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10 - Almost Home

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"How much longer now?" Jeena asked.

"14.62 hours--" Skip replied, as he drifted over towards the the air recycler.  "The  deceleration crew should be contacting us any minute now.  By the way - ten second warning."

Jeena hunkered down into her defensive breathing posture as Skip passed some gas into the recycler's air intake.  He had incinerated some organic matter and improvised an activated charcoal filter, making the situation tolerable.

"Excuse me," he added routinely.

"No problem," she responded.  "Did you say any minute?  I need to get ready.  Privacy, please.”

Skip swiveled his chair to face away from her.  With three deft strokes, Jeena morphed her Scenter’s pendant into a full-length mirror, and adhered it to a small space on the cabin wall.  She then peeled off her UniSuit, and impishly gave it a little nudge so that it floated off in Skip's direction.  It was wonderfully liberating to be free of the garment, so instead of immediately putting on another suit, she remained nude as she fixed her hair and makeup.  From time to time, she surreptitiously tipped the mirror a bit to see whether Skip was looking.  Amazing!  He never peeked, not once!  She was almost disappointed that he hadn’t.  Zero-gravity always gave such a boost to her two best buddies.

“So, Skip,” she asked, as she re-bundled her hair into a zero-gee-do, “is there someone special in your life?”

“Nah.  I wish there was.  But I’m just not very good with girls.  I freeze up.”

“You seem to be doing fine with me.  And believe me, I intimidate more men than you think.”

“That’s because you’re out of my league; I would never have had a shot with you.”

“You’re not wrong, there,” she agreed.  “You’re a really nice guy, but I need someone who’s more f..”

“Fit?”  Skip filled in.

“Fun,” she corrected, “and with a sense of style.  I like nice things, and want someone who can appreciate them, too.  Okay, you can turn around.”

The UniSuit she had reserved for last was special.  It had a slowly shifting pattern of colors - somewhat reminiscent of the metalocust fan - that swirled around curves like rivers through hilly terrain.  And Jeena certainly had the terrain for it..

"That looks nice," Skip stated simply.  He felt no need to stare, having pretty much memorized her body already from watching her as she slept.

“Look, I know you’re hetero,” she continued, “I whiffed your pheromones the moment we met.  But you’ve been far too much of a gentleman on this trip.  There’s only one explanation: your heart already belongs to someone else.  So who is it?”

“Well there is this one girl I sort of like, but I can’t talk to her at all.”

“That gorgeous?”

“Yes.  No.  Well, yes.  In person she’s amazing.  But not photogenic like you.  I’ve tried dozens of times to get a good picture of her, but the camera never does her justice."

"Who is she?"

"This other meng, actually, an intern like me..."

"Who is she?"

“Hands down, the sweetest, kindest person I’ve ever met..."

"Her name, Skip.  What’s her name?"

“Monika,” he intoned, with the infinite reverence that might have used to begin a prayer. “Unfortunately, I’m not good enough for her.”

“Did she tell you that?”

NO!!!  Monika would NEVER... I mean, in all the time I’ve known her, she's never once said a hurtful thing to anyone.  She even said she enjoyed working with me, and we should have lunch sometime.”

“And?”

“And what?”

“How did the lunch go?”

“You have to understand, Monika’s just sweet to everybody like that.  It was just a thing to say, not a suggestion to actually share a meal together.  Not that I would have minded.  No, that’s a gross understatement.  It would have made my day.  I mean, week.  Year.  Okay, I think it would be safe to say that, it would probably have been the highlight of my entire life...”

“YOU IDIOT!!  The girl practically threw herself at you.  She handed it to you on a plate, and all you had to do was say, ‘How about tomorrow?’  But you snubbed her.  Do you have any idea how hard it is for that type of girl to say that?  Do you know how embarrassing it is to be ignored that way?”

“She seemed fine,” Skip reflected.

“Are you naturally stupid, or do you have to practice?  No, she was not fine.  You crushed her, but she was too kind to let you know.  Trust me, I know these things.  The only way to fix it is to ask her out.”

“Well, all right, at the next logical opening, I’ll invite her to something.  Her lunch comment was too long ago, and I can’t just ask her out of the blue.”

“Wrong, wrong, WRONG!  Yes you can.  if a girl likes you,  she doesn’t care about a logical reason.  ANY EXCUSE will do.  So don’t wait for the circus to come to town, ask her immediately.  Immediately, Skip; as soon as we get to the city.  Grow a pair and BE BOLD.”

“What would I do without you as my wingman, Jeena?”

“Die alone and still a virgin, obviously.”

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