Zero G and three light years from the nearest drugstore is a shitty time to realize that you left your spare moon cup at the space station.
Tonight I lost mine to the relief tube. The stuffy musk-and-lemon smell of the hold was invaded by the sharp tang of blood. I was half-asleep, trying to empty it without fuss in the dark. The relief tube suction was just strong enough to whisk the cup out of my still-asleep slick fingers.
When I was dreaming about escaping to the stars, it was all about adventure. No one talked about the shit and the blood. A year’s supply of toilet paper and tampons just won’t fit in the hold, and wet tissues are under strict control, two tissues a day. I’d give up everything I owned in return for double rations of wet tissues. Well, if I hadn’t abandoned everything already.
I went through my drawer and discovered my spare was MIA. So, now I had a problem that no adult woman really wants to think about. Under the circumstances, I ripped up a faded t-shirt and made a make-shift pad to get me through the night. I strapped myself back into my bunk to work out what I was going to do.
I considered declaring an emergency. Mayday, I’m on the rag. It was seven months to Barnard’s and the t-shirt was only XS with short sleeves. I wasn’t going to make it without back-up.
On the other hand, I’d never get a second chance to head out to the frontier if I turned this cargo ship around. That left one option: beg Sumina.
I met Sumina at the space station before we boarded. We were both headed to the asteroid colonies. I was half drunk when I signed up. Sumina was serious about it. She studied for like a year before the launch. I didn’t see much point in making friends.
The thing is, I knew she had birth control pills. A large amount of birth control pills to distribute at the mining colonies. In the dark, I worked out that if she’d give me 212 of them, I could make it to Barnard’s without a drip.
The problem was, how to convince her to give them to me.
She was the most straight-laced feminist I’d ever met, with a moral compass that never deviated from straight-to-heaven. A volunteer with the Artemis Foundation, she was there to support women in space without access to community or sex education. My plan was to make loads of cash and get laid. We didn’t have a lot in common.
When the day-lights came on, I went to her bunk to grovel.
“I’ll do anything you want.” What’s the worst she could ask?
“We could be friends,” she said.
I stared at her like a rabbit in the headlights. “You can’t do that,” I stuttered. “Hand out supplies to your friends. There must be some rule against that, right?”
Her face fell, and I felt bad.
“I mean, I just think…” My words trailed off uselessly.
“Yeah, no, you’re right. Stupid idea. Let’s just make it a fair trade. Your entire ration of chocolate.”
“And ten packs of wet tissues.”
I groaned. “Aw man, Sumina.”
“And you have to hand over your music files and promise me that you’ll never sing Gloria Gaynor again.”
That stung. I almost said to hell with it. Then I thought about the next seven months and sighed. “OK.” So it wasn’t that hard to tempt Eve with the apple after all. I was almost a little disappointed.
I pulled out the chocolate and tissues and the player from my drawer. Everything I owned.
She went to her drawer, but she didn’t get the tablets. Instead, she pulled out a bright yellow cosmetics bag. Inside was my sister’s photo, a spare toothbrush, and the moon cup. “I found it when we left the station,” she said. “You were too hung over to function, so I thought I better check your room.” She tossed it to me.
“And you didn’t tell me?” I lunged for the music player, but she was quicker.
“No way, we had a deal.”
“This is how you support womenkind?”
She nodded. “Absolutely. You sing like a wounded goat. The fewer people who hear you ruin that song, the better.”
I laughed despite myself.
She shoved my chocolate into her drawer. “And I had to give up my luxury ration to fit the bag in.” She unbuckled herself and drifted towards the floor. “I thought we might end up friends. Who’s the girl?”
She meant the photograph. “My little sister. I haven’t seen her in ten years.”
“I ran away when I was 13. Never been back.” The words had escaped before I had a chance to shut myself up.
Sumina patted my shoulder, didn’t say anything stupid.
“Anyway, thanks for the bag.”
“No problem.” She took a deep breath and pulled herself in front of me. “Why can’t we be friends?”
“I…” I didn’t have an answer. Finally, I shrugged and put my hand out. “Fine. Deal, if you’ll give me 50% of the chocolate back.”
She grinned and shook on it. “Deal.”
I finally got the hell out of there. If she thought the handshake meant something special, then well, that was her problem. I just wanted my chocolate back.
I pulled myself to the backroom to incinerate the remains of my t-shirt. I figured I’d head back to Sumina’s bunk after lunch and we could share some chocolate, maybe listen to a track or two. I heard her shout my name and realized I was humming. “Humming is still allowed,” I shouted.
Sumina’s laugh echoed through the hold, and I found myself smiling again. Hell, it was only for seven months, right?
Maybe having a friend wouldn’t be so bad after all.
Previously published in Crossed Genres, 2014. Reprinted here by permission of the author.