Morning Coffee

All she wanted was to sit in the sun and drink a cup of coffee in the morning. As it happened, she missed the first morning already, but due to the celestial mechanics of this funny little world there would be a second. It happened every 11 days here; the sun rose, then backtracked and set in the east, then rose a second time. Their whole calendar was written around this phenomenon, and it featured prominently in the local culture. It was in the eleven-part structure of their music. It was in their work schedules and in the pattern of their holidays, in the idioms they used, in their superstitions and in their poetry—my God, the poetry. T’risys had the only economy in the galaxy whose primary export was poetry.

Tereza didn’t care about poetry. She just wanted her morning coffee. But as the huge red balloon of a sun floated ever closer to the zenith it looked more and more unlikely. With the way things were going, she couldn’t even get a poem if that’s what she were after.

Maybe it was her clothes. She was in her civvies; comfortable, but nearly alien compared to the local garb. And her haircut clearly gave her away as military—far too symmetrical to be fashionable here. Maybe it was her skin, or her eyes. The colors of both on T’risys were varied and magnificent, while hers were au naturel. The proximity to the space port meant the locals would all be well familiar with shore leave—in most places the local businesses catered to it. But not here.

The proprietors of the little restaurants and roasteries shut their doors when they saw her coming, or simply stood blocking the entrances, arms folded and scowling. That remained a universal posture. She was not welcome.

A bright star raced toward the western horizon. It was the Rally Cry reflecting the light of the second-morning sun. Tereza was tied to it with invisible tethers, and as it fell along T’risys’ gentle curve it tugged at her heartstrings. The dreadnaught would never feel like home, but at least she felt like she belonged there, and that counted for something.

“There you are.”

She turned to find Angel—of all people—approaching down the quiet street. He was smiling. He never smiled. He held a thermos in each hand and extended one to her. “Coffee,” he said, and asked, “First time on T’risys?”

She nodded, not sure what to say, but appreciative.

“Go ahead,” he said, “take it. I’ve never seen you skip morning coffee.”

This was an unexpected turn, but a welcome one. She took the thermos, opened the lid, and inhaled deeply. She closed her eyes, and for a moment, Tereza was home.

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