Stacey’s Going to Mars
Stacey walked in to the restaurant and the other three girls waved her over.
‘Heeeeeeey!’ Stacey did a little jump up and down as she hugged everyone before settling into the last empty chair at the table.
Mary looked at her watch and pretended to be annoyed, ‘late.’ All the girls giggled.
‘Staceeeeyyyy,’ Sara whined, ‘it’s been so long since I’ve seen you! You look amazing!’
Stacey batted the compliment away with a flick of her hand, ‘Thanks babes. I’ve been doing this new hot yoga aerial Cross Fit class.’ She put her palms on the table and looked over both shoulders, dramatically for effect, ‘Fucking impossible.’
Carrie nodded emphatically, ‘I bet, sounds intense.’ She leaned into the table and all the other girls followed. ‘I’m doing this new breast milk cleanse and it’s really, really hard too. I mean, how do babies do it? All I do is poop!’
‘Woah!’ Stacey laughed, ‘TMI!”
Carrie held up her palms to the table and rolled her eyes. ‘I’m sorry ladies; I thought this was a safe space where I could share.’
Mary and Sara wrinkled up their noses, ‘gross,’ they said in unison and then exploded in fits of laughter. ‘Jinx!’ They shouted and pointed at each other.
‘Right ladies, the reason I called this brunch is to tell you some very important news.’ Stacey pressed her fingertips together, making a triangle with her hands, and perched her chin on her fingers. She bit her lip and looked at each of the other girls to draw out the anticipation.
“Well…’ Carrie shrugged and stared at Stacey, ‘go on!’
Sara interrupted, ‘Are you pregnant? Please say you’re pregnant!’ Sara did a mini-clap as she bounced in her chair.
Stacey shook her head emphatically, ‘No I am certainly not pregnant, ew.’ She inhaled deeply and then exhaled directly in Mary’s face, ‘I’m going to Mars!’ Stacey then clenched her eyes shut as she waited for their response.
Nobody said anything at first. They all looked at Stacey, her eyes closed so tightly and her body stiff and shaking, like she was trying to pass a kidney stone. She opened one eye and looked around at the sea of open mouths.
‘What? Nobody wants to say anything? Really?’ Now both Stacey’s eyes were open and she sank back in her chair, looking uncomfortable, like the stone was stuck.
Carrie shut her mouth then opened it again. ‘Like those crazy people going to Mars to live? You’re going to be one of those?’
Stacey shot daggers at her friend, ‘We’re not crazy. We’re doing it for science. We’re doing it for humankind!’
Mary interrupted, ‘Now I’ve read about this. People are going to go up four at a time and live until some other people join them two years later, right?’ She smiled, proud of herself and nodded at Stacey, urging her to continue.
‘Very good, Mary, but it’s not them, it’s us. I’m going!’ Stacey pressed her hands to her chest and looked at the group pleadingly, ‘be happy for me.’
‘Absolutely not!’ Carrie said loud enough to attract the attention of the whole restaurant. Even the waitress who was coming their way turned around and tended to another table.
‘There’s not enough oxygen up there. No one wants to go to Mars!’ Carrie became quite animated, ‘They’ll shove you in a tiny ship no bigger than a tin can and shoot you through fucking space. Your insides will get all compounded and you won’t even be able to exercise. There’s no Yogalates in space, Stacey.’ Carrie reduced her voice to a whisper, ‘and what will you do for sex?’
Sara suddenly looked very concerned, ‘Who are you even going with? You won’t know anyone and how do you know you’ll like it? Remember that time we went to Dubai and you had a panic attack from the heat? What will you do?’
Mary interjected, ‘And remember when we went to India and you shat yourself before the plane even landed, you were so nervous?’
Stacey shushed her as she covered her face with her hand, other diners turned in their seats.
Mary continued, her voice slightly hushed, ‘You hate flying. What if you have an accident in your space suit? Do they have spares or will you just have to live in that forever?’
Stacey shrunk in her chair as she took a long sip of her water, ‘I must say, I expected you all to be more supportive. I’m going on the trip of a lifetime. Only thirty-three of us on the whole planet get to go!’
Carrie leaned over and held Stacey’s hand, ‘None of those people are sane, honey. They’re all minimally Lohan-style crazy, or Britney in her head-shaving days.’
Sara looked into the distance and sighed, ‘Poor Britney.’
The way the girls looked at her, Stacey thought she might cry. ‘Well what am I supposed to do now? I mean…I’ve committed and I thought you’d all really want me to go.’
‘Wait,’ Sara began, her focus back on the conversation, ‘you thought your three best friends since the third grade would want you to go away to a whole other planet forever, so we’d never see you again?’
Mary put her arm around Stacey’s shoulders and squeezed. ‘That makes absolutely no sense, you crazy bitch.’
Stacey looked at her friends with desperation in her eyes. ‘Well that doesn’t answer my question, guys. What do I do now?’
Carrie shot her hand in the air to attract the attention of a waitress, ‘I’ll tell you what you do, babes. I’ll tell you what we all do.’ She looked each of her friends in the face with the intensity of a quarterback in the final huddle of the big game. ‘We do what we came here to do, we fucking brunch. Everything else will sort itself out.’
more by LEE ANNE HILL
photograph by Ali Inay