2150 words (8 minute read)

Chapter 22

Chapter 22

A few minutes later Cary and Bugs knocked at Clearing's door. His body rocked softly forward and backward in contained excitement, Bugs right next to him. He cast sidelong glances at Bugs, unable to keep eagerness to himself, while he also worried Clearing might not answer. Finally, Clearing opened the door, hands full with a small screwdriver and a rectangular circuit board in the other. The Physics teacher looked disgruntled.

don't want you two nosing...”

But she's my best friend! I have to show her the Book of Fates....but Clearing's my friend too, and he doesn't want me to look around...

“Cary. This is unexpected” Clearing said, droll. “and Miss Edgecombe. Come in, come in.” Clearing rushed them inside. They moved through the kitchen and attached dining room into the foyer and past the living room. As he passed the living room, Cary's eyes drifted towards the hallway which lead to Clearing's office, and where the teacher kept the tablet. And the Book of Fates. To Cary's extreme satisfaction, Clearing led them to that hallway, toward the office.

“I don't have much time, what can I help you two with?” Clearing said, as he sat down in the office chair. Cary's eyes darted around, searching. The tablet was nowhere. Just papers on the desk, with tools and parts piled atop. It took Clearing making a clearing sound in his throat to bring Cary back to the moment.

“Ahem.” Clearing said.

“Um. Sorry. I...I...”

“The Internet is down at my house, Mr. Clearing and I asked if I could use Cary's but, apparently he doesn't have a computer and he said maybe you'd let us surf here for a minute.”

“Well. I suppose. I need to finish what I'm working on, but if you two don't stay very long I can't see how it would be a problem.” Clearing said, but Cary avoided eye contact, so he could not tell if the teacher was really bothered. “I'll be in the workroom if you need me.”

Clearing left.

“OK, Care. Let's see what we can find, OK?” Bugs said and turned to Clearing's desktop computer. She let Cary log himself into Pottermore and clicked where he told her. No Book of Fates. Cary began to seriously doubt himself.

Maybe I have gone crazy! This is SO stupid!

“Whoa! I've been wanting one of those!” Bugs said. Cary looked at her where her eyes glanced. On the bookshelf next to the computer, tucked between several paperbacks, was a box for a Dell Venue 10 tablet. Cary had looked at the bookshelf when he entered and not noticed it. “It's a tablet!”

Bugs got up and pulled it off the shelf. She held it gingerly, turned to face Cary. She opened the box and displayed the empty insides to Cary with a look of quiet disappointment.

“Empty.” Bugs said.

They spent half an hour surfing Pottermore further, but found nothing unusual, and definitely no Book of Fates. “Well, I guess it's not here.” Cary said. He tried to keep the sullen note out of his voice, but failed. They left the office to go find Clearing. Only then did Cary notice the walls of the hall were emptied of photos which had lined them before. All the photos which showed Derek and Clearing were gone. They found Clearing leaned over the bench a lamp attached to a band around his forehead, a pair of scissors in his hand. When Clearing heard them he looked up, sad.

“You two want to stay and help?”

Cary sat down at the bench. He passed the next hours in a daze, on autopilot as his mind tried to examine possibilities of where the tablet might be until he had a good idea where it was. He answered Bugs and Clearing every time they spoke to him, but only loosely heard their words or his own replies.

Where could Clearing have put it?

Cary knew the layout of Clearing's house rather well, having spent many hours there, playing SNES with Jonathan. His mind ranged from the attic; which he had only been in once before, on a dare from Jonathan. His mind went on to the bedroom where Clearing slept which Cary had not been in, having gotten a scary vibe from the empty room. The closet in the hallway where he had always hidden the SNES or maybe even in the washroom outside off the carport. Cary resolved to check them all until he found the tablet.

But I have to get rid of Clearing first. I have to show The Book to Bugs. I have to!

The only other option was to break-in when the teacher was not around. Cary hoped he would not have to do that again. “Mr. Clearing?” Cary asked, trying very hard to keep his voice steady.

“Yes, Cary?”

“I need to use the restroom...”

“Go on then, no need to ask, Cary, just go. Same for you Bugs.” Clearing said, now calling Bugs by her nickname as she had insisted. Cary was sure the man gave him a very penetrating look as he got up from the bench, a look which said, "I'm quite sure I know what you're doing!”

but I don't want you two nosing around my house, OK?” Clearing's voice in Cary's head made Cary swallow in a loud gulp as he left the room, he hoped he hadn't given himself away.

Clearing must suspect something, otherwise why would he have said anything about not nosing around his house, in the first place?

Once outside the room, standing in the hallway, Cary hustled over to the closet door, found it closed. With extreme care and slowness he turned the handle and opened the door, making sure to make no noise. Only the slightest creak betrayed him.

He was disappointed.

