What Now?

The Nuck's had arranged decorative screens to form six separate compartments in the children's dormitory. Jasmine had rearranged the screens separating her compartment from Lester's into one, and had pushed the cots together. Eddy had done the same for himself and Yuwon.

In the morning Yuwon spoke to Jasmine while Lester, Eddy, and Anthony were cleaning up.

"Jasmine, can I ask you a question?"

"Of course, Yuwon." Jasmine said.

"You know, I was so tired last night, it never occurred to me what I was doing might be questionable. I mean, it just seemed right. Eddy and I just undressed and went to bed. Is that acceptable?

"Oh, it's not 'acceptable' at all," Jasmine said, smiling. "In the world of 'Adults,' that is, because they all have twisted minds that are incapable of understanding innocence. I'm afraid Eddy's boldness is probably my fault. Since before school Eddy and I never gave clothing a second thought. We used to go swimming all the time when we were little. Just took our clothes off and went in. We only stopped that when we became aware other people, adults, had a problem with it."

"Well, I have no problem with it," Yuwon said. "I just don't want to do something wrong that might embarrass Eddy." Yuwon said.

Jasmine laughed. "Your not going to embarrass Eddy. He doesn't know the meaning of the word. Just don't expect him to not, 'look,' because he will definitely look and appreciate what he sees, but that will be all it is," Jasmine said.

"What about Lester?" Yuwon asked. "He doesn't have sisters and certainly didn't have the experience you and Eddy had."

Jasmine smiled. "I think Lester was not comfortable that first night in ChildIsle. I didn't change into my night clothes until we were ready to go to bed. Everyone was already asleep. When I started to undress he turned his head away, and when I was completely undressed, I stood and said, "this is what you're stuck with," and he turned and gave me the tenderest look I've ever seen. I had to turn my head away because it almost made me cry, then I throw my gown on and lay down on my cot beside his. He put his arm over me and gently kissed me and said, 'you're lovely. Good night my Jasmine.' We were both so tired we must have instantly fallen asleep."

Yuwon just looked at Jasmine. "Thank you for telling me that. I've been so happy with Eddy and so comfortable, but never seeing that in anyone else, except some of the older Nochose, I couldn't help wondering if I was the one that was odd."

"Oh, you are definitely 'odd.' Yuwon," Jasmine said. "You can't be right in this world without being odd."

"Excuse me, you two," Lester suddenly said looking into Yuwon's room, "Marten wants us all in the house for breakfast to talk to us when it's convenient."

When the children arrived, Marten, Terry, Franklin, Donald Nast, ToyLin, Quanlo, and Kimlee were already seated around the table. When Lester, Jasmine, Eddy, Yuwon, Anthony, and Veronica were seated, ToyLin stood.

"I want to say something," she began. "Just, thank you, thank you to everyone." Then she sat down.

Jasmine stood up. "ToyLin, we all love you, but what we gave you was just a bonus. We didn't fight our way to ChildIsle and back just to bring thessaline to you, though that would have been a good enough reason. Our main purpose was to accomplish something good in the face of the monstrous evil that is the world of the Forbidders and to see a world where nothing is forbidden, or needs to be, because the people are good and could never choose to be anything else.

"The people of ChildIsle are the kindest and most generous people I've ever met. Nothing is free on ChildIsle. Every individual on ChildIsle wants to have and be only what they achieve, and everyone wants nothing more than to be and achieve all they can because that is life and the only way it can be enjoyed.

"There are no other people in the world like that, other than all of you here. If anything, ToyLin, I want to thank you for the opportunity you provided for the most wonderful adventure I've ever had," and she sat down.

Lester was holding her hand all the time she was speaking. "Brilliant and beautiful," he said when she sat down. "I was sure slow discovering what I had wasn't I," he said.

"It was sometimes maddening, but I'm glad you took your time to be really certain, Lester," she said.

No one spoke for a minute or two. They were all impressed by Jasmine's little speech, though not surprised.

"I love you Sis," Anthony suddenly said to Jasmine. "You just helped me make up my mind."

"How, Anthony?" Veronica asked.

