“Good afternoon class.” Mrs. Menthe smiled, sounding even more chipper than usual. It was her normal tone, but with about an extra pound of sugar sprinkled on top, which meant only one thing. She had something planned for us. Something we probably weren’t going to like. “As you know, we are coming to the end of term. Which means it is time for your final projects.”
The entire class groaned in unison, papers and books causing all kinds of a ruckus. “I know. I know. You were hoping I had forgotten, but unfortunately for you, I didn’t. Now, would any one like to volunteer to help me pass out your packets?”
The class sat in a collective silence, myself included. As much as I liked to help, I hated walking around the class while everyone else stared at me. It never failed, that I would trip over absolutely nothing, or knock a pencil or something worse off someones desk. I looked around the room, and everyone seemed to be doing the same thing. Looking at some speck on the celling or investigating that one suddenly interesting page of their text book for the 30th time.
“Okay. I guess I will pass them out myself.” She growled, opening the flap on her bag and rummaging through until finally locating her stack of papers. Walking around the class, licking her fingers to ensure sure they were separated, she passed out a packet to everyone in the room. I slid the paper closer to me and skimmed the top of the page. “Please do not open the packets just yet.” I slid the packet towards the front of the table again. I did however catch the “10 page report and oral presentation” before doing so and felt my stomach immediately turn inside out.
“Now before you freak out on me, let me tell you, this will be a group project. You have been assigned into groups of three, you will be presenting together as a team, but all three will be submitting their own reports. I have in the past given you the option to choose your groups, this how ever will not be one of those times. The class groaned even louder, but Mrs. Menthe chose ignore it. “Heart if you would please read off those teams.”
“Sure.” Heart scrolled a bit with the mouse, squinting slightly at the screen. “Alright. Group one. Your topic is Twizzlerbrook, and your team will consist of, Ferra Essence, Seance Chiffon and Penny Delight.
“Looks like it’s me and you buddy.” Ferra grinned.
“And me!” Penny called from across the room.
“Yes, and you.” Ferra added.
I looked over to Seance, I think his mind was still on the 10 page report, because he hadn’t said word and that definitely was not my brother. Ferra poked him. “Dude. Wake up.”
“Whuuu?” He finally mumbled.
“Looks like you, me and Penny will be digging up the Twizzlerbrook dirt.”
“Are you even with us today?”
Their conversation continued on, as the second group was announced. “Group two. Your topic is Sugar Valley. Your team is, Matrix Shiloh, Tapestry Prim and Wisteria Chiffon.” I felt my heart drop. I shot a forlorn look to Cerese, she looked just as disappointed. “Better luck next time.” Cerese moaned.
Matrix shot a gaze to Tapestry. “Well this should be interesting…”
I shook my head in agreement. He could say that again.
“Group three. Your topic is Fondant Fields, and your team is Frost Fizzle, Jellop Drizzle, Rhapsody Twistycone.”
Jellop leaned in a little too close to Rhapsody. “Did you hear that! You and I get to work together on this one! My dreams are finally coming true. Can you feel it Rhap? Can you feel the love?”
Rhapsody closed her eyes and pretended to be asleep, fake snores and all.
“I totally think she feels it.” Frost teased.
“What ever. She will come around eventually.”
“Uh huh. You keep telling yourself that Jell.”
“Which leaves our last group, the Briocheport group. Shark Calypso, J. Jelly. and Cerese Cloudburst.” Shark gave a wide toothy smile. “Looks like I got all the smart ones.” He gloated. “This project is in the bag.”
Penny clapped in agreement. “Ya! Wait, what? You don’t think I’m smart?”
“Oh Penny, I don’t think, I know.”
I involuntarily cringed. That boy had no tact whatsoever.
