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 The Only Thing That Counts

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Anthony van
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PostSubject: The Only Thing That Counts   Tue Oct 31, 2017 4:27 pm

Chapter 29- Commitment

            That evening Jodie was already sitting at a row of tables that had been suitably decorated and set. She was chatting socially with Penny and Jenny Abrams, one of the engineers when Steve approached the glassed entry way with Jimmy. She watched as Kelly ran up and started to talk to Steve and Jimmy. Jimmy excused himself, and Kelly and Steve got involved in a friendly, quiet talk. Then all of a sudden they hugged. Jodie closed her eyes and fought the clinging tendrils of jealousy that constricted her.

            She lectured herself on true virtue. If she was truly obedient in her faith then she would have to deal graciously with this. It occurred to her that this was how Steve had felt when Angela had declared her love for Jeff and his world had collapsed. She regretted her teasing and cajoling for him to pull himself together. ‘A bit of empathy engenders understanding’, she reflected, and then wondered if she should take a job writing calendar comments. Steve and Kelly joined them at the table and were in a jovial mood.

            It was clear almost everyone was in high spirits. The whole evening was full of heroic stories. Exploits of bravery were commended. Sometimes growing larger than life, sometimes being rebuffed by claims from the embarrassed recipient of the praise, that anyone would do the same, or that it was a combined team effort.

            After they had finished a magnificent main course of baked fish and roast vegetables, Steve asked Jimmy what he had planned to do in his raid on the lock up that precipitated the mad events of the previous forty eight hours.

“Well I figured I could get the keys and just release Kelly.”

“So what happened?” asked Doc Rose.

“I hadn’t planned on Klein and Shelley turning up just after I did.”

“What were you going to do if you had succeeded?” laughed Steve.

“I dunno, I thought maybe I could hide her, or something.”

“What about me?” protested General Roberts with affected offence.

Everyone burst out with hysterical laughter, especially when Jimmy started to blush.

            Even Jodie, who had been subdued for most of the time couldn’t refrain from joining in with a chuckle. Things settled down a little as the meal proceeded. The twenty nine inhabitants, including those few who previously might have been considered allies of the colonel, ate dessert retelling stories and socialising. Steve looked across at Jodie.

“Are you okay?”

Jodie nodded a little too enthusiastically, not wanting anyone to be aware of her brooding. “I’m fine, just a bit tired. I didn’t get much rest today.”

“You know she resuscitated you,” interrupted Jimmy, a mischievous gleam in his eye.

            Steve looked at her as the realisation dawned on him. What had the General said? ‘You were gone.’

“I didn’t know, I never thanked you,” began Steve and then stammered uncertainly, “I really appreciate...”

“Kelly and I worked together,” Jodie cut in.

It was then that Steve heard from Kelly how that Jodie had given him mouth to mouth until he had started breathing on his own, while Kelly had monitored his pulse.

Jodie fidgeted uncomfortably with her empty bowl as Steve stared at her. He was coming to terms with the fact that their lips had met for the first time but he had been unconscious.

            General Guy Roberts relieved the moment of quiet apprehension by standing up and tinkling his glass.

“I have a few announcements to make. First let us toast the efforts of Steven James for his quick-witted actions in diverting a disaster.” Everyone responded. Then he went on, “I’d like to offer a toast for Jimmy Schwartz, whose impetuous actions probably instigated events in our favour by catching everyone off guard.” Again everyone responded. The General then went through each of the members there. Toasting the two girls’ resuscitation efforts, Sean and Phil for their strong arm support and the Doc and Penny. He included everyone and stated some particular role each had played even if it had to do with hearing the emergency on the radio and reporting it, or just keeping the station going. This had the effect of uniting the group and warming the atmosphere of conviviality.

            Following the last cheers, the general announced, “I have some good news and some bad news. Just three hours ago we managed to contact Operations on Earth. After explaining, with some difficulty I might add, what has happened up here, we have managed to put together a plan of action. It involves them sending Transit 2 to come and collect us.” He went on. “As you can imagine there is a strong desire to keep the threats posed by this whole episode er... fairly quiet.” He grinned. “The official version will involve explaining the purpose of setting up the base as a sustainable community eventually to be opened for international scientific research.”

