Generation 5 Chapters

Chapter 6.35

Charlie

We finally arrived at the temple and Dr. Day gave us an excavation briefing.

“Isn’t this amazing?” Susan asked me, grinning.

And yeah, the surroundings were beautiful but it wasn’t like this was a real temple. It was a tourist trap like Simsneyland. I mean, come ON! We were going to be archaeologists. How come we couldn’t dig in a real temple?

I had to admit I liked seeing this side of Dr. Day. He was so happy–almost beaming. It made him even more handsome to me. You could really tell he was at home here in the jungle.

But I just wasn’t enthused. I didn’t want to play archeaologist. I wanted to DISCOVER!

“Okay, everyone. There’s two dig spots and some discovery tables. Once you find an object, use the techniques we’ve gone over to figure out when your object was created and from what culture it is. You will be graded on this, so do your best.”

All my classmates went straight to work. I just couldn’t force myself to dig in something that had been prepared in advanced. It was like we were cheating.

“Come on, Charlie,” Susan said, rifling through the dirt. “Start digging! This is for our grade, you know.”

I sighed. God, this was sooooo annoying. Now I knew how it felt to die of boredom. It was a real thing.

“Hey, look. There’s a Charlie spot right next to me. Come on!” Susan patted the ground near her.

I shook my head and instead, decided to plead my case to Dr. Deathday. “Honestly, Dr. Day, do you see what a real lame waste of time this is? We could be discovering the secret passage of the Spiritual Transformation archway, but no. You have us digging in the dirt like a bunch of kids on a science field trip.”

Never glancing up, he said, “First of all, that passage doesn’t exist. It’s been proven. And secondly, you’ve got to walk before you can run, Miss Darby. Learn the techniques first THEN use them in a field situation.”

Ugh. He wouldn’t listen. I guessed I was doomed to do menial tasks instead of real exploration.

Dr. Day’s warning came true. We worked our asses off all day and into the night. My back ached but he said we couldn’t stop until all the artifacts were found. It was a monotonous cycle of digging, finding an item, then taking it to the table.

Eli picked out the most interesting artifact–a wooden llama sun god. Dang it. I wanted to find something cool like that. All I got were a few totem dolls and a coin.

Stretching my legs, I spied a weird glow off in the distance. My heart skipped as a twinge rippled through me. “What is that?” I whispered.

The twinkle grew bigger and bigger, hovering over the jungle. Could this be the celestial sign of enlightenment that aliensrreal.com was talking about? It happened once in fifty years but if you were lucky enough to see it, the glow would lead you directly to the archway.

I had no time to lose. Bolting to the outside, my heart beat so hard, it hurt.

But as I ran ahead, the glow seemed to sprint away from me. Damn!

And then it petered out the more I chased it. But I wasn’t going to give up. It’d showed itself! That part I knew was real. And I observed about where it had been or at least the area to search.

Meandering through the forest, the jungle took on a creepy dark tone which made the hair on my arms tighten. But I wouldn’t be disuaded by fear. Sure there were deadly things living in the dark at night. I just needed to focus on my quest.

And then I gasped as my heart lurched into my throat.

“It IS real,” I whispered.

Liam

“Okay, folks, it’s time to go back to our villa for the night.” I searched around, counting heads. I noticed one student missing. “Has anyone seen Charlene?”

Zane waved his arms. “The only thing I’ve been seeing are these freaking mosquitos!”

Walking over to her best friend, I asked, “Susan, have you seen Charlene?”

Wincing, she said, “Um…er…I thought she had to go to the bathroom really bad because I saw her run to the front but she hasn’t come back. Maybe she had to take a dump?”

I crossed my arms. She’d been blabbing about that fabled archway all day. I couldn’t understand how a smart, science minded girl like her could believe in fairytales like the Spiritual Transformation archway. It purportedly transported you to an ancient temple full of artifacts. But where was the evidence? Blurry pictures that looked faked were the only supposed “facts” the lunatics who talked about it could produce. The morons even purported there was a genie living in the depths. I mean, really? That was kid’s stuff like in the story of Simladdin. And now she’s probably gotten herself lost in the dark jungle. There were poisonous snakes and alligators out there. “Damn it,” I cursed. “I’ll go find her.”

My students insisted on accompanying me. I didn’t mind. It was best we stayed together.

Just as we were about to leave, I spied Charlene blasting toward us.

I stopped her, throwing my hands on my hips, I was so angry. “Where the hell have you been? Do you realize it’s dangerous in the jungle at night?”

Breathing hard, she said, “You’ve got to come with me, Dr. Day. I found it. The archway! It’s real!”

I folded my arms. This was unbelievable. “The archway is not real. And I’d appreciate it if you would follow the rules, Miss Darby. I’m responsible for your well being and until we leave at the end of the week, you will ask me if you can go somewhere. Understand?”

She lifted her hands. “Okay, I get it, Dr. Day. I screwed up but I saw a huge light and then I had to discover it for myself. Honest to God, I’m not joking. Come with me! It’s amazing!”

I pointed. “The only place you’re going is to the villa. Now march. And I better not hear anything more about this ridiculous archway or I’m going to send you home and you will fail my class. Is that understood?”

Her nostrils flared. “Oh my God, you’re impossible! Fine. Fail me! See if I care! But I’m going through the archway with or without you, asshole!”

Before I could stop her, she bolted toward one of our jungle carts. I chased after her, hoping I could beat her to it.

But she was too quick.

“Be careful, Dr. Day!” I heard one of my students shouting after me.

In a moment of insanity, I flung my body onto the cart, hoping to stop her, but she floored it. “Stop, Charlene!” I cried. “This is dangerous!”

“Go to hell!” she yelled back.

And so I was stuck on the top of that cart, clinging for my life and hoping she wouldn’t crash.

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Chapter 6.34

Charlie

Dr. Day was going over all the stuff everyone needed to take for the expedition. And with each word, I felt stupid and totally left out.

“God, I’m so angry with him, Charlie,” Susan whispered. “He can’t ban you from the expedition. You’ve got the highest grade in the frikin class.”

I sighed. “It’s my own fault, Suz. Don’t blame him.”

“Well, I do blame him. He’s going to get the cold shoulder by me all week. I don’t want to be in the jungles without you.”

“At least you’ve got your boyfriend to hang out with,” I said with a shrug. Susan hooked up with one of our classmates, Thomas Winkerstein, a few weeks ago. I had to admit, they were the cutest together. So, really, she was just being nice. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll be working on some research papers and besides, who wants to end up with spider bites and mosquito welts? Not me.”

“Maybe I’ll talk to him. Beg him or something.”

“That won’t work,” I said, shaking my head.

“Why not?”

“Because he’s an asshole, Susan, and I don’t want him to take it out on you!”

“Asshole, huh?” Dr. Day was standing right behind me!

I winced. Oh God, why do you hate me?

So here I sat yet again staring at the coldest stare on the planet. Dr. Deathday should patent it for the army. It’d be their secret weapon!

“I uh…can explain. I…wasn’t…er…” but my tongue got all tangled up in my mouth. I hated lying.

He raised his eyebrows. I could see a slight smile rise on the corner of his mouth. He ENJOYED making me squirm, the jerk!

