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What a Girlfriend Is (or Serena’s Slice-of-life in Space)

by Liminality

“What are you talking about? Izzy’s not my girlfriend,” a human clad in a red blouse said, as she set her tray down on one of the cafeteria’s long tables. With an irritated grunt, she tossed her head, flipping stray strands of blonde hair back across her shoulder. She picked up her cup and downed her espresso almost in one gulp.

Next to her, the researcher named Izzy frowned in concern. “Careful, babe, you know you get the jitters if you drink that too fast.”

“Thanks, babe, I know. I’ll remember next time.”

It had been just another ordinary day on the Starship Passenger. The engines were whirring, people were touring the ship, and the few shops that operated and catered to the crew and passengers were open and ready to serve. In the tiled cafeteria space, decorated by green potted plants, five individuals were sitting together.

Serena, the blonde woman from before, was an accommodation officer on the Passenger. It was also her off-day today. This meant she was very determined to get what she wanted, in the manner of people who spend most of their hours getting things that other people want, for other people.

She wanted to convince the kindly, hulking figure sitting opposite to her, that she and her friend Izzy were in fact not girlfriends, but friend girls. Or whatever the term would be. She knew E4 would just curve his very wide and symmetrical lips into a smile, nod and accept anything she told him about Earth culture. Not because he was gullible, but because he was overly polite.

Off to the side, Tim the intern ran his hands through his messy black hair, his elbows resting weightily on the table. His eyes were blown wide open. “You literally just called each other ‘babe’.”

Serena shrugged her shoulders. She was indeed accustomed to calling Izzy ‘babe’ on most occurrences. This was not Tim’s business. “Live and let live, Timmy-boy.”

“But – but!” Tim said. “My reality is being broken here! I swear I’ve just thought you two were together since I signed onto this ship two months ago.”

“That’s very interesting,” Izzy, whose topic of research was anthropology, said. “Did you know that reality can sometimes be thought of as a social construct?”

Tim groaned. “Please, Serena is breaking my brain already. Don’t shatter it even more.”

E4 coughed politely. It was a gesture he had learned from the humans of planet Earth. “I am very sorry. I did not mean to cause any upset. Human social categories are simply fascinating to me. It was very interesting to acquire a pronoun that would signify something analogous to the social category I inhabit on my home planet. So, I have simply been curious to find out more.”

“That’s very lovely, E4.” Izzy touched her hand to the tip of the white shell on his forehead, as though adjusting it slightly, in a friendly and soothing gesture unique to his species. “You’re not in any trouble. I could send you some links to papers on the meanings of words like ‘girlfriend’ if you would like? I’m not personally an expert on the word.”

The fifth individual in their group, who had adopted the name ‘Jeremiah’, scoffed. “Hard to believe. Coming from someone who brought us all out here to see ‘Space Lesbians 2 – The Power of Love’ in the cinema.”

As a general rule, Jeremiah looked down at everyone else from his elevated eyeballs, attached to his head by the means of two stalks. He liked to think of himself as an expert on human culture, despite having been born on a rogue planet, light years away from the Milky Way galaxy, where the evolution of life had taken a very different turn. On his thorax, he wore a graphic T-shirt instead of the shell that most members of his species chose to don.

He pointed with one tentacle towards the retro LED display above the drinks stall at the cafeteria, which was displaying the words: ‘Space Lesbians 2 – The Power of Love : Screening at 2 pm’.

Serena groaned, dropping her piece of toast back onto the plate. “You don’t have to be an expert to see a movie, Jeremiah.”

Before Jeremiah could continue, Tim pointed at something on Serena’s face. “Guys, guys – look!”

Serena was wearing a pair of moon-shaped earrings, which had not been there a couple of days ago. Tim then pointed at Izzy’s ears. Surely enough, there were a pair of matching sun-shaped earrings in the same white colour.

“Wow,” Jeremiah said. “You two are definitely in the Thames.”

“You mean in the Nile?” Serena said, as she polished off her sandwich.

“Denial,” Izzy muttered. She observed a crumb at the edge of the table. “Right, right, that’s the joke . . . “

“Thank you for explaining the joke to me,” E4 said in a bright and cheery voice. He reciprocated the adjusting gesture Izzy had done for him, except because Izzy lacked a forehead shell, he simply had to settle for adjusting her ponytail. Izzy looked nonplussed at first, but remembered herself and shot E4 an awkward smile.

Izzy cast another furtive glance at Serena. To her, the human woman was showing all the signs of nonchalance. Her lips were in their resting frown. Her eyes were trained on the table. Working what was essentially customer service had made her exceptionally good at hiding her emotions, Izzy lamented.

Though perhaps the truth was it made her emotions exceptionally good at hiding from her.

Serena looked at her, and then looked away, and then suddenly started coughing. Without thinking, Izzy reached out and patted her on the back. The truth was that Izzy very much wanted to be girlfriends with Serena. But she had no idea if Serena wanted the same.

Right now, she was methodically wrapping a breadstick in tissue, which Izzy suspected she would keep in her purse and forget about until it was all mashed up.

