Songbird Trilogy Book 1: The Maze Girl (complete)
Author: Julia R. West

Chapter 4
Going Up in Smoke

"Today is not yesterday: we ourselves change; how can our works and thoughts, if they are always to be the fittest, continue always the same? Change, indeed is painful; yet ever needful; and if memory have its force and worth, so also has hope."

~Thomas Carlyle

 

The moment I wake up (I'm surprised I wake up, because I never knew I went to sleep), I feel is if last night has been a dream. My name was never pulled, I'm not going to Coastall, and I am safe. But reality comes quickly, and I was almost happier when my thoughts weren't true. But they were.

I don't bother do do much anything before I go to the tree. It's early, and my mother and Lexi aren't up yet, but Rory is already sitting there, and the sight of him makes me cry. "What's wrong?" He asks.

I climb up into the Tree. It's a bit smaller feeling than it used to be. Now I realize we haven't been here together in a long time. Maybe a few months? "Last night," I begin in the steadiest voice I can manage, "The Mayor came and told me something...." I'm trying to ve vague at first.

His eyes hide tears, but I notice them after all these years that I've known him. "What? You didn't put your name in!" He raises his voice.

"I know. That's what I don't understand." I'm crying now, too.

"I have to go." He slips away then, just like that.

I think he leaves because of me, but maybe in tears, I just didn't hear his mother calling his name. No, I'm sure it was because of me. Either way, I'll be gone soon. Maybe it's better if we're in a fight...

So I just stay in the Tree, remembering the other times we've been here together--in much happier circumstances. Too bad time machines aren't an option. Because if I could go back in time right now, I'd at least intervene before Rory could put his name in The Drawing, if I couldn't save myself. Which I probably couldn't, because I was drawn even without my slip in there. And that brings my mind to another question, one that's been buzzing around my head like a fly, even though I haven't admitted it to myself in plain words until now. Who entered my name in The Drawing?

Figuring Lexi and mother are up by now, I creep out of the tree slowly and slink back inside. Mom is making breakfast, but I'm not that hungry. I sit with them at the table while they eat, but it looks like neither of them have a much bigger appetite than me.

Lexi embraces me in a hug, so apparently mother has enlightened her as to what The Drawing really is. I can tell she's been crying, because of her red face, but I say nothing and hug her back. I love Lexi, I really do. And, of course mother. And father, when he's home.

"Elle, will you come home?" she asks.

Oh, no. Not this question, not from her. Oh, no. "I can't honestly say yes or no, Lex," I say quietly. My voice is close to tears, so I whisper to hide the shakiness in it. Mother is giving me a cautious look, warning me to not say much more. I can see the tears remaining in her eyes as well.

I manage a feeble smile and push Lexi away. It's too much. The day I dreaded most when I was younger is here, and I am determined to take it in my hands to win. To come home to Lexi, and to Rory, and to Mother and Father. Yes, I am.

 

 

That night, I lie in bed, not sleeping. I toss and turn, waking up every time I manage to sleep, plagued with nightmares and sorrow.

Then, around midnight, I hear the sirens. I don't think much of it at first, but it gets closer and closer. I begin to see the lights. They pull up right in front of my house. I rush to the window. Nothing.

I check the back window. My eyes look out into the night. Everything is dark except for the blaze I see. From his window, my eyes meet Rory's. I can't tell if my mouth is open in shock or closed in tears. They begin to roll down my face, so I suspect the latter.

And this is because we are watching the tree--our tree go up in smoke.

 

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