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Strengthen Me (IC)

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Late August 2019 

Washington, DC 


Alone in the East Bedroom, Judy clutched the new phone tightly in her fingers before she began typing a message. 


"Hey Lulu, it's Judy. Are you awake?" 


She looked past the beeping medical monitor along the left side of her bed to the clock on the wall. Well it was 2AM on a Saturday night, so maybe she was! She settled back on the bed, her comfortable satin pajamas rustling slightly, and set the phone down beside her to wait for a reply. At least she still had her leather-bound birthday present beside her, which she cracked open. 

"“Now when the evening was come, his servants made haste to depart, and Bagoas shut his tent without, and dismissed the waiters from the presence of his lord; and they went to their beds: for they were all weary, because the feast had been long...

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The Home of Lord and Lady Harrow, North Bay


Lying in bed in a room nearly double the size if the one she grew up in with her brother Bobby, Lulu was indeed awake, but not fully; she was indulging in a favorite pastime, studying her new home by extending her senses. She tended to do this as a way to relax, sending her eyes and ears into odd corners of the huge house, following the pets on their rounds, or scanning the titles of books in the library. She was always careful not to spy on any of the human residents, no matter how tempting.


But the buzzing of her phone on her chest roused her from her reverie; her senses snapped back into her head, and Lulu yawned, stretched and sat up a little before responding.


-Yeah, m here. Whats up?-

Edited by Heritage
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That got Lulu a :D and a "Yay!" 


Feeling absurdly grateful for somebody to talk to who didn't think of her as the President's daughter, Judy went on typing. "I thought nobody else would be awake and I am going stir-crazy."  ? " How's your summer?"


She set aside her book on Judith, the Caravaggio painting on the back looking up at her with holy gore. There was quite a bit else she wanted to discuss with Lulu, but she knew friends were supposed to stay positive. 

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Lulu chuckled as she settled in for a nice texting session.


-Im kind of the opposite. Travelled a LOT this summer-


-Scuba diving in th Caribbean! ?-


-went to #$&% SPACE! ???-


-Wished you were there ???-


She pulled open her bedside table drawer and pulled out half a Luna bar to snack on.

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"You went to space? OMG that's so cool!!!" Judy felt a stab of envy, even as she supposed a Grue refugee wouldn't find the stars particularly attractive. Well maybe I don't have to go out of my way to lie just one time! "What was it like? Did you see any aliens? ?" Having never actually seen one herself, but knowing what she herself was, it was a question with a lot of meaning. "I missed you too. ?"

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  • 2 weeks later...

Judy tapped her fingers on the side of her phone for a moment. While she was waiting for a response from Lulu, she held the phone up to her face and flipped it around for a selfie. Okay, turn off the location data, already did that - shouldn't show any traces... She took a picture of herself, smiling at the camera, a flash in a dark room that showed mostly her face framed by long dark hair with a glimpse of pillows and headboard behind her. She started a new message, including first Lulu, then after a moment's thought her other friend who she was reasonably sure was awake at 2AM on a Saturday. Mostly because where she was, it wasn't 2AM or Saturday at all. But does Danica even have a phone? 


Hey guys! Are you ready for summer to be over? (this is Danica, BTW, Lulu) :D


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Danica loved summers in New Mexico, getting to go home to her real home, not the place where Mom and Dad stayed in Freedom City, but to their actual house in the actual desert where it was actually warm, so beautifully warm. She loved her bedroom in the house, a close match to the one inside her shell, but she also loved days like this one, where she could make a little hollow in the big sandbox in the yard and just bake until all the heat had soaked out of the sand. She was dozing, just thinking about going inside before it got too cold, when her phone pinged. "Aw, mom..." she muttered as she pulled it from her shell, then brightened when she saw it was from a friend. 


No way! she texted back with a string of laughing emojis and a few red thermometers. Give me hot weather forever! Miss u guys tho. Cry face, cry face, cry face. Danica grinned and sent the text. 

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In response to Judy's question, Lulu began to search through her phone's gallery for some of the selfies she took while in space; she found a great one of her and one of the giant teddy bear-like aliens (Was it Lu Chu? It was probably Lu Chu.) making duck faces and flashing the V sign, or as close to those things as the Li could manage. With a grin, she shared it with Judy, and apparently Danica!


