Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Key in the Garden: A Tate Mystery (Part One)

Hey everybody! As you might have noticed from the title of the post, you've got another mystery coming up. I figured it was about time we had another one, as it's been over a year since our last. That's not to say that we started out the day intending to be involved in one - because what good mystery is intentional? - it just sort of happened that way. But really, maybe that's not entirely fair, seeing - 

Just start the story, Charlotte.

Oh, that reminds me! We're going to be trying our first joint blog post, so bear with us, this might be a little - 

Charlotte, seriously, just start the story.

- awkward at times, but we're going to try - 


Yeah, yeah, I know. Here goes!

It was Veteran's Day, so we'd had the whole day off from school, and had of course squandered it like we always did, playing video games and goofing off until a few hours after lunch. That's when Mom came into our room and insisted we get out of our pajamas and go do something, anything, outside. Well, we tried, but I didn't last very long - it was deceptively cold, even to someone who was, like me, clad in a heavy sweater and scarf and fur boots. I headed back in to read a little, but Zoe stayed outside, still stubbornly trying to teach Ginger to fetch.

At around 5:00, Mom told me to call Zoe inside for dinner. The sun was already beginning to set - what had happened to summer?

Well, if you want to get technical. . . 

No, no I don't.

Because right now in science class -

Honestly, Zoe, if this is how all of our joint blog posts are going to go, we might as well just stop right now.

Fine, fine, it's your story.

Yeah, it is.
So, it was already getting dark, because of the changing tilt of the Earth and Daylight Savings and all that -

It's not "all that", Charlotte, it's actually kind of -

Maybe we should just forget this.

I couldn't agree more.

So, anyway, it was already getting dark when I opened the sliding door to fetch Zoe from the porch.

"Zoe!" I called. She didn't respond. I tried again but she still didn't say anything. I really didn't want to go out into the cold again, but it looked like I didn't have a choice. I slipped on my boots and hurried out into our cold and gradually darkening backyard.
"Zoe, Mom says it's time for dinner," I told her as I walked in her direction.

"Ok," she said sharply, watching as Ginger chased the stick she had just lobbed across the porch.

I looked at her questioningly, and reached out to put a hand on her shoulder. "Are you ok?"

"Yeah," she said, shaking her shoulder from under my grasp and turning away from me.

"What is going on with you today?"
"I'm fine."
"Really? Because you don't seem -"
"I'm fine."
"Ok, well," I said, rather miffed. "It's time for dinner."
"I know," she nearly growled at me. Conceding that she really didn't want to be questioned, I stopped talking and let her walk in the front door ahead of me.

Just as I was about to follow, a furry golden head popped up at the edge of the porch with a bark.

"Ginger?" I asked in surprise. I thought she had gone inside. "What are you doing there?"

She bounded up to me and offered me her nose. At first, I thought she just wanted me to pet her, but then I realized she had something in her mouth. I reached down to take it.

When I realized what it was, I immediately called back Zoe, who was about to open the sliding door and go inside, to come back and see.
"What?" She whined, coming back in my direction.
"Look," I told her, holding out the glinting sliver object.

"Is that a -" Zoe looked up at me in confusion.
"A key?" I finished. "Yeah, I think so." I looked down at Ginger, still propped up on her haunches, looking very pleased with herself. "What do you say, girl? Will you show us where you found this?" With a joyful bark, she leaped off the porch and headed towards my mom's forsythia garden.

We found her standing next to a pile of freshly-dug earth.
"Mom is not going to be happy," I remarked. Zoe rolled her eyes.
"Who cares?"

After packing the dirt back into the hole and spearing a stick into the nearby ground to mark the place, we headed up to our room. Zoe immediately plunked down on the couch to watch TV, pointedly ignoring me.

Just to make sure that we didn't lose the key, I decided I would string it on a piece of thread for safekeeping. I took some scissors and a spool of black thread from my desk drawer and sat down on the floor at Zoe's feet to get to work.
First I cut a piece of thread long enough to fit around one of our necks, with some extra at the ends to use for tying. I cut a little more than I needed to, because it's always best to be stuck with too much rather than too little.

I strung the key onto the thread and stretched it out between my hands so I could figure out how long I wanted the necklace to be. Long enough to fit over my head, but not so long that it would hang too far down my front.

I turned around to Zoe to consult, but while she glanced down at it for a moment, she quickly shrugged and turned back to look at the TV. I resolved that as soon as I finished stringing the key, I would figure out what was going on with her.

Tying the ends securely, I set it down on the couch and set to putting away my materials. The scissors and spool went into my desk drawer, and the excess thread that I had cut off the ends went into the trash can. I went back and picked up the necklace, then tucked it carefully into my bedside table drawer.

Then, having stalled for as long as I could, I took a deep breath to steel my nerves and plunked down on the couch next to Zoe, made sure the bedroom door was closed, and reached out the remote to turn off the TV.
"So, what's going on?" She sighed but didn't respond.

"Zoe?" She shrugged, then reached over the armrest to fetch something sitting on the floor. I thought at last she was about to actually tell me something, but as it turned out - 
"Want some chips?" she asked, holding out a bag of Lays.

"No, I don't want some chips," I said, exasperated, as I pushed away the bag. "I want to know what's going on with you. Why won't you tell me?"
"It's embarrassing," she mumbled. That got my attention. Nothing embarrassed Zoe. A contradiction in terms.
"What is it?" I asked, now rather warily.
"Well," she sighed, looked down at her hands, and stalled for a few more seconds. At last, she continued, "there's this guy -" but didn't get any farther than that. She was cut off by my shrieks.
"What?!? All right, all right, tell me more! Who is it? Who is it? Who likes who? Did he ask you out? Did you ask him?"
"Charlotte, shut up."
"Ok, ok, but it's just so exciting!" She scoffed and rolled her eyes. "So why is that so embarrassing?"
"Well, first of all, I do not like him, so don't get any ideas in your head," she warned. "It's just, well, Erica Crane decided yesterday that I did and she got up during lunch and shouted it out to everyone. Everyone! All my teammates and friends and even everyone that I don't know. And now everybody believes her and thinks that I like him and is teasing me like crazy and -" she stopped to take a breath. "And the worst part is that now he's avoiding me like the plague."
"I thought you said you didn't like him," I said, smirking.
"I don't! But he's the center forward for our travel basketball team and he avoids me so much that everyone else is following his example and everyone at school is laughing at me and - Ugh!" she cried. "Can you see why I'm upset?"
I could, I really could. But as what she was saying began to sink in, I had to admit to myself that there wasn't a thing I could do to help her. I didn't even know how to comfort her. This was really a job for Mom, but I couldn't tell her without betraying Zoe's secret. What could I do?
And with all this excitement, I had nearly forgotten about the key. Where had it come from, and why in the world was it buried in our garden? With too many mysteries in one day for even Alexandria Beauregard's mind, I decided I'd just go to sleep. Maybe when I woke up in the morning, everything would make more sense.

That's all for now! Thanks for reading!

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