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Field Trip

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"A field trip," Tip said dully when she got home from school. She was sprawled around the couch with Pig curled up near her head. J.Lo was reading a glossy gossip magazine while her mother unloaded the dishwasher in the kitchen.

"I think it sounds wonderful, Turtlebear," Mom said, wiping the remaining bits of moisture off the bottom of J.Lo's favorite Happy Mouse Kingdom souvenir glass. "That woman from the time capsule committee thinks you could be a great writer. This is a chance to see journalists working up close."

"TV reporters aren't journalists, Mom," Tip said, rolling her eyes. "They're just people who look nice and know how to read off of a screen and look concerned."

"I can read off screen," J.Lo said. "And I am verygood at concerned looking." He screwed his face up into something that Tip supposed was meant to resemble a frown. He looked more like someone had poked him in the eye.

"For the last time, J.Lo, the world isn't ready!" Tip said. "I mean, 'Hit the Road, Smek!' is still the number one song in the country."

"Maybe if they see a Boov they will learn that Boov meant no harm, that Boov were only trying to explode."

"You mean 'explore,'" Tip said, cautiously.

"Ah, yes. Explore."

"We'll work up to it," Tip said, "but not now, okay, J.Lo?"

J.Lo sighed and went back to his glossy magazine, his whole body slumped over and defeated. Tip felt bad--she understood how much it must chafe, being stuck in their house, on their property, only allowed to leave if he was wearing his ghost costume. Even if he had been a little bit bumbling, when he was with the Boov, J.Lo was marginally respected and had a job and everything. Now, whenever they were out in public, Tip and her Mom acted like he had been dropped on his head one too many times as a kid. Tip figured it must be pretty degrading, even if J.Lo never said anything about it.

"I'm going to go start my homework," Tip said. She pulled herself off of the couch and grabbed her backpack from where it was lying on the floor, then trudged up the stairs to her room.

It wasn't the idea of a field trip that was bothering Tip as much as it was the reasoning behind it. Yeah, it was kind of cool that her essay had been chosen for the time capsule and, yeah, the free taco had been nice, and sure, her mom was pretty excited about the savings bond, even though they had more than enough money to pay for her to go to college, but she didn't understand why it was such a big deal. She got enough teasing about it from the kids at school, who didn't really need another reason to poke fun at her; she didn't understand why the grown-ups in her life needed to keep bringing it up. She won. It was over with. No one should have to look at that stupid essay for another 100 years.

Tip sighed again and emptied her backpack onto her bed. She didn't really want to get started on her homework, especially the math. J.Lo normally helped her with it. And, really, it was unfair to take her bad mood out on her Mom and J.Lo.

Clutching her math book to her chest, she crept back downstairs. J.Lo was still pouting on the floor with US Weekly.

"Hey, J.Lo, do you wanna help me with my math homework?" she asked.

J.Lo looked up, his face lit up in a grin. "Wills Tip let me correction her math book?"

"Sure," Tip said. The Boovish writing just made it look like she had doodled in the margins during class.

J.Lo sprung happily to his feet and followed Tip back upstairs to her bedroom. Tip tried not to think about the field trip for the rest of the night.

***

A week later, it seemed the ignoring the field trip hadn't made it go away. Tip was being ushered onto a hoverbus by her teacher, given the honor of sitting up front, right behind the bus driver. Tip didn't understand how the teachers could possibly think that was a honor. She wondered if, once you became a teacher, all of your memories of being a student were wiped clean. Or maybe they just acted like it in order to make sure their students had to suffer as much as they had to when they were students.

Tip leaned against the window, daydreaming as they rocketed towards the city, wishing, oddly, that J.Lo was with her. Driving long distances always reminded her of her trips with J.Lo. They may have been in mortal danger most of the time, but it was still better than listening to her classmates gossip about each other and sing stupid bus songs that were mostly about boogers.

Her teacher was trying to talk to her about what an honor it was and the surprise the television station was putting together for them, but Tip was barely listening. She didn't like school much anymore. It wasn't her favorite thing before Smekday or anything like that, but it was a little bit easier. She didn't have to deal with people trying to be her friend or NOT be her friend because of the stupid essay contest. She didn't have to lie about her family all the time to keep people from the government from showing up for J.Lo. She didn't have to listen to teachers and textbooks get everything wrong about history.

