Well, Mom and Dad were now sixty. It was hard to believe that they had reached this point with me at my age. But then again, they were nearly forty when I was born. Now I was twenty-two. Twenty-two already? Wow, college really took a few years out of me!
I could feel her staring at me. Peanut was trying to talk to her–Kyle’s old imaginary friend–and I hoped he’d keep her distracted. But after a moment of me chatting to Kyle, Tempest put her hand on my shoulder.
“Hey sis, can we talk?” she asked.
I turned and stared at her. “If we must,” I sighed, pushing my glasses up the bridge of my nose and wondering if I should give her the benefit of the doubt.
We slipped out of the dining room and headed towards the couch. I wondered what she wanted and hoped it wasn’t anything annoying, but of course it was. As soon as we sat down she voiced her opinion that I should move home. I sighed but before I could argue, she continued.
“Everyone is worried about you,” she said quickly. “Especially Dad. I mean, you’re living on your own and you live so far away. It takes, what, seven hours to get there?”
I nodded, keeping quiet. It was a long trip. My first trip there, I had to stop at a motel and stay until morning before another bus could get me close to Riverview. “It’s nice there,” I said but she was giving me a look.
“Luna, I did some research on that Soil and Water place,” she said and my eyes went big. “The position they were hiring out for are test subjects? Is that what you are?”
I stood up, too angry to deny it. “Temp! This is my life, and how dare you go snooping into my business!”
“Does Dad know? How about Mom? What would they say if they found out their youngest is allowing crazy scientists to experiment on her?”
“They’re not crazy!” I snapped back. “They’re legitimate workers, and I am doing fine!”
“So they are testing on you?” she asked, eyes a bit narrowed.
I stepped back, rubbing my left arm with my right hand, feeling a bit nervous now. “It’s just until I get a promotion, and the guy in charge of testing said I should get my promotion soon. And nothing bad has happened, it’s just–reactions to drugs and some things they’ve invented…”
“They’re pumping drugs into you?” she whispered, looking rather horrified. “Luna! Who knows what these drugs might do to you in the long run? What if they hurt you ten years down the line?”
She had a point, and that was the worst part. I put my hands against my stomach as I felt really sick. I wanted to just run off but there was no where to go. “Temp,” I finally said. “I appreciate the concern but I’m perfectly fine.” I looked up at her, narrowing my own eyes. “They have plenty of medical staff there and they know what they are doing. I’ll get to be a lab tech probably within the next couple weeks, and I like it there.”
“Fine, whatever,” Tempest grumbled. “It’s your life, you’re right. Sorry for trying to help!” She turned on her heels and stomped off, slamming the door shut to her bedroom.
I looked up, brow knitted together in worry. Why was she so angry?
In such a crowded house, any arguing was easily heard and talked about. That night Dad took me outside for a little talk.
“Sweetie, is everything okay with you and Temp?” he asked, very concerned.
“Just the same as it’s always been,” I said with a shrug. I didn’t think he knew of how tense it was between us and I didn’t want him knowing. He’d just get upset. “She’s just worried about me living on my own. You know, being a sister…”
I trailed off when I saw the look in his eyes. “It’s more than that, isn’t it?” he asked.
What could I tell him? That she had found out I was a test subject? That she was intent on always pushing me down and keeping me there? “She’s upset I chose a career in science,” I said, skirting on the truth. “She doesn’t like it. I don’t think Kyle does, either. What with… as you said, the fact that there’s Redding blood in me.” I turned from him, wrapping my arms around myself and closing my eyes tightly. “She thinks it’s bad.”
I felt Dad’s arms around me and he pulled me back against him, hugging me tightly. “Baby girl, there is Redding blood in you,” he sighed. “But remember what I told you? Your Redding grandfather isn’t bad. And yes, he liked experimenting but he was a good guy, really. Just because you chose a career in science does not mean you’re bad.”
I bit down on my tongue to stop myself from crying. I felt the tears coming up and I sucked in some of the chilly night air to calm myself down. I pulled away and turned around, smiling at Dad. “You’re right,” I said. “And you’re okay with me being in Riverview?”
“I want you to be happy,” he said, reaching up and stroking my cheek gently. “You’re my little girl! I want all my kids to be happy.”
“But you are okay with me working there at a science lab?” I asked, needing him to vocally approve. Please say yes, I thought desperately.
There was silence and my heart pounded hard. Was he going to tell me he didn’t like me at the research facility? “If that’s what you truly want out of life then yes,” he finally said. “I’m glad you like it there. Maybe sometime we’ll come out there to visit you.”
I hugged him tight and told him I was looking forward to it. We headed back inside and that night I slept soundly in my childhood bed.
