Unbreakable - By Elizabeth Norris


Labor with what zeal we will,

Something still remains undone,

Something uncompleted still

Waits the rising of the sun.

—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Some days are so perfect, they just don’t seem real.

They’re the days when you wake up and aren’t tired, when the sun is shining and the breeze kicks up from the ocean, keeping you from getting too hot or too cold, and everything you do goes right. Like you’re inside of a movie with your own soundtrack, where you’re so happy that you can’t help just spontaneously breaking into a smile. Some days are like magic.

But I haven’t had one of those days in a long time.

So long, it feels like maybe I never did. In fact, when I’ve been up for eighteen hours, letting Cecily boss me around in an old snack bar that she converted into a kitchen—one that might be a hundred degrees—it feels like maybe perfect days are a lie.

“What are you doing?” Cecily says, scolding me. “That’s never going to work.”

“My idea, not work? That’s shocking.” I make a big show of rolling my eyes. “Come up with a better idea and we’ll try it.” I almost add that we don’t need popcorn, but I keep my mouth shut. I can only push her so far. The wrath of Cecily when plans go awry is something I’m trying to avoid.

It’s movie night at Qualcomm.

About a month ago, Cecily decided that a movie night was just the thing Qualcomm needed. It would give people something to look forward to, and with the right equipment it was something we could actually get done. She made Kevin Collins and me spend a weekend going through the wreckage of every movie theater in San Diego, looking for the right projection equipment and an assortment of movies we could show.

So now we have a little more than thirteen hundred people seated on what used to be the Chargers football field—with more watching from the seats. Blankets are laid out, people are huddled together, and Cecily has It’s a Wonderful Life cued up on the projector. I had argued with her choice of that one—it’s not like much going on around here could be called wonderful—but my arguments had gone down in flames, and Kevin didn’t help matters since he had backed her up, hoping to win her over.

The only snag in her plan right now is the popcorn.

The generator let us use the microwave to pop over half of the bags we found when we scrounged around the city, but it started taking its toll on our power. Even Cee wasn’t going to argue that popcorn was more important than lights. So now I’m using a couple of old pans and a wood-burning stove.

Because I’m thinking of him, Kevin pushes through the door with a wide smile for Cecily. In a surprising and I’ll admit impressive move on his part, he got his GED and enlisted in the Marines a couple of months ago. “Lady J!” he shouts as a few of the guys in his unit come in behind him. “We’ve come for you to feed us.”

I’d like to say the whole enlisting thing made him grow up, but he’s the same as ever.

I ignore Kevin. I’m good at it.

Cecily, who has only her own agenda on her mind, beams at him. “Oh, you’re here, perfect,” she says, piling bags of popcorn into the guys’ arms before they have a chance to speak. “Start with the people in the back since they’re farthest from the screen. And make sure everyone takes a small handful and passes it down. We have about one bag for every fifteen or so people; no one gets their own.”

One of the guys rolls his eyes—he’s obviously here as a favor because poor Kevin has it bad for Cecily.

Kevin bows with a flourish. “Your wish shall be done.”

I have to force myself to keep from snorting at the ridiculousness that is happening right in front of me.

Before he leaves, Kevin looks at me. “Hurry up, woman. If we have to wait for you we’ll never get to see the movie.”

Unable to control her laughter, Cecily pushes Kevin out the door, and the universe finally rewards me, because the popcorn finally starts to pop.

“So this thing with Kevin . . .” I say once he’s gone. Every guy has a thing for Cee—even Alex had a huge crush on her. Alex, my best friend, the one who told me he wasn’t going to date anyone until college because he