Mia threw off her blanket and sprang out of bed the moment her alarm went off. Friday was always a good day to get up early. Plus, this morning, there was going to be an assembly at school, which was always better than math class. The assembly was to update the students on the progress of the school fundraiser, which had one week left.
Mia hurried to get dressed, wanting to look her best. She chose knee-length blue leggings and a pink half-sleeved shirt with a long, lacy, white vest hanging over it almost as long as her leggings. She looked out her window as she brushed her long, black hair and tied it in a ponytail. The window didn’t have a view of the neighbourhood, nor of blue, red or orange sky. In fact, it wasn’t a window at all. It was a high resolution monitor that displayed an image of the black space and stars outside, the same view that she always saw.
That was because Mia lived on the Terran Exoplanetary Outpost Sapphire. The space station was shaped roughly like a tube that constantly spun like it was screwing onto the top of a bottle. That gave the station gravity, so that what Mia thought was the floor was really the inside edge of the tube. Her teachers told her that the station spun at a speed that gave Sapphire gravity similar to Earth.
Mia didn’t think much about any of that, though. The floor was the floor to her, even if it curved. She walked out of her room into the hallway as she did every morning. She entered the spacious living room and crossed to the breakfast bar. Her mother was in the kitchen, preparing her lunch. Her honey brown curls fell over her shoulders and she wore a pale grey business suit over a dark blue blouse.
“Buenos días, Mamá,” Mia said in Spanish as she hopped onto one of the stools at the breakfast bar.
“Buenos días, mi corazón,” Mamá replied. She pulled the milk out of the fridge as Mia opened one of the boxes of cereal on the breakfast bar and poured herself a bowl. “Listen, Mia, I might be home late from work tonight. We still can’t figure out what’s causing these electrical problems in the station.”
Mia nodded. The electrical problems had caused a power flicker that made Mia lose her work the other day. As the station director, in charge of supervising everything on Sapphire, it was her mom’s job to find out what was wrong.
“Papá will take care of dinner in that case,” Mamá added.
Mia perked up. “Does that mean pizza for dinner?”
Mamá rolled her eyes, though she still smiled. “That’s up to your dad. Hurry up, now, he’ll be out in a minute to walk you to school.”
Mia turned back to her cereal, thinking about the assembly.
“Good morning, pumpkin,” came her dad’s voice as he walked into the living room.
“Good morning, Dad,” Mia said through a mouthful of cereal, turning to look at him.
Her dad looked much the same as he did every morning, with his neatly trimmed black moustache and goatee and short hair. He was wearing a navy blue, grey, and white uniform and carrying a matching hat, the logo for Sapphire embroidered on his shirt pocket. He was in charge of station security, another important job.
He leaned in for a long, noisy kiss on Mia’s forehead, and she giggled as his beard tickled her eyebrows. “Where’s your brother? It’s almost time to go.”
“I’m here,” came a tired voice behind them. Mia turned to see her brother Alan stumbling toward the breakfast bar. His dark hair was messy, but he was dressed in red gym shorts and a green and white basketball shirt, which was more ready than Mia saw him many mornings. Alan was only two years older than Mia, but he was almost as tall as their mother already.
“Hurry up,” Dad told Alan before he took Mamá in his arms for a kiss. Mia focused on her cereal, her face reddening at their display.
Somehow, even though Alan seemed to be eating just as slowly as he was moving, he managed to wolf down his cereal almost before Mia was done with hers. She hurried back to the bathroom to brush her teeth, shoving Alan for access to the sink, and was soon grabbing her backpack off the hook near the front door.
“Have a great day, kids,” Mamá said as she hugged and kissed Mia and Alan before hurrying out the door with her purse and lunch bag.
“All right, monsters,” Dad said as he touched the control panel to open the door. “Let’s go, hup, two.” He kicked up his feet in a marching step out the door. Alan groaned, but Mia happily skipped out after him. The door slid shut and locked automatically behind them.
Mia’s family lived at the end of this block of apartments, so they walked down a few corridors before they emerged onto a wide market. People hurried about every which way, a handful of aliens mixed in with them, and a few bicycles or electric carts wound their way through the crowd. A few store employees opened blinds or set up sandwich boards outside their shops. The scents of pastries, coffee, eggs and sausages, and the more exotic aromas of alien cooking drifted out of open doors.
Mia leaned her head back to look up, squinting against the light. The ceiling was high, a grid of steel beams and panels five stories up, and it was covered in bright lights with diffusers to spread the light around. Mia had heard people from Earth complain that it wasn’t like sunlight, but she got all the vitamin D she needed from the lights and never needed to use sunscreen. She could also just see where the ceiling started to curve upward in either direction in the distance, like another tube inside the bigger one of Sapphire. If the ceiling was higher still, she knew she would see the buildings and streets from other parts of Sapphire to either side.
Dad stopped at his favourite cafe on the way, where the friendly woman behind the bar handed him his coffee and Danish as soon as he walked in the door. He thanked her and paid, dropping a few extra coins in the tip jar, and they continued down the market.
Soon, they reached the entrance to Mia’s school. Alan gave her a fist bump and said, “See you later, alligator.”
Dad leaned down, wrapping his thick arms around Mia with a loud, happy murmur, acting as though he wouldn’t let go.
“Dad!” Mia giggled. Over his strong arm, she saw Alan rolling his eyes. She wriggled out of Dad’s grip and chided, “Dad, my friends might be watching!”
“Oh, fine.” He finally let her go and waved as she jogged toward the front doors. “Have a great day, pumpkin.”
“You, too, Dad,” she called back. “Bye, stinkpot!”
“Bye, booger brain!” Alan shouted. Mia could hear her father scolding them for their friendly greeting, but she disappeared through the door and her school day began.