Authors: Jaci Wheeler
I decided to go ahead and take a chance with it now. I couldn’t leave him knowing he needed comfort, so I lay down next to him making sure we didn’t touch. So far, so good, and I take this as my cue and just start humming. Instantly I could feel him start to uncoil and his body slowly begin to relax. I quietly started to sing.
“The sun'll come out tomorrow
Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there'll be sun
Just thinkin' about tomorrow
Clears away the cobwebs and the sorrow till' there's none.”
I can feel him completely relaxed now. And I even hear him softly humming with me. I took this as encouragement to continue.
“When I'm stuck with a day that's gray and lonely
I just stick out my chin and grin and say oh”
At this point Wes, with his eyes still closed and humming softly along with me gently lays his hand on mine. I don’t move, nor do I interlock our fingers. I just lay there allowing him to comfort me while I am comforting him and belt out the last few verses, earning a small chuckle from him like I always do.
“The sun'll come out tomorrow
so you got to hang on till' tomorrow, come what may!
Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow
You're only a day away.”
I sit up and give his hand a pat. “I love you, Wesley. Everything will be fine.”
I started walking out of his room and towards home as I hear, “Love you, Roz.”
As always, a giant grin spreads across my face and I now know how I’m going to be able to get through this. I will be strong and do it for Wesley, I have to. Now that I have a plan, I think it is going to be much easier.
When my mother came home from work I yelled for her to come to my room. Just watching her walk through my door sent a pang right to my heart. I’m sure going to miss seeing her every day.
“Hi Love. What’s going on in here?” She looks around my usually spotless room that has everything I own scattered throughout the room.
“I’m not sure what I’m supposed to pack. Usually when you get your assignment they provide you with your work outfits so packing isn’t a big deal, but I wasn’t provided with anything, so what exactly does a sixteen year old president wear?”
“Hmmm.” My mother stood there pondering for a minute. “I’d say bring a little bit of everything, and then wear a dress. I’m pretty sure they should have some sort of seamstress there for you. “
“Well that makes sense, thanks Mom! I don’t know what I’m going to do without you.” I said truthfully.
“You will do amazing things, that’s what you will do. Your father and I are so proud of you, Sweetie.”
I gave her a quick hug and then shooed her out so I could pack. I don’t have much. In fact, most people own very little. We don’t believe in excess. We are provided with everything we need, but only just the essentials. It helps to keep greed to a minimum because this way nobody ever wants for anything. It almost completely eliminates stealing or people being tempted to do so. There are bad people everywhere, who will do bad things no matter what, but the country as a whole is pretty peaceful.
I decided to set out my yellow dress to wear to the ministry. It’s dressy, but not overly fancy. It also goes well with my skin tone and dark hair. Once I put what I was wearing aside, I packed my night gown, two pairs of pants and a few tops, along with three dresses and two skirts; I was ready to go.
I decided to take a few treasures from home with me as well. I love to read and can call up any book or movie anytime I want on my universal tablet, so that is coming with me. I also grabbed my book of historical quotes that I put together with all of my dad’s quotes over the years and a pet rock that Wes made for me when we were five. I was sad because I wanted a pet, but it turned out I was allergic to pretty much anything with fur. I started crying when I realized that I wouldn’t be able to have a pet and once Wes got one, I couldn’t play at his house anymore. Jasper helped Wes glue on acorn eyes and leaf hair to this flat smooth rock that Wes found. He came over and gave it to me and said that now I had a pet. We named him Rocco. Wes also informed me that pets were completely impractical, and until a dog could help him with quadratic equations he was going to stay away from the pet variety.
After getting all of my things packed and ready, we decided to spend some quality time at home as a family. All three of us cooked dinner together, and ate as we told some of our favorite memories. After dinner we met Wesley’s family down by the lake and just enjoyed spending time together, eating some amazing brownies that Susan made. She also brought a jar of chocolate milk for me.
Lily and I were digging for clams while Wesley and my father were having some sort of philosophical debate. Susan was telling my mom how to make a certain dish and I was just appreciating this last night of normalcy.
Jasper joined us and kneeled down to speak to Lily. “Hey Lily Bug, I think Mom saved an extra brownie for you. Why don’t you head back up to the blanket and have one.”
The promise of chocolate was too much to pass by and she was off with a start. Jasper chuckled softly. “Oh, what am I going to do with that girl?”
“Beats me, she sure is a little pistol.”
“That she is.” He replied with a shake of his head. “With Wesley it was easy. He wanted nothing and nobody to make him happy. It was always him and his books and research and calculations. I was always worried about him as a child. Children need to play, explore, and have fun, discover the world.”