“Wonderful. Thank you Heart.” Mrs. Menthe beamed. “Now that the groups have been assigned, we can discuss how this will go. As stated before. you have been assigned a city of semi local origin. The reason for this being, you are going to have a find a way to get to your designated to city, to study at their local library. The archives here at the school will not be thorough enough, and you will need to find a topic, something that you feel is not common knowledge. Perhaps an urban legend, or some other type of native folklore. You are going to have dig deep on this one. Now seeing that most of you drive, I do not see the distance as a problem.”
Tapestry whispered to Matrix. “I think you’re gonna have to drive, unless we want my parents to do it.”
Matrix whispered back. “Ya, no. I think we are good.”
Scribbling on the outer edge of my paper,I did my best to listen to the rest of the instructions as well as our after school plans. “I think we should have a meeting at the buzz. See when would be best for all of us.” I shook my head from the front row. “Alright. See you both then.”
So after school, we all piled in Matrix’s car and headed over to the Buzz. We figured since we were going to be spending the next month together anyways, we might as well get use to the idea. I offered to buy our first round of drinks, while we discussed a little bit better, how we were going to work everything out.
“Okay. So we have a few options to start with.” Tapestry stated opening his note pad. He kept squinting at the paper, but when either of asked about it, he said he was fine. “We could go with an urban legend, or maybe once we get there, we can find something a bit more juicy.
“I think we should hold off on deciding until we get all of our information…” I paused, poor Tap was struggling again. “There is probably something really good just waiting for us. Tap are you sure you are alright?”
“Yes. I’m fine. The lighting in here is just making it a bit difficult to read.”
“Would you like me to do the recording?”
“No. I got it. Now, what date works best for you Matrix? It will probably be easier to work around your schedule, since you are driving and all.”
Matrix didn’t even have to think about it. “Saturday.”
“Alright. Does Saturday work for you Wisteria?”
“Fine with me.”
“Great. Then Saturday it is.” Tapestry scribbled something down in his notes, but it was so sloppy I could hard read it from across the table.
We spent the rest of the afternoon discussing what we could. There really wasn’t much we could talk about really, until after our trip to Sugar Valley, so the conversation started to veer a little bit more into the daily dramas of Huckleberry High. Surprisingly for as quiet as he was, Tapestry was quite up to do date on the goings ons about the campus. Even more so than Matrix and seeing that he was on the football team, I was kind of surprised by that also. Our conversation lead us outside, where Tapestry and I were about to take off on our walk home. We hadn’t even made it two steps when Matrix called after us.
“Hey, do you guys want a ride?”
We both thought about it for a second and then started in the direction of Matrix’s car. “Sure thanks!”
“No problem.” He smiled.
That next Saturday I was up and out of the house waiting for Matrix and Tap. at 6:30 Am… I looked around the yard, how was the sun even out yet!? I could feel my eyes drooping, threatening to slam shut. Ughhhh was it even possible for the sun to be so bright, so early. I let out a horribly loud yawn, which caused a couple birds in the near by bushes to flutter away. “Woops, sorry guys.” I yawned again.
I stood on the porch for a good fifteen minutes, and still there was no sign of Matrix or his car. I walked a couple of times out to the street to see if I could see them coming up the hill, since there is only one way to my house, but the street was completely dead. I could still be sleeping right now, I thought to myself.
Suddenly my pocket started to vibrate. I was pretty sure it was him, so I pulled my phone from my pocket, rubbed my eyes, and read the screen.
On R way. B there soon.
I slid the phone back into my pocket, all I could do at that point was wait, so I sat myself on the porch swing and watched for his car to come into the drive. They must have been like a block a way, because no sooner had I sat down, his car pulled up. They both looked as chipper as I felt. Tapestry opened the passenger door and hopped out. “Morning Wisteria.” He grinned sleepily, offering me the front. “Morning.” I smiled back, sliding into the now vacant seat.
“Wow. This is so interesting.” Tapestry remarked, thumbing through the pages of Sugar Valley Diary V:27.
”Seems there is a lot of stuff in here about your family Wisteria. Well I assume it is your family. The Chiffon name has a lot of history here.”
“Perfect!” Matrix clapped his hands together. “Then it’s settled.”
