Tabatha A. Yeatts
by Rukmini, age 7
What you discover in this story
May at first not appear true
But I assure you, dear reader
If you believe, you can do it too.
Chapter 1: A Special Find
Melissa stared out of the window. She saw wondrous, magical toy trains zipping safely about, without drivers. Two teams of red and pink flying ponies were playing kick-ball in the air. Melissa wanted to go out and join them. It looked idyllic.
‘Clang, clang, clang..’ chimed the gong. She knew the sound well. The library would close in fifteen minutes. Reluctantly, she gathered up her belongings and took some books to the front desk. Mrs. Phillips smiled at her and said:
“And how are you today Melissa? These books keeping you good company?”
“Oh, I’m doing okay, I guess. Could always be better” replied Melissa hesitantly, shrugging her shoulders.
Mrs. Phillips studied Melissa’s face to look for an explanation. She was unsure whether to ask for one. Taking her eyes off she noticed Melissa was carrying a rather special book in her pile. It was old and tattered. Before Mrs. Phillips could utter another word Melissa had passed it under the red laser beam and a low ‘dud’ pronounced it checked-out.
Melissa quietly trudged through the thick snow an afternoon blizzard had deposited. Her knee-high boots made deep tracks in the soft white. She turned a rusty silver key in the familiar heart-shaped lock and let herself into the drafty, content-less room. She felt tired and plonked herself on the single mattress, dumping the books onto the floor beside. The emptiness and loneliness inside her were reflected in her room. She’d rather be anywhere, anywhere but here.
Her mind filled with longing for the sunny, warm surfing days of her childhood in Australia. How care-free those days were. They now seemed much more valuable than she had thought as a child. She remembered herself spending those days dreaming on the beach, dreaming while surfing, dreaming while jogging. Always somewhere else. Why had she not realized how happy she was? Dreaming of many unreal and imaginary worlds. Dreaming repeatedly of going to America one day and all that it would offer.
Now that she was in America, seeking knowledge, she found herself faced with the cold reality of an empty room. She felt stuck. She had much to read and write before next morning. The books lay silently by her side. Little did she know her life was soon to change.
Chapter 2: A Message
“Have you heard about the fair today, Melissa?” said Mrs. Phillips when she saw her at the library the following Sunday afternoon.
She wasn’t surprised when Melissa didn’t show much excitement.
‘No, I didn’t know’ stated Melissa plainly.
‘Why don’t you go. It would be a nice change. It is a sunny day after all. Best spent outdoors.”
‘I might just do that, in a while’ smiled Melissa. ’Thanks.’
The sunshine had melted the last snow away and Melissa couldn’t help feeling a bit cheerful. She went home and changed out of her jeans into a floral dress and a lovely knitted cap. She stepped into her boots, grabbed her handbag and flew out the door. The thought of a new place had brought a freshness into her. She whistled to herself as she walked along.
When she arrived at the fairground her spirits sank. Everyone she could see around was with their family. A few teenagers hung together in a cluster by the entrance. With a quiet gulp she resolved not to turn back. She had done that too often. She would go ahead and experience it, even if everyone stared at her or, worse still, pitied her.
Inside there was a large ground with space in the middle for children to ride a grand carousel. ‘Glitter and tinsel, glitter and tinsel’ was all Melissa’s mind said over and over. All round the sides were stalls – a candy stall, a juice center, a Tarot card reader, home bakings, used books for sale, popcorn vendors, cotton-candy and every now and then a clown juggling his way through the crowds. Melissa stopped at a candy booth. It had a small counter covered with wrapped candies of every color – red and yellow, purple with gold, white and red. She picked up the familiar ‘Milky Way’, ‘Starburst’ and ‘Kit-Kat’ bars, then counted her coins. She opened the Starburst immediately. It dissolved and disappeared into her mouth but was over too quick. She popped one after another in as she walked around the fair till they were all gone and she felt sick with sweet.
She caught sight of a board which read:
Know Your Future!
She watched the people going in and out. Some who went in look worried, others laughed, but all who came out looked at peace. On an impulse she stepped up into the trailer.
‘Come, come’ said Miss Ross as she motioned Melissa to be seated opposite herself. Melissa lay her hands on the table. The cramped space was covered in black curtains. Oil lamps hung at odd angles, providing dim lighting. It looked quite spooky, thought Melissa. Betty Ross was old, with wrinkled skin on her own hands and long white hair flowing down her back. On top she had a dusty wizard’s hat. She spoke in a high-pitched but strong voice with a Dutch accent to her English. Melissa was reminded of her own father’s tall hat. It was a large greenish-blue hat with surfboards on it, a prize from one of his many local sports contests. And there Melissa stood on one, surfing the warm ocean tides. Up and down she bobbed. Suddenly the snapping of the gypsy’s fingers brought her back and she realized she had missed a fair bit. She heard:
‘Something inside you will change. A mysterious power will come your way.’
