Book Talk

What’s new on the Chanda Hahn front? What is on her desk planner? Let’s talk a look.

LOST BOY- book 2 in the Neverwood Chronicles to come out in JUNE! I’m aiming to have it done before the Utopia Conference, but it really depends on how fast the editors and beta readers can get it back to me. I’m on the fence on whether or not I will do a PRE- Order on this book. It will be the first time in a long time that I won’t have one. So it feels weird.

Look for a three books in the Neverwood Chronicles and a few hints at another spinoff series that I’ve been hiding within Lost Girl and Lost Boy. If this series continues to sell, you can see 3 more books in a similar world. (only if it sells well though)

Just got the cover back for Lost Boy and I’m very excited and I will be doing a huge sale for Lost Girl and Cover Reveal in the next month. If you would like to jump on the band wagon early, please sign up now and more instructions will come later.

LOST BOY COVER REVEAL SIGN UP

UTOPIA CON

Oh by the way, I’ll be in Nashville, TN from June 22-25th for the Conference. This is my 4th year attending and it will be Utopia’s last conference. http://www.utopiacon.com <— go here for tickets.

We are preparing for a major event this summer. I’m excited and terrified at the same time. So I’m leaving some panic mad run around like a chicken with my head cut off time.

UNDERLORDS– Book 2 in the Underland Chronicles. This book will becoming out this fall. I’m aiming for November, But no guarantee. This is all based on what get’s accomplished this summer and where we are at in our plan.

Why is Underland a Duology? ( two in a series)
Well, I wrote Underland for me. I started it back in August 2011 and was just writing it to fill time while I shopped UnEnchanted for an agent. I wanted a series where there was everything, a cross over of all mythological beasts and monsters from across the world and time. Insert skepticism here. Well, if you think about it, if there was a world full of creatures and beasts, just like humans, that went into hiding. I bet eventually they to would have migrated and moved across the continents and just like us, have learned to live amongst each other.

So combine the Greek gods because well they had some of the best monsters in their tales, Gorgons, Minatuars and Cyclops and combine them with our favorites, Vamps, shifters, werewolves and zombies and we have a unique city and story, and of course we have to throw in the Greek games, because we need to know who would win in a fight between a Cyclops versus Werewolf?

I admit that I wrote this series for Boys, but I know that I’m better in the female protagonists head space, so insert Kira. He father was a Navy Seal and she had a rough childhood and lives on the streets. She’s not your confused teen. She knows who she is and is willing to fight for it with her fists and attitude in a male dominated Underworld.
This series is only going to be two books, because I would like to go back to my fairytale roots.

What’s up next?

Well, I’m known for my Unfortunate Fairytale Series, and I had planned on doing a spinoff with Ever. But when you think about it, really get into Ever’s head. She’s sweet and snarky and a bit unpleasant. I’m not sure a whole book with her as the main character is the way to go. I wasn’t really loving it. So I’m on the fence on whether to pick up and run with another book series.

I’m a fantasy writer at heart, and I won’t completely walk away from my fairytales, so expect more standalones in a new world in the future.

Well that’s all for now.

From the desk of
Chanda Hahn

 

Chapter 3- Lost Girl

She bolted upright. Her body was coated in a sheen of sweat, and she shook uncontrollably again. She skated her gaze around her small, white room. She was alone. Something scratched at her window, and she cried out in terror, pulling the blanket over her head as she continued to shiver.

“It’s not real,” she spoke aloud to no one. “It didn’t happen.” She lifted the corner of her blanket and peeked into her room. It had a sink with no mirror, a chair, her bed, a nightstand, and a small bathroom area that held the toilet.

The wind howled angrily, and the scratching noise came from the window again. Feeling a little bolder, she sat up, tossed her blanket to the side and stood up to peer out the window. Sure enough, the wind was only causing a tree branch to scratch against the pane. She released the breath she was holding and crawled back into her bed.

The moonlight filtered in along the far wall, and the clouds passing in front of it caused shadow-fingers to stretch and reach across it.

“No!” Wendy cried out again. She reached for the small lamp next to the bed and turned it on, making the shadows disappear. “The shadows cannot harm me. The shadows cannot harm me.”

Once her room was bathed in light, her unease started to dissipate. She pulled the covers back over her and felt a tear of unease slide down her face. It was natural for a ten-year-old to be afraid of the dark and of the shadows.

Wasn’t it?

She had just fallen back into a restless sleep when a knock on her door made her jump up again. It was one of the night staff doing her rounds.

