The Adventures of Lilly
Book Two – A China Escape
With these words ringing in her ears, Lilly walked to her bedroom and pulled out her pink, tan and black suitcase from beneath her bed. It was a little beat up, but Lilly loved it because it reminded her of all the other places she had been. Throwing open her closet door, Lilly proceeded to take down clothing items and roll them up to fit in her suitcase.
“Cardigans,” she muttered to herself. “Trench… check. Two dresses… check. Patterned skirt… check. Velvet track suit… must have… check. Dad’s borrowed sweater… check. Mickey Mouse PJs… check. Let’s see. What else will I need?” Her eyes roved across her room. “Jewelry… check. Leggings… check. Scrunchies…check. Undies… check. Juicy Couture perfume… check. iPad… check. Lip gloss… check. Chocolate sauce… uh, no… just chocolate bars—a very necessary friendship-forming tool. Stuffed pet, Wasp…check.”
Lilly figured that if she needed anything else, she could always purchase it in China. That’s how they always did it after all. Besides, she prided herself in packing light and mentally patted herself on the back for doing it so quickly.
The first time Lilly had packed for an overseas trip, she had filled three suitcases with stuff, and then had to jump on them to close them down. That experience as a ten-year-old now sent a tiny wave of shivers down her back. “Three minutes and forty-seven seconds,” Lilly said triumphantly glancing at her sports watch. “Record broken.”
Picking up her phone, she dialed the numbers to ring her best friend, thirteen-year-old Adria Sinise.
“Hey, matey!” Adria said. Her lovely Australian accent sprang out making each word bounce and pop with an undeterred liveliness.
“Hello! Hello!” Lilly greeted her. “Guess what, Barbie?” Barbie was Lilly’s nickname for Adria because of her straight platinum blonde hair, dimples, naturally bright pink lips, ocean blue eyes, sweet, buoyant spirit, and sense of style.
“You sound super excited, so I’m gonna bet you’re either going to the moon or you’re finally able to do a front handspring,” Adria surmised.
“Your first guess is pretty close,” Lilly confirmed. “Only I’m traveling somewhere on earth. Guess again!”
“Help me out, seester! Is it some place in America?” Adria asked.
“No,” Lilly answered. “Keep guessing.” She rubbed her hands together furiously.
“Nope. Canada is a part of the Americas, Barbie.”
Adria rolled her eyes. “Kidding,” she said. “I totally knew that. What about India or Istanbul? Are you going there?”
“No to both,” Lilly told her. “Why didn’t you just say the Middle East? Istanbul is a part of the Middle East, ya know.”
“Because I like the way Istanbul rolls off my tongue. Ihs-tahn-buhl,” Adria repeated.
Lilly laughed at her best friend’s absurdity. “Okay. Two more guesses,” she said.
“Down the rabbit hole? Alice in Wonderland style?”
“Of course not. There is no evidence that that insane place exists. Last try.”
“China or Japan?”
There was some rustling of papers on the other end of the phone. Lilly coughed dramatically. “Two in one…Guess one, please.”
“Well, my mind is saying ‘China,’ but my heart is screaming ‘Japan.'”
“Choose wisely, mate,” Lilly advised.
“I’m going to go with China,” Adria said.
“China it is!” Lilly shouted. “Never listen to your heart when it screams.”
“Yay me!” Adria cheered. “I used a world map,” she admitted. “Tell me, why are you traveling to China and to what part?”
“Beijing,” Lilly answered. She proceeded to rehash all about the mysterious caller and her dad’s plan.
“That sounds like some awful sort of cloak and dagger business to me,” Adria said when Lilly finished talking.
“Don’t worry. It’ll be alright,” Lilly assured her. “Do you think you’ll be able to come along with us this time? We leave on Wednesday morning.”
Adria twirled a few strands of her hair around her finger before audibly sighing. “No. I don’t think so. My ancestors–”
“You mean your Mom and Dad,” Lilly corrected.
“Yeah. Them—my ancestors. They would never let me travel overseas on such short notice. So, I guess I’ll just stay sittin’ in my room munching on frosted flakes continuing to be hypnotized by this zany poster of the Cheshire cat that my brother made me, while my best friend jet-sets across the globe, adventuring without me… ‘Tis a hard life I’m living.” Adria let out an exaggerated sigh.
