CHAPTER 2 - WE FIND OUT MISS EDEN IS ‘THE GREAT PRETENDER’
During the weeks that followed, Troy and I spent more time together and I was over the moon. Admittingly, not in the way I had hoped, but ever since I shared my story concerning my mom, he felt he could open up to me about the things he had gone through in his life.
He and his older brother, Jamie, hardly got on. Jamie was sporty, carefree and brash, which got him into a lot of trouble with the authorities.
Troy revealed that his brother smoked since he was thirteen but got a whole new meaning of seriousness when he was caught with drugs in Grade 12. He was expelled from Farthing High and was sent to live with his father’s sister, Audrey Becker. I can understand why she never got married. Miss Becker works for an institution where the unruliest kids were sent when their parents felt there was no other way to deal with them. Seeing those kids would probably have put me off having a family of my own too.
Troy, on the other hand, was studious, loved reading and listened to all sorts of music, but his all-time favourite was classical music. Whenever we got together to study for history tests, he would play Mozart in the background. He explained that according to surveys, listening to classical music helps relax the brain and increases concentration.
I could only give him a tight smile, but at the back of my mind I asked myself, “So why then did Mozart die at the age of thirty-five and wrote his own Requiem Mass on his deathbed?” But I kept that thought to myself. Over those few weeks, Miss Eden would ask both of us more questions than any of the other students, which began to annoy me. Firstly, it meant I had to listen to her and secondly, (which I’ll never admit to anyone) I began enjoying the lessons. The way she spoke about the tales of old made you want to become Julius Caesar’s BFF. I was rather curious where this woman came from or how the school even allowed someone like her to teach instead of retiring at the coast.
One afternoon, she asked for Troy and me to stay behind after class. Uh oh, what did we do? If we were accused of kissing, then it wasn’t us, because no matter how much I flutter my eyelashes or gave Troy the not so eager thumbs up for choosing Mozart to study with or in any terms of endearment, Troy was clueless. Once everyone had left, she closed the door and slowly turned to us.
“I have a question for both of you.”
Again, with the questions!
“What does history mean to you, personally?” Troy and I gave each other a nervous look, but luckily Troy answered first as I hit a total blank.
“I believe history is a lesson that people should learn from and make sure the same failures aren’t repeated, as for the things that were successful, we learned how to make it better.” Troy puffed out his chest as if he had answered all the questions on ’Who wants to be a Millionaire?’
Miss Eden studied him for a while then said, “Interesting.” I gave Troy a side glance and could see that he wasn’t thrilled with the response.
“And you, Tristan? What does history mean to you?” Oh, fantastic. Nothing seems to escape this woman.
I had to be frank with her. “I have to be honest Miss Eden. I don’t know.” There was no point in making up a story just to say something as I could see this woman couldn’t be fooled.
“I see. Well, why don’t you two sit down and let me tell you a thing or two about history.” We sat down slowly and waited. I wasn’t sure where this was going, but both of us went on high alert. Miss Eden paced the front of the class with her hands clasped behind her back.
“So, kids… why did I ask such a question? Well then, I will answer that for you.” Smiling, she began…
“History is not just a subject, or a class you attend at any University to gain the knowledge of one day becoming a historian or archaeologist. It is alive! It still speaks to us today and even when people think what’s done is done, or as you put it, Troy, we learn from them and moved on. The truth of the matter is that it is still going on. So many don’t know, but even as we speak, what has passed continues in a parallel time with ours.”
Okay, it was time to phone Doctor Phil and book her into an anonymous asylum. All Troy and I could do was sit and stare.
Miss Eden gave a wide grin when she saw our expression. “No Tristan, I’m not mad.”
What? Does she read minds too? This woman was beginning to freak me out. Troy looked at me and shrugged.
“What are you saying, Miss Eden? History is still going on, like, in a parallel universe?” Troy asked.
“Exactly my dear! And to keep it from not changing its course, a chosen pair is sent back to make sure the paths don’t alter, or the consequences will shake the very foundation of our society today.” I just sat there, dumbfounded. I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.
“I’m a guardian,” she explained. “I was chosen aeons ago to keep an eye on things and make sure the world’s historical timelines never alter. I choose a pair to go back in time - if need be - to make sure chaos turns back to order.”
“Why don’t you go back?” Troy asked.
Seriously? Was he beginning to fall for this hogwash?
“No, Troy, I must stay in the present to send and bring back the pair.”
“How are they chosen?”
“Troy!” I said, rather loudly than intended, but this was getting way out of hand. “Are you even listening to yourself?” Turning to Miss Eden, I asked, “Answer the question, by all means, but don’t think that for one minute I believe what you are saying.”
Miss Eden never dropped her grin, which began to annoy me and the thoughts of walloping her in the hope of changing that expression became a determination I had to keep under control.
Troy annoyingly continued, “You said you were chosen aeons ago? So you are, like what, hundreds of years old? Who chose you? Are you an immortal?”
“Not exactly,” Miss Eden countered. “I was chosen to be a guardian and have been granted access to the source of sustaining my lifespan. I cannot reveal who the Keeper of Stories is, at least not yet. After a few centuries or so, a new one is chosen.”
“I’m guessing we are the chosen pair?” I asked sarcastically.
“Yes,” Miss Eden replied. “You are the ones who will save history.”
I stood up abruptly. “Right Troy, time to go and study some, uh, Mathematics.”
He frowned. “You never took that subject.” He pointed out.
