The ward of castoria, p.26
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       The Ward of Castoria, p.26

           Robin Silverglate
 

  Chapter 10

  Confusion

  Bryn spent the whole night tossing and turning. Her dreams were full of tense memories and nightmares. She dreamed that Nicole was crying hysterically. Ryan had been admitted into the hospital and she was upset because she wasn’t allowed to see him. Then Bryn’s dream shifted to her standing outside the park with Dane. She was yelling at him, being even crueler in her dreams than in real life. Suddenly, Dane took out a sword and pointed it to the dark wooded area of the park.

  Bryn awoke with a gasp and bolted up in bed. She did not know why her dreams were so vivid. Usually, she didn’t even remember them. But these visions had been crystal clear. She turned to the clock and realized she had slept later than usual. She was actually glad to get out of bed and end this long string of unusual dreams. But even though she knew they were dreams, the heavy emotions she experienced within them still lingered.

  She went downstairs and found her father reading a newspaper at the breakfast table. “Morning Dad,” she said in a sleepy voice.

  “Good morning, Brynie Bird,” he said as he looked up from his paper. “Have you heard from Nicole yet?”

  “Not yet. If she doesn’t call me this morning, then I’ll call around noon and see if they need anything.”

  Her father patted her knee and said, “That’s a good girl.” Then he noticed the pale look on Bryn’s face and asked, “Are you all right?”

  “I’m fine, Dad. I’m just worried about Ryan.” She decided not to tell him about the argument she had with Dane the night before. Bryn was feeling guilty about what she had said to him as it was. She believed she had rejected him too harshly. Bryn wished she had handled the situation in a better way. Not that she would have given him a different answer. She definitely did not care for him in the same way he cared for her. She had meant what she said last night. He was a little strange and she did not trust him. She felt like he was hiding something, but she wished she had been more polite in rejecting him. Bryn could see she had caused him pain. She heard it in his voice and even saw it in his eyes. Most of all, she wished her manner had been gentler with him.

  Bryn did not look forward to seeing him at school tomorrow. It was going to be awkward for both of them. She did not know which tactic would be better. Should she pretend last night never happened or should she find a way to express that she was sorry for what she had said without giving him the wrong impression? Bryn silently ate her breakfast while she deliberated between the two options and was still undecided by the time she was done.

  She went upstairs to work on math homework until it was time to call Nicole. Surprisingly, she found herself thinking less and less about calculus and more and more about Dane. Her embarrassment over the whole situation caused her to blush several times. At some point, she gave up the pretense of studying and just went back to her bed to lay on top of the sheets. She replayed the whole event in her mind over and over again. Bryn dwelled on every word that was said and every look he’d given her. She felt compelled to commit it to her memory.

  At noon, she got out her cell phone and called Nicole. It rang once and went straight to voicemail. Bryn left a message asking if there was anything that she could do to help. She expected Nicole to call back soon, but no call came. Around one o’clock, Bryn began to text Nicole at regular intervals. Usually Nicole was pretty quick in returning her texts, so she was concerned that she still had not heard from her.

  By two o’clock, Bryn became worried about more things than just Ryan’s health. Bryn texted: “im coming over.” She went to the bathroom to brush her teeth and hair. When she gazed at herself in the mirror, she noticed a small red scratch on the underside of her arm. She had no idea how it got there. She turned her arm so she could inspect it more closely. It surprised her to see it because she did not remember injuring herself recently. She must have scratched herself in her sleep. After all, she did have a fitful night.

  Bryn went downstairs to tell her father where she was going and found him talking on his cell phone. She politely waited for a break in his conversation, but as it turned out, he was almost done anyway. He hung up and smiled. “Aunt Janet and Nick are visiting us in a couple weeks.”

  “Really?” said Bryn excitedly. “Why are they coming here?”

  “It’s Nick’s Spring Break and he wants to visit Georgetown. Apparently, he’s been accepted and he wants to tour the campus before officially deciding.”

  “That would be great if Nick came to school here. Even though I’ll be at Johns Hopkins, it’s still closer than San Francisco.” Bryn was excited at the possibility. She and her cousin were the same age and had been close when they were younger. Ever since her mother died, however, it had become harder and harder to stay in touch with her side of the family. Nick lived on the West coast and she lived in the East. Bryn would periodically text or email him, but it had been at least three years since she had actually seen him.

  “I’m glad you aren’t going to college on the other side of the country. Baltimore is just the right distance,” her father said. Bryn saw the typical mixture of worry and pride that appeared in her father’s eyes every time they talked about her going to college. He shook his head slightly as if to erase the sad thoughts and asked, “Did you need something?”

  “Oh, yeah.” Her mind returned to her earlier troubles. “I wanted to let you know I’m going over to Nicole’s to see how she’s doing.”

  “That’s fine, but don’t stay too long.”

  “I won’t.”

  Bryn left the house feeling full of worries for Ryan and Nicole. However, when she walked past Fletcher Park, her thoughts shifted back to Dane. She dreaded the awkward meeting that was going to happen all too soon.

  When Bryn made it to Nicole’s house, she saw her mother’s car parked in the driveway, so she knew they must be home. She knocked quietly on the door hoping to not disturb Ryan if he was sleeping. As she waited, Bryn could have sworn she saw a small movement behind the window curtain, but no one answered the door. She decided to knock once more and also a little harder this time. After waiting a couple minutes outside, Bryn walked away. If her friend and her family were home they may not be up for company just yet. She got out her cell phone and texted that she stopped by to see if they needed anything and to call if they did. Bryn felt this was all she could do at this point.

