“Josie, I’m so sorry. Seth told me what happened,” Ray Ann said as soon as she saw me the next day, during our break between our first two sessions with the InfoMaster. We were in the Psych-Lab Wing, the most central spot when the cafeteria wasn’t open. White, windowless walls surrounded us on all sides. Above were large fluorescent lights that left not a spot of darkness, much to my dismay. There were large heavy doors on each side of the boxlike room. The one to the cafeteria had a green metallic number pad next to it-students needed to punch in their ID numbers to enter-that read “CLOSED” in electric blue letters across the display.
“Oh, so you’re speaking to me now? I feel honored,” I replied with a twinge of bitterness. Lately it seemed she was a friend when it was convenient for her, or when she felt it was her duty.
“Of course. I’m sorry about that dumb fight. It was all my fault.”
“Damn right it was,” I said. Then I really thought about it. I had, in fact, started the argument. Oops. “Sorry, Ray Ann. I didn’t mean that. I’m just upset is all. I just wish that I could do something to change things, and taking out my anger on you sure isn’t going to fix my love life. Sorry.”
“It’s okay, I understand. Friends again?”
“Sure.” I smiled, it felt foreign. “But don’t expect me to meet you in your closet tonight. I don’t have sex on the rebound.”
Ray Ann and I both laughed. We knew that if we could joke about being lovers in her closet, things would be all right, eventually.
“Couldn’t you guys at least kiss and make up, just for me?” Seth asked, coming up beside us. Ray Ann punched him playfully in the arm.
“No, Seth, you’ve got it all wrong. That’s what I want to do with Arden,” I informed him.
“I could always act as a substitute,” Seth offered. “And hey, since we aren’t mad at each other, we don’t even have to make up, just make out!”
“Oh brother,” I said, exasperated. “Keep dreaming. It seems that’s all anyone can do these days.” I sighed wistfully. God, I missed Arden so much. My heart ached and there was no medicine I could take to ease the pain.
“It looks like someone’s real happy today,” Seth commented. At first I thought he was being sarcastic about my obvious chipper state, but then I looked up from my intent study of the floor to see Pammy Thompson skipping toward us.
“Hey guys!” she called out. “Oh my God, you’ll never believe it! Last night, John and I were talking, right? And see, I was really upset because I heard a rumor that he was sleeping with Amy Baker. I was so pissed! I mean, he hasn’t even slept with me yet!
“So anyway, I was telling him what I heard and he told me it was all wrong! He doesn’t even like Amy! Thank God. So then he was telling me how he cares about me, and get this-he said he loved me! I’m so happy!”
“Yippee,” I said sarcastically. The last thing I needed to hear was lovers in paradise crap. Why was it that flaky Pammy could work through her love problems, and I couldn’t? There were some things I’d never understand.
“What’s wrong with you?” Pammy inquired, apparently offended by my disinterest in her fairy-tale love story.
“Arden broke up with her last night,” Ray Ann said, sparing me the pain of having to hear myself utter those dreadful words.
“Oh, that’s too bad,” Pammy replied. “You guys seemed like such a good couple.” She paused, then spotted Melissa Danziger. “Ooh, sorry guys. I have to go tell Melissa what John said to me.” She bounced off.
“That was harsh,” Seth remarked.
“Of course. She doesn’t care about anyone but herself,” Ray Ann said. She didn’t have half the tolerance I had for Pammy, and that’s really not saying much at all.
Pammy was seldom sincere. She could be extremely smart if she tried. She was under the impression, however, that more people would be attracted to her if she conveniently forgot everything the InfoMaster fed her. She weighed so much upon what guys thought of her.
She had a very low self-esteem and was always fishing for compliments by calling herself ugly and fat, two things she clearly was not, just so that people would tell her how pretty she was. I would have loved to have her flawless complexion and those dazzling green eyes. Her hair seemed perfect too. It was a light shade of gold that fell to her shoulders. She was extremely tall and slender. It was very obvious that she knew how good she looked, and was incessantly trying to find ways to have others remind her. She had nothing to complain about. She should never try to hide under her makeup, though, it makes her look unreal.
