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Episode 14 Part 50

By:  Lenady

“Why are they dancing again?” Sanrook asked, scraping the last bits of sauce off her ‘plate’. Tilly was still pushing around a few forkfuls of pasta on her own, finding her appetite pretty well killed.


“What do you mean?” Tilly asked, placing the plate between her and Sanrook on the couch.


“The folk dancing, or whatever it is. I mean, everybody seems kind of miserable in this town. They just don’t seem like the sort of people that celebrate that much.”


“Tradition?” Tilly shrugged. “Never said they did a good job celebrating.”


That seemed to satisfy Sanrook enough. “So what ever happened about this guy the guy? The one who came up to her before. Is he like, out amassing a pitchfork wielding horde or something?”


“Pitchforks?” Tilly asked. She paused. “I’m getting to him. But no pitchforks. Things aren’t that bad.” Tilly thought for a moment, tapping her leg.“The thing was,” she continued, “the previous evening, when she’d went out to visit the girls, what she didn’t realize was that he was nearby.”


“Creepy,” Sanrook said.


Tilly grimaced. “Ew. Not like that. The group met in the village and people walked by all the time. It wasn’t like they were out in the woods or something. He just happened to see her with this group that met fairly often in the village square. The thing was though, he didn’t like it, because the more she mixed herself into the fabric of the town, the harder it was going to be to get her and her mother to leave.”


“But they were going to have to leave town anyway, right? They have to keep moving around because of the curse.”


“Yeah,” Tilly said, “But he didn’t know that. He knew they didn’t look like people who tended to settle, but he didn’t know about the curse, so all he could think of was how long they’d stay, and what they could potentially do while they were there.”


*          *          *


“I’ve been thinking,” Mr. Burget said, “About a way to get you caught up.”


Tilly was once again standing in front of his desk, palms clammy and stomach doing flips. She smiled and nodded, but the relief she should reasonably be feeling at that news never really came. Maybe something to do with Mr. Burget’s persistent frown.


“You’ve missed a lot of work- and yes, I realize you transferred in, but-" he said, folding his hands on the top of his desk, “the fact that you hadn’t even gotten a nine weeks grade before moving complicates things. Also, you’re still behind the rest of the class and it’s showing in your work. So,” he leaned over behind his desk and brought up a large stack of papers, “I think I’ve come up with a solution.” He let them drop, with a soft thump, onto the desktop.


Tilly swallowed and stood there, staring down at the stack. Mr. Burget pushed it across the desk towards her, but she was hesitant to even touch it. Surely he couldn’t mean the whole stack. It had to be at least an inch high. She’d seen textbooks thinner than that. He glanced up at her, clearly exasperated, and she winced, picking up the stack. It lay, heavy, over one arm as she flipped through the pages.


“That should be enough to get you caught up. It goes through everything we’ve covered in class so far, and points leading up to that as well. If you can get this done- accurately,” he added quickly, “you should be fine.”


Tilly looked down at the paper, a cold lump in her stomach growing. There weren’t many instructions. The papers looked to be printed off workbook pages, high on the problem count and painfully low on anything that actually told her how to do the work.


Mr. Burget kept going without noticing (she refused to think ‘ignorning’) her growing distress. “I’ll factor it into your grades so far, and if you can make a decent score in the coming tests then you should be able to bring your grade up. How much, of course, is up to you, but I wouldn’t count out the possibility of a C.”


“I,” Tilly started, biting her lip, “How long do I have to get this done?”


“Well,” he said, tapping a pad of sticky notes, “The purpose of this is really to get you caught up with the rest of the class. If you’re not working through it at a good pace then it really doesn’t do us any good. I’ll give you…” he paused for a moment, looking down at the broad calendar which covered his desk, “two weeks. Let’s say you have this handed in to me by October fourth.”


“Okay,” Tilly said, a little quieter than she hoped. Her voice didn’t seem to want to cooperate.


“Any more questions?”


“No sir,” she said, putting the stack back down on the desk and opening her backpack. The stack nearly slipped out of her hand as she picked it back up to put away, heavy and unwieldy. Tilly grimaced as she struggled to fit it between her English and biology books. It had to be several chapters worth of material.


“You think it’s too much,” she heard Mr. Burget say in a low chilly tone. She glanced back up at him, alarmed.


“I can-"


“I’m sure you’ll find a way,” he continued, cutting her off. “Perhaps if you spent less time in the gym after school.”


“But I-" And Tilly knew that was a mistake before the words even finished leaving her mouth.


“I can tell you right now, Ms. Kaphman, that I’m not one who thinks highly of breaking school rules. I’ve seen far too much letting certain groups get away with it, and while some others might turn a blind eye, I can tell you now I wo-"


A knock echoed through the room. “Mr. Burget?” came a voice, as an accompanying head peaked in. “Do you have a- oh, hello Tilly,” said Ms. Hudson. She smiled in at them, apparently oblivious to the chilly atmosphere. “Am I interrupting?  I can come back in a minute.”


“No, that’s fine. We were just wrapping this up,” Mr. Burget said, glancing over with a more relaxed smile towards Mrs. Hudson.


“Well, that’s good. Glad to know I’m not intruding.” Mrs. Hudson smiled kindly over at Tilly as she walked in. “You feeling okay dear? You look a little pale.” Tilly nodded faintly, swallowing. Mrs. Hudson held her gaze on her for a moment before turning back to Mr. Burget. “Tilly’s such a pleasure to have in class, don’t you think? Such a good listener, and doing much better than I would have anticipated, considering the gaps her parents spoke of. Switching schools so often can make things so difficult.”


Mr. Burget’s smile never quite reached his eyes, and the corners of his lips were tight. “Yes. She’s certainly making some progress.” Then he turned back towards Tilly, “October the fourth. Handed in at the beginning of class.”


She nodded and picked up her backpack, hearing the dismissal clearly. “Yes sir. Thank you.” She turned and walked towards the door.


“Have a good day dear,” Mrs. Hudson said as Tilly passed, catching her eye. There was something there, for just a moment, some indecipherable expression that Tilly was left thinking over as she walked out into the hallway. In fact, the whole exchange had left her feeling uncertain. But, then again, she realized as she slung her backpack onto her shoulder and made her way through the semi-crowded halls, that seemed to be her new norm as far as school went. What alarmed her was that she was already getting used to it.


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