I guess I could subtitle this one, On the Beach. Henge and Gary get a visit from a friend they’ve not seen in almost a year. And she’s bringing big news; news that’s fraught with emotion for our couple.
I see at least two more entries for this storyline. Will I see more? Should I move on? The world wonders.
Gary took a break from picking fruit from the trees on the north side of their land. He saw his sister weeding the large garden; singing or talking to herself, too far to be sure. Mother had been with her until a few minutes ago. Father would on occasion work half-days on Saturday, and this was one of those. Weekend dinners were usually earlier than later.
A glance at his basket showed it nearly full. He knew from past experience that he was just at the house’s broadband limit…
He heard the roar of the surf as he narrowed his eyes against the bright sky. He was next to the little changing hut Henge had made. With very rare exceptions humans arrived in the machine’s home wearing whatever they’d had on prior. Dorina had once babbled on about ‘residual self-image;’ Gary didn’t think it very important. He stepped inside to change into his swimsuit.
There were several little wooden boxes for their clothes. He picked up Henge’s shirt and overalls and smelled them. That image of a playful otter. All of the machines had a somewhat incomprehensible ‘true form,’ seeming to have little relationship to their personalities. When I’m older, perhaps the coders at Tohsaka will explain that to me….
Changing, he saw another set of clothes: a girl’s dress. Oh. Susie. It had almost been a year since I’ve seen her. I hope she is well.
He took a towel and stepped out.
To judge from Susie’s laughter, they were just over the strand’s rise. He stood at the crest and waved. Henge turned and returned the motion. Not equipped with her senses, it took Susie a moment to realize someone else was there. She turned, broke into a smile, and ran up the rise.
“Gary!” She gave him a great hug. “It’s been tho – so long!”
She’d worked very hard to rid herself of her little speech impediment but whenever she gets excited…
“And look at you!” She leaned back. “Grown up so much!”
“You as well.”
She might be wearing a frilly, yellow one-piece, but her sixteen year-old body was even more developed than Henge’s new one. Who was now walking toward them.
“I should hope so!” Her cheer was relentless. “Since I’m getting married next month!”
“Married?” Gary asked.
“Married,” he heard his beloved sigh.
“Yeah! That’s why I was back in town, in Waxahachie! Mom’s helping me pick out a dress!” Susie went right on, missing the brief look between her friends. “We found one and took a break for lunch.”
“I guess,” she let go of him, “that’s when Henge noticed me! I’ve not been here that long…”
“Well… congratulations,” Gary said. He pointed out to sea.
“Shall we play while you’re here?”
Some time later the three sat on the hard, wet sand, just yards from the surf.
“I’ve missed this!” Susie tilted her head back. Gary couldn’t help but look at her chest. From opposite Susie, Henge threw a handful of sand at him.
“I think we’ve only been down to the Gulf twice since I was adopted.” She continued.
Gary recalled that in the year his mother and sister had been reunited, then six year-old Susie had been adopted by a farm couple in their forties. Their two sons had died in the Breakup and Formation War and they didn’t like an empty house. Susie had been lucky; he knew from Aunt Lily that not many found new homes.
“Getting back to what you mentioned earlier…” Henge prompted. Gary was pleased that his Intended was so much older for subtlety.
She’s definitely her father’s daughter, he thought.
“Oh, yeah!” Susie brought her head back forward and looked to Henge. “His name’s Jeff! So tall and dreamy!”
She actually clutched her hands together under her chin.
“His farm is only a couple of miles from ours! And, his dad taught him plumbing and electrical work! He’s sooo-per smart!”
Gary was curious about something.
“How old is Jeff?”
Seven… almost eight years difference…
“History,” Henge began, to forestall her love from saying something stupid, “is not Gary’s best subject. Marrying someone your own age and for love was a conceit of modern, Western civilization. For most of history, human history, Susie’s situation is closer to the norm.”
“Oh.” I didn’t know that.
Henge patted her friend’s hand.
“I am very happy for you.”
“Thanks!” Susie’s face suddenly dropped. “Oh, no! I never thought about giving you guys invitations! I’m thol – sorry…!”
“That’s okay,” Gary replied. “There’s no way I could make it – ”
“Where are you getting married?” Henge cut him off. That was rare.
“At… Jeff’s place,” Susie was also taken aback at her directness.
“Does it have wifi?”
“Oh, sure! It’s not primitive, like my folk’s house!”
“Then I’ll be there.”
Susie did not understand.