what if the words in a book could take you to another place - literally?
Secret
CHAPTER
23
Chapter Twenty-Three ~ Tasmin
Tasmin nervously ran her hands through her tangled, hair as she stared out the window, looking onto her driveway and Tori’s parked Holden Astra. Where was he? He promised he would come by her place at three o’clock. It was now a quarter past.
“That boy of yours taking your time?”
Tasmin turned around. She smiled wanly.
“Yeah. He said he’d be here at three, Dad.”
“Don’t worry about it - it’s just a thing boys do. It doesn’t mean they like you any less, it’s just they have less awareness of others’ emotions.”
“That’s one way of looking at it,” she mumbled, turning back to the window.
“Come on, honey. Boys don’t stand people up on first dates at this age.” Her dad laughed and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Especially not girls like you.”
“Girls like me?” Tasmin said drily.
“What? You’re a beautiful girl, Tasmin Reynolds. You’re smart and funny and gorgeous. You’re...what do people say these days...ah, yes! You’re ‘the whole package.’”
“No one says that, Dad.”
“Sure they do!” Her dad came to stand beside her. “Anyways...are you going to get dressed anytime soon?”
“Dad,” Tasmin rolled her eyes. “This is what I’m wearing!”
“I know,” her Dad laughed. “I’m just kidding. You look great. I’m sure he’ll be here any second now.”
After her dad left the room, Tasmin looked down at herself. She was wearing skinny jeans, her favourite pair of high-top black converse and a collared chambray shirt. She cringed.
Making a split-second decision, all the while looking out the window to make sure Ethan didn’t come running up the driveway, she flung off her converse and shirt. She quickly ran to her closet and swiftly sorted through all her clothes. If their was any moment in her life when she wished she enjoyed shopping - this was it.
Tasmin tried to remember everything Natalie had tried to teach her about clothes, but there was nothing in her closet that seemed date-worthy. Finally she found a floral, above-knee-length, strapped dress that seemed perfect for the occasion. She tried to remember where she had got it from. Ah, yes. Tori had bought it for her as a gift for no particular reason.
Probably to get me to like her, Tasmin thought. She frowned. Maybe that was her plan all along. She knew I had my power, or curse, or gift, or whatever, and wanted me to gain her trust before she...before she does whatever she wants to do with me.
Tasmin sighed. She couldn’t jump to conclusions. Maybe Tori wasn’t lying after all - maybe she did just want to read the book about Toby. But Tasmin didn’t want to jump to conclusions.
After putting on the dress, she flung on her flip-flops. She didn’t want to seem overdressed, or allow Ethan to get the vibe that she took herself too seriously. Tasmin took her place at the window once again, just as a figure walked up the driveway. She felt herself have a small heart attack. She didn’t think she had been this nervous in all her life. No, scratch that - the only times she had been this nervous was when she had tried out her power.
The doorbell rang, and after taking a deep breath, she rushed down the stairs.
“Hi,” Ethan waved when she opened the door.
“Hi,” Tasmin replied. She couldn’t stop the huge grin that spread across her face, no matter how hard she tried. “Dad!” She yelled back into the house. “We’re going now!”
“Okay!” Her dad replied. She could hear his footsteps grow louder as he neared the front door. Oh no. He wanted to say hello to Ethan.
“Okay, time to go!” Tasmin grabbed her purse off the table and closed the door behind them in a hurry. She was certain she would die of embarrassment if her dad even opened his mouth near Ethan.
“You look amazing,” Ethan said as they walked down the pavement, causing a painfully obvious red glow to appear on Tasmin’s cheeks as she thanked him. “Sorry I took so long,” He apologised. “The bus was late and - ”
“You took the bus here?” Tasmin exclaimed.
“Yeah,” Ethan looked confused. “What’s wrong with that?”
“Oh, no, nothing,” Tasmin shook her head. “It’s just...whereabouts do you live? Couldn’t your parents have driven you? I would have picked you up if I’d known...”
“Uh...My - my parents were busy today. And I had some spare cash, so I thought I’d just take the bus. No harm done.”
“Okay,” Tasmin said, smiling. “So...you like the new school?”
“Yeah. It’s great.” He looked upwards as he spoke. “It’s very different from where I used to live.”
