Aleca Zamm Travels Through Time
1 The Importance of Proper Footwear for Invisible Bridges
I could hardly sleep. Ever since I’d turned ten, my life had been more exciting than coming home to find a dozen monkeys wearing overalls in your bedroom (which has never happened to me but would be awesome if it did, and hey, you never know). I had found out I could stop time just by saying my name, Aleca Zamm. That meant I was a Wonder, a person with a magical ability. I was like my great-aunt Zephyr and her
brothers, who had also become Wonders when they’d turned ten.
Before I’d known that I was a Wonder, I hadn’t thought there was anything special about me at all. But now here I was, feeling very special, what with my ability to stop time, my teleporting great-aunt, and my new friend, Ford, who could see stuff from the past and the future. Like, he could see this bridge we were going to try to cross. That was not something just everybody got to do!
When I had gotten home from school that day, I’d found Aunt Zephyr a complete mess, watching a soap opera on TV and feeling all loser-y about herself because she thought she couldn’t Wonder anymore. But I had gotten her out of her funk by telling her that Ford had actually walked on the
bridge only he could see, and she had promised me that we—meaning Aunt Zephyr and me—could try to figure out a way to see Ford’s bridge and maybe even walk on it too. I couldn’t think of a good reason to wait until the next day to try this, but Aunt Zephyr could think of three reasons.
First, it was getting dark outside by the time she finally agreed to my plan, and she figured that if we were going to try to make seven-year-old Ford walk all the way across a bridge, we ought to wait until it was at least daytime so that it would be somewhat less scary for him. I should also mention that the bridge we were going to cross didn’t exist anymore. Also Ford was the only person who could actually see the bridge.
Second, Aunt Zephyr needed to rest
because her teleporting had been way? jacked up and she’d had a hectic day of landing in places where she hadn’t intended to go.
Third, none of us could drive to school. You’d think that a lady as old as my great-aunt would have a driver’s license, but why drive when you can just think yourself somewhere? She’d never bothered to learn how to drive a car, so we needed to wait for Mom to take me to school the next day, since the bridge we were crossing was just a few steps away from school. But that meant we also had to come up with an excuse for why Aunt Zephyr would be going with me. We had decided that we’d tell Mom that Aunt Zephyr was going to be giving a talk to my class about geography, because she had been everywhere in the world at least twice.
“I suppose it should go without saying,” my mom said when we told her the excuse the next morning. “But you won’t be mentioning to the children that you teleported to these distant lands, will you?”
“Oh, Harmony!” Aunt Zephyr chuckled. “Sometimes we don’t tell people the whole story for their own good. Don’t you agree?”
Mom did agree. She just didn’t know that we weren’t telling her the whole story. Because the whole story was that Aunt Zephyr would, technically, be lecturing the class about world geography, but nobody would hear it because time would be stopped and they’d all be frozen. But she would still give a short lecture, even if no one heard.
I did wish Aunt Zephyr had toned down her outfit, because I didn’t think it was a
good idea to draw attention to ourselves on a day when we were going to cross a secret bridge, but Aunt Zephyr rarely toned down anything. Not her outfits, hairdos, or even the things she said. She was wearing a dress that had multicolored sequins the size of pennies all over it. And as if the sequins weren’t enough, the dress also had a lace collar and hem and big buttons down the front. She was also wearing a scarf in her hair and big hoop earrings and high-heeled shoes with fringe that looked like fireworks exploding.
“Why is everyone staring at us?” she asked as we walked into the building.
“Because you are wearing every color of the rainbow and you are shiny,” I replied.
“I will have you know that this dress is
from one of the most famous designers in Italy,” Aunt Zephyr said. “Obviously these children don’t know fashion.”
“Obviously they’re only in pre-K through fifth grade,” I said. “And obviously you are not in Italy but in Prophet’s Porch, Texas. What did you expect?”
“Young lady, it is not every day that I attempt something as monumental as merging Wonder abilities. This occasion calls for something special!”
“You sure nailed ‘special,’?” I said. And I guess she had a point. Because we were going to try to do something probably nobody else had ever done before.
