Maybe, today, they could play Zerailn some more. They hadn’t played a lot, the last few months. She had been bogged down with school stuff recently, especially with college starting in the fall. Her mom had urged her to start applying for a lot of scholarships, and to try to get into an art college. Ash had been on more than her, but still had a similar problem. He needed to work on school, college, and whatever else he had been working on. He still hadn’t told her what his big project was.
The piercing sound of the bell intruded on Chyler’s thoughts. She gave a small sigh, closing the notebook which now had another page of absent-minded doodles in it. She shoved the notebook into her bag and zipped it shut. At least she was almost done with the day, only one class left after lunch, which was just starting.
The halls, as always, were filled with students, half of them heading to lunch, and the other half coming back from their own lunch break. The school apparently had enough students to justify splitting them up for two separate lunch blocks. It didn’t really matter to Chyler anymore, though. Since she and Jean were in the same lunch block this semester, and it was her last semester of high school.
Being a creature of habit, the gangly girl made her way into the back of the lunch room, toward the back tables. She sat down in the corner — not at the last table, but, still, one of the furthest from the doors. Her and Jean always sat here, for the past couple of years. She usually beat her friend by a couple of minutes, so she set out to pull her food out of her bag.
Just as she was taking the first bite out of her sandwich, Jean plopped down in the seat in front of her.
“Hey Chyler! Guess what!”
After a small sigh, the girl set her sandwich back down, onto the flattened brown paper bag.
“Um, you got invited to go on a cruise to Australia?” The words came with a bit of joking and a bit of sarcasm. They were followed by a diffident smile, Chyler now waiting for her friend to tell her what had happened.
“I got accepted into USC!”
Chyler’s face lit up, and she let out a loud “Oh my god, congratulations!” They’d both applied to the school near the same time, but her’s had come days earlier. They were concerned for a while that Jean wasn’t going to get into the school, but either way there was a bump in that road.
Chyler had received her letter of acceptance from CalArts over the weekend too, she just didn’t have the heart to tell her friend yet. Jean wasn’t much of an artist, so obviously she didn’t have much interest in going to CalArts.
Their conversation was interrupted by him. He was one of Jean’s best friends, but Chyler was growing to hate him a little more every day.
“Hey, I heard you got accepted to USC. I got my letter of acceptance too! Looks like we can all still be classmates in college!”
Chyler had to work to suppress a shudder. The thought of having him around for another four years could have made her throw up. While Jean was busy congratulating him, Chyler got busy packing up her mostly uneaten lunch.
“Hey, I think I’m gonna head to class a little early. I have a drawing I want to work on.” She had to fight to keep bitterness out of her tone, but with all the practice she’d been getting recently, it was a lot easier.
“Oh…Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow, then?”
Chyler was already walking away when she gave a small nod. She was sure Jean was going to notice her leaving every time he showed up, but for now it was something she didn’t want to worry about.
Her last block had moved by pretty quickly, but art always did for her; especially since she had to leave a few minutes early so she could pick her brother up from his kindergarten class. The halls were empty as she moved through them, minutes before school was out for everyone. It was a short time to her car.
The ride to her brother’s school was just as short. It was only a few blocks away, but with her schedule, her brother was always the last one to be picked up. Her parents had been busy with work for the last few months, and Chyler had started taking her brother to and from school, and had to wait to make sure the nanny arrived for her sister.
She went into the building, and Matias was up front, waiting for her with his teacher.
“Am I late? Sorry.” The words were kinda lame sounding, but it was too late to fix that. “Thank you for waiting with him.”
“It’s alright, Chyler. It is part of my job.” The teacher’s smile was the same kind every teacher had when they dealt with small kids. One that could ease anyone’s troubles. After another bashful thanks to the teacher, Chyler ushered her brother out to the car.
Matias almost immediately started explaining every aspect of his day to his sister. She listened to every word he said.
Finally home, Chyler was able to get some rest. Her parents had been home for about an hour, and they’d talked for a while, but she was stressed and wanted to rest, so the conversation was short-lived. Her computer made a small sound, telling her that someone had messaged her.
“Hey. You wanna play Zerailn? It’s been a long time since we’ve been there.”
“Alright, I’ll get on right now.”
Chyler gave a wide smile. Zerailn was the only place where she could actually interact with him. She moved to the VR designed chair and pulled the helmet over her head. A familiar whirr sounded in her ear.
“Choose your character.”