When Annyrose woke the next day, the house was quiet. Not like it normally was in the mornings. Her mother would have the radios on and might be singing along, while cooking breakfast, and the smells and sounds of sizzling bacon would be wafting in from the kitchen. Today, all was silent.
Annyrose quickly changed from her nightgown and padded down the hallway. Perhaps something had happened to her mother? The first place Annyrose checked was Melinda's office. She stopped next to the door, but instead of turning the knob, she pressed her ear to the wood. She could hear her mother's voice—and another person's. Lower. Masculine. Part of Annyrose was curious as to what they were talking about—she couldn't make out words from behind the door—and part of her was horrified that she was spying on her mother. After a few seconds, more of listening, Annyrose could only make out one word, which cropped up every few sentences. Curiosity rising, Annyrose gripped the door handle, and just happened to hear her mother call back to her guest "Let me wake her."
There was no time to dart back down the hall and fly into her bed, pretend to have been asleep.
"Annyrose! You're already awake?"
"Yeah." Annyrose nodded innocently, as though she hadn't been eavesdropping.
"Well come in, there's someone I want you to meet."
Annyrose followed her mother into the study. The visitor was sitting in her mother's chair, which surprised Annyrose. Because of the seating arrangements, he was facing away from her. The chair swiveled when Annyrose and her mother entered. Annyrose was quite startled to see none other than the stranger she had meant yesterday.
"Mum, you know him--? This is the man I meant yesterday. The one I told you about."
"Yes, I know him. Annyrose, meet Prock."
"What a funny—" Annyrose cut off mid sentence, knowing her mother would reprimand her for being so rude. Instead she said "I didn't know you knew mother." Annyrose shot her mother a glance, as though to warn her This is the crazy man with made up worlds, mum.
"Yes, quite sorry about our introductions yesterday—or, lack thereof." The Prock stood and bowed graciously. "I was on a rather busy schedule and had no time to stop for...such social matters."
You had time to discuss Whangdoodleland. Whatever that is. Annyrose thought.
"I was on an important mission for His Majesty." The Prock was silent for a moment, in which time Annyrose said
"You mean…Her Majesty?" The only ruler she knew of was the one in England—and that one was most definitely female. The Prock gave her a doleful stare.
"His Majesty," He began, with an emphasis on the his "the great ruler of Whangdoodleland."
"Prock." Annyrose's mother sighed, and both Prock and Annyrose turned to her.
"You said you'd tell her. His Majesty didn't think you'd follow through with telling her—no offense intended—and he sent me to break the news."
"News? What news?" Annyrose turned to the Prock, not sure what to expect.
"Whangdoodleland is…fading. You need to help His Majesty and all citizens of Whangdoodleland to find another country to inhabit."
Annyrose glanced back at her mother. "Wait, what?" Neither the Prock or her mother replied. "I…" She swallowed, then said "I was listening outside the door…you were talking about Whangdoodleland with this—with Prock. Why—" Annyrose was suddenly worried that her mother might not be entirely with it—certainly not if she agreed with this man. But her mother was definitely not crazy. Annyrose only had to look at her to be able to tell. Same old mother. But then, what was going on?
"Annyrose, I should have told you when you mentioned it last night. Do you, by any chance, remember the professor?"
"Barely." Annyrose did have a slight memory of him—back when she was three. He had died a few months later.
"You know how he was a scientist?"
"Yes." If anything, Annyrose remembered his legacy more than him. Her mother always had the most interesting stories about his discoveries.
"Well, he happened to discover a –well, not a parallel universe, but another country."
"Woah. You never told me that! He founded a country?!"
"Not founded. Discovered."
"How do you discover a count—"
"You aren't explaining all that well, Melinda." The Prock said, from the chair. "You will eventually get to the point, I'm sure, but—" The Prock turned to Annyrose.
"What your mother would eventually explain was this: The professor discovered Whangdoodle land, and he took Mel—Your mother, and Your Uncles Tom and Ben with him when he ventured into Whangdoodleland."
"Why don't you just show her!" Annyrose's mother cried out sarcastically. "That would be much less subtle then how you explained it."
"Good idea." The Prock said.
"I didn't mean it!" Melinda said, frowning.
"Did I get a chance to tell you The Whangdoodle and Clarity had a child?"
"You're trying to change the subject."
"A Daughter. They named her…what was it? Oh, right. Leiella."
"Leiella would be…oh, about Annyrose's age. In terms of maturity, that is."
Melinda didn't reply.
"Poor Leiella. For Whangdoodleland to come to an end. It might take a while, or you and Tom could just be in the wrong places and the wrong times…"
Melinda stared at the Prock so fiercely that Annyrose lowered her eyes. The Prock's gaze, however, remained steady. After a moment, Melinda lowered her eyes and munmbled "I'll go get the Sympathetic Hat."