“Wes did that, Jasper. He might not have played like most children do, but he did have fun and he explored, he discovered more of the world than any child ever could.”
“You are so good for him, Rosaline. I don’t know what he would have done without you. Sarah, she was the serious one. She was very studious and shy. Wesley reminds me so much of her sometimes.” This is the first time I’ve ever really heard Jasper talk about Wes’s mom before. “Sarah could sit in silence for hours, perfectly comfortable, just looking at the stars. I would go out of my skin. I needed to be around people, doing something, burning off my energy.”
I just looked at him with a soft smile and nodded, not sure where he was going with this, but fascinated with this serious side of Jasper.
“Losing Sarah was one of the hardest things that I’ve ever been through, but if that wouldn’t have happened our families would never have been so connected. Without you in his life, I’m not sure what Wesley would do. So even though moving on, moving forward, was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, it also was the best. I know this time must be so scary for you, Roz. I honestly can’t imagine how you must be feeling at this huge bomb that was dropped on you, but sometimes the best things to happen to us are the hardest. You are going to do amazing things for so many people! Wesley has been so lucky to have you in his life. He may not be able to show it, but he loves you very much, you know.”
I only nod because I have tears rolling down my face and my throat will betray me if I try to talk.
“You have always looked out for each other. People used to joke that one day you two would marry, but I know that’s not your relationship at all. You guys are like twins, you are joined together and you’ve bonded with Wes in a way I always wish I could. You both are going into to this situation with a huge advantage that most people don’t have: each other. I’m so proud of you, kid.”
With those parting words Jasper leaned over and softly kissed my forehead, then headed back up towards the group.
I sat near the shore alone for a while, thinking over everything Jasper had said. He was right. There was nothing that Wes and I haven’t gotten through together. Maybe Blondie knew what she was doing all along. It was already done. I was chosen as President and tomorrow I was going to the Ministry headquarters to take on my new role. Like it or not, this was happening. I can either be freaked out or I can embrace it and get on with it. How many people can say that they are able to take their two best friends to work with them? Yes, I think this just might work! Rosaline Thatcher, it’s time to take on the world.
Since we had to be at the train station at eight, of course that meant that Wesley was at my house at 6AM, already a ball full of energy. Just as I was about to tell him to take his idiosyncrasies and shove them, he pulls out a jar of chocolate milk and a fresh, warm blueberry muffin and places them in my hands with a cunning grin.
“You are so lucky you didn’t come empty-handed this early. Wesley, I swear I was going to kick your butt out,” I say with a scowl.
“Yes, but then if I leave, I would have to take the breakfast I so gallantly brought you back with me,” he says with that huge smile still plastered to his handsome face.
“That is the only reason I am allowing it,” I mumble through a mouthful of muffin. Good heavens this is good enough to make the angels weep.
“Good morning, Wes,” my chipper father calls to him.
I’m surrounded by morning people.
“Good morning Abner.”
“What, no muffin for me?” he asks, affronted.
“Actually, my parents told me to have you both go over for some once we leave, something about keeping the womens' mouths full so they don’t blubber or some such nonsense.” I about choked on my mouthful.
“Wes, what did I tell you about repeating everything people say? I’m pretty sure your dad didn’t mean for that to be a part of the invitation.”
“As funny and accurate it may have been,” my dad adds with a chuckle.
“Yeah, he’s just lucky Mom wasn’t in the room.”
“Who’s lucky I wasn’t in the room?” Mom asks as she enters the room.
“Oh Wes,” I add thinking up something off the top of my head. “He was saying how much he would miss you and how pretty you are for a mom.”
“Aw, Wesley, how sweet are you?” She runs up to him and hugs him tight while crying on his shoulder.
Wes gives me the death glare as he awkwardly pats her back.
“Come on dear, let the poor boy go. It’s time for them to get going and to say our goodbyes.”
Wes heaves a sigh of relief as she lets him go and runs to me, pulling me into her embrace. Unlike Wes, I fully embrace her back and hug her so tight I’m worried she might break. “I love you so much, Mom.”
“I love you too, sweetie, more than you know! We are so proud of you! I got you something; come sit with me for a moment.” She pulls me to the couch where she hands me a small jewelry box. I open the box and gasp. It is a beautiful gold necklace in the shape of some sort of animal, a green jewel where the eye would be.
“It’s a cougar,” my mother says, as if reading my mind. “Cougars stand for strength and leadership. This way, anytime you start to feel overwhelmed, you can just look at this cougar and realize how strong you are and what a powerful leader you have become.”
