Modern Crusaders: Adeptus Major

By PsiDraconis

For disclaimers see Chapter 1

Now arrived home behold me

Now arrived home on the rainbow;

Now arrived home behold me,

Lo, here, the Holy Place!

Yea, now arrived home behold me, At Sisnajinni, and beyond it, Yea, now arrived home behold me; The Chief of Mountains, and beyond it, Yea, now arrived home behold me; In Life Unending, and beyond it, Yea, now arrived home behold me; In Joy Unchanging and beyond it, Yea, now arrived home behold me. - Hozhonji Song of the Dene

Chapter 7

Having bid farewell to Duke Thomas, and received promises for more visits in the near future, Evelynne was pushing Ally's wheelchair down a plain-looking hallway towards a set of elevator doors at the far end. Stopping Evelynne reached out to press the button. "Sorry for taking you through the kitchen," she apologised. "We've never got around to installing a passenger lift in a more accessible area, so we have to use the service one here. The servants use this one to move things between floors."

"That's okay," Ally assured her as they listened to the whine of the elevator's motor as it descended from an upper floor. "It was interesting. I don't think I've ever seen a kitchen that big before. When I was at university my apartment had a kitchen not much bigger than this wheelchair." When Evelynne laughed, she insisted, "I'm not kidding. Fortunately there were only two of us in the apartment. My roommate was Greek, and he made the most amazing food, so I hardly ever went in there. Thank God."

"You're not a good cook?"

Ally winced. "I can make macaroni and cheese, rice, and fried eggs. But my mac and cheese is superb," she said in such an earnest voice that Evelynne laughed again.

"Well, Latifa's… eldest son, I think, is married to a Greek woman. I'm sure if we ask her nicely she'll be able to get some recipes and make up something." The princess frowned at the still-closed doors. "What's taking this so long?"

Just then the doors opened, alarming Evelynne so much that she jumped backwards. Maîda looked at the pair questioningly from the interior of the lift. "Highness, are you alright?"

The princess stood with one hand over her heart. "Isis, don't do that! I'm recovering here!"

Maîda gave a trademark snort, and Ally concealed a smile. The wheelchair-bound woman had heard the elevator arrive just before the doors opened, and hadn't been startled.

"Highness, the rooms are ready. As you requested, Alleandre's belongings have been placed in the Tiama'apep Room. You have been set up next door in the Sekheru Room."

Having caught her breath, the princess replied, "Thank you, Maî-ma. Ally's feeling a little tired, so she's going to have a sleep before dinner."

Nodding her understanding, Maîda smiled down at Ally. "Will you be needing help getting into bed?"

Ally shook her head emphatically. "No, I should be able to do it by myself, as long as I do it slowly." In reality, she had hated the sensation of strangers' hands on her body whenever she needed to get into bed or, even worse, go to the bathroom. Being cleaned was especially humiliating.

Maîda cast a quick glance at Evelynne, who gave a subtle shake of her head. "Very well, then," the lady-in-waiting said. "I will see you shortly, Highness, and to you, Alleandre: sleep well." With a final smile, she turned and bustled purposefully off down the hallway.

Entering the lift, Evelynne pressed the button for the fourth floor, then leaned against the wall. "So, what did you think of Duke Thomas?" she asked.

"I liked him," Ally admitted honestly. "You know, it's been a little strange. I've been meeting all these high-ranking noble people, and they've all been so friendly and… well… normal." She added quickly, "No offence. I mean, I keep forgetting that you're the Crown Princess. You're just… Evelynne."

Evelynne grinned delightedly. "Thank you. It's mostly how I've been brought up. In Atlantlan society, the nobility isn't considered truly separate from the commoners. They have certain privileges, of course, but all of our country's criminal and civil laws apply equally to both classes, with a few very specific exceptions. The nobility is permitted nearly unlimited weapon ownership, for example. On the other hand, nobles are forbidden from owning personal assets worth more than twenty million tali. The idea is to prevent them from using their influence to enrich themselves at the expense of the country. A noble's Advisors are freely elected by the commoners, and as a consequence, the nobility has a close relationship with the rest of society. Oh, don't get me wrong, there are a more than few Counts and Barons who are arrogant, stupid, pig-headed assholes, but they tend to be the exception."

