Several days had passed since the wives had returned to their husbands, and their newly hatched children, and already, the young penguins were restless, specifically Joshua. He just couldn't help himself. His feet seemed to have minds of their own, clicking, and tapping on the ice whenever they felt like it, and Josh loved it! Although, the only problem was that his parents, specifically his father, didn't allow him to do so. If Josh so much as gave a minuscule tap, John would be all over him, going over rules that he had created to prevent his son from doing his strange dance.
Strange, but creative in the mind of Katie. Katie was curious as to how he thought of this new way of dancing, and desperately wanted to try it, but was scared of being scolded by her parents just as John scolded his son.
These thoughts whirled through Katie's mind as she stood close to the center of a class of small, fluffy penguins like her. Standing in front of them was a tall penguin with shining black feathers, and a pale yellow chest. She was calling off attendance, picking out the penguins in the crowd.
Katie watched as Taylor, who was standing next to her, waved a tiny flipper in the air, indicating that she was present. Katie had already said "Here" and right now, she had one question on her mind: Where was Joshua? She hadn't seen him all day. He probably got in trouble with his father again, she thought sadly. Or worst, he's in another class. Katie sighed, guessing that he probably wasn't going to be here, and she winced when the teacher called out his name.
Katie looked down at her feet as more silence followed her words. Then, from behind her, she could hear tiny pattering, and shuffling in the snow. She, and so did most of the class, turned around to see a familiar shape shuffling his way up the slope to reach the little ice cavern that was the classroom: Joshua. Katie's spirits lifted, and she laughed a bit when Joshua tripped in the snow, but kept running with a smile on his face. He gently pushed his way towards the front, and stopped in front of Katie, looking worn out. Katie's smile grew wider when she saw his feet shuffling slightly in the snow in that strange little dance of his.
The teacher looked at him curiously. "Joshua?" she asked.
"Here!" Josh jumped into the air, and continued to shuffle when he landed.
"Very good," the teacher said, looking at the class satisfyingly. "Well, looks like everyone is here. I'm Ms. Lily."
"Good morning, Ms. Lily!" the class called out together.
Ms. Lily nodded. "Thank you. Now, today, we'll learn the most important lesson you'll ever learn at Penguin Elementary. Does anyone know what that is?"
As soon as she asked the question, the class fell silent, and the penguins looked at each other with confusion. Katie just stared at Ms. Lily. Way to put pressure on us, she thought arrogantly.
Ms. Lily looked at the class. "Anyone? Anyone? How about you, Eugene?"
"Um... How to stay warm in the winter?" a voice replied from the back of the class.
Ms. Lily shook her head. "Nope, that's not it. Adam?" She pointed her flipper toward the other side of the group.
"Is it defense against predators?" the penguin, Adam, replied.
Ms. Lily shook her head again. "No, that's not correct," she said. She looked around the classroom as if she expected one of them to have the answers. If it's not warmth, or defense, then what the heck is it? Katie wondered, growing frustrated.
Finally, Ms. Lily exclaimed, "Your Heartsongs!"
A few murmurs drifted across the group. Taylor jumped in the air beside Katie. "I know what that is! My mommy has one!"
Ms. Lily nodded enthusiastically. "That's right. Every penguin has a Heartsong. Even you," she said, pointing her flipper at the class. "And today, we will learn how to find our Heartsongs. But I can't just teach it to you. You have to find your Heartsongs all on your own. Now, the way we're going to do that is we're all going to be quiet, close our eyes, and let the song come to us."
The teacher's calming voice persuaded Katie, and slowly, she closed her eyes, and let her body relax. She cleared her mind until she felt an intense happiness of falling in love hit her in the heart. She felt like she was flying over the highest peaks with someone special at her side. She felt as if she could go through any danger, and come out unscratched. It was almost... like a dream...
Lost in her imaginings, Katie nearly jumped out of her fluff when the entire classroom began to scream, "I've got one! I've got one!" "Pick me! Pick me!"
Ms. Lily looked surprised to see that everybody already had their Heartsongs. "Okay, one at a time!" she exclaimed, looking about the class before finally calling forth a young penguin named Jack. Jack waddled his way to the front of the class, looked behind him at the other penguins, and began to sing his little heart out.
"I can't have you close,
So I become a ghost,
And I watch you.
I watch you.
Maybe if you stay,
We could die this way.
I won't stop you.
I won't stop you!
Ohhhhhh-ohhhhh! How long till your surrender?
Ohhhhhh-ohhhhh! How long till your surrender?"
As Jack brought his song to an end, Katie noticed that Josh had begun to tap, shuffling away any snow beneath him, and revealing a patch of snow. Worry began to fill her mind, worry that he didn't have a Heartsong. We'll just have to see, she thought, hoping whatever he had in his mind was amazing.
