The 4th installment of my story is out! Things are moving along. Charlotte has a plan for her escape but can she accomplish it without getting caught?
This segment resumes during her talk with her school counselor who’s worried that she’s not being social enough and wants her to join a school club in order to interact with other people. Maybe make some friends. Conform to the social norm! Conform conform!
======== The Path of Moonlight ========
“If you’re worried about your grades falling, think of it as a science study period,” she said. “If your parents say no, tell them it looks good on college applications. I might be able to convince your science teacher to give you extra credit for being in the club but only if you interact with the other club members. According to Mr. Fitzroy, they’re doing some kind of botany experiment right now. The student in charge of the experiment is convinced it’s going to look fantastic on his college application.”
My annoyance disappeared as interest took its place. Botany was plant science. They would need to work in the soil for any experiment involving plants. I cared about botany about as much as I cared about any of my classes – it was something to study and a grade to earn. Perhaps science was easier for me than some of my other classes but that only meant I didn’t need to spend as much time on it.
“I like botany,” I lied.
Ms. Grot smiled and I could see the relief in her face that she wouldn’t have to fight me on this. “That’s great! The club meets every day after school and then again during the free period on Wednesdays for those who want and can make it. You can talk to your parents and if they have any qualms, tell me and I’ll talk to them.”
I wasn’t looking forward to talking to my guardians but I managed a smile and nodded. As expected, they weren’t happy with the news that the school counselor wanted me to join a club, but the struggle was easier than I anticipated. My guess was that they didn’t want to make a fuss over it and have the school pay more attention to them.
The next day I signed up for the science club and had to suppress a smile at my luck when I saw how many gardening tools the school shed held.
One of the club members, the one in charge of the current experiment, was an avid botanist and hoped to create a new plant hybrid. He saw himself as an undiscovered prodigy. This undiscovered hybridization would make him famous throughout the world and top brass universities would be clamoring for his admission. “Delusions of grandeur,” the other students said. But they all agreed that it was a good enough idea to be pursuing at the moment. One of them told me in an aside that that meant nobody else had any other ideas. And because there were so many gardening tools available, no one noticed when one of the smaller trowels found its way into my backpack.
Stealing the trowel made my stomach flip and quaver. A quick glance around showed no one had seen me; however, I knew that the security camera had caught me and that someone would come to take me to the principal’s office and call my guardians. What kind of punishment my actions would bring down on me caused my head to spin till some of the other students asked me if I was going to be sick. But no one came for me and when my mother picked me up, I left with no difficulties. The real difficulty came when I had to hide the trowel in my clothes at home. After much consideration I tied the trowel to my thigh, positioning it on the inside of my leg and wearing a knee-length skirt so the bulge wouldn’t be noticeable. Getting sent to the crawl space was the easy part – I “accidentally” dropped a plate when I was washing the dishes. When my mother was finished yelling at me for being clumsy and breaking her plates, I was sent to the crawl space.
It took several minutes for my eyes to adjust but when they did I scooted over to the patch of light and started digging. I couldn’t get it all done in a single session so I left the trowel by the growing hole rather than sneak it out and back in every time. I kept stopping, my ears straining for sounds from above, sounds that would warn me my guardians were about to let me out. I also had to take care not to get dirtier than usual or it might arouse suspicion. In my imagination everything I did ignited or could ignite their suspicion and I was sick from anxiety and stress every day. It was almost a week and a half later when the hole was big enough.
Those last few days as I waited for my final opportunity it took everything in me to appear calm and still my alternating pale and flushed appearance made my mother question me. She didn’t like taking me anywhere, including the doctor, but I had been acting unusual despite my efforts otherwise and I looked feverish. I had gotten sick before, of course, and didn’t want to wait days cooped up in my room while she nursed me back to health. I told her I was tired but fine. She shoved a thermometer in my mouth and waited till it beeped before yanking it back. My temperature was normal; she was satisfied and dropped the matter.
If I had to keep waiting like this I really would get a fever so I took control that day and made an aggressive play for the soccer ball. The PE teacher was proud that I had gotten into the game instead of passively waiting for someone to kick the ball to me. My reward was an ice pack for my black eye and a trip to the crawl space when my mother found out.
======== End of 4th Installment ========
Come back next week for Charlotte’s long-awaited escape from her rotten guardians! Where will she go? What will she do? And what on earth does this have to do with moonlight?