Arwen flipped her hair behind her ears. It was three inches past her shoulders, and needed a cut. She sighed over the forty math problems that still awaited her. Why had she gone to the most academic high school in New York instead of the Performing Arts high school? She had wanted to sing, but her parents wanted her to follow where they had gone and become a doctor. So it was. She sighed again over these memories, and returned to the math.
Her room was average for a wealthy sixteen year old. She had a sleigh bed, a chest of drawers, a closet, and a desk. But she also had one wall that was solid bookcases. There were some books for school, some books about famous singers, some classics, and some books of poetry, but mostly there were fantasy books. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, A Wrinkle in Time, The Lady of Shalott, and so many others. She kept her Tolkien books far in the back with all her books of nursery rhymes. She hated Tolkien. Her parents had thought that Arwen was such a pretty name they ought to name their daughter after a fictional character. She hated her name, and though she had read the entire Lord of the Rings and started the Silmarillion, she hated Tolkien and all his work. But just now she had other things on her mind. The phone was ringing.
“Hello?” she said into the receiver.
“Hi sweetie, it’s me. I was just checking to make sure you got home okay.”
“Yeah, mom, I’m fine,” she replied. Her mother worked late Tuesday nights and always called to see if her kids were okay. “Jasmine’s asleep and Ty is still out with his friends.” Her little sister Jasmine was 11, and had gone to bed early since she had no homework, but Tyler, her older brother, had turned eighteen a month ago, and felt so grown up he stayed out almost every night.
“Oh, okay then. Honey, I was wondering if you could arrange to spend tomorrow night with Miriam, and get Jasmine over to Ingrid’s. I have to work late tomorrow, and I won’t be home till 10:30. I’m staying overnight her, because I’ve got a big surgery to do early in the morning. Can you do that?”
Arwen almost groaned. She was 16, and she could stay home alone! “Yes, Mom, I’m sure I can work it out.” Her voice was monotonous, as if she had said these words over and over again.
“Don’t take that tone with me, young lady!”
Oh, wonderful. Now her mother was mad at her. “Sorry,” she said guiltily. “I’ll see you two days from now.”
Arwen went to her window seat after she hung up. Her dad was in Seattle for a meeting with his union, and now her mom was going to be away for two nights. Her older brother never even noticed her anymore, and it was like she didn’t even have a family anymore. Except for Jasmine. Her sister always time to hear about Arwen’s boyfriend kissing another girl. Or about how she had gotten the lead role in the school musical. Or even just to play a game of Blackjack when Arwen was bored of her homework. Still, one sister, a best friend and a cheating boyfriend wasn’t really enough to keep a sixteen year old girl happy. Arwen wanted more, but she didn’t even know what she wanted.
Miriam was tall and thin, but she was very close to being bony. Lots of people who didn’t know her thought she was anorexic, and Miriam hated it. She was just thin. That was supposed to be a good thing, but Miriam almost wished she was fat. Maybe people wouldn’t stare that way if she was. Or maybe they would, you never knew with people. Still, Arwen never cared. She really knew Miriam and the two of them were fast friends. They slept over at least once a week, and their two voices chimed beautifully together when they sang. Miriam was an alto, and she provided constant support for Arwen’s soft soprano and fly-away melodies. But that was how it always was. Arwen was adventurous, dare-devil, exciting, and Miriam was always there to provide the balance she needed to keep herself going. But it worked the other way too. Arwen gave Miriam the inspiration for her life, telling her about things she could do, and helping her with her painting. They were a perfect pair.
Miriam grabbed the phone. “Hello?”
“Hey, it’s me, can I sleep over tonight?” It was Arwen.
“Yeah, sure, come over at six.” Miriam was used to last minute arrangements. It was what Arwen usually did.
“I’ll be over as soon as I get Jasmine over to Ingrid’s house.”
“Great. Seeya then.”
The girls were nestled on Miriam’s bed, giggling, eating popcorn and playing `Truth or Dare.’ Miriam thought about what to ask her friend.
“Why do you hate Tolkien so much?”
Arwen groaned and hit her friend with a pillow. “Because of obvious reasons, dear friend!” she yelled.
“But wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in Middle Earth? To join the fellowship and meet all the people you’ve read about. To have an adventure in a far away land?”
“To have an adventure in an imaginary land! Honestly Miriam, I don’t even really like Lord of the Rings. Next question.” Arwen thought this conversation had gone far enough.
As she lay in her sleeping bag, Arwen thought about Middle Earth. What would it be like to live there? The Elves were supposed to be great singers, and maybe…Oh, what was her problem? Did her only hope for singing lie in the imaginary world she hated? Well, actually, yes. She sighed and rolled over, then whispered to her friend. “Miriam?”
“Mmm?” The girl was almost asleep.
“What would you do if you ever got to Middle Earth?”
Miriam sat up. “What do you mean?”
“I mean exactly what I said. What would you do if you ever got to Middle Earth?” Arwen was a little embarrassed to be asking, but she wanted to know.
Miriam grinned. “Well, first I’d make out with Legolas, then I’d join the Fellowship and go on all their adventures, then I’d become Eowyn’s foster sister, then I think I’d marry Legolas and stay forever. What about you?”
Arwen almost laughed at her friend’s plan. “I think I’d explore, then probably join the Fellowship too, then I think I’d come home.”
“Oh,’ said Miriam. “Nothing else?”
“Well, I guess I’d make out with Legolas too,” she joked.
“Good enough. I’m tired, go to sleep.”
Arwen stayed awake a long time. What would she really do if she ever went to Middle Earth? Well, she’d probably scream and cry and try to run away as fast as she could. It would be cool to go there with Miriam. The two of them would have a ball anywhere. She closed her eyes for a minute.
Then opened them.
She was lying on a bed of fresh grass just under a waterfall, right next to Miriam. Her friend was dressed in her nightgown, but Arwen’s Winnie the Pooh pajamas had been exchanged for a long, yellow dress. She looked around and caught sight of a house. She stood up and walked towards it. Strange flowers grew all up and won the path she walked. Then she almost walked right into a man walking down the path. He was tall and had dark brown hair that fell almost as long Arwen’s. He looked regal, as if he were the ruler of something. Then he smiled and spoke. “Welcome to Rivendell, fair lady. Who are you?”
Arwen stared dumbly at him, and then put her head in her hands. Here she was, in the one place she hated more than any other. She was in Middle Earth. Help.