Melissa hurriedly interrupted ‘Would you say this is a good power?’
‘I cannot say, my dear girl. But the mysterious power will come over you. Nice or not. There is no avoiding it.’
Another man had entered the trailer and was fumbling while his eyes adapted to the darkness.
‘Goodbye now. And I wish you good luck. Be sure to use it wisely.’
Melissa tripped out of the trailer, confused. The daylight hit her and at once she felt she had wasted her precious money on mumbo-jumbo. She did not know what to make of the message. She tried to tuck it away in a corner of her mind, but it kept coming back to her. The gypsy’s words, over and over in her mind. What could they mean? Surely nothing at all. ‘Stuff and nonsense’ as her mother would have said.
Melissa got home happier than she had in a long time. The message kept flashing back to her. She lay down and fell asleep immediately.
Chapter 3: An Unusual Turn
It was late on a very dark night but still Melissa lay awake. She decided to turn on the lamp and read for a bit. It cast dark shadows across the walls. She tried the book she had picked up, and which Mrs. Phillips thought ‘special’. It was an old hardback with a blood-red cover. Melissa’s curiosity could not block out the feeling of nervousness inside her. Her heart fluttered, though she was unsure why. The book had been written anonymously. The edges of the cover were worn and revealed the design underneath. Melissa guessed it was a hundred or two-hundred years old. She peeked in but could not find a copyright page. It had a musty smell of a book rarely opened and thick yellow pages. She picked up the courage to open it and began to read.
It engrossed her. She read on and on as the night passed away but it made no difference to Melissa. Suddenly she felt something leave her body and jump into the book. She was stumbling along a narrow, dark passage till she found daylight.
‘I wonder where I am’ she muttered to herself.
Melissa noticed the familiar feeling of loneliness give way to a lightness. She became carefree as a child. She could do anything.
She was in a vast open field, a green grassy meadow. Walking along she came by a board that read:
She did not pay much attention to it, though she read it.
She found a little path that led down to a stream. The water looked so inviting she jumped straight in with her clothes on. The brook was bubbling and its gurgling sounded like laughter mixed with tinkling bells. When she got back out onto the bank she shook herself like a wet dog. Her floral skirt and bright orange top were darkened by their wetness.
She walked on till she came to a majestic tree, which was a marked ‘The Sacred Silent Sequoia.’
‘Hai ya!’ shouted a knight as he sprang out from behind the tree.
‘What are you doing in this land?’ he bellowed.
He had blonde wavy hair and sapphire blue eyes. He looked young and she could see his muscles. He was the wisest of all the knights, with a power to change his voice at will.
Melissa was not as shocked as you might have expected her to be. Ever since Melissa got to the new land part of her had been searching for someone who might show her the way back. Here he was, as she half-expected.
Melissa found herself speaking more quickly and more shrill than usual, when she said
‘I know not how I got here, in this strange and perhaps desolate land. I was reading a book and I happened to come through a narrow passage into here – the middle of nowhere. Perhaps you could be so kind as to tell me where I am.’
The knight looked taken aback. He said:
‘First, let me show you that this land is far from desolate.’
And saying this he snapped his fingers three times. All sorts of knights began to appear from behind other trees. Trees Melissa had not really noticed before. They were bowing and shouting out
‘Take this fair maiden and show her around’ commanded the first knight.
‘Yes, Sire!’ they said in unison with further sets of bowing.
The knights took Melissa with them to a large building. It was a tall, yellow, hotel-like mansion. They ushered her in and closed the door. Inside were just enough chairs around a small table and on the table was a mug of hot chocolate. The mug had ‘M’ written on it and they offered it to her. It appeared as if they already knew she was coming. Had they been expecting her? Had they been waiting? Melissa was surprised. Melissa was shocked. Slowly she grew very, very scared. She felt tense at the thought of what might come next.
Chapter 4: A Tough Choice
The knights told Melissa there was a ball that evening and she was invited. Melissa quickly agreed, hoping to discover the way out.
She arrived for the ball in a coach with one of the knights, Hermes. Melissa looked magnificent in a frilly white satin gown with delicate lavender and yellow flowers. At her back was a big lavender bow. She wore white kid-gloves. Her hair was drawn back tight at the forehead and pinned up on top in a large bun. She was not sure where these clothes had come from, she just found herself this way.
