Authors: Ahmet Zappa
Piper's feelings were hurt, and she felt a tingle of negative energy travel from her head to her toes. Suddenly, Piper wanted to be alone. She made her way around the Celestial CafÃ© to the ozziefruit orchard.
There wasn't much time till her first class. But Dododay was the only starday that she didn't have Innerlight Meditation, and she needed to take some time to herself. Moving quickly, Piper cut through rows of pink-leaved trees to the far end, where a small garden was tucked away. There she settled in her favorite spot, under a glimmerwillow tree. Its branches hung from the top in such a way that they created a closed-off leafy room.
Sitting inside, Piper immediately felt better. The smell of the sweet glimmervines, the soft damp earth, and the quiet were just what she needed. She crossed her legs, placed her hands palm up on her knees, and took a deep breath. She closed her eyes, breathing deeply, concentrating on the air going inâ¦going out. Her heart rate slowed. Her tense shoulders relaxed.
Suddenly, her Star-Zap buzzed.
She'd forgotten to turn it off, neglecting the first rule of meditation: silence all communication devices for true peace.
Still, Piper couldn't help sneaking a peek at the screen. It was a holo-text from Vega:
I'M IN WISH THEORY. WHERE ARE YOU, DEARIE?
Piper had to smile. Clearly, Vega couldn't be mad if she called her that! Even better, she was checking on Piper, making sure everything was okay. Maybe she'd already gotten over the negative texts.
BE RIGHT THERE,
Piper holo-texted back.
But of course Piper was still late. Professor Illumia Wickes motioned for Piper to sit down with barely a glance.
Quietly, Piper slid next to Vega. “Star salutations for reminding me about class,” she said in a low voice. Vega gave her a curt nod. Clearly, she was still upset about Piper's “compliment.”
Piper turned back to Professor Illumia Wickes. The teacher often liked to lead rambling class discussions about the philosophy behind wishes. So being a few starmins late shouldn't really matter. Usually, students could just jump in at any point; Piper expected the usual interesting debate.
That day, though, Professor Wickes glared around the room and said, “We will be focusing on the math portion of wish theory.”
Piper didn't remember there being anything about that in the syllabus. Neither, it seemed, did anyone else.
The students looked confused. “Don't just sit there!” Professor Illumia Wickes snapped. “Set your Star-Zaps to record. You will be quizzed on the material. Tomorrow.” She started tapping out a series of numbers on a holo-device, and they were projected in the air. Three hundred and forty moonium, fourteen thousand and ninety-one was the smallest.
She must have gotten some seriously negative holo-texts.
“Now plug these numbers into the appropriate wish-granting formula. Remember, any authentic theorist takes into account the sum of thoughtsâ”
“And actions,” said Piper.
“Go on,” said the professor. “Think about the true meaning behind the numbers.”
“It's not how long the numbers are, or how complicated. It's the equation that matters in the end. And how you use it,” Piper finished.
“Yes, star salutations for reminding us all, Piper,” said the professor.
She deleted the numbers with a flick of her wrist and words appeared in the air. “We need to remember, too, that Starlings alone cannot grant wishes. Wishers need to make their own dreams come true; our job is to guide them. Generally, Wishlings have trouble manifesting their desiresânot only impossible wishes, such as world peace, but personal, manageable ones as well. We are there to help themâ¦ahâ¦see the light.”
“Huh?” said a girl named Shareen, who wore her bright yellow hair plaited around her head. “What does thatâ”
“Mean?” Piper jumped in.
Really, this is a silly first-year question,
she thought. And students made fun of the Star Darlings for taking their extra class, thinking it was for slow learners!
“Basically, Wishlings need help,” Piper said, using the tone a baby Starling reciting the alphabet would. She sounded sarcastic, she knew, but she couldn't quite control her voice. Usually, she was better at that, but after that morning's upheaval and her interrupted meditation, her emotions seemed to have gotten the better of her. “They first need to figure out they can, in fact, make their wishes come true, and then understand the ways to make it happen.”
Professor Illumia Wickes nodded, then pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose and walked around the room. “Can anyone think of an equation, a sum of two or more parts, that would result in the desired outcome?”
Half a dozen ideas popped immediately into Piper's head.
Vega raised her hand. “Thought plus action equals no subtraction,” she said.
The professor frowned. “I think what Vega is saying is that a thought plus an action can lead to a wish coming true. But it might not be thatâ”
“Simple,” Piper offered.
Vega glared at her. “Maybe add âbelieving in yourself' to the equation,” Piper said, almost apologetically.
“How about filling in the blanks for this equation?” The teacher's words appeared in the air:
FAITH + TRUST + _____________________ + ACTION = SUCCESSFUL WISHES.
“Luck!” Shareen guessed.
Piper choked back a giggle. “How about patience?”
“Maybe a little bit of both,” the teacher acknowledged, more to be kind to Shareen than anything else, Piper thought. “But definitely patience. Now, let's try another one.” She wrote another equation: _____________________
+ FOCUS + POSITIVE THINKING = WISHES TAKING FORM.
“Luck?” Shareen said again.
At the very same moment, Piper answered, “Visualization. You should visualize the wish coming true and think positively for the best results.” This was child's play for Piper.
A girl named Lucinda shook her head. “Why did you even say âluck,' Shareen? Clearly, it wasn't right the first time. Why would it be now?”
