Long Distance Call

Swirling pixels in Ian’s periphery indicated an incoming call. He begrudgingly answered, letting the feed overlay his vision with minimal opacity. He didn’t want to lose a finger. “Hello, Jenna,” he said, knowing how much she hated it. Sure enough, she frowned. The expression fit her wrinkles precisely.

“That’s no way to address your mother.” He mouthed the words as she spoke them, having been through this same dance a thousand times before. She suddenly scrunched her nose and began tearing up. “Oh, gracious, are you chopping onions?”

“You can see that I am. What do you want?” He placed his palm over the knife’s spine and rocked it back and forth over the onion slices, dicing them into small pieces.

“Must it always be like this with you?”

Ian’s cheeks instantly burned. “Like what?” He didn’t mask his annoyance.

“You’re so distant.”

“Distant?!” That was the wrong word to use, lady. “I’m distant?” Ian slid the onion pieces aside and started smashing fresh garlic cloves beneath the flat side of the blade, striking with the heel of his palm. “You left the goddamned planet, Jenna.”

“Can’t we have an adult conversation for a change?”

“No, because the last time you saw me in person I was six—”

“Ian—”

“—so I get to act like I’m six—”

“Ian—”

“—and you have to deal with it—”

Ian!”

What?!”

“Your hand.”

There was blood all over the counter. He must have caught his hand on the knife’s edge. The garlic was all pounded into mush. Ian set the knife down and ran his hand under the tap. “I hope you’re satisfied. I’m kinda busy now, Jenna, let’s chat later.”

“Ian, I have something to tell you.”

“Seriously? Look at all this blood. What’s so important—”

“They’re shutting down the project.” For a moment there was only the sound of running water. Ian couldn’t quite wrap his head around what she was saying. She must have sensed it, because she spelled it out for him. “I’m coming home.”

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