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Friday, August 5, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: June 2, 2398

Leona and Mateo are having a date night, so they’ll be out of the condo for a few hours. Ramses doesn’t have anywhere to be, but he starts getting the sense that Heath and Marie need him to be away too, so he goes for a walk around the plaza, looking to find something interesting or new to do. Now it’s just the Waltons, and they have something important to talk about. Angela knows the other two want to discuss something, but she doesn’t know what. The truth is, no one out of the three of them knows how this is going to go.
“I think I’ll start,” Marie says solemnly. “First of all, I want to thank you for all the support you two have shown me during this difficult time. It’s been really helpful to know that I have a loving family who are willing to go to great lengths to protect me, and my future. This has not been an easy decision, and while we’ve had our issues, I believe that we’re ready to move forward. Can we all at least agree with that much?”
“Yes,” Heath answers. Now he’s worried. He thought they were on the same page.
“Of course,” Angela concurs.
Marie goes on, “I’ve been giving it a lot of thought, and...” She sighs, not wanting to say what she needs to say.
“Go ahead,” her husband encourages.
“I believe,” she continues, drawing as much strength as she can find, “that you can’t come with me to Croatia.” She’s not looking at either of them, which makes her statement a little confusing.
“Obviously, I can’t go...” Angela says.
“No, not you.” She finally looks back over. “You. Heath, you can’t come with me, not if we want this to work. Before you argue, Angela has to become me, and that includes everything. She has to become a coder, and a volunteer at the community kitchen twice a week, and she has to become your wife. This isn’t going to matter if even one person beyond the team begins to get the idea that there’s any distance between the two of you.”
“Well, how far do you want this to go?” Heath questions.
“What do you mean?”
“How far should I go? Should we start sharing a bed? Should we start having sex? How committed do you want me to be to the lie?”
“Do you want to have sex with her?” Marie asks.
“No! That’s what I’m saying!”
“You promised to not raise your voice anymore,” Marie reminds him.
“I’m sorry. I’m just frustrated, because I also promised to see you through this whole thing, and now you don’t even want me to be within eight thousand kilometers of you. That’s just hard to hear.”
“It’s not that I don’t want you with me, it’s just not smart. Think about it logically. Angela’s gonna run into into our downstairs neighbor, and they’re going to invite the two of us to dinner Friday night, and she’s going to have to come up with some excuse, and then suddenly the period during which you were reportedly gone perfectly lines up with the period during which I was actually gone, and then maybe people start to ask questions, and maybe they end up asking too many.”
“I know, it’s the right thing to do. I just didn’t want to let you go alone.”
“I won’t be alone. Mateo will be there.”
“Mateo? Just Mateo?” Angela asks, now confused about that.
“The two of us don’t have professional lives to think about,” Marie begins to explain. “It makes sense that he could up and leave. No one will be wondering where he went off to.”
“Ramses doesn’t really have anything going on either,” Heath points out.
“Yes, he does. He’s extremely busy, trying to get us out of this reality.”
“Oh, he’s still on that?” Heath can’t help but be disgusted by the prospect. Everyone else he cares about, including Marie, is a visitor to this world. But he grew up here. This is his home. It’s not perfect. It’s downright cruel in some ways. But it’s familiar, and as random as all the laws, customs, and religious practices seem to be, they’re rooted in a history that he grew up learning. They make perfect sense to him. The others have experience being strangers in a strange land. This is all he knows. He can’t just leave, and he can’t let Marie go.
“It’s how he’s helping,” Angela tells him. “We don’t have to make any decisions yet, but it’s why you agreed to go on the mission with Mateo later this month, isn’t it?”
“How can I go on that?” Heath puts forth. “If I can’t ever be away from Marie, then that’s impossible.”
“Mateo’s been talking to me about that,” Angela says. “You can’t go on that either. You have a life here, and abortion or no, you have to keep living it. This isn’t your problem, you don’t even want to find anything.”
“Don’t tell me what I want, and don’t want,” Heath argues.
“Honey, you’re getting close.”
“Sorry,” he whispers. He does his counting exercise. “You’re right. It was a stupid idea. I got so excited to have an adventure, I stopped thinking rationally. I think we all did. It doesn’t make sense for me to disappear, not unless all six of us just go off the grid together.”
“Well, that’s one thought,” Marie admits.
“Are you seriously considering that?” Angela questions, shocked. “You’ve built a life for yourself here.”
“Well, I’m about to lose it anyway, aren’t I?”
“No, that can’t be true,” Angela believes. “I’m just a temporary placeholder. You’ll be back eventually. No one’s expecting you to have an abortion.”
“Except for Fairpoint,” Heath reminds her.
“Oh, yeah. What are we gonna do about Fairpoint?” Marie asks. Now her stomach is getting upset. He’s the only other non medical professional who knows she’s pregnant.
They hear the sound of the front door opening, and sort of a huff from down the hallway. Mateo rounds the corner alone. He’s not happy, but not extremely distressed either. “Sorry to intrude. I can leave and come back, if you want.”
“No, it’s fine,” Marie assures him. “Where’s Leona?”
His eyes widen, as he looks around, even though he’s confident she isn’t hiding in a corner. “She took the car,” Mateo says. “I walked back. She should have returned long before now.”
“Why did you walk?” Heath consults his watch. “You weren’t gone all that long.”
“We had another fight. She was in the wrong this time, before you make any assumptions. But now I need your help to find her.”

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