It is the end of a long work day at the cafe. Serving everyone their triple-shot-sugar-free-vanilla-light-foam latte for eight hours a day, forty hours a week, felt like a drag after three years of repetitive words and motions. She arrives at her apartment door and punches in the unlock code on the panel.
“Please state your name.” The little electronic screen speaks in an automated female voice.
“Ammona King.” She enunciates for the computer’s voice recognition so it can translate her name. The words sound exaggerated.
“Access granted. Please enter. Welcome home, Ammona.” The female voice plays a digital mantra over a tiny speaker. The door slides open, and reveals the entryway into her apartment.
“Thanks.” She mutters. I know she can’t hear me. What a ridiculous thing to program into an access panel. Ammona knows they try to make apartments on the base station seem more like home, but sometimes it feels downright silly.
“Hello?” She calls, as she removes her boots in the hallway.
“Hiiiiiiiiiii!” Drea’s voice elongates her greeting somewhere towards the living room. “Welcome back!” She shouts.
Ammona shoves off her left boot with her right foot, and then does the same with the left foot, right boot. It feels good to get rid of them. She lets out a prolonged sigh, allowing all the stress of the day to push itself out through her lungs.
The pristine hallway, made of aluminum and falsely dyed decorative walls, is a surreal place to come home to. By now she is used to it. Three years ago when I arrived at the Orbital Relay Base, the place felt sterile. I usually regard it as ‘clean’ these days.
After she kicks off her boots, she drops her bag to the ground. The small hallway table has a repository bowl for her ID badge and wallet. She grabs her smartphone out of her back pocket to check the Internet, and makes her way to the living room.
She stands in the doorway, watching Drea play a game on a giant screen wall. Her roommate is racing against several other hover cars. In the upper left hand corner, Ammona sees a marker that indicates where Drea is in the race.
“Sixth place, huh?” She teases Drea. The other girl doesn’t look over to acknowledge Ammona’s friendly ribbing. Instead, her brows furrow into a scowl. “What is that, out of nine? Ten?” Ammona prods, trying to get a reaction.
“Shut up.” She snaps, pressing buttons with a ferocity Ammona could never match. “You wouldn’t be able to do any better. I am playing a race above my car’s highest level.”
“Now why would you do a thing like that?” Asks Ammona, grinning while she stands in the doorway and replies to some messages on her device.
Drea says nothing, but concentrates on crashing past the car in 5th place.
“Excellent.” Ammona encourages. I feel like I should after making fun of her.
“Good thing you’re being nice now.” Drea counters, as the race ends with her in 5th. She chucks the game controller across the room. It bounds off some cushy pillows on a clean green couch, and lands in between two of the seat cushions.
“Don’t break the controller.” Laughs her roommate.
Drea looks up from the couch, her brown eyes pinpointed on the tall girl in the doorway. Her sharp face looks like a living knife. She points at Ammona.
“You got a courier-delivered letter today!” Drea grins. “I wasn’t going to tell you after that bit about sixth place, but you saved yourself.” She bounces off the couch and pushes past Ammona to get to the kitchen.
“What?” Ammona demands. “What courier? When? What letter? Where is it?” She follows Drea into the next room, and watches her rummage around in the fridge. Ammona follows and peeks over the refrigerator door. “Drea!” She insists. “Where is it?”
Drea lifts her head from the bottom shelf where she was retrieving some real imported Earth yogurt. She waves the yogurt container at Ammona. “In your room, on your desk.”
Ammona bounds up the stairs to the bedrooms as Drea’s voice follows her down the hall. “I wanted you to see it later, but it might be important.”
You’re damn right it’s important. Ammona thinks, as she jumps the stairs two at a time. It’s my letter from the Academy.
She enters her bedroom without a second thought, looking for the letter. The room is messy. She kicks away some sweatshirts and socks on the floor, and looks down at the desk.
There it is. A bright yellow and blue envelope, larger than it likely needs to be. Who uses paper any more? She wonders.
Traditionalists. She answers her own question. It must be from the Academy. I thought they would send me an email. More thoughts rush through her head as she reaches forward, and grabs the envelope.
She looks for the tab that will let her pull it open. It slides right off. She tips open the top of the envelope, careful not to disturb the design. Her fingers are cold. Her hands shake. She notices; it’s hard for her to feel for the piece of paper inside. She reaches inside the envelope nervously, the tension in her body visible. She breathes in, and out. She pulls the sheet of paper halfway out of the envelope.
“Well?” Drea is in the doorway. “What is it?”
“I don’t know yet!” The words are sharp, quick. “It’s from the Academy.” She tries to calm her impatient voice. “I haven’t looked.”
“Hush.” Ammona replies, as Drea looks over her shoulder. The paper is partially out of the envelope, flat, pristine like the aluminum walls around them. Ammona’s heart is pounding. She slides it out the rest of the way, and reads the letter as fast as she can, eager for the news.
Congratulations, it begins, and Drea doesn’t need to read the rest but Ammona does. Drea shrieks with happiness.
“I knew it!” She dances around the room.
I didn’t. Ammona thinks. This is welcome news. I can’t believe this. I can’t believe it. Her heart feels full, and happy, and heavy all at the same time. So many things will change. Nostalgia hits her, a packed fist tight and ready to fight from the years it’s been dormant.
“What will happen to our place?” Ammona says aloud.
Drea stops her dancing and looks over at her roommate. “I’ll probably try to find another roommate.” She shrugs. She always was so honest. Ammona’s heart squeezes in her chest. I hope I’m not so easily replaceable.
Drea approaches her. “Stop looking so pouty. Don’t be sad. Be happy! This is what you’ve always wanted! Your grandfather was in the Academy. You can continue a legacy your mother would never have dared to. This is fantastic! We need to celebrate!”
It is what I’ve always wanted. Ammona thinks. I’m just anxious about change, as always. She looks at the rest of the letter, and soaks in the words of acceptance. The practical matters she must attend to in order to finish her admittance to the Academy become rapidly apparent.
A deposit of a few thousand yuan is needed to secure my spot.
I must send a letter of intent to register as soon as possible.
There will be an admittance day at this campus location on this date that I must attend.
All of these items flash before Ammona’s eyes, and she begins to plan. She slides her device out of her pants pocket, and looks at the calendar app. I can easily get several of these days off. She notes that the campus is across the solar system, on Pluto Colony. I’ll need a few days to go and come back. I need to look at the shuttles to the Colonies to find out how much a ticket will be.
“Ammona! What are you doing?” Drea’s voice calls from downstairs. “Morgan and Rona are coming over. I’m messaging Hyatt right now. We need to order some food before everyone gets here.”
“Coming!” She yells down. So much to do. So much to think about. In a few weeks I’ll be headed to Admittance Day.