rest of the household at large.
– Hello everybody, says Reymo.
– How long has it been since my visit with the Captain? asks the Major.
– The Captain? wonders Beth.
– We haven’t had time to talk about it yet, explains the Major. I haven’t been back long enough.
– We know this, answers Mira. We’re trying to shorten the time between our visits to Earth, so that Sylvester and Paul can be operated on quickly. From our viewpoint, it has been two Frigellyan weeks since your last visit. Meanwhile, the High Court has authorized the creation of the Earth-Dalygaran Territory, and the installation of the medical unit as well. It will take us many more weeks to set everything up, but with time travel, we can come and pick you up tomorrow, if you wish. We’re in touch with Nelly…
– Really? says Paul.
– Yes, someone gave her our coordinates.
– Someone, repeats Paul.
– Who else? answers Mira.
– Of course, who else, mutters Paul.
– Shall we really be operated on tomorrow? asks Sylvester.
– You get to make that decision, replies Mira.
– Let us have at least an entire week to become accustomed to the idea, says Paul.
– One week only, worries Sylvester.
– Sylvester, one or several, I think it will be the same. We won’t ever really be ready, but tomorrow, even for me, is too early.
– In one week then, says Reymo.
– Got it, adds Mira.
– One week, whispers Sylvester.
After a few moments of silence, Reymo announces,
– We need Beth and the Major to come to Frigellya, for the officialization of the territory transfer. The Dalygaran Great Council delegated to you, David, its signing authority, and you Beth, you’re the only 25th century Earthling to be able to sign. Come as soon as you can.
– Is that why you’re wearing your Royal Guard badges? asks Beth.
– No, it’s for an invitation, answers Reymo.
– An invitation? wonders the Major.
– It’s for the coronation, clarifies Mira.
– Christopher let himself be convinced? wonders Beth.
– Not really, answers Mira.
– But who is going to reign then? asks Paul.
– We’re going to have a Queen this time.
– And she agrees to the Earth-Dalygaran Territory? worries Paul.
– She won’t change a thing. She is even leaving the main areas of the castle to their former occupiers. She’ll sit in the assemblies, and will occupy a portion of the castle that is being fitted out.
– You’ll meet her the day you come to sign the agreement for the part of the Castle that will be yours.
– Let’s go now, says Beth.
– Are you sure? answers the Major.
– Yes, I’m fine. This meal perked me up. Anyway, I’m curious to see what’s happening over there.
– Do you need a lift?
– We’ve our own transporter now, reminds them Beth. We’re going to take it, so that you won’t have to bring us back.
– Bring your regulator here so we can send you to the right space-time.
– It’s at our place, with the transporter.
– Beth, do you want me to come with you? asks the Major.
– You’re sweet, but it’s not necessary. I’ll be right back.
Beth goes out of the room. As she passes along Lucia’s room, she knocks discreetly before poking her head inside.
– Wait a little moment more, she says in a low voice. We’re about to go away with Mira and Reymo. Paul and Sylvester will still be here. One of them will come get you.
Lucia nods, and Beth goes on her way.
As she announced it, Beth returns very quickly to the living room.
– I’ve got the regulator, she says.
– If so, we can go. Mira, Reymo please send us the coordinates, says the Major, as he takes a seat in the transporter near his partner.
The young couple materializes directly in the Castle, in the entrance hall. The great stairs impress Beth as much as before. A short time after them, Mira and Reymo materialize as well. Reymo says,
– The documents are waiting for you in the reception room. The officials will arrive in about one hour. The entire ceremony will be recorded by our camera network.
– Really? wonders Beth.
– Yes. This is a rare event and very long awaited. People must be able to watch a testimony of this historic event. But before you sign, there is a protocol to follow. Christopher and the future Queen will explain it to you.
At the top of the stairs, stands a familiar figure. Christopher has come to greet them. After he gets down the stairs and goes through the formalities with the young couple, Beth asks him,
– Where is Lucia? Is she with her grandparents?
– No, she’s with Abeena. They’re getting along extremely well. Let’s go and meet them.
– We’ll leave you, says Reymo.
Actually, he and Mira take their places again in their transporter seats and disappear.
Beth and the Major follow Christopher through the castle maze. They arrive in front of a room from which laughter can be heard. Christopher knocks.
