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Chapter Twenty-seven

     On Monday morning I meet Kara next to the Alumni Museum at school. Since she is the only one from Amelia Earhart Continuation High School who entered the science fair, she was given a day pass to attend Hollywood High for the science fair results. I like seeing her on our campus as she walks toward me, all goth and cool with her tatts and black makeup. She nervously squeezes my hand when we meet.
“I haven’t stepped foot on this campus for two years since I got kicked out, except for the gym this weekend.”
“Well, you’re back!” I say with a “here’s Johnny” grin. “Let’s go to the assembly, or we’ll never get a seat.”

We wedge our backpacks into the crowd to carve a path towards the auditorium.
“Hey, guess what? My dad came back. He drove me here. He’s parking the car but he’s going to watch the results.” Kara looks happy and I smile.
“Cool!” I tell her as we enter the auditorium. “My mom and dad are here somewhere too.”

It seems so normal; our parents here to support us as we wait for our science fair results. Less than a year ago I could never have made up this scenario, Kara and me together at an academic event we both participated in. We push our way inside as the entire student body finds seats on the hard metal chairs, glad to be ditching their first period class. I wonder how my parents will even get through the door, it’s so dog-eat-dog. As we finally find a place to park ourselves, a familiar voice distracts me.

“This seat taken?” I look up and it is Taz. I shake my head.

“Go ahead,” I say. Kara elbows me hard in the arm and I elbow her back. Taz smiles as he sits down.

“So, where did you come from? Before you moved here, I mean,” I can’t help asking him. I’ve never seen him at school before this weekend. Was I so in love with Jimmy that I just didn’t look at other guys?

“I’m a transfer,” he says. “I just came here in September, from a small town in Northern California. Dorris, up near the Oregon border. You probably haven’t heard of it. If you’re ever up that way, you should stop by. Dorris is well known as the town with the tallest flagpole west of the Mississippi.”
“Oh,” I say, smiling at the town’s claim to fame. “Cool.” He’s so close I can smell his scent. Taz smells almost as good as Jimmy.

Mrs. Bandy, the “Fair Chair” as we call her, goes up to the podium and taps on the microphone. We wait through long announcements and congratulations, and all that boring stuff adults like to say when they have an audience. A few special mention prizes are awarded so now there are kids sitting up on the stage with Mrs. Bandy, looking uncomfortable as they hold their trophies in their laps and wait.
There are three awards for each science fair category so it seems like it takes forever for the Biology results to be announced. At least Suzi and a couple of her sci-squad won first place for their physics project so we have someone to cheer for. Otherwise, I don’t know any of the kids called up to accept their prizes. It’s like this entire segment of the school population has somehow missed my radar. I guess I was too busy macking on Jimmy and fighting Evil Cheerleaders from Hell to notice them.

In the midst of millions of bodies squirming around in their seats, my heart feels like it’s pounding up to my throat when Mrs. Bandy makes the announcement. “And finally, in biology, we had some very creative projects this year. All of you deserve congratulations. But unfortunately there are only three prizes in biology. The third place winner for an interesting project on the 11th dimension using the membrane theory is: Catherine Wong.”

Catherine, a senior, goes up to get her prize. Kara and I hold hands tightly, our hearts thumping wildly. Could we have gotten second place?

