what if the words in a book could take you to another place - literally?
Chapter Eighteen ~ Tasmin
When Tasmin woke up, the first thing she did was panic.
She couldn’t breathe. Her whole chest felt like it had been tightened into a huge knot, and her head throbbed like one side had been smashed into a giant hammer. She could hear her heart pounding in her ears like an African drum being played at the speed of light. Her hair was wet from sweat, and her whole body was shaking uncontrollably.
Tears began streaming down her face from exhaustion. Why was this happening? Maybe it was because she had been inside the story for so long...she didn’t know her power took up so much energy.
Tasmin began taking deep breaths. Calm down, she told herself. Stop crying or someone will hear you.
Suddenly, all of it came back to her.
Her being invited to come to Ashton’s party, her seeing Natalie and making up with her about the argument that lunch, her, Thalia and Natalie going to the party, her stopping Natalie from going with Conor, Ethan, her getting home and collapsing on the bed, and...that was it.
Tasmin looked down, onto her desk, expecting to see the wad of papers she had spent the whole night writing down the story about her, Nat, Thalia, Ashton, Conor and the car crash on. Only, the paper wasn’t there. Tasmin gasped. What did that mean? What had happened? How did the papers just disappear?
She stopped in her tracks.
It didn’t make any sense, unless...
Unless the car crash never happened.
Unless Tasmin had gone to the party and driven Natalie home instead of Conor.
Unless she never needed to write the story down because...
Because Natalie was fine!
Tasmin ran to her mirror. She was still in the same blue dress and the boots that she had worn to the party! She could see the mascara she had been wearing the night before smudged down her face from the crying.
She grabbed her phone off her bedside table, and frantically dialled Natalie’s number. Please, please answer. She held the phone to her ear and...
“Hello,” said a male voice. “Alfredo’s Italian restaurant and pizzeria, how can I help you?”
“Oh, uh - sorry, wrong number!” Tasmin quickly pressed the “end call” button, and looked at the pizzeria’s number. Ah. She had got one digit wrong.
She dialled the number again, this time making sure she had got it right. She pressed the phone to her ear again.
“Hey there, Nat speaking,” said a familiar, yet exhausted female voice.
Tasmin squealed with joy.
“Oh lord,” Tasmin said, tears streaming down her face for the second time that night. “Natalie, it’s you. It’s really you.”
“Tasmin?” Natalie sounded shocked. ‘Taz - what are you doing calling me at seven in the morning on a Saturday?”
“Seven in the...in the morning? Really?” Tasmin walked over to her bedroom window, and opened the shutters. A bright light filled the room.
“Yes, Taz. Really. And after last night? I’m so tired...”
“Of course! Why else would a pizza restaurant answer its phone?” Tasmin said.
“Excuse me? A what?”
“Never you mind. Oh, I’m so sorry for calling you, really. I...I just had a dream. A really, really bad dream.” Tasmin said. It was the truth.
“A dream?” Tasmin could imagine Natalie shaking her head in disbelief.
“Yes. And I’m going to hang up now. But before I do...I need to ask you something, Natalie.”
“Are you okay?”
“I said are you okay?”
“So...can I hang up now?”
“I hereby give you permission to hang up on me.”
“You are such a dork.”
“I know.”
Tasmin grinned as she heard the phone make a beeping noise.
“Daddy,” Tasmin whined, pulling on the sleeve of her father’s shirt. “You promised you’d read to me tonight.”
“I’m sorry, honey. I have to do some work tonight. Why don’t you get Mummy to read to you?”
“Because Mummy doesn’t know how. Only you can read it proper.” The six year old crossed her arms and poked out her bottom lip.
“Well then you’ll have to wait until tomorrow night, Taz. Come on, off to bed.”
Being in her first year of school, she hadn’t been able to read anything other than picture books fluently. Her father, every night, had read to her a chapter book. as she wasn’t confident enough in reading to read to herself. Every night, she would look forward to their precious hour of reading.
“Fine!” Tasmin stormed off, and climbed into bed. Her father kissed her goodnight, followed by her mother, who tucked her in and switched off the light as she walked out the door.
After she could hear her parents talking downstairs, Tasmin crept out of her bedroom and into the hallway outside. Using a chair, she grabbed the novel off the shelf outside her room, and hurried back inside.
She looked at the front cover. A Night to Remember was the title. The book was set in a fantasy world, in a medieval-like period of time. It was about a little orphan boy who had worked for a nasty man as a servant his whole life, but then one night runs away from the man, taking some of his money with him. He meets a little girl on that same night, and she tells him that she has run away, too, although she doesn’t tell him where she has run away from. She disappears in the morning, and they never see each other again. They boy travels around, and soon grows into a young man. He makes a living out of trade, selling things that he makes in various villages and cities. Then one night, exactly ten years after the night he ran away, he finds himself back in the same town he was in the night he met the little girl. And there he meets a young woman. Once she tells him her name, the man recognises her as his friend who he had met that night when they were children. They fall in love, but she then tells him that she is the princess, and her father has bethroved her to a prince in another kingdom. And that was all her and Tasmin and her dad had got up to.
