“We should get picked on more often,” Jack said, blowing on the steaming cup of hot chocolate. “I would have agreed a lot sooner if I knew they were going to send us home without getting into trouble.”
Beth just stared at the swirling marshmallows atop her cup. Steam fluttered as she sighed.
“This is just a formality,” Beth said. “We both know they aren’t going to find anything they don’t want to find. And we may not be in trouble, but that doesn’t mean they don’t think we’re troublemakers. That we brought this on ourselves somehow.”
They were sitting on the big flat rock by the spring that fed the stream. After Jack’s mother had checked them both over, Beth had returned from next door with a large thermos and a desire to go for a walk.
“Well, of course we didn’t,” Jack said. “You don’t think they’ll find out who did that to your locker?”
Beth shook her head, slowly.
“And that doesn’t bother you?”
“I already told you, no.”
“It would bother me.”
“Well, I’m sure it would bother anybody who’s normal. But I have other things I need to worry about.”
Jack waited, but she didn’t elaborate.
“The Veil is thinning, Jack.”
“You said that before, but… I don’t know what that means, Beth.”
“I’m Dreamwalking. I shouldn’t be able to do that from this side. And the other night… Jack, the hospital is more than five miles from here. It’s about a half mile to the Dragon Tree, but the Veil is very weak around it, anyway.”
“You said… when I was going there, that you couldn’t go into the hospital.”
“I shouldn’t have been able to. You saw what happens to lights when I’m….”
Jack nodded, sipping his cocoa. “Ka-blooey.”
Beth flopped onto her back, staring up at the sky. “It’s not making any sense any more.”
“Well, there’s no use worrying about it, is there?”
“I have to worry about it, Jack. What happens if I slip during school? Especially now that Patty’s started her little crusade?”
“You don’t know—”
“Open your eyes, Jack. The star in the circle is about as cliched a witch’s symbol as the pointy hat and broomstick. Who else could it be?”
Jack sighed. “I just… never thought she’d go that far.”
“People do crazy things when they’re in love, Jack.”
He nearly choked on his hot chocolate. “What?”
Beth raised herself up on her elbows. “Oh, don’t tell me you didn’t know.”
“That she—” It trailed off into a sigh.
“She— No way,” Jack said. “We’re just lab partners. And not even good ones.”
Beth rolled back up to a sitting position, and knocked lightly on Jack’s head.
“Ow, what are you—”
“I was hoping to shake loose some sense.”
Jack reached over and rapped his knuckles on Beth’s forehead.
“You’re the one that needs it,” he said. “Talking all kinds of crazy talk.” He moved to knock again, and Beth scooted out of reach.
Jack shook his head, and reached for his sketchbook, turning through the pages.
He froze, the page halfway around the spirals.
“Flip that one back.”
He lowered the page. It had the shakily-drawn birdlike and catlike figures.
“You drew that in the hospital.”
Jack blushed, nodding. “Yeah. Not very good. The stuff they gave me made my hand shake.”
“And you said you dreamed about those that night?”
Jack shivered, remembering the eyes, glowing in the foggy dark of the forest. He looked over, and Beth was staring at the pictures, chewing her lip thoughtfully.
“What? What are you thinking?”
But Beth shook her head, her gaze still distant. “No… I have to think more about it.” She tapped the pictures. “But this. This is important.”
“They’re just… doodles.”
“Jack, you have whole worlds in here. Things, places that have never been. And yet, there they are.”
“But they’re just—” Jack stared at the wobbly sketches. He couldn’t help it. He laughed.
She snatched the sketchbook from him, and started turning back pages.
“Hey! Careful with that!”
Three pages back, she stopped at Jack’s sketch of her by the airport terminal windows.
“Is this a doodle, Jack?”
“You’re not supposed to—-”
She flipped another couple pages. A sketch of her, asleep against the bus window.
“No. Those aren’t—”
“Aren’t what, Jack?”
“I don’t know. But… they’re just… drawings. You said I could draw you as much as I wanted. If you don’t want me to, then I —”
“No… No, Jack, this might be the answer. Or… part of it, anyway.”
“Answer? I didn’t know there was a question.”
She flipped through the sketchbook, closing it. Then she bopped him over the head with it.
“Still no clue?” She did it again.
“Give me that, or I’ll never draw you again.”
“Promise me something.”
“I can always get another sketch book at home.”
“Promise me, Jack.”
“Don’t ever stop drawing.”
“Shoot, I thought it was going to be something all super-complicated.”
“So you promise?”
“Of course I do.”
She breathed a sigh of relief as she handed back the sketchbook.
Jack flipped it to a blank page, looking up at the sky, his pencil already scratching across the paper. “Don’t you think that cloud looks sort of like a rabbit?”