Spring Edition 2023
“Belladonna & The Polystyrene Man”
Short Story by Lola
Place the taffy yellow blankets under the beige couch,
the couch in which Belladonna has called her bed for the past eleven years. She gave up her plain bedroom to her father.
Surrounded by dead flower bouquets, she makes herself a homely cup of chamomile tea for her and her father. The bouquets are months old -“get better soon” gifts for Belladonna’s crumbling father. After awhile she just got worn out from drenching them in water and having that fake, floral scent lingering hauntingly around their tidy, soft lime green and cream colored Victorian house…also the flowers obviously don’t have any magical healing powers so there is no point in healing them.
Wash tired face in blue tiled sink.
Belladonna’s natural beauty has only ever been pampered by cold sink water,
and she plans on keeping it that way.
In her youth, she wore mystically bright colored dresses and gowns but when her eleventh birthday arrived, her father fell deathly ill. Belladonna has only worn porcelain white nightgowns ever since.
Stare at own figure in the reflection of the french window.
Belladonna then spreads one of “the friends” homemade raspberry jam on toast and tiptoes gracefully into where her father sleeps.
“The friends” are a part of Belladonna’s beautiful, daily routine. They are her plastic people that arrive everyday at eleven in the morning until four in the evening. Every visit, they speak, act, laugh and walk the same way, just as her father once did. Belladonna is fenced in by plastic people and her crumbling, polystyrene father. She is the only human left in her deserted town and has lived in this house for her entire life with her father. The house is planted on a road going north and south, with other houses identical to hers. To the north, there is the town and village and to the south, it is an endless road; endless freedom.
Belladonna has never found it necessary to go outside because “the friends” have given her everything she has ever needed for herself and her styrofoam father. She does not mind “the friends”, but finds herself frequently consumed by a feeling of loneliness within her own body, for they are only plastic and can not relate to her hopeless emotions. She does not mind being human either, but the feeling of wishing to slowly melt and dissolve into some kind of chemical liquid onto her clean wooden floors and never to be seen again, creeps into her mind constantly.
Belladonna always sticks to her routine, except on Thursdays.
Her routine has always been,
Place taffy yellow blankets under beige couch.
Make chamomile tea.
Wash tired face in blue tiled sink.
Stare at own figure in reflection of french window.
Give toast to father, but eat two bites for yourself on the way in.
Read that book.
Make more chamomile tea for “the friends”.
Do not mention they are plastic when they arrive.
But Thursdays, she places the needle on one of the three vinyls she possesses and the record player fills the comfortable silence with music. She dances and dances for hours on end in her nightgown.
Belladonna loves the feeling of Thursdays
because Thursday is freedom from old routine,
because Thursday, she feels human.
Today, is not a Thursday.
Loneliness begins to wash over Belladonna as she evacuates her fathers territory once more. Her presence feels unwanted until she hears that knock on the door. Three even taps and her jasper eyes lower tiredly as her soft hands greet the cold, metal doorknob.
The faces of “the friends” are almost identical. Belladonna stands out when surrounded, especially with her loose, dark red curls. “The friends” faces smile politely, presenting an eerie wave that travels through the insides of Belladonna every visit. “The friends” have been visiting her and her father ever since she can remember. Her father once told her that they were his co-worker acquaintances. Belladonna’s broken father had once been a doctor for elderly patients and “the friends” were the other doctors and nurses.
She never understood why they still visited after all of this time…
They wear color-coordinated outfits of seaweed green and desert tan and carry baskets full of Belladonna’s necessities.
She graciously invites them in as they forcefully push their way through. They sit on her beige bed and begin discussing the weather and how it has not rained in months. “The friends” always discuss how hot it is, although it is quite hypocritical for they worship the looks of their own golden and polished faces. Belladonna’s captivating eyes gravitate towards their shined shoes and smooth legs. There are around five or six of them all chatting and she is beginning to not recognize this house she supposedly lives in. Whenever “the friends” visit, her experience feels surreal and unholy. She walks shakily over to an outcasted corner chair in this unknown home of hers.
“The friends” passive aggressively argue and laugh loudly for over two hours when Belladonna realizes it is time to check on her disintegrating father. Her toes leave footprints behind each step as she enters the infinitely dark room. She has not heard his voice in months and like a past, twisted lover, she has now forgotten how his sweet voice sounds. She is saddened by this wrenching thought and subtly tucks her hair behind her left ear. “The friends” do not notice her absence and empty space.
Belladonna’s fingers find themselves another hand to hold; her fathers. She stands still for awhile, holding the cold, unfamiliar hand. The room’s air sits quiet and still, like an orange tabby cat on a suburban fence. Belladonna is soon the only one breathing in that ghostly air.
Belladonna’s tears begin to burn down her raspberry jam cheeks. Her polystyrene father had deteriorated right before her eyes and although “the friends” now begin to fill the private space, the blue-tinted memory that had just occurred is only a lonely blur to poor Belladonna. “The friends” begin to cry hysterically as they enter and find one of their own kind lifeless. Belladonna’s sadness is the least of their worries as they huddle around her father, using their fake arms and fake chests to brush Belladonna further and further away from her dead past. She daggers glances to the eyes of plastic routine and scripted emotions and leaves the room filled with insincere sorrows. Her feet begin to move at a faster pace around the lime green and cream house.
Yellow blankets and chamomile tea.
Beige couch and blue tiled sink; wash face in blue tiled sink.
Sink, sink, sink.
Belladonna is running frantically around the kitchen so she does not sink into delusion, but it seems to be too late, for she is waking up to reality.
chamomile tea is under the sink; under the sink…
Under the sink, what’s under the sink? Cleaning products probably. Chamomile tea and gasoline are under the sink.
Before Belladonna can think twice, she reaches for her father’s bottle of gasoline under the blue tiled sink. She remembers she dislikes the smell of that gasoline, for it always gave her a youthful headache. She decides to dump it all out today, for her father’s sake…he’ll evaporate anyways.
She dances and frolics with the gasoline bottle around the kitchen, through the living room and near the bedroom where “the friends” weep in their own pollution.
How beautifully does she dance with danger!
Belladonna’s delusional mind is an emotional magnet and she craves for more.
The single flame of freedom; her only way out now of the dreadful routine.
Besides…they’re only plastic,
She ignites the flame which ignites the first laugh Belladonna has released in eleven years as the flame drops to the ground. No sound, just the sight of Belladonna running away from her past for the first time. As she runs out of the house, she stops in the middle of the road, going north and south. She stares at her once tidy, soft lime green and cream colored Victorian house, in flames. The cries of “the friends” begin to change meaning and Belladonna realizes they were only human, they did not simply melt like how she had imagined.
