Lea sits in a warm classroom waiting for the glass ball hanging in the front of the room to turn five more minutes so she can escape school and not think about this class for two whole days.
The round clock signals four minutes to go. Normally, animal studies is Lea's favorite subject but this week she had a substitute teacher and class is incredibly boring. Lea and the rest of the class are desperately waiting for the next minutes to pass. One student propped against his book bag has even fallen asleep, a small trail of drool slips down his cheek. A short haired boy to her left is running his fish spine pen against the edge of his desk. It scrapes up, down, up and down again. The girl in front of her twists her dark hair around her index finger around and around until it is nearly twisted in a knot. Watching her Lea is almost hypnotized.
Reviewing the list of homework in her green memo book, Lea considers she has a History project to complete and a Math test when school starts again on First day. Each student studies at their own level and creates displays or takes test to show what they have learned.
Yuli and Meike, her two best friends, will want to get together to help each other with school work. Yuli needs help with the artsy parts of her History project. While she may be a brilliant scientist, Yuli is the least creative person Lea knows. Her mind works in hypothesis and conclusions, not in colors, shapes, and symbolic representations.
Meike will be more than willing to offer his plentiful artistic talents if, in exchange, Yuli will explain his math lesson one more time. Lea is neither an artist as great as Meike nor a genius like Yuli, but she works hard and she's smart enough to keep her grades up.
Lea also has a Polo practice Sixth day morning. She reminds herself to take home her equipment to be ready for the early practice. Lea loves Polo and she has a talent for swimming fast and changing directions quickly. Her strong fingers more than make up for her small hands and she is able to pass the Polo pooro easily. She needs to practice throwing a curve this weekend so that it will sneak past the goal keeper and into the net.
Lea stuffs her books and sheets in her favorite woven ocean grass book bag, but leaves the seal open so she can quickly add items from her storage cubicle in the hallway. Slipping the bag on her shoulder, she winces in pain. Her thin light brown hair usually flows into her face at the most inconvenient moments and a sharp pain in her scalp tells her a few strands are caught under the shoulder strap. She rips the trapped strands out from beneath the strap, once again wishing her hair could be thick and curly.
The clear tone signals the end of school and the crowds rush out of classrooms into the long, round school hallways. Lea hops off the stool, and pushes it under her desk as she leaves the classroom and edges her way through the throng.
Opening the small door of her cubicle she pulls out the books she needs, as well as the safety helmet and gloves she will need for Polo practice. Yuli, composed as usual, comes walking toward Lea. Her hair is pulled tightly at the back of her head. Her straight skirt and dark blue blouse wouldn't dare wrinkle even after six hours at school. Yuli looks through the hall for Lea and Meike so they can finally start a relaxing weekend.
Meike rounds the corner and staggers down the hall, his arms laden with overflowing art supplies. All of his treasures weigh a ton and he is walking with his legs spread wide as though he's braced to lift a small island. His funny walk is an attempt to hold onto it all and prevent the mountain of supplies from crashing to the floor.
Seeing his stagger, Lea holds back a smile, rushing over to him pulling varied size boxes of paint and over sized canvasses off the pile. With some lucky juggling he is able to balance everything and walk normally again.
Yuli, however, just laughs and shakes her head the way only a best friend is allowed when you are doing something remarkably ridiculous.
“We're headed to Mari's for pizza right?” Yuli asks once she is able to stop giggling. Meike nods and nearly upsets his delicately balanced stack. Yuli laughs harder and Lea smiles again at her quirky friend.
The trio starts walking toward Mari's along a pathway lined with entryways to numerous stores. Sunlight is magnified through sky lights scattered along their ceilings providing daylight to the travelers and vendors.
Fish jerky and assorted snacks fill one store, rare carved wooden tables fill another. The next entry is crowded with sinew string musical instruments and curling and flat horns of all sizes fill shelves and corners. Preserved vegetables floating in salted brine line the shelves of the next bubble; flaunting their orange, purple, and red color like the tropical fish that float through coral beds.
Turning right, just past the Hawaiian clothing store, the friends speed up, their hunger spurring them on. The delicious aroma of baked seaweed crust fills the air and broiled clam makes Lea's mouth water and she practically flies toward the eatery.
“I'll get the pizza,” Lea announces, dropping her bag at a table. “Is clam and pineapple OK with you two?” she questions over her shoulder as she walks away.
Yuli and Meike stare at each other trying to decide if Lea paying for the pizza is worth eating the strange combination. Both opt to give in to her unique tastes and take advantage of Lea's generosity.
Yuli glances around the dining room at who else has arrived at the brightly colored, popular hangout, while Meike focuses on the placement of his overflowing supplies in small piles on the chair next to him. He is desperately hoping they will not shortly end up spilled beneath his feet.
A small tone comes from Lea's bag and Yuli fishes the communicator out of a pcoket. She answers the tone, “Hello.” Lea's mom responds to Yuli's greeting, not at all surprised it is a friend answering instead of her daughter.
“May I speak to Lea?” Moana Ariki asks, trying not to sound anxious.
“Lea, your mom is calling you,” Yuli shouts across the room, then returning to the communicator lets Moana know that Lea is ordering pizza and will be there in a moment.
Moana suddenly announces, “Romo is calling, Yuli, I need to go. Please tell Lea it is very important she come home immediately. I need her right away. It's critical you tell her.”
A little worried by Moana's tone, Yuli assures her she will share the message and ask Lea to leave right away. When Lea returns to the florescent green table, Yuli explains the weird call.
Can't I even do something fun with my friends without my mom getting in the way, Lea wonders. Why do parents have to be so bossy? Out loud she says, “Parents are so demanding. She's probably upset about some small thing I forgot to do. You know those dumb chores that are only important to moms.” Resentful, Lea still climbs off the stool and grabs her bag.
“Or she needs you to babysit the little monsters while she goes somewhere,” Meike offers. “But she did sound stressed, not her usual self,” he adds having overheard the conversation between Yuli and Moana. “You should probably head home.”
Reluctantly, Lea slips her bag over her shoulder and walks toward the exit. Meike watches her leave and then turns to Yuli, his eye brow arched, to ask what she thinks. Yuli answers, “I can't imagine what could be going on at Lea's house, but I think that if we hurry we can change the pizza order.” Meike smiles and rushes to the counter.
Sitting on the bench at the exit Lea pulls her green swim fin from her pocket. The long woven fabric tube looks slightly like fish scales. It covers her legs completely and holds them together like a dolphin tail.
At the bottom are fins extending from her feet and once she has it on she is able to swim almost as fast as a fish. She slips it over her feet and legs, then seals up the sticky closure to make it water proof. Lea double checks that her bag is secure and then slides into the water. She takes a deep breath and moving quickly out the exit dolphin kicks her way into the ocean.
The trip home will only take her ten or fifteen minutes through the water. She speeds toward home still wondering what could possibly be this important.