Home > Space (Laws of Physics #2)(7)

Space (Laws of Physics #2)(7)
Author: Penny Reid

Poe paused, his hand on the door frame, and then turned. His expression was free of everything but mild curiosity.

“How about Hawaii for spring break?” I asked, the question sounding awkward and amiss to my ears. And my heart.

His eyes narrowed. “You’re in Europe all next semester.”


“You’re going to fly back from Europe? All the way to Hawaii, just for spring break?”

I hesitated, because he had a point. I hadn’t considered whether going to Hawaii for a week would even be possible, given my commitments in Geneva. Poe’s gaze moved over my face, like he was searching for something, a sign, a tell. I held my breath, clearing my features of expression.

Eventually, he bestowed upon me one of his small, patient smiles. “Okay, Mona. Whatever you say. See you in a week.”

“See you in a week,” I croaked, managing a smile for him in return, even though I felt embarrassed by my clumsy, sudden, and logistically unsound suggestion. Embarrassed and wrong and sad and anxious.

Giving me a slight nod, Poe turned and left. Reaching my hand in my pocket, I gripped the envelope, squeezing it, and breathed out, or at least I tried to. The ache in my chest had returned full force. Yes, I needed to move on. Yes, I’d been behaving irrationally for over two years, holding on to the possibility of an impossibility. But no, I shouldn’t use Poe to move on.

I felt like an ass.

Meanwhile, Allyn squealed in my ear, “Yay! Hawaii with Poe! Of course, I’ll find a reason not to go so you two can—”

“Calm down, Allyn. It’s probably not going to happen.” Releasing the letter, I lifted my fingers and rubbed my sternum, so ready for this vacation. So ready for quiet and calm and peace.

So ready for less motion.


Electric Current, Resistance, and Ohm's Law


My parents’ McMansion was built into the side of a mountain. Reaching the property during winter required the traveler to have a certain degree of flexible ambivalence for their own safety. I’d explained the situation to Allyn months ago, perhaps even exaggerating the danger, just to be sure she was fully informed prior to giving her consent. She’d readily agreed.

As soon as my plane touched down, I powered up my cell to message Allyn. The screen told me that my brother had called and left a voicemail while I’d been airborne. Making a mental note to check his message later, I sent Allyn a text, letting her know I’d finally arrived.

The plane had been delayed leaving LAX by an hour and a half, therefore our flights arrived within a half hour of each other instead of mine landing first. After grabbing my carry-ons, darting off the plane and through the gate area to baggage claim, I discovered Melvin—one half of the caretaker team for the Aspen property—had already found Allyn and her bags.

As soon as she spotted me, Allyn—as usual—didn’t say hi. She began talking as though we were in the middle of a conversation. “I was hoping to get a good view of the mountains as we touched down, but it was too cloudy and dark. I didn’t get to see anything.”

Pulling me into an embrace once I was within arm’s reach, she didn’t seem to notice how I tensed. Allyn never did notice my reticence about being touched, but that was fine. I’d been working on my “touching issues” for a while now and I appreciated her ignorance of my struggles. I didn’t want anyone walking on eggshells or making it into their problem.

“You couldn’t see the mountains because of the snow,” Melvin said, stepping forward to reach for my bag. “This is it? Did you check anything?”

I shook my head, lifting my shoulder to indicate that I’d be fine carrying my backpack. “Just the two carry-ons.”

“Good. Let’s go.” He turned and began power-walking to the exit.

It took me a second to react to his swift departure. I’d expected to hear all the local news, as Melvin was typically the chatty sort. He and his daughter Lila were Aspen natives. He seemed to think of the place as a small hamlet rather than the opulent resort town it had become. The last time I’d visited—just two months ago—he’d told me all about the latest issues with sanitation management and how the mayor’s son had been escorted out of Big Ben’s Bear Shack after dancing on the bar.

But instead of chatting, Melvin—now ten feet away—twisted his head to see if we were following, and then waved us forward urgently. Following his lead, we were wordlessly and hurriedly ushered out of the airport and into the waiting car.

Once we were packed in, on the road and on our way, I lowered the glass separating Allyn and I from Melvin.

“Can we stop at the store?” I’d been assured via email by Lila—Melvin’s daughter, the other half of the caretaker team all year round, and the chef when my parents were present—that the house had been appropriately stocked for our arrival. Even so, I’d wanted to make a stop in downtown Aspen to pick up a few supplies.

