Binny wandered the hallway. She didn’t know where she was going and she didn’t really care. She saw the wooden door that led to Misselthewaite Manor but kept walking. Was her father really more interested in driving the stupid Batmobile than in finding her mother? Than in spending time with her?
Binny saw the Special Requisitions Desk. Two was there fulfilling requisitions for various after dinner locations that people wanted to visit. No doubt many of them were serving up some interesting desserts. Binny had missed dinner again. She wasn’t entirely sure it really mattered. She wasn’t sure anything mattered.
Binny travelled through the crowd for a while, walking aimlessly only to notice the Special Requisitions Desk making another appearance on the inner side of the circle. The crowd in front of it was totally different, but it was still Two fulfilling requests. Binny knew that the hallway that surrounded the library was circular, but could she have really completed the circuit that quickly?
And then the door to Misselthwaite Manor showed up once again in the outer wall. If she had traveled in a circle wouldn’t the wooden door have appeared before the Special Request desk like it had the first time? And if there were two Special Request desks, how was Two staffing both at once? Binny shook her head. It was starting to hurt.
And then, a voice, a young girl’s voice cut through the crowd noise, “Trust me Matilda, they’re edible.”
It sounded like Cassie. Binny’s annoying younger sister, would now be the absolute best face Binny could spot in this crowd. Binny followed the sound of the conversation.
Another voice, also a young girl, answered, “But they’re musical instruments as well?”
The first voice responded, “You would think after all those books you’ve read, you would have read this one.”
Binny had almost reached the voices.
“I’m not sure how I missed it.”
The girls were younger than Binny, and neither of them were Cassie. Binny stopped short just before almost running the two of them over.
The first girl said, “Oh my. We almost had a bit of a kerfuffle.”
Binny said, “I’m sorry. My fault. I thought one of you was my sister.”
“This is my long lost dead little sister.” Kerfuffle girl pointed at the smaller girl next to her.
“Hi. I’m not really her dead little sister. Her name was Clare Matilda. My name is just Matilda.”
Thoroughly confused Binny made a small waving motion with her hand. “I’m Binny. Hey.”
Both girls were younger than Binny. Matilda looked to be the younger of the pair. But it was hard to tell as Matilda was so well spoken, she sounded older. Both spoke with British accents.
“I’m Maisie. Nice to make your acquaintance.”
“We’re going to Skrumshus Limited for sweets. Would you like to join us?” Maisie offered.
“Neither of these girls were Cassie. And they were younger than Binny, but what really did she have to lose. She had no plans, no parents, no real goals of any kind. “Why not head to Scrumptious Limited for ‘sweets’.” Binny thought it was cute the way Maisie had referred to candy.
“It’s not ‘scrumptious’, it’s skrumshus.” Matilda sounded out the words. “See?” Matilda pointed at the letters spelled out on the metal door in the wall. The door was set in brick and looked heavy.
“Oh. OK.” Binny said.
When Binny didn’t seem to recognize the name, Maisie chimed in, “You’ve been here before, right?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Well then of course you’ve read –” Maisie said eagerly.
But before she could finish her sentence, Matilda said to Maisie, “Don’t spoil the surprise. I’m sure she’ll figure it out in no time.” And then turning to Binny, she added, “You’ll love it. I promise.”
Matilda’s enthusiasm was infectious. Binny missed Cassie, but something about precocious Matilda was extremely familiar.
Binny followed the girls into a factory – a candy factory. Binny thought back to her visit to the banks of the chocolate river and wondered just how many candy factories there were in books. She silently hoped there were many many more. The air felt thick and smelled of gently burnt sugar. It resembled the steam factory her father had once dragged her to visit. Exposed brick walls. Big industrial cauldrons. Conveyor belts taking cooling candies and wrapping them in paper.
A table had been set up in a clearing at the front of the large factory floor. On it were several small multi-colored suckers. Maisie held up one of the suckers. It was round. As Binny got closer to it, she saw that it had two holes in it.
“Those face outward and you blow. Listen.” Maisie put the candy up to her mouth and blew.
A shrill and wonderful whistle came from the candy. It was so much louder than Binny imagined a whistling candy could be, but there it was nonetheless.
Binny picked up one of the balls and put it in her mouth. “Strawberry.”
“Mine tastes like peppermint.” Maisie said.
All three of the girls whistled and giggled.
“Wait a minute. I know what this is, but it’s the wrong shape!” Binny exclaimed.
“You’re thinking of the movie. We’re in the book.” Matilda said matter-of-factly.
“These are Toot Sweets – from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. In the movie they look like little whistles?”
