With the heartfelt agreement of the rest of the authors
February 23, 2007 (in reality, July 7, 2011)
She stepped into the Admin offices. It felt so strange to think that this was the last time she’d walk in here. She walked past James and gave him a smile.
He waved with his left hand, while he tried not to drop the stack of papers he had in his right arm. He frowned, “Do you really have to go? We like having you around here.”
She knew he meant that he liked seeing her. She gave him a smile and managed not to tear up. “Sorry, but life is change. I can’t stay. Something important’s come up.” She changed the subject. “Is Ms. Hartford in?”
He nodded. “She was working in the server room, but she should be back in a matter of s-”
“James! Where’s my coffee?” someone bellowed from the hallway.
“Umm, she’s here now,” he finished.
She headed for the uproar. Amelia Hartford was peeling off an anti-static glove and storming toward her desk when she looked up. She suddenly looked surprised. Amelia sounded almost shy as she murmured, “Oh! I didn’t think you’d have time to drop by before you had to leave.”
She waved the dreaded Heartless over to an empty conference room and shut the door behind her. She said, “After all the time we spent putting together the new intranet, you’d think I’d just leave without saying bye?” She hugged the younger woman.
Amelia glanced at the door to make sure no one was looking, and then she returned the hug. “We’re really going to miss you around here.”
She said, “Don’t worry. Paige is a lot better than I expected, and she learns fast. She’ll give you all the help you need.”
Amelia frowned, “Maybe. You out-coded Codemaster. Twice. I think it’s going to be a while before Paige is ready for that.”
She laughed lightly. “But I had decades of experience before I even taught Nathaniel, and it was a few years after that before he really went officially supervillain. And I recognized his work. That made it easier.”
Amelia shook her head, “Call it what you want. You still did what even Haxxor couldn’t.”
She smiled, “And look, I want you to stop pretending to be this hardass who can’t ever be nice to anyone.”
Amelia glanced again at the door, making sure no one would overhear. “I have a job to do. And just because we get along doesn’t mean I’m really a nice person.”
She tossed her long blonde hair over her shoulder. “I still think it was a mistake.”
Amelia changed the subject. “Look, Liz is in her office with no meetings for…” She pulled out a PDA and slid her fingers over the touchscreen. “…seven point six minutes. Go tell her good bye.”
She nodded. “Will do. And you take better care of yourself. Stop alienating everyone who could help you.”
She slipped out of the conference room and strolled over to the office of the headmistress. “Liz? Got a second?”
Elizabeth Carson beamed at her. “For you? Naturally. I don’t have to join the Trustees’ conference call until two. And if I’m a minute late, I won’t get too much grief.”
She walked around the desk and gave Liz a hug too. Unlike Amelia, Liz wasn’t afraid to show a little emotion.
Elizabeth said, “I’m going to miss you. You’ve done so much for us. The computer grants, the intranet, the theater, getting Amelia to lighten up…”
She laughed at that.
Elizabeth hugged her once more. “Seriously, none of us wants you to go. Even Dramatic wants you to stay, and you know he always complains about everyone else.”
She grinned, “If he was like me, I’d say he was a ‘drama queen’ but…”
Elizabeth sighed, “I know. I wish you could stay, but all things come to an end, sooner or later.”
“Except you,” she smirked. “You’re always the same.”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “That’s not always an advantage.”
“I know what you mean.”
Elizabeth looked at a clock and groaned. “I hate to toss you out, but time and tide and Trustees wait for no man.”
She got one more hug, and then hurried out before she burst into tears. She’d promised herself she was not going to cry today. At least not until she was outside the boundaries of the school and no one could see her break down.
She walked out of Shuster Hall to find three of her actors looking for her. Lily, Ron, and Brenda. Lily was dragging her boyfriend Hank along.
She smiled at them. She noticed that Hank looked fairly reluctant to be dragged into this, but she knew he was one of the stronger PK bricks on campus: if he really didn’t want to come, there was no way on earth Lily could drag him here against his will.
Ron asked, “Do you really have to go?”
Brenda sighed, “We’ll never be able to make everything work without you! We need you to stay!”
Lily quietly said, “We’ll really miss you.”
She smiled at them. They were so young. So… themselves. Ron was always the macho character, except when he was onstage. Brenda was overly dramatic, unless she was in a role that called for subtlety. And Lily wasn’t as desperately shy as she had been when she came to Whateley, but she was still very much a wallflower unless she was storming across a stage. Even though she looked like she was in her twenties, she could hardly remember back when she had been a fifteen year old.
Hank stepped forward. “Before you go, Lily got some of us to help her with a little something. Could you drive past the theater on your way out?”
She smiled, “Sure.” He turned and flew off toward the theater.
She looked at her drama students and said, “And I want all of you to promise to listen to Dramatic, even when he gets… a little carried away.”
All three nodded. Lily gave her a tiny nod, while Brenda gave her an exorbitant one.
She hopped into her brand new, cherry-red Bugatti and slipped on her sunglasses. She adjusted her scarf. It was a going-away gift from Elizabeth, and was hand-painted silk.
She took a slight detour so she could drive past the theater. The first thing she saw was Chaka, standing holding a small wooden sign. The old sign for the theater was floating into the air, as Fey waved her hands gracefully. Chaka took the sign, visibly centered herself, and thrust downward. The signposts slid into the ground as easily as toothpicks into warm butter.
Then she saw the front of the theater. Where the old sign over the double doors had once hung, there was a new sign going up. Lancer and Tennyo held each end of it, while Generator floated in the air forty feet back, making sure it was level. Then Phase flew up to the sign and slid half a dozen bolts into the wall, securing it in place. Meanwhile, Bladedancer was trimming back the shrubs on either side of the entry, so the sign would be clearly visible for years.
She couldn’t help sobbing as she read the signs. They both said:
Jennifer Stevens Playhouse
Jen smiled, even as the tears streamed down behind her sunglasses. She turned the wheel and headed out of Whateley Academy. She couldn’t stay any longer. It was time to move on to the next great adventure.