Chapter 1- Time Will Tell
Kneeling in the dirt, Emily ran her fingers through the damp soil, breaking apart any of the remaining clumps. She scooped some up, brought it to her nose and inhaled. She loved the smell of freshly turned soil, a lot of good memories lingered in its scent. With a smile in her heart, she sprinkled the soil back under a tomato plant and evened it out with the edge of her hand then gently tamped it with her fingers. She sat back onto her legs, brushed her hands off on her jeans and scrutinized the last row of plants. Her thoughts drifted to the kitchen and the smell of the tomatoes cooking in a big pot on the stove. “I can’t wait,” she said to no one in particular.
Nee Nee stood on the back porch looking out at her granddaughter, “That child is a spitting image of her mother, don’t you think?”
Ignoring the question, the Great Blue Heron standing next to her on the railing said, “You do realize it’s time, right?”
She turned toward him and replied, “Yes, I know, I know. However, it still doesn’t make things any easier. She’s still so young…” Thoughts of Emily as a baby filled her head. “Do you really think she’s ready?”
Still watching Emily, he paused for a second then said, “Time will tell.”
She sighed, secretly wishing he would have told her no. “Yes, I suppose it will,”
“I’ve got to go.” The large bird bent slightly at the knees and pushed itself off the railing and opened his wings. They made a wonderful swishing sound as they lifted him effortless into the air.
Chapter 2- Honey, The Tomatoes and I will be Fine
Out of the corner of her eye, Emily saw a heron take off from somewhere in the backyard. She could clearly hear the sound his feathers made as they pushed against the air. She shielded her eyes from the sun with her hands and yelled, “Goodbye, Mr. Heron. Have a nice day!” He turned to look at her as if to say “thank you” then quickly gained enough height to clear the pines at the edge of the yard.
She heard her grandmother yell, “Lee Lee! Time to get cleaned up!”
“Coming!” Emily pulled herself up and tried to brush the worst of the dirt off her knees, it didn’t really work. She walked down the row of green micro clover towards the small house admiring how straight the rows of freshly planted tomatoes looked.
When she reached the porch, she looked up at Nee Nee and asked, “Did you see the heron?”
“Yes, I most certainly did. He’s a good sign.”
Emily looked toward the edge of the yard where he had disappeared over the trees. “Do you think he’s my spirit animal.”
“What do you think?”
“I think…yes.” She paused, unsure if she should say what she wanted to say next, but since she always told Nee Nee everything, she continued, “I swear I sometimes hear him speak to me. I mean not out loud, but in my head. Do you think that’s possible?”
Nee Nee’s heart soared when she heard her say that, but, for now, she avoided the question. “Don’t swear Honey, it’s not becoming of such a sweet girl.”
Knowing that was her grandmother’s way of avoiding her question, Emily just smiled and said, “Yes, Ma’am.”
They stood quietly for a second then Nee Nee said, “Lee Lee, there’s something I need to talk to you about.”
Emily became worried when she saw the expression on her grandmother’s face. She reached out and touched her arm, “What’s the matter? Are you okay?”
She took Emily’s hand in hers. “Oh, my goodness, yes. I’m fine. I need to talk to you about you. Let’s sit down for a second.” She motioned toward the old wooden church pew that rested up against the house. They both sat and she continued, “Your parents got an email from your Uncle David.”
Emily’s eyes widened in hopeful anticipation, “And?”
“He said everything was set. You’ve been accepted to the school.”
“Really?” she jumped out of the seat and threw her arms into the arm. “Woohoo!”
Nee Nee continued, “He’s made you plane reservations for the end of this week.”
Emily’s expression changed from surprise to disappointment, as she slumped back onto the bench. “What? The end of the week? I thought it would be at the end of the summer! What about you?” She looked toward the garden, “What about the tomatoes?”
Laughing gently, she said, “Honey, the tomatoes and I will be fine, don’t worry. This is an opportunity that comes around only once in a lifetime, you need to go.”
Emily got up again and walked to the railing, “Why now? What’s the big hurry? I’m sure if I left next summer, it would be alright.” She turned around and leaned against the rail. She absently picked a couple of paint flecks that had started peeling from the weathered wood.
Nee Nee looked down at the porch floor then up at Emily, “It needs to be now, sweetheart.”
Emily absently flicked the chips away then started to pace back and forth, her head bent, deep in thought. She stopped and asked, “Does leaving this soon have to do with what you said, a couple of weeks ago, about the signs being right?”
“Yes, it’s all about that.”
“What if they’re wrong. What if they mean something else?”
“They’re not wrong.”
“Does mom and dad know? How come they’re not telling me? Why you?”
“So many questions, that’s good. Come, sit back down and I’ll tell you a story.”
Emily walked back over and plopped down next to her grandmother. She crossed her feet and put her hands in her lap, hanging her head down.
