Okay, so, remember when I said I wanted to try it this thing where the characters take turns narrating the story? Well, I did it. I did it with this chapter. You'll see the name Ava in italics. That means she'll be the one narrating this chapter. You've seen this in fanfictions, and it was even used in the Red Queen series, too.
Also, get ready for the mind-blowing surprise of a lifetime.
After Tauriel told me she had another memory, I couldn't believe it. From the way she looked, she looked like she was dying all over again. All she said was that she saw herself leaving a store and then a pair of hands grabbed her from behind and that was when the memory ended. She didn't tell me anything else. She was too shocked to keep speaking.
This is all more cause to continue searching.
It's Tuesday. The last day of school is this Friday and I wish we could have more time. If freezing time were real, I'd use that power to make time stand still for a whole day and search Heaven and earth to find Tauriel's family. She's already told me that she might have had a family, but isn't sure if they're still alive. Ruling out parents, we're not sure if she has any aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents to mention. Of course, remembering that she doesn't know her real name just kills the mood.
We're going to do just what we discussed yesterday, and ask any teachers if they remember someone who looked exactly like Tauriel. We're on our way to third class: gym. Tauriel and I head for the locker rooms, thanking god that no one can see her. Her face is still as jaded as yesterday. I'm guessing our plan today won't pull her out of her funk. She hovers above all of us, eyes hazy. By the time I change into my gym clothes, I leave Tauriel's finger bone in my locker, and follow the rest of the girls. I feel Tauriel's presence trailing behind me.
We drift into the gym, the teacher all ready with clipboard and everything. There's at least eight sets of ropes hanging from the ceiling. Coach tells us we're going to climb ropes today. I feel my heart skip a beat as I lock my eyes on those ropes. I've seen this before in movies and cartoons, but I never thought we'd actually do this. My legs are trembling and I want to turn into jello. The others don't share my same fear, more like apathy and disinterest while two of them are actually looking forward to this.
"I am so gonna ace this!," cheeps Bernice, jogging in place. She's the most enthusiastic of all of us. A boy bristles at her closeness and meanders away from her.
The good thing is there's those foldout gym mats sprawled out on the floor in case someone falls off. I prefer jumping hurdles over this.
Coach blows the whistle and the session begins. Three boys run up to the ropes first. The tallest of them holds on tight and climbs like a squirrel. The other two aren't very skilled in this and they haven't even caught up to the tall one. The slowest of them, the blond, is way behind and he just gives up and falls back, landing on the mat. The second boy reaches the top after the tall one reached it first.
Next up is two girls and another boy.
I look over my shoulder, and see Tauriel floating above the bleachers. God, I can't imagine what she went through. The memory really did a number on her. It's clear that this memory is the memory of how she died. I don't need to ask her what happened next, I just know. It's textbook. Besides, her facial expression is answer enough. She hasn't said anything since this morning on the bus. Afterwards, she just remained silent.
I don't need her to tell me what happened next; with what she told me, I've come with a few theories. My first theory is that she was being mugged that night, and when Tauriel didn't comply, she got either shot or stabbed. My second theory is she got kidnapped and then killed. Those are really my only theories at this moment. But what if she tried to escape her kidnapper?
"My turn!," chirps Bernice.
I watch her run to the rope and grip it tight. She's already climbing before anyone else reaches the other ropes. The way she climbs is interesting. Every time she pulls herself up with her arms, she opens her legs like a frog, and keeps doing it. I can't help but grin. That's a funny way to climb. I look over my shoulder to see if Tauriel is watching this. She's watching, but she's smiling, or cheering Bernice on. The sooner we find out how she died, the sooner she can get closure.
Bernice reaches the top. She holds out her arm, waving to us like she's a movie star. She slides down the rope like it were a silk sheet of fabric. I know they're not that kind of rope, but I hope she doesn't get rope burn.
"Did you see me?," asks Bernice to anyone who might be listening. She looks like she's climbed Mount Everest. This is as close as she'll get to performing such a milestone.
I nod my head if it so much as placated her.
Coach blows the whistle again. It's my turn; I'm the only who hasn't gone. Me, and three more girls. I approach the rope, hands already sweating. I gaze up at the towering rope, feeling my heartbeat drumming like mad.
"You go, girl!," shouts Bernice.
I hear one of the boys shush her. You may not believe it, but Bernice screams loud enough that you can hear her on other side of the sidewalk. I ignore it and do what I have to do.