Melvin clicked his tongue, not sparing me a glance in the rearview mirror. “We can, but the forecast has another two feet by midnight. If we stop now, there’s no guarantee we’ll be able to access 82 at all, or reach the house for the next several days. It’s a good thing you girls arrived when you did. Lila’s been fretting all week. If your plane had been further delayed, you might’ve been staying the week at one of the lodges instead.”

“Does that mean we won’t be able to leave once we get there?” Allyn addressed this question equally to both me and Melvin.

“Forecast has snow slowing by week’s end, and they plow on Fridays. You should be fine to fly out, assuming the forecast is on target.”

“But we can’t leave for the whole week?” She didn’t sound upset or worried, merely curious.

“That’s right. Once we get there, you two will be stuck for the week with the rest of us. But don’t worry, we do this all the time, it’s not unusual. And Lila has a menu planned. We’ll do our best to make it bearable for you.”

By ‘rest of us’ I assumed he meant Lila, me, and himself, but I was surprised that Lila was planning to cook.

“I told Lila she doesn’t need to cook,” I reminded him, leaning forward in my seat. When it was just me, I made sure she never felt pressured to make anything.

“Mona, don’t you make a big deal out of it.” Now Melvin did spare me a glance in the mirror, narrowing his eyes. “Just let her be. She likes cooking when there’s company. She is a pro chef, after all. And if she’s not making her fancy dishes, her talents just go to waste. Think of it that way.”

I didn’t argue, but I still wasn’t convinced. I didn’t like to inconvenience people. I could take care of myself.

After driving through downtown Aspen, we took several precarious off-shoots from State Road 82. I tried not to look out the window, but Allyn seemed fascinated by the near whiteout conditions. At one point, Melvin must’ve been going five miles per hour, it was fully dark by the time we arrived. Even so, I barely noticed the length of the car ride. Allyn had talked non-stop, her pretty, melodic voice filling the car with stories about her difficult last semester, all of which seemed hilarious to her in retrospect.

The three parking garages near the base of the peak served only as a pitstop and storage. A funicular, which was just as fancy as it was functional, had been installed well before my parents purchased the Mountain McMansion. It was the only way to actually access the main house October through April, give or take a month depending on the snowfall.

Melvin pulled as close to the funicular structure as he could, knocking on the back door of the Jeep before opening it for Allyn. “Okay, ladies. Time to get out. You go up first while I clear a path to the garage, must be two feet of snow up here since I left this morning. I’ll come after with your bags and the supplies I picked up on my way to the airport. Hurry, it’s cold.”

White flakes of frost swirled around him, but nothing much else was visible. Happy to do as we were told, my friend and I gathered our backpacks and left the warmth of the SUV. Melvin had been right. The snow came up to my knee, my boots disappearing into two or more decimeters of fresh powder.

Glancing back, I smiled at Allyn’s huge grin and laugh, her eyes on where her feet should be. “Follow me,” I said. “The funicular is just through here.”

“Funicular is a fun word to say.” She held her hands out to keep her balance. “It sounds like fun and particular had a word baby.”

“Well, this funicular is particular, but I don’t know how fun it is.”

“Everything can be fun. You just have to want it to be fun,” she said, the combination of her bright eyes and wide smile a sunbeam in the cold darkness, laughing as she added, “And, you know, the habit of constantly laughing at yourself.”

That made me laugh, though I wasn’t sure why. When Allyn was around, I always seemed to be laughing. And, in truth, taking the fancy funicular used to be fun. As a kid, it was my favorite part of visiting the mountain house. I would hang out inside, reading books, breathing against the paned window and drawing designs into the puff of condensation with the tip of my finger.

The benches were a gold-ish velvet and there was space for four comfortably, six if absolutely needed. Our ride up the mountain was uneventful despite the snowfall, but I felt a little badly about the inclement weather.

“I was snowed in here twice last year, but only for about three days. After that, it cleared up. We should have some nice views, assuming the snow stops.” I motioned to the darkness beyond the glass. The flakes were so big, they made tapping sounds against the window reminiscent of light rain.

“That’ll be nice. Can we do any hiking? Is it safe?”

“If you want exercise, there’s an indoor pool and gym. But if you really want to go for a walk outside, you can go snowshoeing through the trails.”

“I’ve never gone snowshoeing.”

“It’s just very slow walking, with funny shoes. Though it’ll feel like you’ve covered a hundred miles by the time you finish. There’s a few Jacuzzis for warming up after, and a sauna near the gym as well as one on the top floor.”

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