  She went directly home knowing she really needed to get back to studying her calculus. She had practically wasted the whole morning with her uncontrolled thoughts about Dane and she was now regretting that she had let them prevent her from doing what she should have been doing. When she walked into her house, she heard her father’s voice in the living room.

  She assumed he was on the phone again, so she peeked inside the room to motion that she was going upstairs. Her heart literally jumped when she saw Dane. He was seated near her father, facing away from her. He probably did not even know she was home. She barely took notice that Beck and her father were in the room, as well. Her face flushed red with embarrassment. She knew this first meeting would be soon, but not now. Bryn still had not decided if she was going to pretend that the whole thing never happened or if she should say something about how she regretted her behavior.

  It turned out she did not need to make a decision after all. Dane did not even turn his head around to look at her when she entered the room.

  “Hey Bryn,” Beck said politely.

  “How is Nicole doing?” her father asked.

  She barely heard either query as she noted that Dane never once looked over at her. He seemed to be intently focused on gazing out the window. Bryn was relieved he was not going to talk to her, yet she was a little disappointed, as well.

  Her father motioned for Bryn to come sit down beside him. “I have some sad news to tell you,” he said as he placed his hand on her knee. “Beck and Dane have come to tell us they are moving.”

  Bryn
turned to Dane in surprise, but he was still entranced with whatever was outside the window.

  “I was offered a teaching position at a school in New York City,” Beck said. “They don’t mind that I’m not done with my internship and they want me to start right away.”

  “When are you moving?” Bryn heard herself ask.

  “Today, in fact,” Beck said.

  Bryn tore her gaze away from Dane and said, “I’m glad that we got the chance to know you this past week. I’m sorry to see you leave.”

  Beck smiled and said, “We are sorry to go, too, but it is an opportunity we just couldn’t turn down. You understand, of course.”

  “Of course,” said Bryn. Bryn was mildly stunned by the turn of events. She was sorry Dane was leaving even if she did not really like him. She listened to her father and Beck finish up their final conversation. They thanked each other and wished each other well. When Beck and Dane stood up to leave, she got up so she could escort them to the door with her father.

  As her father shook Beck’s hand by the front door, Dane pulled her aside and said in a quiet voice, “I wanted to give you this before I go.” He placed an envelope in her hand.

  Bryn merely stared at the envelope. She felt like she had swallowed rocks but knew she would regret not saying anything before he left. Instead, she lifted her eyes to his and said, “I shouldn’t have said those unkind words last night and I am truly sorry if I hurt you.”

  Bryn could see the tightening of his eyes, but she also noticed he smiled as he held out his hand to shake hers goodbye. He hesitated for a moment as if he wanted to say something else, but then, he let go of her hand and walked out the door.

  Beck said goodbye to Bryn and followed Dane outside. Her father closed the door and went back to his study.

  Bryn stared at the door for a few moments and then rushed up the stairs to her room. She sat on her bed and looked at the envelope. It did not look like a typical one at all. Instead, it had a yellowish color and felt rougher than normal. Bryn thought it was made from parchment or maybe even the old Egyptian paper called papyrus. She saw he had neatly written her name on the front in brown ink. The envelope was lumpy in the middle which indicated it probably had more than just a letter inside.

  Bryn carefully opened the envelope and dumped out the contents on her bed. She gasped when she saw a necklace fall out onto the spread. There was a small piece of paper lying next to it with writing on it. She picked up the paper and read the note from Dane.

  I made a pledge that I would always protect you. As long as you wear this necklace, no harm of evil intent will come to you. Please do me the honor of wearing it so I know that you are safe.

  Dane

  Bryn did not understand what he had written at all. How could a necklace keep her safe? She read and reread the note several times in order to make some sense of it, but she was still confused. All she could say for certain was Dane believed he must protect her. However, his method of protection left Bryn with doubt of his sanity. She picked up the necklace in order to investigate it further. The chain was not made out of the typical gold or silver. Rather, it was constructed from some dark brown metal she assumed was bronze. Holding it up to the light, the pendant attached to the chain was simply beautiful. It was in the shape of a tree and made out of the same dark metal. Its branches were bare and jutted out in different directions. A ring of metal surrounded the tree as it connected each branch in a perfect circle. Bryn wondered how on earth this tiny pendant could protect her.

  As she turned it over and over in her hands, she thought about Dane. He was giving her such a strange request with wearing the necklace. She just did not understand it or even him for that matter. Bryn remembered how he had accused her of just that fact last night. He had said, “You are seeing everything incorrectly and you don’t understand me.” Absolutely right… she did not understand him at all. Bryn tried to remember what he had said after that, but she could not. She could recall every other part of their conversation perfectly, but that was the last thing she could remember with any certainty. She replayed the whole conversation in her mind again, but stopped when he accused her of not understanding him. Bryn was frustrated by this mental block that she was experiencing.

  After several minutes, she gave up trying to recall. Maybe if she took her mind off of it, the memory would come back to her eventually. She got off of her bed and moved to her desk. She really needed to end this distraction and study.

  Bryn took the necklace and placed it on the corner of her desk. Even though he had asked her to wear it, she really did not feel comfortable doing so. It seemed too much like a romantic gift and she did not want to be reminded of Dane any more than she was already.
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