what if the words in a book could take you to another place - literally?
Chapter Nineteen ~ Tasmin
For the first time in what seemed like ages, Tasmin’s life transformed from a potholed road to a smooth path.
She spent the rest of the weekend in her bedroom, practising with her abilities. She told Tori and her dad that she had ‘a heap of homework to catch up on’, and that they probably shouldn’t disturb her.
She cleared her entire bookshelf, and laid all of the novels on her bedroom floor in alphabetical order. And over the course of the two days, went through as many of the books as she possibly could.
‘As many of them as she possibly could’ turned out to translate into only about three or four novels. Being exhausted on Saturday, she waited until the afternoon to read a historical fiction novel. From three to about four thirty that afternoon, she was making friends with a boy around her age who, unbeknownst to him, would join the Australian Light Horse Brigade in only a year’s time.
On Sunday Tasmin continued her travels with renewed energy. She helped a young woman uncover the mystery of her parents’ death in London, England, and then joined in a dangerous escape from a kidnapper with a group of teenagers in a thriller novel.
Every time she fell into the words of a book, it got easier for her mind to slip into the story. She felt herself become more connected to the characters, become a part of the storyline. It was the most incredible feeling.
“So, Tasmin, how’s the homework going?” Tori asked her at the dinner table that night.
Tasmin pushed the pieces of broccoli around on her plate.
“Great,” she said. “Yeah, it’s going great.”
“You sure that a whole two days worth of homework isn’t a bit much for a girl in ninth grade? ‘Cause, honey, if it is, you should probably let your teachers know...”
“Dad - honestly, it’s fine. I got it done, right?”
“She hasn’t even been doing homework, Dad,” Michael sneered. “I looked in her room - she’s got all her books out on her floor - ”
Dang it.
“Really?” Tori said, her eyebrows shooting upwards.
“There’s nothing wrong with doing a bit of reading, Mike.” Her dad said.
“Yeah, but only weirdos have to take all their books of their bookshelf to read one book.”
“I was looking through them, Dummy.” I said, rolling my eyes. “To see what I wanted to read.”
“Did you finish that other book, sweetie?” Tori asked. “What was it again...ah, yes. The Fallen Star?”
“Oh...uh, no actually. It kinda got a bit boring.”
“That’s a shame. What book are you reading now?”
Tasmin thought for a second. If they knew she had been looking for a book to read all day, of course they’d think she’d found one.
“I’m reading one about a...a boy. A boy growing up in rural Queensland, who eventually joins the Australian Light Horse.”
“Historical fiction, then?” Her dad inquired. “Not a biography?”
“I’m pretty sure it’s entirely fiction.”
Tasmin wasn’t sure, but she thought she saw her Dad and Tori meet each others’ gaze.
“Do you mind if I take a peek?” Tori asked. “I love historical fiction, and Ive been looking for a good book to read for ages.”
There wasn’t any harm in giving it to her, was there? If she didn’t, it might come off as suspicious.
“Uh - sure! I’ll grab it after dinner,” Tasmin smiled.
“Awesome.” Tori smiled back. “I’ll give it right back after I’ve had a look.”
Tasmin sat cross-legged on her floor, staring at the books spread across her bedroom floor. Her gaze caught on a book with a shining cover, and large, cursive letters on the front. They read: A NIGHT TO REMEMBER.
She picked the novel up and began turning the pages, searching for the one chapter...the one page...
Aha! There it was. The page that had caused her First Time to occur. Tasmin took a deep breath, and began to read.
The man gazed into the princess’s shining eyes. They were like galaxies, and every star shone as brightly as the next, holding a story, a memory, inside. He feared that he had not even begun to explore those stars, that they were mysteries, waiting to be solved. Treasure chests buried deep within the sand, waiting to be discovered.
“Why didn’t you tell me about you being the princess?” He inquired. “My heart breaks when the thought that you did not trust me with this information forms in my fragile mind.”
“Your mind is far from fragile, dear friend.” The woman replied. “It is like stone, like a blazing fire, the flames unable to be put out. I did not keep this secret from you because I thought the weight could not be balanced on your shoulders - I kept it from you because I knew you were different.”
