The Rain - Chapter 10
The Queen Mother was furious when Lail arrived on the second floor.
Lail didn’t come home late, they still had hours of free time. The Queen Mother was angry because Lail came home in wet clothes.
“Why didn’t you take shelter when it’s raining, Lail?” The Queen Mother’s voice rang through the end of the second floor hallway. Lail became a spectacle for her friends, including Maryam.
“I didn’t have time to do that when I got off the bus.” Lail made up an answer.
“Do not lie, Lail. You could just wait for the rain at the bus stop. What’s so hard about it?”
Lail fell silent. She bowed her head.
“You stayed in the rain on purpose, right?” The Queen Mother glared. “What if you get sick? Make troubles for all the officers? You’re grown now, not a kid anymore who likes playing with water.”
Lail swallowed hard.
That night, Lail was sentenced to help out in the kitchen, scrubbing the bottoms of pots, cauldrons, and all cooking utensils. It was not a big problem. Lail was humming cheerfully, at least she wasn’t told to wear a cardboard that said, ‘I promise I won’t do the mistake again’ like the other kids that were caught breaking the rules.
Lail didn’t come back to her room until eleven at night. The Queen Mother added another punishment, it was to scrub the toilet in the public kitchen. But Lail didn’t mind at all, she was in a cheerful mood after meeting Esok. Let alone scrubbing one toilet, if she was being told to scrub the toilet all over the floor, she was still cheerful.
“You have not slept yet?” Lail walked in, she found Maryam still awake.
“Hi, Lail.” Maryam raised the book in her hand, still engrossed in reading. “How’s the Queen Mother? Is she still angry?”
Lail laughed in response, took off her jacket, and hung it on the wall.
“How about the film? Was it good?” Lail asked in return.
“It’s a good thing you didn’t watch it.” Maryam put down her book.
Lail nodded. It means the film was not good.
“I know why you were standing in the rain at the gates of the social home.” Maryam’s face was grinning, staring at Lail mischievously.
“Eh? I just got caught in the rain, Maryam.”
Maryam shook her head, investigating.
“You were driven home by someone on a bicycle, right? You were not taking the city bus route 7.”
“No. I came home alone.” Lail swallowed hard.
“Come on, Lail.” Maryam laughed. “You’re not good at lying. Your facial expression shows the opposite. Besides, I saw you guys passing by from a city bus. No doubt, it must be you, riding on a red bicycle.”
Lail’s face looked redden.
“Who is that boy?” Maryam was getting more mischievous.
“Nobody,” Lail said quickly. “I’m sleepy, I’m going to sleep.”
Maryam laughed at Lail’s blushing face.
“Come on, Lail… Who is that boy?”
“Just a friend.”
“Really? Just friends?”
Lail glared at Maryam, grabbing the blanket.
Maryam chuckled, but she didn’t continue teasing Lail. She opened her book again.
Since that meeting, Lail and Esok had a fixed schedule.
Esok only had one free day per month. So that’s when Lail could spend time with him. Not as often as Lail had hoped, especially when compared to their time in the refugee shelter, but it was more than adequate. Lail understood. Esok’s adoptive parents really hoped that Esok would be accepted into the best university. Esok must study hard.
Lail’s school was also getting busier, not to mention the activities at the social home. It was enough to make her endure for thirty days and then meet Esok for six hours.
Time flew imperceptibly, two years since the mountain disaster erupted, the technological progress that has been halted was reviving.
On the city streets most people had been wearing small screen-shaped chips on their arms, like the prototype Lail’s mother used to have. The small screen was multifunctional, starting from a means of payment, as to pay for the bus tickets, trams, shopping in stores, and for office attendance systems as well. Simply by passing the sensor, all data was recorded. The device was also a means of communication, for conventional telephone connections, video conferencing, and other purposes, including the latest generation features, sending messages only by thinking about the sentence, the screen on the arm would write it down.
In the year 2044, civil construction also underwent a major revolution. Three-dimensional printing technology made the process of building houses and buildings simply done through a computer, then the machine would start printing houses with high precision. Moreover, small items such as cabinets, it was easy as long as there was a design and a three-dimensional printing machine. Making a cabinet was as easy as printing a document. Research on materials, polymers, synthetic materials, complements the advances of three-dimensional printing, making cartridge materials available in good quality and almost lifelike.
Also medical advances, learning from the volcanic eruption, doctors and engineers created a variety of sophisticated equipment to perform medical actions quickly and accurately. Apart from stem cell research for artificial organs, one of the most amazing research in the medical field was about the nerves of the brain. Through an announcement that was broadcasted live on television, after being stopped due to the volcanic eruption, a consortium of researchers in the world finally managed to complete the map of the nerve system of the brain down to the smallest part, and it was only a matter of time that they could create a device capable of modifying memory.
Two years after the disaster, the manufacturing plant recovered perfectly. They were competing to deliver HVS paper-thin tablets, holographic screens, thinking refrigerators, wireless electrical devices, automatic cleaning machines, and various advanced technology equipment.
New buildings adopted the smart systems. Supermarket without waiters. Even in a restaurant, visitors ordered food by simply pressing the dining table which was also a touch screen, selecting the menu via the screen. And when it was done, leaving the table, the system would immediately auto debit, and the payment process was complete. Hotels also no longer used reception staff. Starting from the check-in process until room service, everything was carried out by machines.
