Jetlag was killer.
Kaila groaned as she took another long swig of her afternoon coffee while sitting outside at Kaffee Einstein on Unter den Linden. Why when it was so sunny and bright on this Berlin street did she feel like it was the middle of the night?
“Kill me now,” Kaila muttered, looking through her cat eye sunglasses at Phoebe who was nursing her own caffeinated brew.
“Oh, c’mon, it’s not that bad. Give it one more day and you’ll be over the hump.”
“How are you so perky? The only time you were out of the country was when you went on that extended weekend trip to Vancouver. There’s no way that prepared you for this!”
Phoebe shrugged. “ Maybe some people are affected more than others. It’s not my fault you’re such a wimp.”
“If I wasn’t about to pass out from exhaustion, I’d stand up and smack you.”
Phoebe laughed, then fell silent. “So, when is your flight tomorrow?”
“Not until the afternoon. I plan to head out early though, just in case there’s any trouble with purchasing the ticket. Do you think your parents bought my excuse about visiting my second cousins in London?”
Phoebe sighed. “I guess. I mean, there’s no reason they wouldn’t seeing as they’ve known you for years and you’ve never done anything rash or, I don’t know, crazy, before.”
Kaila glared at her best friend testily. “Do you really want to bring this up again?”
“Listen, I know this is important to you, and I’m sure that if I had a chance to meet my dad whom I’d never seen before I’d want to take it, but Kaila, you don’t know for sure who this November Skies is. For all you know, he could be a weirdo serial killer or something.”
“Because serial killers love to write on environmental issues.”
“I don’t know, some probably do.” Phoebe sighed. “Look, all I’m saying is that I want you to be safe. There’s a reason this guy is hiding his name. Usually when people do that it means they don’t want others finding out who they really are.”
“I know you’re right, Phoebe. If it were you looking for your dad and me being the supportive friend, I would be saying way harsher things to you about how crazy I thought you were. The thing is, even though I know this plan of mine is crazy, I have to go through with it. Reading November Skies’ writing… it made me realize how much of my life I’d already thrown away being a poster child, and for what? So that I could climb the perfectly paved corporate ladder my grandfather has set up for me? You were there for all my rants over the phone in that last semester at USC. I hated my business classes! I mean, I know that I can say that money isn’t everything because I’ve always had plenty of it, but there’s got to be something in life besides cash, accounts and marketing, right?
My dad believed in something. He showed the world what it meant to fight for what you know is right. I need that, the passion he had. If I can just meet him, then maybe I’ll find my own drive in life. And I know it’s cheesy, but if that really is my dad out there posting as November Skies then…” She gulped. “Then…”
Phoebe took Kaila’s hand in her own. “Then you need to know why he’s writing articles under an alias rather than reaching out to you himself. Whatever you find over there in England, it’ll be OK. You’re the strongest person I know. You got this.”
“I knew there was a reason I kept you around.” Kaila murmured, trying to keep the tears forming at the edges of her eyes from falling down. She shook her head as if to shake away the emotions weighing her down. “Alright, enough drama.” She took a long sip of her coffee.
“What are your plans once you get to England anyway? Are you going to rent a car and just drive up and down Lancashire County with a bullhorn asking if anyone’s seen November Skies?”
“Nope. I’m actually heading to London first. I subscribed to the emailing list for that environmentalism group, No Frackin’ Way, that November Skies mentioned in his article. They’re planning to hold a protest on Friday at Speaker’s Corner.”
“It’s in Hyde Park, this big park that’s connected to Kensington Gardens. I Googled it a couple days ago. Apparently you can say whatever you want there and get away with it as long as you don’t start a fight, a physical one that is. All sorts of people have spoken there over the years. It’s pretty famous.”
“Wow. Do you think he’ll be there?”
“I don’t know, but Oliver and Sophie Walker, the people who formed No Frackin’ Way, will be. Since they were mentioned by name in the article, I figure they might have an idea of where he is.”
“Makes sense.” Phoebe finished the last of her coffee, then took a look around them. “So…” she smiled. “We have one more day together in Berlin. How do you want to spend it?”
“Is napping an option?”
“Be still my beating heart.” Kaila grumbled. “Fine, let’s go.”
Hyde Park was freakin’ huge.
Kaila muttered angrily to herself as she unfolded the visitor’s map once more. There were way too many paths here. Didn’t they have any maps for people who were just looking for one thing? She had read that Speaker’s Corner was in the northeast corner of the park, but the print on the map was so tiny she was having trouble making out what any of the labels said.
Forget this. Mankind had advanced beyond the point of needing paper maps. Kaila whipped out her cellphone. “Siri, get me directions to Speaker’s Corner in London.”
“Getting directions to Speaker’s Corner.” It was fitting that her Siri was set to have an English accent. She had her own automated tour guide now. Kaila looked down at the directions. She still had quite a ways to walk. Might as well get started again.