“Really? You mean Melbourne? How is it different?”
He shrugged, and stuck his hands in his pockets. “I dunno. I did a lot of travelling when I was little - my Dad was moved around a lot for his work, so we visited a lot of different places. And every place I would go to, I would keep this little notebook. And in that notebook, I would jot down all the things that were different from the previous place.”
“That’s cute,” Tasmin grinned up at him.
Ethan blushed. She could see that he was just as nervous as she was. “Anyway, I began to realise that it was difficult to point out each specific difference in each place - like, they all seemed to have a kind of feeling to them that was unique, rather than a dozen physical differences.”
Tasmin didn’t say anything. She didn’t want to stop him from talking. His voice was soothing, like harp being played softly, fingers lightly plucking each string.
“So instead of pointing out the physical differences, I wrote down the feeling of each place. And the way I described the feeling was...in colours. That probably makes no sense.”
“It makes a lot of sense,” Tasmin argued. “That’s very deep for a little boy.”
He laughed. “I guess it is. I have a lot of layers, Taz. The thing is, I seem to be shedding more layers as I get older, like a hole that is slowly being filled in, losing its depth.”
Tasmin linked her arm through his. “I’m sure that’s not true.” She spoke quietly.
He sighed.
“What colour is this place?” Tasmin looked up at him.
“Green. Like a dark green. The kind you would see in a forest.”
“That’s interesting.”
“Yes, I suppose it is. I mean, you’d think a city with so many buildings and concrete and whatnot would be a more...grey, I guess. But the vibe I’m getting is green.”
“That must be some kind of superpower,” Tasmin said.
“What?”
“Being able to see the colours. It sounds like a rare gift.”
“Or I could just be insane.”
They both laughed. Though it made Tasmin uncomfortable. Maybe her “power” didn’t exist at all. Maybe she really was going insane.
“I haven’t even asked where you’re taking me yet.” Tasmin realised.
“To be honest, I’m not quite sure myself.” Ethan grinned. “But I have a vague idea.”
They got on a bus, and although Ethan wouldn’t tell her where they were going, Tasmin knew it was a fair distance away, as the bus ride was about twenty-five minutes long. She didn’t mind, though. The longer the ride, the more they talked, and the more they talked, the more Tasmin began to like him.
“It’s kind of a crazy coincidence,” Tasmin said, after a while of talking.
“What?”
“That you came to my school the week after the party,” Tasmin said. “Don’t you think that’s crazy?”
Ethan looked...almost worried, she thought. Perhaps panicked.
“Don’t worry - I don’t think you’re stalking me or anything! I just thought it was a coincidence.” Tasmin reassured him. His face relaxed a little.
The bus stopped, the squealing of the brakes startling Tasmin. “This is our stop.” Ethan said, rubbing his hands together in excitement.
They walked off the bus and onto the street. Tasmin looked around. She was fairly sure they were somewhere on the outskirts of the city. The street was lined with huge trees, vines and overgrowth, and the houses were big. Tasmin closed her eyes - the air was damp, and it smelled damp. Somewhere in the distance, she could hear the songs of birds.
“The rainforest,” Tasmin realised. “I knew that there was a rainforest on the outskirts of the city, but...” Her voice trailed off. Half of the city was actually built on rainforest. When she was little, she remembered having a friend whose balcony overlooked vast expanses of forest. Industrial development had destroyed a lot of the forest, though, so you wouldn’t be able to buy a house near it unless you lived on the outskirts.
Ethan smiled. “Come on,” he said, and held out his hand. Tasmin took it as they walked up the sloping road and around a bend.
More houses came into view. They were mostly all very modern, but as she looked further up the road, she saw one that didn’t quite fit into place. “What’s that?” She asked.
“That,” Ethan said. “Is where we’re going.”
They reached the house, and Tasmin gulped nervously. It was huge, but old and worn. It looked as if, once upon a time, it had been a grand establishment, but over the years it had become covered in overgrowth and forgotten. Tasmin saw that, in the front yard, some kind of sign had been placed, but it was so overgrown with vines that it was unreadable. She walked over and began ripping off the vines and plants, until she could read the notice. For Sale.
