Shelby Pike was the Botanist on the NX-01. She was good at what she did, even though she was fairly new to botany. Her slight, slender frame belied an earlier profession with an earlier ambition, for she had been in ballet.
Not an étoile, not even close. Instead, she had been, as she liked to tell people, the “second sugar plum fairy on the right.” That was it. So when she blew her knee out one year, she returned to school and got hooked on plants. She never dreamed that her new field would take her into space.
She was tending to her charges when Lili O’Day, the sous-chef, walked in. “Got good harvest produce for me?”
“Sure I do,” Shelby replied, “but not oranges, okay? Yesterday it was just too many oranges.”
“I’m with you on that,” Lili said, “I chopped oranges all day. The citric acid really burned when I cut myself.”
She took a load of produce in a basket and left.
Lunch rush over, Lili laid out dessert. “Today,” she announced to the room, even though it was only partly full of crewmen and no one really seemed to be paying much attention, “we have a savory, kind of a tart dessert. It won’t be sweet.”
“Oh?” asked Jennifer Crossman, who was in Engineering.
“It’s October, so it’s time for the harvest. Even though it’s 2157, and we’re in space, I don’t see why we can’t celebrate the harvest. We’ve got three kinds of cheese and some crackers I made today, plus fresh fruit, courtesy of Shelby who should, uh, be along any minute now.” There was cut up fruit, plus there were uncut pieces in a rustic basket and the whole spread looked rather festive.
“Please, don’t have any oranges!” Tripp Tucker called out.
“No oranges, I swear!” Lili said, “I think I’m good when it comes to oranges, for a while.” Chef had gotten on an orange kick the previous day. Oranges had been in everything! There was orange zest in the batter for the French toast she had served to Captain Archer and Lieutenant Reed; there was orange juice, orange chicken. Everywhere, there had been oranges.
“So, what’s on the menu?” Hoshi Sato asked.
“I’ve got three kinds of cheese, like I said,” Lili replied, “there’s English cheddar,” Malcolm Reed looked up and right at her. When she met his gaze, he reddened a slight bit and looked down. “I’ve also got gorgonzola for anyone who’s feeling adventurous and there’s some nice Camembert. Plus there are toasted almonds.” She yawned.
“You still not getting enough sleep, Roomie?” Jennifer asked.
“Oh, I do all right,” Lili said.
“You talk in your sleep, you know.”
“Just don’t tell anybody what I talk about, okay?” Lili reddened a little and beat a hasty retreat to the back in order to load the dishes into the sanitizer. She didn’t really want to make it public knowledge that she’d been having rather earthy dreams of late.
Shelby came in late, and looked around. Where to sit, where to sit, she thought. It was silly, she knew, to worry about such things. Everyone was friendly. It was just a small bit of being a little girl, when the family had moved. She had been very young, and had had a nightmare before the first day of her new school. What if they don’t have a chair for me? That had been her concern at age five. It was a ridiculous concern twenty or so years later, but the fear of rejection did, sometimes, loom large in her mind.
Then she spotted him, the guy she liked. He was sitting by himself. She came over. “Huh?” he asked. He was bent over a PADD.
“I asked you if this seat was taken.”
“Oh, um, go ahead.” He barely looked up.
She got up and went to the display and rummaged through the basket, finding what she wanted. She brought it over and presented it to him – a perfect Gala apple. He looked up from his PADD and stared at it a second. “Hey, Mayweather!” Tripp yelled over, “Don’t forget what happened the last time a girl gave a guy an apple!”
Travis gulped and got up, quickly leaving. Shelby just stood there, looking a little stricken.
Lili had come out to take more dirty plates to the back and had witnessed the exchange. She stopped what she was doing and ran after him. “What happened? Why did you insult Shelby like that?”
He kept going so she repeated, “What did she ever do to deserve you humiliating her?”
He finally stopped, and turned around. “I, uh, it’s not like that. It’s more, uh, she wants a serious boyfriend. And I, I just, I’m not in that place right now. I’m sorry. It’s very tempting but it’s unfair to her.”
“I’m not the person you should be apologizing to,” Lili pointed out.
“You’re right,” he said. He sighed. “I just don’t know what to stay.”
“Why don’t you just start with I’m sorry and go from there. Look, I gotta clean up and start getting the pasta sauce made for dinner. Just talk to her, okay?” She left.
“Easy for you to say.”