– Come in, answers a woman’s voice.
The trio enter the room. Beth and the Major immediately recognize the young woman holding Lucia in her arms.
– Abeena, hello, says the Major.
– I present you the new Queen, announces Christopher.
– Really? exclaims Beth.
– Yes, I did all I could to convince Christopher to take his parents’ place, and look where it led me, she answers laughing.
– Abeena explained to me perfectly how a reign was a responsibility and an opportunity for a Frigellyan. She talked to me of this planet with such passion; as for me, I was still just beginning to discover it. I was certain, however, that her passion could serve our world well. And the people apparently think the same way. You should have seen her candidacy speech. She was breathtaking.
– I had weighty support: the former sovereigns and the Dauphin himself. This facilitated things very much. The other side had not even a chance, especially after news of the poisoning of Dalygaran’s water was released.
Lucia stretches her arms toward her father.
– So, young lady, let’s try again, Abeena says joyfully.
She puts down a knee, and stands Lucia on her two feet. Christopher takes a position just a few steps in front of her, a knee down too, holding his arms toward his daughter.
– Come on, sweetheart; come and see daddy.
Lucia hesitates to release Abeena’s hand. She stretches her arm the most she can, before finally letting go and taking some steps and finally letting herself fall into her father’s arms. He stands and spins her in the air at arm’s length and Lucia squeals in delight.
– My little champion, says Christopher proudly, holding his daughter tightly. Then he puts her again on the ground and takes her hand in his. Abeena moves to Lucia’s side to hold the other hand, and all three walk at the child’s pace. Lucia is radiant. Beth and the Major look at them amused. They can feel the child’s huge joy, Abeena’s love for Christopher and his daughter, and Christopher’s pride. He takes his daughter in his arms and talks to her while going toward a wall of the room.
– Sweetheart, someone is going to bring you to your grandparents. Grandma, and Grandpa are looking forward to seeing you.
The child smiles and hugs her father. Christopher pushes a kind of button on the wall. Shortly after, a woman enters the room, and Lucia immediately holds her arms toward her. “Gammamm,” she mumbles.
– Yes, I’ll bring you to Grandma, answers the woman. Let’s go “Sun Ray”. And the woman goes away with Lucia in her arms.
– David, Beth, the territory transfer ceremony will occur in less than one of your hours now. The protocol requires that some small rituals be made. David, you’re coming with me. As for you, Beth, I entrust you to Abeena.
– Come with me, Beth. We’ll go to my apartments.
As they arrive and stop in front of the door, Beth can’t prevent herself from saying,
– You’re cute, the three of you. Christopher and you, you’re…
– No, Abeena cuts her short. Christopher and I are very close, but not at this point. His heart is still bleeding. He… he’s not ready.
– But you love him.
– I love them both.
– When you’re all together, you look like a family.
Abeena smiles and says,
– Let’s go in.
When they are inside, Abeena speaks again:
– The territory transfer ceremony will occur after a little initiation from eminent members of the Frigellyan Society: the future Queen, and the former Dauphin are really appropriate to the situation. We’ve got to choose an outfit and then decorate it with some attributes, which will symbolize the great respect of Frigellya toward you. It’s customary that the outfit is plain, white or any light color. We’ll affix at your left shoulder level, David’s right, a Gritchac. It’s really a great honor, you know. Usually, only High Court Members and the Royal family can wear one.
Beth is listening attentively without a word.
– Has a Gritchac got your tongue?
– Ummm…, did you lose your voice?
– Oh, sorry. I didn’t realize all that this signature ceremony implies. I’m indeed a little bit staggered. It’s huge honor.
– Frigellya owes you so much. I owe you so much. I’m about to become a Queen. It would never have happened without Christopher’s return. And you’re the one who found him.
– I… I don’t know what to say.
– I don’t wish to embarrass you, Beth. Come with me; we’re going to choose a dress for you.
Abeena puts a finger on the wall and an entire piece of the wall opens onto a huge wardrobe. Beth opens her eyes wide. There are only sumptuous ceremony dresses to be seen.
– I… I’ve never seen such clothes…
– Choose one and try it on. I’ll leave you alone for a moment. I’ll be next door. Come and get me as soon as you’re ready.
