The Century Phoenix

The very first time I laid eyes on her I just knew.  A rush surged through my entire body.  It was true love.  She was a wonder to behold in a sea full of astounding marvels.  She had to be mine.  How could I live without her by my side?  How could anyone dream to compare?


I wasn’t meant to see her, the salesman made that abundantly clear as he kept trying in vain to recapture my attention.  It was the biggest dealership on the world and he wouldn’t let me forget it as he led me around the ‘sales floor’.  His distractions were no use; I was transfixed on that beauty hidden away in the corner.  I had never seen such jaw dropping curves.  She had an old fashioned style.  Everything about her flowed, the lines she drew on the horizon were flawless.  There wasn’t anything like her in the galaxy, not anymore.  She was a relic of past fashions, unique in today’s age of the glamorous, shiny and devoid of feeling.  Straight lines on everything, no character, their sharp silhouettes tore into landscapes craving for attention.  Demanding to be worshiped, to be loved, but everyone was the same.  She blended gracefully; she complimented the world itself, a vision amongst natural beauty.  She didn’t call out begging for attention, everything about her was subtle, disregarded because she didn’t conform.  Neither did I, she had to be mine!


The salesman failing to keep my attention, getting slightly frustrated, upped his game.  He starts to quiz me on what brought me to his shop.  I simply say adventure.  He laughs, not intentionally, but he laughs all the same.  He claims everything he’s offering is good for adventure, do I want to play it safe, or am I looking for danger.  Different builds, different purposes, he claims he’s discreet; just tell him what I truly desire and he’ll match me up.  He says he’ll break out the top class material as he dances me around the floor, around all his “favourites”.  The ones reserved for special customers, but seen as I was a man of “character”, he’d show me his best wares.  Smarmy, of course but I followed inspecting everything he had to show.  Some were big, some small, some older and some fresh on the scene.  There were some that needed a little work but had great pedigree and others so ugly you have to question why they even exist.  All however were the same, taking their style advice from a society driven by conformity to look the same shade of pretty and creating banality.  He was very proud of his collection and even prouder of the “younger models” he had on display.  I just felt sorry for them, stood there waiting for a man with more money than sense to come whisk them away.  They would be used and abused, nothing more than pleasure rides to be thrown on the scrap heap when they start to break down.


Often the best finds in life are from the scrap heap.  Broken but with the right care, the right attention, with real love, they can rise above the rest and be a genuine unique beauty.  Like the one I saw.  The one I can’t shake.  Touring around the sales floor she’s all I can think of.  The salesman can see I’m not interested in what he has and starts to take it personally.  He figures he’s lost the sale anyway so why keep up the pretence of being nice.  He starts with reverse psychology.  I give him one of those ‘please don’t’ looks and he backs off the foolish pitch.  Finally I just have to ask about that special one I’ve fallen for, trying to sound the least desperate I can.  Again he laughs, this time on purpose.  I tell him I’m serious and it kills his laughter.  “Can’t do it”, that’s the only response he gives.  Charming, although what should I expect, where I am isn’t exactly know for being very ‘civilised’.  I ask again, he tries to change the subject.  Tells me he has one just like her that’s had some “stunning” cosmetic work done that I’d like more.  I doubt it but I indulge, only to be proven right.  Trying not to gloat I ask again and he again tries to deflect.  He’s not quite given up on selling me something in his cavalcade of glamorous misfits.

Finally he snaps.  “That over there, garbage, no good for anything!  I’m showing you a world of possibilities and you want to cosy up with something that’ll fall apart as soon as you touch it?!”

He’s hyperventilating, red in the face, vein popping on his forehead.  Customer service fail, but I still want to do the sale for my diamond in the ruff.  I tell him I’m looking to make a long term investment and I’m not afraid of a bit of work.  I try to explain that I didn’t pick her, she picked me.  I try to appeal to his romantic side but he doesn’t have one.  He just wants a sale and has lost complete interest in my needs.  Broken he admits that her can’t sell her because she doesn’t belong to him.  He points me toward a small makeshift building; it looks like it was made of bits of scrap that’s fallen from the dilapidated building he used as his office.  He makes one last desperate plea, telling me he has the best wares in the area.  My mind however is set, after all I’ve fallen in love.  He trudges off dejected, thought he was onto a sure thing with me, but sadly denied.  Barely a few steps away he turns back, exhausted with disgust in his voice he cries over to me

“You know I sell Starships right?  Personal transport vessels that’ll let you explore that stars instead of being stuck here, destitute on this world like the rest of the scum.  You have a chance to escape in one of the finest ships around and you want to play with scrap.  Next time visit a junk yard and don’t waste my time!”