She then looks north and south.
Belladonna has awoken!
She begins running south; running towards endless freedom; a new start.
Today really feels like a Thursday.
Who is Cooking Biko?
One night, at 7:50 pm, in the living room I heard some stirring sounds coming from the kitchen. Mom was cooking with sticky rice, stirring it around, and it was very sticky, sticking to the mixing spoon in the white rice cooker. Mom poured coconut milk and brown sugar into the pan then she followed it with a huge chunk of the cooked sticky rice. She stirred it as it cooked slowly in the huge pan. It twisted and turned, jumped and moved. I started to smell the aroma coming from the kitchen as I sat on the comfy couch. The rice was white, then became golden brown and the smell of rice grew even stronger.
A few minutes later, it was very sticky and the rice was a dark brown. Mom set it onto some banana leaves and sprinkled some coconut flakes on it. She waited at least 20 minutes and then she carried it to the table. It was a plate of biko! She made it for my sister and me! My sister and I walked towards the table, and we started gobbling the sweet rice cake like a pack of wolves. It was yummy, and we put the leftovers in the fridge. The biko was delicious, and it was yummy when my family got slices of it and ate it. They are Filipinos after all, and biko is a yummy rice cake and it is lucky to them because I heard it brings good luck!
What is biko?
Biko is a filipino sticky rice cake.
All About Julia Child
Julia McWilliams was born on August 15,1912. Growing up, she had a fearless sense
of adventure. As a little girl she rode on her bike everywhere without telling anyone where
she was going. Her parents liked how clever she was.
After she graduated high school, she worked in the OSS. She met Paul Child and
they visited restaurants together. When they were done with the OSS they moved to Paris.
In Paris they made plans to get married in September. The day before the wedding a
truck lost control and crashed into Paul and Julia’s car, but they were okay. After their
wedding, Julia attended a famous cooking school in Paris called Le Cordon Bleu which is
French for: The Blue Ribbon. When she graduated from the school, she and a few of her
friends decided to open a little cooking school of their own, but before they opened it they
made a cookbook called: Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
When the book was published Julia was invited to appear on a Boston Television
program to talk about her book. After the film everyone sent messages to the studio that
said they wanted to see more of her on the television. That is when she became a TV star.
Even though Julia Child died on August 13, 2004, her show still appears on television and
her dishes still pop up everywhere.
Ancient Wolf- The Spirit Realm
It all began when a kid named Jordan was playing baseball with his
friends, but he had no idea what was about to happen. When John swung
the bat, the ball went into the woods, and Jordan ran after it. He stopped
and looked curiously at the bushes moving silently until he saw a slight
glow. It looked like there was an internal dimensional portal that had just
been opened. When Jordan looked closer, he saw what appeared to be a
glowing floating wolf. “Go back where you came from otherworldly
creature,” said Jordan in a scared and humoristic voice. The wolf replied,
“My name is Zandco, the god of all spirit animals, and I was summoned
by you.” “Why is there a smelly wolf in the forest” Jordan mumbled under
his breath. “I can hear you,” said Zandco. “Oh yeah well what did I say”
asked Jordan. The wolf replied, “I don't have time for all of this.”
Zandco explained that he wanted them to go on an adventure to the
spirit realm to find Jordan’s spirit animal. Zandco said, “Our first stop is
Altaya, the land of the spirit animals. We will head there to travel back in
time, so you can learn the ways of the spirit world” . Jordan touched the
wolf and they teleported to Altaya. Once they arrived at Altaya Jordan
saw podiums everywhere. He had assumed it was a barrier to make sure
nobody found Altaya but he wasn't sure. The sky was pinkish, there were
all kinds of animals like tigers and giraffes, and more. Then Zandco
showed Jordan how to teleport back in time. Zandco held a weird looking
triangle and told Jordan to hold it from both sides and think of where he
wanted to go.
Zandco and Jordan did it, they teleported back in time. Zandco explained
that Jordan needed to learn the ways of the spirit realm to go to the
spirit realm. “How does a spirit get its form?” asked Jordan. Zandco
replied, “From its personality”. Then Zandco said, “You are ready.”
Jordan and Zandco traveled to the spirit realm. Zandco noted, “The spirit
realm is where spirits don't have their form, so you won't know what spirit
animal you will pick.” Jordan liked to play baseball, he was also fast and
agile, and very wise. Jordan still could not find his spirit animal until he
realized who had trained him and who was summoned by him, Jordan
ran to Zandco and said, “You are my spirit animal because I summoned
Jordan and Zandco went back to earth, and told the story of how Jordan
found his spirit animal. No one believed him but he was ok with that.
When Jordan went home and got in his bed, he said to himself, “Let
there be another adventure as great as mine.”
How I Became a Spy
Today I was eating breakfast when I heard something that changed my life.
My mom told us she was a spy. I stopped eating and asked her so many
questions. I asked how long she's been a spy. If she has a lot of gadgets. I
was asking so many questions I ran out. I looked at her and felt so shocked
and excited. All I could think was that my Mom is so cool. She told me that
she has been a spy for 3 years. She also said that she has about 20
gadgets or more. She answered those two and almost all my questions. My
brain exploded. She asked my little sister, Stacy, and I, if we wanted to go
to her headquarters. We both quickly jumped up with excitement and
shouted YES! We got to the headquarters and it was so cool.
We saw some gadgets around, little ones and big ones. My Mom took
Stacy and I to a room. It was called the practice room. My Mom gave me a
gadget and told me to follow what the screen showed. I practiced and got
the hang of it. One of the gadgets was like a stick and had a little ball on
the top. My Mom told me that this gadget could move anything from far
away. This could distract people she told me. One of the other gadgets
could transform me. I could transform into a cat, dog, wolf, or other animal.
This one was my favorite gadget. My Mom told me each challenge gets
harder every time you complete one. Stacy was trying some gadgets and
was doing well.
My Mom gave me and Stacy some spy outfits and told us to put them on.
Stacy and I went back to our Mom with our outfits on. They looked so cool
on us. My Mom told Stacy and I to get some gadgets and come with her.
She had an assignment for us to do. There were 5 levels of the
assignment. The first one was a parkour range. I had to jump over stuff,
climb walls, and more. It was all very hard but I managed to get past the
level. The next level was with one of my gadgets. A person was standing
and I had to get past him. I was behind him and used my gadget to move a
bottle. The bottle fell to the floor and the guard went over to pick it up. He
looked around to see if there was anyone there. I snuck past him and
passed the level.
