Had the driver taken a wrong turn? That would be hilarious. This was a limousine owned and operated by the Evarb Company and the driver took a wrong turn. No, Justin thought. It had to be simpler than that. But as Justin was thinking this, the car lurched forward. He retracted his head back into the vehicle and rolled up the window. They seemed to be driving right at the wall, as if they were going to crash into it. Justin peered out the tinted window. The wall extended forever down the grassy field. The green of the vegetation slightly reflected off of its metallic surface. It stood tall and strong as if it were some sort of monument, and yet the driver was still relentlessly heading toward it.
Then the unexpected happened. It opened. The lower section of it slid upward like a garage door and they drove through it. Justin looked out the back window to witness the door sliding back into place. The creases connecting with each other perfectly to give the illusion that it was still just part of the massive wall.
Justin also noticed that the wall turned at right angles on the end and continued in the direction they were going. It wasn't just a wall. It was more like a boundary around someone's property. Someone who didn't want outsiders to get in. Someone who would only allow the elite inside his protective box. That's when Justin knew his trip was over.
The vehicle stopped and Justin opened the door. A breeze of fresh air flew into the open limousine and he was so overpowered by it's odor that he had to sit back down and adjust to the change. Again he attempted to step out of the vehicle, this time succeeding. The sun shown down on everything, exaggerating colors and providing warmth. Justin looked around and was immediately struck by an immense white object that filled his view completely. When his eyes adjusted to the brilliance of the white, he realized that it was a house (actually more like some sort of mansion) . Pillars extended from the top of the steps to support a broad roof, which sheltered the stairs. They were made of marble and formed a type of balcony after the last step, extending back into the shadows and connecting with the base of the house. The whole thing reminded Justin of pictures he had seen of the East American capital.
The front door of the limousine opened up and the driver stepped out. He walked around the car to the back and opened the trunk, taking all of Justin's things out of it. The driver looked at Justin in an odd way, wondering why his passenger was just standing in one spot after being dropped off.
The driver opened his mouth ever so slightly and said, "excuse me, sir, but you can go inside."
Justin began to walk towards his suitcases, as if the words held the power to release Justin's feat from the ground. He picked one up and attempted to lift a second. The limousine driver walked over to Justin, obviously offering help. Justin let go of the suitcase and the driver picked it up. Then he bent down and lifted the third suitcase as well. Justin and the driver walked up the white, marble-like stairs to the front of the door. Once there, the driver deposited his share of the luggage and descended the stairs. He walked around the car to the driver's side, opened the door and got in. After the door closed, the engine of the vehicle started and the limousine drove around the back of the house.
Justin approached the large wooden doors and knocked three times. He stepped back and waited. After a while the door on the right slowly creaked open, revealing a tired looking man. He was dressed in a tuxedo-like ensemble with neat creases in all the right places. His shoes were extremely shiny, black loafers. It was his face, though, that drew the most attention.
The man looked extremely old. His skin seemed to have wrinkles everywhere and was very pale. Under his jaw it hung down in folds and swayed back and forth when he turned to look at Justin. That was when he got a good look at the old man's eyes. They were either extremely light blue and had an icy, penetrating effect to them. Justin took another step back.
"Are you Justin?" The old man hissed.
"Y-yes," Justin replied.
The old man stared at him for a second and then said, "fine. Get your luggage and come inside."
Justin did as instructed and retrieved all three of his suitcases. After he finished dragging them through the doorway the old man quickly shut the door. The harsh slam slowly echoed throughout the large room in which Justin found himself standing.
The floor, like the stairs outside, was marble and had been polished so that Justin saw his reflection stare back up at him. An elaborate staircase was positioned in the center of the floor and lead to a balcony-like level of the room. There were several chairs spaced evenly from each other against the wall. Each one was unique and yet still uniform with the surroundings. There were doors everywhere. Some were large like the two he had just come through and some were smaller but just as impressive. He found that the largest of the doors were two extremely tall ones in the back of the room, behind the staircase.
Justin just noticed that his mouth was open and he quickly shut it. The old, well-dressed man was walking back toward Justin and he didn't want to seem rude.
"Well," said the old man in his dusty whisper. "I suppose you have a lot of unpacking to do, don't you?"
"Yes," Justin agreed.
"Your room is up the staircase and all the way to the right."
"Thank you," Justin said as he grabbed a suitcase. "Could you help me with. . ."
But the old man had already walked away.
Half an hour later Justin finished pulling his last suitcase through his bedroom door, which, of course, was made of heavy, polished wood. His bedroom seemed to be very red. The carpet was dark red and extremely fluffy. The walls had red trim and the desks, though made of wood, looked as if they were stained red.
He knelt down and un-zipped one of his suitcases, which was filled with clothes. He brought the suitcase over to a massive closet only to discover that it was already full. Upon closer examination of the clothes already hanging up he realized that they were his size.