In his defence I did waste his time.  In my defence, “finest ships on this world” is a pretty big stretch.  I was done with the salesman and had set my sights on the ship I’d seen.  With a nervous flutter, I cautiously sauntered on over to the makeshift hut and chapped at the door.  The door fell off.  A boot flew at me.  It narrowly missing my head, flowed by a scream

“I just fixed that!” an enraged female voice cried out, “I told you before, if you want me to fix those shimmerin’ shambles you call starships…” the voice gets louder, moving toward the hole where the door used to be.

“…then yer gonna have to start payin’ me proper so I can get decent parts! How’d you expect any self respectin’ engineer to do anythin’ wi the rusted remnants of yer failed misadventures!  An if you wouldny mind, kindly stop breakin’ ma stuff ya…oh…?”

Not who she was expecting it seems.  This small fiery young woman with danger in her soft green eyes and a rather strong throwing arm was on the warpath.  She stops dead mid-insult.  “You’re not…” I shake my head and introduce myself.  She stands silent for a moment, taking me in, sizing me up.  A deep breath, a tilt of the head and with that the rage melted away, murderous or mellow in a second.  She introduces herself though embarrassed laughter.  Clearly she’s got a strained relationship with the salesman, I can’t blame her, but I didn’t want to pry.


Her name’s Erika.  She tells me she’s the maintenance engineer for the dealership.  I figured that from her screams, but she said it with such distain.  A tortured artist, trapped perhaps?  Still, engineer was obvious to see, she had it written all over her from head to toe.  An overall covered in what I can only assume is machine grease, wearing a stocked tool belt that hangs over shapely hips, drawing attention to her curved physique.  Her hair a dark red, at least I think it’s meant to be, dirty from the same grease perhaps, or maybe unwashed after long hours spent maintaining the dealerships wares.  She wore it back and kept it out of her way in two tight pleated bunches.  Practical but feminine, she couldn’t hide that.  A pair of goggles rested atop her head, green to match her eyes.  The overall a muted blue, second-hand, the torn away stitching from an old name badge still present belonging to a ‘Laura’ or maybe ‘Lauren’, all I could make out was the ‘Lau’.  She was wearing the overall comfortable, clearly between jobs.  Slightly open, cooling her ample chest, exposing a tight fitting white tank top.  Stained of course with the trappings of her job, but she wasn’t concerned.  She was certainly a delightful surprise and I found it difficult not to stare, just the right amount of flesh showing and in just the right place, arousing interest in more than that ship.  She noticed but appeared charmed by my shy furtive glances.  She beckoned me into the makeshift hut where we preceded the chat about my intentions.  She was intrigued.


The makeshift office was a pinnacle of chaos, there seemed to be no order; the hut could fall apart at any second, as I’ve seen by the door and I’m pretty sure the generator in the corner may blow up at any second.  Yet amidst all this clutter sat a woman with such a calming presence, nothing like the little bundle of rage I had first seen.  Her eyes had a kindness and tortured wisdom.  They had seen a lot in her short life, but had a sparkle to them that captured your very soul and made you feel at ease.  Erika explained the ship I’d fallen for doesn’t fly. It’s a shell, pretty to the eye but it needs a fair bit of work.  Curious however, she asked what I’d do with it if I had the ship fixed up.  Again I said “adventure”, but I found myself compelled to continue.    I told her I wanted to take control of my life, escape myself imposed exile and free myself from living in fear.  Take chances, be bold, be brave and find a purpose.  Cargo runs, transport, or simply hopping worlds, I didn’t have a mission in mind.  I just figured find the right ship and she’ll guide the way.  She saw the love in my eyes, felt the romance of my soul and poetics of my words.  That ship with the beautiful curves, that were almost sensual as hers, was the one for me.


Sitting back in her chair, hands clasping the back of her head.  She had a contemplative face as she spun her chair side to side.  It was adorable, like a child trying to figure out their next mischievous move.  I smiled and she came to a stop smiling back.  She knew I was onto her.

“You’ll need an engineer if you want that old thing spaceworthy” baiting her trap

I tell her it won’t be a problem, I have a dry dock and there’s always someone looking for work.

“Not as good as me” said through a beaming smile. “Ain’t nobody better round here” reeling me in for her own sales pitch, springing her trap.