I grab on to the rope. Looking beside me I see to other three girls grip the ropes. They're probably as nervous as I am. Either way, I hoist myself up and climb. I'm not good at climbing. Trees I can climb, but not ropes. Mainly because I'm scared of getting rope burns, and the other reason is because I don't want to embarrass myself in front of everyone. I keep looking up, and I dare not glance down. I have my feet linked together to make it easier to climb. From the corner of my eye, I spot the other three make the ascent. The one on the farthest right is having trouble keeping up. I don't think she'll even make it.
Gazing back up, I suddenly stop. I looked down. Stupid me. I should've kept my eyes shut. Now I'm getting dizzy, and wishing to be saved.
I glance over my shoulder and see Tauriel watching. She seems in a better mood now than I remember. Maybe it's because I'm climbing and she wants to see my performance. I can see she notices my panic. I wish to know what she plans on doing. She can see I'm struggling, why doesn't she do anything?
I begin pulling myself up again, and hope I don't get nauseous. By the time I turn around again I see Tauriel giving me her "I have a plan" face. I want to tell her to call it off, but I can't shout at her and make everyone think I'm crazy. But still, I'm wondering what she'll do. I look back up and see I'm almost at the top. The girl beside me aren't even close.
All of a sudden I hear the gym doors fly open and slam shut. This grabs everyone's attention. Even I turn to look, to let them know I'm curious and not reveal I know what happened. Then I see the bleachers fold back in by themselves. Everyone shouts and wonders what's going on. I hear basketballs bounce on the floor. How can I forget they were in the ball rack? Then I look at the net that's folded in the ceiling. I widen my eyes in realization. Tauriel's going to unfold it. I wish she could hear my thoughts. I hope she can.
The next thing I know is I watch the net fall open, separating one end of the gym from the other. I always wondered why they had that net unused.
The net's in front of me. I hear the coach blow the whistle and order us to stay put. The other girls comply. I don't want to stay up here any longer than I had to. Luckily, I'm centimeters away from the net. I let go of the rope and grab on, sliding down. The coach shouts at me. I think the others are cheering me on. I glance over my shoulder and see I'm almost to the bottom. I twist around and make a dive for the exercise mats. I fall flat on my belly. The crowd goes wild.
"Ava, are you okay?," asks coach, crouching beside me.
I glance up and see the other girls holding to the ropes. None of them makes an effort to get down. I'm too wrapped up to consider what they'll do.
"I'm fine," I tell coach. I rise to my feet and walk over to the crowd, eyes glued on me.
The girls make their way down. The one in the middle lost her grip and slid all the way to the bottom. She fans her hands, blowing on them. She got a rope burn. Told you it was terrible. That's why I hate this.
Once all the girls are down on the mats, coach has us head outside to do laps. I prefer that over this any day. The net will be refolded before the next class. Tauriel's presence follows behind me. I don't think she knew her own strength. She's been stranded in the forest for almost thirty years, she's got some tension to release. She either did that to distract everyone, or she was still upset about yesterday. Well, I'm glad she did; I needed that getaway. I feel like I'm in Poltergeist.
Now I'm really hoping we find Tauriel's identity and get it over with.
Lunch today is chili con carne. It tastes better when you wash it down with soda rather milk or juice. That's one thing; don't ever drink milk when you eat chili.
Beside me, Tauriel floats, watching me and Janie eat. She looks like she's in a sort of bliss after that fiasco she caused in the gym. I told Janie all about it and she wished she could've been there to take a picture. She wished she could've changed her schedule to have the same gym class as me. Janie wished she had a camera in her phone to film it, but I don't know anyone who would want to see a ghostly outbreak.
"She actually did that?," howls Janie. She's been laughing ever since I told her, but even I can't get over it. It actually got me to feel better about the rope climbing.
"Yeah, she did." I steal a glance at Tauriel. She's still looking mopey, but she looks like she still can't stop thinking about what she did in the gym. I grab at her finger bone around my neck. It feels so cold in my hand.
"Hey," peeps Janie, "ask her if she wants to do that again for my gym class."
Her gym class is before we have English, so I'm betting she wants to have a free period. That or she just wants to skip it completely.
"I don't think so, Janie." I reply. "Besides, you need the exercise in order to make it to English on time."
Janie crosses her arms. She looks like she's biting the inside of her cheek. I chuckle.
"You never let me have fun," she mutters in a fake annoyed tone.
"Sure I do," I reply sarcastically.
Janie goes back to eating her chili. I glance over at Tauriel. She's hovering beside us. I know she's still upset about recovering that unpleasant memory, but it's going to be important for our investigation. I won't make her tell it again if she doesn't want to. I wouldn't want to talk about it either.
"Anyways," I say, "back to our plan. We ask our teachers to get permission to go to the library and we investigate from there."