“And in second place for a convincing argument against owls using echolocation, the prize goes to Wanda Keller, Shannon O’Shea, and Brett Nissan,” Mrs. Bandy continues. Kara and I look at each other, feeling a bit sick. Were we wrong about the looks that we saw the judges give us? Were we mistaken about the other students’ excitement over our project? Or could we have really won first place? We hold our breath. My armpits are sweating, I’m so nervous. Shannon, Wanda and Brett take forever to worm their way up to the stage and get their trophy and photo taken. “And the first place award in biology ” . . . I swear I can’t breathe–“for a fascinating demonstration of global warming, goes to Tazura Badjeerian!” I feel like I’m underwater all of sudden, and my heart sinks and my cheeks flush hot and red. I’m more than a little embarrassed that my parents talked me into letting them come here today, only to watch me lose. It reminds me of the audition list for the holiday show at the dance studio, when we all ran up to the posting to see what parts we got. Instead of getting Clara in The Nutcracker– the part I desperately wanted–next to my name it said “Soldier #1”, which was worse than nothing. This feels exactly the same way but I keep my face expressionless as Kara stares moodily into her lap. We have no clue who Tazura Badjeerian is so we look around the gym, trying to act like it doesn’t matter that we lost. But all of sudden Taz is standing up next to us and trying to get to the aisle.
“Oh, hey!” I say, finally figuring out that Taz is short for Tazura. I’m happy it’s him, but I’m also really disappointed. We clap for Taz as he retrieves his trophy and certificate (wishing it was us). I try not to seem like I’m upset as Tazwalks up to the stage, holds up his trophy in this cute shy way, and sits down on the metal chair awaiting him near Mrs. Bandy. I just want to get out of there now, and I hope I don’t see my parents. I feel really bad for Kara, who got the special pass to be there and invited her dad on top of it. Crap.
Mrs. Bandy returns to the microphone and mindlessly taps it again before talking. Kara and I roll our eyes in disgust. Will this torture ever end? After a seriously long inhale, Mrs. Bandy says, “And lastly, we would like to announce our special award, the Scientific Innovation Award.” Kara is putting her satchel over her shoulders, ready to walk out and go back to her own school. I don’t blame her. I would leave too if my parents weren’t there somewhere, waiting to see me.

“This trophy is for overall achievement and innovation, and is given to a student participating in any category. In this case it is for two students, for their project on plant growth using positive versus negative reinforcement. Please come forward, Kara Slauson and Jessica Allen. Congratulations, girls!”
I feel my brain spinning as I try to grasp what just happened. Me? Kara looks even more shocked than I am, I think she wasn’t really paying attention and doesn’t know what award we just won. She smiles at me nervously and points at herself, her blackened eyes raised in a question mark, and I nod and we help each other up. I can feel all eyes on us as we walk down the longest aisle ever and up the stage stairs into the blinding theater lights. There is a roar of sound coming from the seats and I am surprised. Do these people know us? I realize it is Suzi’s group, the science- geek squad, clapping loudly for us as we nervously approach the microphone. My throat has closed shut so I’m glad we don’t have to speak. Kara is clutching onto my shirt as Mrs. Bandy hands us our trophy, a really big one, bigger than the others. Our names are engraved on the front. I can barely hear Mrs. Bandy thanking everyone for coming and supporting the Hollywood High Science Club as I stare at the trophy.

“Great job!” Mrs. Bandy says to us, giving me a sideways hug and shaking Kara’s hand. Everything’s a blur as we stand there holding the trophy, posing for photos for the school newspaper and yearbook, first just the two of us and then the entire group of winners smile for the camera as the audience clears the room. After the photo shoot Taz comes over and gives me a hug. He gives Kara one too but mine is longer.
“Nice going,” he says.

“You too.”

I’m still buzzing from the high of it all when I overhear two freshmen girls as they collect their backpacks and shoulder their trophies, ready to leave the stage.

“That’s the girl who tried to kill herself,” one says. I can see the other one look me over from the corner of my eye.
“Nah,” she says. “That’s not her. That’s the science girl. That suicide girl doesn’t go here anymore, remember? She got kicked out.”

“Oh, yeah,” the first girl says. “Didn’t she get kicked out for having sex in the locker room with some football player?”

“Ew!” the other one says.

Wow, I think. What a trip. Now I’m the Science Girl. Who knew?

My parents descend on us with camera and smiles. Keith even stays and waves at me and gives me a thumbs up before jetting off to class. We pose for a few more photos, and I’ve never seen my dad look more proud. Mom is even smiling broadly, something she hasn’t done in years. We shake Principal Asshole’s hand and after he excuses himself Mom hugs me and Dad picks me up and spins me around, he’s so excited.

“We’ll see you at home, sweetie. Who’s taking the trophy first?” He winks at Kara.

“Jess can have it first,” Kara says, “But we’ll for sure trade off!”

