“It’s not here.” Alex said, wiping the sweat from his brow. “We’ve been circling for hours. But this lot is just a lot. It’s not a museum. Sorry, Sam.”
“It’s gotta be here!” Samantha exclaimed. She was hot and miserable. It was getting late and it was hard to talk and pedal at the same time. “It’s just gotta be. How do you just lose a three story museum?”
Alex was frustrated, “I’ve never seen it, Sam – remember? And I don’t know what the big deal is anyway. You’ve never cared about museums before.”
“This one is different. I promise. Just wait ‘til you see it!”
“It’s getting late, Sam. Our folks are going to worry.”
“Not if we find a phone and we call them.”
“So where are you going to find a phone in the middle of nowhere? Huh?”
“There!” Samantha pointed. Sure enough, there was a pay phone they had not noticed before, in the corner of the abandoned lot they had been circling.
“OK. So you found a pay phone. How’re you going to PAY for it?” Alex asked. But inwardly, he was surprised to see the phone at all. Most adults and teenagers had cell phones, so pay phones were disappearing from public spaces. They kept trying to talk their parents into letting them have their own, but their folks thought they were too young.
Samantha abandoned her bike and was already halfway to the old box. “We’re in luck. Two quarters in the coin slot.”
“A call costs thirty-five cents now. We only have enough for one call.”
“So we call my mom and ask her to call your mom. Problem solved.”
Alex couldn’t argue. Samantha called her parents.
The conversation was very short, but then it didn’t need to be long. Alex marveled at the way Samantha had her folks wrapped around her little finger. It wasn’t as though his were strict, but he had to work just a little bit harder to get his way than she did.
“Thanks, Mommy! Love ya – bye!” She hung up the phone. “We’re all set. We’ve got forty five more minutes and then we have to be home.”
“Well, we don’t have any places left to explore. Let’s head on back.”
“We could just hang out a while.” Samantha said. “We could, you know, talk or something.”
“You know, talk. People open and close their mouths and express ideas and opinions about stuff.”
“Uh – I like milk – cows are great?”
“Ha Ha. Very funny. No, like, just,” Samantha wasn’t sure what she wanted him to say. The Futureshroom was supposed to help her with this conversation, though she didn’t want that to happen, either. “Just like, — uhm — You aren’t planning to move anytime soon, are you?”
“Well, Dad’s job moves him around a lot.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“And we haven’t moved in a while because he’s traveled and Mom and I have stayed behind.”
“But no, I’m not moving that I know of right now.”
“And Mom kinda sucks at keeping things from me, so I don’t think we need to worry about that.”
“So that’s what you wanted to talk about? Did you think I was moving or something?”
“I just wanted to see if you were, is all.”
Alex pretended to study his watch.
“What are you looking at?”
“Two minutes and thirty-two seconds.”
“Two minutes and thirty-two seconds?”
“Two minutes and thirty-two seconds. Of our forty-five minutes. For you to learn that I’m not planning to move.”
“You know, if you want to ask me something, you can just ask me something.”
“Well, yeah, of course.” Samantha replied with more confidence than she felt.
“Ok, then. So, back to your house?”
They rode back to the neighborhood in silence. Samantha’s mind continued to race. Why couldn’t she talk to her best friend about what she had heard?
At her garage, he parted with his typical, “See you tomorrow?”
“I’ll be here.”
The next week passed much like the previous. Alex was not avoiding her, she could have called him on that. There was absolutely nothing she could pinpoint that was different. But something was different. She couldn’t wait until the next weekend, when they could go searching for the museum again.
She’d tried to ask her classmates. She didn’t go on the field trip by herself, after all, but the others just remembered going to a movie about the history of theatre. It almost made sense, but Samantha knew she had not sat through a movie. She tried to ask her teacher, but he was distracted and she became less and less sure of herself.