I never understood this, but she always got upset over the littlest thing so that everyone came over to comfort her. Then, two seconds later, she’d be fine. The real ironic thing was that she put on an act like she was all tough, but always ended up letting people walk all over her. Talk about complex!
“She’s so gullible, too,” Ray Ann continued. “I saw John and Amy kissing yesterday after Pammy left. I bet he only says things like that so she’ll stay with him.”
“Yeah, so he can parade her around like some sort of decoration,” I put in.
“Really, I know. That guy’s a real jackass. He screws with her feelings so much,” Seth said.
“It’s not like she doesn’t let him, though,” Ray Ann interjected.
“I know.” Seth sighed. “But at the same time, she still doesn’t deserve to be treated like that. John just wants to date her because she’s one of the most popular people here. He pretends to care about her. Just because she can’t see that it’s all an act, and the rest of us can, doesn’t mean it’s right for him to use her like that.”
“She’s so flaky,” Ray Ann stated.
“I think John’s just a jerk,” I countered.
“No argument from me,” Seth replied.
To say that I didn’t like John Swift would be quite an understatement. I couldn’t stand him. He thought he ruled the world because he’d been accepted at half of the colleges in the world and had probably never opened a book, or done anything other than sit with the InfoMaster. His brilliance, he always said in his cocky manner, just came naturally to him.
To add to his pleasant personality, he felt he was worthy of everyone’s respect because he constantly bragged about getting drunk and getting laid. I bet half of it wasn’t even true, either. He said so much to impress everyone. Why he needed to do that was beyond me. It seemed he already thought he was God’s gift to Earth.
He was always wearing the newest and most fashionable clothes. I swear, he must have been the only one who actually asked his ITV for commercials. I wondered if he ever realized how silly he looked, wearing huge clothes when he was so short and skinny, or how outrageous he looked trying to appear suave in front of all the girls.
The surprising thing was that most of the female population at Learning Lab did lust after him, for some reason that truly escaped me. I mean sure, he was kinda cute with his short blonde hair and clear blue eyes, but his smile was pasted on. His walk was calculated. The biggest turn-off, though, was that he was an arrogant jerk with the personality of a block of wood.
“I can’t believe Melissa is actually listening to all Pammy’s crap,” Ray Ann commented.
“I don’t think she really wants to. She keeps glancing in our direction,” I pointed out.
Melissa Danziger was the most beautiful and also the richest girl at Learning Lab. Her parents were both successful members of the prestigious Aeronautics and Astronomical Research Corps, (A.A.R.C.) and actually owned a small spacecraft, which sat in the backyard of their mansion. Other people had pools or Virtual Challenge Centers in their backyards, the Danzigers had a rocket.
And she was gorgeous, no one could deny that. Her long, black hair trailed behind her like a silky veil, and made an irresistible contrast with her startling green eyes. The clothes she wore were like royal robes. She was tall, which created an aura that demanded respect. She moved with complete grace. I liked her; it was hard not to.
Her physical description was practically all I knew of her, though. She seldom spoke, though when she did, her voice was full of melody and power. I had never heard of her being anything but nice, but I really didn’t know her that well. The few times I had spoken with her, I had gotten the feeling that she was searching for my approval. I didn’t know why she would be; I was probably just getting the wrong message. She already had everyone’s respect and envy, so why would she be searching for approval, especially from a nobody like me?
“Wow,” Seth breathed, after pausing after my last remark to look at her. “She should look my way every day!”
“Hey,” I protested, “I thought you wanted me.”
“I do, but you keep rejecting me. I figure it’s time I started looking for the next best alternative.” I pretended to look sad.
“Don’t worry, Josie. I still love you,” Ray Ann said.