Well, okay, she had probably listened to a lot of that, come to think of it, but at least she hadn't known it at the time.

When they first moved to the lake house, Tip had begged her Mom to let her be homeschooled. She swore that J.Lo would be an excellent teacher and that she'd learn way more useful things from him than she could ever learn at school. Her mother had refused. She claimed Tip needed social interaction with kids her own age. J.Lo's lesson plans probably didn't help her case, even if learning how to make Boov weaponry was way cooler than history or PE.

She was stuck in public school, a public school named after a creepy jerk whom she hated and filled with people who knew she was a little weird, even if they couldn't put their finger on exactly why she was a little weird.

She glanced at her teacher again. She was still talking about what an honor the whole thing was going to be. As if tons of schools didn't visit the television station all the time for field trips like this. She turned back to the window and watched the scenery fly by, wondering how much longer it would take until they reached the city and got the whole day over with.

***

The hoverbus pulled up outside the television station just as the boys in the back of the bus were starting a fifth verse of "Great Green Gobs." As far as Tip could figure, they had reached the point where they were making up the words as they went along. She couldn't imagine that whoever made up the song in the first place would have rhymed "boogers" with "noogers." She didn't think "noogers" was even a word.

"All right, boys and girls," her teacher said. "Let's get off the bus in an orderly fashion--"

Her words were drowned out as the other kids shoved their way out of the bus and onto the sidewalk. Tip waited until the bus was mostly empty before slipping out and joining them, just a couple steps away from the throng.

She froze, though, when she saw two very familiar figures waving and smiling at her.

"Mom?" she asked, blinking in shock. "J.L--I mean, JayJay?"

J.Lo was wearing his ghost costume. Her mother was grinning at her and shook hands with her teacher, who rushed over as soon as she made it out of the bus. That's right--her teacher had said something on the bus about a surprise. Great. A surprise that was likely to get J.Lo killed.

"You seemed so eager to have your little brother come with you that I arranged with with the studio to have him join us!" her teacher said. Tip racked her brain--oh right. She had claimed that she couldn't go on the trip because she needed to watch her little brother. She had used so many excuses that she lost track. Not that it mattered, seeing as all of them had ultimately failed.

"Mom," Tip said, "do you really think it's safe for JayJay to be out like this?" She raised her eyebrows. "You know how he gets."

"Well, he survived living at the casino right at the height of the invasion," her mom said. "I figured one afternoon at the television studio won't be too bad, as long as you watch out for him."

Tip and her mother had a silent conversation over J.Lo's head. Tip's side of the conversation consisted mostly of, Are you serious? and In a television station, really? Her Mom's side of the conversation was a long MomLook that couldn't be translated into words, merely obeyed without too much argument.

Tip reluctantly grabbed J.Lo's hand. "Come on, JayJay," she muttered, dragging him off towards the horde of kids who were inspecting him closely. Her teacher beamed the entire time.

"I'm going to do some shopping," her mother said. "I'll be back to pick JayJay up at the end of the trip."

"Sure," Tip said. "See you later."

Tip's mom waved at them one last time before disappearing into their car, which Tip now noticed was parked across the street. She was left with J.Lo, her still-beaming teacher, and a mob of classmates who were regarding J.Lo too closely for comfort.

"Sorry," she said to no one in particular. "My little brother has a condition. He won't leave the house if he's not wearing this sheet and he throws a fit if someone takes it off of him. He... yells a lot. And...." She thought hastily. "Flings... boogers. Sorry."

A few of the boys looked at J.Lo appraisingly, but most of the attention was turned back to their teacher, who was clapping her hands together.

"Okay, boys and girls, we have a treat for you today! As you know, we were invited to the television studio today because our very own Gratuity Tucci won the National Time Capsule essay contest. What you don't know is that the reason we're here today is that Daniel Landry himself will be at the studio tonight for an interview!"

There was a low murmur of interest and excitement from Tip's classmates. Tip was too busy being overcome by mortal terror to notice.

"Landry!" she hissed to J.Lo. "Landry is here!"

"But, whereis that good news?" J.Lo asked. "Human books think like he defeat Gorg, even though Tip and Pig and I defeat Gorg. And at teevee station, you can straighten their sets."

"Set them straight," Tip said automatically. "But, J.Lo, do I really want to do that? I mean, Landry can't even walk down the street without being pounced on by strangers. I'm weird enough as it is."

Tip looked up. Her teacher was looking at her expectantly.

