“I hope you had a fine time last night.” Hermione walked by Binny’s side on the way to the library.
Binny had just sheepishly exited the gate through which she’d entered the big woods. She shook the snow off her shoes only to find Hermione, Katniss, and Arya on their way to work just as she exited.
“Sorry about that,” Binny mumbled. “I fell asleep.” And then to try and make it up to Hermione and the others she added, “I was in the Little House in the Big Woods.”
Katniss raised an eyebrow but said nothing.
Binny continued, “It was really cozy and warm. I fell asleep.”
“It’s okay.” Hermione appeared ready to move on.
“I learned how to make a special request. That’s how I got there,” Binny proclaimed hoping to impress her friends.
“Someone’s learning fast,” Arya added with a wink.
“Oh, and Arya, I read your book yesterday,” Binny added excitedly.
“My book?” Arya looked surprised. “Just one?”
“I know. There are so many. I made it through one before I needed a break. Not that it wasn’t great.” Binny tried to backtrack a little hoping not to offend Arya. “I just needed a little break after all that…”
“Gratuitous violence and death?” Arya chuckled. “It’s okay. Even I need a break from it periodically. It all does get to be a bit much.”
Binny sidled up to Arya as they walked. “Maybe next time you could come with me. It was really a nice place to hide out for a bit.”
“That might be nice.” Arya smiled back.
The foursome shuffled toward yet another brand new spot in the Library.
“It’s nice to see you thinking for yourself.” Katniss said in a low voice, making sure Hermione and Arya were out of earshot.
Binny turned around, not entirely sure who was speaking at first. Katniss so rarely said nice things, Binny wondered at first if Katniss was being sarcastic. But after a moment, Katniss’ eyes stayed true, and her mouth showed no signs of laughter.
“Thanks. But I’m not sure what you mean.” Binny tried to sound appreciative.
“Reading Arya’s book. Going off on your own. Making your first special request. It’s nice to see you follow your heart,” Katniss said.
Binny smiled and murmured “Thank you.” And then after a moment she couldn’t resist adding, “So you don’t think I’m a quitter anymore?”
In a split-second Katniss’ usual smirking expression returned leaving no trace of her compassionate smile. “That remains to be seen. But you never know. It doesn’t happen often, but once-in-awhile someone surprises me.”
Katniss sounded like her usual sarcastic self but Binny thought she could detect a trace of sweetness in the challenge. Binny said, “Maybe I’ll even surprise myself.”
Binny’s mind wandered to the original issue over which she and Katniss had argued – Binny’s desire to do something nice for Michel – write him a poem, or maybe draw something for him. “I’m gonna do it you know.”
“Do what?” Katniss said.
“Create something for him. For Michel. I was thinking a poem, but now I’m wondering if I should draw something. Something from Paris.”
“Uh huh.” Katniss responded absent-mindedly.
“No, I’m serious. I just have to find some pen and paper. It’s shocking I can never find any of that. You’d think a library would have plenty.”
“No need to write down the names and locations of books when the library just serves up what you need no matter where you are,” Katniss joked.
“Fair point.” Binny laughed a little. “But still.” Binny thought for another moment. “Oh, I know. I’ll just go make a special request.”
Katniss had been going about her preparations before she jumped into her book for the day, but at Binny’s last comment, Katniss stopped in her tracks. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Why not? Afraid I’ll get really good at making special requests? Who knows what I could conjure up.” Binny smiled.
Katniss stayed serious. Her voice got even lower. “There are some shortcuts to getting stuff around here. No need to bother the higher ups with every request, right?”
“Shortcuts?” Binny was curious.
“You can fulfill your own special requests,” Katniss said.
“Well, for certain things.” When Binny still looked puzzled, Katniss explained. “You need their help when you request something. But only when you request something from books that aren’t your own.”
“I can bring things here from my own book?” Binny asked hopefully.
“Well, it’s not common knowledge, but yes, there’s a way to do it.”
Binny nodded eagerly encouraging Katniss to explain.
“There’s a moment, at the end of the day, when you’re coming back here. Just as you can visualize the age you want to be when you come back here, you can visualize yourself with any objects from your book. And when you pop back into the Stacks, you’ll be holding the items.” Katniss’ eyes sparkled as she explained.
“Is this against the rules?” Binny wondered aloud.
“Explicitly? No. But they can’t create rules for something they’re not aware of.”
“In other words, don’t let Hermione catch me.” Binny smiled.
“You’re catching on Binny. You’re catching on.”
Katniss was right. There was a moment – a split-second when Binny felt herself transition back into the Stacks after her day working in her book. She had so little time to think, she visualized the only writing tools she could think of. And then she was back, standing right where she’d popped into her book. She was the first back of her little group, but the whooshing sounds around her meant it wouldn’t be long before she had company.
Binny was still wearing the hoodie she was wearing in the book that day. Binny shoved her contraband items under her hoodie and tried to make herself look natural and erase the guilty expression from her face.
Whoosh. Hermione was back. “Hello Binny. A good day I hope?”