There was a round of applause before he continued.

“The bad news is that Transit 2 won’t be ready for launch for at least two months, so we will really be testing how sustainable our lunar station is.” That caused an undercurrent of murmurs which curtailed with some banter when Guy Roberts quipped, “Just think of it as that lunar holiday that everyone will want to do in a few years’ time.”

            As things wound down to general mealtime socialisation Steve leaned across and spoke softly to Jodie. “Would you have a meal with me tomorrow night?”

The invitation caught Jodie totally unprepared. She looked across at Kelly who was insisting, jokingly to Rob Rose that ‘of course she would look after her broken fingers. When had she ever taken any risks?’

Was Kelly the reason they were meeting, Jodie thought. Was it to tell her the news that he and Kelly were in love? That any hope she had held out for Steve and she, had ended.

She nodded, “Sure... what time?”

“About six... I’ll pick you up,” he grinned; after all her room was next door.

“No need,” she smiled with some effort.

“I insist,” Steve finished, pleasantly warmed at seeing a smile lighten her face.

                                    -----------------------------------------

 

            The next day went by with a number of them organising supplies into a ration schedule. Jodie spent most of her time working in the plant sections with Jimmy. Steve worked with the General for a short time calculating oxygen use, possible regeneration and the extent chemical absorption of carbon dioxide would prolong their supply. Steve decided that if they used the oxygen gained from electrolysis, instead of using it for power generation, they would be able to last the expected two months. This was possible because of the small nuclear power plant. Later he was given a few minutes to email Caz and John via the mission command communication centre. Then he was timetabled to do some weight exercises to hold off muscle loss. His arm wasn’t up to it but he gave his legs a real workout.

            They had all seen each other at breakfast and lunch. These encounters were just passing as their breaks only marginally overlapped and Jodie was preoccupied with what she would say to the Brandons at home, when her turn came to email on one of the computers. And if they replied, what would she say to her sister Jamie if she asked about Steve? It had been a topic that Jamie had teased Jodie about for years. It had begun with a careless remark about what the attraction was at the nursery. When Jodie’s response was hedged with caution, Jamie twigged and thereafter teased her mercilessly.

“Hi, how’s it going?” Steve asked as Jodie passed on the way out and he was coming in to lunch. She gave him a polite smile.

“You wouldn’t believe how those plants are coming on.”

“Going well?”

“I estimate about a centimetre growth since we saw them last.”

“Wow!”

“Yeah, hey, see you tonight. I’m going to do my emails now. Bye”

Steve raised his hand to wave but she had gone already.

 

            Steve saw Kelly later that day and she said that her dad had brought a Bible onto the base. Would Steve show her some parts to read that would help her? Well of course he would. So at about five Steve spent some time in the General’s office with Kelly. He showed her the Gospel of John and the book of Ephesians. The General came in and showed a keen interest in his daughter’s new found faith, talking about his own traditional church upbringing and saying he was keen to talk some more. He then talked about his plans for planting out the vacant soil boxes.

They also spent some time in the communications room where Steve had a chance to talk to Sergeant McGuiness. He filled him in on all the hype surrounding Malcolm’s return and the importance of his information; since the thugs they had caught knew nothing of the secret base or the plot. It was Malcolm’s story that had diplomatic channels between the two countries running hot.

Before he realised it Steve was late. He asked Kelly to let Jodie know that he would be late and pass on his apologies.

            When Kelly arrived at their room Jodie was almost ready, wearing a clean edition of the standard clothing.

Kelly greeted her with, “Hi, Steve wanted you to know that he’ll be a little late.”

“Oh?” Jodie looked up inquisitively.

“Yeah, we got to talking in Dad’s office and then Dad got involved and we lost track of time.”

