The flashbulbs hurt her eyes, and the sun pricked skin that until very lately had known only cold.
She tried to speak, but the words were stuck in her frozen throat. A bank of unforgiving microphones waited in front of her mouth, yet she couldn’t say the words.
These clothes were not her clothes, these people not her people, these faces…
But there was one face.
There, in the crowd.
An old man, white haired and wizened. The tears streaming down his weathered cheek making his already bright blue eyes shine in the sunlight.
The people flanking her seemed to shift, seemed to realise she was not able to speak. One of them laughed a little nervously. “Give her a minute, please. It’s been a while since she used that voice box.”
A murmur of appreciation rumbled across the crowd. She heard it, but it was the eyes of the old man that held her spellbound.
She took a step toward him. The people flanking her moved as if to stop her, but at one ferocious look from her, they stepped back. She came around the bank of microphones and stepped down from the podium.
The crowd separated, allowing her to walk slowly toward the old man. Their eyes were locked on each other. She held out her hand as she approached, and after a moment’s hesitation, the man stepped forward, his own hand outstretched.
They reached each other, and hugged as if the world was ending.
She could hear the approbation of the crowd, the smiles in every word she could make out.
“I’ve missed you.”
The old man – Eric – spoke softly. He brought one hand up to cup her smooth cheek. She lay her own hand over it, and closed her eyes, turning her head to press a kiss into his palm.
“They say you don’t dream in cryosleep.” She opened her eyes again and looked into his. “But I have dreamed of you every day.”
He smiled wryly, pulling his hand away and stepping back. “As I have dreamed of you. Returning to me, exactly as you are now. Only in the dream I stayed as I was then. We are not the same now, you and I.”
“I’m an old man, Serena. And you are as young and fresh as when you entered the chamber.” She could see the crinkles of age around his eyes, and her heart hurt just a little.
“That doesn’t mean I ever stopped loving you.”
“Nor did I stop loving you. Or at least, my memories of you. But I have loved another, been married, raised a family. While you chose to give your youth to science.”
The people close to the couple were silent, but further away where they couldn’t hear what was being said, they began to be restless.
“Serena,” one of the people on the podium said nervously. “Can you come back now?”
But Eric had already turned and been swallowed up by the crowd.
Serena stood forlornly. The crowd gave her a wide berth. Even in the middle of all these people, she was alone. A tear slid down her cheek, before she squared her shoulders, and calmly returned to the podium.
She slipped back into her space, right in front of the bank of microphones, took a deep breath, and started to speak.
“Thirty years ago today I was frozen…”