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By:Mia Sheridan

"I'm sorry," she whispered. "Do you not like small spaces? I—"

"It's no big deal," I said, dismissively.

She put her hand on my shoulder timidly and I jolted at the contact, squeezing my eyes shut for a second and then opening them. I pulled away.

She watched me acutely for just a moment. "There are some drawings on the wall in there," she finally said and shrugged. "Really, really faint and most likely something someone did recently, but who knows. Maybe a cave family lived in there thousands of years ago."

"Hundreds of thousands."


"Cavemen, they lived hundreds of thousands of years ago, not thousands."

She put her hands on her hips. "Okay, professor." She arched one delicate eyebrow, and I let out a small laugh on a breath.

"Come on, Princess Tenleigh, we better get back to the road before it's pitch black." I went for a casual tone to my voice. Tenleigh had obviously noticed my strange behavior when it came to the small cave.

The sun had almost set and it was twilight, the sky a deep blue, the first stars just appearing. A few minutes later, we were back on the road and we walked along in silence. It felt comfortable again and Tenleigh smiled a small smile at me, just tilting her head slightly in my direction.

She adjusted her backpack and a book fell out of the tear on the side, the one she had closed up as much as possible with a safety pin. A fucking safety pin. That safety pin filled me with anger. "Oops." She leaned down to pick it up just as I did and we both laughed as our heads collided. She rubbed hers and laughed again. "There's that charm again. I'm a goner for sure."

I laughed. "Don't say I didn't warn you." I picked up the book and held it up. "The Weaver of Raveloe?"

Tenleigh's eyes met mine and she nodded, taking the book from me. "I read a lot," she said, stuffing the book in her backpack and looking embarrassed for some reason. "The Dennville library doesn't have much of a selection so I've read some twice . . ."

"That one?" I nodded my head toward her backpack.

We started walking again.

"Yes, I've read that one before."

"What's it about?"

She was quiet for a minute and I thought she might not answer me. Truthfully, I didn't really care to hear about the weaver of whatever. She could tell me anything. What I wanted was to hear her pretty voice cutting through the cold mountain air—and I liked the things she said. She was different. She kept surprising me with the things that came out of her mouth and I liked it. I liked it way too much.

"It's about Silas Marner who . . ."

I halted. "Silas?"

Tenleigh stopped, too, and looked at me curiously. "Yeah, what's wrong?"

I shook my head and we both started walking again. "Nothing. That was my brother's name."

Tenleigh bit her lip and looked up at me, a sympathetic look on her face. She must know my brother had been at the mine that day. "Yes, I think I remember that." She smiled. "Maybe your mama read the book and the name stuck with her."

I shook my head. "My mama didn't . . . doesn't know how to read."

"Oh." She glanced at me and then was silent for a minute. "I know it happened years ago, but . . ." She touched my arm and I jerked slightly. She pulled her hand away. "I'm really sorry about your loss, Kyland."

"Thanks, I appreciate that," I said, clearing my throat.

We walked in a sort of awkward silence for a few minutes, passing by my dark house. "So what about this Silas Marner?"

"Um . . . well, he lives in a slum in England and, ah, he's falsely accused of stealing, by his best friend. He's convicted and the woman he's engaged to marry leaves him and marries his best friend."

"Jesus, sounds like a real feel-good sort of tale. I'm glad you've found a way to escape the harshness of Dennville."

Tenleigh's sweet-sounding laughter made my heart jump in my chest and I looked over at her. Somehow making this girl laugh filled me with some sort of pride. Not good. Very, very bad.

We arrived in front of Tenleigh's trailer and she stopped, leaning back against a tree next to the road. "Well, he leaves the town and settles in a small village near Raveloe. He sort of becomes a hermit, feeling as if he's hidden—even from God." I unconsciously leaned in so I wouldn't miss a word. She tilted her head, looking off into the distance. Then she looked back at me and widened her eyes. "But one winter’s night, his whole life changes when—"

"Tenleigh!" someone called from the trailer, an older woman with long brown hair the same color as Tenleigh's. "It's cold out there. Come inside."