“How so?”
“For my whole life, I’ve been treated like royalty. And although it is most appropriate, as my bloodline suggests, I’ve hated it. I’ve hated it every second of every minute, every minute of every hour, and every hour of every day, and every day of all the seventeen years that I have lived. I have never had a companion like you - a person who I can call a friend. That word is foreign on my tongue. It always had been, ever since I was a little girl. I saw you that night, and you were so kind to me. You were so caring and gentle, just like a friend should be. You treated me like I was just one of those people on the streets of the market with you. And I realised...that was only because you didn’t know I was royalty. You treated me like an equal, not superior, and I loved that. I didn’t tell you because our bond was so special, so unique, and something I had never experienced before. I knew that if I told you who I really was, that bond would break in an instant. And it was too precious for that to happen.”
“That night...we were both running from something. I was running from my past, and I suppose you were running from yours. We were both different people that night. We were free. I was not longer working for that awful man, and you were free from the childhood that was taken from you so mercilessly.”
“Exactly. For when we look beneath the skin we were born in, we both have two beating hearts, their rhythm simultaneous. Our flesh and blood comes from the same place above this world, and our lungs breathe the same air. We are equal, you and I. Equal and compatible, no matter our differences. Those differences are nonexistent when we are together, just like they were that night.”
Tasmin felt herself drift away from her world, and enter a new one. She felt everything come into focus around her: the marketplace, the stalls, the peasants, the magicians, the children, running around in their nightwear, and the young couple who stood hand in hand, staring into one another’s eyes.
She felt their voices drift away as they walked, farther and farther into the distance. She sighed. This was beautiful. It was like entering a familiar world.
Suddenly, she heard a commotion from behind her.
“You ought’a be more careful, Miss! The village is busy at this time of night. People running ‘ere an’ there. It’s hectic!” Scolded and elderly woman. “Where’s your mother? You shouldn’t be ‘ere alone. All sort’s o’ people roaming these streets at night.”
“I - I’m sorry,” someone, who sounded like a young girl, 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!”
Tasmin couldn’t believe her ears. That dialogue sounded strangely familiar.
She spun around, and gasped.
A girl who couldn’t have been more than six or seven years old stood with an old lady towering over her. The girl was wearing nothing but a nightgown and a ring on her pinkie finger.
No no no, Tasmin thought, this doesn’t make any sense. Why is she here?
“Can I have that jacket?” Six-year-old Tasmin asked, pointing to an item of clothing hanging up in the stall. “I’m really cold, which is weird, ‘cause I’m in a dream, but my nightie isn’t very warm.”
You’re not in a dream, older Tasmin thought to herself. When will you realise that?
“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.”
Tasmin felt herself panic as she watched her past self bickering with the woman. Why was she still a part of the story? Shouldn’t she just disappear?
Tasmin felt herself slip away from the words of the book and return to reality, to her bedroom floor. She was gasping for breath, beads of sweat pouring down her face.
All of a sudden, realisation struck her like lightning.
When she went into her story to save Natalie, she was able to change it. When she came out of the story, the changed past had become a reality in the present.
Was it the same in a novel? Would younger Tasmin causing such a disruption in the flow of the story cause it to change?
Frantically, Tasmin looked down at the page of the book and scanned the words for signs of something that hadn’t been there before.
And then she found it.
She began to read, this time creating a block in her mind that enabled her not to slip into the words of the story. Her mind was exhausted anyway.
As the princess’s fingers slipped into the man’s, they began to walk away from the commotion of the busy marketplace. Just like they had escaped their past lives that night so many years ago, the couple walked away from a prison of voices, shouts, and swiftly moving bodies to a calm serenity they had never experienced before. Back at the market, a middle-aged man tried desperately to sell his goods to a passersby, claiming that he needed the money to save his only daughter. A group of children played games on the street to keep warm in the cool, winter breeze. And a young girl dealt a ring empowered with magical properties to an elderly woman for a coat and blanket to shield herself from the cold. The couple could, once and for all, escape a life of running and chasing for a still world, even if it was only for a night. A night to remember.
