Monday, December 7, 2015

Into the Land of the Elves: Katie Messes Up

The Diary of Miss Aidyn Hall, friend and protector of the Jadeites
August 23
4:00 PM

Katie Messes Up

       I am currently lying face-down on the floor of what Apple Blossom calls “one of the spare rooms” (“Though we never use it for anything,” she had told me, “so I don't know what it's the spare for.”).
       I don't know what it's the spare for either. What I do know is that I'm going to remain here until I hate everything just a little bit less, and who knows how long that will be? This is usually the time of year when I take my annual summer retreat, so nobody's expecting to see me around anyway. But the usual feelings of contentment, serenity, and relaxation that come with the annual retreat are completely absent.
       Katie just had to go and run her gigantic mouth. The good news is that she only told Hannah and Janelle. The bad news is that she told them everything. I returned home from teaching Wildflower her letters the other day and was treated to about a thousand new text notifications the moment I turned on my phone. They were all from Hannah and Janelle, and they all said the same things: “Katie told me that you've been hanging out with, actual elves?” “What's the deal with this elf story Katie's been going on about?” “She says there are woods full of elves behind your house.” “This is a prank you and Katie are trying to pull, right?” “You have a picture of the elves?” “Can I see the elf picture that you showed to Katie?” There were stacks and stacks and stacks of that with a few missed calls mixed in, and I had to delete the entire threads to keep my message box from caving in. I saw so much red that it clouded my brain, and I paced in circles hollering every swear word and swear-word-laden insult I could think of. When I ran out of swears, I flopped myself down on the couch and texted Katie, bashing the touch screen so hard that I'm surprised it didn't break. I erased the text full of the swear words that I had just called her, erased another text that went into vivid detail on how she was the very worst person to had ever walked the Earth, and finally decided to get straight to the point: “WHY DID YOU TELL THEM?!”
       She texted me back immediately: “I'm sorry! It was one little slip that escalated out of control!”
       I could've sworn that my face was heating up and my ears were steaming like an angry Looney Tunes character. “TELL THEM IT WAS A PRANK!” I texted back.
      “I can't,” was her response. “It's too late for that.”
       I had to set the phone down and walk away from it to keep from smashing it in fury. Finally, I picked it up and texted, “We need to discuss this in person. GET OVER HERE.”
       When an hour passed with no sign of Katie, I figured that I would give her an extra thirty minutes—just enough time to figure out what to do with Hannah and Janelle's texts that continued to blow up my phone. As much as I would have preferred to, I couldn't remain silent; I had to initiate damage control, and I had to do it soon. The best way to handle this, of course, would be to tell them that it was a prank and that I couldn't believe they fell for it. But apparently it was “too late” for that. What in the world had Katie meant by that?
       So I opted for the next best course of action: I told them that we would talk about this later on. There, I had bought myself all of the time that I needed, because thirty minutes were not going to cut it.
       Katie didn't answer the first “where are you” text I sent. I made dinner. I watched TV. I browsed the web. I even scribbled out a little bit more writing when I could concentrate enough to do so. The next hour crept up on me. Still no Katie. My next “where are you” text went as unanswered as the first one. I called her and received no answer. I didn't bother to leave anything on the voicemail. “This is unbelievable,” I said, slamming my palm on the arm of the chair. She was avoiding me. Instead of facing the music, talking it out like an adult, and owning up to the fact that she messed up, she was going to hide away from it, like a five-year-old child hiding under the bed after breaking a window. Who knew what she was telling Hannah and Janelle now? They had stopped texting me entirely, and I had a feeling she was telling them something.
       I had to make one last-ditch attempt. I got in the car and made my way for Katie's place. She wouldn't avoid me if I showed up right at the door, would she? If she was really my friend, she wouldn't even think of doing so! She had to understand just how serious this was, right?
       I rang the doorbell and waited a full sixty seconds, timed by my phone's clock. There was no answer. There wasn't even any sound of her footsteps making their way to do the door. Her car in the driveway was the only indicator that she was home at all. I rang again and waited another sixty seconds. There was nothing. I wanted to yell for her and bang on the door, but I didn't want to scare her neighbors. I turned around and dragged my feet back to the car. Katie wasn't going to answer—not her texts, not her phone, not even her door. She was going to avoid the situation entirely, and for that reason, she was no friend of mine. Apple Blossom had been sorely mistaken. Katie was in no way, shape, or form a “nice human.” She was just like every other entitled, intrusive busybody of a human. I never wanted to see her lousy face again.