“Whoa whoa whoa. I am so not okay with this.” I shook my head in disgust.
“What why? We could get information so much easier.”
“Ya but it’s my family… It’s personal.”
“She’s right.” My head whipped around to Tapestry.
“Ya. The more I read. It seems this Chantilly Lace Chiffon. She got herself into a bit of trouble. Well actually a lot of trouble…”
“What?” I pulled the book from Tapestry’s hands. “Let me see that.”
I skimmed through the pages, there was indeed a lot about my great great great great, well you get the idea, grandmother.
“The darling of Sugar Valley’s rein came to an abrupt end, when her alleged affair with another affluent member of the community came to light. Merlot Pinto Noir had always been known as a bit of a playboy, but everyone had assumed he had changed his ways after his seemingly happy marriage to his wife Fairy Floss. The rumors only swirled more, as Merlot’s obsession with Lacey grew. Unconfirmed sources had alleged he had even built a shrine in her honor. This was proved later to be false, no shrine was ever discovered, and the two inevitably went their separate ways.”
I closed the book. “I can’t read any more of this.”
Tapestry nodded in a slow and understanding motion, as he slid another book off the stack. The print was much smaller in this one and poor Tap was starting to squint at the pages again. “Ugh hold on one second.” He groaned. Pulling a case from his pocket, he opened it to reveal a rather new looking pair of glasses. He slid them on his face and I squeaked. “You got glasses!
“Ya…doctors say I need them for reading.”
“Well they look very nice on you. They make you look quite distinguished.”
“Thanks.” He started to skim again. “This might be something we can all agree on. Four teenagers claimed to have found a girl who fell from the sky.”
Matrix quirked an eyebrow. “Say what?”
Well it seems very similar to story I use to read as a kid, but I had no idea it was based on actual events.
“Oh ya.” Matrix cupped his fingers to his chin. “I think I remember that story.”
“Me too.” I added. “There was an evil troll who kidnapped her. Right?”
“Yes! Only here it says, he was a scientist.”
“An evil scientist.” Matrix teased, adding an eerie oooo to his voice.
“Well, I don’t think a non evil one would have kidnapped her right?” I grinned.
“So do you think there is enough information on it for us to use it?”
“Definitely. There is like five different tellings in this book alone. We could discuss all the different variations, maybe interview a few townies, to see how the story has evolved over the years.
I sat back in disbelief. “Wow Tap you are really smart!.”
“Ya dude. This is cool. So what do you want me to do?”
“Well… *ring ring* Oh hang on a second.” Tapestry’s phone started to ring, so he got up from his chair and walked just a bit a way from us.
“I told you already. I am in Sugar Valley with my my study group.”
“Yes I did.”
“No, I’m not back-sassing you. I told you.”
“Mom!” Completely embarrassed, Tap lowered his voice even more, but I was still able to catch most of it.
*sigh* “Fine. Ya. Alright.”
Tap walked back to his chair, mortification furrowed into his eyebrows. “So.” He laughed nervously. “That was my Mom… Apparently she doesn’t remember our talk last night about this… and she is on her way to come and get…me.”
“Oh no. Are you in trouble?”
“No. I just have to wait here.”
“Tough break dude.”
The three of us sat in silence after that. Poor Tapestry was completely mortified, and I felt so bad, I didn’t know what else to say really. About an hour later, Tapestry got another call from his mother, this time she was waiting outside. Tapestry stood from his chair. “I’m really sorry about this guys.”
“I think we got some good information anyways.”
“Ya… well see you guys at school.”
After Tap had gone, Matrix and I turned to each other. “Now what do we do?”
“Why don’t we drive around town for a bit, I have never been here before, or if I have, it has been a really long time.”
“Ya, alright. Sounds good.”