– Don’t make me beg. You’re going to be gorgeous.
Abeena leaves Beth alone. After some long minutes of staring, her eyes rest on a light blue dress, decorated with tone-on-tone embroidery, representing certainly some Frigellyan flowers. Only the difference of material and the play of light on them make the embroidery visible, but only discreetly and yet harmoniously. “Let’s see if this one looks good on me.” Beth puts on the dress and is surprised to feel it adjusting to her size. “Fabrics from the future are amazing.” The dress has no sleeves, and reaches down to her ankles. There is a small train she hadn’t noticed before. Beth decides it’s time to see Abeena and knocks on her door. When she opens it, Abeena exclaims,
– You see! What did I tell you? You’re gorgeous. We’re going to arrange your hair, fix the Gritchac to the dress, and tie the golden ribbon around your right arm.
Abeena claps two times and three women enter the room. Two take care of Beth’s hair, quickly gathering her shoulder-length hair into two braids that join at her neck. Meanwhile, the other affixes the Gritchac to her dress at the left shoulder and ties the golden ribbon on her right arm at the bicep, so that the ribbon hangs down to the wrist. Beth hardly dares to breathe. She didn’t expect to have so many people around her.
– We should go now, says Abeena. Do you want to see yourself first?
Abeena brings Beth in front of a big mirror. Beth hardly recognizes herself. The dress seems even more beautiful now that she can see it on herself. Suddenly, she wonders what kind of outfit she will find the Major in.
The Major, in the meantime, has had his little briefing too, with Christopher. Less impressed with the selection of outfits than Beth was, the Major rather chooses a simple white suit. It seems to him that the Gritchac he knows to be golden will shine more brilliantly on white. He is much faster than his partner to dress. No hairdo is given to him. Someone just comes to affix the Gritchac; and at his arm, instead of a ribbon he has got an armband to wear around his left bicep. He’s got some time to chat with Christopher.
– Lucia has grown a lot, he begins.
– Yes. This child is my reason for living.
– Abeena gets along very well with your daughter. When the three of you are together, you look like a family.
– I… I like Abeena very much; but, David, I… I’m not ready for a close relationship right now. Helena…
Christopher interrupts himself a moment and then decides to go on with his story.
– It wasn’t simple, you know, for Helena and me. In fact, we were just starting to have feelings for each other when Beth found us. She was very suspicious when I took her in. I just wanted to provide a home for the child to be born in. I wanted this child to have the same chances I had, a loving family. As soon as she was born, I loved Lucia. So I proposed to Helena to get married and adopt the child. I told her she didn’t owe me anything. I just wanted the child to have a mother and father. If she agreed, I could be a dad. To my great surprise, she said yes. When we married, the child was just one week old. As Lucia grew, we became closer to each other. The day Helena died, when my parents came to take me home, she said for the first time and in front of everyone that she loved me. I didn’t get a chance to tell this to her too. We never even kissed. I… I can’t get that day out of my head. I had never been interested in the women of Earth before. Helena was really the first to warm my heart. That day overturned my entire life; I found my parents, I lost my wife, and I was hurled into a world with technology beyond my imagination. My first weeks on Frigellya were very hard. My parents’ love saved me. And there was Lucia too, my little Sun Ray.
One day, I met Abeena. A simple look from her was enough to make my heart beat, whereas it took several months with Helena. I feel so… ashamed. Abeena and I, we spent much time together, you know. She made me discover my world. It was really a chance to be able to see it through her eyes. And one day, we… we kissed. I’ve felt so guilty since…
– Do you want a friend’s advice? Let your heart speak. People believe that time heals wounds. That’s wrong. We just forget. And the memory can rise to the surface again, without warning. Mourning, when it’s very painful, empties your heart. You’ve got to fill it again. Only love can do so. It’s the other’s kindness that makes us pull through. Alone, you will have to keep your mind busy constantly so as not to sink. I’ve lived through that, my friend. Abeena is your chance to avoid this. Do not hesitate. Go to her quickly!
– Well, I didn’t expect this from you Major…
– You’re so…, reserved usually.
– Beth saved me from a nightmare I couldn’t get rid of. I almost had to die for this. Don’t go so far, Christopher.
– Do you love her?