"That was lovely, Jack! Just lovely!" Ms. Lily exclaimed.
Jack smiled, and went back to his spot in the class near the back. At the same moment, two penguins came bundling forward, one tall, and slim, the other bigger, and fluffier. "I wanna go next!" the slim one exclaimed.
"No, I want to!" the bigger one protested, shoving the other aside.
Ms. Lily rolled her eyes. "Boys, please! You can both have a turn. Alan, why don't you go first?" She pointed at the slim penguin, who laughed at the fluffier one. He sneered, and took a step back. Then, Alan began to sing.
"My heart's a stereo!
It beats for you, so listen close.
Hear my thoughts in every no-o-ote.
Make me your radio,
And turn me up when you feel low.
This melody was meant for you,
So sing along to my sterio!"
Suddenly, the bigger penguin jumped in front of Alan, and began to sing as well.
"If I could only find a note to make you understand,
I'd sing it softly in your ear, and grab you by the hand.
Just keep it stuck inside your head like your favorite tune,
And know my heart's a stereo that only plays for you!"
Alan glared at the other penguin, and shoved him aside before singing once more.
"My heart's a stereo!
It beats for you-"
Alan was suddenly cut off when the other penguin tried to push him aside, but Alan retaliated by smacking his flipper across his face.
Ms. Lily snapped. "Alan! Thomas!" she yelled. Instantly, the two penguins broke apart from each other, and stood there, looking guilty. "You boys are going to have to find your own Heartsongs. Until then, you'll stay at the back of the class."
Alan and Thomas shot a final glare at each other before turning, and making their way to the back of the class, shoving past Katie and Josh, who stared at them with confusion as if he hadn't been paying attention to what was going on. He turned his attention back to Ms. Lily, and continued shuffling once more. Katie wondered if anyone else noticed his dancing yet.
"Okay, Amy, you're up next," Ms. Lily said, motioning for a pale gray penguin to come forward. Amy came forward, puffed out her chest, and began to sing.
"You know, the bed feels warmer
Sleeping here alone.
You know I dream in colour,
And do the things I want.
You think you got the best of me.
Think you've had the last laugh.
But you think that everything good is gone.
You think you've left me broken down.
You think that I'll come running back.
Baby, you don't know me, 'cause you're dead wrong."
"That's all I've got so far," Amy said proudly.
Ms. Lily smiled. "Very nice, Amy. Inspirational! Now, who's next?"
Instantly, five penguins made their way to the front of the crowd, screaming, "We've got a song! We've got a song!"
Ms. Lily sighed. "Mike, Matthew, Andrew, Greg, Eugene," she told them, "I already told Alan and Thomas that they have to find their own Heartsong. The same goes for you five."
Katie blinked. She's seen those five penguins running around the kingdom, almost inseparable. Now, here they were, and apparently, they all have a song... the same song.
The leader of the group, Mike, shook his head. "No, just listen. Please!" he begged. Without waiting for a response, the five penguins stood in a line, Mike in the center. Katie watched curiously as they began to sing together.
"Some nights, I stay up cashing in my bad luck.
Some nights, I call it a draw.
Some nights, I wish that my lips could build a castle.
Some nights, I wish they'd just fall off.
But I still wake up. I still see your ghost.
Oh, Lord, I'm still not sure
What I stand for!
Ooh-wooaaaah-oh-oh-oh! What do I stand for?
Ooh-wooaaaah-oh-oh-oh! What do I stand-"
"I'm sorry, boys, but that's not going to work out here," Ms. Lily said regrettably.
The five penguins stopped, and stared up at their teacher. "Why not?" Mike asked.
Ms. Lily sighed again. "Because it's just not the penguin way. Each penguin is supposed to have their own individual Heartsongs. How else are you supposed to find your soulmates?"
"But what if we don't want soulmates?" the smallest of the group asked. Without waiting for a reply, the five penguins pushed their way back into the crowd, looking very upset. Ms. Lily shook her head. Katie thought about what she said. Not penguin... like Joshua's dancing...
"May I go next, Ms. Lily?" Taylor asked, raising her flipper into the air.
"Of course!" Ms. Lily replied happily. "Come on up here, Taylor."
Happily, Taylor made her way to the front of the class. Katie kept her eyes on her friend, wondering what song was about to burst from her lungs. Taking a deep breath, she began to sing.
"It feels like one of those nights
We ditch the whole scene!
It feels like one of those nights
We won't be sleeping!
It feels like one of those nights!
You look like bad news.
I gotta have you.
I gotta have you!"
Katie stared wide eyed at her friend, stunned by how beautiful her voice sounded. From behind her, Katie heard a penguin go, "Whoa," and she nearly repeated him.
Taylor swung from side to side shyly. "That's all I've got for now," she said, seemingly embarrassed by her talent.
