Monday, December 13, 2010
Part 14: "The Girl Who Loved Dragon Ball"
Andrew slowed down as he neared the other children wading into the water near the shore, unsure of what to say or how to join in a game he definitely didn't understand. He watched the sparkling ball about the size of a kickball, which resembled a shiny pearl being butted back and forth between the gularisses and the humans. Even Showa, the koi-like gulariss that had seemed so shy before was caught up in the excitement. He butted it to his caudal fin and then slapped it high into the air, spinning so fast all of the water that flew off rained down like a sudden shower.
Finally he couldn't hold it in. He really wanted for once to join in on something.
"Viola!" He called out loudly, cupping his hands to be heard over their cheering.
The purple gulariss turned her head towards him, bounding over excitedly, "Hey Everybody! Andrew's here!"
All eyes turned on him and he suddenly felt very exposed. What if they made fun of him? It wasn't his fault he had never heard of dragon ball. Was it like soccer? But he didn't see any goals anywhere. And what if he wasn't any good at it? Would they laugh at him? He had never been so good in his gym class for that very reason. He was never as good as the other kids, and he always ended up being picked as one of the last kids to join a team. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. He backed away, ready to run back and eat his steak.
That was until she approached him. He stopped dead in his tracks as a lanky girl came running at him carrying the mysterious dragon ball under her arm, her red hair soaked and sticking against her scalp. She grinned and held out a hand to him, "Hi there, name's Aubrey. I've heard a lot about you, Andrew!"
She had? Andrew's breath caught in his throat. He knew he was supposed to say something, but the words wouldn't come out, no matter how wide he opened his mouth. He supposed he looked like a frog and shut it, swallowing. Even though she looked his age, she had a sporty air about her, mainly from her one-piece swimming suit, the kind you'd wear on a school swim team. It was even emblazoned with a letter "W" which he supposed was short for the name of her school, whatever it was.
"What's the matter? Gnome stole your tongue?" She asked with a chuckle withdrawing her hand when he didn't shake it. That didn't seem to phase her at all. She was observing him the way a curious kitten might.
Andrew bit his accidentally when he tried to talk and blushed brightly. Geez, what was the matter with him? She was just a girl. He felt even more embarassed in the silence that followed. What could he say now to even recover?
"You... what?" She asked, cocking her head to one side.
"Want to play," he said finally, standing tall, his chest puffing out a bit.
She laughed but not in the unkind way he had dreaded. "I love dragon ball. I've been playing it since I was knee-high to a bug's ear!" She exclaimed.
Andrew looked confused as if she had just spoken a foreign language.
"Oh, this is probably you're first time, yeah?" She said, trying to read his confused facial expression.
"Yeah," he said softly, his cheeks turning bright red.
"Alright then, you can go first," she said, and before he knew it he found himself holding the dragon ball. It was light and filled with something. He shook it. Some kind of liquid? The surface reminded him of a filled plastic bag but it was rubbery when he squeezed it. All sorts of pearlescent colors covered the surface. It also glowed even though there was no light out to illuminate it.
"How do you score?" he asked, gathering more courage.
"Score?" Now it was her turn to look confused.
"What's going on?" Her little brother shouted. "C'mon, throw the ball! I wanna play."
"Hold your horses, Mikey!" She shouted back.
"I don't even know the rules," Andrew protested quietly, hoping the others wouldn't overhear.
Aubrey laughed again. She was awfully loud. What did he say anyway?
"There aren't any rules to dragon ball, silly," she said, "At least not any permanent ones."
"Then how do you know when you win?" Andrew asked.
"Everyone wins!" She exclaimed, "That's the best part. Dragon Ball is all about fun! Once you get that, then you got it. Got it?"
He started to nod but then shook his head. He didn't know what he was saying and he couldn't understand what she was trying to say either. His head was starting to hurt from thinking too hard. Steak was sounding better every moment.
"The only way to learn is to play!" She encouraged, "Give it a try!"
Andrew stared at her and then at the ball.
"Go on! Toss it up and give it a good headbutt!"
He stared at the ball again. What if it hurt? It was pretty soft though. He supposed it really couldn't hurt if he was careful. He bounced it a bit in his hands, surprised at how bouncy it was, almost like those super bouncy balls they couldn't have in school anymore, although this ball was pliable, almost like dough, squishing as it made contact with his hands. With one last fling it went higher into the air. His heart beat quickly as he scrambled to get under it in time. He wasn't going to let it hit the ground and make him look clumsy!
At the last second he leapt up and it bounced perfectly off his forehead singing into the air, whooshing higher than anything he had ever headbutted before. He stood there with his jaw wide open as his heart fluttered. The cheers of the others surrounded him as they all came over, everyone scrambling to get at the ball. Without another word he suddenly understood everything there was to know in a rush of emotion. He had to do that again!
He chased after them, squealing as they all scrambled to be the next one to hit the ball.
Andrew had even more fun with the other children in that game than he had with TJ that whole day. In fact, for the first time, he felt like he was part of a group. Aubrey tossed the ball to him nearly every time she got it. And her little brother Mikey was clearly impressed with his prowess at the game, calling him a natural! Image that! Andrew, a natural! He was finally good at a sport - and best of all, he was having fun doing it.
* * *
The children played for another hour until Andrew finally remembered that he was starving and they all took a break to eat.
Andrew had never eaten so much in life. He had to try one of everything. The kabobs were juicy, prepared with fresh fruits and veggies that melted in his mouth. And the steak! What a steak! Drool dribbled down his cheeks as he practically wolfed it down. He downed a glass of Aunt Jenna's lemonade to finish it off and leaned back against the tree they had all gathered under, watching the moonlight reflect off the lake's waves. Aubrey had invited him to sit next to her and she was leaning up against the other side of the tree now, sighing after completely cleaning her plate. Everyone was quiet now, each person eating or resting. Even the adult's chatter had died down. Andrew rubbed his belly. He'd be sorry he ate so much later, but for now things couldn't get any better than this.
He shifted, but winced when he realized he had nearly sat on the large magical pearl in his pocket. He nearly pulled it out to show Aubrey and her little brother Mikey, but stopped, leaving his hand inside his pocket. No, he couldn't show anybody. He had promised Duke he would keep it secret. He reached his hand into the silk pouch and let his fingers feel the smooth surface of the pearl. Tomorrow he would have to try it out to see if what Duke said was true about it allowing its user to command any water surrounding him. He could have a lot of fun with that. He only wished he could show his new friends. Maybe they would like him even more?
* * *
A little later, as everyone finished eating and the adults began to clean up, Aunt Jenna practically had to drag him towards the farmhouse. Andrew protested fiercely, wanting to play more dragon ball.
"Oh no, I've let you stay up far too late tonight," she said, "It's time to go to bed."
"But I don't wanna say goodbye," Andrew whined, "I just met everyone."
"Don't worry, they won't be leaving until next Saturday," Jenna replied, "You'll have plenty of time to play between now and then."
In seconds Andrew had the biggest grin imaginable on his face. It stayed with him all night, even as he slept.
Continue to Part 15?