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Episode 14 Part 62

By:  Lenady

 

“It hadn’t occurred to Hope, as she’d stood there in front of the temple with Alison, that her fate rested largely on what the other girl chose to do.

 

“Alison was, after all, aware of the deadline Hope was under, the conditions the elder had given her, as were all of her friends. This detail however, in the race to prepare for her meeting with the elder council, had slipped her mind. That Alison held her fate in her hands hadn’t occurred to her until a day or so before the deadline, when the blank tome suddenly flipped open on the ground between her and Erin, the pages rustling and rattling and filling, word by word, with the text that had just as mysteriously disappeared, almost a week prior.”

 

***

 

“Where did you find that?” Taylor hissed, pulling Alison over against the wall in the hallway. Tilly followed behind, staring blankly at the book. Alison had held it up to them excitedly, holding it out with a grin and looking especially pleased with herself. Sheets of paper stuck out half-hazardly and Tilly stared at them, a dulled fear blooming in her chest.

 

“In the greenhouse. Mrs. Anderson asked me and Cindy to check on the hanging pots and we found it under a tray.” It looked like it too, covered in water marks and streaks of mud.

 

“Well put it away,” Erin said, stepping between Alison and the view of the rest of the hallway. “Here,” he said, taking it from her. He pulled his bag open and shoved it roughly inside.

 

“What’s the big deal?” Alison asked, looking put out, and glanced over at Tilly with the audacity to look clueless. Tilly’s fist clenched at her side.

 

“Because the deadline’s the day after tomorrow,” Andrea said. “And no one could get all this done. Mr. Burget couldn’t get all of this done.”

 

Alison flinched for a moment, shaking, “I- I thought you’d be happy. I’ve been looking for it everywhere.” She looked at Tilly with sad, tear-filled eyes and Tilly had to remind herself that Alison was the one who’d taken it to begin with.

 

“Yeah, well sometimes you really need to keep things to-"

 

“We know Allie,” Lauren said, stepping in and shooting a glare towards Trevor. “But this is really…”

 

Erin sighed. “Really messed up.”

 

“You know what? I figured you’d be happy. I thought maybe this would be enough, you now? I’m sorry okay. I’ve said that how many times?”

 

Tilly blinked. “What?”

 

“I know I messed up, but I’m trying okay?” Alison said, tears springing to her eyes again.

 

Tilly glanced around the hall, as students showed down, turning around to watch.

“But I-“

 

“Why can’t you just forgive me?  I can only say it so many times, you know?”

 

And Tilly could only stare, wondering what was happening, because Alison’s voice had just broke, and the tears were spilling over and she was pushing herself up against the wall defensively.

 

And the stares were all pointed at Tilly.

 

And something cracked, letting all the anger and frustration and fear rush out in a flood.

 

“Then you shouldn’t have stole it to begin with!” she said loudly before she could stop herself, her hands coming up to cover her mouth, too little too late. 

 

Alison looked up at her, anger filling her eyes now along with the tears, “You little liar.”

 

And Tilly’s heart had stopped, she was sure it had, because this was it.

 

“Who are you going to believe?” Alison asked, head turning from person to person, “Her or me?”

 

Andrea crossed her arms, “Allie, we’re not taking sides. How about we just let it drop so we can figure out what to do about-"

 

“No!” Alison straightened, anger now rolling off of her, “I can’t believe you! Do you hear what she accused me of?”

 

“Alison, give it a rest,” Trevor said, rubbing his forehead. “I say we just let it go for now. Don’t say a thing. I mean, those papers were awfully loose and stuff. There’s no way to know if they’re all there or not.”

 

Taylor sighed, “Did you tell anyone about the book?”

 

Alison pouted, crossing her arms. “No.”

 

“Right, okay,” Taylor nodded, “So there we go.”

 

“No,” Tilly said, finally finding her tongue again, “Wait. That’s not really-"

 

“Are you seriously going to say that this was fair?” Erin asked, patting his backpack.

 

Tilly hesitated. “No,” she said, finally, “But neither is-"

 

“Hey, look,” he continued, “You’d still be doing the work, right? Mr. Burget’s just gonna print off a new one for you to work on, so it’s not like cheating or anything.”

 

“Plus,” Lauren said, “This way we keep Alison out of trouble.” She turned towards Alison with concern, “It doesn’t look good. You were the one who lost it and the one who found it. If that gets out there’s no way that’s not getting attention.”