"Well, it's good to know that they aren't all saints."

"Oh, goodness, no. Fortunately, the present High Nobles - that is, the three Dukes, my father and my aunt - are currently good, strong rulers. Even Duke Hassan of Lyonesse, whom I disagree with on a large number of issues, comes by his beliefs honestly, and is dedicated to the welfare of Atlantl. Of course, if Domdom dies without an Heir, the Middle Nobles of Avalon will elect his successor from among themselves, and who knows what he or she will be like?"

"So why doesn't he have an Heir? Doesn't he have any kids?"

"No. He was married briefly long before I was born, but his wife died not long after they were married. He's never remarried. He can still appoint an Heir, but whoever it is must be ratified by his Advisors."

The slow-moving elevator finally arrived at the fourth floor. Evelynne pushed Ally out the doors and into another short, plain corridor. At the end was a simple door, and when they reached it the princess asked, "Do you think you can grab the door handle?"

Ignoring the painful pulling in her back, Ally leaned forward and opened the door onto a long, beautifully decorated hallway. The wide corridor had the same off-white stone walls as the rest of the Palace and ran the length of the building. Large windows at either end let in the bright sunshine and made the white marble floor gleam. Along the hallway a number of large potted plants lent vibrancy, and brightly coloured tapestries and paintings added colour. In contrast to the other intricately carved wooden doors lining the corridor, the doorway that Ally and Evelynne had just exited was set discretely into the wall, and once closed, Ally almost couldn't tell that it was there.

Moving along the hallway, Evelynne stopped the wheelchair at a door set across from a large tapestry depicting men wearing armour and bearing shields with large red crosses kneeling before an imperial-looking woman wearing a crown. On a beach behind them, six ships were beached, while in the background another five ships could be seen sinking into the ocean.

Seeing Ally's curious gaze, the princess paused before opening the door. "That's the Templars pledging allegiance to Queen Heru after they fled persecution in Europe. They left Europe with eleven ships. Only six survived the reefs surrounding Atlantl to reach shore." She pointed to the lead Knight. "That is Joseph of Aragon, a relative of Saint DeMolay, the martyr who was burned at the stake in France. Several years afterwards, he married the Queen and founded the Heru-DeMolay line. My ancestors."

"That's neat," Ally said. "The Templars are still around, aren't they?"

Evelynne nodded. "They're considered the one of the most prestigious Orders in Atlantl. Sir Arthur is a Knight of the Temple. The other major orders are the Order of Muhammed, which is Muslim, and Order of the Eye, which is a Mystic Order. There are still quite a few other Orders, though."

The princess turned and opened the door. "And here," she said, "are your rooms, Milady."

After being pushed through the doorway and into the room, Ally could only stare. The chamber was huge. Large southward-facing glass doors opened out onto a balcony, letting in both light and heat. Right in front of the door, two chaises longues, a large sofa and three armchairs were set around a low table in the middle of the room. Not far away, to the right of the entrance, two more armchairs sat in front of a large fireplace, though no fire was currently lit. Immediately to the left of the doorway a bookshelf ran along the wall to the corner thirty feet away, where it bent and continued along the next wall until interrupted by another door. Some kind of board with what looked like game pieces sat on a table in the far left corner.

Ally opened her mouth, but nothing came out.

"Is everything okay?" Evelynne asked. She was worried that Ally was somehow disappointed with the room. "Is there something you don't like? I can get them to change anything you want. If you don't like the furniture -"

"No, no, no," Ally cut her off. "It's just that it… I mean… Wow. It's big. My parents' house could fit in here!"

"Oh," said the princess, relaxing. "I guess I'm used to it. This is the Tiama'apep Room, as you can probably tell from the décor."

