Sunday, March 20, 2016
1st 5 Pages March Workshop - Sullivan Rev 2
The Jade Quest
Claire has one goal: find her parents. They disappeared from her mom’s archaeology site in Belize.
Preston’s plans are less lofty. He wants to get high and snorkel until his fugitive father notices he’s gone.
This unlikely duo pair up when they meet on their flight to Central America. Preston figures helping a pretty girl on a mysterious quest is a worthier diversion from his family’s dysfunction, and Claire needs his ex-pat’s knowledge of the country. Before long, they discover Claire’s parents were hunting a jade mask stolen from the site.
They follow clues into an ancient Maya cave, to a dangerous antiquities smuggler, and through the rabbit hole of her parents’ personal lives. Nothing is what is seems, including Claire’s family story. The closer they get to the truth, the further Claire feels from her childhood. Preston can relate. The pair discover love and friendship are more enduring than any unearthed ghosts of the past.
It’s and they’re expecting me to get off the school bus . When I don’t, the shelter will send an alert to Indiana law enforcement and school officials. It’s their legal responsibility. I’m officially a ward of the state.
But it won’t matter because by the time they figure out I’m really gone, I’ll just be another tourist or student or stranger in Belize.
I shove open the shade covering the tiny window at seat 8A. The sun is shining over the Caribbean, gleaming off waves rippling over the reef below. I peer into the water—would I even notice something floating on the surface from way up here?
My pulse rate instantly rises, so I dig my nails into the arm rest of the airline seat and smack the shade down. I need to stay calm. I should clear customs in half an hour.
After that, it doesn’t matter how many reports the shelter files. Once the paperwork’s in and they’ve covered their butts, it’ll be, “Whatever happened to that girl? The one whose parents disappeared? I hard she transferred.” Something like that.
Still, my parents’ situation is famous enough—or it was a couple of months ago—that getting through customs unnoticed might be difficult. The story was probably even bigger down here since this is where mom and dad went missing.
“You’re awake,” says the kid to my right.
I finally really look at him. Tall. Lean. He’s got a haircut that requires styling. Like a flat iron and product. And he’s got a Prada backpack. Prada backpack. On the way to a developing country. I give him a half nod and put my earbuds back in.
He’s staring. I feel it. I glance over and catch him watching me. His eyes are almost turquoise. I turn away quickly. Boys with highlights (I swear that’s what it looks like) don’t normally pay attention to me.
Which is fine.
What’s he doing on this flight anyway? It’s a school day.
The plane will be landing soon. If the school didn’t buy my excused absence story, they could have already alerted the shelter. What if passport control’s waiting for me? I’m all my family has left, and there’s no Plan B. At least that stupid freshmen yearbook photo plastered all over the news doesn’t even look like me.
“Are you by yourself?” he asks. “What are you down here for?”
This guy’s not taking a hint. I sigh. Fine, I’ll consider it a dress rehearsal. “Study abroad.” I try to shrug like it’s no big deal, but my shoulders jerk up awkwardly and my voice sounds half an octave higher.
“It’s the middle of the semester.”
“Weird time to study abroad.”
My chest feels hot. Why does he care? I’ve sat here minding my own business since I changed planes in Atlanta. I even thought he was cute, but that’s when he was asleep. And watching his movie. And silent.
I peek at the ocean again from under the shade. Just water and coral, as far as I can see.
“They” told me not to worry. Search and rescue’s on it, which I believed. I also thought the media coverage would help the cause. How often do little puddle jumper, three-seater airplanes go missing? “They” also said the charter service mom and dad hired out of Belize City had a great safety record and the pilot was top notch.
So you can imagine my surprise when “they” not only called off the search mission, but barely over a month later some a-hole judge declares them dead.
“What school are you going to?”
“Does it matter?” I snap, turning toward him. His skin is smooth and clear, his nose is straight, and I think he’d have dimples if he smiled. He looks air-brushed. I can’t turn away. His symmetry has me mesmerized. This gets on my nerves too.
“It doesn’t. I was just talking to you.”
I twist the cord of my iPod around my finger. “I’m not having the best day, okay?”
“Parents making you? Enrichment or other such bullshit?”
“Uh, yeah.” I remove my earbuds. “Is that what you’re doing too?”
“No. I live here. With my dad. Mother summoned me state-side but now I remember why I chose to live with him.”
“He doesn’t know I’m coming back early, so I figure I’ve got five days to smoke a pound of ganja in peace before I’m subjected to his half-assed attempts at good parenting.”
“Oh.” I fold and unfold my hands. “Won’t your mom tell your dad that you left early?”
He smooths back an unseen stray hair. “Um, no. See, she wants me to do her dirty work and tell him she’s getting remarried. I don’t want the emotional backlash either, so I’m headed to the cayes.” He cracks his knuckles. “Snorkeling high is so intense. Like you’re inside an aquarium.”
This is now his second drug reference.
“So what school?” He asks again.
Here’s the thing: mom and dad came to Belize to check on her archaeology site, not to go around renting airplanes. They don’t do stuff like that. I tried explaining this. Their plane didn’t crash, it vanished. Kind of a big difference.
So what school am I allegedly going to? My mind is blank.
Then I remember the last time I was in Belize, a couple years ago. On our way to the airport, mom pointed at a building and said if she had to extend her archaeological fieldwork into the next school year, I could go there.
A flight attendant comes by with customs forms. As I reach for one, I smile at the kid next to me. It’s a triumphant smile. “I’m going to the International School. In Belmopan.”
After I lend him a pen, he finally stays quiet while we fill out our forms. The plane’s on its final descent. I put my tray table away and reopen the shade. The water’s closer now. It looks like we’re skating on it. From my side I can see Belize City, its urban sprawl hugging the coastline.
I press my shoulder blades against the seatback in anticipation of landing. The runway looks like it’s in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. I take a deep breath and almost smile. At least I’m finally doing something.
“Dude. No more than thirty days,” he whispers. With his head close to my face, I can smell his cologne. It’s subtle and nice and it annoys me that I like it.
I raise an eyebrow.
He points at my customs form, gripped between my fingers. I can’t believe he can read my tiny block letters. I’ve gottwo months written by the intended length of stay in Belize question. Big deal.
He leans over again. I can’t place the exact scent. “They only stamp you in for thirty days. They might give you shit about a visa if you say more.” He straightens up as the flight attendant walks by, as though she’s a librarian and we’re in the stacks instead of on a plane.
Panic seizes my throat, like someone’s gripping it. “Thirty days? But the semest—”
“Whatever. I don’t care why you’re really here, but I’m telling you: 30 days.”