Matilda woke on a morning six weeks later and realized not only was it her seventeenth birthday, but it was her last day on Saltulle. Her family was headed for a mining colony on Solaris in the Zapata system. She was being sent to a mining colony on Parisium and Bobby was going with her.
After three years, if she worked hard enough, she would be eligible for transfer to officer's training. That program alone took an additional three years and the most she could hope for was Commander on a mining vessel. If she were extremely lucky, eventually she would be given a Captaincy, but she doubted it. In the entire three centuries of its existence, there had been three female captains in the Mining Guild.
She dressed quickly, anxious to spend time with her family. Solaris was a long way from Parisium and she did not foresee any chance for visits. She had Bobby, that would have to suffice.
When she got to the kitchen, there was a flurry of activity. A banner across the doorway said, "Happy Birthday, Tilda!" This time her sisters had enough time to finish it and had liberally decorated it with oblique balloons and slightly psychotic clowns.
Her mother had fixed a special breakfast to which Bobby had been invited. He was sitting, tipped back in his chair, talking to her father. He stood when she walked in. His kiss was carefully platonic, although their relationship had progressed to the next level. Matilda suspected her father knew she and Bobby were lovers, but he said nothing. He liked Bobby, who was steady and reliable. They had talked about marriage, but never formalized it, leaving it nebulous. For some reason, she never felt quite as strongly about their relationship as he did.
"Happy Birthday, Tilda," he said softly, kissing her again.
"Look what we got you!" Her sisters chorused, grabbing her by the hand and dragging her to the table. A small stack of presents were by her plate. The largest was from her parents. It was about 11" x 10" and flat. It contained a holographic photo frame loaded with pictures of her family from her parents' wedding to their last big event, Amie's seventh birthday.
All of them were clustered around Amie at the end of the table as she blew out candles. Behind and to the left was Wil, seen in profile, a sad smile on his full lips. Matilda paused, gazing at the photo, for he had not been looking at Amie, but at her. She lingered over the photo for a moment, then set the frame aside to look at her other presents.
The girls had made her cards and gifts. From Amie, she had a bracelet made of stones and chunks of metal she had found lying around. Amie had no way of knowing that those scraps were worth a small fortune anywhere but Saltulle. Brigette's gift was two fold. First an autograph book all of them had signed. It also contained messages from everyone she had been able to charm in to sighing it, which was virtually everyone in the town. The other half of her gift was a diary.
"That's so you can write down all the exciting things that happen to you," Brigette said proudly.
"Thanks, girls," she hugged each of them. "This is the best birthday ever."
Bobby smiled secretively. "I'll give you mine later after we get on board the ship."
Surprised and curious, she gave him a long, appraising look.