“It’s past eleven. You know the rules. Lights out.” The nurse spoke softly through the glass panel in the door. Wendy was locked in. She couldn’t leave until morning.

“Please, don’t make me,” Wendy whispered through the blankets, but the nurse didn’t hear.

“Turn off the lights,” the nurse said, a little firmer.

Wendy’s hand snaked out from under the blanket. She clicked the lamp off and yanked her hand back under the covers, as if the darkness would bite it off. She didn’t breathe, didn’t move, just heard the soft steps of the nurse’s feet move on down the hall.

She was getting hot from breathing under the blanket, but she wasn’t about to poke her head out. The scratching noise at the window came again, followed by a soft click of the window’s lock turning.

“The shadows aren’t real. It’s all in my head.”

Then came the sound of the window sliding open.

She closed her eyes and held her breath. If she didn’t see it, it didn’t exist.

It wasn’t here.

It wasn’t in her room.

The temperature dropped, and now she was shaking not only from fear but also from chills that sneaked between the covers and touched her skin.

“Go away,” she whispered.

This wasn’t happening. Not again. How did the shadow keep finding her here? She thought she’d banished them from her mind.

Wendy whispered frantically. “Go away, leave here.”

The heavy bolt slid as her door was unlocked, and the door creaked open.

The shadow was leaving her room. Where was it going? Why did it open her door? She flipped back the comforter just enough to see the shadow slip out of her room and into the empty hallway.

Wendy leapt from her bed and scrambled to the open door to look down the darkened hallway. Her heart thudded loudly, the rushing of its frantic beat in her ears.

Where had the shadow gone? The hall was void of movement. The nurse had already made her rounds and retired back to her station.

Wendy thought she’d seen a slight movement down the hall to her left, so she followed, taking soft steps and peering into each room, looking for darkness. The first two rooms in the girls’ wing showed the inhabitants blissfully sleeping.

She paused when she peered into Lily’s room. Her dark hair fell around her caramel skin, and she was snuggled into bed, the blanket pulled up to her chin.

Wendy checked every room, and there were no shadows. She turned and was about to head back to her room when she saw the shadow pass through the double doors and head toward the boys’ wing.

Wendy felt like she was sleepwalking as she followed the shadow through an unlocked door and down another hall. Where were the guards? How come so many doors were unlocked? She looked into the glass doors as she wandered through the boys’ hall.

Teddy tossed and turned, his mouth open in a silent scream. Night terrors?

Had to be. He was experiencing night terrors like she did. One of the most unholy experiences ever.

The staff told her she had an “episode.”

Now, here she was seeing one in front of her, and she was helpless to do anything. She tapped on the glass, but Teddy didn’t hear her. She tried calling his name. “Teddy. Wake up.”

Nothing.

Wendy looked up in the corner of the hallway directly at the blinking security camera. Any minute, they would notice her in the hallway and force her back to her room.

“It’s okay. Think happy thoughts.” She spoke Dr. Mee’s mantra through the pane.

Suddenly, the distressed movements stopped.

He sat straight up in bed and stared at her.

His pupils were dilated.

And he started to scream. Loudly.

Wendy jumped back in alarm and scrambled into an empty room, just as nurses came in to try to subdue Teddy. He continued to scream, and Wendy tried to put her hands over her ears to block out his cries. She heard scuffling as two nurses wheeled him, strapped to his bed, out of the room and toward the elevator.

Teddy gave up and the screaming quieted. His body went limp, but he still clutched the bear under his arm. When the doors opened and they rolled the bed in, his hand twitched and the bear fell to the floor. He cried out in distress, but no one saw, and the elevator doors closed.

Wendy came out of the empty room and picked up his tattered toy, gently pressing it to her chest. She started to follow Teddy.

A door opened at the other end of the long hallway, drawing her attention back to the other problem. The shadow. Chills ran up her arms as it glided behind Boy, his hair tousled from sleep, almost as if it were herding him. He ambled toward the emergency exit stairwell on the other end of the hall, still in his pajamas.

The shadow paused, flittered a few feet behind Boy, beckoning for her to follow it.

She had let herself get distracted, and now the boy was too far away. She took off running after the shadow, dropping the bear on the floor. Boy was about to push on the emergency door, and Wendy prepared herself for the loud alarm that would go off when the handle was pressed.

But it didn’t.

What was happening?

