This story is by Carly Commiato and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
A single tear splashed onto the crumpled sheet of paper causing the ink to blur. The words on that sheet, written by her five-year old son, gave Maria chills of shame.
“Honey, why don’t you put your toys up and we’ll go to the main sector to get some ice cream?” Maria spoke softly, trying to mask her pain.
“Can we just stay in our cabin tonight, Mom?” Gabe looked grim, but he always walked in poor spirits. He gazed out the side window into the vastness of space surrounding the Peridian Starship.
“Of course. Whatever you like.” Maria walked to her bedroom and shut the door. She stared at Gabe’s Christmas list and failed to hold back the flood. His only two items listed:
#1 – I want Daddy to stop hitting Mommy
#2 – I want Daddy to stop hitting me
Maria knew she should have left Peter (known to most as Admiral Kane), years ago, especially before The Peridian and the rest of the fleet left Earth. Now she and her sweet young boy were trapped until the fleet reached its next checkpoint – many months away.
Her daydreaming ceased at the sound of the opening bedroom door. She tried to dry her eyes as best as she could before looking up to see Peter step into the doorway.
“What’s wrong with you?” He asked, unconcerned with his wife’s agony.
“Nothing, sorry.” Maria folded the list and placed it in her back pocket as she stepped into the bathroom. She hated to see him and always felt her blood begin to boil at the sight of his stern face. Her hands tightened into white fists when she heard his voice.
“When we hit Sector Seven, you and Gabe can get off the ship and have normal lives there. It’s not that bad here. Pull yourself together.”
“We want to go home, not live on a military base on a foreign planet.”
“You are so unappreciative. You and Gabe are lucky to have this experience. How many civilians get to travel across the solar system?” Maria heard the anger entering Peter through his tone. She peeked into the bedroom and noticed his face gaining the red color she feared.
No, please, not tonight.
Against her pleas and wishes Peter walked towards her and forcefully lay his hand on her tear stained face. She hoped that Gabe hadn’t heard the smacking sound, but she knew there was little hope of that by the intense pain surging through her jawbone.
The next morning, Maria took Gabe to the park unit of the Peridian. The circular space covered in turf grass and plastic jungle-gyms brought Gabe a smidge of joy.
The peace was interrupted by the intercom speakers, “This is Admiral Kane speaking. All residents are to return to their cabins immediately. All active units report to the bridge.”
“Mom, what’s going on?” Gabe slid down a slide and ran to his mother.
“I don’t know, honey. Let’s get back to our rooms.”
During the walk back, Maria glanced out a window as they passed. Her heart leapt into her throat and her eyes grew wide. Hundreds of starships flying three stripes – white, blue, and red were aggressively approaching the Peridian.
“Baby, let’s go to Daddy’s office instead.”
Maria forced a smile to cover her fear and said, “Oh, no reason. Just to say hello.”
Behind her she heard a couple of off-duty soldiers express their concern, “Man, those are Russians! How’d they know where to find us?”
Admiral Kane’s voice could be heard down the hallway from his office door. Maria was intimidated by the shouting, but too concerned with the safety of her son to worry about Peter’s temper.
Gabe gripped his mother’s hand tightly. She wasn’t sure if he was more afraid of the Russian ships or his father. Pitiful, she thought as she made the comparison.
The office door was ajar and the nervous mother and son stepped in quietly.
“I told you to go to your cabin!” The Admiral turned from his first officer in front of him to yell at Maria, “Commander Ivanov will be here any second and I cannot have civilians in my office!”
“We are your family, Peter.” Maria’s eyes began to swell and her face turned red.
“Admiral Kane, Commander Alex Ivanov – “ A young soldier escorted the Russian Commander into the office.
Peter looked at Maria and quickly pointed at the corner. He then placed the finger over his lips and turned to face Commander Ivanov.
Maria shuffled Gabe into the corner and admired the appearance of the Commander. His uniform was clean and polished and he held his officer hat gently under his left arm as he held out his right to shake hands with the Admiral.
“How did you find our location?” Admiral Kane was in no mood for formalities. His anger radiated through the office.
“No need to discuss sources, Admiral Kane. You’re under my control now.” Commander Ivanov grinned and continued, “Maria, my dear, a small lifecraft is awaiting you and your son on the Sokolov. Come with me, now.”
Dead silence overtook every person in the room. Maria watched her husband’s face turn red and his hands clench into fists. She was nervous, but managed to flash a tiny smirk to him.
“Gabe, we’re going home. Let’s go.”
In the corner of her eye, Maria saw Peter lunge towards her. Commander Ivanov stepped in between and prevented the collision, saying, “It is a great shame to lay hands on one’s wife,” allowing Maria and Gabe to exit the office without being harmed.
As they walked down the hallway to the airlock, Maria’s heart sped violently, but she and her son were finally getting to go home, and she repeatedly reminded herself of that.
Gabe spoke to her, “What will happen to Daddy?” He faced was filled with confusion, but to Maria’s relief it lacked fear.
“It doesn’t matter, he’ll never hurt us again. Merry Christmas, honey.”