“Okay, okay,” I confessed, “I admit it. I called you an asshole. But can you blame me? You’re leaving me out of the expedition, something I’ve been looking forward to practically my whole life! And I’ve worked my tail off trying to do my best in this class but that’s not good enough for you! So I’ll sit home while you’re gallavanting across the globe, finding cool stuff and having the time of your archaeological life.”

“Are you finished with your tirade because I don’t want any emotional baggage or hard feelings against me once you reach Selvadorada.”

I blinked. “What the hell are you talking about?”

With a cocky grin, he answered, “Pack your bags, Miss Darby. You’ve got a long plane ride in your future.”

All of the angst I had been feeling earlier melted away. “Really? Oh my GOD! Thank you, Dr. Day!”

And for the first time in the history of me taking his class, I saw Dr. Day SMILE!

*****

Liam

Something happened to me right after I’d had that strange dream about Ginny. It was like a huge weight lifted off me. I was free. Free from the burden of my hurt and anger against the world for all the awful things that had gone wrong in my life. Dream Ginny was right. I had to let go. If I didn’t, I’d be miserable forever.

And the first thing I did was allow Charlene to go on the expedition. It was true. I was being an ass. So she messed up from time to time. She was the brightest student in my class. Charlene deserved to be there.

Once we arrived at our villa, I breathed in the muggy jungle air. I loved Selvadorada. I’d done my first real excavation there. And it brought back great memories of my own research.

“Hey, this is a cool place, Dr. D!” Reynold said.

It definitely was. I’d booked this place last year since it got so many great reviews on SipAdvisor.

Breathing in the sweet scent of plumeria drifting through the humid air, I led my students to the door. This was going to be an awesome trip. Probably the best one I’d done for my students to date. I could feel it in my gut.

Charlie

Selvadorada was even more beautiful than I could ever have imagined. Huge palms, tons of flowers, and green as far as the eye could see. I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven.

Susan was flirting with her boyfriend beside me. Looked like I was going to ride solo on my quest for the secret passage of the Spiritual Transformation archway. But no matter. I wasn’t sure if Susan believed in it or not.

All the rooms had names and mine happened to be Simdiana Sones! What a sign!

Was God trying to tell me that I was definitely going to discover that archway? According to aliensrreal.com, it was usually observed around this time of the year, during a full moon and around dusk.

I was determined to find it, take pictures, and prove its existence once and for all! It wasn’t going to go the way of Simsquatch or the Sloch Sness Monster.

Dr. Day wanted to show us our campsite today. We were just going to hike around, getting to know the area. Then travel up to a temple where we’d get to use our digging techniques.

Putting on my fedora, tingles crept along my arms.

I soooo looked the part, didn’t I?

“Selvadoradan legends can’t outwit me,” I declared to the mirror. “I’m coming for ya!”

By lunchtime, we arrived at the camp. And even though we’d walked miles, I felt so fresh like I could walk ten more!

“Okay, guys,” Dr. Day said, “let’s make a fire and eat. Then I’ll go over some of our digging techniques to refresh your memories. We’ll be excavating all afternoon and into the night, so you need to eat as much as you can now because we’ll only be snacking later.”

Snacking? Who needed food when the surroundings were a feast for the eyes?

“Want me to cook you a veggie dog, babe?” Thomas asked Susan. Aww…he was so sweet!

“Now make sure you cover yourself in insect repellant. The mosquitos are vicious here.”


“Thanks for telling us that now, Dr. D,” Eli said. “My ass is covered in red welts.”

“Oh my God! Did you see that? Was that a SNAKE?” Flynn might look like a cool cat on the outside, but he was really just a timid Mama’s boy. I had no idea how he was going to make it this week.

“Yes, there are snakes here,” Dr. Day said, nodding. “And bats. But if we stick together, these wild animals won’t hurt you. Believe me, they’re more scared of you than you are of them. A good rule of thumb is ‘don’t touch’.”

“Don’t worry, Dr. D,” Reynold said. “The only thing I’m going to touch is my sandwich. I’m starving!”

After we ate, my classmates built a roaring fire, using survival techniques.

But I didn’t want to join in. I had some investigating to do.

And I couldn’t do that just by standing around.

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Chapter 6.33

Zack

I was meeting up with my best friend, Reed Savage. We were photography majors together and became fast friends our sophomore year. My life goal was to get into the modeling industry. With my family’s connections, I figured it wouldn’t be hard. At least I’d be on the right side of the camera. No fame for me. Dad had enough all on his own and both Liam and I dodged the spotlight no matter how much the press wanted to drag us in.

Reed was a beautiful man and made the best model when I needed someone in a pinch.

“Let’s get this over with,” Reed said with a salty tone.

What was with the mood? I’d ask him later. Right now, I had a project to turn in, so I snapped tons of pictures while Reed did what Reed does best.

And that’s making love to the camera.

“Can you give me ‘The Classic’? I always get A’s when you do it.”

Reed relaxed and looked all pouty.

I shot him a thumbs up. “That’s it! Did I tell you that I love you today?”

“No, darling, but I’ll take whatever sweet nothings you can give me.” We always bantered like that. He was totally gay and I was totally not but from the outside, people probably would think we were a couple.

“Scroll to the right. That’s it,” Reed said looking through the pics I took. “I think that’s the one.” He had an eye for just the right shot to use. I was damn lucky to have him help me out.

“Thanks, dude. I owe you one,” I said.

He retorted, “I’ll make you pay…in bed, darling. Can I stay over tonight?”

I shot him a look. “Only if you want to get racked. That spot is reserved for Myla.”

“Testy,” he tutted. “But seriously, Zack. I need a place to stay. If not tonight at least by tomorrow?”

Ah…the reason for the salt. As the sun set, we walked over to one of the park couches. He relayed to me his latest tussle with his on again off again boyfriend, Jonas Hoffman. Seems they got into a fight about Reed being late to a movie date and Jonas went all diva on him. So instead of cooling off and making up, Jonas found another dude and went with him. Reed found them making out in their apartment later that evening. “What a douche,” I said. “I told you to leave his ass weeks ago.”

“You’re always right. I should have but…he has a super power over me. I’m pathetic. I should be able to find an apartment this week. Just need to use one of your many rooms, if your brother doesn’t mind.”

God. My brother. He didn’t like Reed. Not because he was gay but Reed could get on your nerves. He was loud and sometimes obnoxious and he’d needle Liam on purpose always flirting and saying inappropriate shit just to get a rise out of him. “I don’t know, dude. I can’t speak for my brother.”

“I’ll be on my best behavior. I promise!”

“Still…how about you come over tomorrow morning. It’s Saturday and Liam will probably be in a good mood since he doesn’t have to deal with work. That’s your best bet.”

“I’ll be there with bells on,” Reed sang.

I smirked. “Forget the bells, dude. The less flash the better.”

Reed

Liam August Day was the most beautiful specimen I’d ever beheld. I’d had a crush on him since I first met him two years ago. But the poor boy was decidedly straight. Why were most of the men in the world wasted on women? It was criminal.

“Hello, Reed,” Liam greeted me. Oh what luck! He was happy. Or so it seemed. That smile! I could live on that alone for days!