Instead of paying her for the ship, she gives it to me and I pay her for her time and services as an engineer.  She works with me to get the ship flying and when it’s all done and I’m ready to go adventuring, she comes with me.  Sure a steady job is great but when you hate who you work for it can get tiresome, she wanted an escape from here as bad as me.  Kindred spirits, maybe?  It was a hard proposition to turn down.  She knows she’s got me interested.  I’m going to need a first mate to keep a ship like this running, I’m handy when it comes to patch work but if there’s a serious problem, the ship could be sunk.  An engineer would be good to have around but we’ve just met.  I had to admit I like her confidence and I admire her bravery.  Wanting to run off with a stranger, ready for adventure, she’s peaked my genuine interest.  I make a counter offer.  I pay her more than she’s asking, she helps me fix the ship and if we work well together, then we’ll revisit the question of being part of the crew.  She takes a moment to think.  Swaying side to side on her chair again, that same contemplative face that slowly forms a confident grin.  Leaning forward she tells me she’ll agree on one condition.  Excitable; her eyes sparkle wide, ecstatic about her potential addendum.  She makes a grand declaration that she wants naming rights for the ship.  Not now but once the repairs are done.  I’ve heard its good luck to have a woman launch a ship; surely it’s the same for naming.  I pretend to think it over but I’ve already decided I’ll agree.  Leaping over the table she hugs me, gives me a kiss on the cheek and jumps up to grab a bag and jacket from an open locker against the wall.  She tells me to call my guy at the dry dock to come collect my new ship and that she’s going to write a shopping list.  First though, she’s off to see the smarmy salesman and quit.  Smile on her face, fire in her eyes she waves me out of the hut, before slamming the locker shut.  The windows fell out of their frames.  She didn’t care.


Over the next three months Erika and I worked to get my beautiful rusting ship back to her once former glory.  To be able to touch her and help her to fly once again was going to be a life changing experience.    Erika was quite the force to be reckoned with as she tore through the ship planning out what needs to be done.  For a woman of a smaller stature, she certainly carried some extra ferocity.  Isn’t that the stereotype for redheads, maybe that was her warning label?  Regardless, It was an absolute delight to watch her.  The finances of this little venture were left to me.  I had inherited a great deal after selling my business.  After the accident I couldn’t face staying, it wasn’t my fault but I was in charge.  I’d lost my fire, my interest; I just wanted to be alone.  Besides I was a much better pilot and it was time to pull myself from my rut.  I had to start living again and I never felt more alive than I did in flight, but getting my new love space worthy was the priority.  I proved useful in the repairs through my old supply contacts, able to get a hold of everything we could possible need.  Erika was cautious and didn’t like to spend too much; she didn’t like the idea of treating me like a bank.  She has a better eye anyway and told me newer parts weren’t always the best.  She’d scrounge what she could from scrap yards for as little as possible and then show off her extraordinary skill as an engineer.  She was wasted in that dealership.


As the parts began to arrive I got my hands dirty with the smaller tasks as Erika flourished under the challenges of rebuilding an entire engine.  She was remarkable.  I’d watch her when she wasn’t looking, just making repairs or tinkering with something.  I’d never seen someone more alive.  By the end of the second week she had caught me watching her and took great pleasure in making fun of me for ‘checking her out’.  She quickly stopped when I explained how captivating it was to see someone truly in love with the moment and throwing themselves fully into life.  That uncontrollable gaze of love found in true contented happiness.  She was flattered and charmed.  She told me she’s seen something similar in me.  When I asked when she blushed and refused to go into details, starting to tease me about something else instead.  The woman was incredibly useful but could be an incredible menace.


We started spending more and more of our time together outside of the ship repairs.  It was nice to have someone to talk to again, it had been a while.  After the accident I was so withdrawn, the people that worked for me looked at me differently.  Their eyes didn’t blame, but they had lost faith.  I pulled away from friends, had no family to speak of and fell into a pit of despair, wishing it was me that had died.  If Erika was going to travel with me we needed more of this social time to get to know one another.  It wasn’t that I was guarded with her, quite the contrary.  I just needed to know if my feelings of trust and affection were coming from a real place and not intensified by my lack of human contact in my self imposed exile.


