by KJ Pedersen
More in the Searlit Callaghan story.
Searlit felt the sunlight prick her closed eyes, and she opened them slowly.
It was morning, and she was not all that happy about it.
She slowly sat up in her bed, and rubbed her eyes. That’s when she noticed she was still wearing her school uniform. The books Walter had given her were both open. She had fallen asleep reading.
She slowly got out of bed. The house rattled as her brothers both thundered through the house, and she heard her mother calling her name. Searlit did not return her mother’s call, but quietly walked to the bathroom, where she drew a bath and immersed herself in it.
Maeve heard the bath running from the kitchen, and turned to her husband with a look of concern etching her pretty face. “ Desmond, I think there is something wrong with Searlit.”
Her husband looked up from the paper. “ She’s a teenage girl, Maeve. It’s probably boy trouble.”
“ Yes, because teenage girls have nothing else on there minds but boys,” his wife said with a hint of sarcasm. Her husband failed to notice it as he continued.
“ Girls are out of my jurisdiction, Maeve. I don’t bloody well understand you. How am I going to understand her?”
He then noticed the look on his wife’s face, and quickly busied himself again with the paper. Colin and Eamonn both ran into the kitchen.
“ Who’d you meet last night?” Eamonn asked, grabbing a bowl and pouring some cereal.
“ None of your business, Eamonn,” Desmond said absently.
Maeve handed him the milk. “ It doesn’t concern you.”
Colin grabbed an apple from the fruit bowl. “ But we could hear you guys. Loud and clear. You were outside in the garden. Shocking, really, that you would do that, considering the neighbors might hear you.”
“ Or Searlit. Her bedroom is above the garden. If her window was open, she would hear everything.”
Maeve dropped the bowl she had gotten for Searlit’s breakfast, and it shattered on the kitchen floor. Desmond looked up at her.
“ What is it, darling?”
“ Searlit’s bedroom window. It was open yesterday. We were out in the garden.” Maeve sunk into a chair, her face wan. “ Do you think she heard us, Desmond?”
Desmond’s own face got paler as he thought about it. “ I don’t know. Maybe someone should go check on her.”
Eamonn sighed. “ Oh, I’ll do it. Don’t have a stroke about it. I don’t know how the truth would hurt her.”
“ It’s not Searlit I’m worried about,” Desmond called out to Eamonn as he left the room. Eamonn shook his head, and leapt up the stairs. He knocked on the bathroom door.
“ Go away!”
“ Shar, it’s Eamonn. You okay?”
“ I said go away. I’ll talk to you later.”
“ Shar? Searlit? Come on, talk to me.”
Eamonn stared at the door. Searlit did not suffer from moods. This was troubling.
That’s when he noticed her bedroom door was open. Eamonn looked around, and then stealthily walked into his baby sister’s bedroom.
First he shuddered at the purple. It colored every surface. Then he started to snoop. He opened her closet, and dug through her clothes. He went through the boxes of toys she still kept on the top shelf. He dug through her desk drawers, skimming her various drafts.
“ Oh, Searlit, if you’re not careful,” he said to himself, and he tried to put everything back as he found it. Then he saw the books sitting on her bed, and he picked them up.
The titles were familiar, as Eamonn knew they were both on the banned book list. He got a nasty feeling in the pit of his stomach, like butterflies, but angrier. Then a sheet of paper fell out of the one. He couldn’t help himself.
If you have decided to join us, I am most pleased. So I ask you to consider this for your first assignment.
What do I really, truly think of our “ Great” Leader?
Remember that you will require a nom de plume, as we don’t want you to get arrested. We like to pick the names of literary giants from the past. Walter Finley is not my real name; it is from Walter Scott and Timothy Finley. No, I am not going to tell you my real name. Even if the government already knows it.
Eamonn’s blood ran cold. He couldn’t be here yet? With the paper in hand, Eamonn raced downstairs.
“ Eamonn, how many times have I told you not to run in the house?” his mother asked him as he stopped by his father’s chair. With a shaking hand, he held out the paper he had found.
“ I found this in Searlit’s room. It was in a copy of Animal Farm.”
Desmond looked at his oldest son quizzically. “ Orwell? His works were all banned. How’d she-“ he stopped as he read the note. “ Oh, my…”
“ Desmond?” Maeve looked worried.
“ It’s from Walter. She was with him last night. “
Colin nearly choked on his food. Eamonn sank down into the nearest open chair, his face pale. Maeve nearly dropped the pan she was holding.
Desmond sat there, reading and rereading the note. Then he cleared his throat. “ We must prepare. We know what will happen. She’s been invited to write for the R.P., and she will accept, because she has a curious mind and will want to know what is really going on. Walter will come and get her soon and take her away, and that will be it.”
Colin finally stopped his coughing from the near choking incident he was going through. “ What about us?”
