“Amethyst, I’m telling you, you’ll feel much better once we’ve cleared away some of this junk. A cluttered room is a cluttered mind.”
Amethyst looked on with a thick pout. Defensive eyes scanned her piles, arms crossed. “Pearl, we tried this already. It didn’t work, remember?”
“We got distracted.” Garnet stared down at a cluster of empty oil cans, peppered with a strange assortment of batteries and thumb tacks. “That doesn’t mean cleaning your room was a bad idea.”
“But why?! I like it like this.” Amethyst drove her foot into the nearest tower of junk. “It’s cozy.”
“It’s a health hazard,” Garnet answered impassively.
Amethyst snorted. “Health hazard? Since when do we care about he—“ She turned, narrowed eyes falling on Steven, who was preoccupied with prodding a curious mound of rotted goop. “What, for Steven? He doesn’t come in my room!”
“I’m here now,” Steven answered. He pressed his index finger to his thumb and raised it to his eyes. The purple goop beaded along his skin.
“Steven, do not touch that.”
Amethyst huffed anyway, eyes thrown to the side. A small blush crawled along her cheeks. “You guys are just using that as an excuse. You’ve got a problem with the way I live.”
“I’ve got a problem with the way you’re losing stuff in here.” Garnet drove her fist into the pile she’d been surveying. It reemerged with a rusty scepter. “Like this. How long ago did we lose the Igneous Scepter?”
Amethyst glanced at it, looked away, and shrugged. “I dunno. Like…400 years ago?”
“413 years ago, Amethyst,” Pearl interjected. She hopped over to Garnet and cradled the artifact in her arms. “And it’s been here this whole time!”
“What does it even do?” Amethyst asked.
Pearl gave a fast and shrill answer, but it was at that moment that Steven opted to stop paying attention. He pushed himself off his haunches and took to surveying the open catacombs of Amethyst’s room. The air smelled vaguely of rot and oil, like a bad fast food joint. But the hoards and hoards of treasures kept Steven’s interest piqued. Amethyst’s room was his favorite, he decided.
Pearl’s lecture drowned to static in his ears. He walked aimlessly, drawn in the direction of the largest and brightest piles. His trail was marked with an array of mismatched boundaries: a moth-eaten ironing board, a holster that looked too big to fit a gun, a four-wheeled wooden cart with one wheel sliced in half.
He looked to the largest tower straight ahead. It even had a step stool of sorts in front, which Steven pressed both hands down on for leverage. He swung a leg up, grunting and huffing as he wiggled his body on top of it.
“Ow!” He collapsed back down on the floor. Steven looked at his hand, which bore a bright red scratch down the palm. Something had almost cut him.
“Steven!” Pearl was at his side in moments, thin white fingers were wrapped around his. She surveyed his palm with worry. “Don’t wander off. Nothing here is stable and you never know what’s buried in these piles.”
“I didn’t touch anything though! I was just climbing on…” Steven pointed, silenced by the realization that it was a not a box or a step stool, rather a very large book. “…that thing.”
Pearl turned to survey it. The whole thing was at least three feet tall, just as wide, and a bit longer. Hundreds of thousands of yellowed pages were compressed inside, binding disguised by a thick layer of dust. Pearl clapped her hands together.
She lighted to her feet, eagerly cracking open the ancient tome and flipping through it.
“Oh I haven’t seen this thing in ages.” She scanned hurriedly through the early pages. “These pages were filled out before I even left Homeworld.” Pearl grabbed a stack of pages six inches thick and turned them. A wheeze of dust puffed out the side. “And this was in the midst of the rebellion. Oh I definitely marked the day that Homeworld retreated. Where’s that?”
Steven carried himself to her side, wide eyes keen on the thickly-inked pages. Each leaflet was broken into a 20x20 grid of small squares. Small, cursive writing filled the blocks.
“Is this…is this a calendar?” Steven asked.
Pearl turned to him still glowing. “Oh essentially. Humans go for something much lighter though, don’t they?” She leafed through another six inch bundle of pages. “Gems like thinking…long term.”
“How long does it go?” Steven asked.
Pearl paused, chewing her tongue. “I don’t quite remember. I think sometime into your year 6000 or 7000. I’d have to get a new planner after that—“
“It’s not that important, Steven.”
