Everything was light. Air bright as the sun, flowing like feathers on the wind. Weight was not relevant, substance less so, only the shine. Sleep was the lightest of all.
Ru sat up in bed, buzzing with so much energy she felt like she could fly. Her imagination painted fiery aliens and Blue Stars behind everything she couldn’t see through. Slowly, she wormed her way across her bed and inched the heavy blue curtains open. The branches of the big maple out front were still, save for the silhouettes of fluttering birds. The sky was dim, clear, and rosy.
Did Jayson have the same dream? He hated mornings, so it would be a challenge to get him to talk. Upon reaching the kitchen, she found him in a worse state than usual. He was practically face-down in his cereal. His ratty hat obscured his face. She never saw his eyes once before they left the house, and he answered her questions in grunts or single words. “I don’t remember my dreams,” he said gruffly. He left for the bus stop early, and by the time she got to the corner, Randy and Vince Faraday were already there. The three boys shut Ru out of their conversation.
The gate up the street squealed, and a minute later, a train of girls in pleated navy dresses marched to the corner. Colleen, who was taller than all her housemates by a head, was not among them. The girls formed another closed circle when they reached the stop. Alone, Ru watched Jayson with a sour face and listened to them argue about baseball.
Once on the bus, Jayson went for the back rows with Vince. Ru didn’t bother following. The eighth-graders in those seats would give her the evil eye for even approaching that part of the bus. Jayson was the only one in the lower grades deemed worthy to sit with the senior class. He even left Randy behind, who resorted to torturing the Breckenridge girls with a crushed Hostess cupcake he’d found in his backpack.
The bus screeched to a halt just after starting and opened the doors again. Ru perked up when she saw a head of long pale hair with a pink headband bob past her window. The Breckenridge girls groaned collectively and snickered amongst themselves. No doubt they were the ones that made Colleen late, but Ru wasn’t in the mood to tangle with them. Everything else in her mind was crowded out by that dream.
As soon as Colleen took the seat across the aisle, Ru spilled the entire story, Blue Star, aliens, and all. Colleen listened without question or reaction. Her eyelids drooped, her face long and weary. Her uniform was wrinkled, though clean, the triangular Breckenridge patch on the front still the whitest of whites and jarring red, depicting a nuthatch and a pine branch in clean embroidery. The only thing that shined on her was the dolphin pendant she always wore. Colleen tugged at her tie and took deep breaths every time the bus jumped. “Are you OK?” Ru asked.
Afterwards, there was silence between them until they reached school. The girls walked down the hall side-by-side, as much as the crowds would allow. Colleen’s eyes lingered on the floor. Her question just barely reached Ru over the clang of shutting lockers and idle chatter. “Is Kelly all right?”
“All right?” Ru echoed, raising an eyebrow. “She never showed up last night. Mom called her this morning, but I didn’t hear what she was saying.”
“I had a dream.”
Ru’s eyes widened, and she drew in closer. “One of those dreams?”
Colleen nodded. Her face made her ordinary expression look as bright as a summer noon. “She was in a car accident. She lost an eye. The dream made me sick. I wasn’t here yesterday because they thought I had the stomach flu.”
She still sounded sick, and Ru was beginning to feel it. Ms. Hadley hadn’t indicated any of this, but when Ru measured her mother’s reactions and answers on the phone that morning, it all fit. “Does she live?” Ru asked quietly.
Tears welled up in Colleen’s eyes, but she nodded. The dreams Colleen had rarely involved anyone either one of them knew, which was fortunate because most of them terrified Colleen into screaming herself awake. Worse, Colleen was certain all the dreams came true. They had only found evidence a few times, but Colleen said that in many of them the people involved spoke languages she did not recognize or understand.
Colleen had vivid dreams normally, but she said these were different from other nightmares. The simple way she put it was that normal dreams were like looking at a faded drawing of a beach, while the “true” dreams were like actually being there. But why were none of the true dreams good? It was the question Colleen asked most frequently of them.
“Good dreams don’t need changing,” Ru said.
“It’s not fair to show them to me when there’s nothing I can do,” Colleen replied bitterly. “Not while I’m stuck at Breckenridge.”
The rest of the Language Arts class was in higher spirits than they were. The other students were talking about their own experiences in Tanager Park. Ru wondered if her dream would count. Colleen’s might, but those dreams never had to do with the park, and Ru kept silent about them at Colleen’s request.
Kenna grinned as she approached. After she and Colleen were introduced, she asked, “So have you seen any of the legends yet? I looked out my window at like one in the morning but there wasn’t anything in the park.”
Ru shook her head. “You can’t see the park from my house.”
“Oh hey, is that a Carmody necklace?”
Kenna pointed to Colleen’s pendant. It was a glassy, inch-long dolphin, a brilliant shade of neon pink. It was far more durable than it looked, too; Ru knew for a fact it had been dropped, stepped on, thrown, and even burned in a fireplace, and it hadn’t lost so much as a fin. Ru’s mother had guessed it was made of tourmaline, one of Colleen’s birthstones, but didn’t know if tourmaline could take such abuse and remain as flawless as it was. She also warned that if it was tourmaline, it was worth a lot and could be stolen. Colleen never took it off, not even when she slept.
“No,” Colleen said.
Kenna looked for elaboration, but Ru knew she’d get none and stepped in. “Carmody’s has only been open for ten years,” she said. “Mom said Colleen’s mom bought it for her before then.”
“I wish I could afford one,” Kenna sighed. “Is it true there aren’t any two alike?”
“That’s what he says.” Ru had never seen Ansel Carmody in person, but there were advertisements for his jewelry store at least once a day on TV, and he was listed in all the tourist brochures. “Not many kids have them, even the glass ones are expensive. They’re custom-made, you know.”
Kenna pouted. “It’s not fair. The new girl has five. Really!”
Quite a few heads turned in their direction. “New girl?” Ru asked.
“Yeah, there’s someone here newer than me,” Kenna giggled. “She was in my homeroom. Oh, she’s in this class!” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “By the door.”
The new girl walked towards Miss Graham’s desk, a crumpled class schedule in her outstretched hand. She held herself tightly and avoided looking at her new classmates. It seemed obvious that she didn’t want to be there, but it shouldn’t have bothered Ru as much as it did. The girl seemed familiar. Very familiar.
“Would you like to introduce yourself?” Miss Graham asked.
With a disgruntled huff, the girl turned on her heels and flashed a huge, almost sarcastic grin. That was when it hit Ru. The girl could easily have been Randy Fresnel’s twin. Deep red hair, though kept in better condition, silvery eyes, and a smile that radiated energy and arrogance. She was short, too, though not as short as Randy. The rest of the school year would be trouble if the new girl was anything like him in personality.
“I’m Misty Elesti,” she announced. “I just moved to Breckenridge. I came from New Mexico.”
Ru blinked, and saw confusion flit across Colleen’s face. The fact that this girl supposedly had five Carmody pendants was easily explained; many Breckenridge residents were temporary, sent by wealthy parents who were either away from home constantly or felt their children weren’t disciplined enough. But Misty wasn’t wearing the uniform, and Colleen hadn’t mentioned her. Ru passed a note to Colleen, who wrote back, I didn’t see her at all yesterday, but they wouldn’t let me out of bed very much.
Misty’s gaze swiveled over her classmates with such open disdain that Ru could believe she was from Breckenridge. Then the new girl’s eyes settled squarely on Ru. It was so brief Ru shouldn’t have noticed. She felt nailed down by that glimpse, and inexplicable vulnerable. She was no longer certain it was Misty’s resemblance to Randy that bothered her.