“Can you take it?” I ask Dad. I don’t want to carry it around all day; even though I’m proud to have won it that would be too embarrassing. Dad nods and tucks it under his arm like a surfboard. Mom rolls her eyes at him as they wave goodbye to us. Kara’s dad stands shyly at the foot of the stairs leading to the stage, and I see Mom shaking hands with him. He checks out the trophy and chats with my parents before they walk out together.

“We did it!” Kara says. “I can’t believe we won!”

“I didn’t think we were going to win anything, I was so mad I was going to leave!”

“I know! I saw you getting ready to go and then they called our names!” Kara and I are rehashing the whole thing in minute detail, stunned by our luck, when Taz walks up. I didn’t know he was waiting for us.

“Oh, hi!” I say, smiling. I squeeze his arm; I’m so excited I’m actually giddy.

“Hey! I’m really happy for you guys,” he says.
“You too! You did great!” Now that we won too I really am happy for him. I can’t stop smiling.

“Ready to go to second period?” Taz asks. “I mean, I could walk you to class.”

Kara’s eyes get big and she beams at me.
“Uh, sure!” I say, and I smile even more. Kara’s dad stops at the door and motions for her to come with him. The spell is broken, and now she needs to go back to her own school. We walk back to our seats and she gets her satchel. I hug her for the tenth time.

“Thanks,” she whispers into my ear. I nod, feeling strangely emotional. This doesn’t feel like my life, but I like it.
“See you later?”

“Sure.”
Kara’s dad puts his arm around her shoulders and Taz and I wave. We are alone in the auditorium except for the janitor, who is quickly folding up chairs.

“We’d better go or we’ll be late,” Taz says. I nod and we leave together, feeling like old friends.

****

Chapter Twenty-eight

     I’m sitting at the desk in my bedroom cramming for an English test on a beautiful Saturday afternoon when I hear an odd noise. It sounds a lot like a static-y radio or something. I look around and I’m shocked to see The Granddaughter. She is an outline of herself, barely there. It takes awhile before I can see her better and her thoughts fill mine, like a slow Internet connection.

“Hello Jessica,” she says.

“Oh my gosh! How are you? I haven’t seen you in so long!” I want to hug her; I’m so overcome with emotion to see her. Her chevron smile brings tears to my eyes.

“I have missed you as well, Jessica. It has been difficult to return to you.”

“Are you having problems on your spaceship?” I ask, realizing right away what a completely ridiculous question that is. Again the chevron smile.

“Let me show you . . . ” and she reaches her bluish-grey hand over to my temple and my mind is instantly filled with a 3-D tour of her world. The tour is a model, not the real place but a replica of where she lives. The “spaceship” is more like a city, a beautiful, enclosed city with trees and flowers and birds and walkways and meandering paths. There are no people but I can feel what their presence would be like, and it is very different from the human energy of my time, it is focused and intelligent and spiritual. An artificial sun hangs above me as I move through the mental 3-D replica and I somehow know the entirety of how this place has come to be. . . this false earth is the size of a small star, a planet of its own contained and made of ingredients from the mother planet, Earth.

It is the new home of humanity, at least until Earth has recovered from the pollution and destruction and chaos from many millennia of human inhabitants. Here there are living spaces and classrooms and places for nourishment and entertainment but the place is peacefully quiet except for the interchange of thoughts, an interchange that I somehow understand anyone can go in and out of at will.  There are no secrets here. Communication is largely achieved by brain waves. The entire place has a life force of its own. I can tell that the “spaceship” is somehow a living being, sustainable and aware. I have never experienced anything like it . . . it is an all-new thing to me. The feeling I get more than anything else is the sensation of deep concern that the inhabitants of this place have for Earth. They are the guardians of the future of the planet, and they are all a part of me somehow. We are connected. I finally understand now what The Granddaughter meant when she said there is no such thing as time. She is right, we are a continuation of each other but not separate from each other. We are all One.

Suddenly we are back in my bedroom at my desk and The Granddaughter is smiling in a pleased but sad way.

