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Vanessa finished delivering the mail to each room attendant in the nursing home and started polishing some of the silver before the dinner hour started. The old window panes were covered in frost from the cold outside, and the room sent a cold chill up Vanessa’s spine so she turned the heat up a few notches.
“Vanessa you can go home now you’ve been here all day. It’s a Saturday dear, go hang out with your friends before the leave for the break.” Her mother said.
“I’ll just do my homework Mom; most of my friends are Christmas shopping today.”
“Alright; I’ll be home in a few hours, Diana’s locking up tonight.”
It was astonishingly cold once Vanessa left the nursing home; the snow was everywhere. On the branches like sleeves, on the trunks like shawls, on the ground like a rug, and on the roads like a sheet… of ice! Vanessa did her best to not slip, slide, and trip, and fall; but her mind kept going elsewhere, to the stars in fact, all the way up in space.
Her project was for Science, her favorite class, and the unit they were on was about outer space, her favorite subject. And she couldn’t wait to get started. For the project you were assigned a general idea, then you could branch off of it and make it your own. Vanessa’s general idea was habitable and or wild; and she was excited beyond all words.
After Vanessa got home and made herself some hot chocolate to warm her up, she immediately sat down at the computer and got onto the internet, anxious to get started. She listened to the moderate hum of the computer as it warmed up, wondering if the computers at NASA sounded similar. Just as it finished loading the phone rang. Vanessa ran to retrieve it.
“Hey Van!” the caller answered.
“Oh hi Danna, what’s up?”
“Nothing really. I just don’t know what to do with this math homework, it’s so complicated!”
“Have you started it yet?”
“No, I’m just now working on my science project.” Vanessa said, getting back to the computer and clicking on the NASA website (she had it on her favorites).
“Just now? You make it sound like our teacher assigned it a week ago; she only just assigned it today!”
“I know that but I want to get started, I have some major plans for this project.”
“Don’t you always?” Vanessa chuckled, clicking on an article that looked interesting.
“So what was your idea again?” Vanessa asked.
“Um, I think it was Mars… no it was Pluto.”
“There’s a big difference there Danna. Like size for instance it…”
“Hold it! Don’t start preaching to me; I get that enough with Ms. Sanchess.” Vanessa laughed with her friend as Danna rattle on about her other classes. Vanessa’s eyes scanned over an article that said “Wild Solar System Spotted around Distant Star”. Vanessa’s eyes widened as she clicked on the article then started to read about it.
“Oh, hang on a sec Van I just got a text.” The phone went quiet for a moment; then a faint gasp and immediate clicking on Danna texted a reply.
“Oh man Vanessa,”
“Rachel just got into a car wreck.”
“What!” Vanessa stopped reading. “How? Where at?”
“Just outside her driveway. She was just pulling out when a sweeper slide off the main road and crashed right into her.”
“Is she alright?”
“Just sec.” silence. “Yeah she’s alright; the ambulance just came and is now taking her to the hospital.”
“Good.” Vanessa said relieved. “Hey I’ll let you go so that you can text better. Let me know when you’ve found out anything more.”
“Bye.” Vanessa hung up the phone, her hand shaking for a moment.
The rest of the article talked about how a wild and young new solar system found just beyond the Pegasus constellation has some basic components that are believed to have been the same beginning to our very own Earth. But before she could finish reading the last few sentences of the article someone from upstairs called her name.
“Vanessa I’m home! Have you looked outside dear? It’s absolutely amazing!” Vanessa quickly put the article on a word document and started printing it before she ran up the stairs and looked out the window to see what her mother was talking about. Hail was falling from out of the clouds like rain would when you half expected it to flood. But the hail wasn’t its normal size; it looked like they had a height and diameter of a quarter, like a golf ball. And they had something trailing behind them that looked like smoke… but it was probably just from the cold, similar to dry ice.
“This is truly amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it…. I’m grabbing the video camera.” Mother announced. Vanessa continued to watch the hail balls fall onto the driveway and the melodic chilled smoke that wafted into the air from them; but all she could think about was that article.
“What do you MEAN you can’t go to the game?”
“I told you my mother won’t let me play. She SAYS that she needs all the help she can get at the nursing home. Thanks to the hail storm we had a few days ago all the seniors citizens are freaking out and mother wants me to help her and the rest of the staff please them as much as possible.”
“But you’re our lead player! We can have a volleyball tournament without our star!”
“I know that. But my mom won’t let me leave! I’m sure you’ll be able to do fine without me though; it’s not like you guess are THAT dependant on me.” Danna huffed, but agreed anyways.
“We’ll miss you girl. Hope work won’t be too much of a hassle.”
“Thanks.” Then Vanessa and Danna hung up on each other.
“I’m sorry dear, but you know how my residents are; they’re just as stubborn and picky as the mules they were brought up with.” Her mother said as she grabbed a stack of towels and put them into Vanessa’s arms.
“What am I supposed to with these?”
“All the rooms need to have towels draped over every windows to help keep the heat in. I want you to start with those in the rooms that have people in them, then grab the bigger towels, the ones with the designs on them, and put them in the dining hall, the waiting and visiting rooms, and the game areas.”
“But mom that will take me all night!” Vanessa protested.
“That’s why you can’t go to the game. I’m sorry but I really need your help.” Her mother said, grabbing a stack of napkins and then walking over to the dining hall.
“…What?” Vanessa asked shocked. Danna lowered her head shamefully then raised it again before she said,
“I’m sorry Van; but we lost the game. We lost badly too fifteen-none. And Danna’s leg is broken so she won’t be able to play for the rest of the season.”
“I can’t play for the rest of the season either Danna!” Danna’s eyes widened.
