Chapter 6: A Thousand Stars in the Sky

No one on the planet should have English for last period. PE for sure, or even enrichment – which is art or music or technology, if you’re lucky. But English? Kate looked over where Bethany was twirling her pen and tapping her foot to the tune of some silent song she was playing in her head. One thing about Bethany, she was NOT a quiet or still person. Kate glanced toward Mrs. Bowen still scribbling their writing assignment on the board. Mrs. Bowen seemed to know that Bethany would get her work done but she would not be quiet or still while doing it. All the teachers knew that so they cut her a lot of slack. Bethany was usually first to raise her hand, waving wildly most of the time, to answer questions. And she was usually the one chatting with whoever was sitting near her. Flat out, Bethany was cool, smart and fun.

Kate yawned and started to write her name in the upper right corner while the class was rummaging to get out paper and pen – pen? All the other teachers let them write on their computers for almost every assignment except math, but not Mrs. Bowen. Kate tapped her medium point black pen, her favorite, on the side of her binder, waiting. Bethany gave her pen a twirl but instead of staying wound around her nimble fingers it flipped into the aisle between the desks. Leaning to pick it up, Bethany tossed a folded note Kate’s way. It landed on Eddie’s foot and Bethany whispered, “Hey Eddie, hand that back to Kate, will ya?”

Bethany grinned, easy as pie, in spite of the fact that Mrs. Bowen had finished writing the assignment and was now glaring at Eddie, “Do you have something to share with the class, Eddie?”

Thinking it was going to be a pretty funny joke, Eddie replied, “Uh, yes. I do. Do you want me to read this to the class?” He chuckled and glanced toward Bethany who shrugged like, “Go ahead.”

“No, Eddie. Put the note away and start the assignment.”

Kate breathed a sigh of relief. How could Bethany be so cool getting caught in the act. She would have fainted on the floor if Eddie had read the note, who knows what it said. Just then with a slight nudge behind his back, Eddie handed Kate the note. “Thanks,” breathed Kate as she unfolded it.

It read, “Hey Kate, can you ride home with me and sleep over after volleyball practice? There is going to be a meteorite shower tonight and you would love to see it from our house. Call your mom after class and we can drop by your house and get your stuff.”

Kate was over the top excited. For Bethany,  science, the Earth, the oceans, the river, trees and the sky – everything to do with nature – was where her heart and mind spent all of its time. Spending the night at Bethany’s would be amazing. A quick phone call later and they were driving to Kate’s to grab her gear. “Don’t forget your sleeping bag,” shouted Bethany.

A sleepover at Bethany’s didn’t mean you were necessarily going to sleep in a bed – or even indoors.

Greeting Mom at the door, Kate blew her a kiss and said, “Thanks for letting me go, Mom. I’ll do my homework at Bethany’s. We’re gonna watch a meteor shower tonight! Did you see that it’s gonna be clear – no clouds! Holy macaroni  and her Mom is pretty excited too because there won’t be a moon and we will see everything.” Barely stopping as she ran upstairs, Kate was on her way. Meanwhile Mom went out to talk with Bethany and her mother, Jenna. The moms were great friends and usually shared carpool duties to and from volleyball practices. Not five minutes later Kate was back, goodbyes were said and they were off.

Sunset painted the sky around 6:30 as the girls were twirling spaghetti noodles on forks and gobbling up Jenna’s yummy meatballs. Bethany asked, “So Kate, have you been seeing all the shooting stars the past few nights?” As Kate shook her head no, Bethany continued, “Usually we look for shooting stars the nights before a big meteor shower. They happen when the Earth passes through streams of debris left behind by comets and asteroids. Can you even imagine all the stuff out there in space? At least it is prettier to see than all the debris that people leave in nature.” 

Kate agreed. Even though Bethany wasn’t on the Green Team, now called the Blue Team, because of all the sports she did, she loved nature more than anyone. Even more than Kate, maybe. After dinner the girls finished their essay for English, which was actually pretty fun. The assignment was to list 10 things you like about your favorite sport or hobby. After all the fun at volleyball practice they whipped out the list in no time. Bethany wrote one thing about each sport and hobby she loved – there could have been more. River rafting, standup paddling, volleyball, basketball, gymnastics, surfing, hiking, outrigger paddling, swimming rapids and trampoline. Kate focused on volleyball and Blue Team, she wanted to list whales, ocean, beaches, bodysurfing and soccer.

By 9:30 Jenna had helped the girls set up a tent in the back yard. It was so clear that they decided to put their sleeping bags near the tent but up on the huge trampoline that filled most of the back yard. Lying on their backs while nibbling on popcorn, they waited. A coyote gave a howl and Kate was pretty happy they were up on the trampoline and not on the ground. Then Bethany whispered with awe in her voice, ‘Look over there, Kate” she pointed above the tall pines, “Our first shooting star of the night.”

It was a sky-view treasure hunt from then on – a shooting star here and then over there. Dozens of them. As the night wore on the shower from the meteors seemed to be coming in quickly. It was dazzling like a thousand stars in the sky. By 11 the sleepy girls were starting to feel the December coldness from their freezing toes to their red cheeks. “Let’s go to my room,” suggested Bethany. Gathering up their stuff the girls scampered off the trampoline and made their way down the narrow hall toward Bethany’s room.

Mom called from her room, “Good night girls. How was it out there?”

“Amazing!” they shouted in unison, then Bethany added,  “Ooops, sorry if we woke you Dad.”

As they got settled, drowsy Kate had to ask some questions that had been lurking in her mind for a few weeks, “Bethany, is it true that you and your mom are going to go to Maui for an entire semester? Are you going to miss school and just have adventures? How will you make it to 8th grade with me next year?”

“We are,” replied Bethany, ‘It’s amazing. You know my mom coaches our paddling team and we do a lot of outrigger canoeing all summer. Well the OC club on Maui always comes to visit Pacific Heights in the summer. We host them at our house – all the kids host someone. They invited us to come over to Maui for a few month, yeah, almost the whole semester. None of the other kids could go but my mom thought it would be a great idea. Me too! You bet. On Maui you would love it, there are humpback whales everywhere, especially in February.”

Trying not to feel sad and a little bit jealous, Kate focused on the whales, “Have you seen the whales before? And how will you go to school?”

“Yeah, when I was 8 we took a trip and while we were in the outrigger canoe about a mile off shore we were watching a mother whale taking care of her baby. All of a sudden we heard something from under our canoe. It was a male whale, maybe the dad or maybe not. The boy whales sing and this whale sang for like ten minutes right under the canoe. One of the guys coaching us explained that the whales sing the same song for an entire year. All the boy whales sing the same song. Isn’t that amazing?”

Kate couldn’t let it go, “Do you get to miss school?”

“Oh no, ” giggled Bethany, “I wish. No, I will finish 7th grade. My mom will home school me. It’s easy if you go online and home school. But, like, I can do my lessons at night or early in the morning before we go exploring, or surfing or outrigger practice.”

They talked deep into the night and Kate fell asleep dreaming about whales. Of course she did, and it was a whale of a dream that she’d remember for a long time. Why? Because in her dream she was on Maui with Bethany and Jenna.