I couldn’t hold back the tears, now streaming down my face with intensity. “Thank you, Mom. I love it; it’s perfect!”
We left our parents at home, trying to hold back the tears while we walked to the train station. My mother had given me detailed instructions on how to get there and Wes had to take his half-way break, today more than ever. We found a fallen log and sat down, looking out at the trees and the beautiful landscape before us. I loved my home. It was green and lush and I felt safe. I sat there and wondered what it was going to be like living at the ministry.
“So, you ready for this Roz?” Wes looks down at me expectantly.
“Of course I am, off to a new adventure, Wesley!” I say with a smile. I’m pretty sure he can see right through me, but he humors me by standing up and grabbing his bag.
“Well, I’d hate to keep you from your adventure, Miss Thatcher. Shall we?” I stand up, grab my bag, take a deep breath and we plunge ahead.
We arrive at the train station. Wes and I stand outside just gawking for what must have been about ten minutes. Good thing he insists on always being 23 minutes early. The station was not made of glass and colorful window panes like most of the buildings are. No, this one is a huge brick building. We have seen pictures of brick buildings in our history books, but never up close. It is beautiful and once we walk in, the inside is just as pretty. The walls are painted a deep red, and there is gold writing above the check-in window that says Station 5. I wonder just how many stations there are.
We look around for someone to check us in, but all I see is a clear glass window. Well, that’s odd. My mother told me that once we got to the brick building we would go inside and check in, but I don't see anyone. Then it hit me: at school every morning we check-in by our hand scans. I’ve never seen a clear window scanner, but this must be the same type of check-in.
I place my hand on the window and instantly it goes from see-through glass to a glowing blue color. My picture pops up on the screen and an animated voice recites “Rosaline Thatcher, checked in at 7:45. Destination: Department of Ministry. Please place your bag in the slot below. Thank you have a nice trip.” Then the screen disappears just like that and before my hands let go of my bag’s handle, the floor seems to open up, sucks it in, and then closes with a thump. I drop my hand and turned to Wes. “Well it looks like they are expecting us; I am officially scanned in.” Dread pools in my stomach, there’s no turning back now.
Wes’s eyes light up like its Christmas morning. “There is a reason this has always been on my top five list, Roz. This is so incredible! Where do you think that chute goes? I mean, obviously it goes somewhere the train goes right? Or do you think maybe it goes straight to the Department of Ministry? I mean-”
I put my hand up, cutting him off. “Yes Wes, super exciting, awesome stuff. Please check in so we can go. You don’t want us to be late, do you?” My comment has the exact effect I was hoping, jolting Wes out of his geek love fest. He immediately places his hand on the window and scans in.
Once we were scanned and free of our bags, we took our seats in plush red chairs to wait for the train.
“You see now, Roz, why I prefer technology over people? It’s much more efficient and with far less mindless drivel. They don’t go on and on with needless pleasantries, or tell you all about their five ugly grandchildren while forcing you to pretend you are listening and make eye contact and all that.”
This earns a chuckle from me. “All that mindless drivel and needless pleasantries, as you so graciously put it, Wesley, is called connecting. Most people like to connect with others, form friendships, and bonds; the average person would much rather socialize with a human than a screen you know.”
He thinks on this for a moment and then proudly states, “And this is why they are only average.” This earns a full blown laugh from me. Even though my life may be changing at such a rapid pace, it’s nice to know some things are constant, and that Wesley Sanders most certain is.
“Thank you, Wes.”
“For being here with me. For always being there for me. You are my constant.”
“Well, for what it is worth, you are welcome, but it’s not exactly like I have a choice in this matter now do I?” This is very true, he didn’t, but if he did…
“And if you did, Wes? If you could pick, would you choose to stay with me, or go elsewhere? “He ponders on this for much longer than I’d like.
“The job would be the same; the only variable would be you?” he asks. I just nod.
“Well then, yes. I would pick being with you.” This earns a big smile from me until he adds, “Who else would know to always eat my tomatoes?!” Ever since we were kids Wes couldn't stand tomatoes. He used to freak out anytime there was one on his plate. I just started plucking them off his plate and eating them before a freak out would ensue. In turn he would eat my onions. I know I should let this go, it is Wes I’m dealing with, but as juvenile as it may be, I need to know that he needs me as much as I do him.
“I’m sure there are plenty of people who would eat your tomatoes, Wesley!”
“Yes but then I would have to ask them, and that can lead to all kinds of unpleasantness. This way it’s just a given.”
I huff loudly and turn to him “Just say I’m your best friend and you need me! Is that so hard Wes, to say you are happy we are going to be together because you love me?”