“My mom was watching the news yesterday and they were saying that this was going to be the hardest winter we’ve ever had so she said that I’m gonna have to miss some more games so I could help her at the nursing home. Well I got frustrated and started yelling at her, so she grounded me for the rest of the season.”
“Oh Van I’m so sorry.”
“Not as sorry as I am.” Vanessa commented. Danna had to run home right then, something about her and her boyfriend having a study date in a few minutes. Vanessa wasn’t happy at all about the fact that she could play anymore; playing volleyball always relaxed her. But at least homework did the exact same thing. Volleyball cleared her head from school and homework always calmed her body from the game. So Vanessa made up her mind to work on the Science project whenever she had any spare time, to keep herself from wallowing in grief from not being able to play in the games.
When she got back home from the nursing home with her mom, they didn’t speak to each other, not even now that they were out of the car. Vanessa went straight to her room and her mother went straight to the kitchen and started fixing a little something to eat. It hadn’t been long when Vanessa started hearing her mother swearing at something downstairs. Vanessa had only just started painting her model planets of what this new solar system COULD look like; but went downstairs to the kitchen anyways to see what was happening. Her mother was always very good with her cooking, she was practically a pro.
“What happened mom?”
“The stove just suddenly went haywire on me; it nearly burned my hand off.”
“I was turning the stovetop on to boil some water and a burst of flame shot up and almost ate my hand; and when I moved my hand out of the way it seemed to follow.” Vanessa looked at her mother curiously as she ran her hand under some luke-warm then cold water. It was ironic, the particular planet that Vanessa had been painting she was calling the Fire Planet.
The rest of the next couple weeks happened in a similar fashion; whatever planet Vanessa happened to be painting or working on for her project, something similar seemed to happen to her teammates, family, co-workers, and some of the nursing home residents. Like when she was working on her Ice Planet (the biggest of the solar system next to the Fire Planet) half of her teammates got pneumonia from falling in through some ice… at the ice rink! Then when she was painting her Green Planet to symbolize plants; a flower arrangement was sent to one of the nursing home resident’s room, it turned out that the greenery wasn’t ferns at all, but poison ivy and oak! The lady who received those flowers loved flowers, but was deathly allergic to poison ivy and oak, so she was sent to the hospital and was diagnosed to stay for a few months.
These were some serious and severe signs that Vanessa’s project was somehow linked with her personal life or jus to earth, she didn’t know for sure. The article said something about the new solar system having signs of massive yet ponderous paranormal activity that seemed to hit NASA’s instruments excessively when they were trying to study the curiously new solar system, but they thought maybe it was a glitch with their orbiting satellite; Vanessa, now, wasn’t so sure. If the paranormal activity was as colossal as they thought, who was to say that some of it could actually touch and very possibly control the earth? To test her theory Vanessa decided to paint her next planet some outrageous colors that couldn’t be humanly possible. It happened the very next day. Vanessa was called to the hospital to visit Danna who had just come out of the emergency room. She had collapsed onto the floor in mid-sentence as if she fainted, but she wasn’t breathing and her face was turning orange and her tongue was turning green (the same colors Vanessa used to color the inside of her planet). The surgeons had found out that a piece of Styrofoam, the color of yellow (the core of her planet), inside her lung blocking the tube that helped you breath. Now she was in the Unknown Diseases Ward, the one part of the hospital were the doctors have no clue as to what’s wrong with their patient. Vanessa had to put on a plastic body suit and some form of lightweight oxygen tank before she could go inside the room to see Danna. Once she had finally gotten into the room she ran back out again. She couldn’t believe it. Danna’s ears had turned a royal purple, her toes were a pale green, and her upper torso was covered in indigo pokey-dots, the exact same way Vanessa had painted the outer crust of her planet!
Vanessa immediately went home, nearly running over two different pedestrians and barely escaping three car wrecks in her rush home. Once she had gotten home and bolted up the stairs and burst through her bedroom door to see her science project sitting on the floor waiting for her, she knelt down onto the ground in front of it slowly, as if just staring at it would cause something else to happen to someone she knew. What was she going to do? What would happen when she presented her project to the class? Would everyone start to burst into flame? Would their organs freeze up beyond any working order? Would everyone start suffocating? What if, once she had put her name on her project, would other odd and curious things start happening and then never stop? Would she then be the only living person on the planet like Wall-E? She doubted their would even be a cockroach for her. But if she didn’t turn in this project, she’d fail the class. And she had always dreamed to be able to go to NASA and actually be able to work there; but you had to have a perfect score in all your science classes, and she did… unless she didn’t turn in this project.
Vanessa sat there on her bedroom floor for hours, pondering and racking her brain for a solution to make both ends meet. It was three o’clock in the morning of the very day the science project was due and Vanessa still hadn’t come up with a plausible solution for both terms. The lives of many versus her grade and most likely, her own personal future. She squared her shoulders and straightened her spine, hearing it pop silently; then she grabbed the project firmly with both her hands, walked out of her room, down the stairs, out the door, and to the dump a few blocks down. She picked a pile of junk the farthest back into the dump as possible and chucked the project as high up onto the pile as she possibly could, putting all the strength and determination in her body, all the hope, and her dreams of NASA from her mind, into the throw. When the project hit the pile it split in two and slide down the pile a few feet before it came to a settled stop.
“Goodbye my beloved ‘A+’… I guess I’ll have to settle for some job in a fast food restaurant now, no more dreams for me… at least none as high as the break between the earth’s atmosphere and space.” And with a final glance at her destroyed project, Vanessa turned away to go to school and receive her ‘F’.
Oddly enough when Vanessa saw that ‘F’ on her report card next to her science course, and after all the lectures from her friends and family, Vanessa felt relieved; no more crazy situations, no more ironic circumstances, just Vanessa, the Earth… and their own personal solar system that they shared.