"Right," says Janie after sipping her Pepsi.
"I'm really hoping we find anything," I huff.
"Hey," utters Janie, "think you can have Tauriel shake the bookcases and throw the books out of them like in the movies?"
I take a look at Tauriel, who's obviously not going along with this. I shake my head at Janie.
"No." I say.
By the time lunch is over Janie and I head to our classes. I remind Janie to wait ten minutes before asking. I go to my chemistry class, which for once, I'm actually grateful to get out of. I get to my seat, and wait for the rest of the class to file in. Tauriel floats next to the window, eyes staring into space. Today's not going to be anything special, it's just going to be more review stuff. It doesn't count for our grade. If I were somebody else, I'd be paying attention to get a good grade, but since I'm not somebody else I look forward to excusing myself to start my investigation. I won't need chemistry when I'm in the real world. I'm going to be something better than a chemist.
The last to enter is Brad Michelson. Once everyone's seated I start counting the minutes. Pretty sure I think Janie will be already in the library since she has gym before we have our English class. It's the last week of school anyways.
I look down at the clock. It's only been five minutes. I glance over at the shelf with all the chemicals and stuff. I briefly think about having Tauriel break all those jars and cause a leak. No, no. If I know one thing about chemicals spilling is that they'll cause the sprinkler system to go haywire and needing to evacuate everyone. And how will I explain that my ghost friend did it? No. It's better to just excuse myself out.
I check the clock again and it's been another five minutes in. I make my move.
"Mrs. Pierson," I raise my hand, "may I be excused to the library?"
She writes me a pass and I take it and leave.
The library's located on the first floor in the south wing. The walls are periwinkle blue, the floors are mint carpeting. There's so many books in here, from fiction to nonfiction, mangas. I can't believe our school library has those in stock. I've skimmed through a few, and some of them have...stimulating pages.
Entering through the main double doors, I see the librarian at her desk, busily typing away at her computer, eyes hidden behind pince-nez. She takes a look at me and quickly goes back to her computer. I make my way.
I stroll through the history section. There's an empty table up ahead. I take a seat and wait. Janie's not here yet, to my surprise. I could've sworn she'd be here. She probably decided to hide in the girls' locker room and wait until the right moment. I'd do that, too. I touch the finger around my neck. Tauriel is hovering next to a bookcase. She's scanning the titles as though deciding which one to pick. I'd pick one for her, but I don't think she's interested in reading. She's probably trying not to make me worry.
Staring at the ceiling I look from sprinkler to sprinkler, waiting for Janie's arrival. Even if she doesn't show up, I'll still do the investigation.
I hear a set of footsteps from behind. I turn around and see Janie. She takes a seat next to me, and puts her backpack on the backrest.
"Hey," she says.
"Where were you?" I ask.
"I had to hide in one of the lockers," she replies, "to wait until the other girls were gone. Then I snuck out, and here I am."
"You hid in a locker?"
"I thought coach would come in and check the locker room," she says kind of sheepishly.
"Check the locker room? What are we, in military school?"
"Anyways," she says, "what do we do? Where are going to find yearbooks?"
"If I may," interjects Tauriel, which is the most she's said all day, "why not ask the librarian where they keep them stored?"
Janie looks at me. "What's she saying?" It's obvious from how I'm looking at the bookcase, where Tauriel's floating, that she knows I'm listening to her.
"She's saying that we should ask the librarian for the yearbooks." I explain. Janie interlocked her fingers together on the table, like an executive.
"Ask Mrs. Garrison?," she says. "I guess we could try."
I look over at the other side of the library, where there's another table and one guy sitting at it, headphones in his ears. He's not listening to any of this, thank god.
"Go ahead," I say, "ask."
"Me?," rasps Janie, "Why do I have to do it?"
"I do almost everything around here," I say, "you should pull some of your weight around here."
Janie slumps her shoulders before getting up.
I watch her go up to the check-out desk. Janie asks her the question, and it leaves Mrs. Garrison stumped. I don't know if she's convinced or not, but she steps out of the desk. She tells Janie to wait and she'll be back. I glance over at Tauriel, who's just as nervous as I am. I try to give off a sense of "I am brave" while I wait. I don't want anyone to think I'm a nervous wreck.
The next minute I look back I see Mrs. Garrison returning with about four or five yearbooks in tow. She hands them to Janie, who thanks her, and hauls them back here.
"I asked for yearbooks from the seventies," she says, placing each one on the table. "I had to tell her I was only curious to see what seventies fashion looked like." Then adds more embarrassingly, "I also told her I wanted to see if my mom had like a perm or something."