– I…, yes. I miss her so much when she’s not around. And when she is, I just want to run. I’m so afraid, David.
– You’re really crazy about her, aren’t you?
– She opened my eyes to my planet, and most importantly, to myself, to who I am. Thanks to her, I now feel at home here. I … I owe her so much. She’s so… brilliant… and generous. And me, I’m…
– … in love. It’s obvious. Christopher, talk to her.
– What if she’s angry with me?
– She’s not. Talk to her.
– How could you know that?
– I’m Dalygaran, so even in my human body I can feel what people feel. She’s got no resentment toward you. She’s just full of kindness.
– Can you guarantee this?
– I assure it. Talk to her.
– I will. It’s time to go to the ceremony now. Shall we?
– I’ll follow you.
As Christopher and the Major arrive in the reception room, Beth is already there in front of a table. Facing her stand two High Court Eminences. The Major stares at Beth wide-eyed. He can’t prevent himself from whispering in Christopher’s ears a “she looks lovely.” He wishes he could hold her tight, but he just follows Christopher’s instructions and takes place at Beth’s left, facing the Eminences. Beth as well gives the Major a look-over, and finds him really… dazzling. Her left hand seeks out her partner’s when she meets Christopher’s gaze waving a “no” with his head. Beth straightens her arms by her side and stands as an arrow in her light blue dress. She has great difficulty not to burst out laughing, as the situation seems so unreal to her. She retains a hiccup, clears her throat, and then succeeds in completely calming down.
The ceremony begins.
– Major Moon Crystal, Beth Smith, you have honored us with your presence here. We have gathered here to make official the transfer of a part of our territory by the order of the King and the authorization of the High Court.
Showing them what looks like a soft sheet of plastic, The High Court Eminence goes on,
– This document identifies precisely the zone concerned in this transfer.
As he brushes the end of his fingers against its surface, the sheet lights up and a map displays.
– This is huge, whispers Beth.
– To accept this transfer, you just have to lay one of your palms, on the Gritchac side, on the sheet. We’ll begin with you Miss Beth.
Beth complies, followed by the Major.
– Now, may the witnesses move forward and perform the same gesture.
Abeena comes closer and presses her palm as Beth had, followed by Christopher, who presses as had the Major.
The second Eminence, who had said nothing until now, announces very formally,
– The transfer is now official. The ceremony is confirmed and terminated.
– We shall go out now, says Christopher.
So everyone does, except the two Eminences.
– Is that all? wonders Beth as they are outside.
– There will be an inauguration, but it will happen at the end of the coronation. It is with this act that the future Queen has chosen to confirm the transfer to her reign.
All looks turn on Abeena, who just smiles.
– I never intended to undo such an exceptional event in our history. No sovereign would have dared it anyway. I’m doing nothing extraordinary, you know…
– Associating this inauguration with the coronation is a very strong gesture, insists Christopher.
– Abeena, on behalf of the Dalygaran people, thank you.
– And I simply thank you, goes on Beth.
Abeena favors everybody with a large smile and gazes gratefully into Beth’s eyes. Beth remembers well that the future sovereign feels indebted to Beth for her fate. So Beth answers, nodding lightly. Then Abeena speaks again,
– David, Beth, as you are now officially Gritchac bearers, you’re also part of the Frigellyan High Society. I entrust you to transmit my invitation to the inauguration of the Earth-Dalygaran Territory to your friends Paul and Sylvester. Will you please do this for me?
– With great pleasure, answer the Major.
Beth faces her partner and takes his hand in hers. He comes closer to her and whispers something in her ear. They start to climb the stairs.
– We’re going to the Great Terrace. Do you want to join us?
Abeena and Christopher look after them as they run away without waiting for an answer, amused.
– So, says Abeena. What do you think? Do we?
– There’s something I’d like to do first. I’ve been dying to do it for a long time.
He takes her hands.
– Abeena, I was so stupid. I… I beg you to forgive me…
– What do I have to forgive you?
– My avoidances. I… denied all the feelings I had for you. I…
– Shhhhh. I was never angry with you. I just waited until you were ready.
– I am.
And for the second time, Christopher and Abeena kiss, a long lasting kiss.
– What’s changed? whispers Abeena.
– Nothing. I just listened a friend’s advice.
