Chapter Twenty-One - About Letters

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It had been two days since the ship had crash landed in the middle of some poor farmer's tea field, but based on the way Kwale's arms had been aching, it felt like two years. The seemingly-endless tasks to repair the ship-- patch the envelope, repair the holes in the hull, sweep away the broken glass from things that had fallen in the crash-- required more heavy lifting than her position of navigator and unofficial chef normally required. Still, when they were able to lift off the ground again, she raised her arms and cheered.

She had more than the end of work to celebrate. They were headed towards Cairo, and while it was thousands of kilometers away from her hometown, Accra, it was the first time in nearly a year she would be in Africa again. It would be the first time in nearly a year she would be on the same continent as her husband.

For a moment, one beautiful moment, she imagined going home. She would pack up her bags with the things she had bought around the world and step into the crowded Egyptian airdock. She would find a train or maybe another airship, speed home, and walk through the door into their cozy, brightly-painted kitchen. Abeiku would be there, perhaps drinking bissap tea, perhaps reading a book from their tiny collection. He would look up at her, his midnight eyes full of surprise which would turn to joy as she ran to him. She would kiss him, her arms flung around his strong neck, and smile under his lips as he kissed her back. And she would weep tears of joy at being in his arms again.

But then she imagined what would come next. Their kisses would get deeper, longer; their clothes would fall to the floor. He would bring her to their bed and she would gasp happily beneath him as they made love... but as she lay in her bed, her husband in her arms, her eyes would fall on the empty corner of their bedroom where a cradle was supposed to go. The bed that they shared would turn into a memory of the times the pain had jolted her awake as her womb rebelled against what it was supposed to protect or the times after, when she had wrapped herself in blankets and wept for a life that could have been. She would push Abeiku off of her, tears springing into her eyes, and try to explain to him why she just couldn't. She would see her pain reflected in his face, and it would break her already fractured heart.

She couldn't go back. Not yet.

"Kwale, could you take the controls and fly us to the nearest town?" Annemarie asked, jolting her out of her thoughts. "I want to check on Rogers in the engine room and make sure everything is working the way it ought to."

Kwale blinked twice, then nodded. Her mind was in another place, but perhaps forcing herself to focus on flying the ship was the way to bring it back.

But before she could step forward, Avani darted in front of her and planted herself behind the control panel. "I can do it, captain," she said. "It is no bother."

Annemarie looked between the two of them, then shrugged. "That is perfectly fine. I will be in the engines and Adalé is in her quarters, if you need her."

"In her quarters?" asked Avani.

"She has had a hard few days. I decided that she needed a nap."

"I thought the purpose of hiring another navigator was to take the stress off of you, me, Kwale, and Laurent so that we could take more naps," Avani said with a crooked smile.

"Oh, just watch where you're flying," said Annemarie, and with a wave, she left the bridge.

Once she was gone, Avani turned to Kwale. "I do hope you do not mind that I took the controls from you," she said, her arched eyebrows rising. "You seemed as though it would not do you well."

Kwale exhaled through her nose. "I was thinking of my husband. I will be so close to him in Cairo. I miss him dearly, every day, but... but I cannot go back. Not yet."

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