Saturday, 8:01 P.M.
Olly: i guess i won’t get to meet you in person until school starts
Madeline: I don’t go to school.
Olly: you mean you don’t go to SF Valley High? where do you go?
Madeline: I mean I don’t go to regular school. I go online.
Madeline: I really can’t talk about this.
Olly: come on. you gotta give me something here
Madeline: I want us to be friends. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me.
Olly: just tell me. we’re still gonna be friends
Madeline: I’m sick.
Olly: how sick?
Madeline: Really sick. Can’t leave the house sick.
Olly: are you dying?
Madeline: Not right now, no.
Madeline: If I left the house, yes.
Olly: we’re still friends. i don’t feel sorry for you
Madeline: Thank you.
Olly: how does the school thing work?
Madeline: All my classes are over Skype. I have homework and quizzes and grades. Lots of people are homeschooled.
Olly: huh. cool
Olly: ever notice how a lot of the national spelling bee finalists are all homeschooled?
Madeline: I’ve never noticed that.
Olly: it’s a thing
Olly: i wish we could meet
Madeline: Me too.
Madeline: OK, I need to go now.
Olly: go then
Olly: you still there?
Olly: come to the window
Madeline: Now? I’m wearing my nightgown.
Olly: put on a robe. come to the window so that I can see you
Madeline: OK, I’ll be right there. Goodnight, Olly.
Olly: goodnight maddy
Astronaut Ice Cream
“Mr. Waterman’s on his way up,” Carla says from the doorway. I’m finally putting the finishing touches on my model for architecture class. I’ve had to cut short two nights of IMs with Olly to get it done. I don’t want my mom to get worried again. The assignment was to design an outdoor shopping/dining center in my favorite style. I chose art deco because the buildings look like they’re flying even though they’re standing still.
The centerpiece of the complex is a grassy outdoor seating area populated with oversized, oddly shaped chairs painted in bright zigzag patterns. I’ve already “planted” miniature plastic palm trees in the grass, and now I’m strategically placing miniature plastic people holding miniature plastic shopping bags to give it the “vigor of life,” as Mr. Waterman would say.
In two years of tutoring I’ve only met Mr. Waterman in person twice. Usually all of my tutoring, including architecture, takes place via Skype. My mom’s made a special exception this week. I think she’s still feeling badly about Kara and Olly’s visit from a couple of weeks ago. I told her she had nothing to feel bad about, but she insisted. Having a visitor is a big deal because they have to agree to a medical background check and a thorough physical. Also they have to be decontaminated, which is basically like getting a high-speed air bath for about an hour. It’s a pain to come see me.
Mr. Waterman bustles in looking merry but harried, like Santa Claus on Christmas Eve just before the big ride. The decontamination process makes him cold, so he’s rubbing his hands together and blowing on them for warmth.
“Madeline,” he says happily, clapping his hands together. He’s my favorite of all my tutors. He never looks at me pityingly and he loves architecture like I love architecture. If I were going to be something when I grew up, an architect is what I would be.
“Hi, Mr. Waterman.” I smile awkwardly, not really knowing how to be around someone who’s not Carla or my mother.
“So what have we got here?” he asks, gray eyes twinkling. I place my last two tiny shoppers next to a toy store and stand back.
He circles the model sometimes beaming, sometimes frowning, all the while making weird clucking sounds.
“Well, dear, you’ve outdone yourself. This is quite lovely!” He straightens from the model and is about to pat me on the shoulder before he catches himself. No touching allowed. He shakes his head slightly and then bends over to examine some more.
“Yes, yes, quite lovely. There are only a few things we should talk about. But, first! Where is our astronaut hiding?”
Whenever I make a new model I make a clay astronaut figure and hide him in it. Each figure is different. This time he’s in full astronaut gear complete with airtight helmet and bulky oxygen tank, sitting in the diner at a table piled high with food. I’ve made miniature banana split sundaes, blueberry pancake stacks, scrambled eggs, toast with butter and marmalade, bacon, milk shakes (strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla), cheeseburgers and fries. I’d wanted to make curly fries but I ran out of time and had to settle for just regular fries.