Long, slim fingers reached out to lift a gold framed picture off of the mantle. The woman ran her shell pink painted nails over the picture, her red lips smiling with a hint of sadness in her hazel eyes. The picture was a few years old, when her eight-year-old daughter had been four.
Little Iris was in the middle, smiling so widely that she was squeezing her sky blue eyes shut. Her blond curls tumbled around her shoulders and she looked like a sweet little angel in her pale pink dress and little white Mary Jane’s. Standing to Iris’s right was her best friend, a little girl of the same age with jet black hair, brown eyes, and a somewhat more serious look, though she was smiling just as brightly, but not as widely. On Iris’s other side was her former nanny, Abigail, a sweet college student with long auburn hair and blue eyes. She remembered Iris had taken to Abigail immediately and was devastated when Abby graduated two years before, had accepted a job in the city, and moved too far away to continue to be her nanny, or even visit her much.
Rose had to admit she missed Abigail, too. Occasionally, Abigail did come to visit, the last time being over two months before, but, no matter how much Rose and Nick loved her, they had asked her to not visit too much. Iris was just a little too attached and was usually inconsolable for hours after Abigail would leave. It was too hard on all of them to have Abigail drop by and not stay long.
“What are you doing?”
She looked up to see her husband coming down the stairs into the living room. As usual, he wore black slacks and a polo shirt, green today. He wore black socks that he, oddly enough, liked to have ironed, and no shoes. They never wore shoes past the entry. His dark blond hair was neatly clipped and combed and his sky blue eyes were bright with the morning. Even though it was six in the morning, Nick already looked fresh, awake, and put together. As a matter of fact, he always appeared put together no matter where he was, even in his sleep. Sometimes, he seemed a little too polished to her, but she loved him. She, on the other hand, was still in her pajamas and a silky peach colored robe with fuzzy white slippers on her feet. Her long blond curls were in disarray and clearly hadn’t been touched by a hairbrush yet. Her face was still unmade, not that there was anything wrong with the way she looked without makeup, but she’d just been putting it on every day for years.
Rose held up the photograph as her husband joined her and gave him a small smile. “Just looking at memories.”
Despite being one of the world’s most brilliant engineers, Nick was putty in her hands. He liked to come off as the man of the house, cool and polite, clean and polished, a little aloof. But, with Rose, he gave in to her every whim and thought her charming. Though just as well-reared and schooled as he was, she’d grown up with parents who had wanted her to have fun, so she brought a carefree breeze into his stuffy life, as he liked to put it. She was his breath of fresh air and he couldn’t live without her.
Now he was now coming around to sit next to her on the cream colored couch where she had just perched herself. He sat close to her, wrapping one arm around her shoulders. He leaned close to her hair for a moment just to smell it as he liked to do.
“What’s this?” he murmured, taking the frame from her hands.
“Remember that picnic a few years ago we couldn’t make and Abigail took Iris instead? Alice’s dad took the picture.”
Nick smiled before putting the picture down on the glass topped coffee table and taking her hands. He squeezed them a little before he began to rub his fingers over her fingertips, playing with her rings periodically as he did so.
“Sweetheart, you have the rest of your life to look at these pictures. We need to finish packing. We have to be ready to be picked up this afternoon to be taken to the starship we’re leaving Earth on. We have done a lot of our packing, but there is still a lot left to pack. There’s no time for these sentiments.”
Rose sighed. “Oh, I know. But we’ve been in this house since Iris was born. There are so many memories. It’s going to be hard to leave.” She looked around at their spacious living room, sadness filling her eyes. “There’s so much we have to leave behind.”
Nick patted her hand. “I know. But at least we get to live. We’re some of the lucky ones.”
She pursed her lips and nodded, her curls falling across her shoulders. “Do you ever feel…bad…that we get to live and most of the world has to die? It’s not fair, Nick.”
“I know. But the human race must survive and only the world leaders and the best and brightest professionals are being saved.”
Rose looked away. “It still doesn’t seem fair. Especially when Alice is upstairs sleeping in Iris’s room and we both know Iris is never going to see her best friend again.”
“I tried, Rose,” he said, his voice low and strained. “I tried to save them, too.”
“I’m not blaming you, Nick.” Rose shrugged and stood in a simple, elegant sweep, her husband’s hands falling away from hers. She moved away and nudged the silky beige curtains aside from the front window, one arm wrapped around her middle. “It’s not your fault. I just wish we could have at least taken Alice with us. It would probably help Iris out more than we could possibly imagine. Poor child. She’s losing everyone she knows.”
Behind her, still seated, Nick clasped his hands together and stuck them between his knees, not sure of what else to do. “What do you want me to do, Rose?”
She shrugged and started walking off towards the kitchen. “Nothing, Nick. I’m going to go start making breakfast. I’m sure the girls will be up soon. Alice’s parents will be by at around ten to pick her up. If the girls aren’t up by seven, wake them will you? That way they’ll have more time together.”
She had vanished into the kitchen by the time those last words had escaped her mouth, the soles of her slippers whispering against the wooden floor. Nick had just barely heard her, but he’d gotten the message. Shaking his head, he stood and made his way back upstairs, his feet sinking into the plush cream carpet on the stairs.