Dream #10: I discover a sparkling river that empties through a lush forest into a glowing lake. It had been there all the time but I never knew it existed.
The Friday I met Aranara was a cold, cold day. My hometown of Lancaster, Wisconsin is in some kind of microclimate and we rarely got snow, even in the middle of winter, so I wasn’t expecting the betrayal that lurked in the air that early October in New York City. Monday was balmy, but by the end of the week a biting wind had blown in from Canada, leaving Manhattanites shivering in flimsy fall jackets.
Over the previous couple of weeks I had tried to forget the weirdness of the double handshakes, the Temple of Truth, and the tunnel behind the kitchen cupboard. It was all so effing insane, and when I ignored it, it seemed to go away. At school I crushed on Noon from afar, but that was all I could do – his distance was both fascinating and impenetrable. Cruz was another matter. He was down-to-earth and stereotypically handsome, but there was a tension, an inner struggle, that made me want to hold him by the hand and tell him that everything was going to be okay. It was an incredibly powerful feeling and the only thing that forced me to concentrate on schoolwork was the fact that Mom had such high expectations for me. And who was I to begrudge her that? She had worked like a dog ever since Dad died, never pressuring me, never making me feel like I owed her anything. The least I could do was to make a decent effort.
So I put my head down and studied. Literally. I didn’t even look at Noon or Cruz before the bell sounded at the end of each class. And I guess that’s why I didn’t notice Aranara. But once I did notice her, I would never forget her.
The weekend was beckoning as I rushed through the school gates that bone-chilling afternoon. All I could think about was Skyping my Wisconsin friends. I missed them but I could already sense that the big city was changing my friendships. They had no way to relate to my stories of Broadway musicals or Central Park strolls, and although I could laugh at their latest Glee Club goings-on, I felt as removed from the stories as from the TV show that inspired them.
I heard a shrill girl’s voice above the traffic hum: “Hey! Kari!” My shoulders were hunched up against the cold and I’d pulled my woolen hat down over my ears, so it was hard for me to tell where the shout was coming from. I scanned the cars lined up outside school: mostly rich-kid SUVs and smart sedans idling with the windows closed.
“Kari! Over here!”
One car caught my eye. Not just because the back window was down and a girl’s head was sticking out, but because it was long and black. I don’t know a thing about cars, but this one was... looming, somehow. It pulled away from the curb and crawled toward me, engine purring. As it stopped beside me, the front tire crushed an apple that some kid must have tossed from their lunchbox. The fruit was obliterated into a pulpy mess.
The girl raised the window and opened the back door for me. “It’s me, Aranara,” she smiled. “You’re not dressed for this – you’ll catch your death.”
I hesitated. She looked familiar. She even sounded familiar. But I had no idea who she was. And she sure had the kind of name you would remember, right? She rolled her eyes like I was being spectacularly dim.
“I’m in your History class. And your Spanish class. No mi recuerdos?”
Nope. I didn’t remember her. But I was drawn to her. She had a wide smile and shining hazel eyes. Her long, blonde hair fell evenly on her broad shoulders. Her fur-trimmed red designer jacket fitted perfectly around her overdeveloped torso. Swim team? Cheerleader? Incredibly fortunate genes? Whatever her secret, she was the kind of girl that boys dream about taking to the prom.