- Oh hi Danica! This is an alien I met!-


-They're called the Li, and you just want to squeeze them ?


In response to Judy's other question, she sighed and shook her head.


-i don't know. This summer's been great, but I do miss everyone! ?-


-it'll be great to see y'all again, for sure!-

Edited by Heritage
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Wow! Judy replied, throwing in a squeeing face for good measure. She smiled, her face lit only by the phone in her dark room. I can't believe u saw a real alien! She started wondering if that alien would recognize her species, a wondering that made her insides twist enough that she hastily typed some more. I'm glad there are nice aliens here. There, that's not really a bad lie, is it? She reached up and brushed her hair out of her face, then went back to typing. Freedom winters are too cold! she echoed Danica, an emoji with an icicle on its nose to support her words. Summer was too cold here I hardly felt it. She hummed, then said, Did either of u hear anything from Leroy? He didn't call me all summer! 

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Nope, hvnt heard anything, Danica typed back, sitting up and brushing sand off her shell. But i haven't been keeping in touch. did u dump him?  She studied the picture for a minute. Nice alien! she added with heart eyes, two teddy bears and a wow face. Invite 1 to Claremont, i need it for hugging reasons. 


Standing, she stretched her back, grimacing at the way her body had stiffened during hours of immobility, then began picking her way slowly back to the house. The Segway did not like the sand. 

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Judy looked down at Danica's words, squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, then wrote: He ?ed me all summer. ?Maybe I will. She swallowed, feeling braver for having said the words, even in text. D is write we need more teddy bears. She muttered a bad word about autocorrect under her breath, then wrote Let me show you my thing! She scanned back through pictures in her phone, then sent a picture of a half-made white knitted cloth still tangled together with its needles. Ive had lots of free time so Ive been learning to knit! Ash got me the book. It had actually been her mom but that was not a story she was going to tell.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Lulu frowned at shook her head as she tapped out a response.


-That a-hole! I can't believe he ? you!-


-He was in space w me and some other students back in July, but that's last time I saw him-


-he was Kind of a doofus (sorry J! ?). Kept wandering off and getting into trouble ??-

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Bummer, Danica typed, stopping her progress towards home so she didn't fall on her face. It was hard to know what to say to Judy about her boyfriend problem. Danica had lots of friends who had boyfriends; some of her friends from when she was little were married now and had kids themselves, but it had never been something she understood too well. Mom said that was okay and she would be interested in love and sex and dating when it was time, but that didn't help much now. But i bet there'll b lots of new cute boys @ school this fall! More teddy bear pics plz Lulu! 

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Yeah more bears plz! typed Judy with a smiley. My washcloth should be done by then. She paused a moment, then sent a picture of an big, beaten-up old teddy bear next to her on the bed. Okie the Bear had been with her since he'd been bigger than her, but now sat comfortably on her lap. She smiled and started typing some more - and then there was a distinct pause while the typing animation on her end hung. 


And then Busted! ?‍♀️ But I can't sleep anyway! She looked up at Ashley, who probably wouldn't have looked so crabby if she was getting better sleep. and smiled winningly. "We should videochat them so they can see we're together. It'll make the story better," she whispered. 


"No it will not," whispered Ashley back, honestly wishing she hadn't bothered with the check-in at all. "Watchdog doesn't wear a suit and an earpiece when she's guarding her sister at an undisclosed location."


But Judy had had a pretty rough week, and Ashley didn't want Lulu and Danica getting ideas. So what the other two eventually got was a zoomed in shot of Judy and Ashley leaning down together over the cameraphone, with nothing visible but Judy's smile and Ashley's scowl, and distinct glimpse of canopied bed and woodframed top above them. 


Ashley wants bears too!

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The sight of Ashley's scowl made Lulu laugh so loud, she was afraid she'd wake her foster family. After a few seconds with her hands clamped over her mouth, she mostly recovered her composure and was able to respond.


- Aw, look at Ashley's sweet face! ? -


- Hi, Ash! Hope we're not keeping you up! -


Then she uploaded a picture that might even melt that Grinch's heart: a space teddy bear wearing a nacho sombrero, courtesy of the Claremont students playing with the food replicators. Said space bear was desperately trying to sneak her tongue up to get a taste of the crunchy goodness.


- Per Ashley's request! -

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