"Reba! Sit down will you. You're breaking my concentration."
"Sorry but I can't help it. Hold on tight." Reba was pulling Harriot's hand, tugging a little bit harder by the minute. They were at a meeting where they were taught to communicate. 'But I can't concentrate' Harriot remembered Reba whispering to her. Today they were supposed to be silent for the whole session, listening to themselves.
"Who's whispering?" Sister J asked not opening her eyes like the others. They were sitting in a circle holding each other's hands trying hard to concentrate.
"Sorry Sister but-"
"Hush child." With that Reba's voice fell back into the deadly silence. That is until Harriot felt that pulling her hand was too much of a struggle. She let go of Reba's hand, without a moment's thought. So when she reached up to catch her bestfriend's hand, she found the seat empty. She opened her eyes.
"Ahhhhhh!!" she screamed, alerting everyone to the plight of her friend. They all opened their eyes.
"What's the matter, Miss McFerly. Did you hear something?" Sister J was still to busy to notice what had happened. She didn't even notice her young companions staring at the ceiling.
"No Sister, I didn't but Reba did," and she pointed to the ceiling.
"Good heavens, Miss Keanin what are you doing up there?" They were all up, standing underneath the figure floating above them.
"Sister? What's going on, I heard someone scream. Is everything alright?" It was the janitor, Gregory.
"Yes sir, everything is fine. I just saw a mouse going out of the door, that's all. If you're real quick you might catch it." Luckily Gregory didn't look up as he left the room.
"Miss McFerly, how dare you lie in front of everyone. You will go to that far corner, face the wall and stay there till I call you."
"It wasn't her fault Sister, she was tryin' to avoid too much attention comin' this way." Reba was trying to defend her friend but it wouldn't work, she knew that.
"It's well and good for you to talk Miss Keanin. I want you to come down here right this instant." Sister J's temper was flaring up but Reba couldn't help it.
"I would Sister but I can't. I don't even know how I got up here. Do you think its a sign?"
"Superstitious nonsense, what do you take me for, a fool. I said get down, now!!"
"I'm sorry Sister, I know I'm annoying you but this ain't going to work. Do you think one of the girls could climb on a table and pull me down. I can't think of anything else."
"Oh, very well. Miss Jenkins, go ahead." Sister J hated being told she was wrong but she always got her revenge in due time. Meanwhile, Franny Jenkins stood on top of the biggest desk she could find and jumped up on it. She caught hold of Reba and pulled. Harriot who Sister J had forgotten all about, caught hold of her legs. That just about did it as the three figures landed swiftly onto the floor.
"I don't know what happened Sister-I was concentrating just like you told us to and suddenly I felt kind of light. When I opened my eyes, I was up there. Sorry for the interruption. Can we go on. That was kinda cool." Everyone smiled at Reba's eagerness to try that again but Sister J. She just stood there with her hands on her hips with a hint of amazement in her eyes.
"Come here child," she said. Reba stepped up and tried not to giggle as Sister J tried to examine her clothes for a bit of wiring. "Nothing." She whispered even more confused. "Let's keep this between ourselves children. I don't think people will believe us even if we tried to tell them." Reba looked up at Sister J, that was the first smart thing she'd ever heard Sister J say.
Outside, Harriot was eager to talk to Reba. So they stopped in the park and sat down on a couple of swings. The air was cool even though it was the hottest time of the afternoon. Reba gave out a sigh of relief. She hated summer camp especially Sister J's classes. They usually sat down listening to other people talk about their problems. Everyone was so quiet, listening to the sharp voice of Sister J. Reba didn't like going to the library or taking Yoga classes, they were always so quiet; like as if someone had squeezed the life out of them. Today however, staring at the grass, Reba sensed something had changed. After floating about the class like that, she felt more grown up. For some reason she didn't feel like going down to the pond with Harriot and shooting pebbles at the ducks. She had loved doing that, it used to relieve the tension. But now things seemed different.
"What's wrong Reba? You haven't said a word since we left class. You know Sister J will cool off, she won't do anything to you. You sure gave me a start back there. C'mon Reeb say something. Please?" There was something wrong, Harriot felt it but Reba wasn't about to tell her. "Gee Reba, we've been friends for a long time; you can trust me. What's wrong? You can tell me, please."
"Harriot, its not that simple. I feel strange like as if I'm not me. I'll never know the reason for what happened just now but I do know I don't feel quite myself. Would it be asking too much of you, for me to be permitted to go home?"