"You know I wanted to stay in ChildIsle. I thought I might never be coming back, and though I have, I still thought I could never be truly happy unless I went back someday. But I see now that Jasmine is right. We have ChildIsle right here, because we are Nochose like those living there. Wherever there are Nochose, there is ChildIsle. Oh, I might still like to return to ChildIsle someday, but no longer feel like I have to," He said.

Yuwon suddenly turned to Marten, and asked, "Pahpeet, why did you want us all here?"

ToyLin giggled like a little girl when she heard 'Pahpeet,' and Marten give Yuwon his sternest look, which immediately softened when he saw her grin.

"The reason I wanted everyone here is actually to do what you are all doing. I've been responsible for where you are today and would like to help with whatever you choose to do now, perhaps even to help you make that choice. There is one other reason, a very selfish one. I just wanted to see you all."

Eddy looked at Jasmine with a question mark on his face. Yuwon saw it and said, "What is it, Eddy?"

"It's Marten," he said softly, but didn't say any more.

When everyone had left, Jasmine looked and Eddy and said, "What's wrong?"

"I'm not sure," Eddy said, "But there is something."

"What are you two talking about?" Anthony asked.

"Marten," Jasmine said. "It just wasn't him tonight."

"He seemed alright to me," Veronica said.

"But he wasn't alright," Eddy said. "Jasmine and I have known him all our life, and we both saw it the moment he spoke."

"You're right, Eddy. I didn't see it as quickly as you and Jasmine, but he just didn't have that sparkle," Yuwon said.

Veronica and Anthony were not completely convinced.

"I bet ToyLin would know," Yuwon said. "If I could see her, I'd ask her."

"Perhaps Mom would know," Jasmine suggested to Lester.

Back in their dormitory, sitting at their table, Anthony brought up the question Marten had introduced and they all had been thinking about.

"What now?" he said. "How long are we going to be here and what do we do next?"

Eddy had become very quiet and Yuwon noticed.

"What's wrong, Eddy?"

"I was just thinking that the answer to Anthony's question is the same answer it has always been. What we do now is whatever we choose to do, because that's always the way it has been for us. But it seems like a lot of choice has been taken away from us.

"Veronica and I can never go home because our parents are "good" Pleonists and Susan was ready to choose to be one if she hasn't already. We'll miss Terry, but not really anyone else.

"Jasmine and Anthony's parents are Klomans and have already written them off. Natally's the only one there they care about.

"Of course Jasmine is welcome in the Moore's home, as we all are, but we can't just come and go as we like from there. I'm not even sure we could safely visit Marten, or ToyLin."

"So you've said what we cannot do," Yuwon said. "But what we do is still up to us, isn't it?"

"Of course," Eddy said, smiling and giving Yuwon a little hug.

"Some of us don't have a choice," Veronica suddenly said, "or at least have already made a choice. It's the thessaline. We brought back enough for a little over three years. We have a plan for beyond that."

"Who does?" Lester asked.

"Well we're all in on it, Veronica, Yuwon, and I, but it's mostly Veronica's plan," Eddy said.

"I'm going to make thessaline," Veronica said.

"And I'm going to help her," Anthony said.

"Veronica looked wide-eyed at Anthony and cried, "You are!?"

"That's the decision my lovely sister helped me make," he grinned looking at Jasmine. "Besides, it's going to be very risky and you seem to need someone around to catch you sometimes."

"I know you're a genius, Veronica, but is it possible to make thessaline?" Jasmine asked.

"Oh, it's possible, because the basic compounds are not difficult to obtain. It's just the formula is forbidden here," Veronica said. "But I have the formula, or at least Eddy does.

"What do you mean, Eddy does?"

"Eddy has the formula in his memory. It was the only safe way we could carry it away from ChildIsle. We never knew if Nebers or Forbidder agents might intercept us. Remember the last day when we watched the thessaline being made. You know Eddy never forgets anything he has seen or heard. Since he watched the entire process and every step was described in detail, he has the entire process in his memory," Veronica explained.

It was beginning to look like what they were going to do next was already being answered, at least partly and for some of them.