Romana made her way up the alley to the next block, considered the additional tree-lined streets and turned around and made her way back down. She had no idea why the Doctor would have taken off without her, but if it were accidental — and with him this was much more likely than malice, perhaps even guaranteed — he would no doubt be attempting to return to the approximate time and place. Better not to wander too much. She could always come up with Plan B later on if it were called for.
“Excuse me, Ma’am, have you seen a little girl?” Romana turned to find a brown-haired young girl, perhaps ten or eleven, in a clean, simple dress. She was politely waiting for an answer, though she looked slightly anxious.
“She’s about this high, brown hair, kind of noisy, wearing overalls?”
“No, I’m sorry. I’m afraid I was looking for something I’ve lost myself.”
“Maybe we can look together!” the girl, Beezus, nodded agreeably. “What are you looking for?”
“A blue box,” she smiled.
“I haven’t seen any blue boxes yet,” Beezus said, “but I’ll keep an eye out while I look.”
“All right.” Romana indicated the alleyway, which she had no intention of straying too far from at this point. “I’ll go this way, you go that way,” she offered and started to walk away only to be brought up by the girl’s exclamation.
“Oh look, there’s her trike!”
“Trike?” asked Romana, turning to follow Beezus’ pointing finger. A small red-painted metal conveyance lay sideways beside a nearby bush.
“That’s Ramona’s tricycle,” Beezus said, going to it and giving the handlebars a small tug of confirmation.
“If it’s a tricycle, it should have three wheels,” the woman behind her noted.
Beezus coloured slightly at her sister’s quirks. “Her friend Howie took off one of the wheels, because she said she wanted a two-wheeler,” she explained, slightly embarrassed. “She rides it kind of sideways.”
“Of course,” Romana nodded, gaining a grateful look from Beezus for not making a big deal of it. “What did you say her name was?”
“Ramona,” Beezus supplied and wondered at the smile on the stranger’s face. “Have you heard of her?” It wouldn’t have surprised her if the woman had, Ramona’s reputation tended to precede her around the neighborhood, especially to anyone who had just moved in. “She really isn’t that bad,” she continued in loyal defense, “She just has a lot of imagination.”
“No, no. I was just thinking it was a very nice name,” Romana said. She stuck out a hand. “I’m afraid I didn’t properly introduce myself, did I? I’m Romana,” she said.
Beezus looked surprised, then shook her hand briefly in return. “And I’m Beatrice Quimby,” she said, “But everyone calls me Beezus. Your name is really Ramona too?”
“Not Ramona, Romana,” Romana said, mildly amused. “Though the two are quite similar, aren’t they?”
“Like something from Rome or Romans? Neat!” Beezus said. “Your family must have history teachers in it.”
“Something like that,” she said. “Now. Let’s see if we can find what we’re looking for, shall we?”
By the time K-9 caught up to them, Ribsy’s search for anything that smelled at all like his boy had led him to the slight mustiness of the somewhat large room that served as the TARDIS’ boot cupboard and Ramona was thrilled with it. It was even better than a shoe store, because all of the shoes were boots, and she loved boots. Not a stiff, boring patent leather loafer in sight, and no shoe salesmen telling her to not touch. Small piles were already scattered about the room and she was sitting on the floor trying to fit an extra large pair over the slightly smaller pair she was already wearing, which in turn had easily swallowed up her own grubby shoes.
K-9 rolled up to her and Ramona promptly used him as a prop to help get herself back onto her feet. The orange leather boots she now wore went clear up past her knees and she thought they looked wonderful.
“Look, Ribsy! Look K-9!” she said happily and started shuffle-clumping across the floor. “I have big, giant feet!” She had to lift her entire leg to take each step; the boots made it difficult for her to even bend her knees. Walking with stiffened legs worked a little better and immediately appealed to her imagination. “I’m a robot!” she declared, stiffening her arms and walking in imitation of a wind-up toy she’d once seen at the toy-store. “I’m a robot, see? Bzzzt! Bzzzt! Bzzzt!”
K-9 turned his ear inquiringly. “No robotic constructs detected. All present life forms are organic in nature, this unit excepted,” he said, rolling after her.
Ramona clumped out the door into the hallway. “Bzzzt! Bzzzt!” she buzzed loudly. “I-am-a-robot,” she said in an exaggerated monotone. “I-drink-cans-of-oil. Bzzzt!” Stiff-armed she continued on down the hall with a metal dog rolling after her.
“Life form is of Earth origin,”” he repeated. “Oil is not required.”
“I-drink-cans-of-oil,” she repeated, just because it was fun to say.
Behind them, Ribsy gamely walked after, sniffing curiously at the metal dog in dog fashion.
K-9’s tail suddenly moved, whacking him across the snout and making him yip and startle back. “This unit does not approve of close olfactory investigation,” K-9 said sternly. Ahead of them, Ramona clumped robotically around a corner and suddenly stopped.
“A swimming pool!” she said in delight, forgetting to sound robotic. She shuffled forward. This place was better than a hotel! The dogs rolled and ambled respectively around the corner after her, the panting Ribsy perking up at the sight of water and quickly going to lap his tongue at the edge.
Ramona followed him; she was thirsty too and since there hadn’t been anything like a drinking fountain anywhere yet, she saw no reason to wait for one. Bending, she scooped her hand into the pool. She hadn’t counted on the difficulty of balancing with two pairs of boots on though.
She windmilled briefly and fell in.
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