Linda finished the bowl of nuts and set it on the counter next to the sink.  She could hear the voices of Rowel and his mother in the hallway.   They had slipped into their own language now but although she didn’t know exactly what they were saying she had a feeling it was about her and they way their voices had begun to raise she didn’t think it was very good. 

She stood and went into the living room as much as because she was bored as to get away from the yelling. 

She entered the room to find two young girls sitting on the floor playing with dolls and babbling in their own language.  She sat down between them and they looked up at her curiously.  “Hi!”  She said in English. “My name’s Linda.”  The girls looked at her curiously and Linda wondered if they even spoke English.  Then one of the girls-the oldest one-spoke.

“I’m Teesha and that’s Shanti.”  She nodded her head in the direction of the little girl.” 

Linda smiled, “It’s nice to meet you.”

Shanti scooted closer to Linda.  “Why do you speak English?”

Linda hesitated “Because…” a throat cleared behind and she turned to see Rowel and his mother standing behind her.  Rowel looked slightly defeated but he smiled when she turned to them and his mother looked pretty upset with 3 sets of arms folded in front of her.  “Why don’t you sit down Linda,” she said trying to smile, “And I’ll get you something to drink.” 

She left then and Rowel indicated for her to sit down.  A few moments later Peka returned with three glasses of something light brown and handed a cup to Linda and Rowel.  Linda looked into the cup.  “What is this?”

“It’s Kail milk.”  Rowel stated “try it.”

“So tell us about yourself,” Peka said as she settled into a chair placed her milk down on the table next to her and grabbed what looked like some kind of broken blender or another type of kitchen tool and began working on it like someone would work on knitting.

“Well-um-I’m sorry I didn’t catch your name.”

“It’s Mrs. Rowan.”  Peka responded slightly irritably.

“Well Mrs. Rowan what do you want to know?”

“What brought you into the woods today?”

Linda settled down into her chair then and began her story she told them everything.  She told them about Brenda Keegan, about school, and her birthday.  When she was done telling about her birthday Shanti, who had bright yellow-green skin and white hair, climbed onto Linda’s lap.  “I’m going to be 3 tomorrow.  I can’t wait to go to school,” she said.

“School,” Linda said in surprise looking up to Mrs. Rowan with eyes wide, “she’s only going to be 3.

“Yes,” replied Mrs. Rowan matter of factly not looking up from the broken blender, “children always start school at 3.”

“But why?”

“Well two reasons, one the Imaginese children are very smart Shanti’s already made her own hover board.” She looked up now and smiled.

“Really,” Linda was really surprised now. “So what’s the second reason?”  Mrs. Rowan turned back to her work on the broken blender.

“The second reason is when children turn 3 they start growing their arms and they grow half an arm every year until they are 18.”

“Half an arm?  You mean like literally half an arm like just a little “Oh, no,” said Rowel laughing. “More like a complete arm that’s about half the size of a regular arm, but it still has a hand.”

“But it’s not quite long enough to need an elbow,” Added Mrs. Rowan

“Interesting,” said Linda, “but what does that have anything to do with school?”

“Oh lots of things,” Rowel replied picking up a screwdriver type tool to hand to his mother, “it takes lots of practice to learn how to get your arms to come out you have to go to school to learn.” 

“How can you learn to get your arms to come out?”  Linda was interested but she found it kind of farfetched to have to go to school to learn to get your arms to come out.

“It’s all about willpower you have to want it and it’s not that hard once you’ve got the hang of it” as if to demonstrate he shot a couple more arms out of his stomach, “The first time it’s hard because you’ve never done it before and the second time its hard because you have to learn how to get only the arms you want to come out, to come out.  When you’re learning you might want 1 arm to come out and instead all 5 arms come out.  After the first couple times it becomes easier.” Just then Sira rushed into the door slamming it behind her and stepped into the living room.  “Mom?”  She asked without looking up as she opened up her bag and started digging through it in search of something.  “My teacher said you had to sign a release before we go to the museum tomorrow.”  She found what she was looking for and looked up.  She dropped her bag when she saw Linda sitting there with a glass of Kail milk in her hands.  “What is she doing here?”  She asked pointing right at Linda and staring at her brother angrily. 

“Sira,” Mrs Rowan scolded her daughter.  “Be polite to our guest.  Linda may be staying with us for awhile and I expect you to behave…or you can just forget about me signing that little slip of yours.”  Sira’s jaw tightened and glanced menacingly at her brother as she stormed past them out of the room.

Mr. Rowan got home a couple hours later and was pretty surprised to find a pretty, young girl sitting on the couch next to his son and talking to Rowel and his wife but he was even more surprised when she introduced herself.  For three reasons:  One she spoke to him in English not Imaginese like any other native of the planet.  Two her name was one of the strangest names he had ever heard in his life and three her accent was definitely not one he had ever heard before.

Mrs. Rowan turned to her daughters who were still playing dolls quietly in the corner.  “Teesha why don’t you and Shanti show Linda the garden.”  The girls jumped up excitedly and dragged Linda out of the room babbling the entire time in Imaginese.

The End

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