“Now, wait a minute!” I said with mock suspicion. “You can’t expect, just because you say you love me, that I’ll sleep with you. It doesn’t work that way. I told you I had to abstain from closet fun until my heart heals.” I laughed.
Ray Ann put on a hurt expression. “I understand,” she said. “I know that I just don’t attract you anymore.”
“I’m sorry, Ray Ann,” I said, this time sounding like I was trying to reject her nicely. “You are very attractive with your insane, curly brown hair, stunning brown eyes and sensuous body. It’s just that I am finding myself broken-hearted over a stupid sexy guy.”
“A guy? Since when have you started liking those things?” We both laughed.
“We’re nuts,” I told her.
“No, you’re turning me on!” Seth exclaimed. “Don’t stop now!”
“Anyone who didn’t know us would think we belonged in a mental hospital,” I said, ignoring Seth.
“Oh, but you do,” he cut in. The compliments from him never end.
“No, they’d just think we’re lovers,” Ray Ann said at the same time.
“Exactly!” Seth proclaimed. “And Josie would have to be crazy to want to be your lover.” He was always teasing Ray Ann.
“You shut up! You’re the one who always begs to see us in action!” Ray Ann shot back.
“Sorry for having hormones,” Seth said indignantly. We all laughed. At that moment I saw Arden walking to his cubicle. Who knows where he’d been before. I averted my eyes and looked at the floor when I saw him glance in my direction. Tears started to well up inside me. I tried to push them away. It seemed I had cried so much lately and I was sick of it. Seth put an arm around me and let me cry on his shoulder. “Can you believe this?” he asked. “I’m finally putting my arm around her, and I’m not even trying to hit on her!” I started to pull away from him. “I was only trying to make you laugh,” he said. “I didn’t mean to make you go away.” Ray Ann watched in silence as I continued to cry all over Seth.
After another minute or so, my tears had stopped. I gave Seth a quick hug. “Thanks for being there.”
“No problem. Can I get a kiss too?”
I punched him playfully. “Nope, sorry. That kind of stuff is reserved for Arden Cantrell only. And he doesn’t even want me anymore! Maybe I’m a horrible kisser and that’s why he broke up with me.”
“I highly doubt that,” Seth told me. “But if you need an objective answer to that, I’ll be perfectly willing to see how good your kisses are.”
“Thanks for the offer, but I’ll pass. Besides, I forgot, it’s my mental state he can’t handle.”
“At least someone went out with you,” Ray Ann said, almost bitterly. No one had ever asked her out. I didn’t see why. Although I didn’t really join her in her closet, I really did think she was pretty. She had a great personality too. She was always smiling and joking around. She definitely had character. “Well, I haven’t found anyone who’s worth my time anyway,” she said and promptly smiled. She always said that the male population at Learning Lab wasn’t worthy of her attention. I often wondered if she really meant it, or if she used that as an excuse for not dating anyone.
Just then, the InfoAlert sounded. That meant we all had four minutes to get to our assigned cubicles. Seth and Ray Ann left together; it was Science Day for both of them, so they were headed toward the Sci-Lab Wing. For me it was Literature Day, so I was going to the Lit-Lab Wing. Pammy stayed where she was for lessons in Psychology.
I walked along the narrow white hallway, staring out the small windows. All I could see was a smiling sun and puffy white clouds backed by a serene sapphire sky. It made me sick, how nature could be so cheery and pleasant when reality just did not match that.
As I was pondering this grave flaw of life, Melissa fell in step beside me. We usually had similar schedules, so I assumed she had Lit as well.
“Hey Melissa, what’s gong on? Did Pammy talk your ear off?”
“No, not really, why? I thought you liked her.”
“Yeah, she’s my friend and all, I guess. It’s just that she can get annoying with that John stuff.”
“Oh sure. Hey, she told me about you and Arden. I’m sorry to hear that you broke up.”
“He seemed so perfect for you.”