The yearbooks Janie asked for are dated 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, and 1977. It's a good move, though, and I hope we find Tauriel's picture and real name.
"Let's get this started," says Janie. She grabs the one from 1973 and we both look at it soulfully.
She opens it.
I knew the photos would all be in black-and-white. I don't know when they started taking them in color. If only I had asked. I remember about the year I must've deduced Tauriel went to our school and keep that in mind. Okay, so, the Ramones first formed in 1974, and she said that the locker she had a poster of theirs was in her junior year. She might've been a junior in 1973. Maybe not, but I'm going for anything right now.
"I don't see anything here," says Janie. We're leafing through the freshman section. I know we agreed that Tauriel was a junior in that memory she told us, but I'm willing to check every grade to find her true name.
"Do you see anything?," I ask Tauriel.
Tauriel hovers over to the table. She looks at the page with burning interest, her curiosity like that of a child. She runs a hand against the page, her eyes despondent.
"No," she answers, her hand moving away from the yearbook.
"Ugh." I roll my eyes in tedium.
"No?," whispers Janie. I shake my head. "Bummer."
"Let's try nineteen seventy-four." I close the 1973 yearbook, move it aside, and grab the one from 1974. Opening it up, I become filled with this dim hope.
We look through the freshman section. Nothing. Then we check the sophomore section. Everyone is listed from their last name first. Everybody knows that. Passing through the A last names... the Bs... The Cs...
"Hold up," pipes Janie. She puts her hand on a certain page. She scrunches her eyebrows together, as though trying to make out something she's recognized.
"I think," she says, still certain but doubtful, "I think I see a girl who looks like Tauriel."
Tauriel's eyes bulge up. My heart sinks to the bottom of my stomach.
"Are you sure?"
I've only described Tauriel to Janie the way I see her, and I always hope she can picture her that way. Let's hope her memory is a good as my description.
"Yeah," she replies. She puts her finger on a photo. "There."
It's a black-and-white photo of a girl with the exact same description as Tauriel. My eyes widen. It's her, only a little more youthful, but it's her. Same eyes, same nose, same ears. Her hair cascading to her shoulders. I look over at Tauriel to see her reaction. She's reacting the way I expected: surprised and horrified, but also appeased.
"What's her name?" I ask.
Janie screws her eyes to the right section of the page. The first name is of that boy in front. Then we move up to the girl next to him. And the next girl. And then the girl who looks like Tauriel. And her name.
I glance over at Tauriel—er, I mean—Natasha. It must be overwhelming to learn your real name after so long. She looks like she just got punched in the stomach. I can't imagine what she's feeling. All those years spent alone with no one but herself to keep her company. No clue to her past. And now we found it.
I can't wait to see what else we find out.
Janie grabs the 1975 yearbook. She skips to the junior section. Using her finger to trace the photos and names. She finds Tauriel again. Natasha, I mean. This is going to take some getting used to.
Remembering the year the Ramones came out, I trace back to the year Tau—Natasha—was in eleventh grade. So I was right. The Ramones came out in 1974. And Natasha had that locker in eleventh grade. The one with a Ramones poster. Now all that's left is...
I grab the 1976 yearbook. I open it to what I think is the senior section. I scan the photos to find Natasha's photo. I find her. Bright-eyed and full of smiles. I glance over at the ghost Natasha and do a comparison. Between the photo and the ghost: she's a far cry from the girl she used to be. Now Natasha is ghastly to look at. She's so pale and her eyes hold a milky glaze over them. Were they always like that? Maybe I was just too busy seeing her as a person than an incorporeal specter.
A question hits me like a train.
"Do you remember anything?"
I try not to call her by her real name. It's got to be overwhelming learning your real name instantaneously. She takes a long time to come up with an answer.
"No," she says, "not really." she looks at her school yearbook photo, brow furrowed. "It looks so new, and yet, it's so familiar." She blinks her eyes like she was staring into a pair of headlights.
"What did she say?," asks Janie, leaning over toward me.
I don't have the gull to answer her. I'm too exhilarated to say anything, just as Natasha is.
Now that she knows her real name, I wonder what else she'll remember. It'll take time to remember a whole lifetime, but it'll happen.
For now, I have to give Natasha space.
So we finally find out what Tauriel's real name is. I didn't expect it to be revealed this early. I was hoping it'd be near the end, and yet, I don't know when "near the end" is.
What chapter is this again? I can't even remember. Next chapter will be told in Tauriel's POV.
P.S. I really don't know what schools do with old yearbooks. I really don't. I'm actually asking for that answer.