The next morning we gathered our stuff from the Princess Inn and hit the road early again, aiming to reach Artona in the next couple hours. I had just enough money with me for a couple train tickets to the city, and I planned on buying Mel’s as a thank you for everything she’d done for me.
Once we reached the city we would head straight home, then to Mr. Teller’s office. With any luck I would be able to cut Darren and still remember him by the end of the day. If everything went according to plan.
We arrived in the city just after noon. I was never so glad to step off that train and see the bustling train station. It’s strange, I thought, that I would be already homesick for the city when I hadn’t even been there a year. Then again, many things had happened in the past few months. More so than the rest of my entire life combined.
“Hey!” Mel called me over the heads of the crowd. “Where are you going?”
I waded through the sea of people and grabbed her hand. “Sorry,” I replied. “Just lost in my thoughts!” She grinned and shook her head. “We’ve almost made it!” She exclaimed, almost echoing my own thoughts.
“You know, I can’t help but think that something is going to go terribly wrong,” I said. “You only have so much good luck to go around!”
“Girls!”Mr. Ledwell said from ahead. “Stop chatting and keep up. Where did you say your house was again?”
“I didn’t,” I replied with a smile. “It’s on Rowan Lane, edge of the Cutting and Merchant districts.”
He nodded. “I think I know where that is. Can you lead the way?” I dutifully stepped in front and started at a brisk pace through the crowds, Mel close on my tail and Mr. Ledwell behind her.
“Unfortunately we’ll have to turn right back around to get to your father’s house though.” It felt strange referring to Mr. Teller as Mel’s father.
“It’s better we have some time in between anyways,” Mel began grimly. “If we go now he might be out on his lunch break.”
A light rain had started, and I put my head down as we travelled through the crowds. Before long we had reached my house, and I entered without knocking. As Mel and Mr. Ledwell shook the rain of their clothes I peaked into the rooms. As I’d expected Mother was still at work.I debated leaving her a note, but she wouldn’t be able to read it, even if I found something to write with. Instead, I headed to my room and grabbed my key and letter opener. Tucking them into my purse, I gently stroked the pillow of Darren’s empty bed.
“Don’t you worry,” I whispered. “I’ve got a plan.” Wiping away a tear I turned and walked back out into the entrance. “Ready to go?” I asked.
Mr. Ledwell nodded. “Ready when you are.” We walked back into the street, heading back the way I came towards the City Center.
“Will your father be angry you left Brutehaven?” I asked Mel as we walked.
She was silent for a minute, rain dripping off her curly black hair. “I don’t know,” She said finally. “But I don’t mind if he is. This is important.” She reached over and touched my shoulder, smiling softly. “You’re important.”
I smiled back and pulled her into an embrace. “Thank you.” I said, into her shoulder, my voice muffled by the cloth of her cloak. “Thank you so much.”
Mr. Ledwell cleared his throat and I stepped back, glancing up at the building.
“Here we are,” I said, blinking rain off my eyelashes.
Mel squeezed my shoulder reassuringly. “Don’t worry, he’ll help us.”
I nodded and mustered a smile. “I hope so.” I entered the building and walked down the hall and reached room three. Mr. Ledwell stepped in front of me and knocked sharply on the door. A slightly disheveled Mr. Teller opened the door.
“Jonathon!” He exclaimed upon seeing Mr. Ledwell in the doorway. He peered around him. “And you discovered Miss Alander, I see! Very good, very good! And who’s that with you?”
Mr. Ledwell and I stepped into the room, and Mel followed. “Hello, Father!” she said, smiling as his jaw dropped.
“M-Mel! What are you doing here? I thought you went back to Brutehaven!”
“Mel was kind enough to help me,” I began. “May we come in?”
I told my story, Mr. Ledwell and Mel interjecting when needed, Mr. Teller listening closely. When I finished he leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers.
“Well,” he began, “You’ve certainly presented me with a complicated situation!”
“I haven’t even got to actually explaining the plan yet!” I exclaimed.
He smiled. “I don’t need to. You’ve gone through so much to do this and although Mr. salon might not, I do think you are right. We have just been excepting the awful truth of Cutting our friends and family, and if theirs any possible other way, we absolutely must pursue it.”
I grinned happily. “Thank you Mr. Teller. My idea is that instead of just Cutting the Soul-String, which, as Mr. Ledwell here figured out, is intertwined with the memory-line, we would simply untie the soul string.”
Mr. Teller raised an eyebrow. “Is that possible?”
I nodded. “I have reason to believe so. However, in order to do it you must have the soul’s permission.”
“If it was that simple wouldn’t we have done it already!” Mr. Teller said, sounding doubtful.
“Father, please hear her out!” Mel pleaded.
“Very well,” He replied. “What’s the catch?”
“In order for this to work, there must be two Cutters. One next to the soul string, ready to cut it if anything goes wrong,” I hesitated.
“And the other?” Mr. Teller said impatiently. I glanced over at Mel and Mr. Ledwell, who both nodded reassuringly.
“The other must be in the Otherworld, untying the soul-string.”
“What!” Mr. Teller gasped. “You wish to send a living Cutter down to the Otherworld! Why, that’s madness!”
“I wouldn’t send someone else down,” I said. “I would go myself!”
He shook his head. “You’re hardly a trainee!”
“It was my idea.” I replied. “If anyone has to do it, it should be me.”
“And what?” asked Mr. Teller. “If something does go wrong the Cutter at the top is just supposed to cut the line and give up on you?”
I shrugged. “Pretty much, yes.”
“And how are you supposed to get back up?”
My reply was quick. This was one part of the plan that I was confidant would work. “After I untangle the soul-string, I grab on to it, and you, or whoever’s at the top, must pull the soul-string with me on the other end. Once I make it far enough away from the Otherworld the pull should lesson and I would be fine.”
Mr. Teller nodded, considering it. “It’s a good plan.” He finally admitted. “But one thing’s bothering me. How do we know which string is the soul-string and which is the memory-line?”
I smiled, and gestured for Mr. Ledwell to speak.
“I have done a lot of research,” He began, “And I have studied the soul-string in depth. I have discovered that the memory-line is actually a thin, easily breakable strand right next to the soul-string. If you look closely you can see it but if you pull on it even slightly it will snap.”
“If only it was the other way around,” said Mel wistfully. “Then none of this would be necessary.”
Mr. Ledwell continued with hardly a glance at Mel. “The soul-string is obviously much larger than the memory-line. Once you know how to recognize them I’m sure it will be quite clear.”
Mr. Teller stood up from his desk and started pacing back and forth the room.
Mel flashed me a quick smile. “This means he’s actually thinking about how it’ll work,” she whispered. “You’ve got him in the bag now!”
I smiled back a bit nervously, still worried about what was actually going to happen. If we screwed this up I would forget Darren.
“And who do you propose we test this theory on?” Mr. Teller asked. “Which soul did you have in mind?”
“My brother.” I replied. “Darren.”
I saw Mr. Teller’s face change into one of pity. “I’m sorry,” he said.
“I didn’t realize.”
I blinked back tears. “It’s all right. I’ve come to terms with it, but I can’t stand the thought of losing my memories of him too!”
Mr. Teller nodded. “All right. But this may take some negotiation!”