When Father Comes Home by Chris Arnold

When Father Comes Home

Chris Arnold

“I’ve got it!” Ambrosia shouted as the towering fly ball hovered over her. Stumbling, she tried to stay underneath the ball as it flew in between her and the sun. By the time she caught sight of it again, it was too late; all she could do was watch as the wiffle ball fell to a stop a good three feet behind her.

Ambrosia had never liked sports, wiffle ball or otherwise, as long as she could remember, so it came as no surprise to her when stuff like this happened. With resignation she picked up the ball and threw it to Clint from her spot in the outfield as Heath rounded third for a home run.

“It’s okay, Am, what’s one more run matter?” Clint asked in an attempt to soothe her obviously frazzled ego. When this didn’t seem to do the trick, Clint added in a quick smile just to prove to her that he meant it.

“Yeah, I suppose so…” Ambrosia replied, not really feeling any better about her obvious ineptitude. Why had she even agreed to play in the first place? She knew the answer to that without a second thought. At fifteen years old Ambrosia had established her first-ever crush, just recently falling for Clint. She figured hanging around him would be the best way to make him notice her. Still, she was beginning to wonder if wiffle ball was the kind of thing she wanted to get noticed for.

“Hey! Are you playing or what?”

What was that? Oh, it’s just Felicity. Felicity was only ten years old but knew how to push her big sister’s buttons. Ambrosia couldn’t stand Felicity, but as much as she wanted to go over and clobber that little weasel, she didn’t want to embarrass herself again just yet.

“Are you ready, Am?” Clint asked before heaving the wiffle ball towards home plate. Ambrosia wasn’t, but fortunately for her, the ball didn’t make it out of the infield and was converted for the third out. Slowly she started jogging towards the plate. She knew that she was up to bat, and if there’s one thing she enjoyed less than being expected to catch a ball it was being expect to hit one.

As she walked towards the plate, Ambrosia took her time in carefully positioning her hands around the handle of the oversized plastic bat. She took a few plastic swings and then cleaned off home plate before finally stepping into position.

“Time for supper!” the shout came just as the first pitch came towards her. Muttering “thank God…” Ambrosia dropped the bat and started heading towards the house. The other fourteen followed her in.

Inside Ambrosia’s Mom was waiting for them. Mrs. Temley was a plain, middle-aged woman. She was only forty years old but appeared much older. Wrinkles and signs of old age were mainstays from the years of work and raising children that she had gone through. Even her brown hair was starting to turn grey around the edges. The Temley’s were far from wealthy, getting by on Mrs. Temley’s part-time job and her husband’s sales trips, and Mrs. Temley’s body showed clearly the effects of the hard life she lived.

Ambrosia possessed little in similarities to her mother. She had flowing blonde hair and was a good three inches shorter than the five foot seven frame of her mother. Ambrosia was an attractive, young, dark-skinned woman and about the only similarity were the dark, captivating, brown eyes that the two of them shared. Felicity looked much more like her mother. It was clear that Felicity would soon catch up to her sister in height, and with her sparkling brown hair and fair skin, she looked very much like a younger, more vibrant version of her mother.

“Your father should be home tomorrow hopefully. Have you got your sleeping bag out of the attic yet? You’re going to have to do that if you’re going to have this sleepover, you know.”

Yes, yes, the sleeping bag. Ambrosia knew full well that she would have to get her sleeping bag. It was just like her mother to worry about something so trivial. Besides, while she wouldn’t admit it, Ambrosia wanted to wait and position her sleeping bag near Clint’s. This whole sleepover, celebrating the start of school and, in the case of Ambrosia and most of the others there, the beginning of high school, had been formed as Ambrosia’s way of having some extra time with Clint. While she was happy to have the others around, typically she would have been just as happy to wait a few more days until school. Maybe they could play spin the bottle, maybe truth or dare. Either way she was looking forward to showing off her new nightgown. The biggest obstacle in her way was Felicity. She wasn’t even in middle school yet, but she wanted to hang out with the big kids, especially once she heard the words “slumber party.” Ambrosia would have to figure out some way to discourage her later.

