The journey back to Mrs. Sharma’s house had been much less eventful than the journey to Nancy’s plane.
Everyone lay on Mrs. Sharma’s living room floor wrapped in scratchy blankets except Nancy, Mahender, Falcon, and Mrs. Sharma. Nancy reclined on the couch with her dog curled up on her legs, Mrs. Sharma was in her bedroom, and Mahender and Falcon had gone outside with their strange brothers.
None of their biological clocks were really in sync with each other, but when they’d arrived at the house, Mrs. Sharma had proclaimed it bedtime, and no one had argued.
Angelina had said the next opening back to their home reality would happen in about nine hours. Assuming she was right, Naomi guessed there wasn’t much to do but rest.
There was something strangely enjoyable about laying on a floor with a bunch of people. It made her feel a little closer to everyone there, even the people she didn’t really know, like Sam and Jen.
She hadn’t been allowed to go to sleepovers in high school, and it wouldn’t have mattered even if she had been; she hadn’t gotten a lot of invitations. She hadn’t exactly been the most popular girl in school.
She was on her second ever sleepover, and while her first had been much more enjoyable than this one, she was beginning to see the appeal.
Naomi lay under one third of a king sized blanket. The other two thirds were occupied by Chelsea and Angelina.
Angelina hadn’t changed out of the dirty nightgown she’d been wearing, but she’d wrapped her hair neatly in Chelsea’s scarf. She lay with her earbuds in and eyes closed, listening to something. Naomi could hear the tinny sound of the song’s beat through the earbuds, but couldn’t tell what it was.
Mrs. Sharma entered the room.
“I’m going to bed. I expect all of you children to be quiet.” She turned to Nancy, her stern tone disappearing as she addressed an older adult. “Good night, ma’am.”
“Good night,” said Nancy.”
Mrs. Sharma’s eyes fell on Angelina, who hadn’t seemed to have noticed her.
“Angelina,” said Mrs. Sharma.
Angelina didn’t respond. Chelsea nudged her gently, and Angelina opened her eyes, removed an earbud, and propped herself up on her elbows.
“Eh?” said Angelina.
She sounded like she’d already been asleep.
“Remove both your earbuds, please,” said Mrs. Sharma.
Angelina sighed, pulling the other earbud out.
“Let me guess, you’re one of those adults who’s all ‘those mp3 players will rot your brain’,” said Angelina.
“No,” said Mrs. Sharma. “In your case, I doubt there’s much there left to rot. But no. That’s ridiculous. All those things do is play music. How could music rot your brain?”
“That’s… a surprisingly cool point of view,” said Angelina.
“No,” said Mrs. Sharma. “It’s the correct point of view. Being cool has nothing to do with it.”
“It can be correct and surprisingly cool at the same time,” said Lachlan from where he lay under the bar, sharing a double blanket with Sam.
“Music enriches your brain,” said Mrs. Sharma. “I always encourage my children to listen to it as much as possible.”
“It’s true,” said Lachlan. “I listen to music all the time, and I’m basically the smartest man on earth.”
Mrs. Sharma let out a quiet scoff.
“What kind of music do you like?” said Naomi.
She wasn’t sure why she’d asked. Mostly, she’d been curious. Mrs. Sharma was a bit strange, and Naomi had trouble picturing what she’d enjoy listening to.
“Do you know The Goldfish Technique?” said Angelina.
Naomi fought the urge to roll her eyes. No, of course Mrs. Sharma didn’t know The Goldfish Technique. Hardly anyone knew The Goldfish Technique. Naomi had almost stopped mentioning them as her favorite band because people would say things like ‘if they’re so good, why hasn’t anyone heard of them?’ or accuse her of making up a fake band for hipster cred or something.
“I do. They’re very good, actually.”
Naomi felt herself fill with that rare excitement that came from hearing someone from outside of the internet talk about her favorite band.
“But how?” she responded.
She could hear her voice overlap with Lachlan, Chelsea, and Angelina as they all reacted simultaneously. Angelina bolted upright into a seated position and squealed something in Italian, Lachlan said “No fucking way,” and Chelsea just gasped.
“That’s quite an overreaction,” said Mrs. Sharma.
“How did you hear about them? Was it when you lived in Australia? I thought that was years ago! I–” Naomi caught herself and cleared her throat. “Sorry. It’s just a little surprising. They’re not very well known.”
“A little surprising?” Angelina leaned forward under the blanket, bouncing up and down. “A little surprising?! We just met someone who likes the greatest band in the whole wide world, and you’re saying it’s just a little surprising? How did you hear of them? How did you find them? What’s your favorite song? Isn’t Jessica just the coolest?”
“I regret saying I like them now.” Mrs. Sharma sighed. “No, Naomi, to answer your question, I didn’t hear about them when I lived in Australia. That was about fifteen years ago. The band members were children then.”
“Then how?” said Angelina.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t find them on my own,” said Mrs. Sharma. “The answer to that question has to do with CPSI.”