At the next stop, when the doors opened with their steady “woosh,” Mavis was very surprised to see the Lady Agatha.
“Hello!” she cried.
“Hello!” said Agatha. But then she frowned. “Dear, whatever has happened to your face?”
“It’s a long story,” said Mavis.
“We have time,” said Lady Agatha.
So Mavis explained about Harnswiggle overhearing her wishes and changing what was written in The Book of Things that Are and how she had been getting worse, all of a sudden, right when she was getting better. And she told the Lady Agatha about Roger being challenged to a duel by King Dehn and how it was all so utterly ridiculous and how Brent would never believe her.
And the Lady Agatha listened to it all, and swayed to the movement of the train, and thought.
“I suppose that you are hoping to find a way to change what is written in The Book, so that you are not sick at all?”
“That’s what I was hoping,” Mavis admitted. “But Esperanza says that things always go wrong when you change The Book.”
“Things always go wrong when you erase something,” said Lady Agatha. “But I wonder why the Chronicler hasn’t done anything to intervene?”
Mavis didn’t know who she was talking about, or what she meant, but Lady Agatha didn’t seem to want to explain.
They rode the rest of the way to the Moon Stop in silence, and other than a fond farewell, there didn’t seem to be anything else to be said.
Mavis was alone in the train car for the rest of the way back to the station.
She hurried through the central hall, barely glancing up at the train times and the different rate boards. Who knew what King Dehn was getting up in high dungeon over now--probably something stupid, something that would condemn Roger to be his court jester forever.
The moon was high when Mavis cut across the yard toward Brent’s house, high enough that she cast the faintest of shadows on the grass in front of her.
Her’s wasn’t the only shadow to be seen.
“Hey!” said Linda.
Mavis squealed. “Hey, don’t frighten me like that!”
“Oh, don’t frighten you while you are sneaking around in the dark, doing a very good impersonation of a delinquent. Oh wait. You don’t have to impersonate a delinquent at all. Because you are one.”
“Shut up, Linda!” said Mavis. “I don’t have time for this.”
“You don’t have time? You’re so deathly ill that you have to go to the emergency room over a bruise, and then you and Roger stay up all night playing in the shed?! What are you doing in there?”
“Planning my funeral,” snapped Mavis.
“Ha ha, look who’s so witty.” Linda made a great show of putting both hands firmly on her hips. “The truth.”
“Or I’ll scream, and wake up the whole neighborhood.”
Mavis shook her head. “You wouldn’t. Because you would frighten Grandpa.”
Linda tossed her hair. “Ok, fine. I wouldn’t scream. I would drag you by your ear to Grandma and tell her what you’ve been up to.”
“Yeah, the whole two sentences of it. I’m supposed to stay up all night, genius. Doctor’s orders. And Grandma asked Roger to stay up to make sure that I do. And the shed isn’t off limits. Sooooo...go ahead. Drag me to Grandma. Give your great accusation that will sentence me to prison for life.”
“You’re so immature!” said Linda hotly.
Mavis knew she had won, that round at least. Because immaturity was what Linda accused people of when she had run out of witty things to say. Usually only Roger could push her that far. Roger! She really, really didn’t have time for this! Mavis started walking briskly, purposefully keeping her eyes straight and her nose in the air.
But Linda was not about to give up that easily. She may not have been the most observant of people, but she knew something strange was going on. And the truth was that curiosity was driving her just as much as the great need to tattle tale.
“Stop following me, Linda,” said Mavis.
“This is a free country, I can walk wherever I want to.”
“Oh, so you’re stealing Roger’s lines now. How unoriginal.”
“You know, no matter how sarcastically you say it, whatever will always be a cop out line.”
Linda ignored that. And kept following her.
She followed her all the way to their neighbor’s back porch, where they could see the tv flickering through the half drawn blinds.
“What are you doing?” hissed Linda through clenched teeth.
“I’m kidnapping Brent for nefarious purposes,” muttered Mavis, knocking softly on the window. She was hoping that it was Brent still up watching tv, that late at night.
It was. He pulled the curtains back part way and stuck his face up to the glass, so he could half see them in the fuzzy darkness. He looked more than surprised.
“Hey Mavis,” he said as soon as he opened the back door. “Hey, Linda. What’s up?”
“Mavis is in so much trouble,” said Linda. But she didn’t say why or how, because she wasn’t sure.
Brent looked to Mavis for an explanation, which is what she had been dreading.
“Ok,” she said, taking a deep breath and letting it out. “This is going to sound crazy. But would you just hear me out?”
“Sure,” said Brent, coming out and shutting the door behind him. “What’s going on?”
“So you know how I got this strange mark on my face all of the sudden? Well, it’s because I made a wish, and someone heard my wish, and tried to grant it. She changed what was written in this magical book that has Things that Are, and because of that now things are going horribly wrong and we have to change The Book back. But it belongs to this king, and he’s a diva, so he won’t let us write in The Book unless Roger can beat two of his knights at two on two basketball. So I need you to come and be the other person for the basketball duel.”
Brent was completely silent.
“Wow,” said Linda. “I know what’s wrong with you now. Drugs. You are doing some serious drugs, girl.”
Mavis thought she might start crying.
“What’s really going on, Mavis?” asked Brent, so gently that it surprised Linda. “Whatever I can do to help, I will.”
“Then will you come with me?”
Brent looked at her for a minute and then nodded. “Sure, let me grab my sneakers.”
Linda scoffed audibly. “You’re going to fall for this?”
The door squeaked when Brent came back out, holding his sneakers and socks, a gatorade stuffed in his back pocket.
“Seriously?” asked Linda. “You’re going to run off into the night with this weirdo?”
Brent gave Linda a look, one of those looks that grownups give other grownups when they tell a child that there is no Santa Claus or that the tooth fairy is having a pay cut and can’t leave money for teeth anymore.
“Where are we going?” Brent asked Mavis.