After the third week Erika moved into my apartment claiming it was a good way to save money.  Of course when I say moved in, she and her belongings just appeared one day.  I’m sure she planned this, it was right at the start of a new month, just as the lease on her apartment ran out.   A force of nature one might say, but I admired her tenacity.  We worked together, ate together, lived together, it was actually good training for travelling together.  I’d never give her any credit for her devious plot as it gave us the chance to really bond.  She probably deserved some but I wasn’t going to reinforce negative behaviour, besides it was fun watching her coy attempts at soliciting a compliment.  Our relationship was evolving pretty quickly, I trusted her and she constantly impressed me with her skills, knowledge and humour.  She had started to call me Captain when she was in a playfully good mood and something a lot more vulgar that starts with a ‘C’ when the repairs weren’t going so well.  She certainly kept things interesting while we were valiantly breathing life back into an entity that had been so callously cast aside.  The ship was actually in much better shape that I had originally thought, Erika claimed that was because I was blinded by lust and too interested in the ships body, not what’s inside.  At which point she said “my eyes are up here!” claimed I was looking down her top, softly slapped me and scampered off giggling to the engine room.  Menace!


By the end of the first month it was like were destined to be together.  We complimented each other perfectly.  She would make the ship fly; I would eventually fly the ship.  When problems needed a deft touch I stepped up, when it needed a more hands on approach…well, Erika was already doing it without telling me.  It worked; we balanced each other’s skills and I had already decided that she’d be coming with me.  I didn’t tell her, but I think she knew.


The ship was coming together rather nicely and Erika had begun to refer to her as our baby.  I told her that better not be the ships name, trying in vain to find out what she was planning to call the ship I love.  She stayed silent; she claimed to have already picked the name but refused to say.  We teased and tormented each other constantly.  There was nothing we couldn’t say to one another and she had quite the mouth on her, especially when she was getting frustrated.  On the ship it was business first, she was a determined worker and had amazing focus.  If she was in that special zone the outside world was a blur.  It was fascinating and a little bit adorable to watch.  She had started throwing objects at me when she caught me yelling at me to do some work.  At home we’d develop a greater trust, with late nights sharing the secrets of our lives, our tortured despairs.  As time passed the stories we told were more personal.  There were tales of lost loves and failed ambitions, childhood antics.  By the end of the second month we’d accepted the fact we were kindred spirits, joked we were soul mates and claimed when we finally got the ship flying, partners in crime


One night at the end of the second month Erika told me how she came to work at the dealership.  A gifted engineer, prestigious education, highly sought after apprenticeship and a disaster that wasn’t her fault.  There was a tragic accident that took nineteen lives, including that of the man she loved and tarnished the entire engineering team on the project.  It was an experimental engine, a great deal her design, but it was being rushed by her jealous employer.  His envy cost him his own life, a great portion of his staff and five bystanders.  Erika found herself grief stricken, without a job and crippling anxiety.  Though tarnished by the accident she was still sought after but couldn’t hold down a position for very long.  She was angry, there was no target, and everyone was fair game.  Her life was determined by a plan and now that plan was gone.  She pushed and scared off family, she gave up the pretence of friendships and lost herself to idle tinkering.  After angering several landlords with the scrap in her apartments and the clattering noises, she eventually took up residence at the dealership.  It was a good match at first, decent scrap, ships to play with and it meant she didn’t have to take her tinkering home.  Sadly the ill received advances from the sales team and become tiresome, but she had burnt too many bridges to find the financial stability to leave.  Seeing her life pass her by was too much and when I appeared with my grand plans for adventure she knew it was the sign she was looking for.  I was touched by her raw emotion, in her trust to confide her darkest story.  Inspired, I told her a tale of my own.


I told her the story of how I lost my way. I was a skilled pilot and owner of a successful courier service.  I too suffered at the hands of an accident.  I took a contact, not knowing it had already been promised to another courier who’d failed to meet their promises.  They had criminal ties and used them to sabotage my fleet.  Two engineers and one pilot killed, five ships sent to the scrap yard.  It was my fault for being greedy and not looking into the contract, I knew of this rival courier’s reputation and if I had only known they were involved I wouldn’t have taken it.  I would rebuild the business but my heart wasn’t there anymore.  I felt responsible and as soon as I felt that stability was restored I sold off my controlling interest and disappeared.  Wallowing in self pity and blaming my own recklessness I exiled myself to live alone for fear of causing anyone pain.  In time I started travelling, looking at ship years, visiting dealerships looking to recapture my original passion.  To fly, to soar in the stars and feel that sense of adventure you can only find looking at the vast wonders of the galaxy.  That’s what led me to the dealership Erika begrudgingly worked at and to recapturing love.


Erika understood the pain and the need to escape all too well.  We comforted each other for the bravery in bearing our souls.  That was the night we knew that we were destined to meet and travel together.  That was the night we admitted to one another that we’d inadvertently saved each other.  That was the night looked into each other’s eyes and truly saw one another.  That was the night we first kissed.


