They walked the carefully cultivated sidewalks that led gently down the slope of the hill. The trees were still empty of leaves, but the grass remained green thanks to irrigation. A slight breeze whipped around their feet, but they were warm enough in their school blazers. At the corner of Acacia and Fourth, Christopher waited for them.
“Where’s Denise?” wondered Astrid, pointing to her best friend’s house. Denise usually waited with Christopher.
He shrugged. “She decided it was too cold and had her brother drive her.”
“That girl is too skinny,” opined Toby. “She doesn’t have enough body fat on her to keep warm.”
“I was going to say she was too cold-blooded,” said Christopher, “but I agree with you.”
“On or off?” asked Astrid.
“You and Denise.” Christopher and Denise were famous for their on-again off-again dating relationship.
“Um, on, I think,” Christopher replied. “I asked her to the Spring Fling, and she said yes.”
“Oh my gosh, I completely forgot about the Spring Fling.” Astrid looked at Toby, but he didn’t say anything.
The three friends walked down the short, sloping block to Fifth Street to the Diaz home. Robot Valerie stepped out the door as soon as they arrived. Except for her silver-blue metallic skin and her electric blue hair, she looked just like any other high school student, with a uniform blazer and skirt just like Astrid’s. The girl inventor of course now remembered that her friend was a product of her own RG-7 project, which had set a new technological standard for robotics and cybernetics.
“Valerie will be out in a minute,” said Robot Valerie. “She’s still working on her hair.”
The others nodded knowingly. After nearly ten minutes, the human Valerie Diaz emerged and hurried to join her friends.
“You look nice,” said Astrid.
“Thanks. I think Bud might ask me to the dance, so I couldn’t go out with my hair sticking any which way.” She put her hand over her mouth. “I’m sorry Astrid.”
The girl inventor’s face fell.
“I knew I looked hideous,” she sighed.
“That’s not what Valerie meant,” said Robot Valerie, casting an angry eye at her human twin.
“Of course not. I just meant… oh, I don’t know what I meant. You’re very cute Astrid, no matter what your hair looks like, and in a short time it will all grow back anyway.”
“This is one of those situations when everybody should just stop talking,” said Christopher. “Let’s get to the monorail station.”
Everyone else agreed. It took them only ten minutes to walk from Valerie’s house to the monorail station on Main Street. The top of the raised platform was where they usually met Austin, but he wasn’t present that morning. They did however run into Bud Collins and his younger sister Dot. Astrid now recognized Bud as the tall, thin boy with black hair that had visited her in the hospital.
“Hey Bud,” called Toby.
“Hey guys,” said Bud, but his eyes were focused clearly on Regular Valerie, who batted her lashes at him.
“Hello, Astrid,” said Dot. “I’m glad you’re okay. Your hair looks cute.”
“Thanks,” replied Astrid, elbowing Valerie. “That makes me feel welcome.”