I slowly turn the glass between my hands, sliding it smoothly on the pristine table’s surface. My speech is over, so I attentively keep my gaze on the round, crystal brim.
I feel a smile widen on my face- I don’t even need to look at Benissif. I know exactly the kind of look painted on his tanned, aged face.
In fact, I can almost hear it when his face assumes the abused “Why are you doing this to me, you brat ?”.
I narrated my piece to my old friend, tutor, and financial advisor exactly how I practiced roughly a million times in the mirror.
Well ok, thousands of times.
The decorated restaurant, comfortably close to the highest gravitational load available in the old Coriolis-Class Station, is Benissif’s favourite.
Surprisingly, as it’s also my favourite place to give him hell.
If something ever happened to me, or was bound to happen, or if I ever had a crazy, reckless idea, I somehow always ended up breaking it to him exactly at this very same table.
Well, he owned this restaurant for a number of years, and certainly both food and view are spectacular… imagine, having a dinner where the whole floor is actually a giant window peering over an earthlike planet, with some of the most beautiful, and large, ice rings ever seen… and yet after all these years of bad news I was kind of surprised he wasn’t physically loathing the place.
I carefully sip the expensive Lavian brandy and sit back the crystal tumbler on the table. Only then I work out the guts to look at him.
Yep, that’s the face.
He misinterpret my widening smile for a mockery, and starts to stammer pronouns for a good five seconds.
Only then his brain catches up with his mouth and reins it in, flicks a silky napkin from his pocket and taps his sweaty forehead.
“Why?” he mutters sotto voce as if out of breath.
To be fair his tone gets to me- he’s actually been the father I never had.
I can feel the pain in his voice.
Moronically, this part I didn’t prepare for- I don’t have an immediate answer. Well, not one I can tell him.
I try a simple- “Well, this will make you rich… in… any case.”
He blurts an old Turkish curse; some raspy, long, and twisted thing- loud enough to have even the middle aged waiter to disapprovingly raise an eyebrow.
His voice is now fast and choppy, heavily accented “I don’t need more money.”
Every time he ends a sentence he taps the table with the fingers knuckles.
“I need to know you’re safe! I need to know you’re happy! And I want to know the colour of your many children’s EYES!”.
Good old Benissif al Bedihir, always the emotional kind of person.
Indeed, he took really good care of me, on behalf of my parents, since the youngest age.
He attentively provided me with all that was truly important.
Education, knowledge, expertise, manners… Ah ok, I might not have been too receptive to this last one, but still; all I have, all I am and my whole life is, I owe to him.
So, let’s say I can understand his reaction now that I told him I was going to leave .
To explore the Galaxy, of all things. Hell, all in all he’s being entirely too nice.
Then the food arrive; right on time.
While we eat- and drink- the atmosphere gets lighter. Maybe the impressive sight, maybe the alcohol- he starts to accept it.
He even helps me defining the paperworks needed to settle my stuff while I’ll be away.
“… so WHEN you return…” he emphatically remarks “all will be just like the day you left”.
I agree rising my arms in defeat and the evening flows on for nearly two more hours.
As the waitress takes away the empty dessert plates, my old friend glances at me in a funny way, push back on the chair and lace his fingers over his round belly.
“You’re like your father.” Benissif remarks slowly.
“I told you I don’t like that.” I scratch my chin defensively.
“It matters not. Even the way you just lifted your eyebrow, right now-” shakes his head “That’s him.”
“Amazing, considering you seen him last when you were four years old…” he sighes deeply “You could be doing the lowest job on the smallest bebek of mud, but your mind will always be someplace else, always far and away.”
“And this… wasderloost of yours? HIM! All over again! That’s how he lost himself…”
I spell it out slowly "It’s Wan-der-lust-… "
He chase it away with a hand, annoyed. “Same thing, who cares once you’re…”
he trails into silence while his eyes get all misty.
“Look, I’ll come back.” I try to reassure him. Or maybe me. Probably both. “There’s just so many places I want to see…” I gaze at the milky way low, beside my feet.
He turns away- looking exactly like a cat annoyingly uninterested at the scolding it’s receiving.
“What are you… where are you going to go?” pause “Looking for Draxla ? Thargoids bok ?”
He looks to me again… “You did hear about all those attacks on humans?”
My turn to look away… "I know. I’m not going that way- "
He suddently pulls himself right up on the chair’s edge.
“You’re NOT going to follow your father’s list, right? Right?!”
"No, no- " I lie apologetically “It’s about… maybe discovering some new black holes or some- I mean… just… Really away.” I slowly rise my arms as if to symbolically embrace the Galaxy.
Cheesy- I cringe a bit.
" Tabii ki …" I’m afraid he didn’t buy it.
“Well, I’m old and I’m tired now” he says resting once more on the chair’s high back.
“Tomorrow we talk about… " waves one chubby hand all over " …this. I want to know which ship you’ll use, codes, numbers… We have to plan the outbound route to deep space in case of an early emergency…”
Then points his index at my nose “We have a lot of work to do- If you fail to prepare…”
I complete the sentence easily enough “… you prepare to fail, I know. YOU taught me well.”
Slightly more relaxed he asks “Will you take the Wolfram ?”
He’s enquiring about my first ever Cobra Mk.III, except I know he always had a tracker beacon in it. Cheeky, lovely, careful b*stard.
“Mmh-nope…” I fake indecisiveness and his mask drops a bit “I will buy the new Krait. It’s the Mk.II- a solid ship. Plus the specifics I could toy with give me some serious edge over the Wolfram .” I love talking nerd to him. Definitely not his element.
“Ah…” he surrenders. " Anlıyorum . I see."
We get up, he insist on paying the bill and presses his tumb on a blinking patch on the table.
With misty eyes again he hugs me.
For the first time in many many years I actually feel pain, in this hug.
"Till tomorrow Benny " when I was a kid I always called him Benny “… sleep well.”
We part ways without other words and as I watch him waddling away I realise how old Benny is.
After he disappears in the elevator shaft I turn around and reach the main observation bubble of the restaurant.
Suddently I hate the big black for forcing me to hurt my old friend so much-
End of part one but still work in progress
EDIT: I might re-edit this for clarity, typos and whatnot.