As the teenagers filed in they each grabbed a hamburger or hot dog as suited their pleasure. They took this, along with a glass of lemonade, back outside to watch the August sun fall as they ate. As they ate, they talked about how sad they were that the summer was almost over, about how excited they were to be out of middle school, and about how beautiful it was out that last Friday night before classes began anew.

“Let’s tell ghost stories!” It was Felicity. “Isn’t that what you do at slumber parties? There have been scary stories told at every one I’ve ever been to!” Ambrosia wanted to tell her little sis to scram, but to her dismay, the others were happy to play along.

“I’ve got a story for you,” Vance declared. “So this one time there were these aliens. Little green guys, you know? Well, one time they decided to come visit Earth and…”

Ambrosia wasn’t listening. She’d heard plenty of stories of this kind in her day. She’d seen more than one movie centered on a flying saucer deciding to land in the middle of a corn field in the middle of Iowa or some other state where nothing interesting happened. You have to have something to talk about one way or the other, she figured. Once, even her mom had told a story about seeing an alien. She didn’t have any evidence, of course, and couldn’t even remember what she was doing to encounter such an unusual specimen. While Ambrosia had just made snide comments, asking questions like how many eyes he had, Felicity was fascinated by the idea. Mrs. Temley, seeing that she was unlikely to be taken seriously, refused to speak of the matter now, no matter how much prodding Felicity gave.

“You know, it’s not even dark yet. Can we save these until AFTER campfire at least?” Ambrosia cut in once she regained her train of thought. Vance was slightly taken aback at being interrupted right in the middle of describing a cow was trying to resist abduction, but the party gave in after allowing him to quickly finish his story.

Now, what to do about that pest Felicity? Ambrosia had to think fast, lest her sister should butt-in with another suggestion. If it had been up to Ambrosia, Felicity would have been kept in her room this whole time. Their mother had insisted that if there was going to be a slumber party, Felicity would be welcome, though.

“How about spin the bottle?” Ambrosia asked. This suggestion was met with anything but approval from those around. While there were seven boys and seven girls, playing spin the bottle was nothing if not a gamble. Neither the Rembert twins nor the Trimp boys wanted any part of a game where they would possibly kiss their sibling or even see their sibling kissed. In fact, the only ones who seemed to support the game were Tracy and Laura, the lone couple of the group. Then again, they were always happy for an excuse for some lip action.

“Come on, guys! Maybe we can have only half of us play!” Ambrosia begged. She knew that her sister, who still closed her eyes at the sight of as much as a peck on the cheek on TV, would be nowhere to be seen for this game. Ultimately, carried by the lovebirds who would have been happy to play by themselves, Ambrosia was able to get a group of six together, including, much to her relief, Clint who sat directly across from her. Meanwhile, Felicity recruited the remaining eight to play a game of Uno with her.

Using an old Coke bottle Ambrosia had sitting on a shelf in her room, the group began to play. On the first turn the bottle spun around to point at Laura, and then at Tony. Tony was just beginning to enter puberty and wasn’t handling it well. Laura didn’t want to kiss anyone other than Tracy, certainly not the zit-covered face of Tony, so, with a sigh, she blew him a kiss and refused to so much as let him come over towards her. After a couple more rounds, neither Ambrosia nor Clint had had to kiss anyone yet. To be honest, that’s all that Ambrosia really cared about.

On the fourth go round the bottle landed squarely towards her, though. Suddenly doubts began to seep into her thoughts. What if she didn’t land on Clint? Even worse, what if she had to kiss Tony? She was getting sick just thinking about it. Slowly, she reached to spin the bottle, closing her eyes in refusal to look at where it might land.

“Ambrosia Cynthia Temley, get over here!” What now? Ambrosia headed over to the kitchen where her mom was calling her from.

“What is it, Mom? We’re trying to have a party over here.”

“I told you to get your sleeping bag, but I haven’t seen you go up and get it,” Mrs. Temley replied with just a taste of disdain. “I’m going to bed, and I don’t want you stomping around and waking me up. Please go get your sleeping bag before I make you.”