Steven thought about this, before taking his hands to the pages. He turned them in smaller bundles, one at a time, as Pearl watched him.
“What are you doing, Steven?”
“I’m looking for now.”
“There won’t be anything filled out for it. I lost this planner back around the time you were born. You’ll only find blank pages.”
“Then I’ll fill something out.” Steven took handful after handful of paper, flipping through the Middle Ages, the Revolution, the Civil War…
“You’ve gone too far, Steven. Look at the dates.” Pearl pressed a finger to the top right corner. “You’re in the 2090s.”
“Oh, whoops.” Steven lowered the bottom-right edge of the book. He stepped over to the left, and started leafing back carefully, one page at a time.
“I’ll just get us the page if you wan—“
“I found something!” Steven announced. He slammed a finger down into a single marked square on the left side of the book.
“That doesn’t make sense.” Pearl leaned in. “This is 2081. I don’t have anything planned for that year.”
Steven squinted to read the small writing. He let out a surprised laugh. “Pearl, was this planned?”
“Was what planned?” she asked with growing anxiety in her voice.
“A birthday gift to me!” Steven dragged his finger along the words as Pearl leaned closer. “It says ‘Steven’s 78th birthday.’ Right there. You guys have been planning my birthday almost 100 years in advance, haven’t you? …Which is a little weird, since you guys don’t celebrate your own birthdays, or my birthday, usually. That’s with dad. Why’s this marked?”
“Steven. Close the book.”
“I wanna know!”
“Steven, close it.”
Steven stayed in place, a pout forming on his lips. He crossed his arms and stared at Pearl. “Look, I’m sorry I ruined the surprise, but that doesn’t mean I appreciate it any less. I’ll probably forget when I’m 78 and then I’ll be surprised all over!”
Pearl opened her mouth to speak before shutting it again. Her breathing came fast and shallow, and the beginning pricks of tears welled in her eyes.
“I wrote that a very long time ago, Steven,” she breathed, voice a forced steady. “You were only just born. That’s not a good birthday present. You’ll have something much better.” She pushed past him and braced her body against the enormous book. “Now please…just close the planner.”
“I dunno why you guys even bother. It’s not like any of the lost junk in here’s important. If it was, then you guys wouldn’t have given it to me in the first place.”
“You never know, Amethyst. And besides, Steven liked it.” Garnet glanced up at Steven, returning with his feet dragging along the ground.
“Huh? Oh, yeah. Your room is cool, Amethyst.”
“It is cool. So it should stay how it is, Garnet.”
Garnet didn’t rise to the incitement. She stayed focused on Steven, before crouching to his level. He glanced up from the ground to meet her, eye-level.
“Steven, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing, really. …I’m kinda worried about Pearl.”
“Ohhh what’d she do now?” Amethyst drawled. “Did she explode from being surrounded by so much junk?”
“No.” Steven chewed his tongue. He focused on Garnet, his fingers twisting together. “I don’t really know, actually. We found this planner of hers. It was really big, and really old, and had a bunch of old dates and stuff in it. And Pearl was all excited about finding it.”
“Yes, she did have a planner,” Garnet answered. She put a hand on Steven’s shoulder. “What happened after? Where is Pearl now?”
“She… I dunno. She’s somewhere back there in the back of the room.” Steven motioned behind him. “I don’t get why though. It might have been something I did.”
“Don’t take it personally, Stevie. She’s moody like that sometimes.”
“Amethyst, don’t interrupt.” Garnet shifted her gaze back to Steven. “Go on.”
“Well she was showing me all this stuff at first. And then I wanted to see the page for this year. Like maybe we could start using it again. But I went too far and ended up on the 2081 page. Except it wasn’t blank, because my birthday was marked on the page. It was Pearl’s writing. It said ‘Steven’s 78th birthday.’”
He paused, searching for some answer in Garnet’s voice. She only watched him intently.
“And I thought maybe it was a surprise? But my 78th birthday is really far away, and Pearl got all upset that I saw it. I can’t figure out what happened.”
