1TactileWriter

Lithe and Lucy, Lucy and Lithe

Chapter 1: The Letter

 

“Is she asleep, Will?”
He nodded, giving the letters and brochures on the coffee table a glum look.
The TV spewed out more images of bombed cities, people screaming, devastation. “Turn that thing off,” he said. The computer obliged.
He sighed and sat beside his yawning wife, who pointed at the letters on the coffee table.
He opened, scanned, and tossed four letters aside. “Nope, as usual.” He opened another, read it twice, lit up,  and cried, “Yesssss!”
“Someplace accepted us?”
“Sure did, Donna, honey.”
“Let me see it! Let me see it!”
“Catch.”
She caught it. “We’ve found a new home, Will! Someplace called Andorpha.”
“Never heard of it till just now.”
“Better than being fried here on Earth.”
“Amen.”
She kept the letter. He grabbed the brochure.
“Some lovely snowscapes here,” he said. “People wearing fur coats. Average year-round temps … hmm. Lucy won’t like that.” She leaned over him to look. “Fur coats look warm enough.” She turned back to the letter. “Listen to this, Will.”

 

“Dear Mr. and Mrs. Smith:

The Emigration Ministry, Refugee Subcommittee, is pleased to inform you that you and your family have been accepted as refugees to our planet.
“Andorpha, while not the most hospitable of climates, has a society designed for families, built with them in mind. Two of our citizens, Mr. and Mrs. Hero Dearheart, are to welcome your family into theirs.
“Our hearts are warmed at the thought of your coming.”

 

“Any pics of this family?” Donna asked.

“Nope. Just this letter and brochure.”

They studied the brochure, a thin pamphlet with little information. Will shook his head. “We’ll be wearing fur. Lucy’ll like that at least. In lieu of the cat I promised her, she can wear fur like a cat.”
“Not much of a selling point, Will.”
“Yeah,” he sighed, “I know. When do we tell Lucy?” He lowered his voice, hoping their joyous outburst hadn’t wakened their clever, keen-eared eight-year-old. “You know how she loves swimming and picnics, and that wooden swing set. She hates the cold, and the only snow she likes is on a Christmas card.”
“It’s not that bad, honey. She likes a white Christmas, and figure skating.”
“And the novelty lasts about as long as Christmas.”
Donna sighed. “I like sunshine as much as anyone. But what can we do? She’s just going to have to accept it, Will. You and I didn’t start this war. She’s just going to have to be glad we’ve found her a way out of it.”
“Okay, I know,” Will sighed. “She’s a little kid, Donna, honey. We’ll have to help her, be patient with her.”
Donna nodded. “Sure. Let’s tell her tomorrow when she gets home from school, when we have time to explain it to her.”
“I don’t know, Donna. Shouldn’t  we wait till their government sends me the tickets?”
“No. She’ll need as much time as possible to get used to the idea.”
“Mourn the loss of summer, you mean. Not to mention her friends and that teacher she likes so much.””
When they went into their room and quietly closed the door, they hadn’t come to an agreement.

 

Lucy lay in bed, not yet asleep. Tell her what, she wondered. What new world? Last month, there’d been three parties for kids at her school, who were leaving Earth for someplace else to live. She and Lydia had cried their eyes out. She’d cried her eyes out for days after. She didn’t even know when her best friend forever had left Earth, or where she’d gone.
No crying, asking, pleading or tantrum had garnered her the information. Not even her most grown-up, logical reasoning had helped. Now, she was the one leaving. Mom and Dad seemed to be arguing about something–something besides when to tell her. What awaited her on this new world, and what did summer have to do with it? Maybe the world was one big playground with swing sets, wading pools, and a warm sun. She imagined a blue sky full of birds, dewy grass she could dig her toes in, sandy beaches, and …
Fur coats. They’d said something about her wearing a fur coat. She sat up in bed as the uneasy feeling swept over her. Her parents were scared she wouldn’t like this new planet. Her parents knew her well. She was their kid, for goodness sakes.
She tossed and turned uneasily.

She looked at the brochure over a bowl of cereal next morning. “Oh my God! I’d rather die on Earth than go there.”
“Lucy, don’t swear,” her father said.
“You guys can’t do this to me!”
“We can, and we will,” her mother said.
“Power trippers. Control freaks!” She jammed her backpack on her shoulders and marched toward the door.
“Lucy, that’s enough,” her father said. “We know you miss your friends that left, but acting out isn’t going to change anything. You don’t want to be here when the nukes go off.”
“We don’t have any more control over this than you, young lady,” Mom said. “So I’ll thank you not to call us power-trippers and control freaks again.”
Lucy looked back. Her mother was trying to hold back tears. She’d hurt them, and she felt bad. She dropped her backpack and went and hugged them.
“Daddy? Mommy? I’m sorry I hurt your feelings. Thanks for not giving me the spanking I shoulda got.”
“Just this once, princess,” said her dad. “Now, scoot, or you’ll be late for school.”
“Where is this awful place anyway?” she asked, disappointed. Lydia’s brochure had shown a sunny place.
“It’s called Andorpha. They sound nice there. Try hard to have a good attitude about it, and we’ll do everything in the world to help you get used to it,” her mom said.
“I’m gonna miss Kim and Stevie. And I like Mrs. Talbott.”
“It’s hard for all of us, princess,” Dad said. “You’ll have tons of friends on Andorpha, you’ll see.”
Lucy trudged out the door, her head down, fishing for a Kleenex in her pocket, leaving behind parents whose facades for her sake had already collapsed.

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