10. New Worlds and Old Bosses
Ilana’s heart stopped the moment the train stopped. So did her breath. In three seconds, her heart started beating and she could breathe again. She swallowed what was left in her already dry mouth. “Ready?” Ilana asked. With a shaky nod, Olive answered, “Ready.” They got off the train and found the exit to the ‘station’ soon. The door did not open easily- it felt like there was something against the door on the other side. Ilana got ready to kick, but Olive stopped her. “No, don’t. If something breaks, it would be loud. We’re already worried someone might see us, and someone hearing us wouldn’t be a great help.” Ilana tried to push the door slowly so it would push off whatever was on the other side, but it wouldn’t give easily. Olive helped, and they struggled with their shoulders to the door for quite a while before the door opened slightly, just enough for a peek at the outside. They could already hear the bustle on the other side of the door, but wooden crates of things stacked on top of each other blocked their view. “Ilana, I… I’m not sure if this is a good idea. There seems to be a lot of people on the other side, they’re bound to see us if we go out.” Olive spoke with a downed voice. “But you know it’s this or nothing. You’re just going to give all this up? The excitement of finding things out? All the adventures? We come forward so much, and here-“ she pointed to the ground- “you’re going to turn back. I’m not doing that, Olive. Besides, even if we do go back, how will we be able to explain the time we’ve gone missing? It’s true, and you know it. We’re here, there’s no turning back, and no time for weak minds either.” Ilana spoke with a fiery determination, a strong persuasiveness to her voice. Thanks to her, Olive was back on her feet with her courage. “Let’s do it.” Olive nodded. “Let’s do it.” Olive closed her eyes tightly shut, and Ilana opened them wide with anticipation. With their hearts hammering against their chests, they pushed the door open. The result was like the bad ending to a movie. Not exciting, as movies in nature should be, or sad. Or happy, not exactly. It felt like it was cut off. It wasn’t something to congratulate. Nor was it a letdown. The truth was, no one really cared. They opened the door and slipped out from behind the boxes, and there they were, just mixed in among the rush of so many people that didn’t even cast a glance at them. Nevertheless, even if it was a very bad point in a story, the girls were relieved. What they saw, though, was quite shocking for them. There were so many people, so many more than what Olive and Ilana had ever seen in their whole lives at once. They were all walking in a jumble, everyone’s destination different from each other- it was so unlike the strict lines of the same-looking people they’d seen all their lives. Their hair were all different, a curly hazelnut, a windblown caramel, a wavy copper, creamy bangs, charcoal braids, amber ponytail, auburn pigtails, ash buns, scarlet dreadlocks- one had a Mohawk dyed neon green and hot pink! And, oh, the clothes they all had! Elegant brown coats, sleek black fur, patterned gray leather… So many colors, so many they couldn’t name! They had black leggings, magenta scarves, blue-and-green striped wellington boots, silk-soft black pelt! And amidst this majestic flurry of colors, it took little time for the girls to realize that the only way to blend in here was to stand out. “Uh, Olive? I’m pretty sure we need some clothes.” “Well, look over there!” Olive pointed to a huge pile of clothes in the middle of the station, where volunteers in bright orange vests handed out clothes to the homeless and poor. ‘Clothing Drive’, a sign read. As if pulled by an invisible hand, they were drawn to the clothing. An orange-vested woman greeted them with a smile so huge that it looked like it would hurt. She started to hand them a stack of clothes, but stopped when she saw two girls. “Girls, where are your parents?” “They’re… over there, buying tickets.” “Really? Well, they must be able to buy you some new clothes if they can buy train tickets. These are someone else’s old clothes, and they’re for the poor people. Now run along, you two.” Olive and Ilana looked at each other, silently asking, should we keep going? It went on for two seconds until Olive finally pulled away first. “Yes, ma’am, our parents would buy some clothes for us. Thank you!” “Sure, girls.” “What do we do now?” Ilana whispered, worried, as they walked away. But Olive was prepared and confident. “We try again,” she said, and explained her plan. They walked around the donation to the other side, and reached another volunteer, one that didn’t see them yet. Like the last, this one