A Red Letter Day, part 1
Authors Note: A big thank you to soylentOrange for his great Beta reading.
The sun slowly rose over metropolitan New New York. There wasn’t a cloud in the pale blue sky as dawn made yet another tentatively appearance. Bright beams of sunlight scattered and gleamed over the city that still lay draped in the remnants of a light, early morning rain that had swept over the New New York Area just an hour shy of sunrise. A few of these wayward rays found their way through hastily drawn curtains and into a small room in apartment 1I. There the rays slowly crept over a cluttered floor, jumping over some empty fast food cartons. They paused briefly before skipping through a pile of empty Slurm Blue cans, sneaking past a half eaten pizza that lay carelessly discarded in a greasy, crumpled carton before dodging through a pair of black cargo pants, a pair of exceedingly worn boots and an old red jacket which had been tossed in a heap. Upon arriving at a bed, they gently prodded a head covered with purple hair. The owner of that head grunted a protest at the sudden rays of light and crept further under the covers to escape the intrusive sun.
As the sun continued to rise, more rays of light joined the previous ones in their exploration of the small room, illuminating it further. Aside from the bed, the furniture in the room was sparse, consisting of a couple of chairs, some posters that had been nailed to the walls in a slapdash manner, a table and a small TV standing on a pedestal situated opposite the bed. The TV was running morning news with the sound off, the view screen partially obscured by a white t-shirt casually draped over its side.
If the furniture was sparse, the assorted debris covering it was not. Old newspapers, candy wrappers, video games, ladies underwear, and more empty Slurm Blue cans were just some of the items littering the furnishings. The only thing not covered by trash was a picture frame, standing solitary guard on the window ledge. In the frame was the face of Phillip J. Fry, delivery boy extraordinaire, wearing his trademark grin.
A soft knock on the door disturbed the sunlit silence. The purple-haired person stirred under the bed covers but did not react further. Seconds idled by as nothing else happened. A harder, more insistent knock made its presences known.
“Go away.” A sleep-drenched muffled voice muttered from under the covers.
“Rana? Are you awake?” A woman’s voice asked through the closed door.
The covers were impatiently moved aside by a slender arm, revealing a young woman in her late teens. Her eyes glared from under a purple fringe at the closed door.
“No, I’m dead! Leave the flowers and go away!” Came the defiant answer.
The door swung open. Leela poked her head in and looked sternly at her daughter. The cyclops was in no mood for anther argument with her obstinate teenage daughter.
“You've got ten minutes!” She snapped before drawing the door to a close.
Rana muttered something under her breath as a response, a response that trailed off into a wide yawn. The teen sat in her bed for a moment trying to get her eyes to stay open. This brief struggle, when concluded, was followed by an equally short armpit scratching session. When done, the purple-haired girl glanced at her clock and realized that time was steadily marching forward, her ten minutes was fast shrinking away. With a dejected sigh she left the warmth of her bed and maneuvered over the debris filled floor towards the windowsill and the lone photo frame there.
“Miss you dad.” She murmured for herself and grabbed the frame in her right hand.
Gently she stroked the picture frame with her left hand. It had been almost eighteen years since he'd died. Even though she had never met him, she missed him with each passing day. Ever since her first days of school as a little girl she had watched as her classmates were picked up by their parents at the end of the day.
She would watch as her classmates’ moms fussed over them and their dads smiled proudly at tales of their most recent exploits. Rana, on the other hand, had to wait for her lone mother to pick her up. Sometimes Leela would be late from a delivery but Rana didn't mind when that happened. In fact, she was glad, since then she didn't have to see the other parents ostracize her mother. The way they looked at or talked about Leela... Rana hated it. She had always dreamed of what it would be like to have a father, a normal - looking one that nobody made fun of.
She had mixed feelings for her mother. Rana loved her for what she was and that she never excused herself for it. She had always been there for her no matter what. What Rana didn't like was her mother’s insistence in trying to give her daughter the perfect childhood that she herself had never had. It could be really trying when she got carried away and wanted Rana to do something that she herself had missed out on as a kid.
