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Neon Hearts: Chapter Three, Fireworks
“Wake up! Wake up sleepy head!” Retta yelled and stripped the sheets off my body. “Come on! Today’s the big day! Let’s go! Move your keester!” I yawned but didn’t get up. Retta’s voice seemed distant. Whatever was wrong she could handle it. Retta shook my shoulder. “Rahli Jenn Dahlia! If you don’t get up I’ll…. I’lll….. I’ll tell Tox what you think about him! I’ll go right now! Don’t think I won’t little missy!” I turned over again. “Go ahead! That’ll be one thing I wont have to deal with anymore.” I grunted.
Retta groaned and pulled at my foot with her cold, mechanical fingers. “Come on now, Rahli. You’ll miss the ceremony!” Suddenly the doorbell rang. Retta sighed and hovered over to the door. Finally I thought. “You’ve got company, Rahli!” Retta shouted from the other room. I groaned and drug myself out of bed. I walked into the front room. Retta was hovering by the door, and beside her was….. Tox!
He had a big grin on his face and his cheeks were red. “Uh, I stopped by to see if you were ready to head over to the university but uhm….. Heh.” That’s when I realized. I looked down at myself and my skimpy little silk getup. I shrieked and dove back into the bedroom. “Retta!!!” I shouted. Retta and Tox both laughed and my house drone burred back into the bedroom. “Why did you let him in!? You knew I wasn’t ready!” I hissed.
Retta was still laughing. “Sorry! But I knew that would wake you up!” I rolled my eyes. Her artificial intelligence was really starting to get annoying. I quickly changed into my school uniform and dumped my pajamas down the laundry chute. I was hesitant before I slowly walked around the corner into the front room, where Tox was still standing.
“Wow. Your as red as a wolf’s eyes!” Tox chuckled. I could feel the heat on my cheeks and knew he was right. As red as an Exavior wolf’s distorted eyes. I sighed. “Let’s just go…” I muttered and pushed past him. “Bye Retta!” Tox called from behind me. “See you, Tox. Tell Remi I said hi alright? And good luck to you, Rahli!” she called back to us. “Yeah…” I mumbled, and slid my helmet on. I punched in the password to my hover bike. It purred to life and I hopped on. Tox did the same and we zoomed out into the speedway. Tox lead the way and I followed close behind.
I then switched on my Vocal Feeds that connected through my hover bike. I punched in Tox’s Vocal pin and connected to his feed. “Hey, did you see the news last night?” I asked into my helmet’s mouth piece. “Sure did!” Tox voice replied, “Man that bat thing was freaky! It was bigger than a hovercraft!” I sighed, “I don’t know. I thought it was kind of…. Cute.” Tox’s laughter roared in my ears. “Wow, Rahli. Your one weird chick! Most girls can’t stand mice, let alone a hovercraft sized bat!”
I knew he was just joking, but it hurt anyway. So Tox did think I was weird? I sighed. Girls like me weren’t the kind of girls guys liked as a girlfriend… just a buddy to hang with. Sure Tox loved me and would do anything for me… but it wasn’t the same. I tried to change the subject. “Sorry about the show this morning… Retta loves to humiliate me.” Tox chuckled again. “It’s fine. I know how it is. Just the other day, Azalia was over, and you wouldn’t believe what old Remi said-” My heart skipped a beat.
“Azalia? Azalia Octave?” I interrupted. Azalia was one of the most beautiful girls at Deams University. Tox had had a crush on her since our sophomore year at D.E.U. and I hated her guts. I had no real reason for hating Azalia Octave, except she had the ability to dazzle Tox and I obviously didn’t. Jealousy was the reason. “Yeah. I finally got her to come over. She was having trouble studying for her Final Exams and so she asked me to help her out.” Tox smiled to himself slyly, as if he had a dirty little secret. “I think we really bonded.” He chuckled darkly and I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
We turned our hover bikes into the university parking garage. I locked the bike in sleep mode and took my helmet off. A drone hovered past shouting, “All-senior-students-please-report-to-the-auditorium-All-senior-students-report-to-the-auditorium.” Tox and I headed across the parking garage and stepped into the elevator pod. The whole time I stared forward, watching the metropolis sink as we rode the elevator up. My heart felt heavy in my chest.
