It was so warm and comfortable in her bed. Eliza never wanted to get up. Ever.
But even with her eyes closed, she could tell it was late. She knew she would have to wake up and make herself food and finish that program. She tried to move, but something held her down. She tried struggling, but then she remembered.
Last night, the issue of sleeping arrangements had kept Eliza awake. "But it's a couch, and it's got cat hair all over it!" Uso had whined the minute Eliza suggested she sleep on the sofa. "Well," Eliza retorted, "Can't you just magic it off or something?"
Uso huffed. "It doesn't work like that. I have limits, and right now my strength is really low. I don't want to burn up all my energy on something unnecessary. Besides, why is it such a huge deal? Your bed is pretty big, so space isn't an issue."
Eventually, Eliza had given in. And now, she was trapped underneath Uso, who was dead asleep and suddenly very heavy. Eliza yelled. She wiggled and poked and prodded, but to no avail. Uso wouldn't wake up. Eliza groaned. She would be trapped here until her dying day!
Faintly, Eliza's cell phone began to ring. Uso jerked awake, pushing the covers off the bed and landing on the floor. Spinning she began to growl. "Where is that noise coming from?" The display reminded Eliza a bit of a dog chasing its tail.
She resisted the urge to jump up and down with joy. She was free! But where was her phone?
Following Uso, Eliza leapt out of bed. The ringing seemed to be coming from nearby, or underneath her, rather. Diving triumphantly under her bed, Eliza snatched the phone from where it lay among the cobwebs, picking it up just in time."Good morning," Said an automated voice, "This is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, calling for a Miss Eliza Panik."
Eliza froze. The college had never called her before. When she gave the number during registration, she'd thought it would only be used in an emergency. Maybe this was one.
"Hello," Came the voice of her professor, obviously a recording, "I'm just letting you know that the assignment that had previously been due on Monday is now due today at four o'clock, in my office. You have just about two hours to get it to me. Thank you." Beep.
Eliza was bewildered. Assignments were never re-scheduled. And why would the office call to tell her? Regardless, she now had a half-finished project due in less than two hours.
She was dressed and ready and about to turn the doorknob when she remembered Uso. The woman leaned against the wall, looking bored. Eliza couldn't just leave her in the house! God knows what would happen if she happen if she did!
She pictured herself leaving, closing the door, and the entire apartment bursting into purple flames behind her. She shuddered.
"You're coming with me!" Eliza commanded.
Uso shrugged. "Alright, but I'll have to change clothes first." Eliza quickly turned away as Uso clenched the hem of her ragged black tunic. "You don't have to turn around." Said Uso, amused. As she tugged upwards, running her fingers over the fabric, the material morphed into a long, purple peacoat. Light flashed over her legs and bare feet, and suddenly she was wearing dark blue pants and high, lace-up boots.
Eliza was slightly embarrassed. She should have known the witch wasn't going to actually remove her clothes to change outfits.
Together, the two left the apartment and made their way to the Tech-Shuttle stop. The day was overcast, but not stormy, and the air was balmy.
"I mostly take the Tech-Shuttle when I want to go anywhere." Eliza explained. "I don't have my own car, and walking to campus takes a long time, so this is easier."
After boarding the shuttle, Eliza sat in silence. It wasn't that Eliza didn't want to talk. She just couldn't think of anything to say. She knew so little about Uso's world, which, in a way, was now hers, and only believed half of it.
She settled for watching the woman out of the corner of her eye. Uso was striking, her features young and old at the same time, all contrasting heavily.
Eliza knew what to say. "You said you've been alive for a long time. Exactly, how old are you?" "Only 1015. That's relatively young you know." Eliza felt like laughing. The idea was absurd! At best, she herself would only live to be 90!
They got off the shuttle at the MIT Student Center. The Student Center was a large, grey, rectangular building, constructed almost entirely from concrete and glass. "So tell me, why are we here?" Uso asked.
Eliza pushed open the double doors. "Mostly just because they have free Wi-Fi. I have a project I need to finish today. Also, I'm hungry, and Anna's Taqueria has really good burritos."
Inside the Student Center, there was a multitude of comfy chairs and small tables. Further in, there was an assortment of shops and a staircase to the second floor. It was quite empty, especially for a weekend.
Eliza ignored the chairs and the shops, instead heading down a flight of stairs that led to a small Mexican take-out.
She sat down at a table near the windows, gesturing for Uso to join her. Once settled, she whipped out her laptop, signing on the the Wi-Fi network. "I'm gonna go buy some food. You stay here, alright?" Eliza dictated, searching her pocket for a few crumpled bills.
"You're not planning on paying for it, are you?" Uso questioned incredulously. "Well, of course..." Eliza started. But she froze when she saw the crisp 100-dollar note in Uso's outstretched hand. she opened her mouth, then closed it again. "You should know by now," She scolded, "Counterfeiting is illegal!"
"How dare you! Accusing me of breaking the law! I'll have you know, my behavior is exemplary!" Uso cried in mock agony. "Relax Eliza, it's real. But whoever used to own this no longer possesses it!"
Eliza rolled her eyes. "So it's not fake, just stolen."