“Oh, he is. He just hasn’t realized how perfect I am for him yet.”
“Do you want me to talk to him for you? I could tell him what a wonderful person you are.”
She barely knew me at all, how would she know if I was wonderful or not? I could be a monster and she wouldn’t have a clue. Still, it was really nice and generous of her to offer. “No, you don’t have to do that. If he wants to patch things up, that’s up to him. After all, he’s the one who ended it.”
“I bet Seth is trying to seize the opportunity, right?”
I hadn’t known that she knew anything about my crazy relationship with Seth. Then again, we were all so loud and obnoxious that probably everyone knew all about our antics. “Trying is the operative word there. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great guy, but he’s like a brother to me. I could never think of going out with him.”
“Never. We’re too close. Our friendship is too strong. And really, I’m not attracted to him. I mean, I could never think of kissing him or anything; he’s too goofy.”
“Really? He sure seems to be attracted to you.”
“Tell me about it! He drives me crazy sometimes! But to be totally honest with you, I don’t think I’ll be dating anyone for awhile. I still want Arden.”
“He’s a great guy.”
“Yes he is. I love him. He’s not getting away from me this easily, you know that? I’ll make him want me again.”
I smiled mysteriously. “I have my ways.”
“I thought you were avoiding him, from what I saw earlier.”
“I am, but that won’t last. By lunch hour I’ll be all over him again!” I laughed. Melissa looked surprised at my boldness, but said nothing.
We were just about at my cubicle-number 47. “Well, I just wanted you to know that I’m here for you if you need anything.” Melissa said before leaving.
“Wow, thanks Melissa. That’s really nice of you.” I was surprised.
“No problem.” She smiled and left for cubicle 26.
I had a few minutes before the technician wearing a blue shirt would come over to hook my brain up to InfoMaster’s electrodes; he was starting at the other side of the room. I started to do a very dangerous thing. I let my mind wander, and began to think. God, I wished I hadn’t been kidding when I told Melissa that I was going to get Arden back, or not let him get away. I wished I could control that, but I couldn’t. He didn’t want to deal with me and I had to deal with that. But it hurt so much! It hurt like hell. I just wanted to be in his arms again and feel him so close to me. My mind started to drift over memories of happy times. How painful. I yearned for their return so much that it was causing me physical pain.
I didn’t have too much time to dwell on those painful happy memories, though. Soon the technician came over to me. He attached the wires all around my head, instructing me to sit still. I must have annoyed him and all the other technicians so much. They always had to tell me that, usually more than once. He finished hooking me up, switched InfoMaster on and pressed the buttons to start the day’s lesson. He left with another reminder to sit still.
I soon started to doze; I always do. I cannot consciously comprehend the information and knowledge fed into my brain until at least seven hours after it’s received. Then I find myself knowing things I hadn’t before.
The amount of knowledge put into a person’s head in one day is amazing, let me tell you! I was only eighteen, but I knew all sorts of scientific properties, a portion of the history of the universe, how to solve any math problem, the inner workings of the brains of both humans and animals, and all the most famous poetry and prose, past and present, and their criticisms.
The problem was that none of that stuff interested me. Actually, I did find all of the stuff about outer space most intriguing, but that was really Ray Ann’s area of expertise. Other than that, I just didn’t care. What I loved was art, and I wasn’t talking about InfoMaster’s idea of art, either. I couldn’t have cared less about how a painting or sculpture was created, or how it was viewed at the time or whatever. I wanted to actually see the great piece of artwork, rather than the mental picture that I was fed. And I preferred creating art to observing it anyway, so InfoMaster was really just a big pain in my ass.
After my restful sleep, where unknown knowledge was poured into my brain, the blue-shirted guy came back around to separate me from the InfoMaster. I sat up and stretched. It was time for lunch. I hoped I wouldn’t have to face Arden.