Her Dad had given her the book for her birthday at the start of the year, telling her that it had been her mother’s book when she was a little girl. They had read the book every night since then, one page at a time, her father explaining every word Tasmin didn’t understand, doing all the voices of every character. She opened up the book to the page where the little bookmark she had made her father in preschool sat, wedged between the yellowing pages.
And then she began to read.
She could read almost fluently, her tongue silently forming the words as she read. The many nights of scanning the words at a snail’s pace at taught Tasmin all she needed to know. She felt herself be enveloped by the words, her mind processing every letter, every sound, until she could see the images of the characters and their surrounding so clearly in her head.
She could hear their voices, just the way her father had made them sound. She could see the way they walked, the way they talked. She could see every detail of the setting of the story.
Soon, it felt as if she was a part of the story.
She was walking through the marketplace of the town, and she could see the man and the woman, walking hand in hand, laughing with one another. They looked exactly as the book had described them - the woman’s beautiful, golden locks and sparkling grey eyes, the man’s cleanly shaven face and old, worn clothes.
Tasmin felt herself shiver from the cold as a cool breeze blew through the village. She looked down at herself, and noticed that she was still wearing her nightgown. She wrapped her arms around herself, and continued to walk through the marketplace.
I must be dreaming, the little girl thought. Dreaming of the story. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to feel the cold. But she couldn’t recall ever falling asleep.
She suddenly bumped into someone - an elderly lady, who frowned down at Tasmin.
“You ought’a be more careful, Miss! The village is busy at this time of night. People running ‘ere an’ there. It’s hectic! Where’s your mother? You shouldn’t be ‘ere alone. All sort’s o’ people roaming these streets at night.”
“I - I’m sorry,” Tasmin apologised. “My Daddy wouldn’t read me my book, so I had to read it myself. But it’s okay - nothing can happen to me, I’m in a dream!”
The woman looked very confused. Tasmin noticed that she was running a stall that sold various items of clothing. She pointed to a jacket that was hanging on the table.
“Can I have that jacket?” She asked. “I’m really cold, which is weird, ‘cause I’m in a dream, but my nightie isn’t very warm.”
“I...uh, I suppose so. Yes,” the woman replied. “Do you have any money?”
“I’m six years old, lady. Mummy and Daddy don’t give me pocket money until Friday, and then I only get two dollars. I spent last week’s two dollars on a packet of lollies, ‘cause I owed Nat some monies, but Thalia said that lollies are better than monies, so I gave her lollies instead. But why do you need money anyway? This is a dream.”
“If you don’t ‘ave money, then you can’t ‘ave the jacket. And that’s that.”
“Tasmin thought about this, and looked down at her hand. “Oh! How ‘bout this ring?” She handed the woman a small ring that she had taken off her right hand. “Thalia, Nat and I all have one - it’s a mood ring, but it says “friendship” on it, ‘cause we’re all besties.”
“You’re all what?”
“Besties. It’s like saying “best friends forever”, just shorter. Everyone knows that. Anyway, it’s a mood ring, so it changes colour according to your mood. It’s pretty cool. Like magic.” Tasmin explained in a very matter-of-fact way.
“Yeah. So can I have the jacket now?”
“If this ring has magic in it...I could make a fortune of it!” The woman exclaimed, followed with a cry of joy. “You can have the jacket, of course, young lady! Here, take this blanket, too.”
“Thank you,” Tasmin sang, taking the jacket and the blanket. She put the brown jacket over her shoulders, wrapped the blanket around her like a shawl, and proceeded to continue wandering through the village.
“Tasmin!” There was someone knocking at her bedroom door. “Tasmin Reynolds! Time to get up, it’s almost two o’clock.”
She groaned at the sound of her father’s voice. Her whole body ached, especially her head. She opened her eyes, and groggily sat up in bed. She must have fallen asleep after calling Natalie. She smiled at the thought. Natalie. She was okay. She couldn’t believe her plan had worked!
Tasmin walked out into the hallway and into the bathroom next door.
“Nice to see you’re alive, Sleeping Ugly!” Michael called out to her from his bedroom. “Wait a second - no, it’s not.”
She rolled her eyes. She didn’t even have the energy to tell him how bad his insults were.
Halfway through her shower, Tasmin remembered her dream. Her memory, about A Night to Remember. She remembered how, as a six year old girl, the confusion about how she had woken up from the “dream” with the brown jacket and the blanket that smelled of milk gone bad, and without the mood ring on her finger.
She remembered it like it was only yesterday.
That had been the First Time.

Keep Reading

Chapter 19

Chapter Nineteen ~ Tasmin

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