Amethyst sat bolt-upright, slapping her knee in revelation. “Oh I remember this! Yeah this was right around when she gave it to me!” Amethyst hopped off her trash pile to crouch by Steven. Her face was a mask of delight. “This brings me way back. Pearl kept going to the human library and getting kicked out for offending the people with her face. She always came back miffed.”
“…Library?” Steven asked. He turned away from Garnet. “What was she looking up?”
“I dunno.” Amethyst shrugged, eyes glancing away disinterested until they sparked to life again. “Wait no I remember! She was looking up—“
“—how long humans are supposed to live!”
Garnet slapped her hand over Amethyst’s mouth a moment too late. Amethyst grunted through the muzzle, offended at first, then petrified as understanding flooded her mind. She glanced mutely to Steven, who watched her with wide eyes.
“Was…was the answer 78 years, Amethyst?”
“It could have been anything, Steven,” Garnet said just a bit too fast.
Steven felt his hands start to shake. He looked down at them—11 year old hands. He could see them sallow and wrinkly, picture them old and almost dead at 78.
“Why did…Pearl need to know that? Why did she need to mark it in her planner?”
“Steven.” Garnet placed both her hands firmly on Steven’s shoulders. “I know you don’t remember, but you have to understand. Your mother was very dear to all of us, Pearl especially. Losing her was the hardest thing any of us have ever gone through. None of us were thinking clearly back then.”
“Yeah man. If any of us knew back then how cool and awesome you’d be, we wouldn’t have been thinking about half that stuff.” Amethyst gave him a light punch to the arm. Steven’s body rocked with the impact. “Pearl loves you. We all do.”
Steven didn’t answer. He didn’t meet her eyes. He gave only a single, small nod.
“Peeeearl. I made something for you.” Steven knocked against the gem door. “Pearl, open up. I have—“
The door slid open, and Pearl glanced down at him, startled. “Oh, hello Steven. It’s a little early… I wasn’t expecting you to—“
“Here I made something for you! Garnet helped me get it out.”
The color drained from Pearl’s face as Steven stepped aside. The massive planner rested behind him, just shy of the warp pad.
“Steven. I told you to leave the planner alone!”
“Oh come on, I made it special.” Steven flipped over the cover, then leaned his whole weight against the pages, which started to waterfall over each other by the hundreds. “Just look at it. I’m gonna make breakfast.”
Pearl made to argue, but Steven had already hopped off for the kitchen. Her eyes fell instead to the massive tome, heart twisting with fear and guilt. She lowered herself to her knees, and leafed through one at a time starting from the page Steven had found.
2015. The 400 box grid had been completely overwritten with crayon, a large drawing of Steven and Pearl dominating the page.
2015 – Pearl and Steven go on a lot of cool adventures with Garnet and Amethyst. They save Lapis from the ocean.
Pearl flipped to the next page.
2016 – Pearl teaches Steven how to be a better swordfighter so he can help Connie and also fight like his mom. Pearl and Steven also catch Peridot and teach her why the things she’s doing are mean.
2017. 2018. 2019. The pages went on, each with a crayon doodle and a caption of what she and Steven were scheduled to do for that year. Tears welled in her eyes as she read on.
2022 – Pearl teaches Steven how to dance so he can take Connie to her high school prom…. 2025 – Pearl helps Steven get a job so he can make money and help his dad… 2030 – Steven and Connie get married and have a kid, and Pearl teaches Steven how to be a really good mom like she is…
Pearl wiped away the tears that blurred her vision. Her stomach twisted inside, undeserving of the love that poured from the pages.
Onward onward. 2078. 2079. 2080. The pages depicted Steven as a small, gray-haired wrinkly old man. She and Steven were scheduled to sit on porches in rocking chairs, feed birds, and yell at whipper-snappers. Her fingers froze; she didn’t want to turn the page.
Steven didn’t appear in this drawing. Instead a beautiful woman with long coils of pink hair filled the page. She had a wide smile on her face, and her hands clasped around the cartoon Pearl’s.
2081. Pearl and Mom get to go on adventures again.
She lowered the book, hands to her mouth, and found no point in stopping the flow of tears that dripped steadily down her cheeks. They blurred her vision, until only a sea of wavy colors remained. Some orange, some white, but almost entirely pink.