I did not get my wish. As I entered the Psych-Lab Wing, I saw him waiting for me by the entrance to the cafeteria. I tried to walk past him without looking in his direction, much easier said than done. His face was just so irresistibly flawless. Still, I tried to look away.
“Josie, can I talk to you?” he asked. He sounded nervous.
“What the hell do you want?” I asked coldly. I didn’t want to talk to him. I didn’t want him breaking my fragile heart again, before I’d even had time pick up the pieces and glue them back together. I would not look at him.
“I wanted to talk about last night. There were some things I wanted you to know, but I don’t know if I made them clear when we talked. I want you to know that I really do care about you deeply. I want-“
“Look,” I said, cutting him off. “I listened to what you do and don’t want for long enough yesterday. Well, I really don’t want to talk to you right now. I want to be able to go on with my life and not have to think of all the pain I’m in, okay? I hope you can respect my wishes. I respect yours no matter how much they hurt.” My bitterness surprised even me.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you, I swear it. You mean a lot to me. I still want to be your friend.” Tears streamed down my face as he said this. Why did he have to be so nice about it? It only made me feel guilty for feeling so hurt, upset and angry.
Arden pulled me close for a comforting hug. I let him hold me for a second before pulling away violently. “No,” I said firmly. “You’re not going to do this to me.” I turned away from him. “You aren’t going to revive all those feelings of longing for you, just when I’m trying to cope with the fact that we’re not together. You’re not going to give me even the slightest inkling that we might be a couple again, even if you’re just trying to be friendly, because I’ll misinterpret it and take it the wrong way. Then I’ll start hoping to be your girlfriend again, and I can’t afford to do that. The reality is too painful. Being near you only makes me feel worse.”
“You would honestly feel better if I stayed away from you?”
“Yes. And if you care about me the way you say you do, you’ll honor that wish. I don’t want to talk to you. I don’t even want to look at you. You’ve caused me a great deal of pain and seeing you just makes everything hurt so much more.”
“I never meant to hurt you, I-“
“Well, what exactly did you think would happen when you broke up with me? It wasn’t exactly peachy, you know. If you want to be nice, then just leave me alone.”
“Fine, if that’s what you really want,” I heard him mutter as I turned and quickly walked into the cafeteria. I didn’t look back. I didn’t need to; I had already seen the tears in his eyes. Let him cry, I thought. He’s the one who started it all. He chose to break up with me.
By the time I took ten steps, I reconsidered. What had I just done? I felt so confused. More than anything, I wanted to be with Arden, but if that couldn’t be, then I didn’t want to be near him.
I quickly dried my tears. I wasn’t going to let him make me cry again. I punched in my code hurriedly and rushed inside, slamming the iron door behind me. When I arrived at my usual table, Seth had already gotten me a tray of food from the robotic kitchen. Ray Ann was talking excitedly. “So I was watching this program last night called Science Today because it was supposed to be about this guy who thought he could disprove the Big Bang theory and I wanted to see it. Personally, I thought the guy was on drugs or something because the Big Bang was one of the first things the InfoMaster told us. So I was watching it, and this guy came on, the one who said he could disprove it. He was real ugly and his voice was annoying. Anyway, he started talking about some quantum physics thing. He was saying that the way the universe has expanded contradicted the huge explosion theory. He wasn’t very articulate and he droned on and on about this junk. I started to get pretty bored by it.
“I was actually about to fall asleep or ask the TV for another program, but then Science Today was interrupted by a news flash. You will never believe this! Some scientists with the A.A.R.C. have just officially announced that they’ve discovered humanoid life on Isadrine! That is just amazing! After all of our advances in space, I was beginning to think we were alone in the universe! I would have told you guys earlier, but we started talking and I forgot.”
“You forgot?!?!” I asked incredulously.
“Yeah. I guess when you told me you wouldn’t be visiting me in my closet for awhile, it upset me more than I realized.”
