Harry looked up, surprised at the sound of the vaguely familiar voice as he boarded the transport.
“Why Harry, it is you!” The man hurried towards him, right hand extended. Harry noted the strands of gray in his hair, increased since the last time they’d met.
Harry smiled, feeling that it was somehow an insincere smile even though he was truly glad to see his old acquaintance. “Hello, Mr. Merritt.” They shook hands. “It’s been awhile.”
Mr. Merritt nodded and his smile faded. “I don’t suppose I’ve seen you since…”
Hesitating, he fell into step beside Harry in the transport hall. Harry waited for him to finish, and when he didn’t, finished for him. “…since she died, you mean.”
“Yes.” He looked at Harry out of the corner of his eye as they walked. “I was — very sorry to hear that.”
Harry nodded, feeling the absurd lump that came into his throat whenever anyone talked of her. “That’s why I’m here. I’m going to write about her life.”
Mr. Merritt looked straight at him this time, watching as he leaned forward to pick up his suitcase from the baggage ramp. “I forgot you were a writer.”
“I try.” Hoisting the luggage up, Harry started back down the hall to his cabin. “Since it’s going to be a long flight, I’m planning to get some writing done while I’m here. I thought I might start with the story of the radialloy.”
Not another word was spoken until they reached his cabin. Then, as Harry put the suitcase down to enter his code into the keypad, the man spoke softly but firmly. “I was there, you know.”
Harry kept his back turned to the man as he slowly, methodically punched keys. “Yes.”
The door slid open and he picked up his suitcase, then paused in the doorway. “Mr. Merritt…”
“Kerwin… how would you describe her?”
Kerwin thought for a long moment. “Intelligent. Practical. Cheerful. And…” He struggled for a moment to come up with words. “…special. Truly special.”
Harry clenched his teeth to keep more tears from coming. “Yes. You’re right. Thank you, Kerwin.”
“If you have any more questions…”
“I’ll ask. Thanks.”
He listened as Kerwin’s footsteps retreated down the metal corridor, standing in the doorway for a moment before finally heaving a sigh and stepping in.
He set down his luggage, but didn’t bother unpacking anything but an old-fashioned notebook and a handful of pens. He liked writing the old-fashioned way.
After setting his materials on the cabin desk, he sat down and opened his notebook to the first page. Then he waited for the words to come. He closed his eyes, remembering the stories she’d told him.
Biting his lip, he opened his eyes and pulled a picture from the inside pocket of his jacket. He looked at it carefully for a long time.
How would you tell the story?
She smiled up at him, and in the smile he read a long, white sanitation room, where she stood in the days of her girlhood, drying her hands.
He laid the picture on the desk, then picked up a pen and began to write.