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By Beth J. Whiting
Charlotte’s worst nightmare had come true. Her mother told her that she was chaperoning the field trip that day.
No way. Her mother would see she was a loner.
Charlotte tried to get her mother to see that this was not right.
“I need to help out your teacher on the field trip, and that's that.”
In the end her mother wouldn’t say no.
Her mother drove her to school that day.
The field trip was to an art museum downtown.
The students had all boarded the bus, and Charlotte sat alone.
Her mother entered with the other adults and said, “Darling, I might as well as sit by you.” She balanced her checkbook on the way.
The museum had a lot of interesting art pieces. Charlotte walked around with her mother’s group. Charlotte was scared about lunchtime. During field trips she usually sat with the teachers and she didn’t want her mom to know.
As they stepped into the courtyard for lunch, Charlotte told her mother she needed to go to the bathroom.
She wandered a while and saw a boy sitting alone.
“What are you doing here?”
“I’m hiding from my mother. She’s on a field trip with me. I don’t want her to see I don’t have any friends.”
“How come you have the same story as mine?”
“What’s your name?”
“My name is Ivan.”
“I hate this situation.”
“Me, too. My mother is embarrassing me.”
“What grade are you in?”
“What school do you go to?”
“I’ve never heard of it.”
“It’s not from around here, that's for sure.”
“Oh. Where do you come from?”
“Somewhere else. We’ve heard of this museum before. Our elementary school is trying to get us educated about diverse areas.”
“So how far is this place from your home?”
“Like 30 minutes.”
“Could you take the bus here?”
“Because I want a friend and I think that you could be it.”
He didn’t leave her a phone number. He just told her that he would be on this bench next week at 5:30.
When Charlotte stopped wandering, she found her mother who told her that lunch was over. Charlotte was happy about this.
The next Thursday Charlotte lied to her mother and told her she was going to an after-school club. She went downtown on a city bus, the first time in her life she had ridden a city bus at all. She arrived at the museum and saw the boy sitting on the bench.
He motioned for her to draw close to him and whispered, “I might as well be telling you the truth. I’m from another dimension.”
She said, “Yeah, right.”
“No, I’m serious. My school took a field trip to another dimension to visit the art work here. But as far as the two dimensions are concerned we couldn’t more alike. You and I are both friendless."
“How did you get here?”
“A taxi that drives you to alternate dimensions?”
“You’re full of crap.”
“How can you afford a taxi?”
“My parents have money.”
They both sat there in silence.
“So what exactly do you do for fun?”
“I’m a nerd.”
“Me, too. On my planet sports are very popular. I’m so lost there.”
“What do you do?”
“I don’t do anything but read.”
“Reading’s good too.”
Charlotte couldn’t tell if he was lying about being in another dimension but she was pretty desperate for a friend. This would have to do.
When Charlotte visited Ivan next, he had drawn a picture of her in the meantime.
“I drew this picture of you during art class.”
“So what do you typically draw?”
“Pictures of models. They’re easy because there’s not too many imperfections. Drawing regular people is more difficult because of all the flaws.”
“I’ve read most of the books at my school library. The interesting ones at least”
“I draw during lunch. That’s the hardest time of the day.”
“I would say the whole six hours is hardest for me,” replied Charlotte.
The lights dimmed for a second in the museum, announcing closing time.
“Why don’t you go to my dimension with me?”
“I’m sure that my parents would be happy to support an earthling. Come on. The taxi will drive by your house.”
The next day a taxi arrived at her house.
Charlotte went upstairs and started to pack.
As she came downstairs her mother saw the packed suitcase.
“What is this about Charlotte?”
“Because I’m not the person you think I am.”
“What do you mean?”
“The field trip. Mom, I have no friends.”
“I already knew that. Why do you think I went on the field trip? To keep you company.”
Charlotte paused, “Oh.” She stood thinking for a moment, and then set down her suitcase.
Charlotte went outside and with a quick hug told Ivan she couldn’t go.
When Charlotte returned into the house she asked her mother how long she had known.
“Always. You’ve never brought anyone over. “
“Are you disappointed in me?”
“I would say more sad. I don’t have many friends either. Hopefully a mother can be a friend.”
Then they made cocoa and talked all night.
Beth J. Whiting was born in 1983 to a large family of brainy eccentrics. At eight years old she developed a love of books through the works of Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis. Her short stories revolve around underdogs in suburban settings, such as the one in which she was raised. She currently lives with her artistic twin sister in a tiny apartment in Mesa, Arizona.