Chapter 11

Coming of Age

Cora and Aidan managed to save up enough money for a small trailer in Oasis Springs. It’s close to the lab where Cora wants to work, and Aidan doesn’t mind – he has found his calling in writing sci-fi novels and Cora’s obsession with space and aliens is good inspiration.

The trailer is tiny, but they manage. Cora is starting her new job as a scientist soon, and Aidan has managed to gain some recognition for one of his first books.

“I didn’t realise Oasis Spring would be this hot. I’m melting.”

“Cora, honey – this is a desert. What did you expect?”

“But it’s almost winter, Aidan! It’s only like two months until Winterfest! I knew we wouldn’t get snow here, but this heat is crazy.”

“Hey, enough complaining. This is where you wanted to be! Your dream job is here, you have the best chance to rediscover aliens here, and don’t forget, your favourite writer is here with you!”

“So you believe in me? Do you think I can figure out how to contact the aliens again? No one has seen one for like 20 years!”

“I was honestly hoping you’d latch on to the favourite writer part, but of course I believe in you.”

“I should call mom. She used to tell me about all the aliens she saw when she was homeless, before she met Johnny. Maybe I can get her to remember more details.”

Aidan sighs and goes back to his writing.

“Aidan? You’ve been very quiet all evening…”

“It’s fine.”

“Oh. Okay, honey.”

“Let’s get some sleep, you start your new job tomorrow.”

“I love you, Aidan.”

“I love you too, Cora.”

It’s the first day at the lab. Cora feels slightly intimidated. The compound towers above her. University did very little to prepare her for this.

“Uhm… hi, I’m Cora Duchelli? It’s my first day. Am I even in the right place?”

“Oh, Cora, welcome! Of course, let me buzz for Shayla, she’ll give you the tour.”

Shayla quickly shows up, taking Cora to meet her new co-workers.

She meets one of the senior scientists, Payton. He is going to be her supervisor until she gets settled in.

Another colleague is Elsa. Cora finds her very pleasant, and she also went to Foxbury when she was younger

Cora even gets to tinker a bit with the machines before heading home for the day.

“… and then I was having lunch with Payton, and he told me that I’ll be working on improving their satellite tech. They think it’s mainly a range problem, since we know the coordinates of Sixam.”

Every day, Cora works on the inventor, tweaking and improving the satellites. She also learns more about her co-workers.

For example, it’s barely a secret that her supervisor Payton has something going on with Elsa.

And the receptionist is really tired of their shenanigans. Payton and Elsa are both married and have kids. It’s all a little awkward.

Cora gets along pretty well with her supervisor, though, and he is clearly impressed with her skills. It doesn’t take many weeks before Cora gathers up the courage to ask to work on the rocket programme itself.

Payton agrees, he seems to believe that the rocket technology might help inspire a new approach to the satellite system, and gives Cora the needed security clearance.

Cora can’t believe her luck. She begins looking at ways to upgrade the rocket immediately.

Cora suspects Payton only agreed so willingly because it leaves him free to spend time with Elsa.

One evening, Cora comes home late and Aidan is already asleep, so she decides to go visit the local bar, The Sandtrap, alone.

The Sandtrap is right across the street from Cora and Aidan’s trailer, and her mother has told Cora that the previous owner was very nice to her, and often gave her free snacks while she was homeless.

The bar is under new management now, but Cora decides to check it out, meet some locals. Maybe someone knows more about the alien visits.

Unfortunately, most of the bar patrons seem to be too young to know much about the aliens. All Cora gets is some rumours.

It isn’t until the bartender herself joins the conversation that Cora learns that the previous owner actually claimed that he was going to move to Sixam when he retired. People din’t believe him back then, but no one have heard from him since.

Back home, Aidan barely stirs as Cora snuggles up to him.

Cora quickly falls asleep and doesn’t even notice that Aidan wakes up. He lies awake for a while.

The next day at breakfast, Aidan is angry. He doesn’t like that Cora just disappeared last night without saying anything.

“Cora, sometimes I feel like you’re so obsessed with what might be out there that you don’t see what’s right here. You don’t consider my feelings, you’re barely interested in my work.”

“Aidan, do you have any idea how important it would be if I managed to reestablish contact with Sixam? It would be the discovery of the decade! Two decades, in fact!”

Cora angrily storms off and throws herself on the bed. Aidan sighs deeply before he gets up and follows her.

“Cora, I love you. But this relationship could die if you’re too preoccupied to help me keep it alive.”

“I know Aidan. I’m sorry. My work is very important to me, but so are you. I’ll try to do better.”

And for a while, Cora really makes an effort. In the evenings, she remembers to ask Aidan about his day. And she often gives him a massage, as he gets tense from sitting hunched over his laptop all day. Everything seems fine as Winterfest approaches.

Cora and Aidan goes back to visit her parents for Winterfest. Alex insists on a group photo. Shawn fires off a corny joke just as the picture is taken, and Cora is not amused. She always found Shawn a bit brash.

But even with Shawn there, Cora enjoys spending time with her family again. She hasn’t seen them all since Brie and Shawn’s wedding.

Alex spends hours in the kitchen, preparing dinner. She is thrilled to have both of her girls home for the holidays.

“Alex, babe, you’ve done it again. Not only are you gorgeous, you can really cook. Will you marry me?”

“Don, we’ve been married for 25 years, and you know it.” Alex beams and giggles like a school girl.

Cora does notice that Brie seems a little queasy during dinner. But she gives Cora a stern look, and Cora stays quiet about it.

After dinner, Aidan pulls Don aside.

“So, uh, Don. I know this might seem silly, but this is important to me. Do I have your permission to ask Cora to marry me?”

Don laughs.

“Aidan, if I were you, I’d make sure she never finds out that you asked me. If you can convince her to marry you, you’ve earned her. We’ve never been able to make Cora do anything she didn’t want to. But if it’s so important to you, you have my permission of course.”

Later in the evening, Brie also admits to Cora that she is in fact pregnant.

“But it’s very early, so don’t tell mom and Don yet, please!”

They all sing songs and open presents all night.

As the party quiets down, Aidan and Cora get a moment alone in the living room. Aidan nervously fiddles with something in his pocket.

“Cora, I love you very much… I… I hope you know that.”

“I love you too, Aidan. Are you okay? You’re acting a bit strange.”

“It’s nothing.” Aidan takes his hand out of his pocket and takes a deep breath. “I’m just tired.”

Cora goes to say goodbye to her family. As she hugs her mother goodbye, Alex holds her tight for a moment.

“I’m so proud of you, Cora. You’ve been working towards this since you were little. I hope you find what you’re looking for.”

“I will, mom. Love you.”

And so we will leave Cora waiting for her coffee to brew. See you next chapter!

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