“Fine, Mom, I’ll go get it if it’ll make you happy,” Ambrosia replied, noting to herself that she wasn’t doing it to make her mother happy at all. In fact, she knew that she was being made to go get her sleeping bag, no matter what her mother said. Now where had she left it? Oh yeah, she’d never bothered to move it from its permanent spot in the attic. So, with a grunt, Ambrosia headed up the stairs.

As Ambrosia went, she took a glance at her watch. It was 9:30. She could never understand why her mother had to go to bed so early. As Ambrosia saw it, her mother had little to do before waking her up at 7:00 and was in bed before midnight. If her mother did any work putting on makeup before then, it certainly didn’t show. And to get so upset over a sleeping bag of all things. It would take her two minutes to grab it and get back down to join the others.

When Ambrosia opened the attic door, she couldn’t see her sleeping bag anywhere nearby. As she entered the attic, she did see something that attracted her attention, however. Far off in the back, a strange light pierced through the darkness. It looked as though a flashlight had been left on, or perhaps there was a window into the attic that she had forgotten about. Curiosity got the best of Ambrosia, and she decided she needed to investigate the source of the light. Maybe if it was a flashlight she could use it to look around. While there was an old light bulb on a string it was in poor shape, occasionally flickering on and off, and it was only slightly helpful.

As she neared the light, she started to distinguish a figure in the shadows. It looked to be in the shape of a man, and Ambrosia was ready to dismiss it as scarecrow if not for the way it seemed to twitch slightly from time to time. As she approached, it became clear to her that she was right in that assumption, and she felt relieved to know that while the most terrifying of all Halloween gags would almost surely be at her house this year there was nothing to worry about.

The light, though. What was the light? It appeared to be coming from some kind of device sitting on the scarecrow’s chest. The machine was rectangular-shaped and very thin, no more than a millimeter in depth by her estimations. The light it was releasing was unlike anything that Ambrosia had ever seen before, jutting out of the screen but stopping approximately a foot above the screen. After another minute of staring questionably at the scene in front of her, Ambrosia bucked up her nerves and reached for the light. When she did this, the figure in front of her began to mutter something.

At this point, most people would have run off, ignoring the search for the lost sleeping bag. Ambrosia was much too bull-headed to let any old scarecrow scare her off though. Looking at it, it was really nothing intimidating. It had on a black trench coat, navy slacks, and some strange kind of hat that Ambrosia had never seen on a living human being before. The hat looked much like a beanie, except it extended laterally down a several inches farther than it should have. The five foot frame was, as she shown the light of it, definitely a bit spooky but nothing that Ambrosia would ever admit fear of.

Wait, what was the thing trying to say? It sounded like it was say “Am.” Could he be talking to her? With a burst of courage that most superheroes would fail to possess, Ambrosia did the only thing she could think of. She shook the figure.

As she gripped the shape sitting in front of her, it did something that she really should have been more prepared for than she was. In the faint glow of the light she had picked up off of it, she could clearly see its eyes open. Ambrosia stood, not moving a muscle, finally petrified in fear. Her shock was all that could keep her from screaming when the scarecrow began to talk to her.

“Oh, there you are. I’ve been waiting here all evening for you,” came the voice, speaking in a calm, tired, almost melancholic tone. “Yes, I must have nodded off while I was waiting for you. The long trip did wear me out,” he continued.

“Who are you? What are you doing here? What are you doing in my attic? Does my mother know you’re here? I’m going to call the police on you, little creeper!” Ambrosia was able to stutter back. Of all the things that life had sent her way in her fifteen years on Earth, strange men falling asleep in her attic was not one of them up to this point.

“Slow down, my dear. One thing at a time,” it responded in a stunningly nonchalant manner. “I came here to visit you. I hadn’t had a good chance to meet you yet, and I knew you’d need to come up here, so I figured I’d wait. I have to say, though, you certainly take your time when it comes to getting your sleeping bag. Speaking of which, I have it right here for you.”

“Okay, old man, I’m just going to take my sleeping bag and go. I have a party to be at, and I don’t have time to stay up here talking to someone who probably wants to kill me.” Without any more of an invitation, Ambrosia grabbed the sleeping bag from it spot next to the man, who offered nothing to speak of in opposition, and started heading towards the door out of the attic. What she was going to do about the man, deciding whether or not to ruin the party and wake up her mother or leave the seemingly harmless fellow go, was still entirely up in the air.