The sun was warm as we made our way to Matrix’s car, warm but comfortable. Much warmer than Twizzlerbrook. Of course being an ocean side town, it was no surprise really. We started to cruise through the small streets, adorable little beach town buildings stretching as far as the eye could see. “I definitely could live in a place like this.” I smiled, watching a small stretch of houses zoom pass my window. We started up the hill at the center of town. The houses were getting much larger and much older as we traveled further up.
We came around the bend, and a large brown house came into view. I threw my hands on the dash.
“Stop the car!”
“What right here?”
“Yes!” I pressed more urgency into my tone. “Please. Right here.”
“Alright.” Matrix, slowed the car to a stop, and I opened the door and hopped out. Not sure what else he should do, Matrix stepped out as well. I heard his car door shut, as I ran across the empty street. The house was huge, deep golden brown hues. Unlike anything I had ever seen before, except I could have sworn I had.
“Do you know the people who live here or something?” He asked, catching up to me.
I tilted my head a little to left, hoping a different angle might offer me a better perspective on why I had wanted him to stop in the first place. “No…At least I don’t think so.” I muttered under my breath. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something about the house seemed so familiar.
“It is.” I replied stepping further into the yard. “I’m sorry this will only be a minute.”
“Explain to me again, why we are here?”
“I don’t know.”
“Oh, well that’s good. Glad to know we are traipsing through someones bushes for nothing.”
I shot him an apologetic glare. Everything about the place felt like home. Only how could it, when I had never seen the place before in my life. The bushes sprinkled through the garden, the ivy climbing up the walls. I knew this place. But how?
I walked closer. There in the far corner of the yard was a waterfall sculpture. For some reason, I started walking right towards it. The sound of trickling water continuing to grow in volume as I made my approach. With each step I took, I could feel a squeeze on my heart, yet for some reason, I pushed myself to keep moving in closer. I wanted to yell out. I have seen this before! But I knew I had not. Standing next to the large statue, I placed one hand upon it’s now, warmed by the suns, surface. The moment my fingertips grazed the marble, I felt a stabbing pain in my heart. My knees started to buckle and I held on to the edge for dear life.
“Okay… I am starting to get a little freaked out here.” Matrix called out across the yard. “Can we go please, before you pass out, or someone calls the cops?”
“Right. I think we should… definitely go.” Once I had estsblished my footing again, I jogged across the yard to meet up with Matrix and then we both headed to his car. Sitting once again into the passenger seat, Matrix hopped in the drivers side. Before turning on the ignition, he shifted in his seat to look at me. “You alright?”
“Back there, it looked like something happened.”
“Oh.” I nodded. “Yes. I’m fine.”
But I wasn’t fine. In fact I was far from fine, something happened to me that day, and even hours later, when we were sitting at a lovely outside diner on Peppermint Pier, I could still feel it. It was like I dug right into a nerve I didn’t even know was there. It hurt. A horrible awful hurt in my heart, and not the “oh wow I think I am having a heart attack” kind of hurt, emotional…hurt. I didn’t have much to say after that. My mind was a vortex of incomplete fragments, I kept having thoughts, thoughts that I could have sworn were not my own. I looked over to the ocean, splashing up on the sandy beach, suddenly I wanted to be as from away from the water as possible.
“You sure you aren’t hungry?” Matrix asked with a huge bite of hot dog still in his mouth. “This is really good.”
I looked at the bun and sneered without realizing it. “No. Thanks. I had a big breakfast.”
“You sure. It’s been hours. Let me buy you one.”
“No. Thank you.”
“You shouldn’t worry so much you know.”
“I don’t worry.”
“I think you do. And you shouldn’t. You are very pretty.”
Now that caught my attention, I felt my cheeks flush. “You think I’m pretty?”
“Sure I do. Because you are.”
“Wow. I don’t know what to say. Your girlfriend probably wouldn’t care to hear that.”
“Oh, she knows I have friends who are girls, I can’t help it if they are attractive.”
I giggled. “I guess we all have our burdens to bear.”
Whether I wanted to admit it or not though, I was getting hungry, but for some reason, I wasn’t ready to leave just yet, and hanging out with Matrix was a lot more fun than I was imagining it would be. My stomach though, was about to turn inside out. “We should probably head back soon.”
