Science Fiction sapphic lgbtq+ Grief android queer cloning hopeful

As Long as We Both Shall Live and After, Too

By Ephiny Gale
Jul 20, 2019 · 686 words · 3 minutes

female head from behind

Photo by Volkan Olmez via Unsplash.

From the author: "Before she dies to save us both, my wife shears off a chunk of her hair, thrusts it into my hands and tells me to take care of the cat."

Before she dies to save us both, my wife shears off a chunk of her hair, thrusts it into my hands and tells me to take care of the cat.

I am not the type to remarry. Eventually, once the veil of grief has lifted somewhat, I downsize. Half my wife's possessions, I absorb into my own. A quarter, I box away. A quarter I give to her family, to friends, to charity. I throw myself into my work. I grow accustomed to quiet evenings with the cat in front of the TV.

I skim the science magazines at the library. I am not an optimist by any means, but a tiny part of me begins to whisper: maybe, maybe.

Years pass. The cat dies.

I purchase an android body. When my wife was alive, we were comfortable enough with money if we budgeted strictly. Since she died, I've earned multiple promotions and spent little; I can afford a higher-end model. I start with the body of 24-year-old me, and make all the little changes that I've wished for forever: smaller nose, smaller breasts, remove the moles and freckles. But I don't change so much that my wife wouldn't recognise me.

When my wife has been dead for 23 years, human cloning has advanced enough that I take out the lock of human hair, the last gift she gave me. Some of our old mutual friends have synthetic bodies, a great respect for my wife, and desire a child. They raise her clone as their daughter: she is granted a new name, new birth year, new life. 

I can't be her parent; I can't even visit, or she'll see me as one of the old people she knew since she was little. I send gifts, though - for her new birth date and Christmas and whenever else I can get away with:

Congratulations on your first day of school!

Congratulations on losing your first tooth!

Congratulations on passing your piano exam!

I send books and movies and toys I remember my wife talking about from her childhood, in addition to more modern ones I think she might enjoy. If I send anything from my wife’s boxes, I make sure it’s nothing that will break my heart if it’s lost or broken. Later, I add clothes and jewellery and gadgets to the mix. I sign all the gifts ‘love,’ and my real name.

Her parents send me photos - just the 2D, non-moving ones, I insist - and her thank you messages, as if she is a child I'm sponsoring overseas. It is an intensely strange situation. Still, the growing voice whispers: maybe, maybe.

I watch her grow up whilst my body never grows older. I wish I could hold her hand when she breaks her ankle, when she loses out on the job she wanted, when she's broken up with again. Please, please, don't find anyone better than me.

I wait. I am old, and I am patient. 

I wait until she is 22. Forgive me, I think, for not telling you earlier. Forgive me for not telling you later. Forgive me for telling you at all.

The restaurant we had our first date at, decades ago, has shut down, so I pick something similar I have scoped out in advance. I wear an updated version of the outfits she always used to like, and arrive half an hour early because I can't stand the thought of getting there after her.

I pat the photos in my pocket. I will spread them out in front of her and say, "Look: this is me and my wife."

She walks in seven minutes early. She is my wife and not my wife: a different generation, different experiences, but similar enough. She is wearing the golden heart necklace I sent her years ago.

I wave to her; she spots me and smiles. It is not the kind of smile I remember, the kind that says I love you, this is safe, you are mine forever, but it could be one day, my heart says. Maybe, maybe.

This story originally appeared in Hashtag Queer Vol. 2.

Ephiny Gale

Ephiny Gale writes speculative fiction of many flavours, often with generous helpings of strangeness, female characters, and queer content.