The man continued on, despite the fact that his audience appeared to be leaving him. “Oh, and you asked about your mother? No, Martha did not put me up to this. No, I haven’t spoken to Martha since the night I conceived you.”

With this, Ambrosia stopped dead in her tracks. “What are you talking about, you old fart? How do you know my mother’s name, and what in God’s name makes you say you conceived me? I know my father; he’s a traveling salesman and a good man. You, sir, are by no means my father.”

“Allow me to explain. But first, I need that device which you seem to have taken with you. You said you have a party to get back to? I’ll fix that problem. If you allow me, I will help you not miss a thing.”

Hesitantly, Ambrosia started walking back towards the figure in the chair. Handing him the gizmo, she stood in silence a reasonably safe distance away. She had no idea what to make of these developments. How had he even gotten into the attic in the first place? And what was this talk about her mother? None of it made any sense.

“There,” the figure said as he touched on the screen of his machine in a way all too complicated for Ambrosia to be able to replicate. “I’ve set up a forcefield around us that allows us to slow down time around us. More accurately, everywhere else is moving regularly, as far as they’re concerned, and we in are in a bubble in which we can simply think and act exponentially faster. You’ll age slightly faster, but otherwise it’s harmless.”

“What are you talking about, dude? And who are you, anyways?”

“Look, we’ll have our little chat, and when we finish, you can go back, and you’ll have barely missed anything. And as for who I am? Well, I suppose you can call me Bob. Let’s just say that my official title is something beyond the comprehension of your human ears, anyways.”

“Well, then, Mr. Bob, I suppose you wouldn’t mind telling me what in the world you’re doing in my attic?”

“What in the world… What an interesting expression. Oh, well, yes, as I mentioned earlier, I’m your father, Ambrosia. I can barely believe I’m actually getting to talk to you. The years fly by so fast, don’t they?”

“Hold up a minute. You can’t be my father. I know enough about the birds and the bees to know that fathers aren’t people who just show up in your attic on random Friday nights. You better start talking before I, I…” Ambrosia didn’t know what she could do to the strange fellow in front of her, this Bob person, but she knew that she wasn’t comfortable with him.

“Yes, of course, it is understandable to defy such a huge change in your understanding of the world around you. I can’t blame you, honestly. It was sixteen years ago when I met your mother. We were both at a bar, I bought her a few drinks, and she came right to me. She was young, vulnerable, and quite a looker in those days I have to say, and what happened, happened. I trust I do not have to go any further.”

Ambrosia lost all faith in him when he described her mother as a “looker.” That simply was not something that she could, in her young vanity, imagine her mother as ever being. “What? You got her drunk and took her to some sleazy motel, had your fun, and ditched her? Is that it? You’re despicable!” Ambrosia screamed. It was times like these that the bubble’s ability to mute noise while slowing down time came in handy.

“No, that’s not it at all,” Bob replied. While he, too, was beginning to lose his nerves from this encounter he still had an air of calmness. He had no reason to be afraid and had expected a response like this. “No, the night was definitely consensual. Martha may have been slightly tipsy, but she was by no means unaware of her surroundings. The whole night she had been bemoaning her predicament. She and Gale were engaged at the time, but even then he was seldom around. She was unsure of herself. She needed someone to fall back to, and I just happened to be there to break her fall.”

Ambrosia thought about her father, the one she had known all of her life. A strong, handsome man several years the elder to her mother; he never had been much of a family presence. Selling whatzits and other anomalies to whoever would pay money for them, he was typically around for one weekend each month. A good month involved him staying around for a week. Ambrosia still remembered the time he had stayed around the house for an entire month, to help during Felicity’s birth. Still, bills had to be paid, and he didn’t exactly earn a Ferrari and a beach house for every sale.

“You’re lying!” Ambrosia shouted, doing everything she could to hide the speculation that was slipping into her stream of consciousness. “My mother’s a good woman! My parents got married, and they had me! You couldn’t have possibly been any part of it!”

“Am, look you were born eight months after your parents were married. Has that ever struck you as odd?”

