Lara was held spellbound by the young man who was spinning visions of wide-open spaces and new opportunities. Her eyes were lit with a fervor Stephen hadn’t seen in a long while, and it grated on his nerves.
“Friends,” the fellow said, “I’m sure you agree the price to buy into this particular wagon train is perfectly reasonable. It includes your transportation, all the necessary equipment for homesteading, and the deeds to your parcels. Now let’s hear it: Who wants to go settle this new land?”
“I do!” overlapped with “We do!” as the individuals and couples cried out their eagerness to go.
Stephen heard Lara shout, “We do!” and then she looked to her husband for confirmation. His sullen glare shocked her.
“Stephen…,” she whispered.
“We do not,” he said.
Her brother Ronan and sister Glynis and their spouses were sitting on either side of Stephen and Lara. They quickly picked up on the brewing trouble and were not at all surprised.
Stephen stood and said, just loudly enough for those nearby to hear, “I have had more than enough of this idiocy. I am leaving.” And he did, without looking back to see if Lara was following him.
After a moment, she gathered her things and stood up to leave. The presenter called out to her.
“It’s all right, Ma’am,” he said. “You’ve got two months to think about it before the deadline to sign up.”
Lara tipped a half smile at him which vanished as she looked at her brother and sister. They had already signed up to go, and their spouses were equally eager.
“I’ll talk to him,” she said.
“Sis … it won’t help,” Glynis said.
The frosty silence on the ride home didn’t last long.
“How could you walk out like that? That was embarrassing.”
“The only embarrassment is that someone might have seen us go in or come out of that meeting.”
“But … it’s the frontier.”
“My life and my work are right here in Boston. I have no need to pick up and move to some wilderness that wouldn’t know what to do with a professional musician other than to kill him.”
“You don’t have to be a musician,” she said. “You could learn something new! Start fresh!”
Stephen’s mouth dropped open and he stared at her in disbelief. “ ‘Something new’?” he croaked. “Are you mad? I am the assistant concertmaster in the Boston Symphony Orchestra. I have spent my life perfecting my art and stand only one step away from the pinnacle of my profession. ‘Something new’? Throw away a lifetime of work to grub on untamed land? How can you say that?”
“Can’t you see what an incredible opportunity this is? We’ll be opening virgin territory. Paving the way for thousands — maybe millions — of others to follow. We’ll be building a new life and a new land. We can reinvent ourselves. We can do things we never dreamed of. We’ll be living near Ronan and Charlotte and Glynis and Gale. We can work with them and create something entirely new. Doesn’t that thrill you?”
The stark, cold answer stopped Lara short.
“You won’t even consider it, will you?”
“I will not. I’m not at all surprised that your brother and sister are hellbent on this ridiculous course, but I am flabbergasted that you can understand me so little as to think I would consider, let alone participate in, such a hair-brained scheme.”
They arrived at their home and went in silently, a silence that lasted one week.
Stephen was scarcely inside the door after rehearsal when Lara asked one last time: “Will you reconsider?”
“You know I won’t.”
“Then I’m going without you. I’ve signed up to go with Ronan and Glynis.”
“Our marriage means so little to you. I mean so little to you.”
“I want you to come, too, but I’m not staying here to stagnate when a new frontier beckons. I want to be part of life, Stephen. I want to really live it. I want to be where things are happening and where I’m challenged every day. I love you, but I will not let you hold me back to die of boredom.”
“Go then! Go live your life of excitement and danger and wanderlust. And damn you and damn your brother and sister, too!”
Stephen moved out the next day, and he arranged for a quick divorce.
His friend Krystof, a cellist, commiserated with Stephen one evening several months later in Stephen’s new apartment.
“I’m with you; I don’t understand it. A hellish long journey with nothing but danger en route and upon arrival. They say the human race needs people like that, but I think we would be far better off with more folks like us who don’t keep hunting for the next big thing. People who are satisfied with life as it is and where they are.”
“I thought I knew her. Her brother and sister always concerned me; they’re lunatics. But I thought she was different. And I thought she knew me better than she did.” He looked out the window and up into the night sky. “What could be so damned wonderful about colonizing Mars? Why couldn’t she just be happy here with me on Earth?”