“This place is for sale?” Tasmin asked incredulously. “Or, at least it was.”
“It’s been for sale for a long time,” Ethan explained. “The owners left it for some reason, and they tried selling it, but no luck. It just sits here now.”
Tasmin felt like this was a very strange idea for a first date - visiting an abandoned house. She wondered how Ethan knew so much about it when he had only just moved here. She asked him in a quiet voice.
“I did some research,” he said. “But this isn’t why we’re here. This isn’t our destination, this is just the gateway.”
They walked up the pavement and through the front door. They walked down the hallway, past the ghostly, empty rooms and to the back. Tasmin gasped. The back of the house was made entirely of glass. It looked as though the house had been situated on the top of a large hill. If you were to walk out the glass sliding doors and keep walking, you would have to go down a huge slope to get to the floor of the rainforest. The view overlooked the canopy of the forest, and beyond that, the coast. The beach was right past the forest, no more than what had to be half a kilometre away.
“The magical thing about this rainforest,” Ethan began. “Is that they are situated right along the coast. So you kind of get two in one - a rainforest, and a beach.”
“Wow,” Tasmin said. The view really was spectacular. She could spot the sun over the horizon, preparing itself to set.
“So,” Ethan asked. “Do you want to go?”
“Go where?”
“To the beach. Duh.”
Tasmin laughed. “Okay.”
They went outside, and saw a set of marble stairs that led down to the forest floor. Beyond that, a path had been paved that seemingly led to the beach.
They walked along the path, laughing and talking, until they reached the beach. It was almost completely deserted, but neither of them minded. They sat down on the sand, and Ethan brought out two cans of soft drink from his backpack.
They talked until the sun began to drop down, closer and closer to the horizon. Time seemed to go by more quickly by the minute.
“You know, that colour thing was really embarrassing for me to confess,” Ethan told her.
“Why? I thought it was beautiful.”
“But still. I mean, I’ve hardly told anyone about that.”
“Girls like a deep thinker,” Tasmin said, as she sipped her drink. Ethan laughed. “So if you ever want a girl to like you, tell her that. But don’t tell boys. They’ll probably think you’re a retard.”
“Do you have any deep, dark secrets?” Ethan wondered aloud.
Tasmin stared at him. “You’ll never know.”
He laughed again. “Really? Is that so?”
“Mmhmm.”
“Just tell me something. Different secrets require different people to listen to them.” He begged. “Plus, I’m a good listener.”
This time it was Tasmin’s turn to laugh. “Okay, okay. What do you want to know?”
“Anything. Something you haven’t already told me.”
“Well, duh.”
“Sorry.”
“Okay. Um. My mum died almost a year ago.”
There was a silence.
“Taz...” Ethan shook his head. “Taz, I didn’t know. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay.” Tasmin felt the tears threatening to spill from her eyes. “I’m sorry. I just ruined the moment.”
“No, no you didn’t.” Ethan put his arm around her.
There was another long silence. But it wasn’t an uncomfortable one. Some people say that you only know you’ve made a really good friend once you can sit in complete silence with them, and it not be awkward.
“That wasn’t really a deep and dark secret, huh,” Tasmin said. Ethan tried to interrupt, but she continued. “I guess I could tell you something else...”
Her pulse quickened. She could imagine her lips forming the words, the shock and disbelief on Ethan’s face, him thinking that she was crazy.
She almost laughed aloud. What would she say? Oh yeah. And by the way, I can read a book and go inside of it. How wicked is that?!
No. She couldn’t tell him. Not now, and maybe not ever.
They continued talking until the dreaded moment came when the sky began to darken. On the bus ride home, while Tasmin’s head was rested on his shoulder, Ethan said, quietly: “I’ve never met anyone like you, Tasmin Reynolds.”
“Ditto.” She whispered, and then smiling after he gave her a kiss on the head.
Sure, it was a weird date. But then again, Ethan was a weird person. And Tasmin was a weird person, too. So in the end, it didn’t matter that it was a weird day, because Ethan and Tasmin both had compatible and equal amounts of weirdness. And to Tasmin, it was the best day of her life because of that.

Keep Reading

Chapter 24

Chapter Twenty-Four ~ Tasmin

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