The Earth Moves

Entry by: Freya

22nd April 2016
Earth moves

‘Mercury, Venus, Earth… Earth? For goodness’ sake where is Earth?’ Ms Semifredo furrows her generous pitch-black brows. She turns on her heel, her right hand on her pronounced hip. She squints behind her thick glasses. With all the lights fixed at the stage, she can’t be certain if a missing student is lurking in the auditorium. The bob at the top of her head wobbles like a little black-furred bunny ready to leap.
She must have detected movement in the murkiness as she bellows:
‘How many times do I have to say the audition starts at ten AM sharp? Really, I can’t understand you, Earth. Please join your classmates this instance.’
She steps back towards us and begins inspecting the costumes.
A tiny, slender boy, with a hunch on his back and a terrified expression climbs up the stage.
Ms Semifredo opens her eyes wider.
‘Pluto? I didn’t realise you were missing as well. This is a nightmarish beginning. Jupiter and Saturn are both off sick, but Professor Nikoforus never mentioned Earth was coming down with something as well. Have you seen Earth, Pluto?’
Pluto shakes his head. He doesn’t meet Ms Semifredo’s eyes. He’s the shiest boy in our class.
‘Well, we can’t proceed without her. She is too important for the play.’
Venus rolls her eyes, hearing that. We start shuffling and whispering to each other.
‘Hush. The best will be if we investigate. Let’s start with your dormitory. Please walk in pairs. Mercury and Venus, Mars and Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.’
Ms Semifredo leads us through the back of the stage, towards the exit. She walks fast, her high heels clicking against the wooden floor.
We cross the large, well-maintained lawn. It is a sunny first day of spring, with birds happily chirping in the nearby bushes. I unbutton my jacket.
‘What happened to Earth?’ Mars pulls Venus’s ponytail and she turns towards him smiling. Her eyelashes flutter like the wings of some eager butterfly. This irritates me and I squeeze her hand.
‘You’re walking with me today. You don’t always have to talk to him,’ I mumble.
‘I like talking to him.’ Venus wrinkles her tiny perfect nose.
Mars is the handsomest of us boys. But he’s also a bully and a show-off.
‘What did you just say, Mercurio-Farturio?’ Mars pinches my ear and I push his hand away with disgust.
‘Stop that, Mars! Behave yourself, young man. You are no longer in year 7.’ In no time, as if she has her eyes at the back of her head and could spy on us even when we're pacing behind her, Ms Semifredo finds herself by Mars's side and shakes him.
I sneer at him.
‘Mercury, keep walking. We don’t have all day. By now we should have finished the first act.’
I try but have to shorten mi strides as Venus drags me backwards. She’s now openly flirting with Mars.
Forced to hold hands with Mars, Uranus stares away. His expression says exactly what’s on my mind. What an idiotic idea to ask thirteen-year-olds to hold hands!
‘Let her walk with Mars, Ms Semifredo,’ he suggests.
I admire his courage. No one ever dares to challenge Ms Semifredo’s peculiar arrangements.
But she only purses her lips and pretends she doesn’t hear. I now recall she has her eyes set on Uranus’s newly widowed dad. Normally, by now, she would have boxed his ears.
Uranus sighs.
Neptune and Pluto share some joke and chuckle. These two have become good friends, though it’s hard to imagine two boys so much unlike. Neptune is tall and handsome, with a mane of chestnut locks falling to his broad shoulders. He’s also the brightest in our class. Pluto, on the other hand, is a quintessential underdog, a disfigured orphan, with a bird-like face and dyscalculia.
Earth was the first to befriend him. She’s the most gregarious of us all. I’d bet Neptune started speaking to Pluto only to please Earth. It’s no secret he’s besotted with her. The rest of us only have eyes for Venus.
Venus is the prettiest girl in the galaxy. Her eyes glow like emeralds, her blonde waist-long hair smells of roses, her super-white teeth gleam with health. But so much perfection in one spoiled and cold-hearted person is precarious. Even Mars comprehends she’s evil. Though as long as she prefers him to anyone else, he’s contented. But Venus never sticks to one victim for long. She first broke Uranus’ heart then mine. Now she’s conquering Mars. She failed with Neptune who always preferred Earth, but she doesn’t give up easily so as soon as Earth travels home for holidays, Venus will strike again.