I laughed. “Thanks, blame it all on me. I swear, though, Ray Ann, you must be the only one who asks for science programs. I mean, outer space fascinates me too, but I don’t think I’d watch it at my leisure.”
“Forgive my ignorance, but where is Isadrine?” Seth asked.
“It’s a small planet circling Sigma Draconis at a slightly lesser distance than we orbit the sun. It was only discovered about 150 years ago, and it’s in our own galaxy! The wobble in Sigma’s spectrum-due to the Doppler shift I think, I’m not great with the actual physics of this stuff-was so subtle that it took scientists awhile to realize there was a planet there. The radio signal was detected about fifty years ago, and there have been a bunch of flybys since, but each detected nothing. Because the signals were so sporadic, our researchers were beginning to think it was some sort of glitch. Now, finally, with the most recent mission, they’ve seen the creatures that sent out the signals.”
“Wow, and Pammy thought her news about John’s endearing words was big!” I exclaimed. I paused. “You said humanoid? What exactly did you mean?”
“Well, it appears that they breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. They seem to resemble humans, but are generally taller. This is strictly observational, though, from uninhabited spacecraft, so nothing is really known about their culture or anything, you know, like how they interact or whatever.”
“I wonder,” I said dreamily. “I wonder if they know about us, or what their voices sound like. Do you think they’re a lot like us? I mean, do you think they have Learning Labs and all? Do you think they joke around the same way we do? Do they have sex? Do they fall in love? For their sakes I hope they don’t. Love sucks.”
“I wonder what they’d think of us,” Ray Ann murmured.
“I’m sure they’d run away as soon as they saw you,” Seth told her.
“That’s a good question,” I said. “Would they be afraid of us? They’ve probably never seen people like us before.”
“They might be evil monsters,” Seth suggested.
“You’d fit in just fine, then,” Ray Ann replied easily. “Seriously, though, do you think they have a government?”
“I don’t know. I want to know what they drink and eat.” I said.
“Do they laugh? Do they cry? Do they believe in life after death? Do they sacrifice animals? How do they sleep? There are a million questions that we could ask for all of eternity. But as the observing spacecraft have no living beings on them, we’ll never know,” Seth pointed out.
“You’ve got a point there,” I told him reluctantly. “This sucks.”
“Yeah,” Ray Ann agreed. Wistfully, she added, “It’d be great if we could somehow study them. It’d be so interesting to meet life from another planet! Well, it’s fun to dream, I guess.”
“Guys?” I heard a nervous voice behind me ask. We turned around to see Melissa. “It doesn’t have to be a dream,” she said. “Oh, I didn’t mean to eavesdrop or anything, but I saw the same news flash on ITV and I was thinking that if people really wanted to, we could go to Isadrine. In the rocket, I mean.”
This was more incredible than Ray Ann’s announcement of extraterrestrial life! Travel the stars? “No way,” I said. “You’ve got to be joking!”
“I’m serious. It’s mid-April. Our two-week break is coming up real soon.” Each Education Quarter at Learning Lab lasted approximately two-and-a-half months, which was then followed by a two-week vacation where all the InfoMaster machines were reprogrammed for the information we needed to receive in the next quarter.
“How would we get there? Do you know how to fly it?” Ray Ann inquired. I could tell she wanted to scream with joy, but wanted to be sure she wouldn’t get her hopes up over nothing. I felt the same way. The thought of space travel absolutely blew my mind!
“No, I don’t. But do you know Todd Castellano? He could fly it like a pro.”
“Todd Castellano?” I marveled. The shockers just kept coming strong.
“The kid with all the tattoos and piercings? You want him to fly us? Into outer space?”
“Todd, the one with the really long hair that’s almost as dark as yours? The one who wears chains in his hair?”
“The kid who listens to that loud, pounding music and drives a motorcycle to Learning Lab?”
“Yes. He’s my cousin; my parents have been training him for years. He got inducted into the A.A.R.C. when he was only fourteen. He is certified and capable of flying any vehicle they own, including my parents’ shuttle.
