Koliss kept his eyes closed, it was better than facing the anticipation that was staring him in the face. Here it was, life day celebration on Kabaira and he hadn’t so much as called or visited in three years. All those days he was doing some good in the middle of a blasted crater and he hadn’t let them know if he was still breathing. Now he found himself wondering if this whole effort would have gone to waste, if they preferred him to not come around after being so mute over these past years.
‘There’s no rethinking it now.’ The last thought of a jumbled mind as Koliss opened his eyes and surveyed the surroundings. Amazingly, it looked like his old seat had been saved; smack dabble in the middle of an ornate table with a perfect view of the low lying beach beyond the open doorway, and beyond that those beloved snow-capped mountains of his. It struck a chord of himself he thought to be long gone, and it was surprisingly more relieving than he initially imagined. The sound of approaching footsteps shook him from his nostalgia. From around a corner from where he sat, a young woman that Koliss recognized in a heartbeat. The woman froze in place for half a second, before her look of surprise transformed into a smile of joy.
“Oh, Koliss, I didn’t exp- Hey, everyone! We’ve got special guest!” Koliss tensed himself to stand and give his sister a big hug, but he remembered exactly where he was and some of the joy fled from his conscious mind; he resigned himself to simply putting on his best smile and nodding “Happy life day to you too Jorda, good to see you keeping alright.” Jorda was quickly joined by two other familiar faces. He knew their names of course, but he could never shake the habit of ‘mother’ and ‘father’ even in his youth and current temperamental lifestyle. Koliss couldn’t resist a chuckle as his sister approached and looked as if she hung onto the chair he occupied; Mother and Father approached more slowly, happiness evident, but there was also some apprehension that he could see. The last to join was the last face he could recall fondly, “Hey hey, the prodigal bleeding heart calls back! How you doing little brother?” The same brash greeting, same carefree smile; Crassus always was one to be blunt, but that’s one of the reasons why Koliss appreciated him so.
The reunited family talked for what seemed a short while, but Koliss could see the shadows casting farther than when he started visiting with his family, still seated firmly in his old spot at the table. Jorda and Crassus spoke of some old family friends coming over to visit and said they would be going out to greet them while letting them know Koliss was around to speak to.
The old family dining room was cleared, leaving only Koliss with his parents, whose wrinkled skin and dark circles beneath their spoke to their age more than any other time he could recall.
“The other side of the core… the opposite side of the rim in fact…” His father started and the tone indicated that Koliss was not going to like the conversation. He moved quickly to head it off.
“I did not come to debate ethics or intention, I only wanted to see you all again…” He paused, trying to collect the correct way of expressing himself. “I… realize that just up and leaving was the absolutely wrong decision, I think even then I recognized that, but you also have to acknowledge that people not doing anything was the wrong way to solve the problem.”
Koliss had reused this argument before, and he could almost feel the pleading tone in his voice as he tried to justify himself. There was no response for a few seconds; the calming sounds of the rolling tide going out for the night seemed to mock him.
“We’ve worried ourselves sick you know.” Mother answered him. “All this time without a word was rough, not that we aren’t appreciative but, this just seems like… placation.” Koliss slightly froze at that, trying to find anything that might come up to explain himself.
“Just think about it Kol,” Father spoke almost with finality, “And maybe the next time we can see you, you won’t have to be so distant.” Father reached for something at the side of the chair Koliss was sat at, and in a second, the whole world was black for Koliss.
The artificial lighting of the cramped hologram room came to life, sensing the end of the call, Koliss was staring at the empty air, replaying the last image of such downcast looks as they vanished in their holographic form. He bounced back and forth between regret and appreciation of just calling his family out of the blue from so far away.
“They set up your frequency exactly in your old spot, isn’t that a gesture worth knowing; wait no, what about there at the end, they hung up on me and it was like they agreed on-.” Koliss stopped, creating an almost oppressive quiet atmosphere. Was he just talking to himself out loud?
Koliss slumped as he let out a shuddering sigh. He tried to contact them, tried to reach out, and yet it was apparently not enough. At least they were open with him, but what did his brother and sister really think? Did they agree with their parents; did they not care about what he had done?
The cloudy storm of Koliss’ mind had become a building tempest and he could feel the beginnings of a migraine crawling up his nerve endings into his occipital lobe. His eyes strained processing the various stark blue holographic images.
“Happy life day to everyone, especially to me.” He was bitter, but there was little he could do to vent his frustration. He rose slowly, and shuffled from the room. He needed a drink, badly.