I finished the rest of the levels and so did Stacy. At the third level, I had to
use my gadget to transform myself into objects. That one was hard. The
fourth level was even harder. I had to practice kicking and fighting some
people. Of course, I did not hurt anyone. At the last and final level, I had to
combine all of the levels. I completed it but it took some time. After Stacy
and I completed the assignments we had to do one together. We did all the
things we practiced and worked together. We worked hard and had to
restart sometimes. When we finished my Mom took us back to the practice
room. As we got older, and practiced a lot, we were ready to be a spy.
Spies: The Hacker
Case File #1
Written By: Miyu
School was out, and a tough summer of grueling spy training was rolling in. I looked up at the cloudless sky and sighed. The Secret Spy Agency was like my second home, a place where I could train in silence and solitude. But the summer training part, I was not excited about. I looked around, searching for my best friend Avery’s long braided hair and freckles, but couldn’t see her. Perhaps she had already boarded the bus.
I was just about to step onto the bus when I heard a sharp beeping noise. It was coming from my watch, which seemed normal enough at first, but inside it was actually a spy device. It could contact any person that was part of the Agency. I looked around, but everybody else was buzzing around happily as if nothing had happened, too excited about summer break to notice anything. Pressing the button that made the beeping noise stop, I hissed irritatedly. “A Meeting? Now?” I shook my head; I had no choice. I headed off towards the opposite direction the other kids were going. I took no detours as I rushed towards the dumpsters at the back of the school.
“Alyssa? What are you doing here?” asked a familiar face with long, white blond hair.
“I could ask the same to you,” I said casually, trying to hide my surprise at her being there.
“I was just hanging out away from the crowd,” said Jennifer, laughing nervously.
I nodded solemnly. “I see. But I think you should hurry back; the bus will be leaving soon.”
“You’re right… I guess I should. Welp, see you later, Lyss!” Jennifer waved, and giggled as I made a face when she called me by my nickname.
When I was sure she had gone, I carefully opened a tiny door on the side of the dumpster that hid a keypad. I typed in the password, and the ground opened up beneath me and I slid through a chute into the Agency’s HQ.
I tumbled through the atrium, hopped into the elevator, and navigated through the hallways before finally reaching the Meeting Room.
“You’re late, Agent Star River,” said the Boss sternly. “Sit down, please– we started the discussion seven minutes ago.”
I plopped down in the only empty seat next to Agent Autumn Shadow, who seemed mildly disgusted being in my presence. I glared at her, and looked away quickly.
“To fill you in on the news you have missed because of your tardiness,” said the Boss dryly, “There have been some very strange occurrences happening around town lately. Somebody has been hacking into computer systems and causing total chaos. We have been trying to track this troublemaker, and think that we have picked up a signal to the criminal’s location. We would like to send an elite group of agents to investigate this case. Agent Hawk, Agent Rain Cloud, and Agent Autumn Shadow, have already received their mission files. And you, Agent Star River, will be training the new recruit, Junior Agent Lily.”
“Wait, wait, wait, wait…” I cut in. “Excuse me? I’m going to be training a newbie while Agent Autumn Shadow gets to go on a mission?”
Boss raised his eyebrow. “Yes, that is correct. Would you like assistance to train the new recruit?”
“I don’t need help from anyone,” I said quickly. The Boss nodded. “All right then, that’s decided.”
I didn’t hear anything else he said for the rest of the meeting– not that anything he said was important. I was numb by the fact that of all people, Agent Autumn Shadow got to go, and not me.
The next day, I came back to the HQ and met up with JA (short for Junior Agent) Lily. Her pale hair was swept up in a high ponytail like mine, but she was smiling unlike me.
“Nice to meet you,” I said solemnly, offering my hand.
The trainee shook it enthusiastically and grinned. “Nice to meet you too, Agent Star River! Where do we start?”
“Well, we–” I stopped abruptly. Turning around, I saw a red haired figure walking through the hallway with two others. “Agent Autumn Shadow,” I muttered, narrowing my eyes.
“Huh?” said Agent Lily. “Are you talking about the Elite Agent–”
I crept towards the three agents assigned for the hacker case. They didn’t notice me, but I was still very careful as I tailed them to the meeting room where they were going to receive further information about the case. Lily didn’t seem to know what to do, so, reluctantly, I motioned for her to follow me. The three agents in front of us opened the door to the very large Meeting Hall, a space that was usually reserved for important meetings with the other HQs across the nation. They locked the door behind them.
“Shoot,” I muttered. “You need a special card to access that place…” Lily shook her head. “I don’t think we should be here,” she whispered. I glared at her and took a tiny screwdriver from my pocket that looked like a tube of lip gloss. The new recruit’s eyes widened as I leaped onto the pipes on the ceiling, used the screwdriver to unscrew the panels to the air vent, and crawled in. To avoid any suspicion, I reached out a hand for Lily to grab on to, hoisted her up, and closed the panel behind us. A National Spy Confederation Meeting was going on, and I could hear the booming voice of the Boss.
“He’s talking about the hacker case,” I whispered. “Man, this hacker figure must be causing major trouble for the Boss to mention it in a national meeting.”
We were peeking through the air vent into the meeting hall, when I thought I saw the Boss’s eyes glance in our direction. I froze, and scrambled away from the vent panel. “I think he saw us,” I breathed. Agent Lily’s eyes widened.
“Hurry, let’s get out of here!!”
We crawled as fast as we could and dropped down from the vent, panting. I gripped the screwdriver, about to put the panel back on, when a cold voice sharply said, “I know you were listening in.”
I froze, and turned around to see Agent Autumn Shadow glaring at me, her eyes like daggers. Agent Lily was trembling, not knowing what to do or say. I boldly came up to my nemesis.
“It was my idea,” I said, unashamed. “Don’t blame the recruit. But what are you doing here anyway? I thought you were in the Meeting Hall.”
Autumn Shadow reddened, her face the same shade as her hair, and looked away. “They kicked me out of the case,” she snarled. “And they replaced me with Agent Sand Storm.”
For a moment I felt a flicker of sympathy for her. Even though she was mean and tough, I had to admit that she was a skilled agent, although Agent Sand Storm was older and more experienced. I looked her up and down.
“Well, I’m going to go solve that case on my own,” I declared.