Just then, his bedroom door opened up and in its place stood a rather plump lady. She had gray, curly hair and small glasses that rode in front of smiling eyes. She had the beginning of a grin that she seemed to be unsuccessfully trying to hide. Justin couldn't help but smile at the contagiously merry, old woman in his door.
"You must be Justin," she beamed.
"That's right," he replied.
"Well," the lady stuck her hand out. "My name is Miss. Carten."
Justin shook her hand and said, "hello."
Now she smiled. "If you have any questions be sure to ask me."
"Okay." Justin paused and then said, "when's breakfast?"
Miss Carten looked taken aback. "What? You haven't eaten yet? Oh, you poor thing! Follow me and we'll see what we can scrounge up."
As Justin followed Miss Carten's waddling form out the door he decided that he liked her a lot.
After breakfast Justin was back in his room, unpacking. Miss Carten had gotten the cook to fix quite the meal for him. On his plate he had found eggs, bacon, sausage, grapes, a scone, and of course there was orange juice on the side.
Justin had discovered through Miss Carten that the old butler person who had met him at the door was named Mr. Neporae. Apparently he was always grumpy and shouldn't be minded too much. At least that was what she said.
In his room Justin had found another empty closet where he had hung all of his clothes. He took his shoes off and was again surprised by the fluffiness of the carpet. He could barely see his feet in it. He came across a pair of slippers in the corner of his room and put them on. As he had suspected they fit perfectly. He then dedicated the rest of the day to the exploration of the house.
By dinnertime Justin had become much better acquainted with his surroundings. He had gotten to the point where he could almost get from one place to another without getting lost. That was where Miss Carten had found him, in mid-expedition to the kitchen. She took it upon herself to lead the rest of the way. Justin didn't argue.
Dinner was just as good as breakfast and lunch had been. The main dish was some sort of roasted bird. Justin couldn't tell what is was, exactly, but it had been delicious – seasoned on the outside and inside and still juicy. This had posed a problem for him because the first bite of the leg he had picked out had sent juice everywhere except inside his mouth. The cook had commented that perhaps he had put too much seasoning in it.
And so Justin was now in his room, on his bed, trying to fall asleep. It was not going very well. He kept wondering when he would meet his father and what he would do tomorrow. He also marveled at how vacation-like the house was but wondered where his new school would be. That question was answered sooner than he had hoped.
Miss Carten bustled into Justin's room and said, "Oh, go to sleep, dear. You have a busy day tomorrow."
"What do you mean?" Justin asked.
"Well," she replied. "You've got a trip to your father's building in the afternoon and in the morning, of course, you will be tutored."
"Tutored?" Justin didn't like that word.
Miss Carten seemed to pick up on his reaction and changed her answer. "Er, privately schooled," she corrected.
"Oh," said Justin. "By who?"
"By me, of course. And that's whom, not who." She started to walk toward the door. "Now go to sleep. I've already set your alarm."
And with that she walked out the door.
Justin didn't know if he was relieved or sad about a private education. On the one hand he hadn't really wanted to try to fit in to a new school but, on the other hand, he had enjoyed school back home. Not the homework, of course. He didn't enjoy that. But just talking to other kids at lunch was something he wasn't going to have here.
But thoughts of school changed to thoughts of home, which slowly brought him to thoughts of his mother. But she was gone. Forever.
As he remembered her he started to get a tingly sensation behind his eyes. His mouth trembled. Then, for the first time since the funeral, he wept.
The alarm caught Justin completely off guard. He awoke with a start, looking for it unsuccessfully. It wasn't on the nightstand nor could he see it on any other flat surface in his room. He got up, not knowing what to do and then it finally turned off. He made a note to himself that he would have to ask Miss Carten where the alarm was hidden during breakfast.
As he walked toward his closet (the one with his suitcase clothes in it) he realized that hanging on the doorknob of the other closet was a set of extremely dressy garments. As he reached in for a T-shirt and some pants he silently made a wish that he would not be made to wear fancy clothes in the house.
Breakfast was, once again, very good. Miss Carten had revealed the secret location of the alarm and as it turned out it was right above his bed. Justin decided that he would have to see if he could change the alarm time or turn it off all together. He definitely wouldn't miss it terribly.
Right after breakfast Justin found himself in the library with Miss Carten. The library was an extremely large, old fashioned room – far more immense than the marble-floored lobby he had seen first. The library was an oval shape with the walls replaced by shelves of books going all the way up to the ceiling. There were three levels to the room but only the first floor was really a floor at all. The other two levels were merely outcroppings from the bookcases with railings on them. A continuous set of stairs led all the way up to the third level with a chance to get off at the second. Justin found that again his mouth was agape without his knowledge of opening it.
"Okay," Miss Carten piped. "Let's start with History, shall we?"
"All right," Justin agreed.
Miss Carten bobbed over to a plush, scarlet chair and sat down.
"What was the only, major event that happened exactly forty one years ago?"
Justin thought for a moment and then, realizing what the date was back then, replied, "West America declared it was seceding from East America."