“You are saying goodbye to me now, aren’t you?” I ask, wondering if I picked up the ability to psychically communicate by being with her.

“I am,” she says. “I must leave. It has been a great struggle to get you to this point in your life space, Jessica. But it has been accomplished. My goal is achieved.”

“What goal?”

“You living your life. There are many, many realities, many paths a life may take. Your living was one path but since most of your paths ended in your death at a young age, it has taken much concentrated effort to find you in the life space in which you actually lived past the age of sixteen. And in our previous attempts to find you we found only your family mourning your death.”

Hearing these words now shocks me somehow. I hated to be mean to the War and Destruction plants in my experiment but yet here less than a year before I was willing to take my own life, to kill myself. I vow silently to never hurt myself again, not even with mean thoughts, now that I know firsthand that mean thoughts can be as bad as mean actions. The Granddaughter touches my arm, and the contrast of our colors make me wonder what race she is.

We are one race, she reminds me mentally. Humanity will become a streamlined entity of Oneness, One people. All people are all bloods.

Somehow that thought gives me comfort but the sadness of losing her starts to overcome me. I don’t want her to leave me.

“There’s so much I still want to learn. . .”

“You have fulfilled your destiny,” The Granddaughter assures me. “You will live.”

“I will miss you.”

“Goodbye, Grandmother,” she tells me.

She has never called me that before.

My Granddaughter touches my temple and looks at me with a knowingness that spans the ages before she disappears with a jaggedy blue-gray shimmer.

I’m sitting at my desk cramming for my English test on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, but the words of the tragic tale I’m reading float up around me, couched in incomprehensible ‘thees’ and ‘thous’. The bedroom door opens. Kara and Suzi walk in. I’m a little disoriented and for some reason I feel very sad. That must be what the author was going for when he wrote this tragedy. I smile up at my friends, glad for a break. Why are they here? Did we have a study date?

“What’s up?” I ask, trying to remember if we had plans.

“We’re going shopping on Sunset and you’re coming. Taz has some super hot cousins in town and he’s taking them to show them the boulevard.”

“How do you know?” I ask.

“He called . . . duh!” Suzi says, pointing to her cell phone. “He called you first but your phone is going haywire, it didn’t even ring.”

I stand up from my chair, and I feel light headed. I start to remember the strangest dream I had last night that doesn’t seem like a dream about a tall willowy figure, someone I know well. I wish I could remember. It’s all a strange blur. I pick up my phone and look at it . . . one missed call. When did I miss a call? I was right here studying. Maybe I did fall asleep at my desk and I’m just waking up.

“You okay? You look a little . . . sick,” Suzi comments.

“Yeah,” Kara agrees. “You look different. Maybe not sick, but–you’re glowing!”

“Jessie’s in love,” Suzi singsongs, and Kara pokes her and they laugh.

I’m still woozy as I struggle to remember. What’s going on? I have the most uncanny feeling that something profound happened to me just now, but for the life of me I can’t say what it is.

“I don’t know . . . I feel like I’m forgetting something,” I say.

“You are!” Suzi says. “You’re forgetting the hot boys we’re going to casually and accidentally not bump into while we shop on Sunset!”

I smile but I can’t shake that nagging feeling –what is it?

“I’m coming with you! But I wish I could remember. It was something .  .  . a dream I had last night about a lady I was talking to .  .  . she was blue.”

“Sad?” Suzi asks.

“Color,” I say.

“Oh.”

Kara grabs my arm and pulls me away from the desk chair.

“There has obviously been too much of this studying,” she says as she closes my English lit book. “It’s starting to affect your brain.”

“The Blue Lady?” Suzi chimes in. “Now you are being haunted by Technicolor ghosts? C’mon, Jess! Get with the program! We said there are boys to find on The Strip! And your über-cute boyfriend Taz is one of them! Grab your lip gloss and let’s go!”

I pop a breath mint in my mouth and shake away the lingering thoughts of the strange blue lady I keep thinking I should know and run a comb through my hair. There’s no sense in protesting, the boys are waiting. I barely have a chance to grab my purse before my two best friends pull me out the bedroom door.

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