"I'm kidding, I'm kidding! Seriously though, it's real money, summoned directly from the U.S. Treasury. I'm sure they can just make more, right?"
Eliza, knowing deep in her soul that what she was about to do was wrong, reached out and took the money. No one, besides Uso and herself, would know, and she was rather low on cash at the moment. She handed the cashier the bill and bought her beef burrito with extra sour cream. She told the girl at the register to keep the change, then thought better of herself and asked for her $90 back.
Sitting back down with her food, Eliza geared herself up for the task ahead. Opening the terminal screen, she began typing a string. It wasn't easy, even for one as smart as she. After a while, her fingers beginning to cramp, she looked up, only to catch sight of a familiar figure in the distance.
"Hey Missy!" Eliza called to her friend. Missy, noticing, strode over to the table. "What's up Eliza?" Missy asked, green eyes gleaming as she pulled over a chair.
Missy was Eliza's best friend at the college. They both majored in computer sciences, so they went to all the same classes. Missy was kind and loyal, if a bit over-enthusiastic, and Eliza greatly enjoyed spending time with her.
"Oh, nothing," She answered, "Just working on this project. Are you done with it yet? It's due today you know." Missy frowned. "I thought it was due tomorrow." "Didn't you get a voice message or something?" "Uh, no."
"Well, maybe they just expect more out of me." Eliza joked.
Missy laughed. "As if." She cast a look at Uso, the woman intently observing the conversation. "Who's this?" Missy asked. Eliza thought fast. "Um, this is my new roommate, Uso. She's foreign." Uso quickly caught on to the act, smiling blithely at Missy. "Don't worry," She said in an unnervingly convincing Polish accent, "I can speak English."
She paused. "Have we met before? You look very familiar." Missy shook her head. "No, I'm afraid not, but it's nice to meet you now! My name's Missy Grey." Suddenly, she let out a small groan, sinking down in her chair. "Speaking of roommates, Hunter is driving me up the wall!" She addressed Uso again. "Hunter is my older brother. We share part of a duplex."
"I really think he's finally lost it. He's always been weird, only a little more so for the past few weeks, but up until now, nothing drastic happened. He just wandered off and passed out sometimes. But last night, he assaulted Mr. Raye's cat with a fork. It was only a rescue cat, thank god, but when I had to drag an unconscious Hunter off the front lawn and apologize to poor Evan at the same time, I felt like I wanted to crawl into a hole and die! When Hunter finally woke up, he claimed not to remember a thing. He's nuts, but I guess that's my problem."
She threw her hands up in frustration. "I'm actually considering getting him chipped, like a dog, so I can tell where he is when he leaves the house. Sometimes, I think the universe made a mistake, and I'm supposed to be the older sibling, not him."
Uso seemed interested. "How long did you say he's been acting like this?" Missy thought. "A month at least. But like I said, he's my problem. I don't want either of you worrying about him, got it?"
Both nodded. Missy played with her long, black braid. "You guys seem pretty well-suited for each-other, " She went on, "You're so lucky you don't have siblings with mental problems."
Pushing her glasses up on her nose, Eliza threw a glance at the clock. It was already 3:48! If she didn't hurry, she would be late to turn in her assignment! She typed in a few last lines of code and closed her laptop, sliding it back into her (hideous yellow) messenger bag. She desperately wanted to rid herself of the bag, but it was the only one she had, and she just didn't have the money for a new one. Even though it clashed with all her clothes, she had to bear with it.
"Missy, I gotta run. I'll see you in class tomorrow!" Missy blurted, jumping up, "Come on Uso, we need to be on time!"
Missy cheerfully waved goodbye. "Alright!" She called,"See you later!"
It was a good thing the building Eliza had to get to was right across the street. She made it to the crosswalk, but just as she was about to race across the street, the light changed. "Uso, come on, help me out!" She begged the woman, gesturing to the traffic signal.
Uso grinned. "Sure thing." With a snap of her fingers, the light was green again. Eliza put on a burst of speed, rushing across the road, Uso beside her. "Wow," Uso remarked, "You're pretty fast for your size. Tiny, I mean."
"Soccer," Eliza replied, annoyed, "Middle through high school. And don't call me little." Uso seemed to ponder that as they ascended the steps, dodging a few large pillars and columns. "Makes sense to me. And I'll do what I want."
They went through the doors, across the atrium, and down a few hallways. Eliza gradually slowed to a stop. The Professor's office was around here somewhere. Uso glanced around. "Hey, is that him?" She asked, pointing to a small plaque on one of the doors. "Professor Stevens? Lucky you have me here, am I right?"
Eliza sighed, a mixture of relief and exasperation, stepping to the door and knocking. Strange; there didn't seem to be any other people around. Maybe they were all slackers, she thought, and forgot about the whole thing.
She heard the professor's voice echo from within the room. "Come in!" She was about to turn the knob when Uso grabbed her hand. Eliza jerked her head up in surprise. Uso's eyes were fierce, the body tense. "Eliza, do not go in there. We have to leave, right now."
Eliza shook her off. "Okay, now you're acting crazy. As far as I know, the professor is a perfectly respectable man. Now quit it!" She reached out again, opening the door.