 

Alison looked off to the side, leaning back against the wall and nodded.

 

And suddenly the group was quiet, their attention turned towards Tilly.

 

“No one will know.” Andrea said after a moment. “We’ll make sure. Cindy won’t say anything because of Alison and you know none of us will say a word.”

 

Tilly looked around the group, nervously, and Erin caught her eye. He held her gaze with a look so warm and intense Tilly could literally feel her reservations crumbling bit by bit.

 

“Trust us. Okay?”

 

*          *          *

 

“What a crappy thing to do. Hope should have chucked that lady into the volcano when she had the chance.” Sanrook said, stretching out with the cleared platter and plate resting on her lap. “Is she at least gonna be over the whole silly tradition thing?”

 

Tilly shook her head. “She still had to go through the test with the elders, which she’d dreaded much more than the tasks the tome set her to. She eventually found herself in front of the temple, hand resting on the carved wooden door, taking shaky breaths. Erin had told her to wait until he got there. She figured he’d be coming to wish her luck, but she’d stood there for what to her felt like an eternity. Still, he never showed, and Hope let out a sigh, and started to push the door open. Then she heard a voice call out behind her. 

 

“She turned around to see, not just Erin, but all of her friends, and behind them her mother. She was shocked and tried to think of something to say as her mother came right up to her and hugged her tightly. Her mother asked her why she never let her know what was going on? Why she thought she had to do it alone?

 

“Hope looked over her mother’s shoulder, at her friends, and smiled, realizing the truth herself before telling her mother. That she hadn’t done it alone.

 

Erin walked up to them. ‘you still don’t, he said, ‘We’ll be with you.’ And he opened the door before she could process what he’d said, the smells of incense and ritual and time flooding out of the space.

 

 “The elders sat before them in a line as they walked in.

 

“'Hope of Entar,’ an elder said, harshly, ‘Step forward’.

 

“Everything in her wanted to just back away, out the doors and out of the village completely, but her mother’s hand was on her shoulder and Erin smiled over at her. She took the step forward.

 

“Then to her surprise the elder’s face softened in a smile, and he announced, happily ‘Welcome!’

 

“She stood there in silence a moment, confused.

 

“'You have passed the test,’ he said with a warm voice.

 

Hope was, of course, confused.

 

“Then the elder explained that the tome, the knowledge it contains and the tasks it set forth were all good and appropriate, because it contained their history and culture, even if some of the meaning had been lost to time. And suddenly it was sitting there on table beside him, and he rested his hand on it. Ultimately however, he continued, the book meant nothing. That that was not Hope’s test. The test, he insisted, gesturing out towards the people gathering behind her, had already been passed, the moment she had let her friends help. The moment she let them in she became a part of the village.

 

“The eight elders stood up from their seats and announced, ‘Welcome Lavon and Hope of  Oakendale.’

 

And Tilly opened her eyes, pulling herself back from that idealized world and back to the real one, the one where the results had been far less clear cut, where she’d spent days studying and somehow managed a C on the exam, where she managed to finally get the ‘tome’ finished but with little time to spare. Where her mother never did find out about the hell she’d gone through just to stay in a school and on a team that-

 

“I don’t trust when people give me tests,” Sanrook said, suddenly, breaking Tilly out of her train of thought. She looked thoughtful, as she chased the last bit of sauce around on the plate with a fork. “They generally are checking boundaries to see if they can take advantage of you.  It is great she found some friends, but the whole thing tastes odd.”

 

“What do you mean?” Tilly asked, sitting up a little straighter.

 

“Well,” Sanrook replied, “The elders are all big on her trusting the people of the town, but one of the townspeople has betrayed Hope already, plus Hope’s group went and hid something from the elders. It just seems there are a lot of people wanting trust that maybe don’t deserve it.” She looked up then, giving something a bit of thought, then looked back down. “Also, maybe it’s just because I’m not a real big ‘togetherness’ person, but the whole thing with the town testing Hope to begin with just sets my teeth on edge.”

 

            Tilly nodded, slowly, “Yeah,” she said, with a half-smile. “I see what you mean.” She stood up then, and stretched, then held out a hand for the dishes, then walked toward the kitchen. “That’s just how it is sometimes with fairy tales though, pat endings and all.”

 

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