The Moon and Back

William R. Montgomery Fiction Award – Fiction

Lucy Ettawageshik

Homeschool – 12th

“Milk, eggs. Oh-” There’s slight static as Colette fumbles with the phone. “Sorry. Dropped the list. Cinnamon.”
“And pickles,” he adds regretfully.
“Yes, and pickles,” she says in a relieved tone.
“Gross,” he says. She scoffs, and he hears static again as she switches the phone from one
ear to the other. He pulls into the parking lot.
“Anything else? I’m heading in.”
“Nope. Love you. To the moon-”
“-And back,” he finishes. He hangs up. The grocery store is quiet, since it’s a Tuesday
morning. The sky’s a deep gray, clouds heavy with rain. He feels the drops sprinkle his shoulders as he walks back to the car, peppering his gray blazer with darker gray circles. He drives home in near silence, Colette’s favorite jazz station playing softly in the background.
His phone dings.
He glances down briefly, thinking it’s Colette. It’s not. He frowns at the unknown number and picks up the phone, half glancing at it, giving most of his attention to the impatient red car behind him that doesn’t seem to like turn signals very much.
NEW ASSIGNMENT, the text reads. He pulls over.
Who is this? He responds.
They type back immediately.
You know who it is.
He slams his hand not holding his phone down on the steering wheel, the sharp spike of pain momentarily distracting him from his cruel present. There’s only one person it could be.
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Sirius. Every letter in that name sends a shiver down his spine.
Who else? Sirius responds.
He presses his lips together tightly. He thought he’d escaped this life. He thought he
could run from it when he married Collette, as if stepping into her light could make all the dark parts of his past vanish.
I have an assignment for you.
I’m done with that life.
It’s not done with you. Ominous, yet true. There’s no viable way for him to hide this from
Collette any more. His wife deserves to know who she really married. Another text comes through.
Do you accept?
It would be easy to ignore Sirius, but he knows what will happen if he does. So he replies: Who is the target?
Details later tonight.
He shuts off his phone.
Dropping the groceries on the smooth gray counter, he calls for Colette. Her answering, “Here!” resounds faintly from the living room.
“What’s up?” Colette looks up at him, tears spilling from her eyes, and hands him a positive pregnancy test. He grins. She’s pregnant.
“You’re pregnant!” He exclaims, forgetting all about Sirius for a moment. She nods, speechless with emotion, and he pulls her into a fierce hug. They’ve been trying for so long, and it’s finally happened. They’re going to be parents.
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I’ll tell her tomorrow, he thinks to himself. There’s no way he could ruin this night with his news. He turns over in the bed towards his wife, but then he hears a ding. Sighing, he picks up his phone. And immediately drops it.
He knew this would happen one day, but he married Colette anyway. He’d ignored it, too deep in love to think of the consequences. There’s no way he can tell her now. He clenches his jaw and gets out of bed as quietly as he can manage, then once he has locked himself in the bathroom, he calls the number. It connects.
“No,” he says quietly, not bothering with a greeting.
“You know what will happen if the assignment is not completed,” Sirius drawls.
“I know,” he says, pinching the bridge of his nose painfully. “I know, and I can’t do it. I
can’t kill her. I won’t.”
“It’s not a question of whether, it’s a question of when. You have until the baby is born.” “How did you-” he starts to ask, but the line disconnects and he’s left staring at his phone
in the house he shares with his soon-to-be-dead wife. He knows what will happen if he doesn’t kill her. So he slides into bed and makes a vow to himself. These last nine months of her life will be the best she’s ever had.
He keeps that vow.
They go to her favorite places when she’s two months pregnant, and he takes endless pictures, knowing they’ll be all he has left when she’s gone.
Seven months.
They take a long plane ride when Colette’s stomach has just started to swell, off to see a country she’s dreamed of visiting since she was a little girl.
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Five months.
When Colette’s too tired to travel, he dotes endlessly on her. He kisses her belly and promises that their little girl is going to be just as fantastic as her mother. They didn’t find out the gender, but he knows it’s a girl. If Colette can’t live, at least she can live on through their daughter.
Three months.
“You’re going to be such an amazing father,” Colette says drowsily one night, her head on his shoulder. He swallows the guilt, swallows the horrible reality of the future looming over them, and instead turns the channel.
One month.
Colette gives birth 5 weeks later, and he cries as she hands their child to him. It’s a boy. It doesn’t matter, he promises himself. It doesn’t matter that it’s not a girl. But it does. It does.
“You may have my face,” he whispers to their son one night, “but I hope that is the only thing we share.”
He pays a visit to a nice older couple the next day, and signs the papers. The adoption will be closed.
He gets a call.
“It’s nearly time,” Sirius says.
“I know.”
“What are you waiting for?” The call ends. It’s time.
He drops off their son at the older couple’s house one afternoon, ignoring his own
features and seeing only Colette’s as he takes one last look at his son, then he goes home empty
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handed. He can hear Colette humming in the kitchen when he walks in, which makes it that much harder for what must happen next.
“Where’s the baby?” she asks, not turning around.
“Gone.” She turns at that.
“What do you mean, gone?” She looks hysterical.
“I mean safe. Safe in a way he never was with us.”
“What do you mean? He was always safe with us, we’re his parents!”
“No,” he says quietly. “He was never safe, not when I am who I am.” Colette looks
confused. He continues.
“I was a hit man,” he whispers. “For many years. I swear I retired, but I have one more
assignment. And I have to complete it.” Colette is shaking her head and he sees tears run down her cheeks.
“Who?” she asks, but he can tell she already knows. And he can’t lie to her, not about this.
“You,” he says softly, and pulls out a gun. Her eyes widen as he clenches his jaw with determination. She isn’t crying anymore, she’s standing up straight, as if she knew this day would come. Maybe she did. It wouldn’t surprise him.
“I love you to the moon-”
“And back,” she chokes, and he pulls the trigger. Her body slumps to the ground.
He gets a call.
“Is it done?” Sirius asks. He feels empty, dead. He can barely say the next sentence with
the repressed sobs building in his chest. “It’s done.”
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“Good. Are you planning to keep my grandson from me? It would be a shame if this situation had to repeat itself.”
“No. He’s away.”
“In the next room while you killed his mother? Classy.” “No. Adopted.”
“Very good.”
The call ends. One more shot rings throughout the house.
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