One evening, as Zahra was weeding the garden, her cell phone rang. It was Fabian Branch.
“I know this sounds dorky,” he said, “but I’ve been really getting into cooking. I know your mom used to grow this amazing stuff in your back yard. Would you be willing to let me have some of the harvest? I can make it worth your while. Wait, I didn’t mean that how it sounded.”
Zahra hung up and smiled. It was a ploy, of course, to get her mind off things. But it was a kind ploy.
After work the next day, she dropped by Fabian’s house. He’d moved out from the huge den of the Branch clan and was living with a couple of roommates. A policeman’s salary barely made ends meet.
Fabian was delighted to see her and asked all sorts of questions about work. They had more to talk about than Zahra had realized. Fabian was a beat cop now, but he was studying to be a Forensic Analyst. He was up-to-date on all the scientific and computational advances. Zahra should have realized he wouldn’t be able to stay away from science; they’d grown up looking at the stars and speculating about what might live among them.
Eventually, Fabian admitted his real purpose.
“I was worried about you,” he said, scuffing his foot in the grass. “I know you have a big family and lots of support, but I didn’t want you to feel alone.”
Zahra was touched. Sometimes you could be alone in a crowd, and sometimes it could be hardest to talk to people you saw every day. And Zahra had never beaten around the bush about her and Cylc0n3, weird as the relationship might have seemed. Fabian was one guy who would never be phased by the world of the weird.
“Maybe we should hang out more in person,” she suggested. “Would you like to come by my house this week?”
Fabian’s eyes lit up. Zahra hoped he realized she meant to stay friends.
(Heh. I’ve never pushed these two together. In fact, they’re still friends because Fabian calls her autonomously. Right after Cycl0n3 “died,” Zahra got a bona-fide gardener’s opportunity to bring him some produce to cook with.)