And eventually, one by one with each a different excuse, they all left. They did not offend Martha because she was glad to see them gone. Sandra and Mike had work early in the morning and it was already ten o’clock, they said, and the baby sitter would want to go home. At eleven Kyle said he still an essay do in the morning that he needed to finish. Then Patricia said she’d be going but couldn’t seem to get away. She sat with them a long time and Martha did not even notice the hour go by, and she had found enough energy in herself to actually pay attention to the conversation, for as usual Patricia had interesting and important things to say. They talked a while about how difficult work had been.
“I find it impossible to keep up with the expected number of clients,” she said. “I find no one can, and this new plan is a doomed failure.” Martha found the struggles of work uninteresting in comparison to a vanishing spacesuit lady in her house. She remembered her boss reprimanding her about a difficult customer, and how far away and unimportant that impossible struggle was. She shrugged her shoulders.
“I find it all so pointless,” Patricia said with a yawn. She twisted her thin wrist around to look at the time—12:30, and they all had work early in the morning.
Luke stayed seated as Martha led her friend to the door and then out towards her car. Patricia gave hinting glances back at the house, hoping that Martha would notice, but Martha kept her glance on the ground until they got to the car. Patricia could not go home without knowing.
Her tone surprised Martha, and she blushed. “It’s not like that. We’re just talking.”
“Well, don’t do anything rash.” She glanced at the living room window, where a light shone out onto the street and they could see Luke. He stood and stretched a long while, and then began pacing the room. Martha squeezed Patricia’s arm.
“Don’t let me get my hopes up,” she said. “There’s really nothing behind it anymore.”
Patricia understood what her friends said and meant: that the conversation was over. She looked over and said quietly, “Do you know that professor Schwinger is sick?”
Martha nodded. “I’ve heard about it.”
“What have you heard? No one seems to know anything.”
“They say it’s a blood disease, not too different from Leukemia. They don’t know if they can fix it or not, but of course they’re doing the best they can,” Martha replied.
Patricia looked at her friend with her sorrowful brown eyes, and her head tilted slightly on her slender neck in thought. “I don’t think that I talk to anyone that I used to, including you. I haven’t seen the professor in two long years.”
“Same here,” Martha replied. She didn’t add how guilty she felt because of it, but she didn’t know. The wind blew through the branches above them and rustled Patricia’s strawberry blond hair against her ruddy cheek. She was flushed from the whine and excitement. Before she got in the car Martha squeezed her hand lightly and stood to wave as she drove away.
She walked towards the house slowly, walking carefully in her the snow so as not to get snow in her flimsy shoes. As soon as she entered her apartment the wave of heat hit her and fogged up her glasses, and she felt scared. Luke had grown impatient during her talk with Patricia and as soon as she entered the door he was by her side, his dark eye glowing as he looked at her.
Luke felt as many things as Martha did about the situation, but he said less because he knew that it was not the time. Now that he had Martha alone, he felt as scared as a child and wanted to be as near to her as she would let her. She felt shy and scared herself and pulled away from him often and he had grown unjustly angry.
“Do you know I had a terrible idea in the middle of all this? I imagined that perhaps that thing the girl had on her wrist didn’t send her away! Perhaps she is just invisible, walking around in the house somewhere! And you haven’t yet told me what all of this is about!”
“I haven’t had a chance,” Martha answered. “She appeared out of thin air in my pantry and told me that she was a part of some operation. I asked her if it was a part of NASA and she said no, then I told her to leave—well, maybe that isn’t the right order. I don’t know. I thought of calling the police, but then you came in. That’s really all there is to it.”
“All there is to it?” Luke said. “This is fantastic! That means the government’s discovered stuff like teleportation at least.”
We sat silent for a while. Then he asked how she liked working as a secretary.
Perhaps it seems a little weird that this was what he decided to talk about at this exact moment, but then he was never known for grace. And after all that had just happened to them Martha was glad that he still cared about her own wellbeing.
“I like it,” she replied. “It pays well and the hours are regular; that is better than any kind of job I’ve had so far.”
After that there was not much to say. Luke left shortly after and Martha locked the door after him.
Now she was alone in her own house. She later despised Luke for ever mentioning his theory about the woman, that she had turned invisible instead of teleporting safely away. There was ever so slight a possibility that the woman was still here, in the house in some hidden place. Martha tried to remind herself that it was not very likely. After all, what had that woman to do with her?
Martha went through her nightly routine for bed. She changed into an old t-shirt and yoga pants, she took her make-up off and put lotion on. She texted a few people to wrap up the conversation for the night—her mother, about some business with the cat, and with Patricia Fox. Then she opened her bedroom window, curled up in her bed and went to sleep.
All night long she had odd dreams. She dreamed she was drifting off in space, and woke with a start, cold all over. Later on she dreamed she was in a house of mirrors where her face kept vanishing and reappearing in odd places. The last time she awoke it was a three o’clock, and she owned she would not go back to sleep.
A cold shower would do her some good, she decided. She enjoyed it and dressed afterwards in a white button up and black skirt. She prided herself in dressing professionally and behaving so while she was at school and carried that attitude into her new job, which was something her boss appreciated about her. After she put on makeup and did her hair the sky outside was still dark; the streetlights glistened in her window. She sighed.
Somehow her mind led her to a pad of paper and a pen. She had not written much after college, and the words came with difficulty. She was trying to sort out the queer events of yesterday but she could not make sense of it even on paper. She dribbled on about it for half a page, and then realized that it was not even the spacesuit lady that was really bothering her, that it was something more. She began talking about her secretary job and how much Mr. Stanchez required of her. That upset her more than she expect it would and eventually she threw the pen on the desk, defeated, and stared out of the window and the city streets.
“I would advise you not to keep that paper,” said a voice from behind me.
It was the woman in the spacesuit, her blond hair flowing clumsily on her thick suit shoulders and arms. She held her helmet under her arm and her watch device in her hand, and she did not look pleased.