She was closing the distance, but she didn’t know if she could catch up to the boy or the shadow. The pale yellow light of the stairwell lamps illuminated the darkened hallway when the door opened. The shadow started to lose focus, but it was bright enough that she could still see it.

Something about the shadow slowed her for a moment.

It had a human form. The realization that it wasn’t in the shape of some monster made her pump her legs even harder. The heavy metal door swung closed as the shadow and Boy moved away. She wasn’t going to make it, but she pushed herself even harder.

The door picked up speed. Wendy dove forward and shoved her hand between the frame and door before it closed. She yelled out in pain as it crushed her hand but quickly stifled her cries. Pushing the door open, she entered the stairwell. The door thudded shut behind her.

She leaned over the railing but only saw more darkened stairs downward. She looked up and spotted the striped sleeve of Boy’s pajamas as his hand brushed the railing.

Wendy charged after them. “Hey. Stop!” She had no clue why, but she couldn’t seem to close the distance between them. They were ascending the stairs at inhuman speed, while Wendy pursued them at barefoot-girl speed.

Up and up she followed, looking at each of the floor signs as she ran past.

5th.

6th.

They were running out of floors. She paused and leaned back over the railing to look down. Had she missed them? Did they exit onto another floor? She hadn’t heard any of the exit doors open, and she had been listening for just that sound.

She kept going up until she saw the sign that said ROOF.

Wendy noticed the rusted metal door swinging slowly outward. She ran out into the night, and her feet burned on the gravel-covered roof. Searching past the large air conditioning units, she spotted them on the other side of the large satellite dish.

The shadow was floating in the air as Boy stood on the edge of the roof, looking pensive. She had never been on the roof, and now that she was there, it terrified her. The rushing ocean water thundered below, the briny smell of the water hung in the air.

“What are you doing?”

“You shouldn’t be here.” He turned to study her, confusion shrouding his face. He had something in his hands, something he kept twisting and turning.

“Can you see it?” Wendy pointed at the dark being floating just behind him. She could have sworn she saw the shadow use its hands to make a face and waggle ghostly fingers at her.

Boy turned to look where she had pointed, but the shadow had dissipated.

“The shadow, can you see it?”

He shook his head no.

“We can’t stay here,” he yelled into the darkness, the wind whipping his voice away.

Wendy took a few tentative steps in his direction. She tried to speak softly, in a motherly tone. “No, we can’t. Come down off the ledge, and we can go back inside. It’s dangerous here.”

He shook his head. “It’s dangerous inside, too. They lied to us. They’ve been lying the whole time. There’s no family waiting with open arms for us if we excel. Just more tests, more experiments, and another prison. We have to escape.”

“But we’re on an island. There’s nowhere to go,” Wendy called out, fear bubbling within her.

He looked over his shoulder at her and smiled wryly, even as his green eyes pleaded with her. “An island won’t stop me. It won’t stop us. We’ll leave here and do all of the things we planned. We’ll buy all the ice cream and build the largest tree house. I can take us away from here.”

The shadow continued to float behind him. It flew closer and pulled on his pajama top. She wasn’t sure if the shadow was trying to steady him or push him over.

“Get away from him!” She shouted and rushed forward as the boy began to topple, but he regained his balance, his arms spread to his sides.

The shadow flew at her. She screamed and ducked.

“Don’t you see it?” Wendy pointed at the being now flying around her, taunting her. She ducked as the shadow flew her way. Boy was oblivious to her hallucinations.

“I lied to them. Failed my tests, so they sent me back. I did everything I could to be sent back here to get you. But I can do it. I’ll show them.” He spoke angrily into the wind.

“Do what?” she asked fearfully.

He fidgeted with the object in his hand, and she saw it was her silver thimble. He tucked it into his pajama pocket and smiled confidently at her.

“Fly.”

The roof door slammed open, and she heard the sound of rushing feet behind her. She knew what that meant. They’d be caught and taken to a containment unit.

“Come with me?” he begged. He held his hand out to her, waiting for her to take it. His smile promised safety, security, and adventure. “I won’t let you fall.”

“But…I can’t fly.” Her hand brushed across his palm, and it started to tremble as her fear quickly took over.

“No, you’re wrong.” His voice became distant as he looked at the soldiers rushing toward them. He grabbed her hand and tried to pull her with him. “We can. If you just belie—”

Strong arms wrapped around Wendy’s waist and yanked her from his grip. He tried to grab for her, to yank her from her attacker’s arms, but he lost his balance.

