“What was September like, when you lived there?” Aria says, not removing the cucumber from her eyes. Ibex snorts from the lounge chair three feet from her.
“Cold. All the fucking time. Seriously, even though there’s a star just far away enough to support life without incinerating us, the higher ups thought that cold fashion was better so it was always cold. But it still always rained. But it’s not water rain, it’s like gelatin. So it wouldn’t even like, snow on Christmas.”
Aria removes the cucumber now, and eats it. Synthetic, but it almost tastes like real cucumber. Very expensive. She nods. “Christmas?”
“Yeah some old Earth holiday. Maryland was from Kesh, where it was old Earth. But even like, old old Earth. Like the cars are just smaller trains and use fossil fuels and everyone has religion based on some humanoid being called God and it’s his son birthday etcetera. Anyways, Maryland used to get upset because it never snowed on Christmas, even though it was just us celebrating it.”
Aria nods, and then grabs her third mimosa of the day. The robot that’s massaging her feet stops for a moment to produce another one from its chest before placing it on the table next to her. Aria mumbles a quick, “Thank you” to it.
“We had Christmas on Joy Park, too. But it was always called something like Joy Park Presents: the Winter Festivities Of Our Ancestors Past: Christmas and Other Winter Holiday Festivities!”
Ibex nods, and then places his cucumber down at the table, before downing his Bloody Mary in one go.
“They’re synthetic,” Aria says, pointing at the cucumber. “Expensive. Fancy.”
“Have you ever had a real cucumber, Aria? Like, grown from seeds in the ground and helped along with water and sunlight and time?”
Aria shook her head.
“Oh, Aria, they’re amazing. I mean, they’re disgusting because cucumbers are a gross vegetable - like celery but it’s full of itself - but the crunch when you know that you worked for almost three months for that? There’s nothing better.”
Ibex laughs then, and Aria takes another sip of her drink. “What?”
“My brother used to make these salads, and even though we worked for months to get all of the ingredients from seeds to this bowl, I still would pick the cucumbers out. He always caught me, and just ate them from the corner of my plate, because he loved them.”
“You had a brother?” Aria asks, unsure if she could imagine Ibex younger, or eating salad, even though he was next to her, getting his feet massaged by robots in a nice pearl-colored robe.
“I had a brother, Quinten, and parents.”
They leave the room, and the empty glasses, and the synthetic cucumbers. And they go back to Aria’s apartment.
Aria thinks Ibex will just go home, then. Aria doesn’t know where Ibex lives, if he sleeps, if he can anymore. Aria wants to know more about Quintin, who she saw die. She wants to know about Maryland, about being in love when there isn’t war. About parents.
“But yes, I haven’t been Attar in almost thirty years.” He begins again unbidden, another Bloody Mary and Mimosa made without comment. “We kind of lost our first names at the same time, huh? Do you have have any siblings?”
Aria shrugs, starting to paint her nails to match the dress she bought Jacqui for their first meeting with Tea. She knows that there’s one hundred and one books about her, Aria Joie. Future Tiger Beats and fanblogs and now, government documents. Fans and enemies alike know everything about her. She remembers when she was young, she used to scour those, seeing if they found anything about her that she didn’t know. Anything. Who was Aria Joie?
“Mako and Cass were kind of my siblings. And I had backup dancers at Joy Park that I shared an apartment with, but.”
“But,” Ibex says, and his eyes flash. Righteousness hasn’t been in his brain for two years, but Aria still thinks it can hear his thoughts, and vice versa. So she can hear his thoughts too.
“The Regence Brilliance is the closest thing I’ve ever had to family. But she’s... a machine. And she’s not even mine anymore.”
Ibex nods, and moves around her to straighten her hair, barely at her chin now but still with a deviant curl towards her ears and face.
“Well I love you, Aria Joie. And I’m not going to leave you.”
“I love you too, Attar Rose. I hope you one day take a fucking nap instead of helping me do my makeup.”
“But you look so good, Ms Joie. Why would I sleep when we have so little time together? And we both know that you never put the protectant for your hair before you straighten it, and damaged hair is so last century.”