"A wild guess here, but Tiama'apep means 'dragon', right?"

"Oh… yes, didn't I say that? I remembered that you said you loved dragons, so I thought you'd like this." Evelynne pointed through the west wall. "I'm right next door in the Sekheru… um, that is, the Gryphon Room."

The Dragon Room certainly lived up to its title. Murals of dragons of all types covered the walls. Sculpted wooden dragons formed the legs of the room's furniture, and more supported the doorways. Several vases bearing oriental dragons were placed throughout the chamber. On the floor, small dragons covered a woven carpet, threatening to attack the ankles of any who walked over them. Possibly the most disconcerting decoration was the fireplace. A large mural of a single dragon took up the wall and melded with the stone of the fireplace to form the mouth. Ally could only imagine the effect when the fire was lit, leaving the room's occupants looking down the beast's fiery throat.

Despite the multitude of styles and components, the decorations somehow blended together seamlessly, without clashing colours or shapes. Whoever had designed the room had obviously been a master of interior decoration, and the result was exotic, beautiful, and stimulating, all at the same time.

"Wow," Ally repeated. "I like it. And this is my room? Um, this is probably another stupid question, but where do I sleep?"

"Right through there is the bedroom," Evelynne pointed to the second door. "If you still want to, you can have a sleep now."

The reminder of sleep brought the full weight of Ally's fatigue crashing down on her once more. "I think I need to. This new painkiller the doctors have me on is great, but it completely wipes me out. I hate to seem like a poor guest, but… I guess you have other stuff you need to do," she finished awkwardly.

"I'd rather be with you," Evelynne said promptly, provoking a shy pleased smile from her companion. She pushed Ally towards the bedroom. "And don't worry about it. You're still healing, so anything you need to do… do it." Repeating the door-opening procedure, she wheeled Ally into the next room.

Though much smaller than the main chamber, the bedroom was still quite large. It was darker than the previous room, due to the heavy curtains that had been drawn across the windows to the right of the entrance. The dragon motif prevailed here, as well, but Ally wasn't able to appreciate it. Her eyes were drawn to the most comfortable looking - and, frankly, largest - bed she had ever seen. "Oh, my God," she exclaimed. "That thing's huge! My first year dorm room at university was smaller than that!"

Evelynne chuckled. "Well, it's give you plenty of room to roll around in. Now, let's get you in there. Are you sure you don't want me to get some more help?"

"Positive," Ally affirmed. "I'll be able to do this."

"Okay, then," the princess said confidently, parking the wheelchair beside the bed. Locking the brakes, she came around to stand before Ally and stretched out her arms.

Ally looked up at her blankly. "What?"

Evelynne looked equally puzzled. "What? You said you didn't want anyone else to help you, so I'm it."

"Oh! Um… I meant… That is…"

The princess' eyebrow rose. "What, you thought you were going to lift yourself out of your chair and into bed on your own? Not likely." She gave her outstretched arms a slight shake. "So here I am."

Actually, that's exactly what I thought I was going to do. Still, her way looks more fun, Ally thought, looking up at Evelynne's inviting arms. Damn, I must be tired.

Giving in, Ally allowed Evelynne to remove her glasses and place them on the small table beside the bed. Then she reached up and clasped her hands around Evelynne's lower arms, as the princess grasped hers in return. Both of them tensed as Ally was slowly lifted from the chair. Since the doctors had decided that the risk of any damage to Ally's spine was minimal, the care was due more to her still-knitting back muscles. The wounds in both Ally's and Evelynne's shoulders had healed to the point where they were more of a painful, nagging inconvenience.

As Ally rose carefully, she contemplated how much she would be able to lift herself without giving anything away. She wasn't sure if Evelynne's smaller frame would be able to handle her larger mass. Her mental debate ended with a decision to just see how far she could go without channelling.

