Astronaut’s Daughter  

(Chapters 1&2 of 10 )

The emerald green of Kelly’s eyes was so intoxicating that it threatened to reduce the rest of her face to an afterthought. Luckily, for the civilized world and beyond, the rest of her measured up to those regal eyes. She was applying Kohl, an inspired sensual eastern version of mascara, a beauty regimen she had siphoned from her Iranian roommate Mehtab, sophomore year, at Stanford. The Kohl delicately danced darkly upon her eyelashes, she stared at the mirror as though ordering it to press the pause button on the CD of her collegiate stroll, and smiled. It had not been an easy ride at the west coast institution, many sunny days but just as many books consumed as a double major in Philosophy and English Literature. She was stubborn, like her father, she was told but she naturally, stubbornly, denied that- knowing fully well she may be lying to herself. Context was something that deeply concerned her since contemplation was now an esoteric extension of herself after swimming in pools of literature. She found herself, since tonight marked the unofficial end of her undergrad journey, looking back in admiration at what lay in her trunk of knowledge; it was plenty. Yet, she hadn’t been able to escape the sense of doom burrowing its way into her soul for days now. On a visible level, there was little in Kelly that was unattractive, in fact, the only thing missing was permanent picket white fence around her personal space wherever she went. There was only one problem: she did not view her life through those glasses. Her glasses were shaded with a sinister and opaque color. Something had to give: either reality or perception would win. The coming week would tell that tale.
Kelly’s escort for the evening was her longtime boyfriend Leo. Theirs was not a love affair- It was a mutually respectful friendship with dabs and dollops of the physical when the body screamed for more. Though the relationship itself wasn’t earth shattering it was significant to her. Slowly, but with a certitude that is uncommon, Leo managed to etch a niche where it mattered most: her soul. Leo was a genuine sort with an infectious smile and a sense of humor about the human experience that made her Stanford years more fun than they had the right to be. On some levels, she suspected, for some time now, that she loved him but couldn’t understand why her walls went up whenever he broached that four letter word. Yet, in spite of his many attempts to get her to commit, Kelly was reticent, at best, about allowing Leo to look within her let alone putting a ring on her finger.

‘Feel like havin a beer with the gang at the Villa?’ The villa was their prototypical hangout on Saturday nights. She could see in his eyes a longing for an extension of the evening but he could immediately sense hesitation in her body language- even before his sentence was finished.
‘As good as that sounds…’ her voice trailed off as she was uncertain about how much she would reveal of her plans. What Leo didn’t know was that his girl was about to begin a long cross country journey, before the heat of the day, to Cape Canaveral, Fl. She wasn’t escaping him per se, though it was an added bonus. She wasn’t declaring war on a relationship but she realized from Leo’s seat it would not be the prettiest picture. Instead, she was seeking answers to questions that she didn’t know how to ask of herself; let alone communicate to him.
‘I am goin’ to have to take rain check this time. I have a long drive ahead of me tomorrow mornin.’ She tried to untangle the logarithm of his face but failed.
‘Oh really?!’ was all he could mutter. His sense was she was letting go of his hand. He wasn’t far from the truth, on some levels. He tried to, quickly, veil his betrayal but to no avail.
‘Where are you heading? A trip up the coast to celebrate graduation? Or the Grand Canyon to gain some perspective?’ he said, half jokingly.

Adjusting both her seat and her skirt an increasingly nervous Kelly said: ‘nothing like that Leo. I just haven’t seen dad in a long time, with his preparation for his mission, so I’m going to take the bull by the horn and head to Florida to see him. Nothing more and nothing less.’ The last phrase had the intended effect of saying ‘hands off’ and with that Leo slouched in his seat defeated. He understood from both the body language and tonality that this wasn’t a discussion about her impending trip but an informational soliloquy where commentary was neither requested nor sought.

‘Sounds exciting’ was all that Leo could muster.

Sensing Leo’s hurt Kelly quickly suggested that they cap off the night with one last dance. She wasn’t sure whether this would be the last dance but she was sure from Leo’s eyes that the question danced within him as he got up to escort  her to the dance floor. As she got up she could swear she saw the moon slyly wink at her from behind a cloud. She thought it a good omen. Funny thing about thoughts; sometimes, they can be wrong.


About Amr Khalifa

An analyst, a political comentator on the uber complex Egyptian and MENA scene. I may not have every answer but I know the questions to ask. When not publishing in Ahram Online, Mada Masr, Daily News Egypt and Muftah I love the dynamic of the short story. If you adore the written word you have come to the right place. Pull up a chair and join me for a cup of literary tea.
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