Chapter 07.2

20:45 – Brandon was fixing himself a breakfast sandwich when Valerie strolled into the galley. There was a strange Cheshire-cat grin on her face and she had both hands hidden behind her back. “What are you up to?” he questioned, suspiciously. Just then, Carl, Jackie, Tom, and Sally all filed in behind her. Brandon and Valerie had just come on duty, Carl and Jackie were getting off, and Tom and Sally should have been on their way to the two staterooms. The five of them all began singing an off-key chorus of Happy Birthday. At the end of the song Valerie revealed what she had been concealing behind her back. It was a vacuum-sealed gift-wrapped box, about the size of a pack of dental floss. “What the heck is this?” Brandon queried. “And where did it come from?”

Valerie handed it over to him, saying, “I’ve been keeping this safe for you. It was slipped to me by Captain Clark and I can only guess where he got it.” Everyone laughed. “Go ahead and open it.” Brandon tore open the plastic pouch and suddenly had the strangest sensation that his wife, Emma, had just entered the room.

A bit disoriented by this, he glanced around, but naturally she was not there. How could she be? They were at least 20 million miles away from Earth. He tugged the end of the crushed ribbon to untie the package. It fell away easily. Then, Brandon folded back the wrapping paper; it wasn’t even taped. Finally, the box top lifted off to reveal a sheet of rose-colored stationery, folded to nestle in the box. As he removed it, Emma was again beside him. He tentatively raised the paper to his nose, inhaling the scent. ‘Aha! Obsession… I think.’ Brandon continued to unfold the paper and the fragrance became even stronger as he read the note silently.

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