He slipped, his arms pin wheeling as he fell backwards off the ledge of the roof and plummeted toward the rocks below.

 

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Chapter 2- Lost Girl

 

 

Wendy padded back toward her room but paused when
she came to the main gathering hall. Pale yellow couches and sterile tables furnished the space. Metal bars secured the windows lining the far wall. On a sunny day, she could look out and see the dark woods surrounding the facility. The front of the room overlooked the cliff and the calm cerulean waters of the ocean.

Boys and girls ages six to twelve lounged about the main room, but Wendy knew there were kids even younger in a hidden away nursery. Every once in a while she’d see a nurse carrying a crying infant.

The room felt different. There were glances, stares, and more agitation than normal. That’s when she noticed who was causing the disturbance. Everyone had taken notice of the boy in an armchair in the corner of the room. About thirteen years old, he had auburn hair and the greenest eyes.

Some were upset, but Wendy’s heart sang with excitement—he was back.

The boy.

That’s what she always called him, since they were forbidden to call each other by their given names. If they were caught using them, they’d end up in the containment room with no food for a day. Within the facility they were nothing more than numbers, statistics on paper instead of actual living beings.

She hated using their subject numbers, so in her mind she gave each of them their own unique nickname. She had thought the boy was gone for good since he was taken away a few weeks ago. She knew it was because he’d showed positive results to the treatments. Why was he back? What had gone wrong? He should have been taken out of this place and—if the rumors were true—given a home.

Wendy went and sat in the yellow armchair across from him and tucked her knees up to her chest, wrapping her arms around them. She held still and studied him. The boy scrutinized her as well, but his eyes seemed a bit wild. Like a scared rabbit. When their eyes met, he turned away and began to mutter to himself.

Oh great, she thought. He didn’t remember her. Being with Boy was the only thing that gave Wendy happy thoughts. She didn’t shake when he was around. And that made her want to stick by him until he remembered her. He looked over at her and she smiled wanly.

“Hey, Boy,” she said. “I’m glad you’re back. I was getting lonely.”

He rocked back and forth and looked away from her. Was he ashamed? Too embarrassed to talk to her? Determined, she stood and walked over to the bookshelf filled with timeworn books and board games and searched until she found their favorite game.

She brought the game back and set it on a coffee table. Wendy kneeled down, lifted off the battered lid, its corners held together by yellowed tape, and began to pull out the familiar game board and cards. She knew the boy watched her, but he stayed silent. Wendy barely knew the fundamentals of Monopoly and really hated the game. It was too long and involved for her liking. But it was a game they had played before, had spent hours playing, quietly whispering to each other and going around the board and passing go and collecting two hundred dollars.

The boy loved games, any kind of games, and the crazier the rules, the better. Most of the time they just made up their own rules.

They’d made extravagant future plans together, wasting ages playing games and dreaming: If it were real money, they would spend it on frivolous things like gallons of mint chip ice cream or swimming pools filled with macaroni and cheese. They laughed together for hours, and sometimes when they’d get really serious, they’d begin to talk of a future outside of Neverland. She’d open up a bookstore, and he’d become a teacher. But when she looked at the boy in front of her, he wasn’t the same person.

Her boy had been the epitome of joy, laughter, and youth. This boy displayed none of those attributes. She just had to bring it back, help him remember.

She nudged the coffee table closer to the boy’s chair and set up the board.

Wendy hummed softly and continued stacking the cards. The chatter of the other kids turned to white noise around them. The boy closed his eyes and listened to her sing. He seemed to relax. She liked taking her time.

After a few minutes, he leaned forward and helped her set up the bank. Then it was time to play. All of the main tokens had disappeared over time, and only one piece remained—the thimble. It was impossible to play with only one piece.

Wendy offered the boy the thimble. “Looks like we’re down to one token.”

“That’s never stopped us before, Girl.” He smiled at her, his eyes dancing as a dimple appeared on his cheek.

She breathed a sigh of relief at her nickname.

He reached into his pocket, and placed an acorn on the board. “You go first.”

“How long has that been in your pocket?” Wendy chastised. She tossed him a stern look.

The boy blushed and answered, “You really don’t want to know.”

Wendy stifled a giggle, and they began to play, just like old times.

A skinny boy with dark hair, glasses, and a slight limp came quietly and sat next to them, observing. He had a critical eye and frequently told them, “You’re playing it wrong.”

“No, we’re not,” Wendy finally answered.

