7. The Map
Ilana kept thinking about Vanessa. With so many things in her head, what with her new job and the weird phone call, along with the things she’s been thinking about and stuff she had figured out, everything was swirling around in her head and wouldn’t stay still. But the thought of her best friend just wouldn’t go away. Could Ilana really go through knowing all this alone? After all the physically difficult things she had gone through in her life, the thing that was making her tired was… Well, knowing. Thinking. Without even moving a muscle, this was definitely the hardest thing Ilana had ever been through. But what if she had a confidant? Someone that could share her burden? Someone she could talk through all this with and cry with and smile with? Ilana needed someone. But not just anyone, someone that she felt was like her other half. Like they were meant to be friends. The answer came to her mind: Vanessa. She had been the one beside her all her childhood. Ilana told her everything. A crush Ilana had on a random boy at school, cheating in tests or playing pranks, everything Ilana had shared with Vanessa. Ilana decided to tell Vanessa everything, everything that was troubling her and make up for the temporarily lost friendship. It was Wednesday, and during lunchtime, Ilana decided to pop into the library to clear things up with Vanessa. “Hey, Vanessa,” Ilana said, carefully approaching Vanessa, who was stacking some books in the library. Vanessa looked up. “Oh, it’s you, Ilana! Thanks for coming, I was so bored.” She looked up and caught Ilana’s eyes, which were a little awkward and much more careful than usual. “Uh, Ilana, about that- time. It’s okay. Right?” “Right!” Ilana broke out into a huge grin. So much relief slid back into her body, and she felt in ease, at home. Ilana tried to lead into the much, much deeper conversation that they were about to have. She opened her mouth to tell her, her best friend for ages, that she had something to talk about, something serious, and it all involved a very, very strange call on the radio… “Okay. I need to tell you something.” Ilana finally spoke. Ilana looked into Vanessa’s eyes. But there was something holding her back, in Vanessa’s gorgeous green-tinted brown eyes, something that told Ilana that Vanessa wouldn’t understand. Something like this would just ruin their friendship all over again. Vanessa wouldn’t be her confidant, wouldn’t even be her friend anymore. She remembered that morning, that look of horror in Vanessa’s eyes at even rocking the principles of the world they have lived in. No. Vanessa couldn’t handle this. Ilana ran her fingers against the spines of the books stacked in front of Vanessa. “Uh… What is it you want to tell me?” Vanessa smiled her best-friend smile, the one that made Ilana’s heart melt all over again. “I… There’s so many books here.” Ilana replied with a sigh. “I know. These are all from the forbidden section and they’re super old, so I have to dust them and make sure they’re all alright. Oh, you know you’re not supposed to be here, right? These books are only for government officials. Even I’m forbidden to read them, but I guess they trust me enough to clean them. You’re dead if anyone catches you right now, but you’re with me, so you’ll be okay. I work here, after all.” As she spoke, a piece of paper fell out of the huge lather book she was flipping through. “See, sometimes there’s trash stuck here and there… I don’t even know when these were cleaned last.” As Ilana laughed, something on the piece of paper caught her eye- it was a red circle with a line through it. Her heart started beating very fast and she was getting very excited. That had to be it, the symbol she saw when she was young! She quickly slipped the piece of paper into her pocket. Her palms were sweaty. “Uh, Vanessa, I feel sorry for you, but I also have tons of paperwork, so…” “Yeah, yeah, it’s okay. I totally understand!” “Thanks. You’re a good friend.” And with a hug, Ilana took off in full speed to her office. * * * She unfolded the piece of paper once she was safely behind her desk in the corner, where everyone had their backs turned. It was a map. The paper was crumbling at the edges, wrinkled, and brown. It said in cursive ‘The bullet train route’. It had a big island on the left, and a continent on the right. At first, Ilana thought that the island was Charbon and the continent was another land. But when she looked closer, there were two more tiny islands marked ‘Mayfield’ and ‘Charbon.’ Her heart stopped. Mayfield! It was what that girl had said. There was that symbol, red circle with a line through it, on Mayfield, Charbon, and the big island- the big island was marked ‘U.K’. On top of the red symbol, there was another name- ‘London’. Then there were train tracks, going in one line, starting from ‘London’, through Mayfield, and arriving at Charbon. Strangely enough, she noticed, Charbon and ‘U.K’ were not connected. There was only one way. The map told her everything. She didn’t know how the map got there, but it had to be true. And maybe there still was a train! Well, she knew that was false hope, but them being connected! That meant they could even walk! She couldn’t wait until everyone went out for staff meeting.