You’re Cordially Invited to Crossroads Station — Chapter 22

by Mary E. Lowd

An excerpt from You’re Cordially Invited to Crossroads Station. If you’d prefer, you can start with Chapter 1 or return to the previous chapter.

“Mei held her paws wide, like she was trying to encompass all the greenery of an entire planet with them.”

The last two days on Crossroads Station passed in a tired blur of playgrounds, take-out food cart meals, and playing with cousins.  Basically, repetition and revisiting of all the kids’ favorite parts of the trip, because the parents had worn themselves out and didn’t have energy for any more big events.

While everyone in Anno’s little family had loved the trip, it had also been exhausting — even for the children who usually had boundless energy — and by the final morning, they were all ready to be on their way home.

Kya met up with Anno’s family in the docking quarter, right outside the berth for the freighter they’d be taking home.  Her triangular ears stood at half mast, and she clutched her one bag close to her chest, while glancing around nervously.  Her long tail twitched behind her.

“Only one bag?” Anno asked.  She pulled her own bag up next to Kya so they could stand together while waiting for the berth to open.  The kits ditched their bags at Drathur’s feet and then ran exuberant circles around the group of them.

“You only have one bag,” Kya pointed out.  “Each of you only has one bag.”

“We were only on a vacation,” Anno said.  “You’re…”  She trailed off, worried that they hadn’t understood each other, that all the messages they’d exchanged in the last two days had been communicating at cross-purposes.  Did Kya think this was only a vacation?  Had she even told the rest of their extended family — or more importantly, their mother — that she was leaving?

“I’m what?” Kya asked.  “Moving away from home for the first time?”

“Well… yeah,” Anno agreed.  “At least, I thought that’s what’s happening?”

Kya shrugged.  “I pack light.  Besides, I can synthesize anything I really need when we get there.  And I didn’t really want Ma to notice I was packing…  I’d rather send a message telling her I’m gone once the freighter leaves than argue about it while she still thinks she can change my mind.”  Kya’s ears flattened completely.  “This is kinda scary.  I really want to come with you to New Heffe, but I don’t know what to expect.  I don’t know what it’ll be like off of Crossroads Station.”

“You’ve never been away from Crossroads Station?” Drathur asked, joining the sisters’ conversation.

“Never farther than New Jupiter,” Kya agreed.

Darsy ran up to Kya, jumped up and down in front of her, and said, “I can tell you what to expect!”

“Greeeeeeeen,” Mei added, also abandoning the circles the kits had been running to replace them with jumping in front of Kya.  “Everything, everywhere is green.  So much green.  Way more than that arboretum.  You have no idea how much green!”  Mei held her paws wide, like she was trying to encompass all the greenery of an entire planet with them.

“Except for the sky and the lake and the river,” Loi haughtily contradicted her sister.  “Those are bluuuuuuue.”

Somewhere in the commotion of the kits surrounding her with their exuberance and jumping, Kya’s ears had straightened up again, and her whiskers had lifted in a smile.  “Blue and green, huh?  What else?” she asked.

Anno sighed with deep contentment, listening to her children tell her sister about the home they were all going to.  She’d be glad to get home, but she’d enjoyed this trip so much…  She thought, maybe, they’d come back again in a year or two.

If she kept exchanging messages with Lut, maybe he’d forgive her for disappearing for so many years, and next time they could meet up.  Her kits could meet his hatchlings.  Maybe if she started sending messages to Jurnan, she could reestablish the close connection they’d once had, when he’d been a little guy with a long neck.

Maybe Darsy, Mei, and Loi could meet Am-lei and Jeko’s hypothetical caterpillar daughter once she actually existed.

It had been worth overcoming her fears and coming back home.  Because at some level, Crossroads Station would always be her home, even if New Heffe was her home now too.

“New Heffe sounds really beautiful,” Kya said to the kits, who were still eagerly telling her about all their favorite and most secret places on their homeworld.

“It is!” Loi agreed.  But after a moment’s thought the child added, “But even so, I’m gonna live here some day!”

“On Crossroads Station?” Anno asked, surprised that her kit who’d been too afraid to tour the space around the station wanted to live inside it all the time.

“Yeah!” Loi agreed.  “There are so many fun playgrounds and food carts here!  With treats!  In fact, maybe we should all move here right now!”

Anno laughed.  Kids were so ridiculous and inconsistent, but she loved her children, in spite of — or maybe partly because of — all their complexity and flaws.  “I don’t know about that,” Anno said, “but maybe sometime, we can come back to visit.”

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