“You’re not following the rules of the game.” He got out the tattered rules and read them aloud.

“Games are meant to be fun. This one just happens to have too many rules for my liking.” Boy said. He looked up at Wendy and winked, making her heart flutter. She tucked that away for the next time she needed a happy thought.

Whenever one of them had to pay taxes, they’d put it in the middle of the board and—if someone rolled snake eyes—they’d dive in and whoever snagged the most money kept it. It usually amounted to knocking the board over and wrestling for the money.

A few other kids came to watch—most gathered to observe the boy. He was entertaining to watch and he played to the crowd. Taking the acorn, he would make it disappear, only to reappear near a dark-haired boy with a serious expression and somber gray eyes, who Wendy called Gray.

Gray kept himself aloof from the other kids. He always watched and never really joined in any of the conversations. When Boy made the acorn appear out of Gray’s ear, Gray swatted his hand away and told him to grow up.

Boy laughed at Gray. “Never.

Gray occasionally rolled his eyes when Boy wasn’t looking.

Wendy grinned because her Boy was truly back. He launched into an outrageous story of a beautiful mermaid that lived near an island they all lived on, and Wendy liked it. Neverland didn’t seem so scary when he was around. She hoped he never left her alone again.

Wendy lay on the floor next to the coffee table and placed her hands behind her head. She studied the ceiling tiles and listened to Boy talk. His story became grim, with talk of kids being captured by Indians and imprisoned. Before she knew it, her thoughts had wandered back to that dark place she tried so hard to avoid.

Doctor Mee said they were here because of a trait they each possessed—a certain auto immune disease, and they were being treated with injections.

It actually seemed that they wanted the kids to be different. They praised the ones who could do things that weren’t part of normal human abilities. Some of the kids reacted negatively to the treatment—the ones who withdrew inside their heads.

Wendy didn’t know what they hoped for her. She’d had a negative reaction to the treatment and gotten really sick, and afterwards she began to see shadows in her peripheral vision. No one else could see them, not even Boy.

A rattling noise made her open her eyes to see that she was still lying on the floor. For a moment she had forgotten where she was. The air conditioning vent in the ceiling sputtered and clanged as cold air blasted down on her. She briefly smelled the salty ocean air. Wendy turned her head to the side and a single tear of disappointment slid down her cheek. She didn’t want to see things or be considered crazy. She wanted the shadows gone for good.

Boy still sat in the chair. He seemed to be having a disagreement with Gray. A staff nurse came and announced that it was time for dinner. Wendy stood and followed the other kids as they filed down a long hall to the opened doors. The staff blocked every exit except for the one leading to the cafeteria.

When the double doors opened, her mouth watered at the sweet and spicy aroma from the kitchen. She paused and spoke aloud to Boy and Gray.

Neither heard her. Boy had his feet planted, his hands on his hips. Gray scowled and, using only his thumb, cracked the knuckles on his right hand.

“There’s cinnamon rolls tonight.” She spoke enticingly and tugged on Boy’s sleeve.

By now the room was empty except for Boy and Gray, they still hadn’t budged. She turned to go back but was cut off by more kids lining up. They would only have an hour after dinner before they would be escorted back to their rooms for the night.

She stood in line behind 1-84, a girl with an attitude who ran with a rough crowd. Wendy took the red plastic tray and waited without making eye contact with the girl. Others had learned to keep their distance. In front of 1-84 stood a brown-haired boy, about seven, with a teddy bear stuffed under his arm. He had come the same time as Wendy had. He never spoke to any of the kids or staff, but frequently sat by himself and whispered into the stuffed bear’s ear. That’s how he earned his unfortunate nickname—Teddy. He always stared directly at Wendy, but he’d never speak.

Wendy picked up her tray, which consisted of a bowl of thick red chili, a warm cinnamon roll, green beans, and a pint of milk. She took her food and sat at a round table in the corner of the room. Keeping her back to the brick wall, she ate alone. She preferred the corner table because it gave her a sense of security when she didn’t have Boy watching her back. No one could sneak up behind her or steal her food.

Gray came in by himself. She tried to keep an eye out for Boy, but little Teddy drew her attention again.

He sat at a nearby table, propped the bear into a sitting position, and picked up his spoon to eat. One of the more aggressive kids came by and knocked over the bear, taunting Teddy. The boy panicked and quickly righted the bear, but when he turned back, his tray lacked his bowl of chili and cinnamon roll.