"What did you say Reba? I didn't quite get it."
"I was hoping you might allow me to take leave of you till tomorrow."
"What's wrong with you Reba, you're talking weirdly." Who could blame Harriot, especially since Reba was really talking differently, certainly not the language of an average thirteen year old. "Do you want me to talk you home?"
"I'd be very much obliged Miss McFerly." Reba was confused.
"I'll take that as a yes, c'mon lets go." She trotted off in front of Reba and when she turned around she saw something even stranger. Reba was walking in a very peculiar manner, almost lady-like (something which Reba would never do). There was something even stranger going on, why was she walking on the footpath, they always walked on the grass-it made the journey home shorter. However much Reba startled Harriot, conversation was the last thing on Harriot's mind, this wasn't the smart-mouthed Reba she knew.
"Mrs. K, I'm glad your home, Ummm. Something's up, I mean wrong with Reba." Harriot, was trying hard to prepare Mrs. Keanin for the shock on the way.
"Really? Where is Reba? Normally she's here before you."
"That's what I'm trying to tell you, Reba ain't quite herself. Today she decided to walk round the whole park to get here. She didn't want to cut right across." Harriot knew she wasn't making any sense, but before she had any time to explain, Reba appeared round the corner.
"Reba, what's wrong honey? Harriot tells me your not feeling very well. Are you alright?" Mrs. Keanin was being her usual caring self, except when Harriot had to run and fetch Mr. Keanin to help lift his wife off the hard cement. What did Reba say to her mother? Oh the usual "I'm fine mother, I really must wear a bonnet the next time I go out. Now, how about a cup of tea. I'll go and put the kettle on." Mrs. Keanin had fainted, pretty much the way Harriot had expected.
"Reba, you gave your mother quite a scare but I can't seem to figure out why."
"-You don't need Reba to tell you Mr. Keanin. Maybe, it would be better if Reba spent the night at my house, that's it my house. Today was a very long day for all of us, so I was hoping Reba could take a load of at my house. If you know what I mean."
"I suppose your right Harriot. I am off for the rest of the day, and Jessie does need some rest by the looks of it. Why don't you help Reba pick out a few things." Harriot breathed a sigh of relief. The last thing she needed was two people lying in the hall, faint with shock.
"I really must apologise for my mother's fainting but I guess she missed me terribly while I was away."
"Reba, listen to me. Your mother needs to rest so you're going to spend the night at my house. Do you understand? Just nod." Harriot was having a hard time understanding Reba as it was and she felt a whole lot better when Reba nodded.
"I comprehend perfectly what you're saying Miss McFerly but I fear that my father may require my services in helping my mother to gain her strength."
"No Reba. Your father has given me permission to take you with me, even if I have to drag you.So pack your bag and lets go." Harriot was getting rather irritated with Reba's ignorance.
"Very well but I might have a bit of trouble picking out my clothes. Do you know, I don't even have a night gown!"
"Concentrate Reba, you love climbing up to my tree-house. Mum said we could camp out here tonight." Obliviously, Reba had something to say about spending the night outdoors but Harriot seemed to be ignoring every word that came out of her mouth.
"Miss McFerly, surely you don't expect me to climb a tree. It is unlady-like, something to be unheard of even today. Besides, sleeping outside is the last thing my delicate skin can bear with." However since Harriot was not listening to her she tried hard to climb the small ladder. However in her deep thought she didn't notice her feet lift from underneath her. The force pulling her was so great that she had to hold on for dear life. "Good heaven's somebody, please help me. I can't hold on for a moment longer," she cried. Harriot took one glance outside the window and started climbing down but she was too late. Reba flew across into the sky and far away before she could get there.
Days seemed to just fly by and before Harriot knew it, a week had passed. She had become severely depressed for only teo reasons. Firstly because her bestfriends wasn't around to put the action back into life and secondly because she wasn't there to save her friend from floating away. All that was left was Sister J's class and then she could go back to moping about at home.
"Good afternoon girls. Isn't today a fine day and just to show you how great today really is, I've asked someone special to meet you today. In fact I met her this morning. Her name is Miss Rebecca Kenean. Everyone say hello to Rebecca." Harriot looked up, the name was Reba's but someone grown up stood in her place.
back to the Short Story Page.Flying, 14 September 1999