Izzy knew she would have to be careful to continue diverting E4, Tim and Jeremiah’s questions. But she regretted that this made it difficult for her to catch glimpses of what Serena’s true feelings were on the subject. Ah, the things one did for love.

The group had gone quiet, each picking at their own plates, when Serena began ransacking her own purse for something.

“Babe,” Izzy said, her hand hovering over the purse. “You put the breadstick in the other compartment –“

“I know, that’s not what I’m looking for.”

Eventually, Serena’s expression flashed with a victorious grin and she pulled out a USB.

“I got the document for our residential agreement in here. I didn’t want to send it over online since you said the network here wasn’t very secure.”

“Residential agreement?” E4 tilted his head.

By this time, Tim was resting his chin on his arms, defeatedly sipping the diluted ice water from his soda through a straw. “Oh, so you’re moving in together.”

“Isn’t co-habitation a part of being girlfriends?” Jeremiah said smugly.

That was the question on Izzy’s mind exactly. She reached out and plucked the USB from Serena’s fingers like it was a delicate flower. She was the only one who knew that Serena still used this old-fashioned technology for files she really didn’t want to move through the Internet or the Cloud. Tim had never seen a USB before in his young life and was squinting at the device in her fingers. E4 and Jeremiah of course dealt with technologies far beyond and sometimes even imperceptible to human senses.

“You don’t mind moving in soon, do you?” Serena asked, adjusting the collar of her blouse. She leaned in to hear Izzy’s answer above the background noise of the cafeteria. She was blatantly ignoring Jeremiah’s comment. Izzy found her impudence very dashing.

“Not at all,” Izzy said breathlessly. “I’d love to.”

Serena cupped her hand around Izzy’s ear. She whispered her next words softly enough that the others couldn’t hear. “I can’t say it. You know I can’t say it.”

“I know, babe.” Izzy held her other hand under the table.

The time was 2pm. Serena stood up abruptly. “Shall we go watch Space Lesbians 2?”

Nods of assent went around the table. Jeremiah and Tim began to discuss the first film’s cliff-hanger ending, by all appearances having forgotten the girlfriend conversation. Of course, Jeremiah was secretly keeping a tentacle out of his shirt to eavesdrop on any new developments and one of his eyes remained turned backwards towards the couple.

Serena was dusting crumbs off of her skirt, while Izzy slipped her white coat back on from where she had been leaving it hanging from the back of the chair. E4 had begun gliding away from the table.

As they all headed towards the cinema, Serena and Izzy in the lead since they were the ones who had the tickets, E4 mused about how he still had very little clue what a ‘girlfriend’ was.

Nonetheless, he was happy that his human friends had started to adopt the Earthling couple’s ritual of interlacing their fingers while holding hands. 

Is this a review?



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754 Reviews

Points: 4
Reviews: 754

Tue Jan 10, 2023 11:53 pm
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vampricone6783 wrote a review...

Ahhh Serena and Izzy are so cute together! I like how E4 supports them being together, it’s so wholesome to see. I hope that their relationship stays intact no matter the odds. Hopefully not even the galaxies will keep them apart. I have faith in them. I’m rooting for them! This was a really nice short story. I enjoyed reading this. Izzy and Serena forever, till the end!

I wish you a lovely day/night.

Liminality says...

Thanks for the review!

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Points: 50
Reviews: 3

Mon Jan 09, 2023 11:01 pm
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LuxLuthor says...

pssst. hi Lim! just saw somfin :eyes:

She leaned in to hear Izzy’s answer above the background nosie of the cafeteria.

'tis all teehee, wasn't gonna be long enough for a review 🙊
have good day/night! :D

Liminality says...

Ah, thanks for catching that! I'll fix that in a bit.

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33 Reviews

Points: 1356
Reviews: 33

Mon Jan 09, 2023 9:34 am
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Mikatsune wrote a review...

Hi, I'm going to leave a short comment or review!

First of all, I found this really funny. Yes, I kept laughing. You did a great job there! You mixed romance with humor/humour, and I found that quite cool. Also, your short story had a science fiction kind of vibe! I really enjoyed reading this and keep it up! I'm excited to see more. Have a good day/night/afternoon!

Liminality says...

Thanks for the review!

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444 Reviews

Points: 20878
Reviews: 444

Sun Jan 08, 2023 4:45 pm
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Hijinks says...

I love this!! The reference to the "denial is a river in Egypt" thing is hilarious to me xD

Liminality says...

Haha thanks! Glad you enjoyed, Seirre! :D

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504 Reviews

Points: 33599
Reviews: 504

Sun Jan 08, 2023 2:07 pm
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Liminality says...

Author's note:
Here are some fun trivia bits
- E4 is named after a very common opening move in chess (though chess notation would usually not capitalise the 'e') He comes from a planet called 10x10 (the dimensions of a chess board) and his occupation is novelist.
- 'Jeremiah''s species is obviously based on snails. They're all speaking English here, which is why Jeremiah is called that instead of his original name.

As the notifications drift in I stop and wonder. Why do they take so long? Do they have adventures we don't know about? I bet they do. When they come I will ask myself. What amazing adventure has this straggling notification been on? How far did it travel, and why didn't it take me?
— TypoWithoutCoffee