"The school looks exactly the same," Alexis Chappel told her brother, Adam. Together they walked from the parking lot across the grounds of their former elementary school, toward the huge banyan tree that sheltered the playground.
"I haven't thought about this place since we moved," Adam said. "Everything looks so small."
"That's because we're bigger," Alexis said. "And I used to think about it all the time. I really missed it when we moved." Their family had relocated to the southwest side of Miami during the summer following fourth grade, and twins Adam and Alexis had transferred into a brand-new elementary school. Alexis remembered how she had cried because she had loved Woodland Elementary, which was just around the corner from their old house. The low-slung building of white stucco, yellow brick and awning-covered windows looked tired and dingy to her now, eight years later. "You think we'll recognize anybody?"
Adam grinned and pointed. "I recognize Ms. Lola."
Beneath the giant tree, Alexis saw a diminutive woman with a frizzy mass of red hair herding a group of children toward rows of benches. Behind the benches there were several rows of chairs where teens sat, some talking, some eating slices of pizza and sipping canned sodas.
"Is that our class?" Adam asked, pausing to check out the group.
"Did you expect everybody to be six?" Alexis teased. "The letter said our classmates would be invited." Adam was the shyer of the two, and Alexis usually felt as if she was either pushing him or dragging him to do something. But then, Adam's life had been a whole lot more difficult than hers.
Ms. Lola looked up, saw them and dashed over, her face lit with a smile. "I'm so glad to see you. My beautiful twins. Do you know that in all my years of teaching, I've only had three sets of twins in my classes? But you two were my favorite. I never had to worry about telling you apart!" She hugged them, and a jumble of warm, fond feelings flooded through Alexis. To this day, she'd never loved a teacher the way she had loved Ms. Lola. "You both look wonderful! Come, join the others," the teacher said. She led them to the rows of chairs and began to introduce them to eleven former classmates.
Alexis smiled and waved at each person, recognizing names because she had pored over their first-grade class photo and roster before coming. There had been twenty-eight in the class. Some she knew from the old photo, but others looked totally different.
"Grab yourself some goodies and have a seat," Ms. Lola said, then rushed off to greet a group heading across the playground.
"Want a soda?" Adam asked.
"Sure. I'll save you a spot."
Once Alexis had settled in, a girl two chairs over asked, "Remember me? Linda Cummings. I sat behind you in first and third grades."
"I remember." Alexis flashed her brightest smile. "You had long, curly brown hair."
Linda's hair was now short and was dyed pink and red. "And you wore a long braid that usually had ribbons going through it," she said. "I used to sit there and wonder what it would be like to have such pretty, straight black hair."
"It was monotonous. Nothing I did then or do now makes it curl."
Linda's gaze lingered on Alexis's long hair. Finally she shifted self-consciously and asked, "Where are you going to high school?"
"South Kendall. And you?"
"North Miami High."
"It seems weird to be back," Alexis confessed.
"I've lived in the same house since first grade." Linda sounded apologetic about it. "Ms. Lola had no trouble tracking me down. I couldn't stay away. I wanted to see how we all turned out. Plus, I want to know what's in that time capsule of hers. I don't remember writing anything. How about you?"
"I can't imagine what I wanted when I was in first grade. That was ages ago."
Linda glanced toward Adam, who was putting pizza on paper plates. "I don't remember what I wrote, but I remember what I wanted. I had the worst crush on your brother and wanted him to notice me. He's still cute."
"He's got a girlfriend."
"All the cute ones do," Linda said with a sigh. She added, "I used to envy the two of you."
"You're kidding. Why?"
"Because you got along really well together. My older sister and I fought like cats. I remember how you and Adam used to finish each other's sentences."
"We still do. It's because Adam and I were womb mates," Alexis said. Their peculiar link with each other was very real, and at times it seemed as if they could almost read each other's minds.
Linda grinned. "Womb mates--I get it. So who's older?"
"I am. By seven minutes."
"Are you and Adam in classes together?"
"No. He's into math and baseball. I like speech and debate."
"Debate. Isn't that when you argue with someone?"
"It's really problem-solving competitions. Teams get proposals or resolutions in advance and prepare arguments for and against them. It's fun." The competitions were tough, but Alexis loved the high that came when she scored enough points from the judges to advance to the next round. She was team captain and had racked up more points than anyone on her school team so far. Mrs. Wiley, the debate coach, was already prepping Alexis and the team for the state tournament to be held in Tallahassee, the state capital, in the spring.
"Do you want to be a lawyer?" Linda asked.
"Maybe." In truth, Alexis wanted very much to attend law school. She supposed the tendency for high achievement ran in their family. Their father, Blake, was an attorney, and their mother, Eleanor, was a top-selling real estate agent and a community activist interested in running for public office. "Ambitious parents create ambitious kids," Adam often said. "And one out of two isn't bad. With you, Ally, they're batting five hundred."
Adam returned, bringing Alexis a cold lemon-lime soda, her favorite, and a plateful of pizza slices. She introduced him to Linda, whose face took on a pink hue when Adam said hello.
"We were in the same class," Linda said, stating the obvious and blushing again.
"You want a soda?" Adam asked.
"Um, no thanks--I mean, sure, thanks."
He gave her a quizzical look. "What flavor?"
"Yellow. I--I mean, lemon-lime, like your sister's."
Adam left, and Linda groaned. "If he asks, tell him I don't get out much."From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from The Time Capsule by Lurlene McDaniel. Copyright © 2003 by Lurlene McDaniel. Excerpted by permission of Laurel Leaf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.