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

Chapter 21
Simply A Spectator

I ask the nurse to bring Dmitria here. In a few minutes, she steps inside cheerily. She says in her bird-like voice, "You wanted to ask me something, Ellery?"

I nod. "Can I see the video from Teryn's earpiece?"

She pauses for a moment. "I'm not sure if...well....I suppose so." She digs in the purse-like bag she's carrying and pulls out a laptop. "Just a minute," she says, clicking away at the mouse.

She sets it on my lap carefully, the mouse already resting over the button that says 'play.' I click it and watch. Dmitria's already got it set to a minute before Teryn fell. I mean jumped. But my suspicions ring true. If she jumped, why did she scream like that?

The moment I see it, I know what happened. My hand flashes out to click pause. "There!" I shout at Dmitria. She comes over to me again. In the one frame I so hastily paused, you can see a hand on Teryn's shoulder.

"Orion pushed her!" I insist. Dmitria sighs and buries her head in her hands.

"Ellery, I know you and Orion didn't get along, but he's no longer with us. Does that solve anything for you? We can't do anything anymore."

"But he's a murderer!" I shout. I don't think about what I'm saying until it comes out. Soren, technically is a murderer, too. He murdered a murderer. Does that make it okay? Or maybe Dmitria, Julius, and everybody else don't know what happened in the forest. But I do, and I'm going to make this all right.

"I think he's going to do well over his time," she says calmly.

"He did push her," I say in an equally calm voice. Getting in the last word is easy with Dmitria.

"I'm sure he did. I believe you," she begins. I think she means it, but she means the next sentence, too: "But there's nothing we can do now. He killed her; he was killed. Fair?"

I have to nod. "Fair," I agree. But I don't. Teryn was innocent and she died. Orion was a murderer and he died. The latter is fair, but that's all.




Sunday morning I'm awake by the time Rory and Soren, I know, will be leaving for the Lake. By the fourth challenge, only two contestants remain. I wonder if that's a record.

Rory comes by the door and I tell him to come in. "Good morning," he says.

I smile, "Good morning. And good luck."

He kisses me on the cheek. "I'll need it." He gives my hand a firm squeeze before leaving.

Within an hour the nurse wheels in a screen where I can watch the challenge. It's a good thing and a terrible thing at the same time. I don't want to watch and not be able to help.

It's a long time before she tells me the challenge is starting. My eyes are practically glued to the screen. I see the look on Rory's face as he realizes what the challenge is. So this is what Mother and Lexi and Dad are seeing at home, if they can bear watching.

Soren takes off swimming right away, while Rory stays back. It looks like he's searching for something that floats for him to hold on to. If I was there, I think to myslef, I'd build him a raft.

He finds a large but bouyant log and pushes it in the water ahead of him. I can't believe when we were home he'd refused my swimming lessons. I'd tell him "I told you so" but this isn't a joking matter.

Everything inside of me wants to be there, with him, trying to make the best of a tough situation, but I know I can't and he doesn't want me to. Well, to speak the truth, he does, but he can't let me.

He's going at a steady pace and it looks like he's doing fine. Some small islands are scattered out across the lake, and I can't tell which one's the finish. But he looks like he knows, because he keeps making white water out of the blue with his kicking.

It's a long ways to the finish line. He's going to have to stop sooner or later. I breath slowly and lightly, as if my breathing could form waves that push him under the water. He begins to slow down.

I wish he could hear me if I were to talk to him. But he can't, because I'm simply a spectator. Like all those people back home. He's pushing the log up onto a tiny island about the size of half the room I am in. Is he just resting?

What's going on? I scan the screen and see a small figure splashing in the water not far out from the island. I think it's Soren. I don't think Rory knows what to do. Win the challenge or help Soren. But after a small period of contemplation, he picks up the log and slides it back into the water. He pushes off in the opposite direction of Soren and towards the finish line.

I'm sitting up now. Why isn't he helping Soren? I see the finish line at an island maybe a hundred meters away. Rory stops at the next small island to catch his breath. His eyes are closed and he's breathing heavily.

He's okay, I tell myself. He just needs to take a break. My eyes wander to Soren. He's closer to the island now, and I can see the hatred in his eyes. He's angry that Rory didn't help him. And who wouldn't be?

My eyes wander from Soren to Rory, and I realize just now that I'm calling Rory's name. The nurse peeks out from around a corner and I give her an apologetic look and try to quiet down. I think I stop calling out, but I can't really tell because even if I am not speaking aloud, I am screaming in my mind.

A splashing sound make me--and him--look over towards  the edge of the island he is resting on. The log is floating away from the island. I hear Rory shouting, Soren trying to make his way back to an island.

The current is growing stronger, and within a few minutes, the log Rory was using has made it under the water completely and I can't see it. I assume he can't either.

Rory is alone on the island, with no log. And he can't swim. To him, those hundred meters that would be nothing to me probably seem like a hundred miles. A tear or two flows from my eyes as he stands, forlorn and helpless on that island.

I'd help him if I was there, but I am simply a spectator. Every move he makes reminds me of that.


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