Lail wasn’t very familiar with technology. She preferred the usual way. Esok was the one who really liked it. Esok was immersed in various engine projects. He was a genius.
Two months ago, Esok, representing his school, was sent to the capital city, and he won a national competition to make flying cars. Esok cheerfully recounted the experience in their monthly scheduled meeting. Lail stared at Esok without blinking throughout the story. That was awesome.
Unfortunately, when Lail got comfortable with the rhythm of their monthly meetings, the situation changed, forcing everything to change.
Esok was accepted into the best university in the capital city.
Esok conveyed the good news at their next scheduled meeting, when they sat in front of the fountain, finishing their popcorn. That day Esok did not take his bicycle, they arranged to meet there. Esok also accompanied his adoptive parents’ family who attended a luncheon not far near the fountain. Lail got there on a city bus.
“That is cool!” Lail cheered to hear that.
But Esok’s face looked flat.
“I’ll live in the capital, Lail. I will live there.”
Lail paused, put down the popcorn box.
“Are you alright?” Esok asked after a minute of silence.
Lail nodded, her eyes fixed to the front, slowly paying attention to the traffic jam. Earlier she also came late to the fountain because of the traffic jam. City bus Route 7 faltered arriving at the fountain stop. The Mayor was holding a banquet to commemorate the two years of the great earthquake. There were many invited guests, including maybe Esok’s adoptive parents.
“I actually prefer to live in this city, Lail. To be close to my Mom, as well as to you. But studying in the capital is a golden opportunity. They only gave ten seats this year, five of which are students from abroad. It’s a rare opportunity, it won’t be coming twice.”
The fountain pool was crowded with visitors passing by.
“How long are you going to study there?” Lail asked.
Three years? It was not a short period of time. Lail felt as if there was a heavy burden on her chest.
“Maybe I can come home every long holiday. But there will definitely be a lot of research projects. The university professor even has asked us to prepare the first project along with the notification we received. They don’t want to wait.”
Lail smiled. “We might still be able to talk on the phone.”
“Yes, we can do it,” Esok said quietly.
Lail looked up at the multi-storey building that was being built by the fountain. She actually looked up to prevent Esok from seeing her teary eyes. They could communicate on the phone, but that couldn’t replace sitting in front of the fountain, or cycling around the town, joking, and laughing. Including the most important feeling of being together, standing in front of the subway emergency stairs exit.
“Are you finished, Esok?” A deep voice greeted.
The sad conversation made Lail not notice there was a group approaching the park bench where they were sitting.
Lail turned. A very important person in the city, the hero during the emergency time, stepped toward the bench, with his wife and daughter. The person who greeted Esok was the city Mayor, who was followed by reporters, still busy asking questions. The banquet seemed to have ended.
Esok stood up. “Yes, Pa. We’re done talking.”
Lail didn’t understand. Her face was confused. Esok called the Mayor as papa? Did Lail hear correctly?
“Let me introduce, Pa, Ma, this is Lail. My friend from the evacuation shelter.”
“Hello, Lail. We finally meet.” The Mayor held out his hand.
Lail stood up, her hands trembled, shaking hands. Oh, she didn’t know at all. Esok’s adoptive father was the one who hosted the event near the fountain. Why did Esok never say who his adoptive parents were? Lail had always considered Esok’s adoptive parents to be ‘just’ a rich family, just like the other adopted children. They never talked about it, because it was an unpleasant topic. The adoptive family separated Lail and Esok. But this?
“Esok told us a lot about you, Lail,” the Mayor’s wife joined in warmly, greeting her, shaking her hand.
And finally, Lail also shook hands with the Mayor’s daughter who wore a beautiful dress. The teenager was her age, looked very beautiful. Her blue eyes, sharp nose, and charming dimples were like a princess in a fairy tale. She also greeted Lail in a friendly manner.
“Come on, Esok. We have to go home.” Mayor reminded him.
“I’m sorry to stop your meeting, Lail. I have some other things to do.”
Lail shook her head slowly. No problem.
Esok stared at Lail for a few seconds, nodded, and said goodbye. Then walked behind his adoptive parents. A car with a special license plate for the mayor approached. Esok got into the car. The windshield was lowered, the Mayor’s wife waved her hand warmly at Lail as the car left the fountain.
Lail froze in silent.
The 4 x 4 square meter white room with the marble floor was quiet.
“Gosh,” Elijah exclaimed softly. “The boy was adopted by the Mayor?”
The girl on the green sofa nodded. “I didn’t expect that either.”
Elijah sighed. This story made her curious.
As a senior paramedic, she had treated hundreds of patients. She had listened to many stories before performing the most technologically advanced surgery in medical history. The stories were used to accurately map the nerves of the brain, beyond that, it was not important to her. Elijah was only a facilitator, an intermediary so that the metal headband on the head worked effectively. She must not involve her emotions when she hears the story. But this one was different, it made her curious.
Elijah stared at the HVS paper-thin screen before her. A red thread appeared on the neural map. So bright. So Red. It was an unpleasant memory color.
“You don’t like the Mayor, Lail?” Elijah asked.
Lail looked down at the floor.
No, not the Mayor. The Mayor was a hero. It was thanks to him that the emergency period was well passed, as well as the revival of city life. All because of the Mayor’s hard work.
Lail was fifteen years old, a teenager. At that time the incident did not mean anything to her, it only gave her a shock. The memory turned red over the years. Until now, she had never hated the Mayor.
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