“Dante? Are you in there?”
Dante pulled up her head, sniffed and tried to wipe her eyes. She looked around the cave, wondering how long she’d been gone. Were people looking for her? She recognized Becky’s voice, but didn’t really want her to come in and see her crying. She heard footsteps and looked around as Becky’s face came into view. She looked scared but determined.
“Hi there,” she said coming into the cave. Dante started to turn away, but then remembered the face in the pool. She looked up at Becky and said a small hi. She even tried to smile.
Becky came closer. “Are you o.k.?”
“Yeah,” Dante said, “I guess I just lost track of time.”
“Um, I don’t want to pry or anything, but are you sure you’re o.k.? I thought I heard you crying.”
Dante took a breath and tried to act nonchalant.
“I’m fine,” she said, in a bored voice. And then shook her head. This was going to be hard, but she needed to share her true self. She looked Becky in the eye. The other girl’s blue eyes looked kind, and concerned.
“No,” Dante said dropping her head and beginning to cry, “I’m not o.k. I really miss my friends.”
“I’m sorry,” Becky said. She came over and sat next to Dante, putting her hand on her shoulder. “I bet it’s really hard to move away and leave friends behind. I’ve never had to move, and I think I’d just die if my parents made me leave.”
Dante was surprised at how nice Becky was being, and for a moment the surprise stopped her tears. She smiled at Becky.
“Thanks,” she said. “It is kind of hard. Especially when your brother fits in so well.”
Becky laughed. “Yeah, well, I wouldn’t know about that,” she said, “I’ve got two sisters. What a pain!”
She was quiet for a moment and then looked away as though she were embarrassed.
“Dante,” she said, “I’m sorry about Carol. She just gets mean like that sometimes. I don’t know why, and I wish she didn’t.”
She looked back at Dante. “I’m sorry I haven’t been nicer, it’s just that Carol and I have grown up together, she’s lived next door to me for ages, and well, sometimes I guess I let her get away with too much.”
“That’s o.k.,” Dante said, and realized that she really meant it. “I really am bad at sports and stuff, and it must have been frustrating for her when I just let the ball hit me. The least I could have done was gotten out of the way. Or put a mitt on my head!” At that both girls laughed.
“How did you know I was here?” Dante asked. It didn’t seem like she’d been gone long, or that anyone thought she had been missing. Time on Endolye must be different than time here.
“I saw you come in here, and I couldn’t believe you were brave enough to do that. So I decided to follow you. I’d like to be braver, so maybe if we become friends, I could learn that.” She smiled shyly.
Dante felt herself smiling. “I don’t feel so brave most of the time,” she said.
They sat quietly for a moment and then Becky noticed the drawing in Dante’s hand. “What’s that?” she asked, turning her head sideways to see.
“A picture of feet?” She looked at Dante quizzically.
Dante looked at it for a moment, and then quickly opened her backpack and pushed it in. “Yeah, it’s just something I was working on,” she said. “It’s nothing, really.”
The two girls left the cave and began walking through the park.
“You know,” Becky said, “I’ve always loved your house. I mean, I know people said it was haunted and all, but I just thought it was sad and lonely. I was so happy when they started working on it, and was glad to see that a real family moved in.”
Dante felt a stab of suspicion. “You can come over and see the inside if you want,” she said, “but my brother won’t be there. And he never likes any of my friends.”
Becky looked at her, puzzled, “Who cares? I generally don’t like anyone’s brother! But I would love to see the inside of the house. Who has the room in the tower part in front?”
“My dad made that a library. It’s pretty cool.”
“That’s really cool!”
They walked to Dante’s house and went in through the kitchen. Her mother looked up and her eyes widened in surprise.
“Well, hello there,” she said.
“Hi mom,” Dante said, realizing no one had known she was gone. “This is Becky.”
And with that, the two girls moved through the kitchen and up the back stairs.
“Nice to meet you Becky!” her mother called after them.
“Nice to meet you!” came a voice down the stairs. Dante’s mother just smiled.
Once in Dante’s room, Dante tossed her backpack in the corner, and the two girls flopped on the bed.
“Do you have any other drawings?” Becky asked.
“Yeah, some,” Dante said.
“Can I see?”
Dante thought hard, but then decided to take the risk. She showed Becky her drawings, and Becky was impressed with them. They two girls agreed that Dante would try to teach Becky to draw, and Becky would try to teach Dante to play sports. Becky stayed for most of the afternoon.
After Becky left, Dante sat on the bed in her room, thinking about the last couple of hours. She might actually have a friend here! Endolye already seemed far away, and she wondered if maybe she had dreamed the whole thing. She pulled her backpack from the corner and opened it to get out her journal. She pulled the drawing of the feet from the top, and then opened the bag wider. A small gasp escaped her.
Inside the backpack was a crumpled brown paper bag, an empty baggie with a few crumbs, and a small, tightly woven basket, a grooming set, and a pipe. She pulled out the pipe and blew a few notes. She felt her eyes tearing up.
“No, definitely not a dream,” she said. She sniffed once, and then resolutely took the pipe in her hands.
“I’m going to learn to play this thing,” she said. “And then I’m going to learn to catch the ball.”
Back in the cave, the surface of the pool stirred slightly. Addis poked his head into the cave and looked around for a moment. Satisfied, he smiled before disappearing back into the water.