Mavis turned her head ever so slightly so that her ear was out of the pillow. Was it Linda again, thinking that no one would hear her trying to call her dad for the three hundredth and forty ninth time? No, Linda always sounded like she was crying and this voice sounded happy. Happy! It was probably Grandpa, catching Roger having a slice of the chocolate cake that Grandma had made that afternoon. Mavis hadn’t eaten any of it, but she had smelled it, and if she had been Roger, she would have wanted another piece. But she had heard when Roger had gone up the stairs to bed and she hadn’t heard him come back down.
“Mavis,” said the voice, as clear as day. Her heart skipped a beat. It was First Voice.
“Mavis...wish...better,” said First Voice, obviously doing something that made her voice come in and out.
A deeper voice responded, a voice Mavis didn’t recognize but instantly liked.
“I know it is dangerous,” said First Voice. “But think about what might happen if I don’t?”
Mavis realized that she was sitting up, straining to hear. But she still couldn’t make out what the other voice was saying.
“Of course you could forbid it,” said First Voice. “Do you think…”
There was a crash above, like someone had run into a wall, and then there was an excited thud on the stairs. Roger came tumbling into the living room, trying to take the last four stairs in one go, missing them all, and failing to stick his landing. He wasn’t down long enough for Mavis to even blink. “You’ll never--”
“Shush!!” hissed Mavis. “The kitchen.”
Roger’s reaction was immediate. Like the curious dear he was, he snuck to the corner and furtively looked around it. He came back with a confused look on his face. “There’s no one there, Maves.”
“But I heard them!” cried Mavis.
“An old voice and a new voice. They were in there, I know it! I could hear them. They were talking about me!”
Roger’s eyes grew. “Awesome.”
Mavis cocked her head at him. “Why did you even come down here?”
Roger slapped himself lightly in the forehead. “I haven’t shown you! Look! It was under my pillow!”
It was a ticket printed on beautiful parchment, the letters in gold ink.
“No way,” breathed Mavis.
“Way,” said Roger. “Here’s yours. It was under your pillow.”
Mavis looked at hers and felt her hands tremble. This was amazing. This was epic. This was huge. This was...bad? “They’re not for the same place,” she said.
“What?!” Roger flopped down beside her and looked over her shoulder.
“This one is for the same station we went to before, see? And this one is for the next station down the line.”
“You’ve got to be kidding,” moaned Roger. “Now I know how it feels to be a E Nesbitt character.”
“Don’t grump,” said Mavis. “We got our tickets.”
“Yeah, but I want us to go on the same adventure!”
Mavis tapped her lip with her finger. Think. Think. Think. “We only had one ticket last night,” said Mavis. “Remember?”
“So maybe one ticket will work for us again. Maybe we can use one tonight…”
“And one tomorrow!” Roger hopped up and did a happy dance. “That’s AWESOME!”
“We should go,” said Mavis, looking at the time stamp. “We don’t want to miss the train.”
She looked at his bare feet. “No you’re not. We should at least put on our rain boots. I don’t intend to just go to a cave, have a chat, and then wake up. Do you?”
Roger got a positively evil grin. “Not a chance. We’re going to have a real adventure tonight.”
Roger got the rain boots from upstairs. His were red (the only proper color for rainboots, as he had told Mother). Mavis’ were periwinkle blue with white raindrops on them (raindrops made them alright--but still not as good as red).
Mavis tied her bathrobe sash and set her jaw. “Let’s go.”
Sure enough, when they went into the shed, there was a golden streak of light across the floor. Before they even turned the doorknob they could hear the bustle below. Once again they just stood, enjoying the spectacle, letting it all wash over them. “There are the lance dudes,” said Roger.
He was right, there were the group of men in suits with lances. Mavis didn’t see the goat lady or anyone else she had particularly noticed the night before. But she did notice a man with a model ship under one arm. He was wearing an impeccable prince of wales checked suit, but he had a gold hoop in one ear.
“C’mon,” said Roger, starting down the stairs.
They knew their way to the tunnel this time, but Mavis couldn’t resist pausing in front of the destination board. “Look at them all,” she breathed.
The names and times were turning constantly, one letter after another. Seattle. Vulmeeria. Bismarck. Ruskin. Yolandia. Germantown.
“I wonder if there are people in all of those places who have a station in their shed,” said Mavis. “I wonder how many people know about this place.”
“I don’t think this is in the shed. I think it’s a portal, sort of an in-between-two-real-places sort of place. You know?”
They walked under the sign and stood on the landing platform, their hands in the their pockets just as if they did this all of the time.
“Which ticket are we using tonight?” asked Roger.
Mavis wiggled her eyebrows at him and he knew. They were going to see what was at the farther stop.