Tox nudged me with his elbow. “Hey, you ok? You seem kind of down today.” I forced a fake smile. “Oh. Yeah. I’m just tired. Long night.” Tox nodded, “Ah, yeah.” Finally the elevator stopped rising and a recorded female drone voice came over the speakers in the pod. “Please enjoy your time here at Deams’s Education University” The pod door slid open, and we stepped out of the elevator and headed toward the colossal floating building.
There were tons of people all flooding into the university. Tox and I jumped into the flowing river of people. The halls were packed and floating intercoms were hovering over the people shouting, “All senior students report to the auditorium! Will all senior students please report to the auditorium immediately.” Suddenly, through the hustle and bustle, someone shouted, “Tox! Hey, Tox! Over here!” Tox spun around, and…. “Here comes trouble…” I muttered. “Be nice!” Tox hissed and jabbed me in the ribs hard. I winced in pain and Tox jogged over to Azalia.
“Hey, Azalia!” He called. “Hey! Its my favorite study buddy!” Azalia giggled. I quietly came up behind Tox, practically invisible and still holding my ribs. I didn’t like how they were standing so close to each other. “I had a lot of fun studying with you the other day.” She grinned and added more quietly, “I never knew I could learn so much about physiology.” Now Tox’s face was the one that looked like wolf eyes. This morning it had been cute, but now I just wanted to throw up. “Heh, me either.” He said darkly. Finally, Azalia acknowledged I was there, and her smile dimmed.
“So, who’s your friend?” she asked. “Oh, this is my friend, Rahli.” Tox replied, pushing me forward, not taking his eyes from her face. She glared at me. I glared back. Tox elbowed me again. I groaned. “How do?” She gave me a sarcastically charmed smile. “Greatly intrigued.” she then turned to Tox and smiled sweetly, “See you around, Tox.” and with that, she turned on her heels and disappeared in the crowd.
Tox turned to me. He didn’t look satisfied. “Could you have been a little nicer to her? You know how much I like her!” I rolled my eyes. “I know that. What I don’t know is why.” I muttered. “Ugh! You are such a baby!” he hissed. “Am not!” I barked. “I am a lady! And jabbing me in the ribs is no way to treat a lady!” Tox let out a bark of laughter. “You? A lady!? When you start acting more like Azalia, you’ll be a little closer to being a lady okay?” Fury sparked from somewhere deep inside me. “More like Azalia!?” I shouted, “You mean be a sk**k!? No thank you!”
I could see the hurt in his eyes. “She’s not anything like that, Rahli… She’s sweet, and pretty, and smart, and a good ki-” he stopped abruptly. “What?” I yelled. Tox shook his head and weaved around me. I ran after him. “No! Tox!? What were you going to say!?” He didn’t stop. He dashed into the coliseum-like auditorium. I was running now. Pushing through people carelessly. “Tox!” I yelled. Finally I managed to get a grip on his sleeve and pull him back.
He looked down at me, defeat in his glass flecked eyes. “Tox…” I said quietly, “You’re hiding something from me… I know it. And I want to know what it is. Now!” Tox looked to the floor, as if he were pleading the carpet to help him out. I pulled his face around so he was looking at me. “Tox…” I whispered. I could feel the familiar itch from behind my eyes. “Would everyone please be seated!? Quiet please! Quiet people!” The university’s head master, Mr. Odie Matazz was at the hover podium now. Everyone had sat down but us. Tox shot down the stairs and took an empty seat next to Azalia. There were no empty seats beside them.
I tried to swallow the lump that was beginning to block my windpipe and tried everything humanly possible to keep the water works behind my eyes. I looked around, helpless to find a seat. A Teach bot grabbed my arm and drug me to a seat on the other side of the auditorium. I sat down quietly and stared at the floor. If I started crying, I didn’t want anyone to know. Especially not Azalia.
The ceremony was a blur. My heart felt like tiny shards floating around in my chest. “Rahli Jenn Dahlia.” Mr. Matazz called my name. I jumped in surprise, and a tear slid out of my eye. I wiped it away quickly and stumbled up onto the stage. He handed me my PenScreen diploma, and the room cheered. “Congratulations.” he said smiling. I nodded. Another tear slid out of my eye. I swiftly wiped it away and hurried over to my seat. I sat down, and tried to calm my breathing.