He held out his hand and I took it, trying to quell the urge to kiss it. The guy had the most beautiful fingers. So well kept and manicured. Just like everything about him.

“Zack should be out in a minute,” he added. “I made some lunch. Do you like vegan Monte Cristo? It’s hot and there’s plenty.”

No. You’re hot, sweetheart, I wanted to say. But I had to play it cool or Liam would get mad at me.

Swinging my head back, I said, “I adore vegan sandwiches. You do spoil me, Liam. I think I’ll want to live here forever!”

“So he said yes?” Zack entered the kitchen. Goodness. Cat out of the bag and I hadn’t had the chance to ask him yet.

“What are you talking about, Zack?” Liam asked. “Yes to what?”

Zack answered, “Reed needs a place to stay. Just for the week. No longer.”

“Do say yes, Liam,” I cooed, flashing my pretty-please-with-whipped-cream-on-top eyes. “I promise to be on my best behavior. No tushie touches. No kisses in the night. And you won’t find me in your bed suddenly. Cross my heart!”

“I don’t know…” he cast his eyes downward.

“Please, Liam, I’ll be serious now. I have nowhere to go. Jonas is being a royal ass and he won’t leave.”

He flung his head up with a grin. “Of course you can stay, Reed. You really didn’t have to ask.”

What got into his oreos? Whatever it was, I’d take it! Liam rarely smiled and I knew he didn’t really like me but…maybe things had changed?

“Well…t-thank you,” I sputtered. “That’s so nice of you. Maybe just one kiss then as a downpayment?”

Ignoring my joke, Liam said, “Take the room upstairs on the left. It has the best view. And you can stay as long as you like. I’m going to be leaving for Selvadorada next week, so Zack will probably need the company.”

He patted my shoulder then strode away. Whistling!

Zack arched an eyebrow. “My God. If I hadn’t seen it I wouldn’t have believed it. Maybe your charms are working on him after all?”

I blushed. “They all melt in front of this pretty face eventually, Zacky boy. You might as well, too, then we can make it a threesome!”

“Keep dreaming, bud, keep dreaming.”

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Chapter 6.32

Liam

I was getting some research done on the new object one of my collegues discovered when Zack knocked on my office door at home. He walked up next to me and said, “Why are you being a royal dickhead to Charlie?”

Charlie? Oh, he meant Charlene. “Come on, Zack. You know I’m not supposed to talk about my students. That’s between me and her. And anyway, it’s not your problem.”

“It becomes my problem when I can’t see my girlfriend because she’s consoling her best friend since an evil professor took away her privileges to go on some expedition. An expedition that was going to help her find an old magical relic.”

“Oh please! That expedition is just for entry level students. We’re not going to find anything of significance. It’s just some old bones we placed in the sand and they use the dig techniques to find them. It’s really no big deal.”

“If it’s no big deal then let her go. I think you’ve been too hard on Charlie this whole semester. What gives? Do you like her or something?”

“Like her? Oh God, now you’re sounding like Mother. No. I don’t like her. She’s a student. A kid.” A strong pain pierced my temples. Charlene Darby was getting on my last nerve at this point. Who did she think she was talking to Myla and trying to needle me into letting her go through my brother?

He crossed his arms. “You need to figure it out. Letting her go on the expedition would make my life easier, Liam. The poor girl is beside herself crying and feeling like a total loser. And she wouldn’t belike this if you didn’t make her feel so badly about herself. This shit isn’t right.”

I shook my head. “Whatever, Zack. You don’t know what went down and how irresponsible she is. She’s a spoiled child. No. She’s not going. You can tell your girlfriend that you coming in here to pressure me didn’t work. Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to bed.”

I strode out the door to my room.

Fuming, I pulled my sheets back, worrying I wouldn’t be able to sleep. Today had been a nightmare already. I just wanted to fast forward to the next day and put it behind me.

It was times like these when I missed Ginny the most. I was so fucking lonely, it stabbed through me. Was I being too hard on Charlene? Why did I care how she acted so much?

I drifted off and suddenly found myself under water, gaping at a mermaid.

“Hello, babe.” The mermaid smiled at me.

It was Ginny!

Somehow I was flailing in the middle of the ocean and I could breathe. It was such a strange feeling. And exhilarating.

“I’ve got a bone to pick with you,” Ginny said. It was as if we were really in the air except the water felt cool and wet on my skin.

“Ginny!” was all I could get out. I wanted to hold her so badly.

Sweeping my arms around her, I tucked my face in her hair and neck, wanting to never let go.

“Ginny, honey, I’ve missed you so much.”

From there, we were catapulted onto a dock somehow. In the back of my mind, I knew this was a dream but it felt so real and so right, I never wanted to wake up.

Stroking Ginny’s hand, I said, “I’m so glad you’re here. Where have you been?”

“Liam, I need to say good bye. I can’t be with you anymore. Not ever. You have to let me go.”

Bewildered, sadness flooded me, then Ginny grasped my head, pulling me closer to her. She kissed me with such tenderness, I wanted to bring her home and make love to her.

Then she pulled back just as suddenly. “You’re being too hard on that girl, you know. Liam, I want you to be happy. Bring her on the expedition.”

So confused, my dream self wasn’t even a professor so I didn’t understand who she was talking about. “What, Ginny? You’re not making sense.”

But she didn’t say anything. Flopping into the water, creating a huge splash, I watched helplessly as she swam away from me.

Instantly, I woke with a start. “No, Ginny! Come back!” I whispered.

And right then, I realized it was all a dream. But inside I felt the conflict. And the message. I needed to move on. Ginny was never coming back. And maybe dream Ginny was right. Maybe I should give Charlene one more chance.

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Chapter 6.31

Charlie

Okay, study food was all set. Brownies? Check.

Popcorn? Popped.

Gotta amp up the study molecules swirling in my brain. The delicious chocolatey goodness of the brownies melted in my mouth. Mmm…I needed sustinence. I had an all nighter in my future. Dr. Day’s dreaded midterm was upon me, and I was DETERMINED to make not only an A but I wanted to blow it out of the ancient black sea.

I went over different things I’d found online about the subjects we’d studied all semester. I wanted to pull out some things maybe even Dr. Day didn’t know about. I was sure I could wow him on the essay part of the test.

Next was memorizing the text. I mean, I had a photographic memory and knew this stuff backwards and forwards, but it didn’t hurt to go over everything again. I was leaving NOTHING to chance.

I really got into the Selvadoradan part of the book. My mind whirred to what it was going to be like on our expedition. I already had my research part basically done. The only thing left for me to do was find the stinking archway. I knew it had to be buried deep in the jungle. Unfortunately, it was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

But I hoped differently. I came upon a study on the thermodynamics of the area and the ancient temples all had paths that led to each find. The temperatures of the soils were usually ten degrees hotter than the rest. They surmised there must have been an old hot springs underground and the ancients believed this to be a sign of great religious significance and built their structures accordingly. All I had to do was test the grounds or find a new hot springs in the area and voila!

Of course the mainstream archaeologists didn’t believe in the archway’s existence at all. They thought it was an ancient fairytale. Sort of like mermaids or witches.

