Appeared in Writers of the Future 30. Author website.
Daliya, a content mail-order bride across the universe who has lost her husband, prepares wedding gifts for the new brides that arrive on their planet. The latest one puzzles her. The family of the originating planet is supposed to send happy messages from her home planet, even though the family might have passed away. Daliya has been receiving messages from home even though she's certain that her mother has gone, a fact which disturbs her.
But this latest bride is receiving awful pictures from home. Why? The groom reveals that the pictures represent threats to the bride, who is malformed. Nanite technology is forbidden on her home planet. If she gets repaired, they will harm her family. Daliya and the groom plot how to give the bride a happy home with the threats hanging over her head. Meanwhile, planet representatives watch, and escape is an admission of guilt....
Forrest executes well planned motives, cause and consequence. The ending is not easy and not completely happy, but satisfactory. Two tiny flaws in an otherwise well-wrought story (I am loathe to bring them up as mentioning the flaws may distort my admiration) are 1) the opening paragraphs which simply introduce a sensory moment of the world and 2) not enough motivation to shore up Daliya's choice. This needs to be hard --Forrest excels at this--but I'd like a little more justification. But these are nitpicks in a solid four-star tale--the voice of the critic who complains that space lasers make noise during Star Wars.