Sarah looked at her seven-year-old daughter across the kitchen table, then back down at the notice from school. The notice announced a school wide science fair with the winners from each age group going on to a regional science fair and being featured in the local paper. Rachel’s teacher had written a note on the bottom encouraging Sarah to let Rachel participate.
“Can I, mum? Please?” Rachel asked, tugging on her school uniform vest.
All Sarah could see was Rachel’s picture in the paper and someone putting together the pieces. “No, Rachel. Not this time.” Sarah reached across the table and squeezed Rachel’s hand. “Maybe next year?”
Rachel looked disappointed. “Yes, mum.”
“Why don’t you go say hello to K-9? He’s in the living room.” Sarah suggested.
The next year Rachel brought home another notice, again with her teacher urging Sarah to allow Rachel to take part. Ms. Holland cited several of Rachel’s in-class projects.
“Can I, this year?” Rachel asked, standing beside her mother’s computer.
Sarah shook her head. “Not this year, Rachel. Shouldn’t you be concentrating on your history project?”
Rachel sighed loud enough for Sarah to hear. “But last year you said I could do it this year.”
“I don’t want this distracting from your other studies, Rachel. We’ll talk about it again next year when you can deal with it a bit better,” Sarah reasoned.
“Next year?” Rachel asked.
“Next year,” Sarah assured her. By that time, Rachel should have outgrown wanting to do science fairs, Sarah thought.
Sarah thought when no notice came that year that Rachel finally had moved onto another interest. Then she received a phone call from Rachel’s teacher.
“Mrs. Smith, this is Donna Heller. Rachel’s science teacher.” The pleasant sounding woman introduced herself. “We met at the open house, I think.”
“Yes, I think we did.” Sarah said. “And it’s Ms. Smith, please. Is Rachel in trouble?”
“Of course, Ms. Smith. No, Rachel isn’t in any trouble. I was rather hoping she’d be submitting something for the science fair this year. With the work I’ve seen her do in class I think it would be a marvelous chance for her,” Donna Heller told Sarah.
Sarah frowned. “I’d rather her not participate. Rachel has the tendency to become wrapped up in projects, and I don’t want her other classes to suffer. I’m sure you understand.”
“I believe I do.” Donna Heller didn’t sound like she understood, but Sarah didn’t care. “Thank you for your time, Ms. Smith. Good day.”
“Good day,” Sarah said hanging up. When she looked up, Rachel stood watching from the doorway. “Rachel,” Sarah started.
“Next year, right?” Rachel said on a hiccup. She turned and ran out of the room crying.
Rachel didn’t bring home a notice the next year. There were no calls from the eleven-year-old’s teacher. Sarah didn’t mention the science fair, and Rachel didn’t bring it up.
Sarah though the matter was over with, until she went to clean Rachel’s room. When Rachel arrived home from school that day, Sarah called her into the office.
“Rachel would you like to explain this to me?” Sarah held up the half-finished bundle of circuitry and wires.
Rachel started at Sarah. “You went through my stuff?” She demanded.
Sarah frowned, pointing a finger at Rachel. “It was sitting on your desk, Rachel. Along with this,” she held out the application for the science fair. “You were going to enter without asking weren’t you?”
“Yes.” Rachel said softly. “You were never going to say yes, and you never really said no.”
“I’m saying no now. Go to your room and start your homework.” Sarah told her firmly.
Rachel reached for the project. “It’s not a big deal, why won’t you let me?”
Sarah stopped for a moment trying to remember why. ‘Because you’ll attract attention, because the Time Lords might find you, because you’re too much like your father, because ——.’ “You’ll understand when you're older, Rachel. Just trust me. It’s for the best.”
“Make me understand now, mum!” Rachel reached for the project again.
“I’ll keep this, Rachel.” Sarah told her. “Now go to your room and start your homework.”
Rachel glared at her and curled her hands into fists. “I hate you.” She ran out of the room, and Sarah heard her take the steps two at a time.
Sarah put her head in her hands.
The following year, twelve-year-old Rachel brought home a notice about a history fair.
Sarah let her enter and even drove her to the local college’s library on weekends.
Rachel’s paper placed fifth. Her model of a catapult placed first.