It was inevitable.  Spending that much time together it was bound to happen.  We were both shocked and apologised.  We blamed it on the honesty and the alcohol, mostly trying to blame it on the alcohol.  The next few weeks were different, avoiding each other and getting into petty arguments.  We refused the address the obvious reason and went about working separately.  The relationship was strained and we both hated it.  Every time we tried to get back to where we used to be it was awkward.  More and more I would watch her work, careful to stay out of sight.  Maybe she knew but didn’t want to fight, but nothing was said.  I desperately tried to find the words, accept my feelings.  After two weeks and too many arguments I had to do something.  I was done dancing around the issue; I wanted to tell her what I’d discovered in our estrangement.  Despite the confusion, despite the silly fights neither of us ran away, we were committed to the ship and to each other.  We still wanted to share this adventure; we were companions, shipmates and kindred spirits.  It was a kiss, yes a good one, but did it mean we had to stop being friends?  After the two weeks Erika had stopped talking.  Enough was enough, words had to be spoken and I had to think of them quick before I lost her.


I wrote a speech in my head; reciting it over and over again in the cabin I had picked as mine onboard the ship.  I’d started to sleep there, giving Erika her space, but also afraid to be alone with her at home.  Practicing the grand speech I had planned in my cabin aboard ship one night, Erika came to join me.  She too had tired of the silence and was here to have her say.  We had barely spent longer that five minutes in each other’s company for the past two week and hadn’t the courage to look each other in the eye.  She was tense, her eyes full of determination, she had a purpose for being here and it scared her.  The moment I saw her standing there trembling from the words she’d planned to say, I forgot my speech.  Neither of us spoke, we just stared.  For the first hour we never spoke a word to each other, our bodies spoke plenty.  Clothes torn, scattered around the room, we didn’t need words to explain how we felt.  She was angry, annoyed that we’d lost time and frustrated with her own self doubts.  It was evident from the way she threw herself onto me, letting her fiery passions take over.  She demanded to be heard and I gave her the floor.  We conversed through touch, allowing each other to be vulnerable, allowing each other the chance to say what we had been too afraid, too foolish to say out loud.  We’d transcended friendship.  The ship that I claimed to have fallen in love with was just a hunk of metal.  It took Erika and me to bestow it with life and give meaning to my schoolboy lusts.  Its heart was created by us, working side by side, forming an evolving relationship that was at the precipice of and great and scary change


Call it destiny, fate or blind luck we were bound.  Repairs to the ship slowed in the last few weeks claiming we really needed to repair the friendship first.  Why we bothered coming up with an excuse is a mystery.  It was only us after all and that’s all we needed, that’s all we wanted.  She told me she knew early on that something would happen, but was too scared to admit it, to allow herself love again.  She too had pushed her friends away and wondered if what she felt was the pangs for human contact and not the beating of an enchanted heart.  Ever since that first time she caught me watching her work, she knew that I was falling for her.  The way I claimed she looked when she worked, so in love with the simplicity of the moment is exactly how I looked when she caught my eyes gazing on her in fascinated wonder.  It was hard to get any work done when she spoke like that.  I found a rusted spaceship and in bringing her back to life I was rewarded with a partnership, friendship, companionship and what I knew would be the last and best romantic relationship of my life.


We rescued had each other from self inflicted despair and we rescued a ship, bringing it back from scrapheap death.  Rather fittingly Erika had named her ‘The Phoenix’.  She had risen from the ashes anew, alive and ready for a new life of adventure.  It was a good name but not quite perfect.  She would be called ‘The Century Phoenix’, risen from ashes anew having taken one hundred days to restore, one hundred days to inspire a couple to fall in love and one hundred days to raise Erika and I from the ashes of despair, to live and share an adventure together.  That phoenix is my greatest ever decision and arguably my most important object I’ve ever fallen for.  If it were not for her I would not have Erika and when I look at her there’s only one thought in my mind.


This is true love.  She is a wonder to behold in a sea full of astounding marvels and she’s graciously mine.  I can’t live without her by my side, no-one and nothing else, will ever compare.


For my 100th WordPress post i’ve written a story with the simple theme of 100.  My WordPress journey started with fiction when I posted my  novelette and it seems rather fitting that post 100 is a short story.  I know a lot of readers aren’t fond of longer posts, if you’ve read this and enjoyed, thank you so much for giving it time.


I’f like to say thanks to everyone who’s been reading my working, encouraging and supporting me as I ramble on nonsensically.  Its been an honour and a delight to be here and I truly hope that you lovely reader want to keep me around.


Cameron D Hamilton


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