As the hours ticked on, my eyes drooped until I decided just to take a little nap. Resting couldn’t hurt. I’d be back at it in no time.

Honestly, it was like five minutes passed when a bright light woke me up.

Drowsily, I moved my head, wondering how the middle of the night could be so light!

And then I realized what had happened. I’d fallen asleep ALL NIGHT!

Scrambling, I noticed the clock on the wall said 9:00 am. My class was at 8! Dang! If I hurried, I’d make it with just enough time to spare–hopefully, twenty minutes at least. But I had to get my ass in gear.

Liam

I couldn’t believe it. This was the most important test I was going to give all semester. The only thing left was the expedition and their following research report. No final.

What the fuck was she doing?

“Is it okay to start now, Dr. Day?” Zane Smith asked.

That brought me back to the class. “Yes,” I said curtly. “You may proceed.”

Charlene’s friend, Susan Sabatini looked worried.

I shook my head. And Charlene had written the most brilliant report I’d ever gotten from any student on The Temple of Queen Twosweat. The girl was a genius. So gifted. But if she wasn’t going to take the midterm, what could I do? She would fail and get kicked out.

Time ticked by as the students furiously scribbled their answers.

I kept watching the door, hoping Charlene would rush in, red faced, with tons of excuses on her lips. I would give her whatever time was left to finish the test.

I wasn’t a monster. Sure I was angry at Charlene for getting me in trouble with the dean, but after she’d left, I smoothed it over with him, saying she was very talented, that I’d hand picked her to help me with a carbon dating project.

He bought it.

But she was running out of time.

Even after every student had handed in their tests, I allowed fifteen more minutes. But she didn’t show. Her friend, Susan, was stalling. I finally walked up to her. “Times up, Miss Sabatini. I need your test booklet.”

“Um, okay, but if you must know, I’m worried about her. Charlie told me she was going to study all night and she isn’t answering her phone. Maybe something happened to her.”

I arched an eyebrow. “She probably overslept.” The girl would often fall asleep in my lectures. I attributed it to boredom since she had a handle of the material at a level well beyond all her peers. Or she stayed up too late. Probably the latter.

Susan sighed. “Yeah…maybe.”

Turning toward me, Susan said, “Would you go easy on her, doc? I’m sure she has a good reason.”

But I couldn’t answer. A part of me was as worried as Charlene’s friend.

******

Charlie

My God. What did I ever do to make me cursed like this? It was like I couldn’t catch a break. Throwing on some sweats at lightspeed, I raced to my car but then discovered the keys were locked inside. I guessed I had a lot on my mind. So NO JOKE, I literally ran the whole way there. I didn’t have enough money to catch a Suber and my phone had died, so I couldn’t ask a friend to take me. I was so screwed.

Well, I figured Dr. Day might take pity on me. The truth would be written all over me in sweat beads and pit rings.

Thankfully, my test packet was waiting for me on my desk. Good old Dr. Day came through after all!

I wrote out the answers as fast as I could. The test was fairly easy, but the long answer part was going to take time.

“Miss Darby, where have you been?”

Dr. Day’s presence jolted me.

“You don’t look sick and you definitely aren’t dead, so what’s your excuse? And it better not be that you overslept.”

I was about to go to my hands and knees but there wasn’t room. “I…locked my keys in the car so I couldn’t get here in time. S-Sorry!”

“Why didn’t you call a suber or a taxi? One of your friends maybe. Even ride the bus! These excuses are ridiculous.”

“I know but I only have five dollars in my account right now and my phone died. I didn’t have time to charge it. I didn’t know about the bus system and I panicked. So I just busted my ass and ran all the way from my apartment to get here, but I was too slow. Come on, Dr. Day. Please let me finish the test.”

He crossed his arms, jaw clenching, thinking it over. He finally said, “You’re not going on the expedition. But I will allow you to finish the test. And then you may do two research papers instead. Punctuality is a redeeming quality. You need to grow up if you want to succeed.”

All of my dreams of finding the archway were dashed, but it was my own damned fault. “Thank you,” I whispered. “I’ll get right to work.”

I slipped straight through and rocked out all the answers, nailing the essay. Then I gave him the test and said, “I’m really sorry. For what it’s worth, you’re a great teacher, and I’ve enjoyed your class.”

I hated that he thought I was such a goof up. Just a mess walking around aimlessly. I was so disappointed in myself. And what’s worse, I hated that he thought of me as some irresponsible kid.

But I was grateful, too. He didn’t kick me out like he could have. I just didn’t know how to get my act together. I was such a loser.

Liam

A part of me wanted Charlene to succeed. And to be honest, I was really looking forward to observing what she came up with on our expedition. But…it wasn’t a real dig. She wouldn’t be discovering anything we didn’t already plant ahead of time. But why did I have a gnawing feeling that I was making a mistake?

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Chapter 6.30

Charlie

When Dr. Day turned around, I almost wet my pants. What was I doing? My mouth moved but nothing came out.

“Miss Darby? What are you doing down here? You know only upper level students are allowed in this area.”

“I-I know, but…I wanted to talk to you about missing your class.”

Dr. Day waved his hands. “Todd, if you could…”

“No prob, Liam. I’ll see you at lunch.” The guy just gave me a grin that made me uncomfortable like he knew my demise was imminent and he thought it was funny. Well, I deserved it.

Dr. Day threw me his cold stare that I’d been shot with a dozen times. God, why did he have this affect on me? Just with one glance, he could knock the wind out of me.

I swallowed down the hangover bile that was gurgling into my throat. “I-I guess you know why I didn’t show today and I want to say I’m sorry. For all those awful things I said to you and for going out of control like that. I’m like totally embarrassed.”

Dr. Day still said nothing, so I went on, “And if you could find it in your heart to forgive me, I promise, cross my heart and hope to die, stick a jack knife in my eye, I’ll never miss another class again.”

He lifted his hands. “Look, I don’t make the rules at the university. Our dean does. And he’s very strict about our masters program. Unless you have a note from a doctor, my hands are tied.”

I flailed my arms emphatically. “I WAS sick all morning. But not THAT kind of sick…heh…It’s just…going to this university is my dream. Academic probation would skewer me. I was hoping you could give me just one more chance?”

Walking toward the door, he said, “I don’t see any reason why I should. Especially since you called me Dr. Deathday as well as a hundred other profanities.”

Oh God. Why did I have to get drunk? Liquor was the worst truth serum on the planet.

“Would you in my position?” he asked.

Sadly, I shook my head no.

“Well, I’m not you. Get yourself out of the restricted area, please. I would appreciate it.” Then he strode out the door.

My eyes widened and I blinked. What the heck did that mean? Was he going to give me a pass? OMG!!!!!!

And although I should have been jumping up and down, celebrating, his words and his looks just made me feel like the worst human being on the planet.

Okay, so I was going to make amends. And it started now. I noticed a broom leaning against the wall. And this floor was disgusting. Like someone peed all over it. There was dust and spiderwebs everywhere.

So I grabbed its handle and did the best I could in cleaning up the mess. But then my mind wandered to when I’d actually became an archaeologist. This was the perfect setting–like I could see it all play out.

