“Boiling Point” by Sarah Leathe

It must be late, Anya thought; she could hear the high-pitched hum beginning. The sound of the E-train would have woken her anyway, had she been sleeping, but she wasn’t. Midnight from Beijing, or maybe the one thirty from New Delhi, she thought, as humming grew louder. She wasn’t sure how long she had been lying awake. The dog grunted in his sleep. On the other side of the bed, Grace slept on, her head pressed against her watch that she had forgotten to take off again.

The door was completely silent. Grace had just put on new hydraulic hinges last weekend, sick of waking up when Anya couldn’t sleep. Anya pulled on her sweatshirt as she walked. She reached the stovetop, and rested her hand on the kettle. Sometimes, when she couldn’t sleep, she would boil water the old-fashioned way. As she moved the kettle from the flash burner to the other side of the stove, she felt a swell of pleasure. When she was young, her mother made her tea in the dark of the morning. They huddled together in the chilly kitchen wrapped in polar fleece blankets while the teakettle spat and bubbled on the stove. When the boiling reached its pitch, steam would fly out of the kettle, and the pot whistled its happy tune. Anya closed her eyes and could just barely remember winter.

The flash burner boiled water, but in the most efficient way the International Climate Scientists had yet to come up with, eliminating evaporation. This, Grace argued, was the beauty of it. With the worldwide water and energy limit per person, they couldn’t afford to waste either one. Anya might have once agreed, before Grace went to work for the Government and they moved into the city. Before the constant irritating hum of the Eco Train in its sealed glass tubes, sucked along underneath the house. She held the kettle up to the water dispenser, the water flowing quickly into the kettle, and placed it on the burner. She turned quickly, thinking she had heard noise from the bedroom, but it was just the dog padding down the hall after her.

She stood waiting for the tea to boil. When the teapot began to steam, and she let it whistle quietly before she took it off the stove and flipped the top, pouring the water into her mug. She shuffled back to the bedroom and lay down, holding the hot tea on her chest. Grace stirred.

“Sorry, did I wake you?” Anya asked. Grace rubbed her face where it had been against her watch, and nodded while yawning. She eyed the tea, her eyes thick with sleep.

“Did you flash boil that?” She said, her voice suddenly sharp. “I didn’t hear the thing.”

“It was quiet,” Anya said. Grace frowned and moved farther away, resting her head back on her pillow.

“Almost silent,” she said. Anya continued to drink her tea, and Grace fell back to sleep quickly. As she pushed the damp tea bag to the side of the mug, she heard the high-pitched humming of the train again. She closed her eyes and settled down into the blankets as the humming grew louder. The 1:45, she thought, from London.

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