8. Completion of the Puzzle
Olive was actually waiting for the call a bit. She couldn’t help but be excited, and hoped that this dream wasn’t a dream. She caught herself daydreaming and got to work, but she had a hard time concentrating. Just then, everyone filed out for the staff meeting. Her heart began beating again, and she wondered if the girl found out anything more. She twisted her brunette braids. She promised herself that she wouldn’t lose herself this time. She would keep it cool and talk calmly. Today, she would pull the knots out and straighten everything. * * * “Be a good worker while we’re out, Ilana!” Ilana looked up to Anne’s voice. She managed a small smile and a short nod. She knew that she was about to do something so huge she couldn’t even imagine. Her throat was so dry, she swallowed and swallowed again but it wouldn’t get any better. Could she stop now? But she would never! This was everything she had ever dreamed of… And yet she was hesitating to press the button. One slight movement of her finger, and it was either a beginning of a new life or the end of this life. What if she was making a mistake? What if she was underestimating the power of the government? They always seemed to know much more than her… But no, she couldn’t be like this, she had to be confident! She promised herself that she would never doubt herself again, she would keep it firm and sure. Today, she would pull the knots out and straighten everything. She swallowed once more and pressed the button on her radio. * * * The ring of the radio rang through the room. Olive jumped, and realized she had drifted off, fantasizing about the call. It was so unlike her to pick up without a moment of hesitation. For a scary moment, the radio did nothing but buzz. Olive could hear her own heartbeat, her own lungs’ breath. Then the buzz was cut off. Olive felt her heart sink as she realized that the line was off. All her energy and enthusiasm seemed to drain out of her, and she slumped in her seat. Then she heard it. “Hello?” She didn’t even have the composure to be stunned or even happy. She grabbed the radio and spoke into it. “Hello!” Ilana and Olive simultaneously broke into a grin. “So… You seem to have thought about the whole idea, after all?” “Um, yeah. At first, I was just shocked, but the more I thought about it, it changed to something more like ‘why not?’ “Same here, only that was years ago for me. I’ve been thinking this way ever since childhood.” “Oh.” There was a small period of awkwardness, and then the two girls started talking at the same time. “I know this sounds crazy, but-“ “I know this sounds crazy, but-“ They laughed, and Ilana let Olive talk first. “So, on our island, there are schoolteachers. They’re government workers, too. Do you have those?” “Yeah, exactly.” “So I was stopping by to say hi to my old schoolteacher, and she happens to be telling a story! It was about a… train, leading out of the island,” Ilana sucked her breath in. “and this might sound really crazy, I know it will, but… she’s not the person who would lie, and she was being really, really serious. I just know it. Please, believe me. What if there really is a train?” Ilana’s heart seemed to be on cloud nine. She felt like she was floating off the ground. So it was true! It was true! She spoke with a hint of laughter bubbling at the corners. “I… guess what! I think I found a map of that train you were talking about, it says train on the top and it pictures two islands, Mayfield and Charbon. There’s a train track drawn, it starts from Charbon, goes through Mayfield, and leads to this place… called London. I hadn’t been so sure if this was real, but after hearing your story, this has got to be it…” “What?! So Mary- oh, sorry, that’s my old teacher’s name- Mary was telling the truth!” “Your old teacher? Yeah, you should definitely thank her! But,… before we get too excited, there’s something else you should know. At the place where the tracks meet the two islands and ‘London’, there’s a red circle with a line through it. I think that’s the symbol for the station, and I know where it is on our island. I’ve been there accidentally when I was little. And… it’s almost time that my co-workers will be coming back, so... I guess you can look for it this week, and let’s meet next week, this time. We don’t have a chance today, because when my co-workers come back, we all have to be led out of work and checked into home. We can’t figure out where your islands’ station is, not in, like, 10 minutes that I have till everyone comes in.” “No, why wait? I bet our station’s in the same place as where yours is. We are on two islands that are basically identical. And we can just take the radio, why not?” “Wow! You’re so smart, why didn’t I think of that? Our station’s in the ration station. Do you guys have a ration station?” “Yeah! I’m pretty sure it’s there, too. And, let’s not waste more time. Go! There’s no time to lose, just run, before the workers come back! Get on the train, then call me again if there’s a problem.” “I… now?” “Just go!” “Gotcha.” Ilana took deep breath and cut the radio off.