I mean, how many people do you know who have actually walked on a bridge from the past that no one else can see? Of course
Ford had been too scared to walk all the way across it by himself. I couldn’t see the bridge at all, and when I’d tried to walk on it with him, I’d fallen. Not far, but enough to know that there wasn’t a bridge there for me. But Ford had kept on walking, and to me it had looked like he was walking on air. I couldn’t stand it. I had to walk on that bridge too and see where it went. So Ford and I had cooked up this plan with Aunt Zephyr to see if we could figure out how to make it so I could see the bridge too. But we had to get all three of us together at once to try.
“Hi, Aleca. Hi, Ms. Zephyr.” It was my best friend, Maria. She stayed a few feet away from us, and I didn’t blame her. The last time she’d been around Aunt Zephyr, my aunt had rubbed noses with her. Rubbing
noses is a form of greeting in one of the countries that my aunt likes to teleport to. But Maria hadn’t known that, and she had been pretty weirded out. (You would be too if a complete stranger with orange-sherbet-colored hair suddenly stuck her nose against your nose.)
“Hi, Maria,” I said. “You’re probably wondering what Aunt Zephyr is doing at school today.”
Here we go again, I thought. I was going to have to make up a story to tell Maria. I couldn’t tell her the truth, because Wonder-ing was super top secret. We had to keep it secret because Aunt Zephyr said that Duds (regular people) might be scared of Wonders or bad Duds might try to hurt us in some way. So we couldn’t tell anyone—especially
not people who had a hard time keeping a secret, like Maria. Maria was the best friend I’d ever had, and I so wanted to tell her that I had magical powers, but Aunt Zephyr had forbidden it. I had to keep making up reasons for the strange things that had been happening around me, like why the principal’s pants had fallen down or why two mean girls had had their hair suddenly glued together or why a bug had appeared inside a bully’s mouth. Luckily for me, Maria didn’t really have sneakiness radar. Otherwise she would have been onto me fast.
“I was kind of wondering,” Maria admitted. She was eyeing Aunt Zephyr’s getup, and who could blame her? “Wow, don’t those shoes hurt your feet?”
“Yes, they absolutely do!” Aunt Zephyr
beamed at Maria. “And thank you for noticing! I do hate to suffer for fashion and not have anyone notice.”
“Wait,” I said. “You’re suffering? On purpose? Why would you do that?”
“Why, vanity, of course!” replied Aunt Zephyr. “What other reason could there be? My toes are crammed into these things like useless knowledge in the brain the night before a big test. And every so often one of my calves has a muscle spasm that would knock a professional wrestler to his or her knees! But these shoes complete my outfit in the most spectacular of ways. Don’t you agree?”
“I have some rain boots in my cubby if you want to borrow them,” Maria offered. I was just glad that the discussion of shoes
had distracted Maria from her original question, about what Aunt Zephyr was doing at school.
“Here, Aunt Zephyr,” I said, gesturing to a bench outside our classroom. “Maybe you ought to have a seat and rest your calves and your crammed toes,” I suggested. “Maria, I’ll catch up with you in a minute.”
Once Maria had left and Aunt Zephyr had hobbled over to the bench, I sat down beside her and whispered, “?Your shoes really hurt that bad?”
“Terrifically,” she replied.
“Aunt Zephyr, no offense, but what were you thinking?”
“I already told you. I was thinking about how beautifully the fringe accents my dress!”
“No,” I said. “I mean, the whole purpose
of bringing you to school was to see if we could walk across Ford’s bridge. It would be hard to walk across a normal bridge in those things, but this is a magical ?bridge! Don’t you think it would be best not to have to worry about uncomfortable feet at a time like this?”
“Hmmm.” Aunt Zephyr pondered. “I guess it was pretty silly of me.”
“I’ll call Mom and ask her to bring your sneakers.”
“Nonsense! I wouldn’t dream of putting your mother through the trouble. Besides, she isn’t at home anyway. Remember, she had to take Dylan to that doctor’s appointment today?”
“Oh yeah,” I said. My older sister, Dylan, was having a wart removed. “I guess you could try Maria’s rain boots.”
“That was a nice gesture, but they’d never fit,” Aunt Zephyr said. “Nothing to worry about, Aleca.” She looked around to make sure no one was watching. “I’ll just teleport home quickly and change shoes. I’ll be back before you know it.”
“But—” I began. Before I could finish my thought, which was that Aunt Zephyr’s teleporting hadn’t been very reliable lately, she was gone.
On the upside, her teleporting had worked immediately.
On the downside, there was no guarantee that she’d teleported home.