“What?! You can’t just do that. You’re only an Agent.” I scoffed, and she amended, “Yeah, sure, an Elite Agent, but still. You can’t do it without any permission, let alone by yourself.”
“Yes I can,” I retorted. “And I’m going to start now, by searching for any suspicious ID files in the Hall of Files. Goodbye.” I turned and left, leaving Agent Autumn Shadow and Agent Lily gaping open-mouthed at my outrageous idea. No, sorry– brilliant idea.
But, turns out… It isn’t as easy as it seems.
A couple days later, exhausted after attempting to look for clues and after practicing kicking techniques with Agent Autumn Shadow, I met Avery at the library.
“Hey Alyssa,” she said brightly, banging me on the back affectionately. Then her smile faded. “You look like a zombie… Have you been sleeping at all lately?”
I responded, “Yeah, a little bit, I guess. I’ve just been–” I groped around for the right word. “Um, researching. Yeah.”
“Ugh, that’s tough. Research is always tiring,” said Avery. Just then, the person next to Avery tripped and shrieked, sending the stack of books they were carrying flying everywhere. Swiftly, she kicked them away from her with precise aim, the most skilled round kicks I had ever seen from a non-spy. “Whoa,” I said, when Avery was done. Panting, she picked up the books and handed them back to the person who had tripped.
“How did you do that?” I asked. Avery laughed exuberantly.
“A master ninja never reveals their secrets.” And by the way she smirked teasingly, I knew she was joking. But something in me wondered if she actually did have any secrets that were somewhat related to ninja tricks…
The following day, I returned to search for clues about the hacker. But there was one problem. Agent Autumn Shadow had told Boss about what I was doing, and now I was suspended from any jobs– including the job of training Junior Agent Lily. I was stupid for telling Autumn Shadow what I was doing. So much for trying to be sneaky.
After I had been ratted on, many of the agents were whispering about me behind my back and shooting me wary glances. They did their best to do it unnoticed, but they couldn’t possibly get past me; Elite Agent, remember? Anyways, this made me even more determined to prove myself worthy. Which also meant doing all of this alone.
After doing some training in the Elite Agent Training Room, I wandered to the elevator, pressed the button for the lowest floor, and stealthily looked around. I was planning to figure things out about the hacker by going to the Tech Crew’s office. But then something else caught my attention. The Boss’s office. There had got to be things worth looking at in there. And even if there wasn’t, there was one thing that was there for certain; my pass card, the one that only Elite Agents could use to access the Hall of Closed Records. I hadn’t checked in that Hall yet, so maybe there would be clues to the hacker there… I pulled out a bobby pin, getting ready to pick the lock…
“Hey, what are you doing?”
Startled, I looked around, gripping the bobby pin.
“What– who–” I looked up to see a sharp-featured face with shoulder-length blonde hair and hazel eyes. “A- Agent Sand Storm?”
The older agent smirked and took my bobby pin, inspecting it with mild interest.
“You’re trying to pick the lock with a bobby pin? Pfft- I thought you were an Elite Agent. There are better ways to get in. Besides, the Boss’s door can’t be lock-picked like that. Such an ancient technique.”
I was about to protest when I realized that she was trying to help me sneak into the Boss’s office. “All right… Then how else can we get in?” I asked. Sand Storm smirked again. “You’ll see.”
“We’re hacking our way into the office?” I asked, dumbfounded. “What do you mean? The Boss’s office is not a database or something. It’s an actual place in the actual world; hello?”
Sand Storm grinned. “The Boss’s office is full of computers and weird projectors. We can just transport ourselves in by turning ourselves into electric signals, projecting ourselves into a computer as a couple of files, and revert ourselves into our material forms. Sounds good?”
“Sounds terrifying,” I mumbled.
“All right then, we have to be quick. Ready?” Not waiting for my response, she counted down, “Three, two, one–”
At the press of a button, I felt a tugging sensation in my stomach and a weird sensation of fading away into the air. In a split second, my eyes opened up again and I realized that I was looking through a computer screen from the inside of the computer. I could see Sand Storm already materialized in her human form, staring at me from the other side of the computer screen. Her grin was weird, almost hysterically happy… in a scary way. Um– I said, Hello? Can I get out of here now? But Agent Sand Storm ignored me, eyeing the computer screen hungrily instead.
“You’re the twelfth one,” she chuckled. “And twelve is a lucky number. This is wonderful, wonderful… My plan is working perfectly…”
What– what do you mean? I asked, my heart skipping a beat. What was happening?
“The last of the twelve Elite Agents that I have trapped and confined as computer files,” said Sand Storm greedily. “The final step to my plan. Soon, my hacking skills will break into your mind and turn you and the eleven others into mindless slaves… Slaves that will force the Agency to surrender to me!”
Sand Storm laughed raucously, a terrifying noise that echoed in my ear drums. I had a realization at that moment. I have to admit, I really hate asking anybody for help, being a highly independent person. But I figured that if now wasn’t a necessary time to call for help, I didn’t know if there would ever be. I glanced at my pixelated, 2-D wrist, which was currently wearing a pixelated, 2-D watch…
I pressed the button, and hissed, “Agent Autumn Shadow.”
And I knew at that moment, somewhere out there, that Agent Autumn Shadow’s watch would be beeping like crazy. And I hoped with all of my soul that she would answer my call.
She did; a lot faster than I had expected.
“FREEZE!” she cried, pointing a shock gun at Sand Storm’s forehead. “Or else you’ll have to deal with me.”
“You and what army?” laughed Sand Storm.
The smile disappeared from Sand Storm’s face and a look of shock and fear replaced it. The Boss, three intimidating-looking men with shock guns, Junior Agent Lily, and the last remaining Elite Agents filed into the room and surrounded the terrified Agent– who I knew now was the hacker. The Boss used a strange, TV remote-looking device to take me back out of the computer and into a non-pixelated form.
“Thank you for alerting us, Agent Star River and Agent Autumn Shadow,” said the Boss. “You may leave now; we have it all covered. Agent Sand Storm will be removed from the Agency, and all memory of her spy training will be erased. Your quick-thinking has saved us all; again, thank you, Agents.”
Autumn Shadow, Lily, and I exited the room. And for the first time, Autumn Shadow and I grinned at each other– and then I noticed something strange.
“Wait a second–” I gasped, then lowered my voice to a whisper. “Avery?”
She reddened, and her hand whipped up to her head. While normally she had short, cropped hair, right now she had a long braid and was wearing the necklace that my friend Avery usually wore– a pendant with the initial “A” hanging off of it as a charm. Autumn Shadow took off her braid– it had been fake.