We enter the dorm and Ms Semifredo paces down the windy corridor towards the last room on the right. As she no longer watches us, we let go of the hands of our partners. Venus instantly shifts closer to Mars. He winks at her.
Ms Semifredo thuds on the door and, hearing no response, presses the metal handle.
The room is empty. Not only of Earth but of all her belongings. The birch-wood shelves attached to one of the walls are bare, the small pretend-wood desk cleared of Earth’s colourful crayons.
I glance at the night table and notice that Neptune’s gaze shifts in the same direction. Earth’s mascot, a plush doll she got from her god mother, is missing.
‘Ms Semifredo, what happened? Where’s Earth?’ Neptune’s voice shudders.
Ms Semifredo corrects her glasses and starts drumming at her nose with her finger, a clear sign of perturbation.
‘Ms Semifredo?’ Neptune insists.
‘I don’t exactly know. Let’s find Professor Nikoforus. It’s unbelievable that a student of mine moves and I am not informed.’
‘Moves?’ We exchange uncertain glances. ‘Now? In the middle of term?’
Even Mars looks troubled. Earth helps him with geometry.
A triumphant chuckle escapes Venus. I ask her silently with my eyes if she knows what happened to Venus but she just shrugs.
‘What’s going on here? Why are you congregating here, year 8?’ A high-pitched voice close to my ear asks and I leap surprised.
‘Chicken,’ Mars hisses.
I ignore him, rubbing my ear which seems to be ringing.
‘Professor Nikoforus, where’s Earth?’ Neptune is the first to find his voice.
‘So that’s why you’re here instead of rehearsing your play.’ Professor Nikoforus laughs good-heartedly.
‘How do you expect me to rehearse The Taming of the Shrew when my Bianca is missing, Professor?’ Ms Semifredo’s displeasure is clear from the way she pinches her lips.
‘Your Shrew is here, I see, safe and sound.’ He licks his lips eyeing Venus. ‘The play is about Katherina, isn’t it?’
Venus brightens, sending Professor Nikoforus one of her most charming smiles. Uranus rolls his eyes.
‘I beg to differ. When can I expect Earth to rejoin our troupe, sir? We can’t proceed without Bianca.’
‘I’m afraid, you’ll have to make one of your boys up. Pluto would do.’
Mars laughs. Pluto reddens.
‘Earth’s not coming back,’ Professor Nikoforus adds.
A murmur rises.
‘Not coming back? What happened to her? Is she sick?’ Neptune bellows above all our voices.’
‘You know her family are travellers. Each three hundred sixty five days they move. That’s their custom. Yesterday was day three hundred sixty four so today Earth moves.’
‘Oh, was that yesterday already?’ Ms Semifredo looks embarrassed. ‘I should have remembered.’
‘She didn’t even say good-bye.’ Neptune glances away, tears in his eyes.
‘She never does. Can’s stand the farewells, poor dear.’ Ms Semifredo places her hand on Neptune’s arm sympathetically.
I stare at her. She’s never nice to anyone. Well, anyone but Earth. She’s always had a soft spot for Earth, though she tries to hide it.
‘Does it mean she’s done it before?’ Hope fills Neptune’s voice.
‘Oh yes. And rest assured, she will be back.’
‘I am not as certain about it as you, Ms Semifredo. Her customs are unlike ours. Who knows which planet they’ll move to next.’ Professor Nikoforus’s tone is condescending as if Earth’s customs were somehow inferior to his own.
I peer at him with anger. Earth is the nicest person I know. How dare he?
‘True, but every pattern may change,’ responds Ms Semifredo.
Professor Nikoforus clicks his tongue and shrugs. He withdraws towards the door, throwing one final hungry glance at Venus’s tanned legs she’s exposing quite willingly half-lying half-sitting on Earth’s old bed, her skirt only long enough to cover her knickers.
We start chatting. Only Neptune stands frozen, hurt in his eyes.
Ms Semifredo then adds in a soft, barely audible voice.
‘She’s left something this time. She’ll be back.’
Neptune’s eyes light up momentarily. He comprehends.
I comprehend as well. So that’s what it means to love.