“Yeah. Thanks.” Binny responded hoping her hoodie didn’t look like it was concealing anything.
Whoosh. Whoosh. Arya and Katniss were back too.
“Perhaps we’ll get to enjoy your company tonight, unless you have other more important plans?” Hermione said a touch icily.
Katniss watched the exchange between Binny and Hermione.
Binny gave Katniss the slightest nod indicating that she’d achieved her objective and then responded to Hermione. “Absolutely. I’d like nothing better than to spend time with you guys.”
Binny wasn’t quite sure where to start her creation for Michel. She thought she’d been to Paris before, but the memories were fuzzy. There was no mention of a Paris trip in her book, so she wasn’t quite sure why she remembered going on one. But those kind of questions hurt her head, and she had enough to try and figure out for the moment.
Binny thought about Michel. He’d spent his whole book chasing after artistic dreams. Dreams of poetry, and literature, and love, only to have each of them crushed until he collapsed, alone, and unloved in the cruel then futuristic Paris.
Binny had been thinking about what she would create all throughout dinner and her after dinner walk with the girls. Spending time with them seemed to repair Binny’s relationship with Hermione who had seemed in better spirits when she’d said good night a few minutes earlier.
Now, finally, Binny sat alone on her bed, having pulled out her ill-gotten gains – the artifacts she retrieved from inside her book. On the quilt of her puffy bed in Misselthwaite Manor lay a large notebook of sorts.
The notebook looked ‘old timey’. It was covered with a fake wood pattern. In the center of the cover was a sticker filled with text: “DAILY REGISTER OF PUPILS. For use in the Public Schools of Washington. Adopted and issued by authority of The Board of State School Commissioners.” Underneath that auspicious title were spots to fill out the “School No.” the “Commissioner District No.” and the “County”. All were blank.
“Inspecting your loot?” Katniss said from across the room.
“Hey! Don’t they knock in District 12?” Binny was taken aback at Katniss’ surprise presence in her room.
“We didn’t really have a lot of privacy, no. But, your door was open.”
“It’s fine. Come see.” Binny motioned Katniss to come sit with her.
“What is this?” Katniss examined the notebook. “Oh wait. This is your famous register isn’t it. Tell me, why is that the name of the book?”
“You know, I honestly don’t know.” Binny said. “When I first saw the book – my book –here in the Library, I saw the title, and wondered the same thing. The Madrona Heroes Register. In my story, as you know, I just found this stack of blank registers and use it as a sort of journal. It doesn’t seem important enough to show up in the title.”
“There are going to be sequels though.” Katniss said.
“To my book? Yeah. I’m assuming. Especially since the first book is labeled No. 4. There better be sequels as well as prequels.” Binny chuckled.
“Well, then let’s assume this register of yours will take on a more important role in one of the future books.”
“You suddenly have faith in my author? I thought you thought my book was terrible.” Binny was still hurt by Katniss’ early proclamations.
“Oh, don’t listen to me. I say all kinds of things.” Katniss tried to change the subject. “Tell me, what are you going to create for your friend Michel?”
“I’m not sure. I had thought about a poem, but that seemed embarrassing. Then I thought of a drawing maybe. He’s from Paris. But the only thing I can think to draw is the Eiffel Tower.”
“That seems like a great idea. What’s the problem?” Katniss asked.
“Well, Michel didn’t live in the Paris that I know of from my book. He lived in the Paris his author thought might exist ninety-seven years after he wrote the book. The book was written in 1863. The book takes place in 1960. But the Eiffel Tower wasn’t built until 1889 – I looked it up. So unless Jules Verne – as great as he was at predicting things – predicted the Eiffel Tower would be built and placed it in his pretend Paris of 1960, Michel would have no idea what I’d drawn.”
“Wow. You’ve certainly put a lot of thought into this.”
Binny was mostly sure Katniss wasn’t making fun of her.
“Maybe the poem then?” Katniss’ smile was inscrutable.
“I guess I’m kinda stuck.”
“Remember sponsorships from my book?”
“Of course. How could I forget.”
“Well, maybe you could think of your poem like a sponsorship. For someone who is all alone, trying to survive, a little gift that gives them hope.”
Binny dreamt of Madrona that night. She dreamt of her book parents. She dreamt of feeling all alone and trying to survive in her own story. She dreamt of being at her lowest moments, and finding hope and strength inside her. Most importantly, Binny dreamt of a message – a message for Michel.
Binny woke up in time for work. The pages in the register still blank. But the gift of her dream still hung tenuously in her mind the way only dreams can right before they escape. Binny thought about Michel. Even if things hadn’t turned out the way he wanted in his book, he always had his existence in the Stacks to do something new, to be someone new, to try again.
Binny scrawled the fragment she created in her dream into one of the register’s blank pages. It only took her a minute. When it was done she was about to conceal the Register in her sweatshirt again, but thought about how unwieldy it had been all through the previous night. Instead she tore the page on which she’d written out, folded it and put it in her pocket, and hid the Register and the pencil she had pilfered under her mattress. With that, Binny was off.