This fact never had struck her as odd. Ambrosia had much better things to do with her spare time than sit around making a timeline of when she might have been conceived. The thought of her parents, well, she didn’t want to ever worry about that again. Besides, she’d always been told she was short because she was born prematurely. The whole thing certainly hadn’t ever been a big deal to Ambrosia.

“No, it can’t be. If all of this were true, I would have heard about it by now. There’s no way my parents would hide something, like, like you!”

“Why do you think that? Why would Martha want to go around telling people how she was unloyal to her fiancé? What good would it be to describe how she had a few drinks before boarding an alien spacecraft? Why would she want to bring that kind of shame, humiliation, upon herself?”

Ambrosia hated it, but Bob was really beginning to make a lot of sense. There was just one part that she couldn’t comprehend.

“You said something about an ‘alien spacecraft.’ What do you mean? We haven’t said anything about spaceships and UFOs yet.”

“I didn’t figure it needed to be mentioned,” Bob answered. “You don’t really think I just took Martha to any old Motel 6, do you? Of course not, I took her to my own private quarters on my ship. I don’t think your mother would have followed me along if I’d tried to take her to some cheap excuse of a hotel room.”

“So that means you’re an…” Ambrosia was trembling too much to get the last word out.

“An alien? An extraterrestrial? Do I have to spell everything out for you? I wasn’t born anywhere around here if that’s what you’re getting at. I was hoping you’d picked up on that already by looking at me. My oversized cranium should have been an easy giveaway. You couldn’t fit a brain of our magnitude in your skull, that’s for sure.”

“But you’re not green! You’re speaking English, and you’re here on Earth! No one has ever brought back an alien, and I’m not susceptible to believe you’re the first.” Even as the words lurched out of Ambrosia’s mouth, she knew better than to doubt him.

“Yes, those are all popular misconceptions. There are some green aliens such as the ones commonly described. That tribe is rather reclusive, however, and would never visit Earth. Their image has simply been devised by other devious aliens, making a presence somewhere they know they are unlikely to be captured. That way, as you did with me, they are unlikely to be noticed as a foreigner despite some fairly obvious distinctions.” Seeing a look of confusion spread over Ambrosia’s face Bob sighed and continued. “Am, why don’t you just come look at my ship and see if you understand.”

With a flick of his wrist, he was back to messing with his mechanism. Soon a hologram was floating above it. The hologram showed Bob’s ship but was nothing like what Amber would have predicted it to look like. It did not have lights shining around the side and wasn’t even circular in shape. It was painted completely white, with no windows in sight. It was cube-shaped, with a smaller cube hanging off to one side. Ambrosia assumed this was either the cockpit, or as was actually the case, an escape pod. There was no obvious means of getting into the ship and also apparently missing were any means of propulsion. In short, it looked nothing like anything that could ever get off of the ground.

“I parked it about a block away,” Bob started. “Which brings me to my next matter of business. I came here, because I want to know if you would like to join me. This is your once in a lifetime chance to leave this dreary planet of yours behind.”

“What? You want me to just leave everything I’ve ever known behind? Do I get some kind of a twenty-four hour decision process or something?” Ambrosia did often find Earth to be rather dreary, but not so much so as to follow the first stranger she found into a veritable pile of scrap metal.

Bob seemed shocked at this idea. “What let you run off and spend a whole day telling your friends that you’re going to be going on a spaceship? No way will that fly. No, we certainly don’t want another Jesus Christ on our hands…”

“Wait, you said Jesus! Jesus was an alien?”

“Ugh, I’d forgotten that people no longer knew. Jesus was my nephew. His father had to go to all kinds of trouble to help him lead a respectable life by covering up the Mary incident and then made the mistake of showing Jesus his capabilities while still on Earth. He’ll never live that one down. So of course Jesus, the egotistical maniac he is, had to string everyone along. It was only when he’d been crucified that he finally agreed to join us. Why don’t I just let you talk to him?”

With a few quick jabs suddenly there was an image on that small, magical, machine of Bob’s. It showed a small man sitting by himself in front of a chess board. His forehead was slightly elongated, but not so much as to seem completely unnatural. The thing that Amber simply could not get over was how he was undeniably black. All of her life Ambrosia had stared at paintings and sculptures of Jesus. Not once had Jesus been depicted with skin half as dark the sun-tanned shade that Ambrosia possessed.

