With a trembling hand, Alice crossed out the last day on her calendar. She had had her birthday just yesterday, but she hadn’t told anyone. She didn’t want to create a fuss the day before she left.
She had told Jithin a while ago that she was going to leave soon, and when she climbed down her ladder with a backpack on, he was waiting for her.
He said, “I am going with you.”
Alice had not been expecting this, “Don’t worry, I am an adult now. I turned nineteen just yesterday.”
Jithin’s brow furrowed. He started counting on his fingers.
“Alice, you’re only fifteen or sixteen in adjusted Solune years. The Plainkind don’t reach maturity until the age of twenty-one.”
Alice blushed, and pushed her fists down at her side, “Well I used to live on my own just fine!”
Jithin gave her a sort of pleading, imploring look.
She shook her head, “You can move to Murdock with me if you want. But! I am not going to wait for you! I have to get back as soon as possible. I have an appointment.”
Alice nodded. Before she could leave, four men and a woman entered the little house. Alice knew these people; it was Jithin’s work crew.
“Hello, Workhorse, we heard you were leaving today!” One of them said.
“Yes!” The woman said, “I talked to the owner of the Keeper. We’re throwing you a party. A goodbye party!”
“Ah!” Alice smiled.
She wasn’t sure why, but the woman had brought a suitcase with her. When they entered the Keeper, all of Alice’s Militia were already there, along with Oritha and Drake. They all cheered.
Alice milled about, excitedly saying her goodbyes and telling everyone about her plans to return to her childhood friends, and about Finch. She told the story of how Finch had helped her so many times, she was sure everyone had heard it twice.
Then, as Alice was describing Finch’s hair to Oritha, the woman from Jithin’s crew slammed her suitcase on the table. Oritha jumped, and Alice turned to stare at her.
“What is all that, Arihanna?” Alice asked her.
Arihanna crossed her arms, “You’re three and a half cubits tall right? So am I. It’s clothes.”
Alice heard clapping behind her. A few of the militia cheered.
She heard one say, “Yeah, dress her up!”
Jithin called out too, “You don’t want to be wearing work clothes when you meet up with your boyfriend!”
Alice looked down at her brown coveralls. She didn’t really care, but after all, it couldn’t hurt to arrive looking pretty. She blushed a little.
“Oh.” She said in a small voice.
Arihanna smiled at her, and busted open the trunk. She pulled out a green dress.
“There are no legs.” Alice said.
“That’s the point. It looks cute.” Arihanna said.
Alice looked around, frowning. She didn’t want to wear such a stupid looking article no matter how cute it was supposed to look.
“I want something I can climb in without showing my underwear.” Alice stated.
Arihanna had realized that the dress was not impressing Alice, and so she threw it aside.
“Green doesn’t work for you anyway.”
Oritha watched all this, as they were sitting at her table. She said, “I’m sure you’ll find that Alice’s colour is orange.”
Arihanna nodded, and dug. She pulled out an orange dress. It was very short, the kind of thing you wear if you really want to show off thigh.
Alice noticed, and turned a little pink. Arihanna handed it to Alice, and then found a pair of white capris, and handed those to her too.
“Oh.” Alice said again.
“Well, go to the washroom and-” But Alice had already changed clothes before she finished.
“Hmm?” Alice asked.
“Well then!” Arihanna said, “Look at this! It’s perfect! Turn around, Alice.”
Alice did a little spin as Jithin came to the table and sat down next to Oritha.
“It looks great!” He said.
“Just one thing.” One of Jithin’s crew had followed him. It was a very slick and beautiful Riley man whom Alice knew to be called Elliot.
He pushed his greased hair further back and took off his taupe-white scarf and proceeded to wrap it around Alice’s waist. Then, he tied a large beautiful bow at her back. He double knotted it so that it wouldn’t undo, no matter how far she ran. Elliot was quite aware of how rough Alice was.
Elliot pushed Alice’s chest, “Child, you have no chest and your hips are small. The only thing you have going for you is your slim waist.”