"It's a surprise meeting between the world's hero and our very own essay contest winner. Aren't you excited, Gratuity?"

"I... thought he was in a hospital in California," Tip said weakly.

"This is his first press appearance after that stay!" her teacher exclaimed. "He's a changed man. He founded a new spiritual group at the hospital and is eager to share what he learned about meditation with the world. We should all be very honored."

Tip nodded numbly. She and Daniel Landry hadn't parted on very good terms. He had tried to contact her mother exactly once after the whole Gorg incident. He'd been really nice, of course, in that gross, used-car-salesman way of his. He'd taken her mom out to dinner and talked about how great it was that the Gorg were out of the picture. It turned out it was just an effort to make sure that she and Tip and J.Lo weren't going to blow his cover now that he was touting himself as the defender of Earth and defeater of the Gorg. He'd made it pretty clear that he hadn't cared much for her mom to start with.

"Stupid poomp," J.Lo said as they filed inside the building with the rest of Tip's class. It was like he was reading her mind.

"Yeah," Tip muttered. "Stupid poomp."

***

The trip started with a tour of the studio by an over-eager intern. Tip had to reassess her conclusion about teachers being wiped of their school memories--it seemed like all grown-ups were. There was no other explanation for the way that the intern constantly drew everyone's attention to Tip every time he brought them to a new part of the studio. Luckily, most of her classmates were still too eager to meet Landry to make fun of her the way they usually would. She guessed they bought into all that stuff about Landry's challenge of strength and wits, regardless of how ridiculous it sounded when you were looking at a picture of Landry next to a picture of the Gorg.

They made everyone do some dumb demonstration in front of a green screen to show how the weather forecasters worked, then took them into a room with a long conference table and windows that looked out into the newsroom.

"This," said the intern, once they were seated around the table, "is where the real work happens." He gestured out into the newsroom, which mostly seemed to consist of people on phones, sitting at computers. One guy was playing solitaire. "These people work tirelessly, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, to make sure that the truth gets passed on to the American viewers. They don't rest until they have all the facts."

As if to punctuate that statement, the man at the computer closest to the window yawned loudly and got up from his desk with his coffee cup, walking through the glass double doors and down the connecting hallway. Tip was slightly bewildered that the intern could get away with talking like that after what had happened when the Boov showed up, but it seemed that most of the population of the country, if not the world, had no problem reverting back to how things were before the invasion. It was probably easy for them to forget how frantic all the newscasters had been during those first few frightening days. Not Tip, though. She had a collection.

At first, it had been a desperate attempt to gain as much information as possible on the creatures that had taken her mom. After that, it had been a bizarre fascination with the histrionics on her television set. She had suddenly understood why people slowed down to look at car wrecks.

In the movies, when the aliens invaded, the reporters were always severe and serious and key in trying to keep the nation calm and helping them to understand the gravity of the situation. In reality, the major cable news outlets were as bad as her middle school lunch room. They latched onto rumors and reported them as fact, sending people in panicked crazes. They constantly tried to outdo each other, as if ratings really mattered when everyone was being relocated across the country by space invaders. The conservative networks blamed the invasion on the weakness of the liberals. The liberal networks blamed the invasion on the war-mongering of the conservatives. Everyone seemed to forget that this was happening to the whole world in their effort to pass on the guilt and try to conceal their own mounting hysteria. They filled the long hours with stupid pop-up displays that rehashed the same statistics over and over again and replayed the clips of the ships arriving so frequently that the whole horrifying effect was eventually lost. The news became a joke, and Tip still had dozens of hours of video footage as a reminder.

"Now," the intern said, clasping the edge of a chair and grinning, "Mr. Sanders, our Network Supervisor, is going to come in and talk to you about careers in journalism while I take Ms. Tucci down the hall to get ready to go on air!"

There was a murmur of surprise and confusion from the rest of Tip's classmates. Tip wasn't contributing to it. It was hard to murmur in surprise or confusion when your mouth was hanging open.

"Didn't your teacher tell you?" the intern asked. "You're going to go on air with Mr. Landry to talk about what Smekday means to you!"

The surprise and confusion was turning to mutterings of mutiny. 'Why does she always get special treatment, just because she wrote that stupid essay...' and 'I'm much cuter than her, I should totally get to meet Mr. Landry!' and 'This isn't fair!' floating through the room as the intern crossed to Tip's chair and grabbed her arm. She had the presence of mind to firmly grab one of J.Lo's through the sheet before she was being pulled out of the room and down a long hallway.

