Chapter 5--Rica Miller

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“Yeah, but he’d have woken us at 5 a.m. to do it,” I said, trying to make her feel better. “I’m glad we slept in—and we still made it.”

Mom turned around to look behind us and smiled. We were now in the middle of the line, meaning we would at least get decent seats.

“I can’t wait to see him. The past three months have felt like a year.”

“Me, too.”

Dad believed that on Destiny I’d have a better chance of having a normal life, but I wasn’t sure what that would mean yet. I’d never even met another Hannarian in person. Other than my own experiences, everything I knew about them came from books, magazines, videos, and stories Mom and Dad had told me about a few Hannarians they’d known.

At that point, we’d known I wasn’t human for a little over a year. Before that, I had struggled to keep up with kids my own age but had no idea why. Several good friends had helped me in school, and it was painful to know that I’d never see any of them again. I was thankful however that I’d gotten to say goodbye, telling them we were leaving Earth because of Dad’s job being transferred. The alternative of telling them and my teachers that I was Hannarian just wouldn’t have worked out.

Mom and I got to the front of the line, stepped up on a set of metal stairs that led to the transport, then turned right at the door to find our section. The rows of seats on this particular transport faced each other toward the center, and Mom found two adjoining seats in the fourth section back. I took out my DMR and placed my backpack in the hard plastic compartment above my head.

Despite times given on transport schedules, a twenty-to- forty minute delay was expected for security inspections. A warning alarm sounded that they were shutting the main passenger door, and I flinched in pain and put my hands over my ears. Mom cringed out of empathy, but there was nothing she could do.

So far, all the changes I’d developed were so intense they seemed to be harmful to me rather than the gifts Mom and Dad said they’d become. I couldn’t even finish out the school year—unable to sort out hearing several conversations at once—much less continue any long-term deception that I was human. The man at the bookstore kiosk was right in that I would be reading a lot on this trip but in an attempt to keep from repeating eighth grade.

The next transport would be much larger and more like a hotel than a shuttle, though from previous trips I knew the mattresses in the rooms were about as comfortable as three layers of cardboard. I looked forward to seeing Dad but knew I wouldn’t get a good night’s sleep until we reached the station.

That won’t be a problem. I’ll take care of it.

I looked at the speaker above me, thinking it was the captain about to make an announcement.

I’m not up there, little friend. Look right across from you.

A tall guy with blond hair smiled at my confused expression and nodded to acknowledge I’d found him. He was quite a bit older than me—maybe seventeen or eighteen—and looked cute from what I could see with his jacket over his head. After glancing at who sat to his left and right, he unlatched the lap belt to his seat, walked over to us, and extended his hand.

“Nice to meet you. I’m Jernard Wallace. I’m—”

Mom reached across me and took his hand.

“You’re probably a nice boy, but my daughter is thirteen and way too young for—”

Jernard shook Mom’s hand without seeming fazed by her reaction.

“I’m married, Rebecca—but even if I wasn’t I do think Charlie would kill me,” he said. Mom gave him a confused look. “I didn’t mean to be rude to you. It’s just I’ve never met Rica before and wanted to introduce myself.”

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