“I guess you’ve figured out my secret identity now,” she said, smiling ruefully. “Alyssa.”
“But– but how–” I sputtered.
“I’ve been disguising my voice. Also changing my personality,” said Agent Autumn Shadow– or should I say, Avery. “The Boss told us all to do so. Haven’t you been too?”
“Well, yeah, but…” I stopped, then I started laughing. Uncontrollably. Avery looked at me like I was crazy but then she started laughing too.
“Hey, guys?” interjected Junior Agent Lily. “Have you forgotten about me?”
And all of a sudden, her voice changed, and her usual excitable facade melted away, instead replaced by a nervous, more quiet personality. She undid her ponytail and let her hair fall down to her back.
“What’s up, Lyss ‘n Avery?” she said, flashing a smile.
“Jennifer!!” I cried, laughing even harder.
“So… Can we all be friends now? You know, just like we are at school?” said Avery. I grinned.
“Obviously! Come on, it’s been a long day. Let’s go home.” I paused, and added, “Thanks for helping me, you guys. I admit I wasn’t very nice to you guys as a spy, but I hope we can change that now”
Avery slapped us both on the back affectionately, and Lily and I both nearly choked from the impact.
“Last one above ground is a computer file!” yelled Avery. All three of us laughed and dashed up, towards the bright, cloudless sky.
Small and green,
A minty sheen.
And smooth, lush plains.
A razor Border,
A stemmy corner.
A small flat tip,
Or five big dips.
Scarce in winter,
Dead and gone,
A tree's best friend is moving on.
But hope in spring,
Buds of green,
Small and bright,
An emerald light.
Then summer comes,
With bursts of living,
Large amounts of verdant singing.
Then in skips the chilly fall,
The trees are bare and very tall. Chestnut browns and golden yellows, Scarlet reds and amber meadows. What a joy the leaves on earth,
Their warmth is calming, like a hearth. Oh yes, the joys of green,
Oh yes, the joys of leaves.
Germany, Saturday, January 6, 1943
Elizabeth Gibson, age twenty-six
Yes, I agree, who would care about the boring and fleeting thoughts of a regular maid like me? Well, I am not worried that I have to fit in with this world. I am writing now, because I know that one day, when I look back, I will be glad I wrote down my musings.
First, let me start with what it looks like right now and where I am. The sun is climbing its way into the sky, its round top just skimming the line of horizon. I glance out my window. It’s always rather cold and rainy here. I can describe Germany in one word; grey. Grey pale sky, grey icy roads, grey silhouetted trees, grey fog. Even this small grey maids room that I dwell in, as bare as a prison cell, and only a little better than a real one. But I am better off than most people. I am lucky to serve under such a good family. Light clambers its way clumsily into my cramped room. Here, let me describe to you my present arrangement of events. My room contains only a small number of items: a few garments of clothing, hung on hangers opposite my bed; in one corner, a chair with a pincushion so unbearably hard that it could turn the head of even the bravest needle to despair; a small rectangular window above my bed, and lastly, a hard mahogany door clinging to the otherwise bare whitewashed section of wall at the end of my bedpost.
I am a maid of a family of five; a confident, caring and protective nine-year old boy of the name Jacob; a joyful, innocent and extremely kindhearted seven-year old girl named Lily; her small and curious one-year old brother Henry and their parents, Master and Mistress, Stiener. I especially adore the children and to me, they are my only console in this dark and lonely world. The whole family treats me well and my load of work is not so terribly heavy. They all love each other very much. Oh! I forgot to mention that the Stieners have one other maid that I am really rather quite fond of, she bears the name Lestel and she is of age thirty-one. Though, like me, she has been working with this household for approximately seven years.
Now, I must get up as the sun’s bottom half is on top of the thin horizon line that is now obscured by the slowly waking city. The sky is the cracked white colour of an eggshell, though slowly turning a damp grey, as everything does. I set my feet onto the ground and slide my petticoat on. Next comes my corset and after that, my soot stained and tattered maid’s gown. I pin up my hair and grab the door knob, pulling it back as the hallway yawns out in front of me. Lesltel steps out of her room as well, she smiles at me.
“Come, Elizabeth, let us not tarry as it is already rather late,” she says quietly. “Did you sleep well?”
“Yes, thank you, Lestel.” I say.
“Alright, good. Let us head to the kitchen now, shall we?” She asks.
“Yes. Let’s.” I reply. We walk toward the kitchen. The sounds of the city rousing can be heard now. Soldiers marching. Lestel and I walk in silence, each thinking her
own thoughts. To my surprise, one of the Stiener children is already up on a Saturday, Lily! Her innocent face breaks into a wide grin when she spots us.
“‘Lizabeth!” She calls. “And Lestel!” She skips over to us, her steps light and full of that ever young spring.
“Mistress Lily! Why are you up so early?” I ask, truly wondering. I don’t know why she’s up so early in the morning, though I usually would know why. I understand and know the children rather well in that way. Especially Lily. Since I became a maid of the Stieners right before she was born, I’ve known her all her life.
“Because! I wanted to see you!” She says as though it is obvious. But her voice is very slightly clipped. Am I imagining it? It must be so.
“Oh! Is there anything that need be done for you, Mistress?” I ask.
“No, well, actually, yes. May I have a sliced apple? She asks slowly, turning to Lestel. She lays each word next to the other like round heavy stones. But she glances at me, urgency glinting in her eyes.
“Yes, I’ll go get you one at once, Miss!” Lestel says cheerfully. She pads down the steps to the kitchen, but she doesn’t realise the sudden change in Lily’s voice when she asks that covering apple question. I do, though, that high lilt that breaks her voice. She is masking something, and I know it.
“Mistress Lily,” I say, my voice gentle, “What is wrong? You know you can tell me anything, right?” At least, I hope that is true. She hesitates.
“Yeeees…” She says, still agonizingly slow. Her eyes drift to the floor, and in a voice barely more than a whisper, she says,
“A Jewish girl came to school yesterday.”
“Pardon?” I ask, surprised. A jew?”
“Yes, her name was Ruth.” Lily’s voice is completely flavorless, her eyes are still glued to the tiled ground. Her tone is level, but I can tell she cares about something.
“Mistress Lily. Really, what is wrong?” I ask, more firmly this time. There is something she’s not telling me. Something she’s completely omitting. Finally, finally, she looks up to meet my eyes, though hers are filled with tears. She blinks trying to hold them back. She opens her mouth, closes it, swallows. Then,
“They beat her!” She finally cries, her voice wobbles. “How dare they! How dare they! She’s just a girl! Just a girl like me!” I can see that she can’t stand it anymore. She bursts into passionate sobs.