He looks at me like I’ve grown another head. “Of course I need and love you and you are my best friend. All of these things you already know, Roz. Why waste time stating the obvious? Sheesh, it must be a woman thing!” Just then the trained pulled up, saving me from having to respond.
Wes pops up so fast he almost knocks me over. I am half-worried he is going to pee his pants from excitement. “It’s here, it’s here, Roz!” He is literally bouncing up and down like a little kid.
“Yes, I can see that Wesley.” I stand up to join him on the platform.
A beautiful, shiny, silver train comes screaming into the port. The inside has only a very small seating section and I am guessing that only ten people could fit, tops. The chairs are a deep burgundy color, with yellow accents carved into the wood frame. The car is elegant, yet understated, like most things in our country, and you can tell it is well taken care of.
“From the size of the train, I was expecting it to be much bigger.”
“Oh it is, Roz. In fact, it’s pretty massive. But the trains were designed to be functional, remember. Only a few people are required to travel at a time, so they left a very small portion for seating. Everything else is made for cargo. I would love to be able to take a tour of the cargo area. I am already getting a few ideas of improvements that can be easily made.” This makes me laugh internally. Leave it to Wes to already be making changes on something we’ve been in for literally seconds. He hasn’t even seen more of the train and he’s already improving it.
“Well, once we get there maybe you can request a thorough tour,” I say, mostly joking. The teasing, however, was completely lost on Wes.
“Oh you bet I will.” Just then the train comes to a stop and it looks as though we have arrived!
“Wow, that was fast! There’s no way we are here already!” I say in total surprise.
Wes rolls his eyes. “Roz, it’s called a bullet train for a reason.” At my blank look he adds, “It's fast.”
Just then the doors swoosh open and the animated voice calls out: “Please exit the train. Welcome to the Department of Ministry and thank you for riding.”
As soon as we step onto the platform the doors close behind as and the train is off so fast that the wind causes my dress to fly up in a flourish. Oh great, my first day as President and already I’m flashing my panties.
Wes, completely oblivious of my panic to keep my dress down, begins walking with purpose toward...oh great, it looks like the head of the Ministry of Defense: Kevin Masters. His smirk tells me that he was not oblivious to my little panty show. With shoulders squared, and as much fake confidence as I can muster, I marched up to him. “Good morning, sir.”
He nods and gives me what I assume to be his “I-eat-children-for-breakfast look.” I’m hoping he just isn’t a morning person, but I have a feeling that this is his usual sunny disposition. “Everyone calls me Masters.” He says this more as an order than a statement. “If you follow me, we will get started.”
Just then something occurs to me: we had gotten so caught up with the train that I didn’t realize that Molly hasn’t ridden with us. “Has Molly already arrived?” I ask him.
He sighs like my question is putting him out, but answers with a vague “She isn’t scheduled to arrive yet.” His tone tells me that I'm not getting anything else out of him on the subject, or maybe just nothing in general, so I decide to keep my mouth shut and follow in silence.
Wes is completely in awe of everything around us and I doubt he has even realized that we were talking. It is then that I get my first look at the building we are about to enter. It's massive, the biggest building by far that I’ve ever seen in pictures or in person. Not only is it huge, but the aesthetics are simply breath-taking.
The building is made out of the same type of glass that most of the structures in United America are made, utilizing natural light as effectively as possible, but it is the detail in the glass that amazes me. It isn’t just a pane of solid glass; there are cut outs and etchings in every wall, most of which appear to be handmade. Even though the walls and ceiling are made up of clear glass, bits of colored glass scattered throughout make the building come alive. A red rose, a yellow sun, some blue rain drops, both light and dark. It is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen! Even Wes was taken by its beauty, although, it is more likely that his seeming awe is simply him calculating the dimensions of the building in his head.
We walk over to the middle of the room to a glass cylinder. Masters scans his hand and the doors instantly open for us. He gestures for us to enter, and he follows us in. The doors close and we are sucked up several stories. Wes is fascinated, while I most likely just look sick. Masters, on the other hand, remains stoic with his hands crossed in front of him.
As soon as we come to a stop, he scans his hand again and the doors open. Masters walks out with Wes and me trailing slightly behind. I take a deep breath when we walk into a large area, beautiful and calming. Again, it is made from glass, but with a light blue tint to it. It looks as though we are in the sea, surrounded by drops of water shining as the light reflects through it. In the middle of the room is a waterfall sculpture. Ornate pieces of glass twist and wrap around each other and the water dances through them. Each room seems to be more beautiful than the last.