As she walked through the park, Kaila found the brisk air invigorating. It was colder than it had been in San Marino, and she was glad she’d thought to bring her heavier jacket along, but there wasn’t any snow on the ground, just a whole bunch of brown leaves that crunched under her feet with every step. The grassy lawns were in good shape and of vibrant color, and while the trees were bare their stark outline against the grey sky had its own sort of austere beauty. There were still plenty of people in the park, from people playing fetch with their dogs to cyclists whizzing by to parents walking along with their young children grasping their hands with pudgy fingers. It was a great place to people watch.
Kaila smiled as she saw a little girl getting her face washed by her dog’s large, pink tongue. She has always loved dogs, especially when she was little. Thinking of the past just brought her plunging back into the present again though, as she thought of he father. He might be here in the park right now. Kaila could feel her heart pounding at that possibility. She wondered how much he’d aged over the years. His picture from the newspaper column had been taken when he was still young, not many years older than her. By now he would be over 40. Kaila had no doubt she’d recognize him though. His picture had been on the bulletin board in her room for years. She had memorized his face.
There was a Speaker’s Corner Café. Didn’t that make the whole place a little kitschy? Guess that was tourism for ya. As Kaila moved past the refreshments, her eyes fell on the crowd of a couple dozen who were listening to some protesters, a guy and a girl, speak while a couple others held picket signs or handed out flyers.
The speakers looked to be around the same age, in their late twenties, and both had brown hair, though the man’s hair was more of a light brown while the woman’s was chestnut. Both wore shirts that said “No Frackin’ Way” and were gesturing quite passionately as they spoke. They must be the Walkers. Kaila moved into the crowd to better hear what was being said. The woman, Sophie, was speaking now.
“I know most of you are native Londoners and you wonder why it’s your concern what is happening right now in Lancashire. But you have to see the bigger picture here. If the government overturns the County Council’s decision against fracking in their area, then what’s to stop the same thing from happening elsewhere, from happening all throughout the country? The key motive here isn’t concern for the people, it’s greed. Those in favor of fracking want oil because they want money now. They don’t care about the effects these processes have on the environment and they don’t care about the long-term consequences, they simply want a quick fix and cash in their pockets. Is that an acceptable way for government to be run?” Her brown eyes flashed as she spoke, and it was clear that she was the heart of the group.
Oliver Walker had a much softer face, and while Sophie’s movements were grand and dramatic, his were calm and self-assured. “We have pamphlets for anyone who’s interested. They give details on the known dangers of fracking, such as seismic activity and water contamination, and they have information on what you can do about this issue. We can’t take a situation like this lying down. We have to let our government know that industrial fracking is not something that only Lancashire is against, but all of England refuses to see in our country. We have an online petition on our website which you can sign, and we encourage you to write letters to your local officials telling them of your concerns.”
“Words aren’t enough in a situation like this however.” Sophie interjected. “We must make our voices heard in more ways than the written word, and we must bring this issue to the eyes of everyone around us. We will continue to hold protests against Cuadrilla’s appeal to start fracking in England, and we will continue our march against tyranny by returning to Lancashire itself. Throughout this following week, all of the members of No Frackin’ Way who you see before you will be protesting in front of the Lancashire City Council’s headquarters. We will not rest until we have been heard! You may think that the environment needn’t be your concern, that someone else will deal with these issues…”
“But we’re all someone else to somebody else.” Oliver finished for her. “Being environmentally conscious isn’t something we can afford to go without. All of us need to make plans for our futures and the future of our country that don’t rely on fossil fuels any longer. Fracking is scraping the bottom of the barrel, trying to force oil and gas from the ground that’s too far down for us to safely reach. Instead of investing money in injecting millions of tons of chemical laced water into the bowels of our land, we should instead be shifting our focus to finding efficient ways for our country to run on renewable fuels. That is where true economic stability lies.”
Kaila’s eyes scanned the crowd, looking for her father. Things didn’t look promising. The gathering seemed composed mainly of people who had wandered by and had a passing interest in the subject matter at best. The only ones fired up by the speeches were the members of No Frackin’ Way themselves.
A young girl with a streak of lime green in her blonde hair and several piercings offered a flyer to her, her facial expression severe in its zeal. Kaila took it with an awkward smile. The girl looked a bit surprised at this, then turned to watch as Oliver took over from Sophie once more. This time he was speaking on the approaches other countries had taken to fracking, from America where millions of oil wells already utilized fracking, to France which had placed a ban on fracking outright. It was clear which approach he preferred. As Oliver went on, Kaila noticed that flyer girl was drinking in every word from his mouth with focused intensity. She was also clutching the flyers to her chest instead of handing them out as dutifully as she had been doing a minute ago. How cute. Love in the time of environmental protest.
At least someone was happy with what she was seeing. Kaila’s hopes of her impending reunion with her father had been dashed. No, that was putting it too strongly. It wasn’t like Speaker’s Corner was her one shot at finding him. She’d known from the start this location was a long shot. What she was really here for was to speak to the Walkers. They could tell her where her father was. She just needed to wait until they were free to talk to her in person.