Ally had partially risen, and was taking a step forward to clear the wheelchair when her foot suddenly caught on one of the footrests. She found herself pitching forward into Evelynne's abdomen. The princess braced herself instinctively, trying to prevent both of them from crashing to the floor, her arms curling protectively around Ally's body. Ally reflexively tried to focus, but fatigue had dulled her mental responses, and she was able to stop both of them from falling, but not prevent herself from ending up leaning against Evelynne's warm body, with her face buried between the princess' ample breasts.

Both women froze. Ally desperately tried to figure out a graceful way out of the situation, but her mind remained a stubborn blank. Stymied, she wished that self-immolation was among her abilities, so that she could simply disappear in a flame of embarrassment.

Evelynne's mind was blank as well, as she tried to figure out exactly what had happened. She looked blankly down at their respective positions. Suddenly she felt a brief, butterfly touch on her breasts, and realised that Ally had blinked, her eyelashes lightly brushing Evelynne through the thin silk shirt she was wearing. The princess shivered.

The shudder broke through Ally's stunned mind. Moving slowly, she used Evelynne's arms to push herself upright. Looking anywhere but at the princess, she said, "Um…"

Shaking herself out of her own stupor, Evelynne wondered why she could still feel Ally's eyelashes on her skin. Judging by the heat coming off the body of the woman in front of her, her friend was blushing to the roots of her hair. I wonder how far down that blush goes. Brushing aside the errant thought, she took charge of the situation. "Okay, then. Let's get you into… I mean… Okay, sit down here… Good, now lie down… Let's swing you around… Okay, legs up… And you're there." She pulled the blankets up over Ally's shoulders. The woman in the bed still refused to look at her. "Well, that was exciting," the princess said with a little laugh, trying to defuse the situation.

She was rewarded when Ally looked at her with a tremulous smile. Deciding to take the victory and run, Evelynne continued, "I'll be back to check up on you in few hours. If you need anything before then, just push this button." She showed Ally a small device on the table beside the bed. "Sleep well," she said, and after a final brush of her fingers across Ally's forehead, she left the room, closing the door behind her.

Well, that was more fun than you were bargaining on, wasn't it? Ally asked herself. I can't believe… No, I can believe… Oh, God. 'Sleep well,' she says. Yeah, right. I'm never going to be able to get to -

Ally fell asleep in seconds.

Evelynne gently closed the door to Ally's bedroom. Leaning her head back against the wooden surface, she took several deep breaths. What in the Duat was that? she asked herself. Okay, so she tripped. People trip. Sometimes they bump into other people. It wasn't like she did it on purpose.

She wondered why she felt somehow disappointed.

Still in thought, the princess made her way through the sitting room and out the door into the hallway. She was so deep in contemplation that when Sir Arthur called her name she jumped a foot in the air before spinning to face him.

"Aah! Don't do that!" she barked, placing a hand to her chest to calm her heart. She suddenly realised that her palm was resting right where Ally's face had pressed a few minutes before, and jerked it away as if burned.

"I'm sorry, Your Highness," Sir Arthur apologised, looking at her oddly. "Evy, are you alright? You look a little flushed."

"I'm okay," Evelynne said, reddening further. "I'm just a little warm." Taking herself firmly in hand, she focussed on Sir Arthur's blocky face. "I'll be fine. You wanted to talk to me?"

Deciding to take the princess at her word, the bodyguard nodded. "There are two things, actually. First, I've been recalled by the Common Guard. They're conducting the investigation into the… incident, and I'm needed to clear up some details."

The princess was distraught. "They're not blaming you, are they? It's not your fault. You couldn't have done anything more."

Sir Arthur shook his head. "I'm afraid that isn't quite how it works," he said. "You were directly under my protection, and I failed to protect you. They aren't necessarily saying that I was negligent or lax in my duties, but that is part of what the investigation will determine. If I or anyone on my team was directly or indirectly responsible for what happened, we will be appropriately disciplined."