– You’ll have to thank him or her for me…
– That’s easy, he just went up to the Great Terrace.
Abeena starts to laugh.
– Let’s go and join them then.
When Christopher and Abeena arrive at the Great Terrace, the Major and Beth hold each other by the waist and face the view. Hearing some noise, they turn around and see Christopher and Abeena holding hands. The Major smiles, while Beth exclaims,
– What a wonderful day, isn’t it?
– One of my best, answers Christopher.
– I’m so happy, goes on Abeena.
– You two shine…
– Exactly like you two, Beth. Exactly like you two, repeats Christopher.
– Will you stay at the castle this evening?
– It would have been with great pleasure, but our day began already a long time ago. We’re not in our travel bodies, and so we have to be careful of the time we spend per day. It won’t be reasonable to stay here this evening. We can stay, at the very most an hour or two. We’ll go and greet the King and the Queen before we get away, I promise.
– Instructions were given to store your clothes in your bedroom.
– Let’s go and change clothes then.
– Let’s go and see my parents, says Christopher to Abeena. I’m looking forward to presenting them the woman who … enlightens my life now…
– Are you sure?
– I’m certain.
They hug each other tightly and go their own way, while Beth and the Major head to their room.
When Beth and the Major knock at the King and the Queen’s apartment later on, it’s the Queen who comes to answer. The King, Christopher, Abeena, and Lucia are there too.
– My children, we thought we wouldn’t see you this evening. I don’t know how long it has been since our son told us you were about to come…
– We didn’t notice the time passing by your Majesty, apologizes Beth.
– So it seems, says the King, laughing. Have you heard the good news?
– I think so, answers the Major.
– My son is in love, proudly announces the Queen.
– That’s right, protests the Queen, a little bit offended to be scolded.
– We’re very happy for them, says Beth.
– We’ve come to say good-bye, goes on the Major. We have to go.
– Our son explained it to us, answers the Queen. We’ll see you at the coronation, won’t we?
– Yes. We’ll have to get the space-time coordinates for this, adds the Major.
– Do we have to think about a special outfit? asks Beth.
– A coronation is an event for the people, clarifies the Queen. No special outfit is required.
– Perfect, answers Beth. We’ll go now; our transporter is in the hall. See you soon.
When they arrive near their transporter, they can see Mira and Reymo waiting for them.
– We have been informed of your imminent departure. I have something for you, says Mira.
She gives them a sort of key ring from which hangs a red Gritchac in a round white medallion.
– The coronation is in five days, here. Choose the moment on Earth you want to come. You’ll have to take the trigger by the ring and briefly press the Gritchac between your thumb and the index finger twice. Then the coordinates will be sent to your transporter. The day before, call us. We’ll have instructions to give you about the two ceremonies. As I suppose your revelator is still with your travel bodies on Dalygaran, I’m going to give you another device with a call button.
And Mira pulls what looks like a coin out of one of her pockets.
– The trigger must be pressed for about 5 seconds to send us the call.
– The trigger? asks Beth.
– The surface is the trigger. Press it between two fingers and count to 5.
– Ok, Mira, understood, answers the Major. See you then.
As they rematerialize in the two Smiths’ living room, Paul says,
– We were waiting for you.
– We signed, informs Beth.
– She was so beautiful, adds the Major.
– We had to wear ceremonial clothes. You were very chic in your white costume.
– And you really shined in your light blue dress.
– I saw your ceremony souvenir photo, says Lucia. You were both radiant.
– There is a photo?
– As far as I know, Beth, it was you who asked for one as everything was recorded, answers Lucia. It will have a place of honor among other pictures in your room at the Castle.
– I hope one day we can see it too, says Sylvester.
Lucia does not answer and just smiles.
– Paul, Sylvester, we’ve got an invitation for you, from the future Queen, announces Beth.
– Really? answers Paul with curiosity.
– Yes. You’re invited to the inauguration of the Earth-Dalygaran Territory, and it’s the same day of the coronation.
– Oh, we’re all going to Frigellya then, notices Sylvester.
– Not me, objects Lucia. Even, if in a way, I will be there, but much younger. I really don’t remember this day…
– We’ll try to be back as soon as possible so you won’t be alone very long, proposes Beth.