“Humph!” Shareen narrowed her eyes at Lucinda. “You think I have the brain power of a glowfur, don't you?” She looked around the room. “Does anyone else think so, too?” The class began to buzz.
Piper felt her own negative emotions boil over. All she wanted to do was continue with the class. Those equations were important! But everyone else was acting as silly as a bloombug during a full moon.
A holo-vision of Lady Stella suddenly materialized in the front of the classroom and everyone fell silent. “Star apologies, teachers and students, for this interruption,” Lady Stella said. She was standing in her office, hands clasped calmly in front of her. She seemed composed, but there was still a crease of worry on her forehead.
“I'd like to update everyone on the Star Kindness Day situation.” She paused. “Clearly, something went very wrong with your holo-text compliments. Indeed, the messages were most likely the opposite of what each writer intended to say. We cannot let this enmity and distrust continue. The messages have vanished, which is just as well. So I'd like to ask each student to rewrite her original compliments. Reading the true holo-words may set us on the path back to good fellowship. Continue with your studies, but remember the meaning behind Star Kindness Day.” She nodded twice and disappeared.
For a moment, the room was quiet. Lady Stella's words carried weight. Piper thought that it could possibly be enough, that everyone would agree: the way to feel good again was to spread good feeling.
Then Shareen snorted. “Why bother?” She glared at Lucinda. “It can happen all over again. And you know what? I bet those
everyone's true feelings, and that's why the whole thing happened.”
The class exploded. “You do think I'm clumsy, so you never choose me for your star ball team!” “You weren't late that day when we were supposed to meet at the Lightning Lounge. You just didn't want to come!” “So I'm just the tagalong tail to your comet, with no mind of my own, huh?”
Professor Illumia Wickes shrugged and let everyone shout until the period ended.
“Class dismissed,” she said wearily.
“Wait,” said Shareen. “Is there still going to be a quiz tomorrow?”
From then on, the starday only got worse. In fact, Piper thought girls were getting angrier and meaner by the starmin, and each class was more out of control than the one before. Finally, Piper headed to Lady Stella's office for the special Star Darlings class, during last period.
Just ahead of Piper, Sage and Cassie were walking in together. But there was enough space to fit a Starcar between them.
Inside, Piper nodded to the girls who were already thereâSage, Clover, Adora, and Leonaâand sat down.
Loud voices caused them all to look toward the door.
Tessa and Gemma walked in, matching each other stride for stride, angry look for angry look. “You absolutely think I don't do my share of work at the farm,” said Gemma.
“Oh, please,” said Tessa. “Forget about it, Gemma. Enough is enough.”
“No, really, just admit it,” Gemma continued.
Right then the door slid open and Lady Stella swept in.
She stood in front of the room and smiled, seeming calmer than she had earlier. “I'm glad to see you all here, given the kind of starday we've had. I've decided to cancel the guest lecture and talk to you about what's been going on. It's very, very important for all students to get along, but it's imperative for the Star Darlings to regain positiveâ”
“Vibrations,” finished Piper.
Lady Stella smiled. “I was going to say feelings, but that works, too. Now I'd like everyone to gather in a circle and hold hands. We will offer Star Kindness thoughts, face to face.
“Why don't you begin, Vega?” the headmistress said.
Vega frowned slightly, then nodded. She turned to Astra. “You're great at all sports. But most of all, I like to watch you play star ball.”
Astra beamed. “Star salutations, Vega. And I think you are very organized and good at puzzles.”
Lady Stella smiled encouragingly. “Yes, that is the way it's done. Continue, please.”
Clover opened her mouth to go next. But a knock on the door interrupted the compliments. Lady Cordial stuck her head in.
“S-s-s-s-so wonderful to s-s-s-s-see everyone together after those horrid holo-texts this morning. Lady St-st-st-st-stella, I was hoping to observe the c-c-c-c-class today.”
Lady Stella smiled at the awkward head of admissions. “Normally, I'd welcome you, Lady Cordial,” she said gently. “I hope you realize that. But today is not the best startime. Another starday would be best.”
Lady Cordial ducked her head, looking embarrassed, and began to edge away.
“By the way,” Lady Stella added, “I obviously don't think you are disorganized.”
“St-st-star s-s-s-salutations,” Lady Cordial said, already halfway out the door. “And I don't think you're an ineffective leader.”
“Understood,” said Lady Stella as the door closed quietly. “Now let's go on with our exercise.”
Everyone took turns giving and receiving compliments. And while the class ran longer than usual, the girls left feeling much better.
It's amazing how a little positivity can improve your outlook,
Piper thought. She grinned at Leona. Who would have known Leona liked Piper's sleep masks so much she wanted to borrow some for a holo-vid she wanted to make with the band called “Star in Disguise”?
Libby whispered in Gemma's ear. Gemma nodded. “Hey!” said Libby as they all moved toward the door. “Is everyone up for a sleepover in our room tonight?”
It was rare for all twelve Star Darlings to get together outside the Celestial CafÃ© or SD class. “What a great idea,” said Piper quickly. She knew what Libby was thinking:
We need time together, without any outside stresses, where we can be like any Starling Academy students, hanging out with friends.
But the girls weren't really like other Starling Academy students. They had responsibilities and pressures no one else could imagine. When everyone agreed to go, Piper could only hope for the best.