“A long, long time ago, here at this very same house, a man and woman came to visit my parents. I was about your age. I remember it as if it were only yesterday. The sun was shining brightly and there was a cool breeze blowing in through the open windows. I can remember the lace curtains and dust specks dancing in the rays of light that spilled inside. The woman was tall and had dark colored skin with long black hair. It was so soft looking, the light bounced off it when she laughed. The man was tall, and light skinned but (she smiled as she remembered) his hair was everywhere! It was if he was constantly standing in front of a gale force wind! And he had the kindest, deepest blue eyes, like the sky.” She paused for a second, lost in the memory. “Anyway, they called me over…”
Chapter 3- A Golden Grizzly, Corrected Qbit
“Kaya, come here please and meet our guests.”
She walked in, shyly, from the kitchen and stood in front of her parents.
Her Mom said, “This is Professor Sattler and her associate Mr. Qbit.”
She gave them a short wave, “Hello.”
The professor smiled, waved back, and said, “Hi.” Qbit walked over to her, knelt on one knee, stuck his hand out and said, “Hello, Kaya, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
She stuck out hers and shook his. “Hello.”
He stood and asked her parents, “Is it okay if we all have a seat? It might make this a little more comfortable for everyone.”
Her Dad said, “Sure, please make yourselves at home.” He pointed to the two empty chairs facing the fireplace. The professor and Qbit sat in them, Kaya and her parents sat on the couch; Kaya was in the middle. There was an uncomfortable silence until Qbit broke the ice.
“Kaya, I’m going to be straight with you and not beat around the bush. I hear you’re a smart kid, so I think you’ll be open to what I’m about to say.”
“The professor and I are here today because we need your help.”
“Yes, we need you to convince an animal to come out of a cave.”
Kaya and her parents all raised their eyebrows in surprise and said, all at once, “Convince an animal? What kind of animal?”
Qbit looked at Kaya. “A Giant Golden Grizzly.”
“A Grizzly Bear?” gasped Kaya’s Mom.
“A Golden Grizzly,” corrected Qbit.
“The difference being, what?” asked Kaya.
“About five hundred additional pounds, give or take.”
Kaya’s parents both said, “Wait, what? You never said anything about that!”
Kaya, remaining calm, asked, “Are there any other differences?”
Qbit said, “Let me see. Oh, yeah, he has a wingspan of about twenty feet.” He spread his arms out wide and looked from fingertip to fingertip.
Kaya’s father shot up out of the couch and threw his hands to his head, “You’ve got to be kidding, right?! When you said she had to save an animal, I was picturing a cat up a tree not a bear!
Still looking at Kaya he said, “A Golden Grizzly.”
Kaya’s father started to pace. “I don’t care what color it is, there’s no way my daughter is going to have anything to do with a giant bear with wings! No way!”
Kaya’s mom shook her head in disbelief as her father continued to pace back and forth in front between Kaya and Qbit.
Weaving her head back and forth as her father repeatedly walked in front of her, she asked Qbit again, “Anything else?”
Qbit, moving in sync with Kayla, answered, “Umm, oh yeah, he’s hurt, in a leg, we think.” He turned to the professor, “Am I missing anything?”
She shook her head and rolled her eyes, “I think you’ve said enough.” She turned to Kaya’s parents, “There is another adult there with the same skills as Kaya. She’ll be watching over her at all times.”
“Why doesn’t she go in then?” asked her mom.
“Well, there’s, um, how should I put this? Uh, there’s trust issues between her and the bear.”
Her father stopped and said, in an angry voice, “For crying out loud, this just keeps getting better, doesn’t it?”
Looking Qbit in the eye she said, “I’ll do it.”
“What!” cried both her parents at the same time.
She looked up at them. “I’ll do it.”
Her father was livid. “There’s no way my little girl is going in there (he pointed to the window) to get an injured flying giant uhh…!”
Qbit started. “Golden…”
The professor put her hand on Qbit’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze.
“No way!” yelled her father.
Kaya looked at him and said, “I’m not so little anymore Daddy, and besides, he needs my help.”
“She’ll be fine.” Qbit said reassuringly.
Kaya looked at the floor and said, timidly, “However, I think there may be one problem.”
“Only one!” cried her father.
“What’s that honey?” asked her mom.
“I’m pretty sure I can’t talk to animals. I know I’m supposed to, but I don’t think I can, really!”
Qbit checked his watch then added, “Sure, you can, you just don’t know it, yet. But we’ll have to explain that later. We need to get going.”
“Now?” Kaya was suddenly very nervous. “I can’t go now, I’m not ready! I have uh, uh, homework to do then the dishes, then it’s bedtime, it’s a school night!”
“It’s one o’clock in the afternoon!” said Qbit, walking towards the door, “We’ll be back before you know it.” He opened it and went outside.
Kaya looked over at the professor for some support.
She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Sorry, but he’s right, for once.”
Kaya dropped her shoulders and glanced at her parents then back to the professor, “Can they come?” She looked back at her parents, “You’re coming, right?”
They, in turn, looked at the professor.
“Sure, they can but only as far as the gate though, not through.”
“Gate?” asked Kaya.
Qbit stuck his head back inside. “Yes, a gate. Come on let’s go! Times a wastin’”