QSFer David Bridger has a new FF sci fi book out:
Alien invasion novella. A science fiction thriller that features the meeting of two lesbian characters who might enjoy a hopeful future together if they can survive the next five days.
Bobbie balanced her chair on its back legs and braced her bare feet against the wrought iron railing, sitting between the open balcony doors to catch every breath of air in the sultry Paris night.
She wore only a thin cotton slip, but it was okay. Five floors up from the street, no one overlooked the apartment.
She’d reminded Bobbie of that earlier, when they’d argued again about her untidiness.
There had been a time when Celine’s rented apartment within earshot of the Place du Tertre was only a bonus to their exciting new relationship, and moving in with her had been the obvious thing to do.
That time had passed. Their relationship had become a habit, and then her jealousy about Bobbie’s artistic talent became an embarrassment, and now Bobbie felt dirty for having stayed so long after it turned sour.
Celine took her commercial art seriously. She took herself seriously. Which made it all the more painful that Bobbie’s photography was better than her painting.
More than better. Greater. In just a few seconds, any one of her low-light shots revealed more subtle depth than Celine could depict on a canvas she’d sweated over for a week.
And it wasn’t Bobbie who’d said that. It was Celine, four weeks ago, in the depths of one of her drunken nights. She’d cried, then, and the next day had gone into a sulk as if her observation had been her lover’s.
It was the beginning of their end. Celine’s studio started spilling out into their shared living space. She let it happen as if by accident, but it was a sullen assault in the form of discarded paint pots and oily rags.
Bobbie had to find a place of her own, and soon.
The British diaspora lived mainly in the east of the city. They’d been made welcome and helped to settle in the 19th and 20th arrondissements thirty years ago by the national government of France, who, along with all their European cousins, were resolutely hostile to the banger invaders and disgusted by the British government’s enthusiastic surrender to the aliens.
Bobbie had lived in a leafy avenue near the Père Lachaise cemetery for her first eight years in Paris, and most of her British and French friends were still there. She could go back, although she would rather not share again. Her half of the monthly rent for Celine’s apartment wouldn’t need to stretch much further to get her a one bedroom place in the nightclub district. It would be noisy and a bit rough, but she was a night owl anyway so she would cope.
Except that her two years in Montmartre had spoiled her for living elsewhere in the city. If she had to be in Paris—
But, hey, did she have to be in Paris?
A bead of sweat trickled down the middle of her chest. She scuffed it dry with the heel of her hand.
She was a free agent. With a camera slung around her neck, and the back end of her online shop accessible from anywhere with internet, the world was pretty much hers to explore for low-light beauty.
She chose two shots from the balcony to mark the end of her time in Montmartre. A group of mid-distance rooftops silhouetted against the starry sky, and then the apartment’s interior littered with Celine’s paint pots.
As always, her main technical challenge was coaxing a camera to see into the darkness as well as she saw into it. Frankly, it was an impossible task, but she’d learned a few tricks to bring the two into proximity.
After the cameras and lenses, her most important bits of kit were a telescopic tripod and a remote shutter release, which worked together to eliminate body movement problems when long exposures were required, and a mirror lock-up to avoid internal camera vibration.
She shot raw so she could adjust the white balance later, and usually took several exposures of each shot to give her the option of layering them together.
Equipment took care of the practical side of her work. The rest was art.
More often than not, and without hesitation in these final shots from the balcony, she added dark drama by making it black and white art.
She opened her tripod on the balcony and set everything up. After all these years, her trusty old Sigma 10-20mm remained her favourite lens for cityscape work. Shooting at such a wide angle allowed her to grab a lot of night sky and use all the available light.
The interior scene lacked the natural focus of the sharp angular skylines outside. It was a mess. She swapped lenses and increased the shutter speed to let in less light while she focused on the foreground items and created bokeh beyond. Now it was an arty mess.
Already she anticipated that when she looked at that picture in the future, she would remember Celine more fondly than perhaps she deserved.
Five minutes later, all her equipment was packed and ready to move.
Her phone ding-donged.
It was a text from Alan. She leaned her forearms on the balcony railing and smiled for the first time in days.
We’re all okay here. Just wondering if you’re coming home for a visit soon. You should. Owen misses you.
She nearly dropped the phone.
Her heart pounded, and every pulse in her body thrummed with it.
Her fingertips tingled.
Her vision sharpened.
She had never thought Alan would send that message. When they agreed on the code before she left the farm, neither of them thought he would ever send it.
But here he was, ten years later, telling her that Owen missed her.
Owen, their beloved sheepdog who’d died fifteen years ago when Bobbie was thirteen and Alan fifteen.
The code meant one thing, and one thing only: her father had returned.
The lump in her throat made swallowing difficult.
She remembered the stories. Every one of them. All the secrets her mum and dad who were really her aunt and uncle had told her while they were bringing her up as their own with their son Alan as her big brother.
You coming home then?
She was already rattling the keys on her laptop, booking a seat to London on the first Eurostar train next morning.
Yes. Can you pick me up from the station?
Yes. Don’t bother with the local trains. I’ll come and get you from Shrewsbury.
Another rattling session on the keyboard.
I’ll be there at 11.40 tomorrow morning. Thanks x
No problem x
She divided her clothes into what would fit in her old haversack and what she would leave for Celine to wear or throw away, and taped a note to the bathroom mirror.
Cameras. Haversack. Laptop. All ready to go. She would rest for a few hours, then get a taxi to the Gare du Nord before Celine staggered home at dawn.
Her father had come back. Her real father. The one she hadn’t seen since she was a baby. The one whose face she couldn’t remember, but she’d imagined it a million times.
Her alien father.
David Bridger settled in England’s West Country after twenty years of ocean-based mischief, during which he worked at different times as a lifeguard, a sailor, an intelligence gatherer, and an investigator. He writes science fiction and fantasy novels.