– No, someone once told me it’s not good for the bodies. Just come back after the exact time you spend over there; I will be fine. Don’t worry.
– Ok, Lucia.
Beth yawns and adds,
– I’m falling asleep. David, let’s go home. Good-bye everyone.
And so they go away.
– Sylvester, shall we finish our chess game?
– I prefer to postpone it to tomorrow. You’re a formidable adversary and here I am, too tired to stand up to you.
– Paul, are you going to sleep too? she asks.
– I’ll go on with my reading.
– Well, I’ll go back to my room then.
A few moments later, Lucia comes back with the inter-temporal communicator in hand. Paul is alone.
– Paul, it’s for you: Nelly.
– Thank you.
Lucia goes back to her room.
– Good evening, Paul.
– Good evening, Nelly.
– Are you ok?
– Nelly, please, I’m not used to such banalities from you.
– Oh? You haven’t changed; always so tactful.
– You know me. And you know what I meant. You didn’t call me to ask if I’m fine, am I right?
– You know me, too. I need to get in touch with Frigellya, the right era I mean. It’s for the operation room.
– You’re in luck. I’ve got the coordinates from the territory transfer signature. Transporter arrival and departure times today at our place have been recorded, their origin and destination as well. It’s automatic, an undergrounder habit, I suppose. Wait a sec, I’ll be back with them soon.
Paul leaves the inter-temporal communicator in the living room. When he comes back he has a sort of electronic pen in his hand.
– Ok, be prepared to receive. I’ll send you the coordinates where the transporter went.
He pushes a button on the pen that makes a little green light flash at its top.
– Got them?
– Got them! It will take several weeks to build this medical unit, you know.
– I know; but we chose to be operated on in one week. Let’s stay in touch to confirm the date of the operation.
– We’re not going to see each other during all this time?
– Nelly, we didn’t see each other for 25 years. We can wait a little bit more.
– That’s easy for you to say; you’re going to wait just a week. It will be much longer for me.
– Nelly, next time I see you, I want to be able to love you.
– You want what?
– You heard perfectly.
– We waited enough. Yes, I was furious with you. But believe me when I say I’m not going to spend the rest of my life being stupidly angry, especially when I see what you’ve done with your life. You dedicated it entirely to helping almost-humans become full humans. In a way, you dedicated your life to love, to us having this ability. You were stronger than me, Nelly. You fought. I ran. I…
– Just shut up, you fool. You dedicated your life to something too. Er, rather to someone.
I’ve seen Sylvester’s file. I’m part of the undergrounders too. It’s easy to deduce he suffers from slowdown syndrome.
– I was really horrible to him.
– You offered him what nobody would have offered him here: a future, a life instead of a long agony in an asylum. I know, he’s not aware of this. A few questions to him were enough for me to know it. You protected him from our world…
– It’s ok, Nelly. It’s ok. I know what I’ve done.
– Paul, the next few weeks are going to be very long for me, maybe the longest of my life. It’s so near and so far away at the same time.
– I certainly will have less time to wait, but believe me, each day my anxiety rises. I’m so afraid.
– I’ll be there.
– I know. Actually, I wish today would be the day. All this would be over…
– It won’t be an end, Paul, but a new start, trust me.
– I trust you.
– We’ll have our first real kiss… You can’t know how much I’ve dreamt about this.
– And the rest…
Nelly bursts out laughing.
– Yes, and the rest, she repeats. Listen, I have to go. I’ve got a medical unit to build urgently.
– See you very soon, Nelly.
Nelly just disappears from the screen when someone knocks at the door. Paul stands up to open.
– Take me in your arms. If I have to work on this medical unit during these weeks I want you to take me in your arms and hold me tight, give me something to get me through this time.
– But I…
– Please, just do it.
Paul complies, and without thinking kisses Nelly.
– It’s still so disappointing, he says sheepishly.
– It wasn’t for me. Believe me, next week, well, your next week, this will be totally different.
She parts from him with one step back, smiles and sends a last kiss with her hand. She vanishes in the corridors, leaving a thoughtful Paul in the doorway. Remembering what Mira said in the morning, he says to himself, “Good old Nelly! I have no doubt she’ll contact them even sooner with those coordinates.” Then he closes the door, a smile on his lips.