“Wow,” I said, barely able to believe my ears. “I guess you really can’t judge a book by its cover.” I had always thought Todd Castellano was the weirdest guy around. He tried to look so tough. He never impressed me as being overly bright; I guess I kind of thought he was pretty dumb before Melissa’s shocking news.
And heavy metal music and motorcycle-riding were so ancient. Well, the music wasn’t that old; it had trickled down through the ages, but a motorcycle? I knew from reading Janet’s diary that people had traveled back then and things like motorcycles were useful. But now that the world was basically set up so that each town looked the same, there was no need for travel. If people wanted to see foreign lands, then they visited them in their own backyards in their Virtual Challenge Centers. And if someone really needed to go somewhere far away, to go to college, to see a famous museum, or to visit a friend or whatever, there was the Land Traversal Network that could take them there in seconds.
Short-distance traveling was really a thing of the past. Everything that was needed was always in walking distance. There were Learning Labs, parks and exercise centers everywhere. All products could be ordered via computer, and with its complex network system, that item would arrive at the door within 24 hours-as long as the right House Code was punched in, that is. Trust me, I would know. I once sent our dinner for the following day to the wrong house by skipping a digit in my House Code. My mother was not very happy with me that day.
“We’ve got a problem,” Seth declared, bringing me back to Lab Lunch and space travel possibilities. “Even if Todd can fly the ship, can you really take it? I mean, would your parents allow you to? And what are we going to tell our parents? I know if I told them the truth about what we’re doing, they’d lock me in the house forever.”
“Me too.” Ray Ann sighed.
“Well, I’m not telling mine,” Melissa declared.
“Really? I never thought you were the rebellious type, but I don’t know you all that well.” Seth sounded really surprised.
“No, you’re right, but I need a walk on the wild side.”
“Ooh, I’m getting interested. How wild do you want it to get?”
“I don’t know. I-I just don’t want to be the prize prim and proper daughter anymore.” She looked down. I sensed Seth’s comment had embarrassed her. She was blushing deeply.
“So you’re just going to blast off and not tell your parents anything?” I asked her.
“Exactly. Our vacation starts Saturday and I was thinking we could leave that morning. My parents will be at some hotshot convention for rich snobs for the entire weekend.”
Five days away, I thought. It seems like forever.
“Well, if you’re just going to leave without a trace, couldn’t we do the same?” Ray Ann asked.
“Are you kidding?” Seth demanded. “They’d go absolutely nuts looking for us. They’d all have nervous breakdowns by the time we returned.”
“We could leave them notes,” I suggested. “We could leave the notes as we walk out on Saturday morning. That way they’d know where we were and when we were coming back, but they wouldn’t know about our plan in enough time to stop it.”
“Then we’d better get to Melissa’s really early to be sure that by the time they wake and read the notes, we’ve already taken off,” Seth said, deep in thought.
“4:30 is a good time for you to all come over. Then we could hope to leave by 6:00 or 6:30, and there’s still some extra time in case of any problems.”
We all agreed that that was fine. I still couldn’t believe that we were going to be leaving Earth, traveling the cosmos!
“Can I come too?” Pammy asked. In all the excitement I had failed to notice that she had taken a seat on the opposite side of our table. I’d also forgotten about lunch completely. Seth, Ray Ann and I turned to face her.
“Sure. That’s fine,” Melissa said.
“Um, could John come too?”
I saw Ray Ann roll her eyes as we all turned to Melissa expectantly. She seemed to be looking to me for an answer. I didn’t like John. I strongly disliked him. But I didn’t think I could tolerate listening to Pammy complain for the whole trip. It wasn’t worth it. I nodded my head slightly.
“I don’t see why not,” Melissa told Pammy. “The ship is small, but it’s built for ten so it should be all right.”