“Oh Miss Lily.” I say sighing. She is so fair and kind. What a carless adult might see and assume, a sharp child’s eyes and heart will sense the correct way. I agree with her though, it isn’t right.
“Oh! I- I- I don’t understand!” She says between hiccups. Why, ‘Lizabeth? Why? Why must they be so mean to her? Why must they beat her for wanting to learn and be a normal girl? I hate it. I hate it!” She says, almost yelling. Her eyes glow with rage. She clearly does hate it. And very much so.
“Mistress, sshhhh. It’s alright,” I say, trying to sound reassuring.
“It is not alright!” She says crossly. She sighs and sits down on the floor. At this exact moment, Lestel comes back, carrying a small porcelain tray of sliced apples. She suddenly stops walking. She is registering the present scene; Lily, her face slightly red and tear streaked, sitting down on the floor looking miserable, and me, standing next to Lily looking… I assume sympathetic, but I am not sure. Lestel looks every so slightly
paler than usual, did she overhear us? I think not because she says something in her normal tone of voice.
“Is everything…alright?” Lestel asks.
“Well, not by much, but I’ll tell you later.” I say. “Let us just go to the kitchen for a minute and prepare breakfast for the Stieners.”
“Agreed.” Lestel replies. We head up to the kitchen. She turns on the stove and pours oil onto the saucepan.
“Would you pardon running to the chicken coop and grabbing me a few eggs, Elizabeth?” Lestel asks.
“Yes, I will do that.” I say. I step out into the chilly air. I open the weak wooden door to the coop and scan the nests. “Up, Sponge” I say to the obedient hen who hops off her nest. Sponge is the chicken that Lily had named and trained. So, of course, it is the most well behaved. I grab the three still slightly warm eggs from the nest and hurry my way back into the warm house.
“Thank you, Elizabeth!” Lestel thanks me.
“You are welcome,” I say. I begin to take the plates out of the cupboard. I notice Mistress Stiener come down the stairs looking well rested. She has baby Henry hoisted up on her hip, and he too, looks well rested and fed. She smiles at me.
“Thank you for making breakfast, Elizabeth,” Her calming tone of voice washes most of my worries away.
“You’re welcome Ma’am.” I reply.
Lestel scrambles the eggs and plates them carefully. She’s just sprinkling them with dried basil when Mr. Stiener comes down the stairs with Jacob trailing behind him, chattering away.
“Elizabeth!” Jacob calls to me, “Good morning!” He saunters over to me, grinning.
“Why hello Master Jacob,” I say and wink at him. He makes a hard effort to wink back, scrunching up his face. Alas, he ends up blinking clumsily, back at me. I smother a laugh. When I first became the Stieners’ maid around seven years ago, I had been advised by Lestel to call the children Mistress Lily and Master Jacob. I hadn’t gotten used to it that fast though. About four years ago, Lily had been three and Jacob five, I addressed the children as advised, but both siblings looked extremely confused. Lily had turned around, supposing that I had been talking to someone else, and when she saw no one there, she had turned to Jacob who had said outright, “My name’s Jacob… not Master Jacob!” They had both been extremely mature, even at that young age. And to this day, Jacob still stifles a laugh every time I address him as Master Jacob. Unless you count Lily’s unusually quiet and miserable mood, the rest of the day passed without many disturbances. Only Master Stiener noticed Lily’s unhappy way of doing things, though he didn’t say anything. Anyhow, after a while, Lily forgot about “the affair” returned to her normal happy self. The day is almost over.
Now it is close to the children’s bedtime. I go into Jacobs' room. Lily is sitting on the edge of his bed tonight. Whenever I put them to bed, one comes into the other's
room, alternating each night. They do this because the three of us usually talk before they go to bed. I look at the sorrowing face that Jacob is making at Lily and realise that she must have told him about Ruth, the Jewish girl.
“I hate it as well,” he is saying to Lily. “But there's nothing we can do ab-” He stops mid sentence, noticing me. He turns ever so slightly paler. He knows that we Germans should be loyal. Loyal to Hitler. He knows that feelings of being sorry and upset about the beating of a Jewish girl should not occur at all.
“It’s alright, I already told her about it.” Lily says, breaking the silence. “Oh.” He sighs in relief.
“Let me guess, Ruth?” I ask, though I think I know the answer. Lily nods. She’s hunched in on herself with her hands pressed against her skull, like Ruth’s beating physically pains her, and deeply. She looks… wounded.
“I just… I don’t… how could they be so cruel?” She says, her voice low and controlled, unlike her eyes, which are practically bursting with hate and remorse. “I know I shouldn’t be feeling like this. I-I know I should have gotten over this hate yesterday, but… I can’t ‘Lizabeth, I just can’t. She was just a girl, she was smart too!”
“I know, it’s not fair or right but, Mistress Lily, we can’t control what other people do, we can only control ourselves. But no, I don’t like it either” I answer. She sighs and stands up.
“I… I think I’ll go to bed now.” She says.
“Goodnight, Mistress Lily.” She gets up and opens the door, walking slowly out of it into her own room, head hung and hands limp.
“Well,” I say to Jacob. “I guess you might as well get to sleep now. Goodnight Master Jacob.” He’s not even making an attempt to laugh because he knows it would be fake. He looks too pained to speak, but then, he says,
“Goodnight Elizabeth, oh, and one more thing, try not to worry about Lily, I’ve got her, I understand her. She just needs time.” He grimace-smiles, as if saying it enough will help him believe it.
“Alright, I will do that for you, but go to bed now, goodnight.” I get up and blow out the small candle that had illuminated the room. I close the door softly and head to my own small box-like living space. I waited for sleep to come but it had other plans, plans of slipping right through my fingers just as I managed to grasp it. At long last, I finally fell asleep, thinking of the unfairness of the world. One question repeating itself over and over in my head. How could they be so cruel?
Germany, Sunday, January 7, 1943
Elizabeth Gibson, age twenty-six
I awake to the sound of birds chirping away at my window. They sing without a care in this dark world. I am getting dressed slowly. It’s so cold right now. I am just finishing dressing up when Lestel knocks on my door saying…
“Come on, Henry is crying in the living room and Lily is trying to console him, though he needs to be carried, which she can’t do. I would carry him myself, but he’s not very fond of me.” -laughs- ”He continues crying harder every time I attempt to pick him up.”