“ You two must be on your toes. Fortinbras was never clear on siblings and their fate, just the parents. I would recommend using your contacts to find a way out of the country, or at least into the mountain hideaways. Wellesley never has troops up there. Thinks no nation would try to send soldiers over those mountains.”
Eamonn and Colin looked at each other, fear in their eyes. Maeve quietly put the pan she was holding away in a cupboard. Desmond looked at the note in his hand, got up from the table, and quietly went upstairs and replaced the note in Searlit’s book.
Searlit got out of the bathroom and snuck downstairs for an apple to eat. She wasn’t about to starve because of anxiety. She looked around to see if anyone was about, and tiptoed into her father’s office, where several typewriters were stacked on one side of the room. She carefully retrieved her favorite, and found a box of its ribbon, and took it upstairs to her room.
She placed everything on her desk, and went to get the note from the book. She stared at it for several minutes. What on earth was Walter trying to pull? Who was the guy in the garden with her parents? What was her real opinion of the Leader? These questions rolled around her mind as she stood at the foot of her bed.
Searlit heard a knock at her door. Panic set in as she grabbed her books and shoved them under her mattress. “ Who is it?”
“ Shar? It’s Tatiana.”
“ And Francoise.” She could picture them both, impeccably dressed as always, standing on the other side of the door. Searlit looked at herself in the mirror. Her hair was still damp, and she was wearing a pair of torn jeans and an old tanktop. Not the most attractive. She sighed, and opened the door, and noted she was right.
Tatiana flashed an impossibly blinding smile. “ Do you want to go to the movies?” Francoise stood behind Tatiana, looking expectantly at Searlit.
Searlit cleared her throat. “ No, I still have some homework-“
“ Do it tomorrow,” Francoise said.
Tatiana tossed her golden locks over her shoulder. “ Come on, Shar. You are not that busy. You can take two minutes and come with us.”
“ Tatiana, a movie takes longer than two minutes,” Searlit said dryly.
“ You know what I mean.”
Searlit sighed again. Sometimes her best friends could be impossible. “ What’s playing?”
“ The Life And Times of President Drayton Wellesley. Richard Tillingham is playing the Leader. How great is that?” Francoise squealed.
“ Richard Tillingham is not that cute,” Tatiana said, smirking at her chubby friend.
“ Oh,” Francoise said meekly, shrinking from Tatiana’s icy gaze.
“ Alright, I’ll go, if you two promise to play nice,” Searlit said. She felt as if the movie might give her some direction, to be able to form an opinion on the Leader.
“ Well, then, get dressed. No friend of mine is going to look like that at the theater.” Tatiana began to dig around Searlit’s closet, and within minutes, Searlit was as put together as her friends. She grabbed her purse and the three of them walked downstairs.
“ Dad, I’m going with Tatiana and Francoise to the movies, “ Searlit shouted at her father as he worked on the family car.
“ Fine, sweetie. Have fun,” he called back.
The three girls began to walk down Milkwood Road towards Mason Boulevard. They were chatting about boys, makeup, music, and other universal concerns of the average teenage girl when all of a sudden there was a honk. The trio whirled around, and they all saw Mr. Hennessy get out of the car.
“ Miss Callaghan, Miss LeGrande, Miss Korikoff.”
“ Mr Hennessy,” they all answered back.
“ Miss Callaghan, I have been asked by the headmaster to bring you in for some follow-up work on your current article. I am sorry to ruin your afternoon, but it is a bit of an animal house, if you know what I mean.”
Searlit felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. She knew what he meant. Walter wanted her.
“ Mr. Hennessy, we are going to the movies.”
“ I am sorry girls. Searlit, it is really important.”
She knew it had to be, since he dropped the pretense of calling her Miss Callaghan. Both Tatiana and Francoise looked shocked. She turned to her friends. “ Sorry, guys, duty calls.”
Tatiana rolled her eyes. “ You can be such a bore, Shar.”
“ Yeah. A bore,” Francoise parroted.
“ Sorry.” She climbed into the passenger seat of Mr. Hennessy’s car, and he quickly drove off. They sat in silence. Finally, after a few awkward minutes, Searlit couldn’t contain herself. “ Why now, Mr. Hennessy.”
“ First, Searlit, I am insisting that in this capacity, only refer to me as Oliver. Second, we need to take you and put you into protective custody.”
Searlit felt her heart pounding in her chest. “ What?”
Oliver Hennessy kept driving as quickly as he could without drawing attention to his vehicle. “ Searlit, we have a traitor in our group. We came to the R.P. offices, and found it torn to pieces. Walter left a coded message at his safe house, so we know where he is, and we need to get you there, too. You are in great danger.”
“ But my parents-“
“ Don’t fret about them, Walter has sent them notice. They should be fine. We need to go. That is all you need to know.”
Searlit felt the fear rising in her as Oliver drove out of Mondale, heading west to the mountains.