The InfoAlert again disbanded our merriment. Melissa and I walked to the Lit-Lab Wing, talking animatedly all the while. She positively glowed with excitement. I’m sure I did as well.
The rest of the afternoon breezed by. I was so ecstatic. Thoughts of a gorgeous brown-haired boy seemed so distant. Well, they at least didn’t torture me as usual. I had other things to think about, like the Isadrinians we would meet. Maybe one of them would like me and want me! Of course, that would be my luck. I’d meet a guy who lived light years away, talk about long distance! Besides, I knew my heart was with Arden. That didn’t stop me from dreaming about these “humanoids” though.
I was so giddy I had to get yelled at five times in one session to sit still before I finally fell asleep with the machine. I was just bursting with my awesome secret.
During our next break, we all gathered around as Melissa talked to Todd, who was very excited about the trip. “Well,” he said. “Sigma Draconis is only 18 light years away, and since the rocket has high-speed alpha drives, it’ll take two days, which isn’t too bad, really. Now that we can create wormholes, we can travel at a low velocity, relatively speaking, without being affected by time dilation.”
“Huh?” Pammy asked.
“It’s Einstein’s relativity, don’t worry about it. Suffice to say it won’t be all that difficult to get there. We should only stay of eight or nine days, though. With our two-week break, I want to allow some time for error or delay.”
“Eight sounds good to me,” Melissa said. “Let’s air on the safe side.”
I’d never taken a trip where getting there had taken so long before, but since we were so far going into outer space, I’d actually expected it to be longer.
With our heads crammed full of unworldly thoughts, we returned for our last session with InfoMaster, which was a major unnecessary annoyance if you ask me.
I was leaving Learning Lab when Melissa caught up with me. I’d seen a lot of her lately. “Hey Josie!” she called. I stopped and waited for her. “I wanted to tell you that I invited Arden and he said he’d be happy to come along!”
“Is there something wrong?”
“Yes! Arden and I are broken up, that’s what’s wrong! And seeing him for almost two weeks straight sure won’t speed up the process of getting over him.”
“I’m sorry. I thought earlier you said it wouldn’t last and that you’d be with him again by lunchtime?” She looked really confused.
“I was joking around. Well, I guess it wasn’t really all that funny, but it’s my way of dealing with the pain. Anyway, didn’t you notice that we weren’t really together at lunch?”
“I figured that was because he never showed up for lunch. I’m sorry that I misunderstood you. Do you want me to tell him not to come?”
“No, you can’t do that. I’ll just have to deal with it, I guess.” I moaned inwardly. This wouldn’t be easy, but I wasn’t going to let him ruin my trip through the stars. “Just don’t expect me to talk to him.”
“All right. I’m really sorry, though. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“Don’t worry about it; you had no idea.” She smiled, but still looked worried. I gave her a reassuring smile before we parted ways. I continued on to the overwhelmingly warm and caring atmosphere of the place that I called home.
Had Arden really never eaten lunch or gone to the cafeteria? I asked myself. In all the insane excitement I hadn’t thought to look for him, not that I wanted to see him anyway. I didn’t even care where he went while we ate. Nope, not at all! God, I was bad at lying to myself! The curiosity was killing me!
When I walked in the door, my mother was waiting for me. “Bill called. He wanted to confirm plans for dinner this Saturday. You’re free, right?”
“Sure. It’s not like I have a life or anything,” I replied. Bill was my father, the one who was always breaking plans with me to hang out with his bimbo girlfriend Carol.
I wouldn’t mind a little sweet revenge.
So, this is the second installment of Sunshower, a novel I was working on in my senior year of high school. Read the first chapter here.
Feel free to check out other Samples (including more current work), including Published and more early work.
Next Up: Josie – Sunshower Chapter Three
- A Star is Born
- The Colors – Dark As Roses
- Dusky Waters, Orcas Island
- She’s a Girl Rising From a Shell
- Warding Off Eclipses with Sex and Music
- A Growing Girl.