"My brother, JayJay," Tip said breathlessly. "I can't leave him."

"Oh, that's fine!" the intern said. She probably should have paid attention when he told them his name. "I'm sure Mr. Landry will be just as delighted to see him again, too!"

He pushed open the door to a room with five chairs in front of a long mirrored wall. It looked like a hair salon, and two of the chairs were currently filled with anchormen Tip recognized from television.

"This is Ms. Tucci," the intern said to one of the women styling hair. "She and her brother will need hair and make-up before they go on camera later today."

"Oh!" Tip said quickly. "No, not JayJay! He can't go on camera! He's... afraid of... lights. And... cameras."

She could feel J.Lo glaring at her from beneath his sheet.

"Lights?" the intern said skeptically. "Cameras?"

"Yeah," Tip said. "That's why he has the sheet. Bright lights. They frighten him. He'll just... wait for me. Off-camera."

Tip watched one of the hair stylists mouth, "Special," to the intern. The intern's eyes widened and he nodded.

"Of course," he said. "That's fine. Anyway, we'll see you in a few hours, Ms. Tucci, beautiful and ready for the cameras!"

He left the room with a flourish, the door swinging shut behind him. Tip stared at it for a moment, before the hair stylist snorted and gestured towards a chair.

"Hop up here, sweetie," she said. "And don't listen to that kid. You're already plenty cute, we just need to put on some make-up so the lights don't wash you out."

Tip normally didn't like it when people called her "sweetie," but the hair stylist said it the same way as the tough-as-nails waitress at the diner she went to with her mom. Tip didn't mind that, so much.

She climbed up onto the chair and leaned back as the stylist grabbed a make-up bag and twirled the chair around.

"I'm Linda," she said.

"Tip," Tip said. Linda raised an eyebrow, but didn't ask any other questions about Tip's name. Another reason to like her.

"It'll take about two minutes to do your make-up, Tip, but I figure you'd probably like a break from Mr. Sunshine, so you can hang out here for a little bit. She's gonna be on your show, right Connie?" Linda turned to one of the women sitting in the other chairs. Connie Mason did the morning news and the afternoon update. She spent a lot of time crying on camera when the Boov first showed up. It got pretty annoying after a while.

"Yep," Connie said. "With that sleazebag, Landry."

Linda rolled her eyes. So did Connie. The woman seated to Connie's left, whom Tip vaguely recognized as doing the morning weather, frowned at Connie and Linda both.

"Daniel Landry is the savior of our planet," she said, but she didn't sound as sure as Tip thought she must have been before Connie and Linda dismissed him so easily.

"He may be the savior of our planet, but he's a sleezebag," Connie said. "He was married to Tisha Conner from CNC."

"I know," the other woman said. "They got divorced right before he went into rehab. So, so tragic."

"Sleazebag," Connie said again. "He charmed her with all those stories of saving the world, but she told me at the Heroes' Benefit last month that he treated her like an idiot and that she doubted he did half the things he claimed he had. I won't doubt that he defeated the Gorg--I mean, who can doubt that, it's in all the history books?--but all of that other stuff about traveling and meeting people and saving the environment? She says she thinks it's all a crock."

"I'd believe it," Linda said, brushing some powder onto Tip's cheeks. "Something about that man just isn't right. He reminds me of my Lizzie's ex-husband. Pack of lies, that bastard was." She glanced down at Tip, as if suddenly remembering that she was putting make-up on an actual thirteen-year-old girl. "Sorry, honey. Pardon the language."

"That's okay," Tip said. Once Linda called attention to Tip, Connie and the other woman seemed to lose interest in the conversation. Maybe they were afraid she would blab or maybe they thought the rest of the details were too sordid for children's ears. Either way, they clammed up. Tip was disappointed. She had hoped to learn some more about the world's opinions on Daniel Landry. She wondered how she could get them back on the topic without being too obvious about it. 'That total sleazeball tried to put the moves on my mom,' was probably a bad way to go if she was expected to suck up to the jerk on television in a few hours. Plus, she didn't want them to think badly of her mom; everyone was allowed to make mistakes, especially when they're shaken up by being abducted by aliens.