Tasmin sucked in a breath. That had not been there before. It wasn’t possible. She had changed the words on the page, changed what the author had written.
Just like she had changed what had happened to Natalie.
Tasmin grabbed the book about the boy joining the Light Horse off her bedside table, where the pile of books she had already entered lay. She opened up the front cover, and began to read, without actually going back in.
Toby didn’t know where the girl had come from. She didn’t know where she was going. All he knew was that he wanted to cherish every moment he could with her while she was still here.
She shut the book.
“Oh my God,” Tasmin said. She pinched the bridge of her nose to shield her mind from an incoming headache. “Oh no.”
She had changed the entire storyline. The book had become about her. She’d had nothing to do with it before, but then she had gone and messed up the story.
“Dang it,” she breathed, as she read on.
The book went on to describe how one day she had just appeared on the farm near the rural town in Queensland in which Toby and his family lived. It showed the mere two hours they spent together, with Toby teaching Tasmin how to ride a horse, showing her around the farm and the bond they created as the day went by.
It talked about how, when they were escaping from the scorching sun in his living room, collapsed on the sofa, she excused herself to go to the bathroom. The book had put every single word that Tasmin had included in the note she had left on the bathroom door that Toby found fifteen minutes later.
It went like this:
I should have been honest with you, Toby.
The truth is that my mum died when I was a kid, leaving me and Dad alone, to fend for ourselves I guess. We’ve been travelling in a little van-like thing we’ve had for years, moving around since then, stopping here and there to take a break. Dad finds work occasionally, and we might stay a little longer in certain areas than in others.
Dad and I were just passing through the area when I appeared at your front gate. He stopped the van, saying that he needed a break from all the driving. I went for a wander. I needed to stretch my legs.
I don’t know why I walked onto your property. I felt drawn to it. Like there was something in there that I needed, that I so badly wanted. And in reality, there was. Plus, I really needed to use your bathroom. It had been a long drive.
I shouldn’t be leaving like I am. I should tell you the truth. But I can’t. I’ve had my heart broken so many times by the bonds I’ve made with so many people along my travels, the bonds I’ve had to break whenever I left a town or city. I’ve run out of goodbyes. And I’m sorry.
I’ll probably already be in the van, driving up the bumpy drive back to the city by the time you read this. Dad will be worried sick.
I can’t say I know what lies in your future, but all that I know is that I wish I could be there every step of the way of whatever you choose to do with this brilliant life of yours. And I know you will go on to do something great.
But Toby, don’t do anything stupid. Please.
Best wishes,
Tasmin felt a tear roll down her cheek. She hated lying to him. She really did. She didn’t think she could ever read the end of the book - she didn’t want to know what Toby’s fate turned out to be.
Knock knock.
Tasmin spun around to face the door.
“Hello? Honey? It’s me, Tori.”
Oh no. She probably wanted the book! Tasmin had promised to give it to her after dinner.
“C-come in,” she said, searching frantically for an excuse inside her mind for not giving her the book.
Tori stuck her head around the door.
“Hey,” she said, smiling. “That book, you said you’d lend to me? I’d love to start it tonight.”
“Uh...” Tasmin started. Come on, come on! Think of something! “Actually...I, uh, can’t give it to you.”
“I just got to a really exciting part in the book. I kept reading after dinner, and it’s actually really good! Do you mind if I finish it first? I’ll give it to you straight after.”
“Umm...okay? Yeah, okay. Perfect, actually! Yeah, I’ll, uh - I’ll grab it after you’re done.” Tori looked at the book in Tasmin’s hands.
Tori shut the door behind her.
Tasmin breathed a sigh of relief, the weight of the world lifting off her shoulders.
But one thought stayed stuck at the back of her mind.
Tori knew something. She was suspicious. She wanted the book because she knew Tasmin was up to something.
But how? How did she know?
Tasmin didn’t know. But she knew that she couldn’t let Tori get ahold of that book.
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