Luna drummed her fingers on the desk, forcing herself to concentrate, but it was difficult. There was only three more weeks left of school before the summer break and she was determined to get a half decent report card.
Although, the effort was pretty futile now so late in the term. She could see it now, lines and lines filled with the words ‘could do better’ and ‘needs to apply herself better’ and the old favourite ‘must learn time management’.
She wondered why, in a stereotypical world anyway, it was acceptable for jocks to be dumb, for cheerleaders to be airheads, but why the world came down on her like a ton of bricks when she failed academically. She was the best athlete in the school, and had the trophies to prove it, but the teachers wouldn’t give her a break.
Her mind turned once more to the upcoming summer break. She had plenty planned with her friends, and also her family.
Uncle Sam, and his business partners Edgar and Alan, whom she also called her uncles, were coming to visit. They ran one of the most successful comic book stores in LA, and between them owned the most extensive selection of rare comic books under the sun.
She liked Edgar and Alan, they always told the most fantastic stories, and although she was too old to be scared, she still enjoyed their tales of monsters, vampires and werewolves. Maybe she enjoyed them because her family didn’t approve of the tales. She had once overheard Uncle Sam telling the Frog brothers not to keep telling her the stories, as it wasn’t relevant any more.
He had probably meant that she was too old for the stories anymore, but all the same, it was a weird way to put it…
“Luna Emerson, perhaps you could explain the causes…”
“Huh?” Luna’s head shot up. Damn. Miss Sargeson was good, she could zone in on non-school thoughts like a homing pigeon.
“As I thought, you weren’t listening were you?” Miss Sargeson said in exasperation.
“Oh, no. I was.” Luna thought fast, the last thing she wanted was a detention on this lovely sunny day, sweating in a classroom when she could be home enjoying air conditioning. She’d been on detention every single day after school this week so far, and her parents were starting to get crazy about it. She couldn’t help it, she’d daydream, get called on and then her mouth would run away with her.
“Then tell me what I was just saying.”
“Um. You were telling us about the Second World War,” Luna said, glancing at her textbook.
“Of course I was you foolish child!” Miss Sargeson wasn’t known for her patience. “We’ve been studying it for the past month. We were talking about the causes. Tell me one cause of the Second World War and you won’t be on detention tonight.”
“Um…” Luna stalled for time. There was only one answer on her mind and she was biting her lip not to let it out.
“Well…?” Miss S. prodded.
“One cause of the Second World War was…” Think girl, think!
Uh-oh. She’s doing the single eyebrow raise. One decent sentence and you’re off the hook. C’mon, Luna, think!
“Was that Hitler was a Nazi shithead.”
Great going, Lu. Detention for life.
She called home at lunch and left a message on the answer phone, thanking the stars above that she didn’t have to talk to her parents about it. She’d simply said that she was staying late to do some studying. They might ask her about it and then she’d have to fess up about the detention, but she might get lucky.
She was constantly in trouble, but it wasn’t always her fault. She knew she didn’t pay attention in class, but who did? It was the fights that bothered her. She could defend herself; her Mom and Dad had been sending her to self-defence and martial arts classes since she could stand. But every so often, someone would feel threatened by her ability to fight, and start on her. She managed never to hurt anyone, well, no more than they hurt her. She had great scope for inflicting pain, but always tried not to do any more than self-defence, never be on the offence, it wasn’t her nature. But she would always get caught fighting. She knew she was walking a fine line at school, at some point they would expel her.
She got the feeling her Dad might see the funny side of today’s incident, but her Mom wouldn’t.
Despite the fact that her mother was a hippy child, and wore gypsy clothes in her teens, she was strangely uptight about school.
Her Dad was more relaxed about it, and had told her once that Star, (her Mom even had a hippy name) only wanted for Luna what she never had for herself. As families went, they weren’t too bad. Ok, she fought with them, they were madly over protective of her, she wasn’t allowed to go anywhere at night, and she was the first kid in school to be given a cell phone. Most kids had them now, as a trend thing, but her Mom and Dad had given her hers for safety.
There were lots of rules, don’t invite anyone in to the house who you don’t know, don’t go off with strangers, never drink. If you must drink – and we strongly advise you don’t – make sure you know what you’re drinking. You never know what someone might give you and pass it off as ‘just a drink’.
She’d heard it so many times before.
But, her Mom and Dad were still together, which was more than most kids her age could say.
Luna studied her way through detention, and scribbled out an apology to Miss S. about rudeness, insolence and disruptive behaviour, grabbed her bags and walked home.
The sun played on her back, making her itch. There was another thing. Her Mom and Dad couldn’t seem to get enough of the sun. The slightest mention of sunlight was enough to get them running outside to soak up some rays.
Luna couldn’t stand it. She wished she loved the sun, and she would love to be able to tan, but she was ‘gifted’ with a fair complexion. Her white-blonde ringlets and light skin were very attractive – according to some people, mostly her family – but she burned like nobody’s business.
It was a family joke that while her Mom was outside tanning, Luna would be inside burning on her behalf.
“Hey! Anybody home? Mom? Dad?” She called, dropping her keys in the dish by the door and slinging her bag down where one of her parents would fall over it later.
She inspected the house from top to bottom. “Alright! I got away with it!” she exclaimed on finding no-one home. She deleted her message off the answer phone and settled down with a can of soda and some chips in front of the TV. A small luxury that she wouldn’t get away with if her Mom was home.
The novelty of this luxury wore off after an hour or so.
Another hour later and Luna was going through a full-scale panic.
Another hour had passed, and she had called everyone in her parents’ phone book, but nobody knew where they were. She called Sam for the second time that night.
“They’re still not back?” he asked worriedly.
“No, I–” Her voice broke, her throat constricted and she fought back a sob.
“Don’t panic, Luna, I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation,” he told her reassuringly. “Just think of the guilt trip you can pull on them when they get back.”
She smiled weakly into the phone, but was far from calming down. “I know, they’re just probably…” She tailed off. Her parents – the mad-panickers, the people who didn’t pop next door to borrow coffee without leaving three different contact numbers – were three hours late. In fact, Luna didn’t know when they had left to go wherever they went. They could have left right after she went to school. Where were they?
“I’m scared, Uncle Sam,” she told him.
“It’ll be alright,” he said, sounding less than convinced.
“I just – hang on!” She heard a car in the drive. She could now hear it crunching up the gravel driveway. “I think they’re–”
I think they’re back, is what she was about to say. But her parents’ car wasn’t white and blue.
And it didn’t have a flashing blue light on the top.
Miles away, Sam not only heard, but felt her scream.