"I'll find some way to protect you," the princess promised. "I can talk to za and -"

"No, you will not, Your Highness," Sir Arthur said, his tone hard. "If I am found culpable, it is my duty to face the consequences, whatever they may be. The same is true for every member of my team. Regardless of the outcome, you will not interfere in any way! That is final."

Evelynne wasn't happy, but she nodded acquiescence solemnly. Despite her initial reaction, she knew that her bodyguard was right. It was his duty to "face the music", as the English expression went, just as it was hers not to interfere. She knew he couldn't expect any less of himself. "Well, I can send you good thoughts," she said. "Even you can't stop me from doing that."

He smiled crookedly at her. "Of course not. I might even let you say a prayer or two to that heathen Goddess of yours."

Evelynne laughed involuntarily. "I just might do that. If I do, does that mean that you'll be going to the Hell that God of yours is so fond of?"

Sir Arthur grunted a laugh, then returned to business. "While I am gone, Colonel Allan will be in charge of your primary protection. He will remain so until I either return or a new Master is assigned."

"Okay," Evelynne said resignedly. "When are you leaving?"

"Tomorrow morning," he replied.

"So soon? Well then, tonight I'd like you to have dinner with Maîda and me." The princess turned and started walking down the hallway, nodding at a servant as she passed.

"I would enjoy that, Evy. Is Ishta Tretiak not going to be joining us?" the bodyguard asked, a little puzzled when Evelynne coloured slightly.

"She was so tired this afternoon that I think she might want to just stay in bed. I'll go and check on her around dinner time." She shook her head bemusedly. "It's still a little surreal to know that she's that main reason I'm alive right now. Most of the time she's just my friend, but then she'll move in just the wrong way and I can see that she's in pain. She never says anything, but then I remember lying there with her on top of me, protecting me, and jerking as the bullets hit her. And then it passes and she's my friend again. It gets confusing," she said plaintively.

Sir Arthur patted Evelynne's arm comfortingly. "For now, just let her be your friend," he counselled. "Time will take care of the rest. In fact, Alleandre is the second subject I wanted to discuss with you. You may not know, but the Foreign Affairs Office and the Atlantlan Embassy in Canada have both been swamped with calls either asking about or asking to speak with Ishta Tretiak. Many of them are undoubtedly reporters and other crank calls, but at least a few must be genuine friends and relatives. We have managed to get the names and addresses of most of the callers, so what Foreign Affairs would like is for Alleandre to look at the list they have so far and indicate which ones she would like to speak to so that the calls can be transferred here."

The princess nodded. "Well, like I said, I'm pretty sure she'll be out of it tonight, but tomorrow I'll get her to take a look at it."

"Excellent, Evy. Now, what is Latifa serving for dinner?"

Alleandre woke to find herself ravenously hungry. She vaguely recalled being woken at some point and offered some food, but she wasn't sure if she had been able to give a coherent answer. The curtains were still pulled across the windows, leaving the room still dark. There was light leaking around the edges, letting her know that the sun was still up.

Ally stretched carefully, feeling disused muscles protest. She fumbled on the bedside table for her glasses and slipped them. The darkened room suddenly came into sharp focus. The young woman looked in vain for a clock, but the darkened room defeated her searching eyes.

Concentrating, she could sense nobody else in the room, though whether she was really alone or unreliable sensing abilities weren't working, she could not tell.

Deciding to take the risk, Ally focussed window curtains, reaching for them and channelling. She was pleased when her power responded promptly. Obediently the heavy cloth parted slightly in the middle, allowing bright sunshine to stream into the room.

Wait a minute, Ally thought. That sunlight is coming from the east! It's morning already? No wonder I'm hungry! All of a sudden the memories of the afternoon before surfaced, and she groaned, covering her face with her hands. I can't believe I did that. I'll never be able to look Evy in the face again. She felt herself warming in remembered embarrassment. Of course not, her libido interjected. You're going to be spending all your time staring at her - Ally cut herself off before it could continue.