She was pondering the merits of mentioning that she used to live in the Airport District, when the matter was taken out of her hands. The door to the make-up room swung open and Daniel Landry walked inside.

"Mr. Landry!" Connie said immediately, a smile plastered across his face. "How wonderful to see you! It's been so long! How are you?"

"I'm just great, Connie," he said, with his stupid greasy smile. "The Center really opened my eyes, you know? I know I was in a bad place before I got there--not my fault! There's a lot of pressure on you when you save humanity!--but I really feel like the past four weeks have opened my eyes to the world around me. I was so busy shouldering the weight of saving the world that I was starting to forget what in the world was worth saving. Not again, no siree."

Connie was still smiling at him. The weather girl was nearly swooning. At least Linda looked suitably unimpressed.

"I'm so happy to hear that, Mr. Landry," Connie said.

"Call me Dan," Landry said.

"Okay, Dan," Connie said. She actually giggled. What had happened to Landry being a sleazebag? "It's good that you're feeling better. Can't have the world's defender out of top form, can we?"

Landry laughed. Connie and the weather girl laughed with him.

"Oh," Landry said, leaning close to Connie, "Believe me, I'm am definitely back in top form. I could give you a little private demonstration if you'd like."

Linda snorted. "Pardon his language, honey," she said to Tip, loud enough for Landry and Connie to hear. Connie blushed a little, but Landry just turned around, that stupid greasy smile still on his face, and--

Froze.

It was actually pretty funny. His eyes went big and wide, his mouth turned down in horror, and he actually seemed to shrink. Instead of being a larger-than-life, suffocating presence, he almost curled into himself. He didn't move.

"Hello, Mr. Landry," Tip said. She heard J.Lo snicker from the stool he was perched on in the back corner of the room.

"What are you doing here?" he asked quickly, looking around the room as if he expected a camera crew to swoop in and take back his world defender title.

"She's on the show with you this afternoon," Connie said. "This is Gratuity Tucci. She's thirteen. She won the National Time Capsule Committee's essay contest."

If anything, Landry grew even paler at that revelation.

"I... I know her name," he said finally, turning back to Linda and Connie with a fake smile on his face. "She lived in the Airport District with her mom back before I... you know. With the thing. I just... haven't seen her in a while. The essay contest, you say? The one going in the time capsule? For everyone to read?"

Tip grinned madly and nodded.

"I... that's... that's wonderful, Gratuity. I bet your mother is very proud." He glanced furitively around the room again and said, "Connie, erm... you guys... could Miss Tucci and I have the room for a moment? I'd like to get caught up, but, you know. Some things are private." Linda rolled her eyes, but rubbed something on Tip's lips and then brushed her hands on her apron.

"I'm taking a cigarette break," she said. "Connie, Lisa, you in?"

"Sure," Connie said. The weather girl--Lisa, Tip assumed--was still staring longingly at Landry. Linda grabbed her arm.

"C'mon," she muttered. "He'll be there when we get back."

The three of them left the room and the door closed behind them. For the first time, Tip started to panic. Alone in a room with Daniel Landry? Sure, she wanted to punch him a few times, but he didn't seem too happy to see her, either, and he was a lot bigger than she was.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw J.Lo shift slightly and she relaxed, incrementally. J.Lo was still here. Right. If the two of them could defeat the Gorg, they could definitely take down this grease-ball if they needed to.

"Gratuity," Landry said. "I never really thought--" He tugged at his collar. "I mean... when I last spoke to your mother...."

He wrung his hands together and started pacing. Tip crossed her arms and glared at him, waiting for him to continue.

"I've got a good thing going here, Gratuity," he said. He didn't stop pacing. "Sure, I messed up a little before, but it was all so new! I wasn't sure how to handle it and, yeah, okay, the stress got to me, but I've changed! I know how to handle it now!"

"What, lying to the entire world and pretending you're someone you're not?" Tip asked.

"Making this work!" Landry said, throwing his hands in the air. "Making this--I figured how the balance. How to use it, I mean. You could have had a part of it! I went to your mother and I asked her--"

Tip jumped out of the chair and just barely restrained herself from hitting Landry.

"Don't you ever talk about my mother again, you... you...."

"POOMP!" supplied J.Lo, who had also jumped off his chair and was suddenly at Tip's side. "You didnot defeated Gorg! Tip and Tipmom and Pig and I defeated Gorg! You make people believed in you sofor you can make monies!"