“In the book they’re called Crackpot Whistling Sweets. Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car is the book the movie was based on. Did you know it was written by the same author that created James Bond?” Matilda said. “I saw him once, just before I popped into my book.”
Binny noticed Matilda always seemed to know a little more than the people around her, but Binny was never offended by Matilda’s offers of information. Binny found Matilda adorable.
“I do love the film version,” Maisie said.
“She loves movies,” Matilda said to Binny, referring to Maisie.
“Not my movie. I barely recognize it. But yours is great!” Maisie said to Matilda between whistles and sucks on her candy.
“Did you know that the screenplay for the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang movie was partly written by my author?” Matilda shared another small fact with the group.
“I’d like to have a word with the people who wrote the screenplay for my film.” Maisie frowned. “Not every story needs to be updated for a modern audience. I think it demeans the audience to make that assumption.”
“Wait. Your author?” Lightbulbs were going on for Binny. “Your author is… You’re Matilda!”
“Yes. I’m sorry for not introducing myself.” Matilda said earnestly.
“Don’t be sorry. You did. But you’re Matilda. You’re that Matilda. How did I not recognize you?”
“Because I look different than the actress in the movie?”
“Oh. Yeah. Right. I keep doing that.” Binny was contrite. “Sorry. But you should know. I absolutely adore your book, and you. I always wanted to be you, or have you be my little sister.”
“That’s very sweet of you. Thank you for the compliment,” Matilda said.
To Binny, Matilda sounded like a thirty-year-old.
“Sorry to go all fan-girl on you,” Binny said.
“Let’s go up to Lord Skrumshus’ office. That’s where he keeps the samplers!”
The girls went up the wrought iron circular staircase to the grand office with windows overlooking the factory floor. It was empty of people, but several boxes wrapped in purple ribbon sat on the desk. Each had the Skrumshus logo
After the girls had settled into the wide comfortable couch and torn into their sampler boxes, Maisie continued the conversation. “You have a sister?”
“Yes. Cassie. She’s younger,” Binny said.
“And an older brother, Zach.” Matilda said between mouthfuls of a chocolate stamped in the shape of an orange slice. “Mmmm. Orange.” Matilda raised her eyebrows.
“How did you know?” Binny asked, eyebrows raised.
“She reads quite everything you know,” Maisie said with a ‘duh’ look on her face.
It took a second for Matilda to finish chewing and swallowing her chocolate before she added, “I really liked it. I hope there’s a sequel.”
“Well, thank you.” Binny said. And then as an aside to Maisie, “And I promise to read your book soon as well.” Turning back to Matilda who was busy trying to decide which confection to consume next, Binny added, “I haven’t seen them. Zach, Cassie.”
“It’s quite difficult to find people here you know. Not that I’ve been looking for my brother,” Matilda added.
“I actually found my father,” Binny stated.
This got Matilda and Maisie to pause their chocolate evaluations for a moment. “You did?” They said in unison.
“Yeah. It was… disappointing.” Binny’s expression got cloudy.
“Parents have a way of doing that.” Maisie said.
“But he’s not a bad father. It’s just in here, he doesn’t seem interested in doing much besides hunting for superheroes. I really needed him, and he just wasn’t there,” Binny said.
“I don’t want to even think about what my father is doing here in the Stacks. Whatever it is, I’m sure it’s gross,” Matilda said.
“I have five adults that I haven’t bothered to look for.” Maisie said proudly. “Two biological parents who abandoned me. Two step-parents who would have likely done the same. And Mrs. Wix.”
“Mrs. Wix?” Binny asked.
“She’s like my Miss Honey,” Matilda added. “Not our moms but they basically adopted us in our books.”
“Oh. I love Miss Honey,” Binny smiled.
“Me too,” Matilda smiled.
“Those silly screenwriters got rid of Mrs. Wix in the film,” Maisie shook her head.
So why didn’t either of you go looking for Mrs. Wix and Miss Honey?
Maisie looked at Matilda.
Matilda put down her chocolates for a moment and turned her head to address Binny’s question. “This place isn’t really a place for families Binny. We’ve been abandoned by our families once in our books already.”
“Kind of twice for me.” Maisie said.
“Yes. Twice for Maisie here. And both of us have found someone to care for us in our books. But here, why even take the risk of getting abandoned again.”
“But surely Miss Honey would never abandon you. Mrs. Wix too.” Binny implored.
Wise-beyond-her-years, Matilda said, “The Stacks is a funny place Binny. People act different here. For me, I’d just rather spend my time reading books. It really is my favorite thing in the world to do. And there’s no place better in the universe to do it than here. Don’t you agree?”