“We are now.” I pulled him to his feet and ran towards the classroom’s entrance. How Miss Eden beat us to the door boggled my mind. She closed and locked the door. Turning towards us, she demanded we sit back down. As always, when a teacher tells you to do something in a tone you not used to hearing, you obey immediately, like a dog playing dead.
“Sit!” She yelled. As if on cue, we sat down with a hard thump. Taking a deep breath, she looked at us with a worried expression. “Have you not felt the tremor? Did the other kids give any kind of indication that they too felt it? Yet you two, besides me, felt it. That is because something, right now, in the past is taking a turn for the worse.”
“How do you know?” Troy asked.
“Guardians know, it is as simple as that. The Keeper of Stories has shown me what will happen if a particular event in history will be tampered with, and I assure you, it will not save us. If history changes its course, then the old rumours of wars that never took place would happen. Vaccines would never have been created to heal the sick.”
“Why us?” I asked. “Why is it that only we could feel the tremor?”
“For a while now, I have been keeping my eye on certain students who have shown an exceptional aptitude for thinking out of the box. What I see in you Troy, is a young man who is excellent theoretically, while you Tristan, is someone who has the capabilities of handling obstacles on a practical level.”
Troy and I looked at each other. We were deciding if what Miss Eden had just said was a compliment, or only to flatter and use us as guinea pigs for experiments. I gave her a puzzling look.
“What exactly is happening right this minute… in history?” I asked, suddenly interested.
“Medieval England is in turmoil,” Miss Eden explained. “There’s an extreme struggle in who’s to be the rightful ruler. You need to fix it before it’s too late.”
“But… Miss Eden… how are we able to fix things? It’s like being thrown into the deep end of an Olympic swimming pool.” Troy asked, sounding as if we had already lost the battle before it had even begun.
“Then learn to swim!” Miss Eden said with confidence. “With the power of the Keeper of Stories, it is possible.” Just when I thought I understood that Miss Eden is a person that can’t be understood, I was thrown a curveball called ’The Keeper of Stories’. Whoever this person was, I knew Miss Eden wasn’t going to part with the identity so readily.
She sent us to wait for her in the back room, a place that was off-limits. In fact, the room was every pupils’ worst nightmare. The forbidden room was dubbed, ’The Smack and Whack Room’. In most classes, I’ve been in the backroom where I received my fair share of a teacher smacking my hand with a ruler, but I will say this. Miss Eden had never called any student to the back room, nor did she enjoy punishment. She might be hiding something. I trusted in the latter.
As we were waiting for Miss Eden, I took in my surroundings. The room had a small window at the top that was too far to reach, yet it gave a little light. Looking around, there were many bookshelves along the walls, while on the opposite side, the wall was whitewashed, with nothing on it. In the centre of the room was an oval-shaped, cherry wooden table, with an old, thick leather-bound book and a human skull that made me feel queasy. It looked as if it were made from plastic. I could understand her having a skull in her classroom if she taught Biology, but for history? I couldn’t fathom a connection. Taking my mind off the skull, I turned my attention to the book. Squinting, I read the title, ’Ye Olde Booke of…’
“Oh, hell no! You want to tell me this old hag can’t spell?!” Picking up the book and showing Troy.
“That’s old English, Tristan.” I rolled my eyes. If anyone spoke Shakespearean in medieval England, then we were off to a very bad start. I voiced my concern to Troy.
“The people during that time didn’t speak Shakespearean, and anyway, it’s stereotypical to think they spoke like that!” he retorted. I wasn’t so sure about that. I realised that, should I cross paths with anyone in medieval England, the safest form of communication would be charades. Just to prove a point, I picked up the skull. In a dramatic pose, I held the skull above and declared, “Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?!”
“That’s still Shakespearean, Tristan. And that wasn’t Romeo and Juliet by the way. That bit came from Hamlet,” he walked past me to admire the books.
“It’s still Shakespeare,” I muttered to myself. As I carefully placed the skull back onto the table (in case it contained a curse), Miss Eden came into the room. She stopped midway when she saw I positioned the skull back on the table as I found it.
“Did you, did you… touch the skull?” Miss Eden asked, the usual annoying grin was gone.
Trying to break the obvious tension, I casually replied, “Yes, I was showing off my Hamlet skills.”
Don’t you ever touch that skull again! Do I make myself clear?” Miss Eden shouted. Troy and I silently nodded.
“In our defence, it was on the table where anyone would idly pick it up,” I pointed towards the book, but Miss Eden seemed to be more concerned over the skull than the misspelt book lying on the table. Miss Eden snatched the skull up and held it to her chest. I noticed her eyes were closed and was about to ask if we should leave them in private when she opened her eyes and looked at us. She quickly gathered her wits and told us rather sharply, “Stand together and hold hands,” she ordered.
Oh yeah! I thought. If I’m to die, it’ll be with Troy!
Miss Eden picked up the misspelt book and opened it at the centre. It was completely black with no writings or pictures. Suddenly, a map appeared, with runes running along the edgings. A soft, warm glow appeared. (I realised later on that the book was ice-cold to the touch, but when Miss Eden would use it, lights and runes would appear).
Raising her voice, she spoke as if there were more of her, echoing within the room.
“I have heard Thee, O Keeper of Stories, and will not deny thy call,
Let the past be saved and never let it fall.
I, the Guardian, will send this pair,
And with thy power, none shall despair.”
During her mystical incantation, a swirl of mist began above our heads - a luminous, orange colour. I looked at Troy and he at me and saw with amazement and shock that as the mist swirled over our features, we began to dissolve until our entire being was taken when the last of the mist reached the ground.