Too late. “Tox van Cesar.” Matazz called. Tox looked happier than ever as he trotted on up to get his PenScreen. The room went wild with whoops and shouts. Tox made the rock symbols with his fingers and took his seat by Azalia again. He looked so… happy. I couldn’t take it anymore. My throat throbbed and my eyes were letting tears go like crazy. I jumped up and dashed up the stairs, out the doors, and into the main hall. I dashed into the bathroom and it all came out.
A sorrowful wail burst from my lips. Tears came down my face like rivers. I heaved for breaths between the crazed sobs. I leaned on the sink and ran my fingers through my hair. Tox had really fell for Azalia… and I couldn’t do anything about it. And if you’ve never had a late-teenage-relationship-crisis, let me tell you. It’s just plain h*ll! I tried hard to stop the sobs, but every time I looked up into the mirror, and saw how pathetic I was… another wail burst out of me.
I stayed in that bathroom for hours. Curled up in a corner, surrounded by used, cloth hankies. I didn’t leave until some girls burst through the doors and started doing their make up. I pushed the door open, hoping no one would see me, but the halls were empty. A hover clock was floating above the hall. 3:47pm, it read. Wow… I hadn’t realized how long I’d been in there. A cleaning bot was sweeping up some recyclable cups and wrappers at the end of the hall. My stomach growled viciously at me.
I was in such a hurry that morning I forgot to ask Retta to make me some breakfast. I’d go to Voxiez and get some grub in the food court. I sighed as I stepped into the elevator. More tears started to roll as the pod slowly went down. By the time it hit the parking garage, I was hopelessly sobbing again. I punched in my bike’s password and it burred to life, lifting up on its hover plates like a dog waking up from a nap. I put my helmet on and turned into the speedway.
Suddenly, I got a ping. “You have…. One new message from…. Tox.” The Feed in my helmet said. Then Tox’s voice came on. “Hey Rahli, where the heck are you? Azalia and I are going to see the celebration fireworks show in the plaza tonight. I was wondering if you wanted to go. You just disappeared after the ceremony. Give me a ping!” I sighed. “Delete.” I muttered. “Deleting message…… message Deleted.”
I pulled into the Voxiez parking garage, and stepped into the elevator. Some how I had run out of tears because I wasn’t bawling anymore. The elevator drone recording came on after Voxiez theme jingle. “Welcome to Voxiez! The best of Deams, and Global Tech! What floor is your destination today?”
“Top floor, please.” I said blankly. “Top floor…. Food court and restaurants.” The elevator recording said cheerfully. Finally I made It to the top floor. The bell dinged and the pod slid open. “Enjoy your evening! And remember…..Smile! You’re at Voxiez!” If elevators were real people… they’d be awfully annoying. I shuffled out of the elevator pod and walked down the row of restaurants until I hit, Star Trolley.
Star Trolley was the all time best food place ever. It had everything from sushi to doenuts. I walked in and the same familiar food drone hovered on over. “Evening! Oh! Well look who it is! One of my all time favorite customers!” Dippy 602 was the best food drone in all of Deams. She could fix food super fast and it would still taste amazing. “Evening, Dippy. How’s business?” I asked, trying to sound casual. “Slow today, honey. But we can’t be busy every day, am I right?” I nodded, “Lots of people were busy today.”
“Oh yeah! Today was graduation day wasn’t it?” Dippy asked, “Well why are you here? You should be out celebrating! I hear they opened up a new club right next to Voxiez. You should go!” I sighed. “I am celebrating. Fix me up some chow main and I’ll be happy for a moment or two.” Dippy hovered around the counter. “Aww now sugar… what’s eating at you?” I shook my head. “It’s…. It’s Tox. He’s become obsessed with this Azalia chick…” Dippy nodded. “Men,” she muttered, “I’m really sorry about that, sugar. How about you take a seat and I’ll fix you some chow main. On the house, how’s that?”
“Oh, no no. You are having a slow day-” Dippy cut me off. “Nonsense, sugar. My treat! Think of it as a graduation present. From me to you.” I smiled. “Thanks Dippy. You‘re the best!” I said. “I know!” she replied, and hovered back into the kitchen. There was a couple sitting on the other side of Star Trolley. I watched them. They were too busy staring at each other to notice. I sighed and turned my attention to the hall. A boy ran down the corridor, laughing loudly. Following behind him was a girl who was also laughing and screaming. She caught up to the boy and jumped on his back playfully.