Teddy looked at his small portion of green beans, and his shoulders shook as he tried to hold back tears. Wendy watched the young boy. Her fingers curled around her fork, her knuckles turning white. She glanced toward the kitchen staff to see if they had noticed what was happening. They didn’t do anything about it. As long as the kids weren’t downright fighting, bullying was tolerated—even encouraged.

She leaned forward and watched as the bigger kid held the bowl of chili up in the air like a prized trophy, the cinnamon roll clenched between his teeth. Another kid walked behind with Teddy’s milk.

The cooks didn’t even bat an eye. They were, in fact, tearing down the trays and hauling the food away. They busied themselves filling a cart with more trays of food for those who were confined to their rooms. Wendy knew they kept the “dangerous” kids on a lower level—behind more locked doors and in padded rooms.

No, not rooms. Cells.

It was the threat of being taken to basement level two that kept the bullying in check. But she believed that bullying of any kind should never be tolerated.

Teddy’s lip quivered and his hand reached for his fork. He stabbed a green bean, brought it up to his mouth, and chewed slowly. In two bites, his small portion of vegetables had disappeared.

Come on, Teddy. Say something. Do something. She tried to mentally encourage him to act, to not let himself become the victim.

Teddy continued to sit and stare at his empty plate. His shoulders shook and the dull murmur of the crowd rose.

Disgusted and furious at the bullies, Wendy was even more upset at Teddy for not standing up for himself. She had only eaten half of her chili, but she’d lost her appetite. She stood and pushed her chair screeching across the floor, drawing attention. Wendy picked up her unopened pint of milk and her cinnamon roll, walked over to Teddy’s table, and placed both on his tray. She saw his wide eyes turn glassy as he tried to blink back tears. He looked at the food in front of him and then back at her.

She jumped up and sat on top of the table. “Eat,” she commanded. Wendy glared at anyone who looked their way.

Her body language was clear. Don’t mess with her. She was his protector. Wendy proceeded to watch over Teddy as he ate her roll and downed the milk greedily. When 1-84 stared at her, Wendy gave her an ugly glare and crossed her arms threateningly.

Gray had watched the whole exchange. He picked up his tray and moved to sit next them, as if there was a silent line drawn in the cafeteria and he had chosen a side. Wendy gave him a curious smile as he took over glaring at the group of bullies that stole Teddy’s food.

“Just because you can’t talk, or don’t, or choose not to, that doesn’t mean you can’t defend yourself,” Wendy whispered.

“It’s true.” Gray leaned over and spoke softly. “Rule one: Everyone is the enemy. Even me…even her.” He gestured to both of them.

Teddy swallowed a mouthful of cinnamon roll and turned his soft brown eyes to her. They flared with anger.

“Relax. We know how to handle ourselves.” Wendy winked.

Gray held up two fingers. “Rule two: Remember rule one.” Gray picked up his discarded fork and held it in front of Wendy, tines facing up. “This is eating position.”

He waited to be sure Teddy was paying close attention. “And when they come near you, flip it like this.” With a quick flip of the fork and his arm, the tines pointed down, and he brought the fork across Wendy’s chest in an aggressive stance. “Normally, it’s what you’d do with a knife, but since we aren’t given any, the fork will do.”

Teddy’s eyes widened in fear, but Gray smiled encouragingly. “Relax, kid. I’ve never had to stab anyone with a fork. Just the action alone will make them back off. But you have to toughen up here, be an army of one if you have to. There’s no room for weakness.” He gently placed the fork down on his tray. With a respectful nod to Wendy, he walked out of the room.

When Teddy was done eating, Wendy gave his shoulder a gentle squeeze, and he started to shake. Was he crying? He turned and wrapped his arms around her neck.

“Hey, chill.” She awkwardly extracted herself from his grasp. “It was nothing. No big deal. Just some notes for next time, okay?” Uncomfortable with his display of affection, she stood and heard his choked sob. She turned back.

He looked up at her, eyes full of accusation and anger, lips pinched in a tight line. He grabbed the bear and began to whisper to it again. Maybe it would be better if she distanced herself from Teddy, let him fight his own battles from now on. She put the dirty tray on the rack and headed out.

Wendy passed back through the main room on her way down the hall to her own room, and noticed that the boy was gone. Strange. She hadn’t seen him come into the dining hall to eat, so he must have gone back to his room. She was about to leave when she noticed the game board.

Even from a distance, she could see that another piece had disappeared from the board. Her thimble.

 

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