Ema cast a wary glance at her watch; three o'clock. She had an hour or so. Locking the door to her bedroom, the nine-year old dove under her bedsheet. She pulled a photo out from under a hollowed-out portion of her mattress, a guilty smirk quickly spreading onto her features. Ema kicked the covers from her bed and sat cross-legged upon it, placing her prize a few feet in front of her. She adjusted the picture an inch or two so it would adequately capture the sunlight from her window and let out a sigh.
It felt good to stare at him again, his sharp blue shirt and bow tie engraved too deeply in the girl's memory. He smiled in the photo, an energetic, sunny grin that all but radiated enthusiasm. His eyes, a darkened topaz that Ema felt hadn't been truly captured by this shot, were now fixed on hers, and she stared deeply into them, another soft sigh passing her lips.
Of course, she loved his work. He was an inspiration, a groundbreaking man who had opened her eyes to the world around her. She watched his show religiously, and Lana had only made the mistake of stopping her once. Her older sister knew better now, and Ema chuckled to herself about teaching her elder that lesson. That was a day to be remembered.
No, she thought. It's his turn. He gets my undivided attention.
She'd only really met him once, but it had been enough. She had strolled into the mall with her head held high, unaware that this day would change her life forever. It was a normal day: a visit to the Discovery Channel Store for a peek at this year's desired birthday present, a few quarters wasted on an arcade machine that promised impossible prizes, an underbaked pretzel at the food court. But then, out of the corner of her eye, she saw him, milling about in front of the local overpriced department store. She couldn't believe it at first, but soon she felt herself bolting for him at top speed, pen in one hand, current photo of him in the other.
He stood several feet taller than her, and he looked down when she brushed his pant leg. He smiled warmly at her, and she turned a burning pink. His voice sounded just as pretty in person as on television.
"…? Oh, hello."
She held out the pen and photograph. "I-I'm your biggest fan. Could you… a-autograph…?"
"Anything for an adoring fan. So, what's your name?" He began to sign his own.
"And what do you want to be when you grow up?"
"A scientist, of course!" She tried to keep her voice at an audible frequency, but it was proving difficult.
He handed back the signed photo and gave her a grin and nod of approval. "Good girl. Have a nice day, Ema."
Unable to hold it in, the girl squealed with delight, hugging the picture close as she did now. The paper felt soft and worn in her hands, and she pried it away from herself for a moment, only to read her love's words. He had written his name so close to hers, scrawled in black ink in the lower-right corner. To Ema-
Never stop learning!
-Bill Nye the Science Guy
Her digital watch's high-pitched beeping brought her back to the present. Time had rushed by, and she would have to hurry to catch his latest episode. Putting the photo face-down on her bed, Ema scrambled to her living room. Bill couldn't wait forever.