“I'll be right there in a minute, Lestel.” I call. I open the door and head down to the living room. Sure enough, Henry is crying his eyes out, poor baby. I pick him up and he stops crying instantly.
“Ha! He stops crying when you pick him up! I guess he knows you well!” This remark is coming from Lily, who was looking much better than yesterday. I suppose Jacob was right after all, she did just need time.
“How did he get down here in the first place?” I ask, wondering how in the world Lily managed to carry him down here by herself!
“Oh, well mother came down this morning with Henry and asked me to play with him while she did a thorough cleaning of their bedroom.” Seeing my surprised face she says, “You didn’t think I carried him down myself! Did you?!”
“Well, yes, I did!” I say.
“Oh well, he’s better now.” She continues after a pause. Mrs. Stiener comes down the stairs looking slightly worried. “Oh! Is Henry alright?” She asks. “Yes, he stopped crying when ‘Lizabeth picked him up!” Lily intones. “Oh good. Well, Lily, go and rouse your brother and get ready to go to church.” Mrs. Stiener says.
“Yes mother.” Lily replies. A little reluctantly, I see. She goes up the stairs and comes down again about 14 minutes later in a light blue gown with Jacob following her.
We will all get into the carriage soon and go to church. As we are walking out, Lily whispers to me, “I am not entirely fond of going to church, all you do is sit still and listen to the pastor, it isn't interesting at all. I can’t even look out the window. And I always have orders from mother like so, “sit still” “don’t fidget”.” She stifles a sigh. She knows not to complain but she still does sometimes. I am deciding to leave my diary here, at the house as I don’t want to risk it getting lost. But there is nothing interesting about going to church, so I won’t be missing out on anything. In the diary, I mean. I agree, it was a very short entry, but nothing interesting happened today. I will write more tomorrow.
Germany, Monday, January 8, 1943
Elizabeth Gibson, age twenty-six
It is noontime now, I am at the stove, boiling black beans for the Stieners. It is awfully windy today. And so cold and grey. Lily comes up to me and says slowly, “I saw something awful today,”
“You did? What was it, Mistress Lily? Was it Ruth?” I ask a long stream of questions.
“No… well, sort of” She says.
“Really? What was it then?”
“Will you promise to not tell a soul?”
“Why? I mean, of course I won’t tell, but what is it?” I turn the stove off and plate the beans, handing a plate to Lily, who scurries out of the kitchen and places it on the table. I take the rest of the plated beans and set them on the dining plank of wood.
“Come, Miss Lily, let’s take a seat on the sofa and you can tell me what happened.” She nods and plops onto the cushions. She is waiting for me, patiently but nervously. I finally make my way to the sofa. “So, did Ruth come to school again?” I ask. “No, well…” She is hesitating.
“Please, Lily, please tell me, you told me about her before and I wasn’t upset!” She takes a deep breath, then she says, in a voice so low that I wouldn't have been able to hear her if the raging wind hadn’t calmed down for just a moment.
“Ruth did come to school today, but not directly.” She is seeing my puzzled face and before I can say anything, she says, “I’ll explain. It was during recess, you understand that the school is located near the forest. I saw her near a clump of trees and was about to go talk to her. I know I shouldn’t have, ‘Lizabeth, but I wanted to apologise for how the soldiers beat her. I wanted her to know she could trust me. But… I saw… I saw…” I can tell by now that she has finally gotten to the point of this conversation. I listen quietly, waiting for her to say something. She breathes and opens her mouth a few times without saying anything. She looks up at me and there is something in her eyes that I don't recognize. Is it urgency? Hurt? Anticipation? “I saw… I saw Lestel.”
“Lestel at the school?” I ask, completely perplexed. She’s still not getting to the core of her message. What is she afraid of? I won’t be vexed with her, she should know that, shouldn’t she?
“Yes, I saw Lestel. And I saw her come out from the clump of trees and she…” She looks away. Her voice catches in her throat. “‘Lizabeth, Ruth called Lestel…Ruth called Lestel… she called her “mother”.” She says no more, she doesn’t need to. The loyal wind howls its rage to the sky. It knows. It knows that this shouldn’t have
happened. That it should've warned the soldiers sooner. Instead, it is angry, so angry that it whips the dust and dirt and fallen leaves into many opaque swirls of debris. Then, I realise what she isn’t telling me. Lestel, Lestel had a child. It starts to come together. Lestel had a child, and she became a maid for the Stieners to provide for Ruth. She then managed to hide her somewhere, and then, to try to attend her to school. I understand now, Lestel is Jewish and this family, the Stieners and myself; and Lestel and Ruth are all in grave danger. I can’t hide my surprise. Lily looks up at me, and she knows. She knows everything that will happen now. She knows that sooner or later, knocks will come to the door and all of our lives will be in jeopardy. Just then, I hear the sound of fists rapping on our door. I think I know what comes next. My heart pounds and I stay frozen. Many swirling questions singe by bones and hammer my brain. My head pounds as well as my heart. What will become of the once innocent and normal family, the Stieners? What will happen to Lily? Will fate spare our lives for us to see the next morning? And most importantly, will our lives that hang on the end of a string that Hitler swings in his palm, end in tragedy right as they have begun to start?
I am charging through an alley. I hear my footsteps pounding on the rough concrete and I hear the footsteps of the bullies behind me. I see a big dumpster in front of me. I jump in and the bullies run past without seeing me. I am so excited that I say “Hot dog!” My arms shoot out and the lid flies open. I also think I broke a few fingers.
Well I have this weird thing. When I say “dog,” my arms grow longer. The doctors have no idea how or why. It’s been happening since I learned how to say dog. It wasn’t helpful that we just got a dog a month ago. I would forget not to and say dog and, bam, my arms would grow super long. As a result, my mom, my dad, and just about everyone else doesn’t really like me. One time, my mom had me carry some eggs to our neighbors because they had just run out and, for once, our dog Snoot didn’t bark at the neighbor's car. “Good dog,” I praised. My arms grew three feet and the eggs went flying into the face of our neighbor who was just walking out the door to accept them. I don’t want to annoy everybody but it is unfortunately hard not to say dog. I mean, I literally have a dog.
Two nights ago I was watching a show on TV called “Stretch Man” about a superhero who could stretch his body into shapes. That’s when it occurred to me: I could use my extending arms to be a superhero. I called myself Stretchydog Man. Right after, I noticed that I couldn’t say my own super name without my arm growing. So, yeah, I'll have to change that at some point.
