Dawn (7340)


Chapter 1


            “Mother, Mother, I’m going out to look at the flowers in the garden now, okay?” young Christina chirped, already halfway out the door by the time she made the announcement.  She looked as rosy and splendid as princesses came these days, her soft flaxen hair draped girlishly about her neck and her neatly pressed dress glowing with a pale sheen in the summertime sundance.

            “Of course, my lovely daughter.  Just be sure to stay away from the bumbling bees!” replied the Queen with a somewhat nauseating voice that parents seem to believe appeals to the young’uns.  Mother was sitting at her throne, taking care of some sort of business or other with her beloved fountain pen, Christina noted with a smile.

            The princess skipped out of the castle gates into the elegantly trimmed garden lined with rose bushes and rhododendrons.  Carefully, she looked over her shoulder, and when she was satisfied that her mother was too busy (as usual) to pay her any mind, she darted through her secret tunnel through a couple of rhododendron bushes into the adjacent field (traveling through rose bushes is discouraged), rushing up and down the meadowy hills until she arrived at the glistening moat.

            “Hey, Terance, Raoul, Micaela, are you there?” she called, her hands cupped on either side of her mouth.

            “Yeah, I’ve got the ladder, just hold on,” came the reply from beyond the grassy horizon.

            Impatiently, Christina tapped her feet on the rocky moat walls, enjoying the clackety-clack of the loosely piled stones below her shoes.  All of a sudden, one of the stones gave, and Christina found herself tottering precariously over the water.

            “Yeek!” she shrieked, her hands reaching out desperately, locking suddenly onto the nearest graspable objects.  When she looked up, she realized that she was holding onto one end of a wooden ladder, and Terance, with a wide smile, was holding onto the other.

            “Um, don’t let go,” said Christina, trying to regain some sort of footing on her side of the moat.

            “Oh?” said Terance, temporarily letting go of the left side of the ladder, making Christina tilt awkwardly.

            “You wouldn’t dare,” warned Christina, staring semi-threateningly at her friend.

            Terance picked up the left side and promptly let go of the right.  “You were saying?”

            “Hold it straight so I can get out!” growled the girl.

            Sighing, Terance quit his games and held both sides firmly.  Christina slowly pulled the ladder towards the edge of the moat, straightening her body with meditative determination.

            “Hey, Terance, you still down there?” called Raoul from above.

            Terance answered, “Yeah, why?”

            But it was already too late, and the soccer ball smashed into Terance’s head, causing him to let go of the ladder and, worse, levelling the carefully arranged spikes of hair in the center of his crown.  Being a responsible kid, he immediately regained his senses and caught the ladder on the way down before Christina could tumble into the moat, but now the duo was back to square one.

            Christina giggled helplessly, her arms turning jiggly and nearly unable to clutch the wood any longer.

            “And just what is so funny?!” cried Terance.

            “You look like a sea urchin turned on its back!  With a little mouth in the middle of the spikes.”

            “Oh no!” cried Terance, reaching up to tap the middle of his head, confirming the worst of his fears.  “Christina, it’s all over!  My hair’s all messed up ….”

            Of course, Christina at this moment was some ten meters downstream, her mouth too occupied with spitting out water to coherently express her heartfelt, chaste thoughts about Terance.  The boy squinted, bringing into focus the only part of Christina that was consistenly above the water: her gorgeous middle finger jutting heavenward in a distressed cry for help.

            The boy ran along his side of the moat, catching up to Christina and seeing the soccer ball bobbing a meters in front of her.  He looked at the princess, and then at the ball, and back and forth for a short while, caught in a monumental dilemma.

            “Which should I pull out first?” he wondered out loud.  But the debate was short; his heart was knightly to the bitter end – a bit of logic would conclude that, first, the helpless soccer ball could not possibly rescue itself while the tomboyish Christina certainly could, and, secondly, the soccer ball seemed to be a good deal cuter, better behaved, and all around more of a damsel in distress at this moment.  Terance leaned over and snatched out the cold, sputtering soccer ball, holding it dearly to his chest, and sure enough, Christina climbed out on her own, ladder in hand, just a few seconds later.