Landry backed into the wall, staring down at Tip and J.Lo with trepidation. "You can't do this to me! Not now! Not when I've finally figured it out! Who's going to believe you, anyway? That a dim single mom and two kids and a cat turned the Gorg away because of hay fever? It would never fly! You'd be laughed out of the country and you know it! You need me!"

"We need you to leave us alone!" Tip shouted.

"Then don't expose me!" Landry shouted right back. "What did you write in that essay? What are you going to say tonight? It can't be good for the country. Think of America, Gratuity! I've brought us together again!"

"I didn't write anything in the essay!" Tip insisted. It was only half a lie. There was nothing about Landry in the original essay. In the journal she attached afterwards, however.... "I don't care about getting the stupid credit for your dumb battle! I just want you to leave me and my mom alone. I swear that if you stay out of our lives, I'll never breathe a word of what happened to anyone else."

Landry stared down at Tip, fear and disbelief warring for dominance on his face. Tip put her hands on her hips and stared back up at him, daring him to object. She didn't want to be famous; she had decided that years ago. Sure, it stung at first, knowing that her hard work--hers and J.Lo's and Pig's--had been completely disregarded, but over time, she realized she didn't want to live the life of the defender of the Earth. She and her mother had more than enough money to get by. She had lots of space to run with Lincoln and build things with J.Lo and lie in the sun with Pig. She was starting to make friends on some of the Boov fansites on the internet. She was even getting in touch with some of the people she didn't totally hate back in Pennsylvania. Life was pretty good. She didn't need fame.

"What about tonight?" Landry finally said. "What are you going to say on television tonight?"

"I don't even want to be on this stupid show," Tip said. "They didn't ask me, they just shoved me in here and told me to get ready. I'd rather go home."

Landry finally seemed to relax, though his shoulders were still tense.

"Okay," he said. "Okay. Here's what we'll do. We'll make an excuse and get you out of this studio," he said. "You stay out of my life and I'll stay out of yours."

"Deal," Tip said, still staring at him, hard. Landry held out his hand to shake. Tip refused to touch it on principle, and after a few long, awkward seconds, he pulled it away again.

At which point, Tip pulled her arm back and punched him in the stomach.

"That's for calling my mom 'dim,'" she muttered, shaking out her fist as Landry doubled over in pain. Punching hurt. Something else that clearly wasn't anything like it was in the movies.

She kept shaking her hand out and took J.Lo's hand again. "C'mon, J.Lo. Let's go find Mom."

J.Lo muttered something in Boovish at Landry as they passed. Tip had picked up enough Boovish to know that they weren't words that J.Lo should have been saying in front of her. She didn't much care.

***

When Tip's mom got back from shopping, Tip and J.Lo were standing patiently by the car. Well, mostly patiently. They hadn't progressed past poking each other yet, at least, and Tip was still resisting the urge to burst into a verse of "Great Green Gobs," which had been stuck in her head all day.

"What are you doing here, Tip?" she asked. "I thought you were taking the bus back home with the rest of your class."

"Change of plans," Tip muttered. "Landry was there."

Tip's mom frowned and fisted her hands.

"Exactly," Tip said. "They wanted me to do an interview with him. J.Lo and I decided we'd rather come back here."

Tip's mom didn't bother to say anything else. She unlocked the car and gestured for the two of them to get inside.

They were silent the whole trip home.

***

When they got back to the lake house, Tip's mom had Words with the principal of the school. She ranted about how they had no right to put her daughter on television without her consent and how there would be Consequences and a whole lot of other things that got progressively more boring, until Tip and J.Lo headed outside to work on one of J.Lo's building projects. Tip crossed her fingers and hoped that home schooling was in her future again, but when her mom came out to call them for dinner, she assured Tip that she'd still be in school on Monday regardless of her teacher's faux pas.

After dinner, while flipping through the television channels, Tip found herself compelled to stop on the image of Connie interviewing Landry around a large, brightly lit table.

"--couldn't be here with us today," Connie said. "It's too bad, really. I met her earlier and she seems like a lovely girl."

"Oh, very lovely!" Landry said. "She lived in the Airport District way back when and I got to know her and her mother pretty well. It's only natural that she succeed in life after spending so much time in my office. It's just a shame her fear of bright lights and cameras kept her from being here with us tonight."

Tip growled and turned off the television. J.Lo, however, kept laughing for a long time.