“Hey, Jesus, can you take a break for a minute. I have a girl here who’d like to talk to you.”

Without bothering to look up Jesus replied, “I don’t want to talk about religion right now. I’m not ready to make my return yet, and I don’t know when I will be. And don’t ask me about scripture, it’s been a long time, and they screwed up most of what I said anyways.” As Jesus was talking, he moved one of the chess pieces. About ten seconds later, another chess piece of the opposite color moved itself, taking one of his pawns.

“Look, Jesus, I don’t want to question you on that cult you started. I just want you to explain to my daughter here what you think of life on the ship.”

This got a quick glance towards the camera from Jesus, but soon he was back to looking at the chess board. “It’s good I suppose” he commented. “Much less painful than Earth, I certainly don’t want to go back there for a while. Space gives me lots of time to pursue my hobbies too. I’d definitely go for the ship if I was you.” As he finished, he moved his queen into position, taking one of his opponent’s knights. As he did this, the board silently moved a rook up to put the king in check and, subsequently, checkmate. Jesus could be heard muttering a few choice words before the screen went blank.

Ambrosia could do nothing but stand and stare in awe. She’d had enough thrown at her to give her food for thought for the next year. Hearing all of this so suddenly was almost too much for her system to handle.

“He’s been playing that automated game for the past two millennia, and he still can’t beat it.” Bob scoffed in obvious disapproval. “So there you have it. Something for you to think about: my species is both immortal and has many capabilities which you could only dream of. Since you are half-human you will need to take pills to kick in the correct glands to maintain immortality, and it will take extensive training for you to unlock your abilities. With all the time you need, this should be no dilemma, however. If you should choose to remain on Earth you will be a perfectly figure other than some slight differences that will be passed over as typical abnormalities and your complete sterility. Oh, and while you’re immortal, you’re not impermeable. Don’t think if you join me you can go sending your head in the mail or anything like that.”

“But where do you live? What do you do with your time?” Ambrosia was no longer concerned with such trivial matters as what skin color Jesus had. Instead, she was solely focused on the idea of being immortal. To be fifteen forever! What a thought!

“Given our immortality the ideas of home and family are of little use to us. If we attempted to live as you humans do on Earth we would very quickly become overcrowded and suffocated. Instead we are a nomadic people, and personally I have lived my entire life on one of our spaceships. This is not an uncommon lifestyle for our people, and many people take up hobbies using our advanced technology. Personally, I enjoy exploring different worlds and meeting the local people. That’s the whole reason I was on Earth, in fact.”

In a heartbeat Ambrosia’s fascination turned to repulsion. Her father, Bob, simply went from place to place to stop in at the local bars. The mere thought of traveling not just the world, but the universe, was something to take her breath away. Doing that with a man who left her mother here without so much as a good-bye and was asking her to do the same, was despicable, though.

“What about my mom. Does she get to come? And what about Felicity and my father? No chance for them I take it?”

“I’m sorry, but Martha can’t come along. She’s completely human and can’t be allowed to ruin the expedition. Same for Felicity and Gale. Felicity is Gale’s daughter. After a few years, Martha gave up on my coming back, stopped believing she had ever been on a spaceship in the first place. I am afraid that only you are allowed to come with me. Martha, Gale, and Felicity will have each other.”

All these years Ambrosia had never known any of what her mother had gone through, had no idea that any of this was possible. And now, all of a sudden, she was being forced to make the biggest decision of her life. She thought about her friends below her, thought of her annoying little sister Felicity, and even her father who never was. She remembered all the things she would never see again if she chose to follow Bob. But, at the same time, she was acutely aware of how much was available. She could use unseen technologies, travel to the far ends of the universe, learn of abilities unimaginable to her, and spend eternity with Jesus. All of this seemed too good to be true.

As she stood there, she began to notice the slightly impatient tapping of Bob’s foot. He didn’t need to tell her that he needed an answer. It was now or never, and it was up to Ambrosia to choose which. It was an awful lot for a fifteen year old to deal with.

