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Episode 10 Part 6

By:  Lenady

Cold. Everything felt cold. Where had her coat gone? And why was the ground suddenly so hard? She opened her eyes to see, instead of an arctic landscape, metallic walls and floor. Tilly blinked. ‘Right’, she thought ‘a dream. But where…’ A moment lapsed before full recognition of her surroundings hit. She clutched the bear tightly in reflex and shifted, her back pressing against the sharp corner of the bed. She moved slightly so as to no longer be against the edge then straightened her back, pushing upwards along the piece of furniture, then arching. Her joints cracked, painful yet satisfying, and she continued to stretch, extending her legs out along the floor so as to feel the same relief there. She stopped suddenly, wincing, and pulled a leg back when she felt a twinge in her right calve. To say she was tense would be an understatement.

At least she didn’t feel as though her head was stuck in a fog bank anymore. She rubbed her left eye absentmindedly and then stretched her arms upwards. She brought them back down to the ground beside her, pushing them down and rolling her shoulders. Although the sleep had done her good the metal floor certainly hadn’t. She registered the feel of canvas beneath her right hand and looked down. The book bag was lying on the floor beside her, having fallen out of her lap while she slept.

She picked it up and watched a plastic snow globe fall out. It hit the floor with a light thunk, then rolled forward. She stared down at the nigh-indestructible piece of plastic, her stomach dropping as she recognized it. Tilly couldn’t remember putting it in her bag. It’s not something she would have brought with her consciously. She reached out hesitantly to where it had stopped and picked up it. It was something she should have rid herself of a long time ago. The snow globe sat comfortably in the palm of her hand.  The base was vibrant, with waves and palm trees painted on, as colorful as it was cheap, while the globe itself held a beach chair and umbrella.

Blonde hair and a red baseball cap, worn and faded, flashed into view. Her hand gripped the plastic firmly at the memory. She could almost feel a warm hand gripping her own.

 You should smile more.

Things would be so much easier then.

            The snow globe hit the wall with a loud clack. Tilly breathed in and out, in and out, sharply. She sat for a moment just staring at where it had landed. Suddenly the space was too small, as if suddenly everything in the room was bearing down on her.

Shaking, she went for a recognizable bag and pulled out two wristbands. After tugging them on roughly she reached back in and rifled around until she felt the cool surface of her cassette player. She could see that it had a tape already inserted. It didn’t matter which one it was. Anything would do. She breathed in deeper, willing herself to calm. She noticed after a moment, though, that her efforts didn’t seem to be having any affect. At least the shaking had isolated itself to her hands. She clipped the player onto her waist band and adjusted the earbuds, then walked over to another bag, out of which she pulled a pair of ballet slippers. She gripped them like a lifeline and walked out the door. She stopped abruptly on the other side, feeling the brush against the back of her pajama bottoms as the door slid closed behind her.

“Yo,” greeted Sanrook, who was stretched out on the couch, remote control in hand. The television was turned to an unfamiliar program in a language she didn’t recognize. ‘Not an Earth broadcast’ she thought.

“Hey,” Tilly replied, feeling the smile slide onto her face. She hoped Sanrook wouldn’t be able to tell her teeth were clenched behind it. That opposing force she had felt the past few days was still there, but this time Tilly couldn’t tell if it was coming from Sanrook, or her, or from both of them. She shook her head, realizing that neither one of them had moved, and walked to the other side of the room. Tilly let the smile drop as she turned away from Sanrook. She scratched the back of her head, clutching her hair for a moment out of frustration.  Her friend was sitting on the couch, which was the only flat surface available at hand level. Maybe Sanrook would leave before she needed to use it.

Keeping herself facing the side of the room opposite of Sanrook she began to move, jogging just enough to feel her heart rate pick up. She could already feel her muscles loosening slightly, although she knew it would have been much easier had she been alone. Tilly shook her head slightly. Best not to even think about it. Sitting down on the floor, she began to stretch, rotating and flexing her feet and ankles, focusing on relaxing her body. It was rather difficult when she kept hearing the channels being changed. She stood up and continued to stretch, remembering belatedly that she didn’t have to listen to the noise at all.

She clicked the play button on the tape player, praying that the cassette was somewhere at the beginning and not close to the middle or the end. She closed her eyes and focused on feeling her muscles pull and release, the comforting sensation of her body responding to her orders. Her joints loosened and mind more focused, she took a deep breath, praying that when she turned around she would be the only one in the room. She knew somehow that she would be disappointed. There was a nagging sensation at the base of her skull that she couldn’t quite explain, and she could still feel the awkward vibe in the room. It wouldn’t go away until one of them left.