Her bladder chose that moment to make its own demands known, and Ally gratefully seized the opportunity to take her mind off other matters. Okay, so do I push the button and get someone to help me to the washroom? Through a previously unnoticed door across the room she could see a sink, indicating the bathroom. I really hate that. It's humiliating. So, my other option is to lift myself over there and get back to bed before anyone arrives. That's kind of risky. Of course, if I just lift myself into the wheelchair, I might be able to convince anybody that comes in that I managed to climb into it from the bed on my own.

Ally decided to risk the last idea, especially when her bladder began protesting more strenuously.

She first scanned the area once more closely, using all the senses available to her. Satisfied that nobody was about to burst into the room at that precise moment, Ally turned her concentration on her own body. Slipping into the light trance took barely a moment. She visualised the desired response, then set about focussing on turning the image into reality. The sensation of energy being channelled towards that end brought a familiar feeling of exhilaration. The incredibly fulfilling sensation only increased as Ally felt the bonds of gravity slipping away. The entire process took less than a second.

Throwing back the blankets with her hands, she allowed herself to float several centimetres above the mattress, revelling in the feeling of freedom. That freedom had been markedly absent since her confinement to the wheelchair.

Refocusing on the task at hand, Ally pushed herself through the air towards her chair, moving her body into a sitting position as she did so. She lowered herself carefully into the wheelchair, then let go of the focus. Sighing in resignation, Ally adjusted her suddenly incredibly heavy body more comfortably in the seat.

As she was about to push herself towards the bathroom, a light knock suddenly sounded on the door to the bedroom. It took Ally a moment to get her heart out of her throat long enough to realise that nobody had actually entered yet and seen her doing something she shouldn't have been able to do. Letting go of the feeling of panic, she called out, "Come in," in a fairly level voice.

The door opened a crack and a very familiar red-haired head poked itself into the room. Evelynne frowned as she took in the empty bed. Then her eyes widened as they fell on Ally sitting in her wheelchair with an uncertain expression on her face.

"Ally, what do you think you're doing?" the princess exclaimed as she strode into the room. "Did you climb out of bed on your own? You know you're not supposed to do that! What if you'd fallen? What if you pulled something? Did you really want to spend another six months in that chair? Well?"

Ally dropped her gaze, chastened. "I just needed to go to the bathroom," she said miserably, "and I didn't want to have to have someone help me out of bed and then onto the toilet. Do you have any idea how humiliating that is? I hate having to depend on someone else to do something as simple as go pee or have a bath. I hate it." Ally hunched her shoulders. "I'm sorry," she finished softly.

Evelynne's own hard gaze softened as she looked at the dejected woman before her. She moved forward and knelt before Ally, taking a larger hand in her own. "Hey, no, I'm sorry," she said. "I shouldn't have yelled at you. I just don't want you to get any more hurt." She reached out and used a finger to raise Ally's face to her own. "I know you hate it, but it's not forever. Unless you get hurt again, and then it might be. I don't want that to happen. I want you whole and healthy."

Ally blushed a little as her mind put its own meaning on the last sentence. She kept her eyes downcast as her head was raised, until she realised exactly where her gaze was resting. Her eyes snapped up to meet Evelynne's compassionate ones. "I know. It's just embarrassing to have someone watch me… you know. And no-one's bathed me since I was five." Except for Annie, but let's not go there.

The princess nodded in understanding. "Is it the nurse? I can get you someone else if you want. Or I can -"

"No!" Ally blurted. "I mean… it's bad enough having a relative stranger doing it. I can at least pretend I'm never going to see her again. If it was a friend… No." Good God, no. Evy washing me? Nope, no, uh-uh. That would be bad. Very bad. In a good kind of way, of course, but still very bad.

Evelynne felt an odd pang of disappointment. "Okay. For now, though, will you let me help you into the bathroom? That's all, I promise. I think you've proved that you can get into and out of your wheelchair by yourself."

You have no idea, Ally thought.

Evelynne looked up and frowned. "Who opened the curtains?" she asked. "They were closed when I checked last night."

