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

Chapter 3
The Knock at the Door

"In this world there is always danger for those who are afraid of it."

~George Bernard Shaw



Friday I wake up, the sunlight urging my eyes open. This is the last day; the last chance. And Rory hasn't been pulled yet. I sit up and force myself downstairs. I'm not hungry for breakfast, so I get dressed first.

I walk to school, and of course Teryn doesn't join me. She's at home, but that doesn't mean her friends can skip school for her. It's getting colder, and I pull the sleeves of my light jacket over my hands while I zip it up to my face like a turtleneck.

I'm late, and have to stop at the office for a pass. But I don't mind, because it's not my fault that I walk slowly.

I drop of my things at my locker and head in to class, holding my late pass out to the teacher. I take my seat next. Rory leans over to me discretely. "Teryn was picked?"

I nod. This is the first time he's spoken to me since Monday. I don't say anything back, because he seems very worked up over the fact that Teryn was picked. He says nothing after that, even though he does sit next to me at lunch.

I walk home with him today, partly because he lives just around the corner, and partly because he lets me. He's pretty quiet, but I manage a few words out of him. "Who do you think's going to be pulled tonight?" I ask.

He shrugs and avoids looking me in the eye. I forget about it; it's probably just the cold. "I don't know. I'm sorry for Monday," he says.

"It's okay."

"Tomorrow's Saturday," he begins. "Meet me behind the Tree."

The tree is our place, and I'm pretty sure we're the only ones who know about it. It stands very tall on the corner of my backyard, his, and our neighbors. I don't even know their name, but they always wave at us. We don't go back there unless we really want to be alone. The anonymous neighbors never bother us there, even though the Tree is on their lot.

 I remember when I was younger, the first time I ever saw Rory. I had been reading a book, when I saw him--actually, felt him. He was throwing pebbles up at me, trying to get my attention. He had a good aim, even then. "What do you want, dummy?" I'd said. Well, I was only nine.

"It's Rory, not Dummy!" He was nine, too--I have to give him some credit.

"What do you want?"

I moved over and let him climb up. I guess that's what he liked about me; that I was a girl who wasn't afraid to climb trees--to talk to boys. "Just somewhere to go," he'd said. "What's your name?"

"Ellery. Well, Elle." I sounded so stupid then.

"See you tomorrow, Elle." I'm snapped awake from my memory. Occasionally he still calls me Elle. He knows I don't like it, but it's Rory. What am I going to do?
"Bye!" I call, glad he talked to me again.

I saunter inside to see Lexi standing at the door. "Boyfriend! Ellie's got a boyfriend!"

I give her a little playful shove and laugh. "He's not my boyfriend, Lexi."

"Mom, I'm home!" I call. She's not in the room, but I think she's home. Dad probably isn't home from work yet. Homework is my first priority. I sit down with my backpack open. Math is first. I hate math.

Then history, then science. It takes a long time, but none of it is very hard. Dad comes home from work, tired, and he goes to bed after hearing Lexi and me tell about our day. He's already in bed by 8:00.



That's when there's a knock. "I'll get it!" Lexi is rushing towards the door.

"Wait!" I call, holding her back. I send her back into the kitchen and open the door. The second I do, my jaw drops. I'm sure I look very stupid to the man standing at the front door, and it takes a lot of force for me to lift my jaw back up.

"Ellery Rowe! Congradulations!" And the Mayor reaches out to shake my hand. I let him, and then let go as soon as he stops squeezing mine. I'm not sure at first.

"C--congradulations?" I glance behind me, and my mother is in the room now.

"Yes, of course congradulations!" He gives me a broad smile.

My mother steps forward. "Oh, Mrs. Rowe! Good to see you. Your daughter--"

"Her name wasn't in there, Mr. Archer! She's not going!" Mother seems to be able to read minds.

"But her name was, indeed, pulled out, Mrs. Rowe. It is only fair. Did she put her name in without your consent, then?" He's looking at me condescendingly, like I am a small child, but I'm not. I know what I've done and havent' done.

"I never put my name in!" I try defending myself. Mom shoots me a warning glance. I experience that choking feeling that you get when you are trying to hold back tears. I can't cry in front of the Mayor. Or mother, for that matter.

"Monday, you and the three others will leave for Coastall, and you will meet each other. Best of luck, Ms. Rowe." Now he's adressing me.

The door shuts, and gives the aura of finality. I'm going. My mom simply looks shocked, while I stand there with a red face for a few seconds before running up to my room. My mother follows, but I lock the door and stay in the rest of the night, my chances of a good night's sleep completely ruined. All I feel is pain. Pain, and fear, and anger. I'm leaving behind Rory, and Lexi, and mother, but the worst of it all...I'm going to have to go with Teryn. I can't manage knowing the fact that she could die. I could die. And I can't come to terms with myself. Of course The Drawing is not designed to kill, but it's happened before, and they aren't doing anything to protect us.

My name was most definitely not on any slip in that mix, but the Mayor's words ring true. I can't prove anything, especially now that I've been picked. So much of this is luck...or lack there of, I suppose.



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