Finally, Ambrosia took a deep breath and picked up her sleeping bag. As she walked towards the attic door, she left Bob with a remark he was not likely to forget in the near future before leaving him for the first and last time. “You know, if all you can think to do with your excess of time is play chess and visit Earth, I think I’m already in the right spot. I’ll take my family over your lonely existence any day.”

When she reached the bottom of the stairs, Ambrosia was met by her mother, waiting to see when she’d finally arrive.

“It took you long enough to find it, I’ll say that! Next time…”

Mrs. Temley stopped. Without warning Ambrosia had set down her sleeping bag and started giving her mother a hug. Mrs. Temley was unsure what to make of this sudden change in character, but her heart still softened a little at such a show of love.

“Next time,” Mrs. Temley attempted to pick up where she left off, “I want you to do this on your own. Without me telling you.”

“Sure thing, Mom,” Ambrosia replied with a smile. “I love you and good night!”

“I love you, too,” was all her mother was able to get out as she headed to bed, shaking her head with a grin on her face.

Ambrosia laid her sleeping bag out in the family room along with the rest of them. Much to her dismay, she had no idea whose sleeping bag was whose, and she knew she was unlikely to have a spot anywhere close to Clint. Her mind was still buzzing from her encounter with her father, and she really didn’t care at this point if she ended up next to Tony.

Heading back to the living room where she had left off her game of spin the bottle, she found the room deserted. Walking around, she was dumbfounded as to where everyone could have gone. Her fears were soon relieved, though, as she could clearly hear the voice of Felicity outside telling a story about aliens with ray guns and huge antennae sticking out of their heads. Oh, how little she really knew.

As she approached the campfire Clint waved her over. “I made a s’more for you, Am!” he shouted, holding out a s’more with an obviously well-roasted marshmallow. Felicity had probably told them to make it that way as a kind of practical joke. Ambrosia ate the s’more anyways, pretending to enjoy the crispy outer shell the marshmallow seemed to have formed. She’d get back Felicity back for this, just not now.

“Sorry that we came out here without telling you what was going on. After you left, Laura and Tracy had to kiss, and we had a hard time keeping the game moving after that. We figured that was as good of a time as any to quit and start the campfire. Felicity helped us find the stuff for s’mores, and we’ve just been waiting out here for you to get back.”

“Well, I suppose I can forgive you, Clint, since you made me a s’more. I’m not sure about everyone else, though,” Ambrosia replied jokingly.

Looking up, Ambrosia saw a white flash across the sky. While others wished on the shooting star they’d seen, Ambrosia could only sit there and smile. She had no doubt in her mind that she had made the right choice. Her only regret was the knowledge that if she ever tried to tell anyone about her experience, she had no chance of being taken seriously. It would be difficult to talk to her mom about it in a way that wouldn’t be viewed as the typical mockery. For now though, Ambrosia was at peace just staring at the stars, wondering what might have been but refusing to give up those around her for anything.

After listening to more stories, sometimes about aliens but never like anything she knew to be true, Ambrosia and the rest moved in to get ready for bed. As Ambrosia changed and brushed her teeth, she began to wonder about other questions she wanted to ask, such as how her father functioned in zero-gravity or where he went shopping. These were questions that she knew better than to dwell upon, but suddenly she was nearly as curious as her little sister.

Walking out to the family room, Ambrosia noticed Clint laying on his sleeping bag, which just happened to be located directly next to her’s. Laying down, she wondered what the world of high school would have to offer her.

“Hey, Am.” It was Clint. Leaning closer, he wrapped his arms around her slender body, and with a remark of “I think I owe you this from earlier,” he leaned over and started to kiss her. Her first kiss, just how she had imagined. It was magical, it was…

“Ewwww…”

It was happening right in front of Felicity. “Get over here!” Ambrosia whispered to her little sister. She gave Felicity a big hug and promised a treat in exchange for not telling Mom, which Felicity quickly gave in to.

As she laid back down, she looked into Clint’s eyes and imagined all the things that high school would bring. Classes and homework sure, but all with Clint and the rest. Yes, this certainly was looking to be a good year.

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Photo by Rachel Dotson. © All rights reserved.

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