Trine stops breathing. Like a small furry animal caught in the headlights of an oncoming express train, she can do nothing but stare at her sudden doom. She has not been this unpresentable since she stopped soiling her diapers. Fresh out of bed, her brown hair is pretty much everywhere it shouldn't be. With her pajamas in the wash, she is wearing the old ones that she should have thrown away two years ago. They are too small, worn thin and exhibit a fetching pattern of care bears. Her nose is dripping, and she just announced that it was that part of the month. And of all days in her life, totally without warning, Tom decided to bring home his classmate: The universally acclaimed Prettiest Boy In The World, the one whose pictures are all over her bedroom and filling a couple heavy scrapbooks. Benjamin “Betelgeuse” Starborn. He is looking at her with surprise, and then announces:
“You must be Tom's sister. Your eyes are beautiful.”
The floor rushes up to meet her.
“Ben, you just don't say things like that!”
“What? She is your sister, isn't she? She even looks a lot like you.”
“You don't comment on a girl's eyes. It is reserved for people who love each other.”
“I love her. She is your sister.”
Ben kneels beside her and feels her heartbeat. “She seems to only have fainted. I did not know she was sick.” He picks her up. Tom is not at all surprised that the slender boy is much stronger than he looks. Probably another Visitor thing.
“Just lay her on the couch. In here.”
“Strange, normally the Heritage would warn me if I was about to inconvenience someone that much.”
“It is probably all for the best. But please don't talk to girls about their eyes or how pretty they are.”
“This is one of those unwritten rules, like don't talk about menstruation and don't be alone with one girl?”
“Exactly! Do you start to see the pattern in it now?”
“You really are innocent.”
“Yes, as far as I know. Who wants to be guilty anyway?” He looks closer at Trine. “Those clothes are awfully tight. In the first aid leaflet it says...”
“Trust me, she is far more likely to faint again if you unbutton them.”
When the room stops spinning, Trine can hear voices from the kitchen. Tom and Ben discussing one of the deeper mysteries of geometry, from the sound of it. Well, more like Ben explaining it. Ben! Suddenly the whole sorry thing returns to her with crushing force. She staggers to her feet and runs for the main bathroom.
She starts to cry as she stands in the shower, the tears mingling with the water and disappearing. Her life is ruined. All her dreams are crushed. Having seen her like this, he will laugh every time he even thinks of her. She knows she is not pretty, but why, why, why did he have to see her like this?
And then, suddenly, the rest of the memory returns from an orbit around the moon. But it seems totally out of place. Could she possibly have heard that? Or is it something she dreamed? It must be from the book she read before she fell asleep. He cannot possibly have told her that she had pretty eyes. You just don't say that to a girl you have barely even met. And especially someone as miserable as her.
She is drying her hair when she notices that her nose is not dripping. Her throat is not sore. And she is not hurting anywhere else either. She is completely, totally healthy from top to toe. It is a miracle! The irony of it is almost too much. She carefully brushes her hair in front of the hot air fan until she is satisfied that not one hair is out of place, then brushes it a little more. That's when she comes to think that she did not bring the clothes to change into. No way she is worming into those PJs again now. But her room is along the hall and up the stairs. What if he is out there and sees her? No way. She grabs the largest towel she can find and drapes it around her body, or at least all the essential parts. There. She carefully opens the door just a little and peers out. Not a soul in sight. She can hear Tom's voice saying something from the living room, so they must have moved in there. If she moves rapidly past that door, she won't be seen. Ready, set, GO! She moves with the speed of a frightened deer.
“To the right. Got it.”
That's not Tom's voice. It is the beautiful musical voice of their guest, who steps out from the living room door, turning toward the smaller bathroom down the hall, just at the moment she races like a living rocket across the paneled floor. If she were driving a car, she would not even have taken her foot off the accelerator, much less put it on the brakes. She is not driving a car, which is good for his health, but it does not stop her from crashing into him at full speed, sending them both sprawling across the floor. They come to a stop well beyond the doorway, with her on top. As the stun of the impact wears off, she gasps for breath and finally finds it. The room is spinning again. Miraculously, she is unhurt. He was the one who got the unexpected meeting with the floor this time. He is lying on his back, and opens his eyes wide as she struggles to get up on her hands and knees.
That's when she notices that the force of the collision has made the towel slip somewhat. On the bright side, it still covers her middle and most of the rest it used to cover. Just not everything. For a heartbeat or two she just stares at his surprised eyes, large and blue like perfect gemstones. Then she screams her lungs out.
“I am not coming out as long as he is in the house, do you hear me?”
“You really have to excuse her. She is rather easily excited.”
“That's OK. I know I will see her again, often. When I first saw her, I had the same feeling as when I met you. She was familiar, not just because she resembled you. No, she too is somehow part of my future. Isn't that fantastic?”
“It is downright incredible.”
“That means it was not just because we were going to sit in the same row in class.”
“So it would seem. I have a hard time imagining that she will join our class.”
“I can hardly believe my luck, to meet friends like you two the first time I move away from home.”
“Unbelievable things happen around you with amazing regularity.”
“That's how the Heritage works.”
“I believe I promised to show you the farm. You are going to love the hayloft. It is possible to climb along the ceiling to the middle and jump right down.”
“Your sister is not coming with us, it seems.”
“I can say for sure that Trine is not going to jump in the hay with you today. Take my word for it. She may be interested in doing so at a future time, though.”
“It sounds like great fun.”
“So I've been told.”