Yet another yawn escaped Rana which she did nothing to stifle, instead the teen stretched out to her full length; standing on her toes with her arms over her head. Her back and neck made soft popping noises. Rana was surprisingly slender and spry for someone that loved to indulge herself in fast food, soft drinks and different assortments of candy while loathing any form of exercise.
It was Thursday, more commonly known as Ferris Bueller Day, so her first class wouldn’t start until after lunch. Although not much was known about the Great Ferris Bueller, high school students had kept his legend alive over the centuries. It was rumored that Ferris had performed some great feat of procrastination sometime deep in the Stupid Ages, and he had come to be a role model for public school students everywhere. In the late 30th century, it had become fashionable to celebrate a ‘Ferris Bueller Day’ from time to time by skipping a day of class. This practice had in the end become so rampant that the Earthican School System finally had to set aside Thursdays as official Ferris Bueller Days in an attempt to limit excessive truancy, giving every student the morning off.
Per normal Thursday routine, Rana usually followed her mother to work. She would much rather be decked out in front of the TV or cruising the Net, but her mother wouldn’t have it. Leela wanted Rana someplace where she could keep an eye on her lazy daughter and make sure she did her homework.
Rana surveyed the cluttered chaos that was her room and by doing so she spotted an upright Slurm Blue can standing alone on a pile of books, comics and empty video game boxes. She grabbed it by the top and shook it while listening intently. A splashing sound from inside told her that there still was some of the soft drink left inside. She eagerly brought the can to her lips and, with a sudden tilt of her head, downed the radium-blue sludge in a single gulp. Much like her deceased father, Rana had a fancy for Slurm, especially the new brand. Slurm Blue – Slurm for the Next Generation, as it was called, was marketed at young teenagers that wanted to be hip and cool. Not square and boring like those who drank the regular green Slurm.
Having finished what was left in the can, she started to pick out whatever clothing that looked clean. Eventually she managed to scrounge together a working outfit: a pair of black boots, a pair of dark blue, loose fitting cargo pants and a white boat neck t-shirt. With these articles of clothing in her arms she proceeded towards the shower. She would much rather have skipped it, but her mother had very strong opinions regarding personal hygiene.
When she was finished, she toweled herself off and dressed hurriedly, pausing only long enough to give herself a quick once-over in the mirror. She was her father’s daughter, all right. Her eyes, her nose, her mouth; they were all right out of the picture on her window ledge. In fact, the subtle lines in her cheeks were the only signs to be found on her face of her Turanga heritage. Of course, you didn’t have to look at her face to discover that she was Leela’s daughter. The purple hair was a dead giveaway.
She quickly pulled a comb through her short cut hair, parting it in the middle. Unlike her mother, she couldn't stand long hair. Rana put down the comb and proceeded to pull a small pink device through her bangs. When finished, her bangs were no longer purple, but raven black. Rana frowned slightly as she scrutinized the result. Satisfied, she made her way towards the kitchen area.
"I'm done, mom. Can we go now?" Upon reaching the small kitchen she greeted her mother with the enthusiasm one would have before getting a root filling at the dentist.
Leela glanced at the wall-mounted clock. She pointed at a chair beside the kitchen table on which there was an empty bowl and spoon waiting for Rana.
"There is still time for breakfast. Sit." The cyclops ordered, she knew how fickle her daughter was and Leela was hell-bent at making sure that her daughter got up on time and ate proper breakfast Thursday or not.
"But I'm not hungry." Rana complained, since she had filled up on junk food the night before while watching late night TV. Leela stared at her daughter with her sole eye half closed, her arms crossed and her face a locked in a stern expression.
Realizing that her protests would get her nowhere, Rana rolled her eyes and threw her hands up in a defeated gesture. Mothers!
"Fine. Breakfast it is."
