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

Chapter 9
Dear Miss Rowe

Panic runs through me. Fire is the thing in life I am most afraid of. Rory handles himself better than I do in dire situations. He darts to the bathroom, fills a drawer with water, and carries it back. I do the same.

After a few rounds of that, it is no longer burning. But the smoke rises up and we begin to cough. Evidence is gone! Rory curses. He reaches in to retrieve the paper. Only a tiny part of it is still legible: Dear Miss Rowe,

It is the same handwriting as the original note. I slide it into my pocket. "Well, that's that."

The desk is charred and the room is smokey. We leave, close the door, and stand in the hallway, in shock of what just happened.

We decide not to go into the Pilot's Quarters. It's not worth the risk. "Good night," I say. And I know now is the time. I lean up and kiss him--on the cheek, for fear he won't accept, but he does. He smiles.

"Good night."

I get no more sleep.With everything that happened even before tonight; with Dmitria's fake letter and everything I'm surprised I was sleeping before Rory woke me up to search.

 It's already five in the morning, and I'm sure if we were someplace with windows, the sun would be rising. Later, an announcement comes over the intercom. "We will be beginning our descent after breakfast. Please come to the dining room at this time."

It's Dmitria's voice, perky and sweet. I walk down to breakfast with Rory. We are both still somewhat shaky from last night--or rather, this morning--and are even more tired. Breakfast is a sort of pancake-like dish with a sweet sauce like syrup. It's good, but I don't even notice.

Teryn sits next to me after about five minutes. "What was that for?" she asks.

I'm genuinely confused. "What?"

"You gave back the ring! The ring that says we were friends!" she raises her voice to an uncomfortable volume.

"No, I--" But she's already stomping away to a different table. I bury my head in my hand, while my other one brings the food to my mouth. I didn't realize how hungry I really am until now.

"You said the ring was gone. I'll bet you anything that's where it went." I nod. He's right.

I finish breakfast in silence. Just as I am finishing, Soren appears. He's just beginning breakfast. Rory and I are walking out when he points to the man serving breakfast.

"Doesn't he look familiar?" Rory asks. I get the same feeling.

I nod. "Yeah, but I can't remember where I've seen him before." But then I do remember. He is the man that was, on the day of Submission for The Drawing, standing there with a boy I was sure was his son, writing his name on a slip of paper. But what whas his name? I'd give anything to remember it, but I can't.

Rory takes one last glance at the man before we walk out of the room. Rory and I sit next to each other, waiting for Teryn and Soren to come out of the dining hall so that we can beging our descent. Then it hits me. I know where else I've seen that man!

"Rory!" I whisper, "That's the man I turned in."

I had been walking home from school one day with Teryn, a long time ago. My mother had told me to pick up a gift for Lexi for her birthday, and I had asked Teryn to go with me. And this man had been there. Long story short, he had been stealing--and I reported him. It landed him in jail, and I can't forget the words he said to me before Teryn and I ran home: "You're going to pay for this! Each day that I spend in prison is a day that I am planning your demise!"

What bothers me now is, I didn't know that he knew my name. Wait, of course he did. I was all over the news...Teryn and I never wanted to tell our parents, but we did. And it took me a while to be able to tell Rory.

"That's it!" Rory blurts out, much too loudly. He quiets down to a whisper. "He put your name in. He murdered that Guard. He wanted to murder you. And I know what his next move is--I mean, was. He's turning everyone against you. The ring. He put it in Teryn's room, so she thought you were trying to give it back. Now she hates you."

"Rory, Soren is his son!" I can now put the face with the memory of the boy at The Drawing. "I know he is. Soren Lockhart. I knew the first moment I heard Soren's full name that I already knew it from somewhere. His father was that man--Orion Lockhart."

Rory nods. "We can't tell anybody yet. This is anything but a game."

But, carrying on an extended metaphor--Orion, I'm sure, is winning.

 

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