The inside was full of linens and boxes and clothes which in a quick glance Cary saw was not what he was looking for. He shut the door, more loudly than he intended, frustrated. The noise made him go still, his breath caught in his throat. His eyes darted back to the workroom to see if Clearing was going to come out. He went to the bathroom, turned the tap on and flushed the toilet a few times while he waited.

Back in the work room both Bugs and Clearing gave him looks which hid meaning. Bugs' amused, Clearing's annoyed. Cary made a chagrined face at Bugs, which Clearing seemed to accept without question. They worked for two more hours, until half past ten, when Clearing yawned and stretched, rubbing at his lower back. “Wow! Look at the time! We're almost there, Cary! Thanks to Bugs here just one more good night of work and I think we'll both have brand new machines!”

And Cary could see Clearing was right, only a few more hours of work remained before they could turn on both machines and get rolling installing software, an exciting prospect for Clearing, as much as it was for him. Bugs grinned at Clearing's praise, she mouthed the words “super computer” at Cary before smiling wide, showing the gap between her front teeth.

“You two gonna be able to make it home safe?” Clearing said. Cary and Bugs nodded and the man hustled them out. But they didn't go home. Since he had not been able to sneak around with permission, Cary decided he would sneak around without permission.

All I need is for Clearing to leave.

“Bugs. I wanna do something...” Cary said as they walked out of Clearing's house. Bugs face lit up. She nodded before Cary even finished explain what he intended. Minutes later, Cary and Bugs knelt behind some bushes in the yard adjacent. An hour passed. Finally, having grown tired of waiting, Cary closed his eyes and said to himself.

I wish Clearing would leave!

“Care!” Bugs whispered. “Clearing came out, got in his car backed out of the drive and drove away!” Cary opened his eyes in time to see the teacher's brake lights dwindle rapidly.

“What are we doing, Care?” Bugs asked exasperated and clearly also excited. Cary looked at her in the semi-dark of the moonless, street-light lit night.

Now or never.

“He's got that tablet in here, B. And he took down all the pictures of Derek...his" Cary stopped here, unsure what to say. He had an inkling of what Derek was and had been to Clearing, and the thought made him both nervous and slightly discomfited. Cary was also confused how to articulate such to Bugs. “friend. His dead friend's. The guy was named Derek, he was a programmer who helped build Pottermore and he found this Book...inside the code or something, and I know it sounds crazy B, but I swear I've seen it, read part of it, even though its full of strange symbols and Clearing said he couldn't read it and maybe Derek hadn't been able to read it, well, I could. And...”

Cary swallowed hard here. The rest had been easy, this was the truly scary part, the part he feared would make her see him as Troy and Jonathan and everyone else who hated him saw him.

“I think it grants wishes.” Cary said in a mumble.

The words hung in the air between them, for what seemed an age. Neither of them said anything further and nothing broke the silence until the sound of a car passing made them both jump.

“I...” Bugs started, “How do you know?”

Cary smiled, buoyed.

She didn't accuse me of lying, making it up, or being weird or anything! She even seemed like she might believe me! But how can I explain the rest?

“Uhh...” he stumbled, "I read it a couple of times and it was about someone called the Scion and how the Book could make things happen for the Scion, whatever things...wishes... the Scion wanted.” Cary tracked Bugs' eyes. It was clear she wanted to interrupt, to ask questions. But he pushed his face forward and barreled his words over her.”...And so I thought about the things I wanted, and I wished. I didn't mean to! It's not like I thought it would happen, that they would or could come true or anything. But, well, I wished for a best friend! And I wished I was the strongest boy in the world! And you moved here and then today, I...” Cary's voice trailed off.

He hadn't told Bugs yet about the lock.

Will she believe me?

He told her anyway.

“That's impossible, isn't it, right?” Bugs said kindly, “Cool idea though!” Her smile was easy to see, even in the dark.

Cary snickered. “So, I really wanted you to see the Book, that's why I wanted to get on Pottermore at your house. But it wasn't there, so I thought it had to be something about the tablet! I thought if we came here you could see it too, and if you could read it too and make wishes...! I bet they will come true and then we can both have everything we want!”

Bugs looked skeptical. “That seems too good to be true, Care. Maybe it is, I don't know, but I believe you!” Bugs added when Cary's face went crestfallen. “But Care...as nice as it is to have wishes granted, you can't get everything you want that way. Wishes are fantasies for a reason, right?”

He stared at her.

Of course she would feel that way! She has two loving parents who provide her with everything she needs and more. She's loved, adored even, and it shows in everything she does. And even though she's... unusual... other kids don't treat her differently because of it, nothing like how they treat me.

How would you know? She just moved here! You have no IDEA how she gets treated!

This thought made him frown and Bugs saw it.

“What's the matter?” she said, moving closer to Cary.

“Nothing,” Cary lied. “Let's just get inside and see if we can find the tablet, and the Book!”

Then you'll believe me and you'll want wishes too!

Next Chapter: Chapter 23