“There it is, Dr. Sabatini!” I’d say as I happened upon a large gateway structure. “The secret passage of the Spiritual Transformation. Legend says that once you enter, you will be yourself no longer. You will right many wrongs and clear the path to illumination.”

That was my dream. I’d always heard of this legend and there were so many archaeologists who believed in its existence since many petroglyphs in Simu Picchu showed it, but…no one was ever lucky enough to find where it was. I had a few ideas and I was determined to locate it on our expedition. Okay, like yeah, it was dangerous, but who cared? That was an archaeologist’s job.

I could picture it so clearly. People at this university would point at me and say, “There she is! The one who gave enlightenment to the world!”

That was definitely in my future. I could feel it in my marrow. Unfortunately, the stale surroundings broke apart my dream. I had to do the hard work first to receive the benefits. Better finish up and get out of here! I figured I’d tell Dr. Day I cleaned a bit for him. Maybe he’d be happy and stop pitching those frightening ice stares at me.

Whipping around to put the broom back, I stumbled and…

CRASH!

An ancient piece of pottery that was probably worth more than all the money I’d make in my lifetime, crumbled before me.

I wanted to scream! What was I going to do????

Repenting of my foolish ways all the way up to Dr. Day’s office, I gingerly crept in like a cockroach. God, I never wanted to step foot in there again, but here I was.

“Dr. Day?” I squeaked, mouth like the lining of an old sock.

He shook his head. “I already told you I wouldn’t file a complaint against you. What now?”

I sat down and swallowed. “Okay like I’m TOTALLY sorry. I was trying to do a good deed. HONEST!”

Liam

Who would have known that an intelligent student of mine could create crazy havoc in such a short time? The girl was so irresponsible, I had half a mind to terminate her privileges immediately.

But Ginny’s sweet face stared at me in my mind. I often wondered how she’d handle things. I wished so often I could ask her opinion. I breathed in and out, trying to calm down. I was in deep shit with this one.

“Miss Darby, will you please stop apologizing and get the hell out of my office? I’ll take care of it. Just go home and work. I better have your ten page paper on my desk early at the end of the week.”

She bobbed her head up and down with a frightened look on her face.

Then she scurried out of my office.

Wincing, I sighed. I had to assess the damage and then talk to my boss. This was just getting worse. Why did I have a heart for the girl? It would have been easier to escort her upstairs and report her rather than allowing these antics.

*****

Thankfully, Charlene’s goof up actually helped us out. We’d discovered the bones of an ancient shaman straight out of Simu Picchu. It even held a rare stone from the pre-classic era. Priceless. My dean was so thrilled, he wanted to congratulate me for the find himself.

“Tell me, Liam, what made you think to break into the vase in the first place? I must say, that was a bold move. Did you find some hints on its structure?”

I threw on a sheepish smile. “Heh…heh…well, it was s-sort of an accident. That’s how these things usually happen, right?” I wasn’t lying, but I couldn’t tell him the truth. My ass would be on the line by allowing an unsupervised student down there.

“Well, that was quite lucky for you then. So glad for you, son. After you take your students on the expedition, I’ll give you two semesters off for research. How about that?”

Two semesters? Wow! I definitely was going to go easy on Charlene for this great mistake. “Thanks, sir,” I said, laughing with him.

“No problem! Can’t wait to see what other discoveries you’ll find!”

Just then, we heard a knock on the door and Charlene rushed in. Before I could stop her, she apologized for breaking the pot and said I had nothing to do with it.

The dean just stared at me, glaring. “A lower level student was allowed in the archaelogical archives? Liam, I can’t believe what I’m hearing.”

So, instead of this accident working out in my favor, Charlene managed to make sure I was sunk. Why was I so caring? It never got me anything but pain.

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Chapter 6.29

Liam

Last night was a fiasco. I took pity on Charlene. The girl was so stressed about my class that she drunk herself into a stupor. And she cried out all her fears on me at the bar.

So, I took care of her the best I could.

I decided to ease up a bit. If she didn’t show, I wasn’t going to report it. And sure enough.

There was her friend Susan at her usual spot and Charlene’s chair was empty.

My class usually suffered with drop outs. It was down to eight.

I did hope Charlene wasn’t thinking about quitting though. She was too gifted for that. All she needed was a little maturity. I thought she’d make a great archaelogist one day.

“I hope you’re doing well on your reports. I’m going to give you class time to work on it today. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.”

One student raised her hand. “Um…Dr. Day, could we like have an extension? My computer is fried and I don’t think it’ll be fixed until next week.” Billie Jo Martin was the daughter of the famous Sand Martin–who discovered the Mastaba Ruins. She was always asking for more time–on tests, quizzes, you name it. And although I admired her father, she didn’t have what it took. The sooner she left the better. She cared more about the choice of lipstick for the day than what I was trying to teach my students.

Scratching my head, I retorted, “I believe you can use the library computers. They’re open 24 hours a day, Miss Martin.”

Reynold Reins raised his eyebrows. “Do you have a book on the subject matter? Would make my life a little easier.”

I crossed my arms. “Archaeology is a science of discovery. The information is online at our library database. All you need to do is follow the clues I’ve given you in your syllabus. I’m not going to hold your hand, Mr. Reins. Do the work or get out of my class. Understand?”

He winced. “Yes, sir.”

Anger flooded me. Kids today! They didn’t want to work for anything. They’d been coddled and spoiled their whole lives. I shook my head at them and said, “I can’t believe what I’m hearing. I’m here to answer good, solid questions and instead, the two questions I’ve gotten were for extra time or me feeding you with the answers. If you don’t want to work hard, I would suggest you transfer to a normal university. One that will let you skate by and pass while padding their graduate lists. That’s not going to happen here. We are a high caliber establishment.

“Now, if there aren’t any further questions, I’ll be at my desk. Feel free to ask me something intelligent, otherwise, I’ll expect those ten page papers handed in on Friday.”

My students hated me. I could feel it. And I had to admit, I didn’t like them either. If only one would show the fortitude and spunk that Ginny had, it would make me love this part of my job.

But I just didn’t get the youth of today. They’d grown up on video games and WooTube. If only they wanted to explore the world like a true archaeologist. I’d bet half of these kids wanted to become one just because of a movie they saw.

Charlie

Shit. Shit. And double shit!

Dr. Day was going to brandish his jungle machete and murder me as I entered the classroom. But he saw me last night. I was a mess. Maybe he’ll take pity on me? That was about as likely as his poor girlfriend showing up after all these years.

When I opened the door, my heart pounded hard in my chest.

Damn. I was so late, everyone had already left. I was probably going to be put on academic probation. How could I be so careless?

There was only one thing I could do. Find the executioner in professor clothing and get down on my hands and knees. Ice might be running in his veins, but he couldn’t be totally evil, could he?

I checked his office first, but he wasn’t there. The college was so huge, Dr. Day could be anywhere. I was sunk.

Thank God I saw a friendly face. My Ancient Metals professor, Dr. Woods asked, “May I help you, Charlie? You seem lost.”

“Would you happen to know where Dr. Day is? I need to talk to him.”

“I think he’s down in the basement analyzing a new piece we got in today. But I don’t think…”

I rushed away, no time to lose!