The message that they had been together and the fact that Kelly had let on she had been talking with Steve and time had got away, made Jodie more miserable than ever. She wasn’t sure why she was even humouring Steve in such a formal way.

            It was almost eight on their ‘Earth like timescale’, when Steve picked up Jodie. He was apologetic, and she was quiet and distant. Steve apologised again, fearing he had not gained her forgiveness and he wanted this night to be happy. He made small talk about their amazing situation and the unbelievable experiences they had shared. Jodie’s responses were muted.

            On arriving at the dining area, Steve walked Jodie over to a table near the outer dome. It had views of the rugged lunar landscape set against the blackness of space. The lateness of their arrival meant that only a few of the small settlement population were there. The kitchen staff seemed delighted to be able to serve them and honour them in some way for their daring deeds. An army chef who was also responsible for supplies and a female astrophysicist who was the rostered waiter, hovered efficiently until they were completely satisfied that the two had everything they needed. They then left them in quiet seclusion with mutual knowing smirks.

            They had a light meal of fish and salad and spoke hesitantly of the incredible experiences of the last few days. They glanced at each other several times and each seemed to misread the other’s responses. Jodie, thinking he was trying to get the nerve to let her down easily and affirm his love for Kelly, thought she’d try and make it easier for him.

“Look Steve, I plan to go overseas when we get back, so you probably need to think of getting some new staff for the nursery.” She averted her eyes to the waitress who was bringing their coffees.

“Thanks,” she murmured.

“Thank you. Steve added, then looking at Jodie, “I’d hoped you’d stay.” Why did she want to go he thought miserably? A hollow ache was developing in his chest.

“I need to get away ... because of everything... we’ve been in each other’s pockets.”

What was she talking about? Steve’s mind raced, they had known each other for so long and yet in many ways they didn’t know each other at all.

“We’re friends, friends are close,” was his abstract reply.

“I wish you wouldn’t keep saying that.”

            He considered his stumbling, fumbling history with girls. He needed to confront his fear of rejection. For once he had to go with his heart and stifle his urge to logically map out a process. He looked across at Jodie taking in her loveliness. Taking her hand Steve took the plunge. He dropped to one knee and gathering his courage blurted shakily,

“Will you marry me?”

            She looked unsure and surprised at the same time. Her large blue eyes glistened, before she dropped her gaze and spoke tremulously, “What about Kelly?”

“Kelly?” he looked confused.

“I just thought...” she tapered off not sure what to say next. She started off on a different tack, “Steve, you’ve hardly ever spoken to me about us. We’ve never been out on a date...”

Steve’s spirits spiralled down as he recalled all the opportunities to express his affection that he had missed. His eyes misted. He wanted to apologise, to explain his fears, but he was speechless.

            Jodie looked at him in disbelief. Had they both been so ineffectual in communicating their feelings? She stared at his sandy hair and blue eyes gazing up at her, aware that her unrequited affections for as long as she could remember were no longer unanswered. Steve misconstrued the lengthy pause as an awkward rebuttal and dropped his eyes, a clamp of desolation squeezing his chest.

            Jodie touched his cheek and then lifted his chin.

“Yes...” Jodie whispered. Steve heard it but it didn’t quite register.

“What?” he asked, searching her face. She leaned forward, close, and as her lips drew near to his he heard it again.

“Yes...” Their lips met in a tender, lingering kiss.

They parted briefly and Steve took in Jodie’s tear filled, beaming face. They both stood and walked toward the window.

“Jodie I ...” but he was cut off as he tried to put into words an expression of his feelings for her. Jodie’s hand had cupped behind Steve’s head and drew him down into a crushing kiss.

            When eventually the kiss ended Jodie’s eyes twinkled, a small dimple appeared on her cheek.

“Steven James, don’t think you haven’t got a whole lot of courting to do before we’re married.”

Steve smiled and held out his hand. She took it and smiled back at him looking up at him lovingly.

He looked backed at her and, considering their unusual circumstances, everything seemed so right. He spoke softly, “Let’s go to the Observatory Dome. I hope there’s a full Earth tonight.”        
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