There was a flash of cold as Louise pierced the drug bulb on the port behind her ear and fluid rushed into the depot set in the bone. She held it there, waiting for the familiar sensation of thousands of tiny feet, marching into her brain’s circulation.
She was beginning to doubt it was a psychological side effect, frankly.
When it was done infusing, she deposited the bulb in the trash and took her two morning Cogs. As she was tidying the kitchen—there was her grabby tool after all!—her Minder said, “Louise, your mail is here.”
She shuffled the ten steps across her studio apartment to the door, promising herself that she’d take some of her pain meds today because the walking yesterday had upset her knees and hips. She reached it just as the chime sounded and opened the door with a big smile for Aisha.
Aisha, in her uniform, smiled back, her dark face wrinkling up at the corners of her eyes. “Hey, there, Louise, how’s it going?” she said, handing over envelopes. Though there was a brief hesitation, a second glance at Louise’s face.
“Pretty damn good,” Louise said, and she saw Aisha actually startle. She added, “How’s your boy? Shouldn’t he be getting close to discharge at this point?”
Aisha smiled, almost nervously, handing over several envelopes. “He’s… fine. Yes, his hitch is almost up, though he’s thinking about re-upping and going to officer’s school.”
“I know he’s probably feeling pretty comfortable in the Army right now,” Louise said, “but has he thought about switching services? I read the Air Force has better corporate backers right now, and a better diversity training program. He might get more respect there.”
Aisha looked almost wild-eyed. “Oh, really?” she said. “I’ll let him know. Uh. Louise? Don’t take this the wrong way but… there’s something really… different about you today.”
Louise grinned. “Yeah. New medication. Kind of miraculous, isn’t it?”
Aisha’s eyes widened. “They’ve got something that can do… that much?”
“Some of us are luckier than others with it,” Louise said. “And there are side effects. But yeah.”
Aisha said, fist on her hip, “Well, isn’t science amazing?”
Louise winked. “I’ve always thought so. See you next week?”
“With luck,” Aisha said, her smile returned as she moved on down the hall.
Louise shut the door and muttered, “Here’s to luck, Aisha.” She looked down at the envelopes. Ads, bills, and a note from her niece Tanisa.
She sat down at her kitchen table and opened the letter. It was brief and cheery, providing a very simple outline of recent family happenings. After staring at it for a moment, she went to the correspondence drawer of her desk, where for decades she’d filed her correspondence. She had, in fact, continued to keep it when almost her only correspondent was Tanisa.
Louise spent the next couple of hours, reading through all the letters from Tanisa chronologically. She watched Tanisa’s letter style slowly boiling down to the upbeat litany that sat on her kitchen table, and was still able to read between the lines to see her niece’s troubled marriage and the way it was adversely affecting the kids at home and at school. The children were teenagers now, the husband always away, and Tanisa was trying desperately to find something she could do jobwise that would let her leave her husband, keep the kids, and live somewhere decent. She could see a few places where Tanisa had tentatively asked her for advice, but that Louise hadn’t been able to pick up on, and she could clearly see where Tanisa had given her up.
Louise spent the last hour of her reading with tears of guilt and anger and frustration running down her face, more frustrated that she couldn’t swear or rant at herself because of the Minder’s careful monitoring.
She filed all the letters away again as they were, sat down at her kitchen table, and wrote a letter to Tanisa—longhand, as she had always done since her niece was a child. Her handwriting had gotten more unsteady with the slight palsy she’d developed, but she thought it was still legible and recognizably her own. The letter was ten pages long when she finally signed it, and, thinking of Aisha’s face earlier, added a postscript to explain the new medication. She folded and sealed it in one of her many pre-addressed, pre-stamped envelopes and dropped it into her mail chute.