I’d never been down in the basement. Lower level students like me really weren’t allowed down there, but this was an emergency!

The whole place felt creepy like it emanated a weird aura.

There were scads of secret passageways, skeleton sentries, golden statues.

But, Oh. My. GOD!

The Death Totecallum of the Sun Llama. THAT was a baaaad omen. I wondered why they were keeping it here.

I shook my head. Of course, it wasn’t real. Probably here for an upper level class.

But as I crept deeper into the labyrinth, the artifacts just grew more breathtaking. There were golden chaos relics, ceremonial plates and bowls, more jewel encrusted skeleton soldiers! It was a feast for archaeologist eyes!

But there was no sign of Dr. Day. As I descended even more stairs, the air took on a weighty, musky smell. Shivers crawled all over my body. I wasn’t supposed to be down here. I knew it, and yet, my feet just kept on going.

My God! I thought to myself. How far did this passage go? I winced. I was totally screwed. And freaking lost. I couldn’t have gotten back if I tried.

Where the hell was I?

And then God shone down on me like a lighthouse in a storm! Well, maybe not God, but a god–my stupid jerk professor who was totally going to murder me. I heard his voice reverberating off the Selvadoradan stones. “Time to get this over with,” I whispered.

Tiptoeing into a room that held a ton of analytical tables, I gazed around. Obviously this was a lab room.

“So what period would you put this in, Todd? Classic or Golden Age?” Dr. Day asked his friend. Were all the professors here just hot as holy hell? God! I didn’t know the guy beside him–hadn’t taken one of his classes, but I could only hope one day!

I cleared my throat, almost hoping he didn’t turn around. “Dr. Day? May I speak with you?”

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Chapter 6.28

Charlie

Omg. Worst. Day. Ever!

How the holy heck did I end up at the only dive in Oasis Springs? It was such a small town. Totally am jetting out once I get my pHD.

“Why do I hate my life?” I said, sitting next to my BFF’s in the world. I was crazy lucky they were here. Myla Owens on my right and Susan Sabatini on my left. Myla went to Oasis Springs University where we all met. She was working on her vet degree.

“Just guzzle, Charlie. That’s what I’m doing.” Susan methodically downed her beer.

I shook my head. “A ten fricken page paper due in one week? Dr. Day has got to be kidding. And on the The Temple of Queen Twosweat. I mean that thing was only discovered last year. There’s not even a simipedia on it. He’s going to be the death of me. Thank God my other classes have normal professors. I’m counting the days until this semester is over.” I wanted to scream.

“Yeah. I guess we’re just going to be living in the library.” Susan hiccupped. It was going to be a looooong night.

“Do you realize, Myla, that he made one of the girls cry yesterday? She didn’t have the summer reading done so he said she was on notice. If she screwed up one more thing, she would be barred from the expedition. I swear the guy has ice in his veins, not blood.”

“You want me to put cockroaches in his bed for you? His brother is my boyfriend after all. Wouldn’t be a problem for my sweet honeybees!”

“Oh please don’t do anything to upset him!” Susan said. “Dr. Deathday might up the pages on the paper. We want him rested and happy! Who knows what he might do when he’s tired?”

Myla shrugged. “Okay, darling. It was just a thought. He’s honestly a really nice guy in person. Maybe you should become friends with him?”

I laughed. “Are you kidding? No one gets close to the infamous Professor Day. Not after what happened to his poor long lost girlfriend. He’s like a scary legend on campus.”

“All I’m saying is you two should come out with me and Zack sometime. Hang out at the house. You’re both my friends so it wouldn’t be weird. Then maybe he’ll chat. A little brown nosing couldn’t hurt.”

She had a good point. I thought about chatting with Dr. Day and weird heebeejeebees skittered up my back. “Sorry, Myla. That would be just plain awkward. Sort of like us hanging with a gargoyle made of stone. On my first day, he made me come into his office so he could chew me out but he only stared at me until I almost got down on my knees and begged him to say something. Anything! Just to relieve the tension. No thanks.”

I took a pull on my beer. “I think I’ll do what Susan is suggesting. I’ll just get drunk and worry about my troubles tomorrow!”

On my fourth beer, I was feeling pretty good. I didn’t even think about Dr. Day once! “Stay with us, sweetie,” I begged Myla. “You don’t need to go out with Zack. Chicks before dicks, I always say!”

“Sorry, sweetums, but he’s been patiently waiting over there with Professor He-who-must-not-be-named. Give me kisses, though. Love you, two!”

Liam

It was nice to be out, relaxing for a change. When my brother suggested going to the Oasis Lounge, I almost didn’t. I had a lot of work to catch up on but he was right. Grading papers could wait. When was the last time I’d even grabbed a beer with friends?

I was glad Todd Monteira agreed to go with us, too. He was a chemistry professor at the University of Archaeology and almost as married to his work as I was. We’d become so close over the years. A brilliant scientist, I always got his opinion whenever I needed something dated. His mind was like a computer that could instantly remember things that I couldn’t, too. He’d broken up with his girlfriend, Melina, years ago right after high school. She actually ended up moving to Del Sol Valley and launched a singing career. But unlike me, Todd usually had a date on his arm. Thankfully, not tonight.

Zack wiggled his fingers. “So like I was saying, it’s going to be our first month anniversary. I want to do something romantic but not too over the top. Any suggestions?”

My brother and his girlfriend, Myla, were going light speed in the relationship department. It kind of made me nervous. He’d never had a serious girlfriend before. Always told me getting tied down wasn’t his thing. But with Myla, that all changed.

I liked seeing my brother happy and in love, though. It looked good on him.

Someone cleared their throat behind us.

“Oh shit. Guess it’s time to go.” Zack looked like he got caught with his pants down.

“If you’re going to talk about me behind my back, you should at least make it juicy, babe.”

He flirted back. “You know I don’t kiss and tell. Not my style.”

Scraping his chair back, he waved and said, “Later, dudes. And Liam? Try to have a good time. Why don’t you get drunk and laid and make your brother happy?”

I shook my head at his joke. After I finished my beer, I was definitely heading home. I had class early in the morning.

I watched as the two of them flashed goo goo eyes at each other. I really hoped they made it. Myla was a sweetheart and funny. I’d love to call her my sister one day.

“Want another beer, Liam?” Todd asked. “I’m buying.”

I chuckled. “Well, when you put it that way, how can I refuse?” Guess those papers could wait. One more round shouldn’t hurt.

Charlie

“So like screw him, you know, Susan? Why does everyone kiss his ass all the time? Even the other professors worship him. Like he shits gold or something. I mean, yeah, we’re learning a ton, but geeze. He’s a walking, breathing nightmare. If only I could tell him off just once without getting crucified by him, I’d do it. He made me so mad yesterday with what he pulled on Sarah.”

Damn. How many beers had I chugged? It was like once Myla left, all my brain could think about was Dr. Deathday. Ugh!

“Oh, please don’t tell him off, Charlie. I couldn’t take being in that class without you. You’re like my anchor in a swirling vortex!”

Liam

Waiting on our second beer, I heard a bunch of whooping and hollering behind me. Someone was having a party.

“Uh…Liam? Isn’t that one of your students?”

