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In the Clouds
The beach is spectacular at sunset. The sea, a deep shade of azure, glitters like a million sapphires as I stand, feeling the powdery sand sifting between my toes. As the sun drags itself down, screaming, below the horizon, it leaves behind a fiery trail of magenta and orange that hurts to look at.
It’s so hot. I’m strolling across the scorching Sahara, a camel laden with supplies loping along behind me. Scratchy desert scrub is all that can be seen for miles. Not much longer, I murmur to myself. Not much longer. Just as I’m about to collapse right there and die in the desert, a spot of green pops up in the corner of my eye. It’s an oasis, clear and perfect. “Water,” I breathe, and start to run.
Diamonds. They send streaks of light and color bouncing off the walls. They’re flawless. I touch one delicately with my fingertip. I don’t want to knock it off the table and break it. It’s like a little soul. “Don’t worry,” the man beside me says. “Nothing can scratch diamond.”
Paris unfurls below me like a map. Everything is so small. My eyes travel over the buildings, the river. The people walking on the streets are ants. Cars are multicolored ladybugs. A cool breeze whistles up the side of the Eiffel Tower and into my face.
A ruler snaps down on her desk. The teacher glares down at her with eyes as cold and hard as stone. “I’m not going to say it again.” The girl is unresponsive. A dreamy smile drifts across her lips. The ruler comes down again with a louder clap than the first. With a yelp, the girl sits up as quickly as if she’d been shocked and looks up sheepishly.
The teacher’s lips are pressed into a line. “Now that were all awake,” she hisses, “can you give me the answer?”
The girl’s mouth drops open and her eyes slide out of focus. “I... what?” She turns slowly and sees the problem on the board. After hurriedly solving it, she stammers, “F-five point eighty-two.”
Sniggers echo back and forth across the room.
“Are you sure you did that right?” The teacher strides over to the board and rapidly works out the problem. The girl dozes off again.
“Cassie!” growls the teacher, rapping the board with her ruler and pulling the girl back to reality. She’s underlined the correct answer three times and made the numbers as bold as she can.
The girl slumps in her seat, realizing her mistake.
“Do you understand?”
She nods, lowering her eyes, already slipping back into her daydream.
“Good,” the teacher sniffs, and resumes the lesson.
The sail flaps noisily, high above my head on the mast of the ship. The back of my shirt is its own little sail, whipping back and forth in the wind. Waves slap against the sides of the ship. He drops the chest in front of me, grinning, and wrenches it open with a crowbar. We stare at the contents for a second. Then he’s got me by the hands and we’re skipping around the deck, laughing and singing. The gold glistens in the chest.
The ground spins dizzyingly below as I fall. Wisps of cloud rush by. I feel the parachute strapped to my back, clinging to me like an octopus, and I grope for the tag and yank. I’m propelled skyward as the chute opens up. Then I’m gliding serenely back to earth.
She awakes suddenly and peers around. The classroom is empty and silent. Her elbow slips off the desk and she skids onto the floor. The teacher looks over callously. “So you’re awake.”
“Yes.” She brushes herself off and takes her schoolbooks out of her desk. “Sorry.”
The teacher watches her as she heads for the door. “Wait. Cassie,” she calls. She girl turns around, and her dark eyes are already wide with fear, like a rabbit’s when it finds itself cornered. The teacher’s heart softens.
“Do you think you can pay a little more attention tomorrow?” the teacher inquires, a grin forming on her lips. The girl really is smart, if a little absent-minded.
She considers her toes.
“I’ll try,” she says quietly, and walks into the wall on her way out.