Miss Carten smiled. "That's right. Only it wasn't West and East America back then was it?"
"No," he agreed.
"What was it?"
"The United States of America." Justin paused. "I think."
"No, that's right," she said. "Do you know why they separated?"
"No," Justin admitted.
"Well, let's find out. Look up History of the Americas, part one."
And so began Justin's private education.
At exactly three forty-five his schooling stopped. It had basically been a whole bunch of verbal pre-tests to see what Justin knew. He had done fine in Math, Science, Reading, and English but he found that the sections that Miss Carten had covered in History were quite new to him. Justin realized that a lot of the details of West America's past had never been taught to him before. Had his teachers back in Connecticut not bothered? Or had they been instructed not to talk about West America? Come to think of it, Justin had not heard too much about this country from anyone. Even in school there was not much talk about this place. It was almost as if West America was taboo.
At this time Justin was about to put his foot on the first step of the staircase when Miss Carten said, "be back down stairs by four o'clock, dear. You don't want to be late to your father."
Justin had almost forgotten about his scheduled trip today.
"All right," he called back.
"And be sure to wear the clothes I picked out for you, okay?"
"All right," he said with a marked lack of enthusiasm.
Once Justin entered his room he spent a good deal of time scowling at the clothes on the closet door. He had never been particularly fond of dress clothes and these were the dressiest specimens he had ever seen.
He picked the coat hanger up and off of the doorknob. On it hung a pair of dress pants, a button down, long sleeve shirt, and a vest.
"Well, at least I don't need to wear a tie," Justin said.
And then, as if given a cue from somewhere within the clothes, a black bow tie fell to the floor. Justin groaned.
After he had gotten dressed and remarked on how he fit in with the rest of the house, Justin walked reluctantly down the stairs. He was then directed outside and led into a very large, dark room where he was instructed to wait.
Justin tried to look around but there was no light and he soon gave up. After a while he could hear the clicking of a door handle somewhere to his left and he turned toward the sound. Several yards away a door opened, streaming a narrow shaft of light into the room. Justin could make out the silhouette of a man against the opening. The shadow turned and hit something on the wall. Just then the ceiling gave a loud, mechanical moan and a bright line of sky could be seen all the way from one end of the ceiling to the other. Justin could see by the length of the line that this was a very large room indeed. The thin length of sky began to widen and, as more light was let into the building, Justin was able to take in his surroundings for the first time.
First of all the ceiling was very high up and was slowly receding away from the center line on both sides. The room was a bit smaller than the library, which was strange for as far as Justin could tell, only one thing was stored in the building.
At first it had been hard to tell what it was. The light from the sky and the door had only illuminated small parts of what was obviously a rather large machine. However, as the ceiling was pulled farther from the center it became obvious.
A helicopter stood in the center of the room and the man who had opened the door was now sitting inside of the craft, motioning for Justin to join him.
As soon as Justin had shut the door and was sitting down, the pilot gave him a very large headset with a small microphone on one side. Justin put it on and found that he could hear nothing but the rush of blood past his ears.
"Put your seat belt on, please."
Justin looked at the pilot who was staring straight ahead but was also adjusting the microphone so it was in front of his mouth. Justin buckled up and then did the same with his microphone.
Justin was looking out the window when, all of a sudden, the helicopter shuddered and the propeller began to rotate. Justin began to wonder just how enjoyable this trip would be. After all he had almost thrown up on the plane. But he found that his stomach was very inactive when the helicopter rose from the ground. As they flew away from the building Justin could see the ceiling slowly slide back into place.
About one half hour later Justin found himself at the main lobby of the Evarb Production Plant. In contrast to his father's house, which was markedly old-fashioned, this place simply teamed with technology. Also, unlike the recurring theme of red back home, the Production Plant boasted floors, walls, and ceilings of brilliant white.
As Justin was led down an extremely long hallway he came to notice that there were very few offices in the building. He didn't find it odd, although the lack of visible employees had gone against what he had pictured in his mind.
At the end of the long hallway was a single door, which they now stood in front of. It was very obvious that on the other side of the door was his father's office. However, Justin was hesitant; until now his father had existed only as a picture from the promotional video in the limousine. Justin had spent two days imagining what his father would be like. He wasn't sure if he wanted to allow his father to exist as a person yet. He was much more comfortable with his imagined parent than with the person inside the office.
Besides, what if the video he had seen in the limousine was decades old? What if his father was as old as Mr. Neporae? What was Justin supposed to say? Should he give his father a hug? Should he shake his hand? Or would he stand in the doorway like an idiot? Somehow, of all the choices, Justin felt that he would be doing the latter.
Justin hadn't had any time to think about these things before. Everything had been so new to him that he had spent all of his time gawking at the hallway and the lobby. The whole situation was bound to be awkward. Justin had never met his father before. He had never formed a bond. Justin felt as though he were going to meet a stranger. But that was what he was going to meet – someone that he had never before seen, touched, or heard.
The pilot pushed the door open and Justin stepped inside.
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