Okay back to why I am in a creepy alley. The school bell had rung and I was getting ready to head home when I saw these bullies. They were teasing a kid. The kid was two years younger than them. He was also pale and shaking. So, I put my super hero suit on and went into action. “Stop, I am Stretchydog Man!” I said to the bullies. My arm shot out. I need to change that name. The bullies were Nick and Rick, the identical twins. One of them taunted, “It’s Splerge, or shall I say, Stretchydog Man!” They weren’t very impressed with me. The bullies started walking toward me. I started walking away. Soon we were running down the street, dodging pedestrians. Then I saw it. The creepy alley. It has a reputation. The rumor is that the three kids who went missing a year ago disappeared into the alley. In addition, it was dark, had graffiti on the walls, and trash on the floor. I decided to risk it and turned into the alley. That is why I am here in a dumpster.
I climb out of the dumpster and run home, dreading what mom will say. I reach my driveway and tumble through the door. As expected, my mom is on the phone. She hears the door opening and turns to look at me. Her eyes go wide and then flash with anger. I get why. I am covered in garbage and smell like it too. I also may have forgotten to tell my mom that I was going to be a superhero. I dash upstairs, take a shower, and get out of my superhero suit. I think it's going to need a thorough wash. I go downstairs and brace myself. My mom walks over, angry looking, and gets straight to the point. “Why were you late!!! Why did you look like you jumped in a dumpster and why were you wearing a weird suit thing!!!???”
“Well I did jump in a dumpster,” I begin…
I am sitting on my bed dejectedly. I had to explain to my mom why I was late and why I jumped into that garbage can and why I had a superhero suit. Then my mom made me do all the dishes and all the bathroom work. I am sick of changing that garbage can. I am really bored so I go through my things. All my things are in my dresser, not just clothes, so I start opening drawers. I have a ton of useless stuff so it takes a while. I am finding old seashells and first grade drawings. I am on to the bottom drawer and then bam! I am practically thrown back in surprise. It’s Super Albert, my caped and masked superhero teddy bear. The last time I saw him must’ve been second grade. He has collected a bunch of dust. I look into his eyes. They're so cute, but then I remember saying when I was little, “he’s not cute. He’s stwong and mighty!” I think back to that time in preschool when that kid was being mean and Super Albert stopped him. Then I realize it wasn’t Super Albert who stopped that kid. It was me! I decide that soon those bullies are going to get it! I get excited and nervous. I am going to confront those bullies again, but this time I will win! I cut off the sleeves of my superhero suit, though, because when my arms stretched the suit just ripped. Now, I feel ready for action. I head downstairs. As I leave, I whisper a thanks to Super Albert.
The next day I head to school, ready to take on those bullies. Strangely, they aren’t doing any bullying. I head home from school puzzled. As I am walking past the shed, the door suddenly starts to rattle. Then I hear some creepy ghost sounds. I am terrified!!! Then, determination kicks in. It’s time to use my superpowers. “Dog!!! Dog!!! Dog!!!” I shout. My arms triple in length. I had aimed them well. They went flying toward the shed. Clumsily, I grab the shed door and yank it open. I can use my arms when they’re extended but it’s hard. Lying on the floor of the shed are Nick and Rick the bullies. “You can’t scare me!” I shout at the bullies. “Oh yeah?” the bullies taunt. They get up and charge. I snare them mid run with my extra long arms and drop them on the ground. I give them a whack as a good measure. The bullies are gaping at me. Clearly, they had no idea I could fight so well. Neither did I. They leap up and run off. I did It! I stopped the bullies! I’m a superhero!
Super Habitable Worlds: what are they?
Out of all the quintillions of planets in the universe, are there planets that are more habitable than Earth? Yes, there are! And they are called super habitable planets. Today, we will explore the wonders and complexities of super habitable planets.
Super habitable planets have a mass of 1.3 earth masses. 1.3 earth masses can hold more atmosphere than earth can hold, which is important because a thicker atmosphere can hold more water and oxygen. This can make life develop quickly, which means that complex life like plants and animals can evolve. Carbon dioxide can turn into oxygen, making a planet more habitable than it would otherwise be. Super habitable planets should also have more humidity, allowing rain to form so that seeds or spores from plants can spread, allowing plants to grow. Humidity also allows bacteria and fungi to grow, causing dead animals and plant matter to decompose more quickly. There should also be more ocean than on earth because life is more complex there than on land. So, when life does move onto land, it will have had a kick start so that the complex life from the ocean has already progressed enough to live on land and not die. The planet also needs to be in the habitable zone, (the habitable zone is the area around the star where water does not freeze or boil) the ideal temperature being 75-79 Fahrenheit.
Now I will discuss how a star can affect the habitability of a planet. A star, for a super habitable planet, should be an orange dwarf star. Orange dwarf stars have 0.5 to 0.8 sun masses. The reason a super habitable planet should have an orange dwarf star is because they do not have as many solar flares as red dwarfs do. They also stay in the main sequence for 18-34 billion years (the main sequence of a star is how long a star stays at around the same temperature before heating up, scorching all life in a solar system) unlike a yellow dwarf star which lives far shorter. An orange dwarf star gives life plenty of time to live on that planet before the star scorches the planet to death. Orange dwarf stars have a temperature of 3,900-5,200 kelvin, (6560-8900 Fahrenheit) which is in the lower end of the middle range for star temperatures, allowing the habitable zone to be very wide, so there is a lot of room for super habitable planets. Since orange dwarf stars are, well... orange, plants on super habitable planets should be red instead of green. Plants would be red instead of green because orange stars are one color down the spectrum from yellow stars, which means that plants would produce less energy. The way to fix that is red plants because red is one color down the spectrum than green. The lower down the spectrum a color is, the less light the color will reflect, allowing a plant to absorb more energy from the lower energy orange color.
Now I will discuss how a solar system can affect the habitability of a super habitable planet. Chaotic solar systems that have asteroids and planets hurtling all over the place is unbelievably bad for a super habitable planet. Collisions with other celestial bodies are imminent and that can destroy the surface of a planet, making it virtually impossible for life to form. Peaceful solar systems with asteroids and gas giants far away from the planet are much better for super habitable planets. Other rocky planets close by are okay if they do not share the same orbit, are close enough to change each other's orbits or are binary. Binary means that planets, while orbiting their star, also orbit each other which can be catastrophic.In conclusion, there are planets that are more habitable than earth. Even though it takes a lot of specific conditions and requirements to become a super habitable planet, even if we find just one, it will probably be teeming with life.