Once the soliloquizing was over and the crowd had dispersed, Kaila jumped forward to speak one of the Walkers. Sophie was nearest.
“Hi, you’re Sophie, right? My name is Kaila Oliver. I came across your organization when I was reading an article on the situation in Lancashire County, and wanted to meet you myself.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Kaila.” Sophie put out her hand and gave Kaila’s a firm shake. “You’re not from England yourself though, are you? Did you fly here all the way from America?”
Kaila nodded. “I’m Californian born and bred. Never been out of the States until a few days ago, actually.”
“Is that right? Ollie, come over here!”
Sophie motioned toward her brother. “This girl came all the way across the Atlantic Ocean just to meet us!”
“Now that’s dedication!” Ollie commented, coming toward the girls and offering his hand. “How long have you been concerned about fracking… what was the name again?”
“Kaila. And to be honest, I really don’t know a lot about fracking. I was actually more interested in the author of the article in which your names were mentioned: November Skies.”
A spark of recognition burst in both siblings’ eyes.
Sophie spoke first. “Right, November Skies! He’s done some excellent work over these past few months, covered all sorts of environmental issues around the globe. We were quite honored when he covered our protest.”
Kaila’s heart just about leapt out of her chest. “You met him then? He must have interviewed you before he wrote his article, right?”
Oliver shook his head. “’Fraid not, love. From what Sophie and I have heard about him through the grapevine, November Skies seems to be a rather secretive fellow. He’s very careful to gather accurate information for whatever story he’s covering, but he hasn’t made himself known in any public sense within environmental activism circles.”
They hadn’t even seen him. What was she going to do now?
“Hey now, there’s no reason for tears!” Sophie exclaimed.
Kaila could feel the edges of her eyes burning. She blinked quickly, trying to keep the tears enclosed behind her lids.
Oliver looked bemused. “Are you really that big a fan of his work that you would fly across the globe just to meet him?”
“Well, it’s not just that, you see…” Kaila paused. She hadn’t planned to confide in anyone besides Phoebe. The next person she wanted to reveal herself to was her father. Now that he wasn’t here, she wished she had someone else to talk to about everything. It was a lot to lay on strangers though. She didn’t want them to think she was crazy. “I think I know who November Skies is. I have to meet him to confirm my suspicions.”
“Really?” the brother and sister both exclaimed at once. “Who?”
“I’d rather not say until I know whether I’m right or not. I believe he’s someone I once knew, someone important to me.”
“Ooh, how mysterious!” Sophie laughed. “Well, you’ve certainly piqued our interest! Tell you what, why don’t you come with our group back to Lancashire? Even though we didn’t see him, there’s sure to be someone around there whom he spoke to in person.”
Oliver smiled. “Who knows? If I remember his last article correctly, it sounded like he might be staying in the area himself for some time. You might just be reunited with November Skies yet.”
Kaila felt hope rise up inside her once more, but resolved to outwardly remain calm. The Walkers were friendly, but she didn’t want to stretch their kindness more than need be.
“Thanks, but I don’t want to get in your way. I’m sure I can find my own ride to Lancashire.”
“Don’t be ridiculous!” Sophie exclaimed. “Any friend of November Skies is a friend of ours! Harrison!” she called to a black man who was speaking with another member of the group, “Grab one of those t-shirts out of my duffel bag and toss it over here!” Sophie expertly caught the projectile and handed it off to Kaila.
It was a bright yellow “No Frackin’ Way” t-shirt, just like the ones they were wearing.
“You’re one of us now,” Oliver said with a smile, “So you have a place on our bus.”
Kaila took the shirt hesitantly, surprised at how accepting the group was. She hadn’t expected to be recruited today. Holding the shirt up, she could tell it was an extra large. She was going to need a hair tie to make this thing fit. Whatever, it was still awesome. “How soon are you leaving? I want to get there as soon as possible.”
“We’re heading out the day after tomorrow, bright and early,” Sophie answered, bending to pick up some of their flyers that had been dropped on the ground. “It alright if we meet you here?”
“Sounds perfect to me.” Kaila noticed the other flyers that were scattered around them. She should offer to help since they were so willing to help her. “Do you need a hand cleaning up?”
“We’d love it,” Oliver responded cheerfully. “Afterwards you should join us for a cup of tea. We like to regroup after our demonstrations and debrief on how we think it went.”
“Oliver likes to debrief. I just enjoy scarfing down scones.” Sophie interjected.
Kaila smiled at Sophie’s comment. She might as well tag along. She was going to be too anxious to focus on anything in particular until they got going to Lancashire. “Sounds like fun. Just give me a minute to text a friend. I’ll be right back.”
Oliver and Sophie both nodded in approval and turned to talk to the other members of their team.
Kaila walked a few steps away, then pulled out her phone to text Phoebe.
He wasn’t in London, but I found a ride to Lancashire. Pretty sure he’ll be there, waiting to hear the final decision. Gonna be here a couple more days.
A few seconds later, Phoebe texted back. Alright, be safe. Fingers crossed for Lancashire.
She was one step closer to finding November Skies.