She had been sitting on the rock for a few hours now, but had been waiting far longer. Years, in fact, and seven to be precise. It was a lucky number for a lot of people.
Not for her.
Were she not so anxious, Mara could have taken a moment to appreciate the beach spray as the waves lapped up against the shore. The cove was always beautiful this time of year. On a weekday, everyone at the island would be working, and with her free period being the last one of the school-day, Mara was able to enjoy some of the stillness outside, with only the occasional passing car disturbing her bike ride. If you could fly, you’d be able to see how the cove formed into a crescent moon of sorts, almost perfectly. There was supposedly a mathematical beauty that could be applied to geography, but Mara wouldn’t know — it was her worst subject.
She checked her bag for the seventieth time.
Pocket knife: check.
MP3 Player: a very expensive check.
Everything was there, she knew that, but it was the only thing keeping her sane while she waited.
Mara examined her wrist. 8 o’clock. 17 minutes to go.
It was time to start.
She hopped off of the rock, careful not to scuff her uniform shoes in the sand, and trudged over to the cliff wall. It was vined over, but that’s what the knife was for. With a deft hand, Mara flicked it open, cutting away at the foliage until there was nothing but cracked gray rock in front of her. Satisfied, she turned away and took seven steps forward, before pulling out the prism from her pack and laying it down on the sand, making sure the sun would shine on it.
10 minutes to go.
Mara took a deep breath, taking in the smell of the sun as well. No point in panicking — if it wasn’t perfect, it wouldn’t work. Not for another seven years. She returned to the wall, pulling out the chalk. The sigil wasn’t too complicated, but it required a steady hand. Mara didn’t need the Book to draw it — she had memorized it by heart in the past seven years. It dotted itself on every doodle she whittled away at in class. There was no way she was ever going to forget it.
She took a step back, admiring her handiwork. It was perfect, or at least as perfect as she could make it. And with 7 minutes to spare too. Not bad. Mara sat back on the rock. Nothing left to do but wait.
The last seven minutes were agonizingly slow. But it was finally time. The sun touched the horizon. A beam of light shot itself across the ocean waves, straight into the prism. A kaleidoscope of colors burst forth, painting the sigil on the wall in rainbow hues.
A moment passed.
The sun continued to set, but the colors were now burned into the wall. They sparkled, before bursting out, like a switch had been activated. Mara did her best to contain her excitement: it had worked.
The wall began to fade away. In its place stood a girl with brilliant red hair and a grin plastered on her face.
“Did you wait long?” she asked.
“Rubrum!” Mara shot forward, tackling the girl with a hug. She held her like that for at least a full minute, before Rubrum finally yanked free from the girl’s grasp, laughing all the while.
“I take it that’s a yes.”
“Seven years, seven hours and seventeen minutes, to be exact! I’ll be happy if I never have to see the number again. But forget that, come and sit down!”
Mara led the red-haired girl to a blanket she had spread out on the sand. There were two smoothies waiting for them.
“Wow, you’re actually prepared this time,” Rubrum said. Mara pouted.
“Shut up! I was ten last time, I barely knew how to tie my shoes.”
“I’m pretty sure ten year olds know how to tie their shoes, Mara.”
“I will shove you back into that hole if you don’t stop!”
“And miss out on a mango smoothie? You can try.” Rubrum plopped onto the blanket, taking a giant sip from the drink, before letting out a satisfying sigh.
“Ah! I missed this.”
Mara sat down next to the girl.
“What, they don’t have smoothies in your world?”
“They do, but nothing like this.” Rubrum took another sip. “Ours are all about revealing the secrets of the universe, and other such nonsense. I hope when they’re found, ‘add flavor to your food’ sits at the very top. See how dumb they feel.”
“If I had known, I would have brought more for you to take with you,” Mara said, trailing her finger in the sand.
“It’s all good!”
“Oh! I did bring this though.” Mara ruffled through her bag, and pulled out the MP3 Player.
“I filled it up with a whopping 30 gigs of Ska music, just for you. God knows why you like that stuff, but I guess somebody has to. Oh, and it’s red!”
“Holy crap, is that a Zune!?” Rubrum grabbed the music player out of the girl’s hand, examining it closely. “I was looking at these in my Scroll like a week ago! I can’t believe you got me one!”
“I can’t either,” Mara replied, unable to stop herself from grinning. “This was a year’s worth of savings, for your information. Don’t say I don’t do anything for you.”
This time it was Rubrum that put Mara into a choke-hold of a hug.
Mara pushed the girl off her. “Yeah, yeah, you’re welcome.”
“I’ve actually got something for you too!” Rubrum pulled her satchel off from her robes, popping it open. She pulled out a green book.
“You said you were interested in flight techniques, so I figured I’d give you my old beginner’s book of runes! It’s really simple stuff, so you can do it, even without the aptitude. Just…make sure nobody’s around when you do it, or they’re going to ask questions.”
“Wow!” Mara took the book into her hands, flipping it open to check the pages.
“Yeah, I think I can make this work. Thank you!”
“Of course! Now take a sip of your smoothie, it’s starting to warm up.”
“Oh wow, you’re right.”
The girls drank and talked, regaling each other of the time they spent apart. Thought it had been so long, it was if no time had passed at all. The sun gave way to stars as the hours passed. They lay on the beach, staring up at them.
“It’s weird,” Mara said.
“That we meet up like this, but…you know, we both look up at the same stars. It’s weird to think about.”
Rubrum snorted. “That’s corny as heck, Mara.”
“Pft. Yeah, it is.”
“But it’s true.”
The girls sat in silence.
“Can I really not come see you?” Mara asked. Rubrum got up, the elbow she lent on slightly scraped by the sand.
“You know you can’t, Mara. If you did the Gate would get closed immediately. We’re already brushing up against dimensional law as is. I had to petition the Elders for a year and a half just for them to considerthis.”
“I know…but I want to.”
“And I want you to…” Rubrum sighed.
“Fine. I will ask them. But no promises, do not get your hopes up!” she rushed to finish as Mara squealed in excitement. The red-haired girl got up, examining a rock of some sort on her wrist.
“That’s time. I better get back.”
Mara sat up, running her hand through her hair.
“Really? You can’t stay a little longer?”
“Hey, I’m about to ask the Elders to break a ten-thousand year law. We really shouldn’t push it, Mara.”
“Ooookaaaay,” she said, getting up herself. The two girls walked to the cove wall together. It shone its rainbow hues once more.
Rubrum turned to Mara grinning. “Same time, same place?”
Mara grabbed the girl into a hug. “Always. I’ll be waiting.”
Rubrum rubbed her eyes and quickly turned away, hoping that Mara didn’t see. She did.
The red-haired girl stepped towards the wall. And then she was gone.
Mara stood in front of it, waiting. She knew nothing was going to happen — that Rubrum wouldn’t suddenly reappear, that they’d get to go on further adventures together — but it didn’t hurt to wait.
Nothing happened. Mara grabbed her things together, hopped on her bike, and began to peddle. She had no idea what she’d be like seven years from now, but she knew that Rubrum would be waiting for her.
And Mara would be there.