Alice’s face burned, turning from pink to red.
She said simply, “Oh.”
Arihanna piped up, “Well, she has a pretty face too!”
Elliot crossed his arms, “Yes, but she’s not about to put clothing on her face. Actually…”
Elliot reached across and took the hair clip out of Arihanna’s hair. Arihanna also blushed. The clip had a silver flower on it.
“Is this not a desert lily?” He asked.
“Yeah, it is. Yes.” Arihanna stammered.
Alice swayed a little as she watched them. She wondered if they were going to start dating after she left. Probably.
Elliot noticed her stare, “That is perfect! A desert flower for our desert prince.”
He tied Alice’s hair back.
Arihanna pulled a mirror from her suitcase. It was so large that Alice wondered how it had fit. She saw herself. She tilted her head left, then right, then she swayed and twisted. She clapped her hands together.
“Wonderful!” She said, “But, I can’t take all these things from you…”
Oritha spoke now, “Alice, dear, was it not your birthday only yesterday?”
Elliot clapped, “Happy birthday, Alice!”
It seemed that her game of dress-up had become a sort of exhibition, because the rest of the inn had heard them. They all chorused happy birthday, cheering. Oritha nodded her approval.
As things began to wind down, Alice waved goodbye to everyone.
She leaned in to Arihanna and whispered, “You and Elliot should start a clothing store.”
And then she promptly exited.
Alice stopped at Main Street, realizing that there was a small group following her. It was Jithin, Oritha, and Drake.
“Dear, your schooling is not yet complete!” Oritha cried.
Alice looked down to her feet. She said, “There are more important things for me to do.”
Oritha nodded sombrely.
Drake said, “I’m coming too. I need to meet up with Janna about the guards here.”
“So Baracus will be safe without me?” Alice asked.
“Yeah. Haven’t you seen? Murdock and Hannibal have both sent over those willing to relocate. We just need a formal Captain and Vice-Captain.” After hearing this, a weight lifted from her shoulders.
Jithin entered the square. Alice shook hands and gave out unlimited hugs. She was shorter than everyone, but also stronger.
Alice took a deep breath and stared off in the distance towards Murdock.
“It’s four-hundred kilocubits away. That’s a five day walk, if we walk eight hours.” Drake said to her.
Alice did a very slow calculation. Her brain was not good with maths, it was good with facts. Recollection.
Four-hundred kilocubits divided by five days. Eighty kilocubits per day. She had to keep track of her units or else she would be lost at the end. Okay, eighty divided by eight is ten. That’s ten per hour. And what was her top speed? Not sprinting, jogging. Alice wasn’t sure. She guessed forty kilocubits per hour. Four hundred divided by forty. Ten.
“I’ll be there in ten hours.” She said after nearly five minutes of calculation.
“What?” This made absolutely zero sense to Drake.
Alice turned to her second father, and to Oritha, who had become almost a grandmother to her. She waved.
“I’ll see you in five days, Alice!” Jithin called.
“Yeah.” Alice called. She ran back to him, and reached up. They embraced, and Alice shed a tear.
“Don’t worry, Alice, it’s only five days.”
Alice’s heart began to beat with excitement. For her, it was only ten hours. Adrenaline began to leak into her bloodstream, and she figured she had better start using it.
Alice had walked backwards all the way out to the town limits, waving.
She whispered, “It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later, Alice. It’s time to see Finch. It is later.”
And she pivoted. Alice began to canter, and then jog. Her muscles started to shift again, and before she realized it, her jog had turned to a low-energy sprint. She glided down the path, her bare feet gouging holes in the dirt.
She stared ahead, and her eyes adjusted. She could see, far far in the distance. Plainkind eyes are almost telescopic. It was one of the many overpowered traits that remained from the days of Birth.
Alice had been right. It only took her ten hours to cross the four hundred kilocubit bridge between her and her destination. Before she knew it, Alice was at the outer walls of Murdock catching her breath.