The Terra Core

A young man is forced from his home to the stars after a terrible crime (inspired by a dream I had!)

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5. Sweet Sixteen

~~My second birthday without my dad was also the hardest- a lot of families make a huge deal out of the sixteenth and my parents made a big deal out of my birthdays in general (such was being an only child). My mom invited her sister, husband and their two children along, whilst my dad's friend Ted and his wife and kids also came along.

My mom also invited Chloe, despite not especially enjoying her company in the past, and despite our breakup. I hadn't expected to see her, and I was quietly grateful, despite our split.

The house was decked up with banners, and pictures of me at various ages in various poses- some being quite embarrassing, but I knew how much my mom needed this. There was me in my cowboy outfit aged seven, and me as a fairy (fairy!) aged two and a half. The living room had the couch pushed back to make way for a makeshift table with several chairs and my mom had been cooking u a small feast- pulled pork sandwiches, a beef stroganof, chicken cooked in a red wine and mushroom sauce, crispy roast potatoes, coleslaw and... well, all sorts of things she knew I liked.

It was emotional. The day after, I'd be shipping out, and I wouldn't be home for five years. The subject was basically a huge elephant in the room, but somehow we ate our food and drank our drink and told silly stories and avoided it.

As the hours ticked by, first my aunt and uncle said their goodbyes. Aunt Linda and Uncle Rob hugged me, and Aunt Linda was tearful as she said goodbye. Little Jessica and even smaller Derek weren't quite old enough to fully understand what was going on, but they seemed sad when I stooped down and hugged them both.

Next, Ted and his family. Even though they weren't blood relatives, they might as well have been. This actually felt more emotional for me- Ted was like a big brother to me, and when he wrapped his bear-like arms around me, I knew that was as close as he could get to saying the same.

Finally, only Chloe was left. Her lovely blue eyes were fixed on me. Twilight was setting in and the streetlights were going on, creating a haze around us. My mom looked at us, gave Chloe a funny look, and stepped into the kitchen.

Chloe walked up to me, and smiled weakly. "Your mom said I can stay here tonight."

There was just... I don't know, I can't really explain. There was something about the way she said it. I knew what she meant.

"I guess... she doesn't mean the spare room."

"Nope. Adrian, you should know, I really want this to be special, but..."

I took her by the hand. "You've never done this before. Same here." I smiled sheepishly. "I can't think of anyone I'd rather lose my virginity to." That sounded so bad.

"Me too. Come on, lets go upstairs."

****

Well, they say your first time is never that good. They were right.

We kissed a lot, we fumbled, and we didn't really know what we were doing. Neither of us knew the other's hot buttons, and by the time we got going properly, it was over pretty quickly, which made me feel awful. Chloe repeatedly said she didn't mind, but I couldn't help but feel she felt differently. She snuggled up to me though, and slept in my arms. I didn't feel so bad after that.

In the morning Chloe wrapped her arms around me and gave me one last, long kiss, before saying her final goodbye. She walked off down the street, and I watched her go, wishing I could chase after her and run away. Somehow, I knew I'd fail miserably and get into worse trouble.

I helped my mother tidy up after the party. I did the washing up. I put away the uneaten food. I loaded the dirty clothes into the washer and put the washed stuff into the dryer.

We didn't say a lot. I couldn't think of much to say that wouldn't reduce me to a wreck, and I think my mom felt the same way. Yet we both knew the shuttle would be along at any moment to collect me.

I'd packed my bags during the week. I had a huge duffel bag with clothes and supplies, as well as a smaller rucksack filled with my tablet and its accessories. I felt prepared, if not emotionally, then physically.

At around ten thirty the doorbell rang. My mom, who had been sorting out the furniture in the living room, jumped a little, and let out a little gasp. She looked at me, and I could see the tears welling up in her eyes. As soon as I saw them, my own eyes started to water. This was it.

With composure that I envied, my mother wiped her eyes, and walked briskly to the door.

When she opened it, two men, in navy blue uniforms with the TerraCore logo (a small image of an earth-like planet inside a construction box, with a T and C in bright red embroidering underneath) were waiting. They both looked friendly enough- one was quite young, probably no more than thirty, with bright green eyes. The other was older, I couldn't really place him- but though his face looked weather-worn and his hair was grey his dark brown eyes held the same cheerful attitude as his colleague.

"Mrs Adams..." The older man thrust out a hand, which my mother took with dignity. "I am Mr Roberto. This is Mr Carver. I take it you know why we're here. I wanted to come in person, to assure you we will take good care of your son."

My mother was taken aback. Truth be told, neither of us had expected representatives of the Core to show up. I'd expected a gruff shuttle driver who didn't have anything to say.

"T-thank you. I'd be lying if I said I was wasn't worried. I've heard stories..."

Mr Carver smiled thinly. "Ma'am, the news feeds always exaggerate. Yes, we've had problems, even fatalities, but the odds of an accident are less than ten percent. Your son will have access to superb medical, educational and recreational facilities, he will learn skills, and he will earn a good wage. We will mold him into a man, and you will be even prouder of him than you are now."

I'd been peering at the front door from the living room, and Mr Roberto happened to glance in my direction.

"Hello there!" His voice was so... happy. That weirded me out.

"Uh, hi."

"I know you're feeling nervous and worried right now son. But when you see the ship, and when you realise the difference you'll be making, I can tell you right now, it's the best feeling. You're in for one of the best experiences of your life." He certainly sounded enthused about the subject.

"You should probably grab your gear." Said Mr Carver softly. "We have a schedule to keep to, but we'll give you a minute."

"I'll help you." Said mom. She came upstairs with me, and when we were in my room, she grabbed me and gave me the biggest hug.

"Ah, my boy, my beautiful baby boy, promise you'll come home to me." She blurted out, between sobs that seemed to tear my heart out, piece by piece.

"I promise mom. I swear." I cried, letting out not only my misery at having to leave her, but also weeping because, if my dad were here, none of this would be going on.

She clasped my face in her hands. "You keep your nose clean, and you look after yourself, and you always, always, do the right thing. Stay out of trouble, and remember... I love you. No matter where you are, what you're doing, I love you."

"I love you too mom. I'll write to you, I'll write to you whenever I can." I held on to her for what felt like a lifetime, before she slowly let me go. I carried my duffel bag down the stairs; she brought my rucksack. We marched out of the house, flanked by Mr Roberto and Mr Carver, and my mom helped stow my gear in the shuttle's impressive luggage space. She ushered me aboard, her tears spent, and smiled sadly at me as I took a seat beside another young man, who had probably gone through the same saga earlier in the day. I waved at her as the shuttle started to take off, and all too quickly, the shuttle pulled away, leaving my mom- and my life- behind.

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