While Leela made herself busy breaking out a Bachelorette Speed Breakfast package, her alien pet Nibbler came scurrying into the kitchen. He made a few impatient turns around her legs before he made his way to the table where Rana was sitting.
"Nibbie!" Rana cried and scooped the black and white alien up from the floor. Nibbler expressed his joy with a stream of incoherent babbling. Leela frowned slightly at the scene as a sting of jealousy made it self felt. She placed the prepared breakfast in front of Rana with one hand and reached down and picked up the alien from her daughter’s knee with the other.
"I'll give you some breakfast too." She assured Nibbler, who was visibly disappointed at being removed from Rana’s lap.
Rana stared in her bowl of bachelorette while slowly stirring the increasingly soggy sludge with her spoon. "I had another dream about dad last night." She said with a subdued voice, her eyes transfixed at the swirling patterns she drew.
Leela froze for a second before continuing to prepare a can of Kibbles N' Snouts for Nibbler. The cyclops had her own dreams of Fry. Sometimes they were wonderful, sweet memories but all too often they detailed the last moments of Fry's life, how she had unwittingly ignored the plight of the red head and, in a way, been responsible for his demise. On some nights, when the dreams were at there worst, Leela would wake up in her bed, entangled in her sheets and drenched in sweat.
The kitchen remained silent save for the growling sound from the can opener as Leela chose to ignore what her daughter had said. Whenever thinking about Fry, guilt was usually the most common feeling she experienced, and it wasn't a feeling she particularly cared for. Her daughter reminded her about the dead delivery boy on each passing day, not only in that she was a spitting image of him, but in her mannerisms as well. It didn't help that ever since Rana had turned eight she had badgered Leela about her deceased Father.
The teen bit her lower lip before she launched the next question. “Why won’t you ever talk about Dad?”
Leela cringed slightly. Why does she have to ask me that same question? The cyclops knew the answer all too well. Leela let out a tired sigh and glanced at the wall clock. They had to leave now or she would be late for work. Saved by the bell!
"Get your things, Rana. We're running late."
The teen gave Leela a hard look, but when her cyclops mother ignored her, she looked at the wall clock and realized that Leela was right. She hesitated for a moment, debating whether she still should try and pursue the matter, but came to the conclusion that it would be pointless for the time being.
Rana made a quick stop by her room and picked up her shoulder bag with her books and other school utilities. A certain red jacket, carelessly thrown on a heap of dirty clothing caught her eye. She paused briefly as Rana to deliberate whether to make use of it. She had found it hidden in Leela's wardrobe in box marked 'Memories of Fry'. Aside from the jacket there had been a handful of objects; a can of Slurm, a spoon, a can of π-in-1 oil with a jagged hole in it, a heart shape piece of candy with the caption 'U Leave Me Breathless', a fake mustache, a wedding ring and a refrigerator magnet in the small box.
Though Rana didn't know the story about every object, she knew that wedding ring was from when her mother had married her father at one point and then divorced him. Why that happened no-one had ever told her. Neither Amy nor Bender had been inclined to talk in detail about it. Aunt Amy would just nervously laugh it off and Bender just claimed that he didn't know anything about it. Curious as Rana was, she hadn't dared to ask her own mother, for obvious reasons.
The spoon was from when her father had become emperor on Tri-sol, this was her favorite story that Bender used to tell her. The red jacket had been her father’s as well. Whenever Rana felt down or miserable she usually wrapped the jacket around herself, it was comfortable and soothing for her.
Leela's call for her to hurry up made the choice for her. A few seconds later, Rana followed her mother through the front door. Catching up with her mother on the sidewalk, Rana earned herself a very disapproving look from her one-eyed mother, who didn't care for her daughter's choice of clothing. There was just too much pain associated with that particular brand of jacket for Leela. Rana gave her mother a quick downcast glance before she hastened her footsteps and almost ran past Leela.
Her mother said nothing, but followed her daughter through the bright and shimmering New New York morning, sadly wishing that things could have been different, that Fry could have been there to share it with them.
End Part One