When they were fresh out of the academy, Rosie’s friend Aleyna had painted her the picture that now took pride of place in her and Richard’s sitting room. Wishing on a star, it was called. Rosie had always wondered if Aleyna knew the old Disney song too, if that was a motivation in her painting it. Perhaps she could ask now. Perhaps that was now allowed.
Wishing on a star. It was what she had been doing for years.
Hoping for something that was never going to come.
And now there was something new. The chance to go home, to move away form here, to re-begin in a new place, or even an old place. The choice of taking dual citizenship or reverting to one’s old nationality. A passport, flights paid for, funds to find accommodation. The world lay open before them.
For the first time, she and Richard had been able to talk about their lives. He’d come from Ireland, she should have been able to identify that soft burr in his voice and she wondered whether it was a bad omen that she hadn’t been able to.
Their parents would arrive on the island tomorrow. Rosie was afraid and excited all at once. It was half a lifetime ago that she knew them – would she still know them? She and Richard were then to fly to the States for two weeks, then Ireland and then… The future before them suddenly offered a range of possibilities. They could stay, they could go. They could seek IVF or other treatment.
the gap in their plans replicated the gap she felt between them.
And as they pulled together for the last night before their worlds changed, neither knew if their evening’s passion was the fevered lust of two lovers reigniting a passion for one another, or the last embers of a fire that was going out.
The dining hall was already emptying as the first young people made their way off the island and back to their families. Some would return, most would stay away and it could only be hoped that they would take their gifts with them and become that light in the world they were being trained to be.
Those who chose to stay would complete their training as planned and then… maybe they would stay, maybe not. The Academy was to be re-designed as a university, for those who, at eighteen, chose to come and could get through the rigorous scholarship process being developed. It was, the council said, a fairer system.
Svetlana knew this was the right decision and yet she felt paralysed by this strange new world. So many colleagues, friends and students would leave, and she might never see them again. Others were staying – Rupesh, Naima, Macy, Borat, Joachim, Larissa, Kendall… but many others would go. The girl Sara was already packing, excited for her chance to ‘be herself’. Svetlana was pleased for her, yet that was tinged with sadness and fear. She did not want to go back, didn’t want to revisit the old world, didn’t want to be reminded how she didn’t fit in there. The council were deliberating over whether to lift the prohibition on gay couples, now they could reason that it wouldn’t really affect the population growth, so long as there were enough people willing to settle here and raise children – so many of those born here were staying – there were generations of families on the island now, its future was secured.
She didn’t know what the new order of things would look like. She wanted to remain just as she was, fulfilling her purpose, living as she’d been taught. It was her duty.
Families had been coming in waves, a few at a time, for the past few weeks. Esther’s own family were due to arrive in a fortnight’s time. And as she walked around town, she noticed such a difference. People were freer than they had ever been.
They were revelling in the new technologies they had access to – internet connection for the first time ever, for many, the first mobile phone they had ever seen.
Some would leave, others would come, and that was the way it should be. For now, she would stay. She would serve on the council, she would serve her people. For now, the world could see them – and it was their chance to be the light they were always told they would be. Esther breathed in the new air. There was a fresh life in the community. They would shine.
Bryan was nervous. His father would be meeting his brother about now, and later, so would he. His mother had an elderly father still alive and in a week’s time his parents would travel out to see them. Carole’s parents’ families would arrive next week.
It was surreal to think they had grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins out there somewhere. People they’d never met, some of whom spoke a different language, with whom they had nothing in common but blood and yet whose lives would now, in some way, start to impact on theirs.
What if their parents decided to move away for good? What if, one day, their children decided to explore and they never came home? One day, he knew he and Carole would have to travel out there, too. The prospect was terrifying. Already some of their friends had moved away, others would go too. The world was changing faster than he could ever have expected, and he feared that his country would no longer resemble what he had known his whole life.
The man, Ricardo, his uncle, had tears in his eyes when he saw Bryan and the kids. Bryan’s father could not stop his own tears falling. The brothers kept speaking in some language Bryan didn’t understand, but their exclamations suggested love and joy and sorrow and disbelief.
In broken English, Jose asked him all about himself and his family and Bryan barely knew what to tell him – his whole world was here, and it was small, and the world of Brazil his uncle talked about seemed so distant and strange.
‘But you will phone your uncle, yes? Or Skype? On the internet?’
Bryan didn’t know what to say. He’d only recently learned what these words meant, through friends who’d received the equipment. He and Carole were afraid – they didn’t know what these devices would do, what they’d let in. So he could only affect something in between a nod and a shrug as he tried to adjust his heart to take in this strange lovely man who was kin, knowing there would be more to come.
‘It will only be for a few months’ Jane reassured Rebekah.
‘Just until your grandfather is stable. And then we’ll be back.’
‘But will you stay? When you come back, will you all stay? I know you both miss it.’
Jane and Michael had hoped, naively, that they would all go. That they would find somewhere in between their two families and start a new life there. They knew Emilie would thrive in a different kind of school, and David… well, he was young, he would adapt. But Rebekah and Steven had both been adamant. Their lives and families were here, and they would not go, except for a visit.
Jane and Michael couldn’t imagine living half a world from their grandchildren. But for now, Michael’s father was desperately sick and they needed to be with him.
‘You’ll be OK, Rocky boy. Steven will take care of you. And I’ll be back soon.’
A few months ago, Emilie would have raged against anything that would take her away from her dog and her friends… but Tyler and his parents were planning to leave, Susie was going to visit her relatives – there weren’t the same anchors keeping her here. Besides she’d heard so much about the wider world, she was excited to find out what it was like for herself.
It all lay before her – her parents had said once she was eighteen, she could make up her own mind about where she wanted to be, what she wanted to do. No pre-determined life plan, no assignation of a husband, no curfews, no limits. A whole new world was waiting.