"That was beautiful, Taylor! Absolutely beautiful! Katie, would you like to come up here?"
Katie froze like an icicle. She had secretly been hoping that she wouldn't be called up on the first day of school. Her little heart pounding in her little chest, Katie slowly made her way to the front of her classmates, feeling everyone's eyes on her. It was nerve-racking, and she didn't like it! Glancing around, Katie tried to think about how she was going to sing what she wanted to sing. Gathering the words in her head, and thinking of that dizzying feeling of happiness, she slowly rose her voice, and began to sing.
I can't take anymore of you.
I can't take anymore of you.
I'm losing it!"
Katie stopped when she heard her voice echoing around the cavern, surprised by how powerful it sounded. Behind her, everyone was staring at her with wide, astounded eyes, and she could even hear a few surprised gasps from outside of the cavern. Katie wasn't sure what to feel: embarrassment, or pride. Then, her eyes rested on Josh, who had actually stopped his little tapping feet, and was standing still for possibly the first time in days with his wide, dark brown eyes on Katie, and an astounded smile on his face. Katie met his gaze, and smiled back.
After what seemed like forever, Ms. Lily finally spoke. "Oh, my. That was... wonderful! Astounding! Euphoric, even! Very well done, Katie! Very well done!"
Katie said nothing. She just looked up shyly at Ms. Lily before heading quickly back to her spot between Josh, and Taylor.
"That was beautiful!" Joshua whispered in an awestruck voice to Katie.
Katie smiled at him, and felt her skin blushing beneath her fluff. Josh has never said anything like that before.
"Josh, do you have something you would like to share?" Ms. Lily asked.
Joshua jerked his head up in surprise. Glancing at Katie nervously, he made his way to the front of the class. Katie watched eagerly, hoping that he had something just as astounding as her Heartsong. Surprisingly, he ceased his dancing for a moment while he stood in front of his classmates.
He looked up at the teacher as if he was unsure whether to start or not. "Well, go on, Josh," Ms. Lily said encouragingly.
"Oh, okay," Josh mumbled. "Well, mine kinda goes like..." He fell quiet for a moment, then began to sing.
Josh quit singing, and coughed when his voice suddenly cracked. "Sorry. Let me try again." Clearing his throat, Josh began once more.
"La-lee-da. La-la-leeeee-daaaah! Aaaaccckkkkk!"
Katie winced as Joshua's quiet singing voice quickly turned into an ear-piercing squawk, and she almost called out for him to stop when he tried once more.
"La-lee-da. La-laa-leeee-daaah! La-la-lee-daaaaaaaaaaaaah!"
His screeching voice vibrated throughout the cavern so fiercely that a block of ice came down on his head, finally shutting him up. The entire classroom suddenly became filled with the laughter of the other penguins, mocking Josh, and his inability to sing. Only Katie, Taylor, and a few other penguins didn't make fun of him. Instead, they stood there, looking at him with sorrow in their eyes.
Infurated by the others' mockings, Katie stepped forward, and screamed defiantly, "It's not funny!"
"No, no, not in the slightest," Ms. Lily agreed with Katie. Her eyes were filled with confusion, and shock as she gazed down at poor little Joshua. "No Heartsong... He's... hardly a penguin at all."
Katie nearly yelled at Ms. Lily in Joshua's defense, but knew better than that. Instead, all she could do was gaze with pity at Joshua, who had his head down, and his shoulders sagged. What had happened to make him sound like that? she wondered. She'd never heard of another penguin who sounded like Josh before.
"I'm sorry, Josh, but you'll have to stay in the back of the class," Ms. Lily told Josh, her voice low in pity.
Josh blinked up at her, his eyes glazed with tears before slowly shuffling his way to the back of the class, standing outside of the cavern with his shoulders hunched. Katie looked at him in sorrow, wishing there was something she could say that would make him feel better, but she knew that she would never be able to cure his voice.
For the rest of the day, everybody else shared their Heartsongs, eventually forgetting that poor Josh was in the back of the class, not even moving his happy feet. Josh stood at the back, watching in envy at the other penguins as he listened to them sing. He had no idea what had gone wrong with his voice. He had felt it; he felt his song looming up inside him, ready to wash him away into a sea of happiness like the way Katie had sang. She had the most beautiful voice Josh had ever heard. And now, she probably thought he was weird, and didn't belong in the kingdom. Why did I have to try, and sing? Josh thought angrily.
Ever since he had hatched, his life had been tough, even though it's only been a few days. His father scolded him whenever he tried to dance, and now, he was going to hear about his son's horrid singing voice. Feeling lost in confusion, and alone in the world, Joshua let his mind wander as he gazed up at the sky which was dotted with wisps of clouds, and wondered what it would be like if everyone danced like him... What would the Emperor Kingdom be like if everyone had happy feet?