“Sure. No problem. Whenever you are ready.”
My tummy gurgled again extra loudly. “Yup definitely ready.”
We conversed comfortably all the way back into town, until we pulled up to my house. Suddenly things got really awkward and quiet. “Well thanks for taking us today.”
“Sure. Anytime… I had fun. “
“Have a good evening.” I opened the car door, and got out. I was just about to close it, when Matrix started to say something else. “Wist?”
“Ya?” I leaned over the frame.
“We should hang out again. I had a great time with you.”
“Oh, well. I don’t know. Your girlfriend probably wouldn’t like that.”
“Just as friends.”
“Right. I figured that much.”
“Well maybe, I will call ya later?”
“Bye.” I closed the door. That was weird…
Thankfully the effects from what ever I did on that strangers lawn that day, started to dissipate after only a few days. I would have freaked if I had to feel that frenzy all the time, it was quite a relief to find it was only temporary. Things all over the place began to normalize. Our project was going well. Tapestry managed to get it through his mothers head, that he would be in and out for several weeks and he never had to go through that embarrassment again. Matrix did call a couple of times just to chat, and we started talking regularly online, about project work as well non school stuff. We were becoming pretty close friends, which was fine by me, I loved having a large group of compatriots.
It seemed I was getting a lot closer with Sandy as well. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say Sandy and Seance were becoming closer, I was just the given excuse, when it came to telling her parents where she would be staying the night. It honestly didn’t bother me. She was a lot of fun to hang with, even if I was the third wheel.
“Dude. Are you even trying?!”
“No, you just suck.”
“Oh burn! She got you good Seance.”
“Shut up Af!”
Three controllers, plus four people, meant one person was always sitting out, namely me. Again I didn’t care, Affair got too out of hand when he didn’t get to play, so I much preferred to sit and watch. Of course I did however have to put my two cents in every once in a while. “I am gonna have to agree with Sandy one this one Se. That was just… sad.”
“Oh ya! You wanna show me how its done?” Seance asked handing me the controller.
“No.” *ding dong* “No I think I prefer to watch you get your butt kicked.”
“Wisteria dear!” Mom called from the front door. “It’s for you!”
I hopped from the couch. “Coming!”
Boy was I shocked to see Matrix on the other side. “Matrix?”
The look on his face, told me this was not good visit. “What wrong?”
He shook his head. “She dumped me.”
“What?” I closed the door behind me, closing out a loud “BUUUUUurn” as I did so. “Why?”
“I don’t know. She said it wasn’t working any more.” His voice started break up. “I thought she and I were going to be together forever.”
“She… how could she. I asked her to give us another chance, but she said no. Why would she do that? Why?” He dropped his face into his hands. I don’t think he was actually crying, but he was pretty darn close to it.
“Oh Matrix… I’m so sorry.” I placed a hand on his arm to try and comfort him, but I knew there wasn’t much I could do, I knew where he was, all too well.
“Would you like to come in?” I could make us something to drink. Coffee maybe?”
“No. I should probably go.”
Before I had a chance to say another word, he pulled me into a hug. “Thank you for listening. Could you do me a big favor though, could you not tell anyone about this? I don’t think I am ready to talk about it with everyone just yet. I just needed to talk to someone, and you, well I trust you, a lot.”
“Thank you. You are a true friend.”
I went back inside. Strange days only getting stranger, I thought to myself, as I took my seat on the couch again. “Who was that?” Sandy asked.
“Huh? Oh it was Matrix.”
“Oh? What the berry did he want?”
“Oh you know this project is going to be death of us all.”
“Oh right. I forgot about that.”
Whew nice save. After that the conversation floated back to Seance’s inability to keep his health bar filled and I seemed to be in the clear, only thing was, I couldn’t help but wonder, why on earth did Matrix come all the way out to see me, when he could have just called me on the phone…