Chapter 16, "Time to Leave Learning Land FOREVER"
The spaceship had never felt more cold and metallic. Which is really weird because it was totally cold and metallic in its default state, but that isn't the point. The point is that Xlormp made the atmosphere that much more cold and metallic, and he wasn't even a robot. Impressive business, I thought to myself.
I wasn't sure where we were going, so I turned to Xlormp and asked, "Where are we going?"
"We are going home. Because I'm taking you home."
I reached out to fondle him gently, but he made a loud hollering beep and demanded, "No touching, as right now my slime is comprised of poison."
Which meant he was angry. "Are you angry with me?" I questioned questioningly and with small traces of agony.
"I'm not entirely sure," Xlormp admitted softly. "I think I am equal parts angry with you and Christopher and myself."
"Because I spied on you and you always say how you don't like that even though I think you really do."
He's right. I did. It was just more fun to be obnoxious and contrary. So I made a fist to punch him in the tentacles, but I remembered the poison just in time to back off. I sighed heavily, like an elephent of depression. I'm pretty sure I knew what would happen next.
"You're going to tell me I can't see the Haberdashes ever again, aren't you?"
"That is inaccurate piffle, Frig," Xlormp emphatically stated.
"I cannot do that on account of how they are now key to the investigation that is keeping you safe. It would be in violation of the emergency alliance code."
"I guess hooray for codes, then?" I muttered.
"Hooray indeed." Except Xlormp didn't sound like he meant hooray. He sounded like he meant "screw these codes to the deepest depths of something horrible and then hock a huge loogie on them." But he was far too gentlemanly to say anything. Or too filled with deadly poison. Either one.
The day erupted through my window like a volcano of morning, spurting daylight lava all up in my business and making my face hurt with the importance of the day.
"Auuuughfmrrrrp," I sputtered as I pulled myself up and out of bed.
"Darling Frisbee manipulator!" Lou grandly announced as he entered the room, wearing (among other things) his nicest dirty towel around his neck, fastened with a "Hi, my name is Wilma" name tag found in the parking lot of Jimbo Flannigan's Stuff Emporium. I remember when his dear friend Katie McPiggles gifted that to him. It meant a lot to Lou. Which meant that somehow, under his depths of psychosis and crazy, Lou found the presence of mind to get dressed up for my graduation.
I smiled grandly at him. "You look fantastic, Lou."
He grinned back, a hand drifting gently to the name tag to fondly caress it. "It's almost time for baloney," he insisted, and I nodded.
"I know. I'll hurry."
I went to put on my own clothes, looking specifically for ones that fit and didn't look like they'd been pulled out of a back alley dumpster, when a really fancy-ass red dress appeared on my bed out of nowhere. Or, it would have seemed like out of nowhere if I didn't already know that it had been teleported there by magic space technology.
A note on it read, "Now you won't look like an ugly street urchin. Love, Klaxie."
"Aww," I thought out loud to myself, and I donned the delightfully delicate dress.
All the kids of Learning Land had gathered in the gym, throwing some kind of crazy fit of hysterics over the fact that they'd never actually be required to enter the place again, at least not for any academic reason. I wanted to punch them all in the face repeatedly, because their ridiculous enthusiasm was pissing me off.
Someone tapped me on the shoulder, and I turned around, totally prepared to do some face punching. It was Lexington. I punched her in the face.
"HEY!" She proclaimed loudly and forcefully, grabbing her nose. "I was coming over here to tell you that you're awesome and I'll miss you."
"Yes, but those are lies," I said.
"True, but you didn't have to punch me for it," she insisted pathetically.
I considered that. I guess I didn't really have to punch her, but I'd gotten so used to the way Xlormp and I interact, it seemed only natural.
Speaking of Xlormp, he and his alien family had lined up at the back of the group of obnoxious shrieking adolescents, and they all looked quite dashing. I guess Klaxie convinced them they should wear tuxedos for the occasion. I'd never seen Xlormp wear clothes before, and it did things to my insides, and I was about to go over there and make my insides manifest on the outside when someone grabbed my arm.
"Hey," Christopher said, "we're supposed to line up over here."
I followed her to the middlish part of the line. Hector 2.0 clanked merrily behind us. He wore a bow tie. It looked quite nice on him, I noted with my brain, and then stopped, because I was too busy hating everyone.
But then even that was hard because Christopher said, "I'm sorry if I got you in trouble the other day."
"You didn't, really," I said. "I think Xlormp is more pissed at you than at me." I said it and I knew it was true.
"Well, anyway, I won't do it again maybe," she said.
"Okay," I agreed.
The Learning Land principal made some loud announcements, and everyone shuffled forward. I felt very weird in this line of people, wearing my lovely dress, knowing that behind me stood a robot and several aliens, and when they handed me my rolled up piece of paper, I tried very hard not to roundhouse kick the paper-hander just out of sheer confusion. I think I succeeded.
When everything had calmed down and everyone had their very own piece of paper, Xlormp slithered over to me and Lou bounded in my direction, towel flapping elegantly in the wind. I felt an odd sort of contentment. I mean, here I was, with my alien and my hobo and a piece of paper that meant I never had to go to school again if I didn't want to.
Christopher and Hector 2.0 clanked over to us. "It is time to party with great enthusiasm until the solar celestial body appears in the sky," Hector 2.0 spouted robotically.
"Oh, yeah," Klaxie chagrined. "Tabitha's party. To which I am not invited."
I shoved him. "You are so invited. I am inviting you right now."
Klaxie grinned. "For reals and for serious?"
"Yes," I nodded pointedly. He pumped a flipper jubilantly into the air.
Lou grabbed me up into a tight hug. "My emotions include pasta sauce!" he exclaimed boldly. I hugged him back, and out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Christopher making a weird face.
I asked her, "Hey, why are you making a weird face?" as I tried to free myself from Lou's grasp and insert myself into Xlormp's.
Christopher could have said anything at that moment. She could have said she left the iron on and it would surely melt all the ice cream. She could have said that she picked up a flying octopus from the store yesterday and it had blue eyes. She could have said she needed to go to the bathroom. But she said none of these things. Instead, she said, "Hector and I have to go. We'll see you at the party."
And I said "Okay," and then they did go, and meanwhile Lou was still attached to me, muttering something about carpet stains and ugly butter, and I knew something was amiss.
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