Her suspicions were proven correct when she turned around and she felt her shoulders tighten almost instinctively. She rolled them, then walked towards the couch.

Standing at the back, she gripped it with her left hand. It really was too tall for what she intended. She stepped away from it just slightly and loosened her hold on the couch, letting her hand rest on it instead of holding on firmly. She stood straight, checking her posture mentally before beginning with demi plies. As she moved into grande plies she could see Sanrook fidgeting. She was moving every minute or so, repositioning herself just slightly. She was also breaking Tilly’s concentration.

            Sighing, Tilly removed the ear buds and pressed stop on the cassette player. She knew the silence between them wouldn’t last long at that point.

            “So,” Sanrook began without finishing. The TV was being flipped from channel to channel intermittently, sometimes at a slow steady rhythm, then sometimes at a near breakneck speed.

            “Um,” Tilly said, not quite knowing what to say. Tilly briefly wondered why conversation had gotten to be so difficult. They had never had awkward silences quite like this in the past: they were either talking or they weren’t. There was never any added subtext to it. Now the silence was heavy and draped over them. Tilly felt it clinging to her every movement, tainting the typically calming repetitions with uncertainty.  

            “So,” Sanrook began again, “what are you doing?” She turned around this time to face Tilly.     

            Tilly kept her head forward, only glancing at Sanrook for a moment as she responded. “Just some ballet stuff. I was feeling cooped up.”

            “Mmm”, was Sanrook’s response. She turned back to the television and flipped through the channels a few more times, allowing Tilly time enough to move into tendus before speaking again.

            “Didn’t know you did that stuff. How come you don’t do lessons or anything?”

            Tilly flinched. She would have rather stayed in an awkward silence than start talking about that. She should have never mentioned the ‘b’ word. “Just don’t. That was high school.”

            “It just doesn’t seem like something you’d drop.”

            “How about we drop the subject?”

            “Mer”

            Tilly paused, blinking at the sound. Was that an affirmative? Was that noncommittal? She still wasn’t completely certain what Sanrook meant when she made that noise. The ambiguity set her on edge.

            “I’m hungry,” she said with hesitation. Maybe food would keep Sanrook off of the topic.

            Sanrook turned around again. “’Kay. Let’s go get something.” She got off of the couch and walked in the direction of the kitchen with Tilly following after. “Just as long as you’re okay with not having a spoon.”

            “Why?” Tilly had stopped.

            “It’s gone missing again.” Sanrook turned around, tapping her foot.

            “Wait. It? You mean they right?”

            “No. It. I only have one.”

            “Why in the world do you only have one?” Tilly asked, unable to keep the shock out of her voice.

            “It’s all I need,” Sanrook said in a low tone, evidently just as unable to keep the irritation out of her own.

            “Evidently it’s not all you need if you’ve lost it. Besides, I had plenty of stuff. Why didn’t you tell me before we left?”
            “Yeah, well we had enough to take care of without extra stuff like spoons.” Tilly found herself unable to respond and Sanrook began walking again. “So really, why didn’t you tell me about the dance stuff?”

             “I didn’t want to,” Tilly said, stopping again in the middle of the common room. She felt they were never going to get the kitchen. “And why are you being so curious anyway?”

“I’m just trying to be interested” Sanrook said grinning, the smile not quite reaching her voice.

‘My gosh,’ Tilly thought. ‘Does she never get the point? And what the hell does she mean by ‘trying to be’, anyway?’ Her hand tightened in a fist. “Well, maybe it’s something you shouldn’t be that interested in.”

“Why not?”

“Cause maybe I don’t want you to be! Maybe I’d just like you to keep your nose in your own business and out of mine!” Tilly turned on her heel and stormed across the common room. She didn’t look back.  Sanrook could have been following her or she could have still been standing there for all Tilly cared. She moved forward purposefully until she reached the door of her room and went inside.

It wasn’t until the door slid shut behind her that she remembered why she had left earlier. She froze in place, eyes moving to the small but garish object on the other side of the room. Tilly leaned back, pressing against the door, and sank slowly down to the ground. She drew herself up, wrists to chest, knees to wrists, forehead pushed as close to knees as possible, forming a triangle of tension. The metal of the door and ground was just as cold as earlier, lending no warmth or comfort, but she pushed herself into it anyway, as if the chill could seep through and numb her. That was all she needed. She was surrounded, closed in on from all sides. Toren everywhere, Sanrook outside, and E- she stopped herself and curled in closer, her eyes squeezing shut. If she could block it out, block it out, block it all out, then maybe-

“Everything will be okay”, she whispered.

 

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