“One of my students? Here?” I hated hanging out at places where my students went. Thought this dive bar was safe. The clubs were down the street, after all.

I turned around to see two of my students, actually. Susan Sabatini and the one making a total ass out of herself was Charlene Darby. The girl was brilliant. Got a full ride to the university. But she was a bit lazy. Probably because things came easily to her. I figured she was spoiled as a child.

I covered my face, hoping she wouldn’t notice me. Charlene hated my guts and made that very clear almost every day she came to my class. Sure I was a hardass. That was my job. To push the kids and make it tough because if they wanted to succeed at archaeology, they needed to be able to work long hours even in the hot sun. It wasn’t day camp and it wasn’t like the movies. Sometimes we faced unknowns that could threaten our safety. If their heart wasn’t in this, then I wanted them out.

I figured the girl wouldn’t last through my class. Looked like she was well on her way to a hangover, too. Probably wouldn’t show up tomorrow. Which would give me cause to put her on academic probation. That might wake her up if she thought her scholarship was in jeopardy.

*****

Charlie

The sun peeked through my window, waking me.

I was having the most wonderful dream.

Dr. Day turned into the sexiest guy ever and was holding me, telling me I’d be okay.

That jolted me out of bed. “What the…?” My head felt like I’d done headstands all night, throbbing like a heart attack and my mouth was full on cotton. Hello, hellish hangover. God, why did I have to chug all that beer?

I slogged through the mess on my floor to the mirror.

My hair was back to its natural state and my makeup was dripping over my face like I’d been crying.

And then the blur of the night hit me like a slap.

For some gawdawful reason, I’d switched to wine. Wine always made me melancholy. And I thought about having to endure Professor Day’s class. I hated it. Hated him. And I threw myself the biggest pity party, thinking all my hopes and dreams were going to be crushed by him.

Susan had already left but I stayed. Ugh. Why did I stay?

And in my drunken state, I heard Dr. Day talking to me, but I couldn’t move or even register what he was saying.

All I remember was he took the drink out of my hand and said I needed to go home–that class was early and he didn’t want me to be late.

But my legs were so wobbly and I think I was crying? Blubbering about all the hateful things that had been on my heart this whole time.

Oh. My. GOD! Did he take me home? Did he see my mess?

And more importantly, I knew this. He was going to KILL ME!

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Chapter 6.27

Charlie

To say I’d been looking forward to this class was like a TOTAL understatement. Archaeology was my passion! No. Archaeology was my LIFE! I’d never forget the day when my mother took me to see the movie Simsiana Sones and the Sanctuary of Death. OMG! Right then, I knew I wanted to travel the world. Seek out new discoveries! Study ancient civilizations!

And when I got a full graduate scholarship to THE University of Archaeology, my destiny was set in literal stone.

Dr. Day’s Archaeology Masters 1 class was renown as the ultimate weed out course, but EVERYONE had to take his class at this school and pass or get kicked out. Sigh…I had nervous jitters just listening to his welcome speech. I mean, he didn’t LOOK like the student assassin everyone said he was.

“Oh my word, Charlie,” my friend, Susan Sabatini whispered next to me. “Dr. Day just said we have to go on a jungle expedition this semester. I thought that was next YEAR! I don’t think I’m ready. What if he hates my research project? I’m doomed!”

I rolled my eyes. “Look, Susan, haven’t you heard there are three things you need to do to keep Dr. Day happy? One, do your homework. Two, come to class. And three, never EVER mention his long lost girlfriend, Ginny Malcolm.”

“Long lost girlfriend? I’d never heard about her. What happened?”

“Are you serious? Everyone who goes here KNOWS about it. His girlfriend was some archaeology genius. She was the one who found the golden llama sarcophagus in Al Simhara and she was still an undergrad! Her parents were archaeologists, too. But then one day she went off with them on some quest and THREW herself into a volcano. It’s all so romantic and sad.”

“Oh my GOD! That’s awful! Why would she do something like that?”

“Well, I heard that when she was a little girl, a mermaid saved her life, but her days were numbered. The mermaid told her she could only live until she found true love.

“Once she got serious with Dr. Day, that was it. She started feeling sick and so rather than slowly die in a hospital bed, she threw herself in the volcano, never to be heard from again.”

“That’s so unbelievable! Mermaids? Curses?” Susan shook her head.

“Hey, I’ve heard of some crazy stuff going on with these jungle expeditions. There are actual spirits living in the ancient temples, so I don’t doubt it. But still…about Dr. Day– I hear that he often locks himself in his office and literally cries over Ginny’s picture EVERY DAY!”

Just then someone cleared their throat behind me. I looked up and to my ungodly HORROR, my stomach plunged ten stories. Professor Day was glaring down at me. I almost screamed!

“Could I see you in my office after class, please?” he asked in a tone my mother used when I was totally fricken in the hot seat.

Shaking, I squeaked, “Um…okay?”

Oh geeze. I felt like I was in the principal’s office back in high school (and let me tell you, I did my time there on many occasions–could I help it that I’d run my mouth more than once–yeah, like it seemed I’d never learn) only this was WORSE! This guy had my future in the palm of his beautifully manicured hand. (The man looked so meticulous like I bet his bed was always made and nothing was out of place anywhere in his life–well, except for that horror story about his girlfriend. OMG!!!!!) And ohhhh…there was a picture of him and Ginny still on the wall.

HOW SAD!

I wanted to pat his hand and tell him it would be okay right then, but gah!

I was in trouble so I held my tongue.

He just stared at me, glaring, making me squirm. Was I supposed to say something?

I decided he did want me to talk so I obliged. “Okay…so like…I’m sorry, Dr. Day. I should have been paying attention in class. I guess I was just so excited about being here and…” I trailed off, blinking.

The look he gave made me feel like a child. I mean…I was apologizing! What was I supposed to do? Give him my left arm or something?

So, I went on, “and like…I’m sorry I said anthing about Ginny. It was insensitive of me. I won’t ever mention your tragic story again or gossip or do any of those things that might make you mad….um…s-sir, but…

“I guess it just means I’m really interested in you as a person that I would care so much about your history. I mean, that’s what we archaeologists, do. We dig into people’s history.” I chuckled at my own joke. “Ha ha…get it? History? People? Ha ha…”

All that did was make him purse his lips.

Ugh. I was dying. My face grew hot and I wanted to crawl out of there under one of his Selvadoradan bowls. “Oh, God, I guess that was lame.”

Finally, he spoke, “Listen, I just want to make myself clear here since we’re going to be spending at least an hour and a half, three times a week together as well as you’ll be going on the jungle expedition which I’m sure you didn’t hear about because you were spinning fictional tales about me. The project will be half your grade. And if I think you’re not taking my class seriously, I will bar you from even going on that expedition. Do I make myself clear?”

Okay. I was dead. Totally dead. I could have been one of the mummies they kept in the basement at this college. “Yeah…I…um…I get it. Sorry. Yeah…” I was dying and cringing and quivering all at once. I wondered how sad my mother was going to be to hear her daughter bit the dust in her professor’s office on the first day at her dream college.

When he didn’t say anything more, I excused myself and basically slithered to the door.

Once I was safely out of his office, I hit my head. How could I be so STUPID? He hated me! Already! The one professor that could make or break all of my dreams!