It was then she really saw the splendor of the place. A pale pink marble building all lit up by gold and silver lights. Hermes took her by the arm and led her gently up the steps to the main hall. Inside the walls were coated with gold paper. Silver chandeliers hung from the ceiling, dazzlingly bright. Each knight wore a white shirt with a butterfly collar and a stiff, starched white tie underneath a black vest with brass buttons. Their pants were black and cuffed up at the bottom. The sewn-on cuffs a silvery white.
She had a first dance with Hermes, who was a perfect gentleman. Other knights noticed her and tried to whisk her away. Until now the only maiden in the land had been their Queen. The knights were very glad to have someone else to dance with. Privately they found the Queen too large and heavy for this. Melissa was light and nimble and a perfect match for many a knight. She was being treated as a most important person, but it was all too much for her. She did not mention this to anyone as she did not want to hurt their feelings.
All of a sudden the King signaled for the orchestra to stop. Everyone became quiet and still. The wise-knight, Nicholas, stepped up and spoke:
“Personally, I think the young maiden here should go with the knight she favors. None of you should try any tricks to make her go with you. The knight she walks off with tonight will be the one to accompany her to the Tournament.”
Saying so, he stepped off stage. Melissa stood frozen in her spot. Her mind was spinning. She wondered why no one had told her this. The knights had been keenly watching for a sign as to whom she favored for the tournament. Melissa had not been aware of this fact.
The orchestra struck up again and dances resumed.
The ball lasted into the night and Melissa grew tired of all the attention. All eyes were on her and knights began to crowd around her as the time drew on. Melissa wondered how she would ever get out of this.
Abruptly she turned and walked fast, as quick as she could, to her coach, alone. She went back to the large yellow mansion on Alyssia Road and spent the night there.
At daybreak she was woken up by a loud announcement. There was something about the Tournament starting at ten o’clock. There was hustle and bustle down stairs. The Knights went on foot, so did Melissa. The grass was wet with fresh dew and a few drops came onto her footwear. She liked that.
At the field the knights lined up on either side of the field in two teams. Melissa knew this place, she had noticed the board announcing ‘Tournaments Here’ on the first day. And now she could read the rest in her minds eye, something about ‘Win the favor of a Maiden’. It donned on her that the Maiden must be her. She was their prize. She took a step back to steady herself.
At the stroke of ten a knave blew his horn three times to signal the Queen to drop her white laced handkerchief. The tournament began. Melissa heard the sound of steel clashing against steel and the loud din of the place. She tried to block out the noise by putting her fingers in her ears. She walked over the stands to the last and highest row to get as far away as possible. The King and Queen were seated in a small box-chamber high above the stands. It was made completely out of glass, with one large open window. They each had their favorite knights and cheered so loud they added to the din.
Melissa was quiet. Her mind raced. The side with more knights was announced the winner. Since Melissa did not know the teams by name she could not make out which knights had won. Nor did she care. She was just relieved the unrealistic din was over. She was entirely aware she had to find a way out soon or things would come to a head and she would have to choose a knight. She slipped out and walked to Silent Sequoia and walking round it she found a small door in the trunk of the tree. It had the same design as she had seen through the torn cover of the book. It was just wide enough for her to crawl through and it led her to a long dark passage, just like the one that had brought her to this land. It led to a huge cliff and she was like an eagle soaring high above it.
When she landed she was sitting up in her bed with the book still in hand. It felt unreal. She wondered if it were all a dream, yet it felt too real to be one. The thought crossed her mind whether she could now go in and out of the book at will. It was a big, exciting thought.
She noticed the clock. It was ten in the morning and nearly the last day of the month. Her rent would be due in a few days and Melissa had not even begun to find work to pay for it. This worried her. She must get down to it soon. But for now she had a little secret of her own to savor.
Chapter 5: A Sudden Friendship
As Melissa lay she thought about all that had happened. She thought about Hermes. She found that she liked him a lot by now. She liked his gentlemanliness and how he had never tried to boast.
A few days later at the library as she was sitting reading she felt someone standing beside her. Melissa looked up to see a tall young man, with dark brown hair, and brown eyes. He was looking at some books. Melissa liked the kind look in his face. Somehow she felt he would be friendly.
The man spoke: “Oh, Hi! I’m sorry, I did not notice you there.”
Melissa was glad he had broken the ice. It gave her a chance to talk to him.
