A dystopian future love story
Skye searched the illuminated horizon for the tiny boat, as moonlight shimmered across the lake. Hope said she would be back before nightfall, yet it had been hours since the sun had set, bringing a reprieve from the day’s heat. But any comfort Skye took from that was diminished by this anxious wait. Skye had listened to the bump, splash, and click of oars as Hope had rowed away from shore. Hope had kissed her goodbye. Skye had said nothing. Difficulty in expressing herself would ruin everything, Skye thought. And she was angry with Hope. Why she had insisted on making this dangerous boat trip just to deliver a few scribbled letters, Skye could not understand. But really, she knew why — Hope was an honourable person. Better than Skye, who had scoffed at the very idea when the village leaders had suggested an exchange of letters between villages. It was another Christmas isolated from loved ones, because of roadblocks and patrols, and Hope agreed that a letter exchange would lift everyone’s spirits.
In the years since the resource wars, not only was the internet a casualty of overthrown governments, but most other communications were now out of reach for the general population. Hand-delivered letters were now the communication of choice — unless you were an ‘employee’ of the corporations vying for power throughout the regions that weren’t wastelands yet. As an angry and hungry teen, Skye had prayed for the corp thugs to come and ‘enlist’ her into service. At least she would have guaranteed meals. She had met Hope during those tumultuous years and came to understand the true meaning of friendship and freedom. Now Skye prayed never to be taken and to remain with Hope, living as they wanted. Even if it meant scrounging in the dirt for a few vegetables or hunting for whatever wildlife remained.
Skye’s gaze focused on a point of light appearing on the horizon. She felt a tightness in her chest — it was Hope — she was sure of it. The sound of voices and jingling startled Skye out of her contemplation. She turned to look back at the communal bunker. She saw colourful paper lanterns through the open doorway and listened as the murmur of voices became louder, morphing into laughter. Some villagers were decorating a sickly looking tree they had dragged in. It was eucalyptus, Skye noted, probably from the stand of trees struggling to survive near the dry creek bed on the other side of the village. She watched them for a moment, attempting to place bells and baubles on the poor tree. She thought of the old shed where the decorations had been found. Such a pity it hadn’t been canned goods, Skye had thought at the time. But watching the others now, especially the children, joyful and exuberant despite their circumstances — well, perhaps she had it all wrong. Skye had been so focused on sourcing supplies for the village all these years, she had forgotten that survival was not enough to live a good life.
Skye turned back to the light on the horizon. She could hardly wait for Hope to return. She would share all her fears and dreams now, the way Hope had asked her to do. At the time Skye could not let herself be vulnerable. She would now, though — with the New Year almost upon them — as good a time as any. Maybe Skye opening up would be the sign Hope needed. Proof she could be the partner Hope wanted or said she wanted. Skye still had doubts, as always. This was an old argument. After a few days, Hope would forgive Skye for being an ‘impenetrable fortress’, as she once exclaimed. Then they would go back to the way it was between them — it was comfortable, at least for Skye.
This time felt different somehow. It felt like Hope’s goodbye kiss had been an ultimatum. Hope had waited a moment after that kiss, staring up into Skye’s eyes. She seemed to expect something, but Skye just could not speak. She didn’t know the right words. Watching Hope leave and waiting so long for her return from a perilous journey, Skye had gone through every possible script in her head she could imagine that could have been the right thing to say. It was too late for that now. Once Hope was back, Skye would just have to muddle through — blurt it all out — no matter how foolish.
Despite all her fears, Skye decided she would confess all tonight. She would tell Hope she wanted her, needed her. She would finally admit she loved her. Might as well go for broke — spill her guts and hope for the best. Skye sensed Hope returned these feelings and had thought hers were obvious. Obviously not, considering how Hope had looked at her with uncertainty. As the moon set and stars filled the sky, Skye understood she had to say the words. And she had to hear them from Hope and accept that gift. Loving Hope was never the issue. Skye had to let herself be loved.
© Josie Kirkwood 2020
Previous version published in ‘P.S. I Love You’ on Medium 15 February 2020. This revised version, July 2020.