            “Oh thank goodness you’re alright,” said Terance to the soccer ball, closing his eyes selflessly as Obi-Wan once did in another legend far, far away.  The pain would be transient, but the sacrifice would last forever.

            At the top of the hill, Raoul and Micaela greeted Christina, asking what on Earth had gone on down there, and where Terance had ended up.

            “I think he’s still down there,” said Christina sweetly.  “He went to retrieve the ball.”

            “Did it fall into the moat?” asked Micaela.

            “Yeah,” said Christina.  Terance’s head appeared, and then his torso, and then the rest of his body emerged onto the hill, crouched over but clutching the soccer ball.

            “Ow,” he groaned, clearly experiencing pain in his groin

            Micaela stared at him strangely, asking, “How exactly did you hurt your balls getting the …,” but she trailed off before she could finish her question, suddenly contorting her face in horror.  “Christina, which … what type of ball fell in the moat?!”

            “What?!” shouted Christina.  “The soccer ball, you perverted, messed up child!”

            Raoul cleared his throat, hoping to derail the conversation.  “Christina, go get changed so we can start.  I don’t think you can pretend to be in the flower garden for much longer.”

            Christina nodded, catching the spare outfit that Micaela always brought for her.  She changed out in the open, noting that her twelve-year-old body was honestly about as exciting to her guy-friends as the lump of coal they would find in their stockings if Santa caught them peeping.

            “Okay, let’s play!” she announced, tossing her soaked dress over to the side.  Unrelatedly, an old ant, weary of life, climbed onto one of the pleats and waved his antennae one last time.

            “Boys versus girls?” asked Raoul.

            “Nah, how about you and me versus Chrissie and Terance.  They make such a cute couple!”

            “No!” shouted Christina and Terance in unison.

            “Aw, you guys are no fun,” said Micaela, giving a somewhat suggestive wink in Raoul’s general direction.

            “Eww,” said Christina.  “That’s so … high school.”

            And so the sexes were pitted against one another.  Terance managed to get the ball first, dribbling down the right side of their makeshift field towards the smiley-face-adorned sacks of gravel that marked the girls’ goal.

            “Yo, Raoul!” he called, signaling for a pass, then suddenly stopping short.  “Hey, girls, what gives?  Where’s your D?”

            Terance and Raoul turned around to see Christina and Micaela bent over a large rock, not paying any attention to the game whatsoever.

            “Hey, guys, check this out!” shouted Micaela.

            “What is it?” asked Raoul.

            “Your mom!  Ohohoho.”

            It may be noteworthy to remark that Micaela never really outgrew the ‘your mom’ phase of adolescence, like many individuals in the modern world.

            All four were soon clustered around the rock, each not daring to make the first statement of their observations, which would undoubtedly come out sounding stupid.  But at last, Terance could take it no longer.

            “You guys, you’re staring at a lump of bird poop.”

            Raoul nodded slowly in affirmation.

            “On a rock,” continued Terance, noting bitterly that the second statement to be made also sounded quite stupid, and this he certainly blamed on his horoscope.

            Raoul nodded again.

            “This is no ordinary bird poop,” stated Christina with consternation.  “This is pearly bird poop.”

            “From a pearly bird,” added Micaela.  “Pearly birds make pearly poop.”

            “I wanna see!” squealed Christina with delight, running into the forest.

            “Why are you so spazzy!” shouted Terance after her, and soon the four of them were deep in the shadows of the woods.  “We’re never going to find some stupid pearly bird in the whole big fat forest.”

            And yet the gang’s momentum did not break, through brush and thorns, mud and streams, until at last they spotted a large iridescent bird in the distance.

            “Wow, it’s just like the inside of an abalone shell!” exclaimed Raoul.

            “Your mom’s an abalone shell!” exclaimed Micaela.

            “Shut up, Micaela.”

            “It must be the queen of all birds!” exclaimed Christina.

            “Your mom’s the queen!” exclaimed Micaela.

            “No shit, Einstein.  That’s the only way you can be a princess,” Christina said.  “Just watch the damn bird.”

            At this defeat, Micaela fell silent.  In all of your mom’s a history, your mom’s a your mom joke had never your mom encountered a situation where your mom actually turned out to be true.

            The bird