by Mary Ruth Pursselley -
Celia heard the light thud of something small dropping into the delivery box on her dorm room door. Dropping her art book on the bed, she walked to the door and pulled out the palm-sized package. It was coated in a film of dust that came off gray on her hand. The sending address was landside, Adagio.
Celia tore the end off of the package and tilted it up. A square audio chip dropped into her hand. Celia crossed the room to the wall player and stuck the chip in the slot. Her roommate Valla wasn’t around, so she could listen in private.
The low-grade chip made the recording sound metallic and slightly twangy, but Celia still almost cried when she heard her sister’s voice.
“Hey, Baby Sis, it’s me. I thought you might have heard about the earthquake we had here this morning, so I wanted to let you know I’m alright. I think a couple buildings collapsed on the other side of Adagio, but the one I live in is real strong so don’t worry, okay?
“I hope school’s still going good. You keep studying hard, girl. The superintendents send me your reports every semester, so I know you’re doing great. Just keep it up.
“And since I know you’d ask if you could, things here are fine. Business is good, and I’m doing real well. Listen, I’m about out of time on the recording chip, but I miss you and I love you, Baby Girl. I love you tons. Talk to you soo—”
The time on the chip ran out, cutting the last word short.
Tears streaking her face, Celia slammed her hand against the wall next to the audio player.
“How dumb do you think I am, Celeste?” she snapped at the speaker, as if Celeste could hear her. “You think I’m not going to worry about you living on a volcano, breathing the ash that killed Mom?” She held up the envelope in her hand. “You think I can’t recognize a north-side address and know you’re probably living in some shack not fit for a centipede?”
She jerked the chip out of the player and threw it viciously onto her bed. If Celeste were here, Celia decided she’d slap her until her head spun.
She’d hug her next, though. She missed her too much not to.