Oh, shit. "Uh, I guess someone opened them. It could have been one of the servants." Technically true. Someone could have come in. They didn't, but they could have.

"Oh, well."

Some time later Ally sat with Evelynne eating a well-deserved breakfast of spicy scrambled eggs, bacon, and melon.

She had gritted her teeth through another much needed bathing - she had realised that sleeping in one's clothes was not conducive to a pleasing body odour - and was now trying to figure out a diplomatic way of explaining that she was not particularly fond of bacon. She eventually gave up. Besides, Latifa's bacon was actually very good.

Finally, Ally finished her third helping while Evelynne looked on with amusement. "Oh, that hit the spot," Ally said.

"You know, it's a good thing I know you didn't eat last night, or I'd think you had an eating disorder. With the amount you eat and the amount you weigh…"

"It's my metabolism. For some reason, no matter how much I eat I don't gain a pound." Ally didn't add that using her abilities burned a huge amount of energy.

"And western women everywhere hate you for it."

"It's not my fault," Ally protested as they both laughed. "So what's on the agenda for today?"

"Well, I thought I'd spend the morning giving you a tour of the Palace," the princess said. "You have a physiotherapy session this afternoon." Ally scowled. "Don't pull a face. You're the one who wants to give up the sponge baths."

"Yeah, I know."

"This evening I figured we'd spend some time together just talking, or watching a movie, or reading. Unless there's something you'd like to do."

The Crown Princess of Atlantl wants to watch movies with me. Nobody ever predicted that the class freak in high school would be doing this. "No, that sounds good. I'm easy." D'oh!

"Reeeally?" Evelynne drawled, enjoying the flush that predictably spread over her companion's face. She had learned over time just how much gentle teasing Ally could tolerate. "I'll remember to mention that to Lecherous Cousin Larrel. In the meantime, though, I have a little project for you." She produced a white folder.

"What's that?"

"These, my dear, are the people who wish to hear the sounds of your melodious voice. All the people who have been trying to call you over the last two weeks," she explained, pulling a number of papers out of the folder. "What we want you to do is go over them and let us know which ones should be forwarded if they call again. Some of them are probably reporters, whom you can either talk to or not. It's all entirely up to you."

Ally took the pages and briefly scanned through them. "These people all want to talk to me? There are five pages!" Aunt Hillary… Grandma… don't know… don't know… Mr Waterson? My high school math teacher called? Weird. Don't know… Don't know…

Evelynne grinned. "You're popular. I won't even tell you about the internet fan site that's already been established. Now the information given is name, address and telephone number. That should help you to weed out the fakes. The last page lists the news agencies who want an interview. You can choose which, if any, to grace with your spectacular presence."

Ally flipped to the last page. "CBC's The National? CTV Newsworld? BBC? LANTA? Sixty Minutes? Jesus!" She turned back to the other callers. My parents' neighbour… old friend… ugh, old enemy… She suddenly froze on one name. Annie called? Oh, God. What…? "What's this number on the side here?" She pointed.

"Oh, that's the number of times the person has called."

My God, Annie's called twenty two times? But we broke up! Less than two months ago! Ally stared at the name a moment longer. Still, she never said it was because she didn't love me. She just couldn't handle… what I do. She admitted she still cared about me. We went out for two years. Of course she'd want to know how I am.

"Ally? Are you okay?" Evelynne interrupted Ally's musings. Her friend had been staring at the same page for over a minute.

Ally shook herself out of her thoughts. "No, I'm alright. I was just trying to remember something. Do you need me to do this now?"

"No, whenever you want to. Still, some of those people will probably want to hear from you soon. If you like, you could call them instead."

Ally nodded. "I'll do this list right now if that's okay. Maybe I'll call some people this evening."

"That's fine," Evelynne assured her. "Let's go into the library."

"Sure." Ally started marking off names on the list. She hesitated for a long time when she came to Anabel Bourne.

To be continued in Chapter 8

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