was also puzzled. “Girls, where are your parents?” Olive looked down, and lied in a small voice. “We’re from the orphanage close by.” Soon, it looked like the woman’s face was melting off her head. “Oh, you poor darlings! You mean the St. Pancras female orphanage- I- I am…” She started to gather a stack of small clothes, and fumbled in her tote bag. From there, she pulled out a shining coin, gold on the outside, silver on the inside. “Here, take these clothes, I’m sorry I can’t give you any more, but… Do you want something to eat?” Olive opened her mouth to refuse politely, but Ilana spoke before Olive could say anything. “Yes, ma’am, we’re hungry.” “You poor, poor dears, of course. Take these two pounds and run off to Patisserie Valerie’s over there and get yourself some crumpets.” “Thank you, ma’am, thank you!” They started to walk off from the donation center. Over their shoulders, they could hear a conversation between the nice lady and a more experienced man. “Who were those kids?” “Oh, from the St. Pancras female orphanage. I gave them clothes and two pounds! It’s nice to feel I’m actually doing something good in this world.” She beamed in pride. “What? The orphanage took a mass donation for all their kids just this morning! They’re lying, can’t you see!” The woman’s eyes widened in shock. “Oh, you little brats! Come back here!” Olive and Ilana sped to a run. * * * They walked around the station, with old jeans and shirts. Olive had a big shirt and small jeans, Ilana had a small shirt and big jeans. They both had baseball caps. All the while complaining about the differently-sized clothes, they were the prettiest they had ever worn. There was so much to see in the bustling station, vibrant and strong strokes of color. Cafes, restaurants, bars, shops…! And the station’s huge dome was another marvel. They walked almost all the way around the station, when they came to a stop in front of the statue. It was of a middle-aged man with a hat and a briefcase, his coat-tails billowing out behind him and his face looking up at the dome, as if marveling at its beauty. He had a hand on his hat to keep it from falling. Was it windy? Olive took an interest at the words written below, all around the statue. And in the shadowless unclouded glare Deep blue above us fades to whiteness where A misty sea-line meets the wash of air. She pondered what the words meant, and kept reading it over and over again. “Wonder what they mean, huh,” she said, implying the words, but there was no answer. When she looked up, puzzled, Ilana’s piercing gaze fixed on something far away. She followed her eyes and came to Patisserie Valerie’s, where Sandra sat talking to a younger, pretty woman. Olive’s jaw dropped. “What is she doing here?!” “Wait. How do you know Amber?” Ilana asked in confusion. “Who’s Amber?” “She’s my boss. She got fired a few days ago, and she’s there talking to another woman. Do you see the blond one with hot pink lips? By the way, why are you surprised if you don’t know who Amber is?” “No, I was talking about the brunette, Sandra. She’s my boss, also got fired a few days ago.” The fact that was staring the girls in their faces finally sank in. “Okay. So my boss back at the islands, who got fired a few days ago, is here, and she’s talking to your boss back at the islands, who also got fired a few days ago! Did I get that right?” Olive cleared up the facts. Ilana nodded with a dry throat. “What…. The.” “Let’s go hear what they’re talking about, at least.” “Make sure they don’t see us.” They crept up to the bakery with their baseball caps pressed down very low. Not being noticed was quite easy, in fact, because neither of their bosses would think that any of her workers could possibly be here. And in normal-world clothes, too, not their uniforms! The girls pretended to browse at the cakes and pies and breads while they listened to Amber and Sandra. “It really can’t be helped, you know,” Amber simpered with her high-toned, superficial- sounding voice. “But still. I feel a bit sorry for everyone! I mean, it’s true that it can’t be helped, but it’s been a long time working with them. They’re good people, really.” Sandra’s charismatic voice followed.” “Yeah, me too. The trash isn’t going anywhere though! Besides, we have enough fruit stored and we don’t really need all that produce anymore.” “Well, actually, we do, it’s just that our trash problem is more important.” “Yeah, I guess. It’s a shame, all that just being blown up.” Amber said. They both sipped their ice drinks for a while, when Sandra got up. “Let’s get going then, this drink isn’t as good as I’d imagined.” “Sure, Sandra.” Amber followed Sandra up and out of the station. The girls followed Amber up and out of the station.