A week later, I was given a promotion. And with my bonus check I went out and bought the things I needed to start.
I was overjoyed and couldn’t stop running my fingers over the worn wood of my new inventing table. I tacked up blueprints of ideas and a picture of a famous inventor that inspired me. I then began storing all the scraps I had collected from the junkyard and without hesitated, began working.
I soon became very absorbed in my work, not really making anything in particular. Just throwing things together. All of Saturday I was glued to that station, only taking a couple breaks for using the bathroom and then one small microwaved meal. Other than that, I was working. My clothes and hands were becoming dirty but I really didn’t care. I was ecstatic. I felt at peace. That’s what this was, my safe haven from everything.
Fire, sparks, metal fusing together, the smell of burning. Could a girl ask for more?
During the wee hours of the morning I made my first item. I wasn’t sure what it was. A doohickey-thingamabob-gidget-gadget-widget-wadget-thing. I needed to get some tables to display my works. Maybe later, I thought, realizing how tired I was. I took a quick shower and then headed to bed, realizing I needed more scraps.
I should have known I’d see him there. He wasn’t there when I first went in but after about twenty minutes, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that he was standing nearby. Stalker, I decided. Unless he just liked spending his weekends in a junkyard.
“Hey Miss Moon,” he said brightly.
For a second I wondered, but then remembered I had given him a Shakespeare quote about the moon as my introduction. “Hey stalker,” I said, not looking at him. “Why are you here?”
“Every why has a wherefore,” he said and I finally stood up, giving him a look. “Sorry,” he apologized. “Last time I got to talk to you for longer because I started quoting Shakespeare. Guess I was hoping it would work again.”
“Why do you want to talk to me?” I asked, trying not to sound annoyed. “You don’t know me. And I am obviously not interested in getting to know you.”
“How come?” he asked, raising his eyebrows and giving me a boyish smile.
I was taken aback by this. “Ah, well, why should I?”
“Why shouldn’t you?” he pressed. “Did I offend you? Did I say something wrong? Is it because I’m wearing red? I’m blonde?”
I shook my head hard. “N-no! I just don’t have time for…” I trailed off, realizing I had no idea why I didn’t want to talk to him. “You’re a stalker!” I snapped. “And a creep!”
“I told you why I was at the library!” he complained. “And I am here for a reason which isn’t you!” He took a few steps to the other side of the junk pile and returned with a box full of scraps. “I’m collecting too.”
I stared at the box, wondering if this was some sort of excuse. “You’re an inventor?” I asked carefully.
“Eh, I dabble,” he said, setting the box down. “I don’t have much time. I think I like rooting around these piles than I do inventing. It’s kinda soothing and gets me outside.” He put his hands in his pockets and his face softened a bit as he looked down at the box. “So do you invent?”
“Oh, um, I have ideas,” I replied, feeling strange that I was having a conversation with him.
“I really am sorry if I seemed like a creep, or weird, or upset or offended you with anything,” he said rather softly. “I guess I was kinda excited seeing someone new in this junkyard besides the usual group which are all, honestly…” He leaned in and whispered, “Kinda boring and wouldn’t know a book if it bit them!”
I put my hand against my mouth to stop a giggle from coming out. “I see,” I finally said.
“Can I make it up to you?” he offered hopefully. “Nothing stalkery or creepy, I promise. Maybe lunch or something? Outside, bright daylight, in plain view, where everyone can see us. We can discuss Shakespeare and metal,” he laughed. “And maybe see if we have anything else in common besides rooting in the treasures that other people think of as trash.”
Okay, so he is kinda charming, I thought. And maybe it is just, as he stated before, happy chance. I suppose I might as well give him a chance. After all… I have been kinda lonely without anyone to talk to here in town. And he sees this junkyard as a place of treasures, like I do…
But I wasn’t ready to give in so easily.
“Tell you what,” I said with a smile. “You figure out what my name is from that clue I gave you, and I’ll have lunch with you. Deal?”
Even in thought he had a bit of a smile on his face. “Deal,” he said and offered his hand. I started to reach out with my gloved hand then decided that I should take it off. I pulled the glove off and as soon as our fingers met, it felt like a jolt. I jumped slightly and stared at his hand in bewilderment. “You okay?” he asked and when he pulled his hand back I saw he had nothing in it. No joy buzzer or anything.
“Yeah,” I said, putting the glove back on. “I’m fine.”
“Is your name Juliet?” he asked as I knelt back down.
I began laughing and shook my head. “Nope, now go and think somewhere else, okay?”
“Okay,” he said and grabbed his box of junk. “See ya later!” He flashed me another grin before walking off.