“Come on,” Lilly groaned. “You’re making me feel bad. Besides, I told you to throw darts at that stupid poster and your life is not all that bad. Remember, you have an audition for a role in that big drama movie on Saturday. Keep your head up, Barbie. I’ll be praying for your success.”
“Thanks. I’ll be praying for your safety, too. You are seriously the greatest friend ever. As I think about it, there is no reason for me to get depressed. I’ll probably be chosen for the role I’ve been practicing for all summer. I mean, the directors asked for an athletic, perky, blonde haired girl who’s about five feet one inch. I’m all that and a bag of cotton candy! After all, you do call me Barbie. Who can say ‘no’ to perfect?”
“Uh huh.” Lilly was amazed at how far a little encouragement could go in boosting Adria’s self-esteem through the roof and into the stratosphere.
“Seriously,” Adria began again. “Thanks, seester. You better send me a ton of photos and buy me a stunning memento in Beijing.”
“Totally will,” Lilly assured her. “One more thing,” Lilly added. “Be sure to do yourself a favor and look up the word ancestor in a dictionary.”
“Ha! Ha!” Adria said. “I’m adding that to my to do list now.”
“Great. See you tomorrow. Bye. Poof!”
“See you. Bye-e!”
Exactly two days and eight hours later, Mr. Hill and Lilly arrived at San Diego International Airport. Because of Lilly’s early packing, they had nearly thirteen minutes to spare. Mrs. Hill and a sleepy-looking Marco came along to see them off.
“Heavenly Father, please bless and protect my hubby and daughter as they embark on this journey to China. Only You know what awaits them, so we put our trust in You. Use them for Your glory, God. Thank You in advance. Amen,” Mrs. Hill prayed.
“Amen!” everyone echoed.
“Goodbye, sweetheart,” Mrs. Hill said kissing Lilly on her forehead and cheeks. “Remember your promise.”
“I will. Bye, Mom,” Lilly said.
Mrs. Hill stood on her tiptoes to kiss her husband goodbye nearly spilling some of her latte on his luggage in the process. Marco covered his eyes.
“You should have worn your killer heels today, Mom,” Lilly joked.
Mrs. Hill laughed. “Don’t you have something to say, Marco?” she said to her son.
“Of course,” Marco answered. “Bye, guys. You already know how much I love you.”
Mrs. Hill gave him a disapproving look.
“O.K.,” Marco began again. “I love you, Dad, and I love you, Sis, as the day is long, the sea is wide, the mountains are tall, the sun is burning, marshmallows are chewy, the sky is–”
Mrs. Hill gave him a look that meant he was going on too long. Marco flung his arms outward.
“Simply put, I love you all very much, and…I made you a going away present.” He pulled a folded sheet of blank paper out of his denim pants pocket and handed it to Lilly. “It’s a two-sided square and it means good luck.”
Lilly turned the paper every which way as Mr. Hill looked on, perplexed. “This two-sided square looks like a straight line to me,” she observed.
“Only it is a two-sided square,” Marco confirmed. “That’s the genius of it, Sis.”
“If you say so,” Lilly said.
After Mrs. Hill and Marco left, Lilly and Mr. Hill boarded their flight. Mr. Hill slid into the plush blue window seat. Lilly cleared her throat. “Um, excuse me, Dad,” she said.
“Oh, yes, yes. ‘Scuse me, darling,” he chuckled. “I shall not deprive you of this privilege. Window seats are the best.”
“Thanks,” Lilly grinned as they switched places.
Ten minutes later, their plane still sat on the tarmac awaiting take off. “I wonder why we aren’t moving yet. What is taking so long?” Mr. Hill said to no one in particular as he thrust his head into the aisle.
“Chillax, Dad,” Lilly said knowing how much tardiness peeved him.
As if on cue, a short, young, white-haired man with blue rimmed sunglasses and a permanently creased forehead, entered the plane and plopped down in the seat beside Mr. Hill. He had a bad attitude and was mumbling some incoherent apology for holding the plane up.
Mr. Hill cracked a joke about his hair turning white early because of his stressful late arrivals. This lightened the atmosphere greatly as the man threw his head back and laughed in relief. “Actually, I dyed it,” he said. “My name’s Jason, by the way.”
“Nice to meet you,” Lilly and Mr. Hill said in unison shaking his outstretched hand. With seat belts buckled, the plane finally rose into the air.