Chapter IV

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Somewhere in the Mountains of Idaho—Present Day

I DREAMED THE STORY of Kreios, the fight for his daughter Eriel, and the memory of his amazing love. I took great pleasure in fitting the pieces of the puzzle together. He was someone who had loved without fear of death. He was all or nothing. A little like me, really, which I liked—though I feared death like nothing else. In that sense, I’m still normal.

I read the entire book in two days, wondering at the end if there might be more to it that the Book hadn’t yet revealed to me. Probably. Still, I loved to read stories I could relate to. I could relate to the story of an angel—even though there were epic battles and soaring sonic booms, there were also deep and meaningful friendships. The best stories were universally true. I felt like I knew Kreios, that somehow I was linked to him in ways I could only dream and think of with the aid of She.

Michael didn’t read the Book for a couple of reasons. One, because Kale insisted that it was for me and me alone, and two, because when Michael opened it, all he saw were blank pages. No amount of focusing or magical wishing could bring the smooth script into focus for him. I, however, grew to love that handwriting and could recite every line. I cherished each letter as if written to me.

Kale left me alone as I studied my history, reading and re-reading the Book he had given me. Every time I opened it, a new story awaited me, so it wasn’t like I was reading the same thing over and over. No, I spent most of my afternoons with the Book by the tree, seated on that clump of green grass under its branches. And every day that passed drew me farther out away from the only home I had ever known, into this new and amazing story.

In spite of this newfound wonder, I missed my home fiercely. Thinking of Mom and Dad made my heart sick. I wished I could at least call them to let them know I was okay, though that probably wouldn’t help once they started asking me questions. Even so, I was growing apart from that home and into a new kind of life. Could a person forget so soon?

Here, in the heart of the woods, I began to like the quiet. It was the not-so-busy life, like how Jane Austen’s characters would just walk and talk their lives away.

I had to admit, the difference between those stories and my own life was that I was terribly alone. Though I had no chores and no responsibilities, I ached for all of it because it was at least familiar to me. The hardest part was the inescapable feeling that things would only get harder. I had walked into a dream, and here everything was all about me. Lots of girls, and probably some guys, fantasize about that kind of thing, I bet. Now that it had happened to me, I realized the foolishness of such a thing and how bad selfishness can truly be.

Michael had left me alone as well, and I had thanked him for it. I told him, “I know I’ve been kinda out of it lately; sorry. I should get myself sorted out in a day or two, though.” He smiled and hugged me, acting impressively mature, which had melted me to goo inside all over again. I felt so safe in his arms. I didn’t know what it was about this guy, but he was everything I wanted out of life. If I could just have him, honestly, nothing else mattered. Everything else was so crazy anyway that I was tempted to throw it away and start over. It might be easier, simpler, with just Michael.

“Take all the time you need, Airel,” he’d said to me. “We just gotta play along here. I think over time, he’ll get tired of us and let us go.” His statement caught me off guard. He hadn’t believed any of it; he thought Kale was crazy, that this had been just some psychopathic game, and that in the end, the cops would show up to spring us.

I returned to myself, wondering if that wasn’t what I had thought, too. Or was that what I was supposed to think? I didn’t know anymore. The stories in the Book were so real. They were too impossible to have been made up. I knew in my heart that Kreios was a real person. I could sense that his life was as real as mine somehow.

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