       I went to bed earlier than usual that night, and lay there musing over what to tell Hannah and Janelle. Finally, I decided that the best thing to do was to get the hell out of dodge. It was time for my annual summer retreat and they knew that, and if I wasn't around, then I wouldn't have to tell them anything. I would surely have something to say by the time I returned home. But I had been so wrapped up in my adventures with the Jadeites that I hadn't even thought about my summer retreat at all. None of my usual locations—a secluded campsite out in the woods, a well-kept hotel room with a view of the sea, a living history museum where I could journey through another century for a weekend—seemed like anything special or even desirable anymore. Any place full of humans seemed a most undesirable place indeed. Who knew just how many Katies were among those humans (and of course, there were plenty that were much worse than her)? I fell asleep with that on my mind, and my sleep was not very pleasant.
       During breakfast the next morning, I got the idea to stay in the Greenwood. It was simple; I would go into the Greenwood to visit Apple Blossom just like every other day, but not return home. I wondered if the king and queen would be all right with holding me up in the palace after I explained the situation to them—and then realized that I would be lucky to be allowed to sleep within thirty feet of the palace after explaining that situation to them. Still, I'd be all right with sleeping in a hole in the ground, so long as it meant that I could both hide away from Katie and quite possibly keep an eye out for any threats she might pose to the Greenwood. A hole in the ground, full of bugs and worms, was preferable to a world of humans that poked their noses where they weren't supposed to, no matter how many times you flicked that nose. I truly understood the animosity the Jadeites and tree elves had for humans, and I was entirely sure that the humans had provoked it.
       As it turns out, I got so much more than a hole in the ground. For the past two days, I packed and I prepared, just as if this was any other retreat. Consequently, for the past two days I had not gotten a chance to visit the Greenwood, and I hoped that Apple Blossom wouldn't be too torn up about it. I told everybody—friends, family, editors, and agent—that I would be going on a nature retreat, a very common vacation choice for me, and nobody asked me any questions. Even Katie, who had finally decided that I existed, simply said, “Oh. Have fun.” But I could practically smell the passive-aggression in that text.
       I made my way to the magnolia archway this morning, with only my carry-on bag, and found Apple Blossom waiting for me at the Grand Elder Guardian's web. “Oh, Aidyn!” she cried. “Where have you been? Wildflower's been asking for you all this time! She was worried that you might not come back, even though I kept telling her that you would never leave us behind. Have you been spending all of that time with Katie?”
       What happened next was completely unexpected, and I couldn't stop it once it started. I burst into tears, right in front of Apple Blossom. I sunk to my knees, buried my face in my hands, and sobbed. At that very moment, when Apple Blossom bounced on her toes and asked me where I've been, everything had caught up to me all at once: the texts, Apple Blossom's assertion that she now knew “two nice humans,” what Katie had done and my own role in it, the way she had avoided me, the trouble that the Jadeites had ended up in because both Katie and I had messed up...and now, disappointing Wildflower on top of all that. It was all just too much for me.
       I heard Apple Blossom cry, “Aidyn!” The next thing I knew, her arms were wrapped around my heaving shoulders. For a while, she just held me and patted me gently, then she grabbed me by the arm and helped me to my feet. “Come on, Aidyn,” she said, gently nudging me in the direction of the bridge. When I cry, my face turns beet red and my nose runs like a waterfall. I must have been a total mess, but of course, Apple Blossom didn't care. She patted me on the back and spoke to me as if I were the hurt and frightened child that I felt just like. “It's all right, Aidyn. I'll take care of you.” She held my hand as we crossed the bridge. By then, my sobs had diminished and my shoulders had stopped heaving so much. Apple Blossom took me by both hands and stood all the way up on her tiptoes—her way of trying to place herself at my level. “Tell me why you're crying, Aidyn.”
       I nearly said, “I can't.” But instead, I told her that I wasn't ready to. She accepted that answer and led me in the direction of the palace. The two of us were silent as we passed through the village of people that used to gawk at me at their doors and windows. Now, they accepted me as a regular occurrence. I knew I had to tell Apple Blossom something, and during the walk to the palace my mind fought for the right words. When we reached the palace gates, I said finally, “Apple Blossom, things aren't going so well in the human world right now.”
       “What's going on?” she asked, but I shook my head and she didn't ask anything else. She patted my hand and we went inside.
       She led me to this spare room and told me to stay here while she talked to her parents. I think that she expected me to use the bed, but she came back in while I was working through the middle of this entry and I was, and am, still on the floor (to be fair, it is a very comfortable floor). And to my incredible surprise, relief, and ecstasy, she told me that her parents are allowing me to stay here for a while. “This is really big, Aidyn!” she said breathlessly. “This is a first in Jadeite history, unless there's a bit of history that I missed. The harboring of a human in a Jadeite home—and the palace, no less—oh, this is revolutionary, Aidyn!”
         So I'm a part of something revolutionary, and right now I can't even be happy about it. 

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