I was speechless. As I sat in the middle of the library I felt my eyes wander all over the magnificent lay out. The library was two stories tall and built to accommodate four different sections. To the far Eastern side, on the first floor, was a café like area complete with a Starbucks and a long line of printers for printing out projects. Above it, on the second floor, was a giant room full of large tables, conference rooms and glass walls. It lead to a large glass window that overlooked the entire front walk. Chairs and couches were pushed up against the walls for reclining and working in peace. There were two large pillars in the center of the room with computers surrounding them for work and recreation. Beyond them were booths and fancy cushions for sitting and working. There were vending machines in a small room just off of this area.
But it was the far western most portion of the library that most interested me. On the first and second floor of the west wing was a near endless labyrinth of book shelves filled to the brim with books of every kind. Along the walls were work desks for students to work in silence, but between every shelf was a plethora of knowledge, literature, history, and poetry! I felt almost like drooling as I ran my two right hands along the almanacs and encyclopedias. I actually felt tears build in my eyes, and I had to remove my glasses quickly to rub the salty tears away. This put the library back home to shame. I had to lean against one of the shelves just to keep from falling over. As I thought about all these books, my mind drifted back to home and Mr. Johnson’s library. I ran hand down my left pocket and felt my keys…and my fingers gently rubbed against the key Mr. Johnson had given me to his library. I smiled to myself and wondered how he’d feel if he could see all these books too! Would he be just as blown away as I was? I could only imagine so.
“Where to even start?” I whispered, wanting to keep my voice down. One of the things I loved most about libraries was the quiet and loneliness of them. Especially here, there were so few people to gawk at my arms, that I actually felt like I could be alone with my books. I plucked off a poetry book in one hand, a thesaurus in another, a dictionary in the third hand, and finally I tossed my backpack onto a couch with my fourth hand. I fell back on the couch, using two of my arms to open up the poetry book, my other two hands got to work searching my back pack for a notebook. I wanted to jot down any ideas I could. I needed more inspiration for my poetry. After I had all I needed, I leaned back in the couch and closed my eyes. One of my right hands dug into my pocket searching for my iPod. After finding it, I pulled it out and switched to relaxing piano music. Music often helped in the writing process. After plugging in my headphones and losing myself to the sound, I glanced down at the paper and began to write.
“Hmmm…And would the stars of Heaven not weep,….no no that’s not right…” I spoke gently, erasing the line I’d written. I’d already gotten halfway through a new poem and I found myself yawning. I checked my watch and squeaked in surprise.
“Already 2 o’clock?” I gasped. “I need to hurry!” I had one more class today at 2:15, and I had to hurry to get to class, otherwise I’d be late on my first day, and that’d be a horrible first impression! I threw the books I’d borrowed back onto the shelves unceremoniously and I grabbed my backpack up quickly, dashing towards the stairs to get downstairs. As I hurried, I could sense eyes following me, my arms working to get my pack on. I didn’t have time to think about them though. If my schedule was right, my class was on the other side of the campus. I needed to run fast! As soon as I got out the library door, I hit the ground running, darting quickly between strolling students and trying hard to keep to the path.
“Crap, crap, crap!” I repeated, as if the word alone could boost my speed. I ran through the large grassy field known on the campus as the courtyard. It was the area that sat in the center of campus. Most club meetings went on in this large field as well as recreation activities not involved in sports. There was a long four directional sidewalk that cut through the grass, each leading to four of the primary learning facilities on campus: The Prince Building to the north, The Edwards Fine Arts Center to the East, the Smith Science Center to the West, and across the bridge over Turtle Pond, was the Wall Building to the South, which is where I needed to be! I cut across the sidewalk to get to the bridge. Turtle Pond was just in front of me! I could make it!
“LOOK OUT! HEADS UP!”
I turned around just in time to see a soccer ball flying in my direction at incredible speed. Luckily it wouldn’t hit me…based on the trajectory, it would end up in Turtle Pond. I watched it a second, and then instinct kicked in. I didn’t slow down in my sprint and I darted towards the bridge where the ball was headed and I jumped up. All four of my arms shot upwards to catch it. I kept one set bent a little to stop the ball from below while the other set would catch it directly. Airborne, I threw out my hands and I felt the sharp pain of the rubber ball smashing into my hands. I winced, but didn’t release my grip. All four of my hands tightened and gripped the rubber ball with all their muster and I landed, just next to the bridge, having saved the ball from passing over it. I stopped and stared at the ball in my hands, breathing heavily from the sudden adrenaline rush I’d just had; I didn’t even notice two young men run towards me.
“Wow, that was some catch!” One of them laughed. “How’d you do that?”
“I…used to play soccer with my dad.” I answere sheepishly.
“No kidding,” the other guy joked, taking the ball from my hands, “hey wait here a moment. I need to get someone.”
“I really don’t have time! I’m gonna be late for class!” I exclaimed, turning to run again.
“2:15!” I answered.
“But…it’s only 2:03.” The guy replied. “You have some time. Just wait a moment, okay?” After a few moments, I saw the other guy running back to me with another man, much older and wearing a teal and black collared shirt. He had a buzzed head and a thin face, but a concerned look was etched across it.
“What’s going on?” He asked.
“Coach, this is the girl! She caught that ball right out of the air like it was nothing.” The guy said excitedly. “Didn’t you say you were looking for more recruits for the womens soccer team?”
