A New Beginning
the wind of april blew in and froze everything. in this part of the world, everything was backwards. summertime is winter, and well…you get it. but the only thing that stayed the same, was, unfortunately, school.
by the time the last day of school had come, and azra sat shivering behind her desk waiting to take the astrology final, winter was making its name well known on everybody’s lips.
azra’s teeth chattered. her trembling hand reached for a pen. why don’t they turn on the heaters?
the teacher came in and waved his hand. “cut the chit chat. we gotta pass this to get out of here, and go home, and get warm.”
He drew the blinds and turned on the overhead projector. Tiny lights of the solar system clouded the room. one by one they zoomed into view and several tiny planets and stars were replaced by numbers in the night sky.
“okay, you know the drill. put on your starmappers, locate and label the corresponding planets that were visible in the nineteenth century England, during the reign of Ivan the Great. Make as many corrections as you want, but remember, you have a time limit. Preferably by the end of this year, before we turn into ice pops.”
everyone in class reached under their desks and pulled out weird looking glasses. azra found her pair and plopped them on her nose. they were at least three sizes too big and slid down her nose.
Azra turned around. It was Tu. She threw a wad of paper at Azra, and she caught it and unwrapped it. Inside was a list of planets and suns. Tu had done her homework.
Azra turned back and winked at Tu. Thanks.
“Don’t mention it…” Then Tu looked like she was going to throw up suddenly.
“turn around Miss Azra. I saw that crafty transaction. hand it over, said mr. Thomas. He had his hand out and was clawing the air like a dying spider.
azra smoldered with embarrassment as she handed over the cheat sheet.
“Ah, amazing work…miss Tu Charrad. You get a zero for the course standings, but don’t worry, it won’t hurt that much, but you, azra…I don’t think you can take another hit. do you understand?
cheating sucks, understand. don’t do it. You get an automatic grade reduction to sixty nine. You must be able to answer enough questions right to bring it up to a passing grade, to pass the test, pass the course, and…pass the eighth grade.
azra melted in her desk.
Mr. thomas smiled. “but don’t worry, if you are anything like your mother was, you shouldn’t have that much of a problem.”
that’s the thing, thought azra. i’m nothing like she was. I don’t even know the planets in our system, much less the entire milky way!
Azra felt miserable as the room darkened again and the stars and planets slowly rotated on the ceiling. she didn’t know anything about Gamma 121 or Asteroid belt 86, how could she name which ones were visible during some distant mysterious past during the reign of some crummy and probably loony king?
azra put her forehead on her desk top. She went to sleep.
she woke up at the last bell of the day.
“okay upload your work and have a warm summer. and you…azra, will you see me for a minute?”
azra moped over to mr. thomas. she plopped down in the chair in front of his desk and stared at a half eaten apple. mr. thomas was chewing on the end of his pen. he sighed.
“Azra, i know it’s tough out there. You are alone. and…living under the strain of being the only kid of the world’s’ most famous space pioneer can’t be easy. am i right?”
did mr. thomas double for a shrink on the weekends? thought azra. she sighed heavily and avoided his stare.
“No, i’m not right? or not getting answer.”
azra didn’t say anything.
“both, i see. well, don’t say i didn’t warn you about the grade. Azra you have to take summer class to pass this year with me. I’m sorry, I just don’t want you to fall behind. you do understand that, don’t you?”
“Yes, mr. thomas.”
“okay, good. i’m sending home a short letter explaining the situation. your dad will understand, i’m sure. so please don’t take this personally. It’s not even a bad thing, if you think about it. It’s more…like a test. You know?”
azra just nodded as little as possible.
“you know,’ said mr. thomas. “i bet, if you just opened up a little, you would be my very best student in the class. I bet you.”
azra picked up her backpack, and slumped to the door. she turned around for a second. “thanks, mr. thomas. I’m sorry though…I’m just not like she was.”
and she wasn’t was she? she’d never seen her mother before, at least she had no memories of her. she had photos, old ones, but they were just pictures of a woman in her mid twenties with sharp and eager eyes, not like azra’s, whose were more rounded and sad like her dad’s.
azra knew that her mother was smart. smarter than any scientist to ever live, at least that’s what they always said, and that she was braver than most as well. who else in their right mind, after finding a dangerous toxic comet would go out in a spaceship in the dead of space to find more? it just didn’t make sense to azra. how could someone so smart do something so stupid?
if she let herself, and didn’t watch it, she could downright hate that woman.
azra looked at her shoes the whole way home.
later that day, azra learned that a visitor was coming to stay the summer break with her and her dad.
a boy about the size and shape and the same intelligence of an ape burst through the door of the small house and bounded into the living room.
“Hey AZzzy!” he yelled with stupendous loudness. “I’m here!”
it was Nori. azra’s older cousin.
he grunted when no one came to greet him.
“what’s going on here?” he roamed from room to room, concern growing on his face. he scratched his curly red head.
there was a note on the countertop.
Nori read with great concentration the handwritten scrawl on the page. went skating? he said and shoved his gigantic hands into his pockets.
I need some space. love, Azra…
Azra was sitting on the football bleachers when she noticed the familiar shape of her cousins hunched over form walking across the field.
she watched him lurch up the tall stands and not once he even looked up.
when he reached her row, he sat down heavily in the stadium seating.
“Hey, he grunted.
“Hey. said Azra.
I see you’re still riding? and new tricks?”
“nope. just some old ones…but i did learn a kickflip a few days ago.”
“Cool. wanna show me?”
Once in the parking lot, Azra pushed away on the board with nori watching. she punched the back of the skateboard with her back foot and yanked up the board with her front foot and the board and kicked out. the board twirled in the air and azra landed back on the top.
“hey! not bad! Got anything else?”
“No. just a busted wrist from doing that so much.”
“Ha ha, want to get some food?”
they both laughed and walked away together through the vacant lot to the hangout spot for loners and drifters who hadn’t much to say about anything, because sometimes silence is the best appetizer.