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The Perfect Moment


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The Perfect Moment

July. A month filled with promises, glorious weather and new beginnings. The Academy campus at San Francisco had taken on a very different atmosphere as its final year students made preparations for the graduate ball. Brightly coloured banners decorated the residential buildings, bearing a wide selection of emblems belonging to the Federation's members races; committee members bustled around in groups, frantically dotting 'i's and crossing 't's. Everyone from engineers to tacticians was bathed in their own aura of excitement, each with specific plans for how they would make their evening memorable. An expensive dress here, a gorn costume there, the inevitable practical joke threatening to pop up at an unexpected moment.

For Diego Herrera, the ball represented a wonderful opportunity. His academy-based studies had come to an end, to be replaced in the fall with an internship at Starfleet Medical. He had sacrificed countless hours and social gatherings to keep on top of his studies in pursuit of that goal, and he felt proud that he had reached it. In equal measure, he was proud that his sweetheart since high school, Holly deVries, had secured herself a place on the USS Senegal. She was a scientist, and had wanted to land a deep space assignment for as long as he could remember. He had always loved the sparkle he saw in her eyes whenever she talked about it. It brought a special warmth to her already spellbinding face that was so easy to get lost in.

There had been discussions, of course, initiated by Holly, about how they might manage their relationship across half a galaxy's distance. Diego felt confident that he had reassured her. He was prepared to wait for her, maybe to see if he could earn his own spot on the Senegal's crew once his assignment to Starfleet Medical was complete. After all, they both had busy lives and their careers were important. He had lost count of the times that she had been understanding about his considerable commitments to his studies, his family, Parrises Squares... the list went on. It was only fair that he should be prepared to grant her the same consideration. In fact, he was prepared to prove just how much she meant to him. He allowed himself another look at the diamond ring he had saved all of his credits to buy. It reflected not just the morning sun, but his hopes that tonight would be the most important moment in their relationship so far. Pocketing it once more, he set off with a smile to tackle his sizeable to-do list. There was still a lot of administration to be taken care of to finalise the internship, he owed his sister a call, and there was the small matter of the final day of the Squares season. Everything would fall into place. He knew it.

Inevitably, six o'clock turned into seven. Seven turned into eight. His trip back to the family home had taken a little longer than planned as his sister had caught the Aldebaran flu and there had been complications in mixing her medication with her regular dose of pills. Eight turned into eight-thirty. He had called Holly to let her know that things had gotten a little too much on top of him again, but that he fully intended to make an appearance. Once again, she had been understanding; Diego had taken heart from that, and from the fact that the ball had sounded a little quiet over the comm. It seemed that things weren't quite in full swing anyway. As an insurance policy, he had arranged for them to meet at ten in their favourite lunchtime haunt in the academy gardens. By then, darkness would be falling and the decorative lights that had been festooned throughout the grounds would make the setting for his proposition all the more perfect. He imagined her stood there, her golden blonde hair falling elegantly onto her delicate shoulders, those deep brown eyes wide with surprise and delight. Nine o'clock, and his ailing sister was finally settled, his mother reassured and his journey back to San Francisco and the rest of his life ready to begin.

By nine thirty, his nerves had begun to take hold. Was this really enough? They had, after all, intended to eat together at the ball, and while there would still be time for dancing, he felt as though he needed to make up for the time he had missed. He had taken just enough time to make sure he looked smart in his tuxedo, splashed on some of Holly's favourite cologne and shone his shoes. The ring, secure in his pocket, seemed to cry out for a little more than just a conversation in private. A few minutes' deliberation led him to the replicator, which he left shortly afterward with a bottle of champagne with two flutes and a punnet of strawberries. Loading them into their usual hamper along with a tricorder, primed to play a selection of string quartet music, he took a deep breath and bustled through the door.

Ten o'clock, and he was right where he had promised he would be. The picnic blanket was set up on a perfectly trimmed section of lawn, the champagne and strawberries laid out and ready. The tricorder hummed the perfect accompaniment, and the dusky sky was offset by a million pin[...]s of softly glowing light. Everything was perfect, leaving Diego to rehearse the exact lines he would deliver when Holly arrived. He wanted them to be memorable too, and to truly convey how much she meant to him. All he needed to do was practise, and wait.

And wait he did.

Ten turned into ten thirty. Confused, he tried to contact her to check if she had been held up, but there was no reply. Worried, he thought about going to look for her right away, but he knew that he had just made her wait longer than a half hour for him. Besides, it was possible that the noise of the ball, which had to be in full swing by now, had prevented her from hearing his call. He sat on the blanket and waited some more. Ten thirty turned into eleven.

This really wasn't like Holly. Even if she was having a good time, she wouldn't have just forgotten about him. Running an inquiry with the Academy's computer told him that she was now in her quarters. Was she drunk? Bruised pride taking a back seat to concern, he started to pack away the picnic just as a fellow graduate walked by. He grinned wide enough to show all of his teeth, and offered Diego a party-crazed thumbs up.

"Heeey, it looks like you've got quite the set-up there, man. Your girlfriend's going to love it!"

"Yeah," the deflated Spaniard answered, "isn't it romantic?"

Wasting not a second more, he left at a jog for Holly's quarters, the re-packed hamper carrying his diminishing hopes within.

After the third chime at the door in as many seconds, Diego was greeted by Holly's roommate Kari and a thoroughly unimpressed expression. Her Bajoran nose seemed even more wrinkled than usual, and her mouth was stretched into a disapproving frown.

"I knew I was going to have to be the one to mop this up."

It was the first time Diego had found himself having to make excuses. Holly had never asked for one before. She knew how dedicated he was to all aspects of his life, and they had made their relationship work through thick and thin for years.

"Is Holly awake? Is she OK? Just let me in, I can explain why I didn't make the ball in time. I just want to see her."

One gesture caused Diego's heart to sink, and as Kari shook her head, she finished the job of crushing him with a piece of unwelcome news.

"She just left, Diego. She spent the day packing to transfer to Starbase 12, and she's planning on staying there until she boards the Senegal. By now, she's on the transport." Seeing his shoulders slump, her tone softened as she attempted to explain. "Look, it's not because you were late again if that's what you're thinking. Everyone who knows you can see how much time you spend wearing yourself out doing the things you care about, and she knows she's one of them. She wanted me to tell you that she's sorry, but it's just not enough any more. She's on a five year mission, and given that you're both on tight schedules you might not even have a chance to talk to each other more than about twice a year, and she needs more than that. I'm sorry."

The ring was cold in his pocket, and it was all he could think about. Letting go of the picnic basket, he choked back his reply. There was really nothing he could say. Nodding once, he turned on his heels, his feet guiding him as quicky as they could back to the safety and comfort of his own quarters.

July. A month filled with promises, glorious weather and new beginnings. The Academy campus at San Francisco had taken on a very different atmosphere as the final year cadets stumbled bleary-eyed into the early morning sunshine. At times like these, it was easy to pick out the medical majors; they were the ones who didn't look they'd been beaten to within an inch of their lives in a back-alley. It was amazing just what a hypospray could cure, including tequila-fuelled all-nighters designed to blot out all form of human feeling. Around campus, the banners and lights were being taken down, and the academy was returning slowly to normal. He allowed himself another look at the diamond ring he had saved all of his credits to buy. It reminded him not just of Holly's eyes, but of the fact that things probably would have been different if he'd thought less about empty gestures and more about real commitment. Stooping down at the edge of one of the flower beds, he dug a small hole with his fingers, and dropped the ring into it, burying it and his feelings beneath a layer of dark earth.

Tallis Rhul


Federation Embassy Duronis II

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