“Wait, what!?” I cried.
“Ugh…seems these two knuckle heads are hoping to get you into the womens team. I’m Coach Hogan, nice to meet you.” He held out his hand to me and I reached out with one of my right hands. As I did he suddenly took notice of my other three arms and his eyes widened in shock…I was getting used to that.
“I’m Jenna Corvus.” I replied.
“Trent and Allen here say that you caught that ball like a real keeper.” He continued, still staring at my arms. I felt the urge to hide them behind my back.
“Well yeah I mean…I used to practice with dad when I was younger.”
“Did you ever play soccer in high school?” He asked.
“No I…was homeschooled.” I blushed.
“Coach Hogan, she could still try out right? Don’t you need more-”
“Trent? Why don’t you and Allen go back to practicing so you DON’T send the ball into the pond next time?” Coach Hogan snapped.
“Yeah Trent, watch where you kick the ball, you idiot!” Allen laughed.
“If you’d just stopped it with your head, it wouldn’t have gone that far!”
“HUSTLE!” The Coach shouted, sending both boys off running. “Sorry about them. The men’s soccer coach is Coach Docking, but he’s out of town this week, so I’ve been overseeing both teams practices for now. But I’m the women’s soccer coach. Recently we had a few students drop out of the program and it would be awesome if we could get a helping hand? Interested in playing?” He asked. I blinked a few times, wondering if he might vanish into thin air if I did. Was this really happening!?
“Are…you serious!?” I asked.
“I am! I mean, I can’t garuntee you’ll get in…but I’d be more than willing to let you try it out. If you’re interested, come to the soccer stadium on Friday at 6:00 PM. He reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet, reaching in and yanking out a small white card with his name and phone number on it. “This is my card. Let me know if there are any problems, alright?”
“I…I…um…thank you!” I squeaked, unsure what to say. “But…will I be able to play since I have…four arms?” I asked.
“Well, there’s no rule that I know of that says you can’t.” Coach Hogan winked before running back to Trent and Allen. “Have a good day, and hopefully see you Friday.” As he ran off I found myself just staring at the card in my hand feeling both light as a feather, and like my body was made of cement at the same time. I was so flattered and happy by his offer that I could barely contain myself from smiling. But I was also so terrified! This was so much more than I had bargained for or prepared for. Was I ready for this? Was this what I wanted? Could I afford to try this?
“What would Mom and Dad think?” I whispered. “Oh my gosh this is so exciting…and so…scary…and…” I suddenly remembered why I’d been running earlier. I took off running as fast as I could across the pond. I glanced at my watch to see it was 2:10. “Oh no! Oh no!” I burst through the door and turn the corner, running head long into a young woman with tan skin and dark hair.
I rubbed my head and looked at the girl in shock and pained confusion. The girl was on all fours, searching and digging through the scattered notebooks and binders.
“I’m so sorry! Are you okay?” I asked. She nodded, but didn’t answer me. I held out my hand to help her up, but she ignored it and kept searching. After a moment, I decided it was best to just leave her and I began to walk away, when I saw something under the nearby bench by the window. I leaned down to pick it up. It was small and shaped like a tube. It had a weird set of lights on it, and one side felt soft to the touch. It felt cool and light in my hand. I didn’t know what to make of it, but it was really cool looking.
As I stared at it, I felt the girl from earlier tapping my shoulder. I turned and she pointed at the little tube in my hand and held out her hand pleadingly.
“Is this yours?” I asked. She just nodded and didn’t speak. I was getting a little irritated. “You know, you could just say ‘yes…’” I grumbled. “Here you go.” She took it from me and instantly pressed it to her throat and opened her mouth.
“Thank you so much!”
The voice that came out of her was shocking. It was soft and demure, but with an electronic edge to it, kind of like those synthesized singers I sometimes heard on Youtube videos. It was beautiful, and yet so unnatural.
“What on earth!?” I cried.
“Sorry, my name is Andrea. I didn’t say anything because I can’t. My vocal chords were damaged when I was little, so I speak with this synthesizer. Without it, no one can understand me.”
“It…it sounds like a computer girl or a…well…”
“My papa modeled the voice software to sound as close to normal as possible. It’s not perfect…I clearly sound robotic or something…like a vocaloid I guess. That’s why it sounds this way. He’s actually a professor here in computer engineering.” Andrea giggled, through her device. It was less strange now somehow…and she seemed so much nicer now that she had it. "Sorry, I just get so used to telling people about it, that I sometimes talk on auto-pilot. You know what I mean?"
“Well, I’m Jenna…and sorry for the misunderstanding.” I apologized.
“It is no problem. Nice to meet you Jenna. But I think we’re both running late. Where is your classroom?” She asked.
“Oh no! I’m uh…I think I’m room 118!” I cried. Andrea beamed and took my hand.
“I know the way. I’ll take you.” She pulled me along and for the first time since I’d been here, someone actually hadn’t said something about my arms. She had clearly seen them, but hadn’t said a word.
“Um…don’t you think I’m weird? You know…for having four arms?” I asked. Andrea laughed through her recorder and looked back at me with a smile.
“I think it’s cool…and I didn’t say anything because I thought you might be tired of people drawing attention to it. Believe me…I know how that feels.” I beamed back and followed her all the way to my room, silently thanking God for having me bump into two very special people; a coach who might be able to open up new opportunities, and a new friend who understood my position.