“Hi!” she said shyly, and smiled.
He extended his hand and said “I’m Lester. Everyone calls me Les.”
She shook his hand, replying “Melissa Jennings.” It was a warm, fleshy hand.
“Melissa” he repeated.
“And which kind of books do you like?” he said peering at the work on her desk.
“Oh, mostly fantasy” said Melissa, blushing.
“I’m working on one right now and I’m stuck. I could really do with some ideas.”
Melissa felt Lester’s kindly nature deeply. She was surprised to like him so much. Something about him was familiar but she could not place it.
“Which part of the story do you need help with?” he asked.
“Umm…the part where the knights are all gathered up after the Tournament” she replied, fully expecting him to laugh.
Lester touched her lightly on the shoulder and said “I have to go now. But I’ll try to think of something. Keep at it.”
And he was gone.
Later that night Melissa found herself thinking about him. It was so unlike her to have spoken freely with anyone. She felt light. Part of her wondered if he had really been there. Could she have simply imagined him? Created him. She hated that thought. She wanted him to be real. Really real.
Life had suddenly taken a turn for the better. Since her arrival in America, for the first time she was truly glad. This was the America she had dreamed of She fell asleep and when she awoke the next day she was still thinking of him.
She had to meet him again. She knew so little about him. She hoped he would come to the library again. As soon as it was time for the library to open she set off. Turning the corner on Willycore Avenue Melissa saw him from behind.
She shouted out “Lester! Wait up!”
He did, and with a smile. She felt she had known him her whole life. And as he stood there, suddenly she knew. He looked so much like Hermes.
Chapter 6: A Fresh Beginning
“Hermes, Hermes, Hermes” said Melissa to herself, “Why does Lester look so much like Hermes?”
She decided to read on in the book, to see what became of Hermes. She thought this might shed some light on this strange similarity. She picked up the worn old book and started reading from where she had left off. She continued to read until suddenly she gasped. The pages at the end of the book had been ripped out completely. They were missing and she could not get to know the end.
At once she jumped into her jeans and a T-shirt and set off for the library to see if they could help. On the way she passed the local bookstore as always. A poster outside caught her eye. It read
Storytellers Needed for Ages 5-10
For a brief moment she wondered whether to go in now and delay her visit to the library. Then she squared her shoulders and walked in.
“Excuse me, it’s about the job posted outside” said Melissa in a low voice.
“Ah! I’m in luck” cried the shopkeeper “No one else has applied and it is the last day. I don’t see why it should not be you, young lady.”
He was a fat, jovial man with round glasses. He said she could do a trial run on Saturday and if it were satisfactory the job would be hers. Melissa thanked him and hurried on to the library.
She went straight to Mrs. Phillips and mentioned that the book was torn, the last few pages missing. Melissa had an eagerness in her look and in her voice.
“Could you please, please find them for me?” she requested.
Mrs. Phillips looked the book over and patted it like an old pet.
“I know this book. Quite a while back a young man had written it secretly. He would never show it to anyone. He died before he could finish it and left it to the library. He did not even put his name to it and it is still untitled.”
“You mean it has no end?’ said Melissa surprised.
“It never had dear” confirmed Mrs. Phillips. “ I would have told you the other day when I saw you check it out but somehow things moved too fast and I could not mention it in time.”
But Melissa was no longer listening to a word Mrs. Phillips said. She knew what she had to do. She was all charged up and she went straight home.
For the next five days Melissa did not venture out. Nor did she speak to anyone. Lester left her several messages but she did not get back to him. She sat at her desk writing. She wrote the rest of the book to the end. It came so easy to her for she could simply go into it and see what was going on and she wrote down everything she saw.
By Saturday afternoon it was done and Melissa felt relieved. She hastily called up Lester.
“Lester, I’m sorry. I got your messages. I had to do something.” She started out.
“Melissa! At last! I thought you did not want to speak with me anymore” Lester said.
“No, no,” she shook her head “Don’t get me wrong. I just had to do this. There is no time to explain now. But listen, I have taken up a job at the bookstore on Greenbriar Drive. I am doing storytelling at 5.30 today. Can you come?”
“I’d love to. And perhaps we could have dinner afterwards?”
“I’d love that,” she said “I have not eaten properly in days.”
Melissa went straight to the Children’s Section and she found a fair crowd of children waiting for her. She sat down on the lovely chintz chair and began to tell her story. She went from start to finish and they all sat mesmerized.
And that, dear reader, is the story you have just read. You can decide for yourself whether or not she got the job. In any case, she had found friends.
~ The End ~
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