An alternate scene from NEW WORLD
Happy Valentine’s Day! This year I’m focusing on bringing you the conclusion to The Iamos Trilogy, and that means I’ve been spending a lot of time with my favorite couple from all the books I’ve ever written: Henry and Tamara.
They emerged as a couple in my brain so early on in the writing of Fourth World that at times the only thing that kept me going while writing the first book was the knowledge that I’d get to write Different Worlds next. (It also made writing the Isaak/Tamara scenes… quite uncomfortable, haha.) I think a lot of people may have been surprised by the development of their relationship, but there were a few places in Fourth World where I dropped the hint. 😉
And then I got to have a lot of fun creating angst for them in New World! Which brings me to today’s post. This is an alternate perspective scene from Chapter 19 of New World (so major spoilers, obviously) that I shared with my patrons on Patreon back in September 2018. It seemed like a perfect Valentine’s Day goodie to share with you all. Enjoy!
I stood on the observation deck, looking out the full-length windows at the endless stars around me. As far as the eye could see, there was nothing but blackness, dotted with infinite pinpricks of light that shone like glitter. They seemed to spin gently, slowly, though I knew it was the ship itself that was rotating. The gravity wheel would turn gradually faster the closer we got to Earth, incrementally shifting over our ten-day journey to adjust our bodies from Mars’ gravity to the stronger pull of Earth’s.
Theoretically, anyway. In practice, it had never worked so well for me. I just hoped I wouldn’t trip coming off the ship this time like I did last annum.
As the deck rotated, the bright blue orb of Earth came into view. I stared at it anxiously. We’d be landing in just over a week, and then we’d have to face GSAF. Sour bile rose in my mouth at the thought of it, and I struggled to swallow it down. It wasn’t just Nadin I was worried about, though her case was going to be difficult enough. It was Henry. This truce we had with GSAF, it felt so uneasy. Wyatt’s mom had extended the olive branch, but she wasn’t here now. I didn’t trust them anymore. I didn’t trust that we wouldn’t land on Earth only for him to be shot on sight by some sniper. The fear was like a living thing, stalking me constantly, gnawing at my thoughts during every quiet minute.
I placed my hand on the glass, tracing the outline of the blue planet with my fingertips.
My heart jumped at the sound of his voice, but I trained my face into a neutral expression before turning to face him. “Hey,” I said as Henry came to stand beside me at the glass. “What’s up?”
“Not much,” he replied, avoiding my eyes and looking out the window instead. The glass reflected starlight off his face. “Can’t sleep. It always feels like night here, my body doesn’t know when it should be coming and when it should be going.”
I smiled artificially. “Tell me about it.”
He stood there a moment, silent and contemplative. Then he asked, “What are you thinking about?”
I quirked an eyebrow. It was a very Henry thing to say, but I hadn’t seen this Henry in weeks. My Henry. He’d gone back to being the old Henry, the one who didn’t say anything of consequence to me. The one who kept secrets, held me at arm’s length.
I exhaled and looked back out the window. “I was thinking about how the last time I made this trip, you weren’t speaking to me.” I watched him out of the corner of my eye, watched the way his face fell as my words washed over him. It made me feel guilty. I shouldn’t have said that. I wasn’t handling this well at all. None of this was Henry’s fault. He’d been right to call things off, I knew that. But it didn’t make it hurt any less.
I shook my head, interrupting him. “It’s okay. I know. I didn’t mean…” I trailed off, shrugging. “I’m sorry.”
He sighed. “Not as much as I am.”
I rested my hand on the glass again, looking at Earth, trying to choke down my emotions. He placed his own hand next to mine, close enough to touch. Just a hair’s breadth apart.
I inhaled shakily, his proximity making me feel like I was spinning out of control. “When’s the last time you went to Earth?” I asked, trying desperately to change the subject.
“When I was fourteen,” Henry said, the corners of his mouth turned up wistfully. “We went to visit my grandma in Delhi, my mom’s mom.”
He didn’t need to specify—I knew about his father’s parents already. He’d told me how they died, long before Henry had been born. It ate away at him, after his mom had told him. It seemed like his whole family had been plagued by an unending spiral of violence.
I smiled encouragingly. “That sounds nice,” I said.
“It was a cesspool.”
My jaw dropped. “Wow,” I said, trying to suppress a laugh. “Don’t hold anything back now.”
He grinned, and then I did laugh. “You know me,” he said. “I never hold anything back.”
I did know him. That was entirely the problem.
The laughter trailed into silence, and then we stood there, awkwardly, avoiding each other’s gazes while the cosmos wheeled around us.
I couldn’t take it any longer. Hesitantly, in a quavering voice, I murmured, “I’m not sure which is worse. Knowing or not knowing. Believing you hated me, or knowing that you don’t. I understand everything, I agree with everything, don’t get me wrong. It’s just…” A hot tear slid down my cheek, and I wiped it furiously away. Henry watched me quietly, his own eyes bright. “It’s just that it’s so torquing impossible to explain to myself that I can’t have you anymore.”
He moved away from the glass, gently pulling me against him, his arms tight around me. I curled my fingers around the fabric of his t-shirt, nestling my face against his chest. Familiarity overwhelmed me, a powerful sense of rightness and yearning and grief that things couldn’t just go back to being this way, the way they should be. He buried his face in my shoulder, his lips against my skin, whispering something into the base of my neck that sent a shiver up my spine and made my insides ache.
Then he was gone, and I stood alone at the window, trillions of sparkling stars watching me stare out at nothingness.
“I love you,” I said to the empty air. But it didn’t matter. He already knew. We both did.