I pressed my fingers into my eyes and glanced out the huge windows. You could see almost the whole metropolis from Star Trolley. Just another thing I loved about the place. Safety Fireworks lit up the night sky with showers of sparkling color. The metropolis was a wild splash of colors tonight. Tox was probably at the plaza at the moment with his arms around Azalia. Outside a Hovertizement Craft floated by. On its dangling advertisement screen was a sad looking girl with a broken heart over her head. The words above her said, “Sad? Single? Lonely? Call the Match Mates!” I groaned and put my head down on the table. Carved into the Dense Metalloid was “W+A= heart”
I was about to scream when I heard someone say my name. “Hey Rahli.” I looked up. Tox was slowly walking towards me, his hands behind his back. My depression turned into irritation. I furrowed my brows and looked down at the table. “I thought you and…. Azalia were going to watch the fireworks.” I muttered. “Now where else would I rather want to be than with my very best friend at Star Trolley, watching the fireworks from the tippy-toppy floor of Voxiez?” He asked smiling, “I mean look at that view!” He motioned to the window. I glanced over my shoulder. Bursts of red and yellow lit up the inside of Star Trolley, as well as the rest of Deams.
“It is beautiful….” I commented quietly. Suddenly, Dippy came hovering over, a plate of steaming chow main resting on her three metal fingers. “Here you go, sweetie. One steaming plate of Star Trolly’s finest chow main.” I nodded. “Thanks, Dippy.” I said. “That should make you feel better…” she said more quietly, glancing at Tox. I nodded again, wishing she’d shut up. “Enjoy, sugar.” She added and hovered back into the kitchen.
I stuffed a fork full of chow main into my mouth to avoid talking to Tox. He was smiling suspiciously. “Feel better? What was all that about?” he asked. I swallowed the chow main and twisted my fork around the noodles again before I replied, “Oh. I wasn’t feeling too good this afternoon. Weak stomach.” He nodded. “Ah. So that’s why you ran off to the bathroom so quickly.” I could tell he knew I was lying. I simply nodded again and stuffed some more noodles into my mouth.
The fireworks boomed in the distance and filled the room with color. “Man,” he whispered, “That sure is something.” He was staring around me and out the window. I nodded again and slurped up a stray noodle. “Oh, which reminds me…” He said eagerly and bent down under the table. He pulled out a blue box with a silk ribbon tied around it. “I got you a graduation present.” he was grinning ear to ear. “Oh, Tox I…. I didn’t get you anything. I couldn’t possibly-” he cut me off, “Well… maybe you’re right. You didn’t get me anything for graduation but… Oh I know! Remember when I hit puberty and you got me a razorblade for my birthday?” I couldn’t help but bust out laughing. People from Exavior didn’t even grow facial hair. It had been a joke because his voice kept cracking and I’d laugh every time he said anything and choked on his own words.
I laughed. “How could I forget!?” He chuckled also. “Well you look like a mature young lady miss Rahli, so here’s my gift to you. Congratulations for hitting puberty!” He shoved the box across the table over to me. Tears were gathering in my eyes and I couldn’t breathe. I thought noodles were going to come out my nose. Finally, when I gathered myself together, I pulled the ribbon off and opened the box. Inside was a small, oval shaped piece of metal. It was smooth and white like an egg.
I pulled it out and held it in my hand. Suddenly a blue light came on the top of it. Six little mechanical legs came out of the bottom of the oval. The front of the oval detached itself from the rest of it and two yellow, glowing circles appeared on the detached part. I gasped. “Tox! You got me a Dex 4000!?” I shouted. The little bug-like bot crawled up my arm and sat on my shoulder. “Yeah, but you can call me Dex, toots.” I laughed. “Yeah. I knew you’d like it.” Tox said smiling. I giggled as Dex crawled across my shoulders and down my arm.
“Are you kidding!? I love it!” I shouted. “He lets you connect to Vocal Feeds and can also pull up what’s on the ScreenFeeds. He takes digital photographs and is almost completely indestructible.” Tox explained, all the time Dex was crawling around on me. “I can also fly!” The little bot said and jumped off my shoulder. His six little legs drew up under him and a small hover plate kicked on and he whirred around our heads. I laughed, “Well you can just do it all can’t you little guy.” I said as he landed in my palm. “You bet toots.” the little bot piped. “Just call me Rahli.” I said. Tox laughed, “Well you finally did it, Rahli! You graduated and hit puberty all in one day! You’re officially a big girl now!”