Well, from now on, I was going to impress him with my talent and knowledge. I mean, not many people could get a full ride to this school. It was hard enough just to qualify. Maybe he’ll forget all about this rough start. I could only hope and pray. UGH!

Liam

It never ceased to amaze me how the tall tale grew over Ginny’s disappearance. I had to chuckle. How the kids ever got wind that Ginny had met a mermaid when she was young was truly beyond me. Probably one of the other professors told one student and then that somehow worked its way into the rest until it blew out of proportion.

Looking at Ginny’s picture, I asked, “Was I too hard on her, honey?”

The kids weren’t wrong about one thing–I did lock myself up in here–not everyday, but a lot, and I’d think about her. Maybe I didn’t cry. Those days were over. I’d cried enough in my life to last forever. Losing my baby sister, Brandy, was the hardest thing I’d ever faced.

But I could go on with Ginny by my side. And then the emptiness could never be filled once she disappeared. It was like a weight would forever be on top of me, suffocating.

How I missed her. No one could come close to the special person who was Ginny Malcolm. And since I’d never find anyone who loved life as much or more than her, why even bother finding someone else? I’d given that up long ago. And I was reasonably happy with my life. I threw myself into my work. At least, I knew Ginny would approve of my success.

I’d never forget the day we both decided to come to this college right after we graduated.

It was my idea and when I said it, she beamed up at me and told me how proud she was of me. We both had 4.0’s in our college classes. Studying was easy when she was by my side.

And when I asked her to marry me right there on the swing set, she told me she’d follow me anywhere in the world.

It was the best moment of my life.

“Oh, God, Ginny,” I whispered. “I wish you were here.”

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Chapter 6.26

Liam 26, Zack 21, Lexie/Cory/James 54, August/Beau/Briar 71 (RIP Siobhan and Seth! 😥 )

Zack

“So…it’s yours. Your dad set it all up. All you have to do is sign the papers.” Some suave guy with only a jacket on and no shirt under it met us at the weirdest house in Oasis Springs.

But it fit Liam to a tee.

I sighed.

“Hey, Zack,” Liam said, “don’t be pressured. We can keep looking. I can understand if you don’t want to take a gift from Dad.”

I looked at my brother.

Was he serious?

My mind flew back to the day that changed all our lives. When reality struck me. I was just a stupid kid, not really understanding anything except my baby sister was gone.

I’ll never forget my mother screaming, just wailing at her gravesight. And Liam…her death crushed him like it was his kid who’d died.

It was like I was a person on the sidelines of a bad movie, watching all the drama. I was so helpless. I felt like shit. I loved Brandy. I missed her so badly that it sometimes made my stomach sick. But what made it worse was Mom and Dad always fighting, hollering at each other for the stupidest crap.

I could tell they hated each other.

And as a kid, I worried they were going to split.

Didn’t take long. Mom told me to pack up my stuff, said we’re moving out. I had no say in it. A part of me was relieved because I needed my brother. I was so lonely in that huge mansion with no one to hang out with on top of that hill. It was like a golden prison to a kid.

But a part of me was screaming inside. I didn’t want my parents to divorce. I knew I’d miss my dad. Miss my family being together. I cracked apart in so many ways, I didn’t think I’d ever be happy again.

Thank God for Liam, though. After that, he was always there for me. Whenever I wanted to talk about things, anything, he’d listen.

And he gave me the love I didn’t get from either of my parents.

Over time, I thought of him as my father, not my real dad. Hell, we’d see him only a few times a year. But Liam made sure to spend time with me.

Teaching me how to fish, play basketball, talk to me about girls.

Next thing that happened, Mom got married to Cory. And then got pregnant right away with twins–Kadence and Kaylin.

She whisked us out of the home we grew up in to another house. One for her new family.

Liam and I shared a room. I didn’t care about it. Never felt like my house. I didn’t even have a say in the decorations. I just lived there.

A warm body in the house.

Dad’s movie was a ginormous hit. Everyone knew it would be. He wanted Liam and me to come to his premiere but Liam refused and I couldn’t go without him.

When we went to see a different movie, I saw Dad’s face on billboards. It was so weird.

Liam just stared at the Robotron poster with a sad look on his face.

He hated the movie and refused to see it. I hated watching Liam die a little each day being without Brandy. He never could forgive himself for not moving to Del Sol Valley. If he had, he believed Brandy would still be with us. But that wasn’t true. On that horrible day, Brandy was supposed to be napping. Liam wouldn’t have known. She slipped out of the house to the backyard, we believe looking for her toy stuffed animal–her favorite. It had blown into the pool somehow and we think she wanted to retrieve it, but…

God, I hated thinking about it.

I tried to tell Liam he couldn’t have saved her but he thinks he would have heard the back door. There was no talking him out of it.

After everything that happened, it didn’t help that Mom blossomed as a mother and doted on her new kids and husband.

It was like Liam and I were accidents. And with Brandy gone, she wanted to forget and make a fresh start.

She loved us, but there was a huge difference in her happiness when she was with them. As they say, actions speak louder than words. But I couldn’t blame her or Cory and I certainly couldn’t blame my little brother and sister. Cory was her soulmate. It was so apparent. But for me and Liam, it just sucked.

At least Liam had Ginny during that hard transition. They were inseparable and I was happy for him.

But it was liked his life was cursed or something.

Two years into college, Liam and Ginny were undergrad archaeology students, going to Brindleton Bay University so he could stay with me while I was in high school. He’d told me they’d planned on getting married right after they graduated college and both decided to go to the renown University of Archaeology in Oasis Springs for their graduate work.

They fed off each other, always studying, going on digs with her parents. I was honestly so stoked for him.

And then, Dad was up for an award. It was at the same time Ginny decided to go on an exploration with her parents in Sulani. Liam wanted to come but in the end, he did what he always did–family first.

Then tragedy struck. Ginny and her parents went on a hike near a volcano but were never heard from again.

People surmised they must have gotten lost in the thick jungle–or maybe went on a dive and got caught in the current. Liam always believed she’d come back to him. But after six years passed, he finally said his good byes to her officially.

It crushed me to watch him in pain. But I was going to be there for him just like he was always there for me.

After that day at the volcano, I’d never seen him smile. Not really.

Losing Ginny consumed whatever was left in him after Brandy had died. He was an empty shell of his former self from then on.

It tore me apart to watch him. I wanted to take his pain away. He didn’t deserve this.

He’d do anything for anyone. And he loved his family. Why did this have to happen?

Swallowing down a lump in my throat, I shook my head.

In the end, Dad became one of the hottest blockbuster stars in our nation.

He had so much money, he bought us this house. I knew he did it for Liam. It was an archaeologist’s dream. Liam wanted us to live in a house together until I found someone to share my life with one day.

I was a senior in college, going to Oasis Springs University down the road from the place he got his pHD and worked now– The University of Archaeology.

How could I say no?

I clasped my hands together and said, “Let’s do this.”

The rare grin on his face made me so glad about my decision.

He clapped me on the back and squeezed, saying, “Thanks, man. I owe you.”

I chuckled. “No, Liam. You don’t owe me a thing.”

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