“Whatever you do, don’t go through Gossip Gulch,” Justine told her friend. “There are a lot of slippery slopes in Gossip Gulch. One wrong step could cause a fall. One wrong turn could get a person truly lost.”
Sherpa wasn’t concerned about the dangers of Gossip Gulch. Besides, it was the quickest route to Popular Place, and Sherpa was expected there very soon. She turned her back on Justine and with a wave of her hand said, “I’ll be fine, you’ll see.”
Sherpa made her way to the fork in the road, the part of her journey where a decision had to be made. If she went right, she would have to travel along a very long, narrow road. The road went up into Moral Mountain and across the Ridge of Respect. It could take forever to get to Popular Place. She may not even get there at all; many who took the right road never made it to Popular Place. If she took the road to the left, she’d be in Gossip Gulch within the hour, and once through Gossip Gulch, it was a mere hop to Popular Place.
Sherpa stopped to consider what she should do. She had friends waiting for her in Popular Place. She knew she would be accepted there, and get the attention she desired. On the other hand, she’d heard Moral Mountain was a beautiful, peaceful place. The people of Moral Mountain were known to be kind and decent, always ready to lend a hand or offer guidance. Sherpa thought again of Popular Place, and then of the long narrow road to Moral Mountain. She took a deep breath and took a step to the right, but something pulled her to the left.
Gossip Gulch was much wider than Sherpa thought it would be, and the path leading down the ravine wall was much steeper. She took one step and slid a few feet before catching her balance. Then she felt she was getting the hang of it. She took a few more steps, down, down. The closer she came to the floor of the ravine, the colder it became. She began to shiver. She hugged her arms close to her body. She could swear she heard voices, tiny whispering voices. But they weren’t soft and sweet, like when she and her mother spoke in the dark before bedtime. They were more sinister. Sherpa glanced behind her, not sure what she expected to see. Could it be who she thought it was? It couldn’t be; her friends from Popular Place were at home waiting for her. Her eyes followed the sinister voices again and she saw a slip of a girl quickly hide behind a large boulder. Her black hair was flying up in the wind, giving her away. Sherpa was certain it was Santana, a friend of hers from Popular Place. She began to feel sick to her stomach, her legs felt heavy as lead.
Sherpa turned back to the way she came. She took a few steps up the ravine wall, but it was too steep and slippery for her to climb back up. She sat with a thud onto the muddy ground. She buried her head in her hands and cried out, “Help! Someone please help me!”
“Sherpa!” She heard her name being called, but the voice wasn’t cruel, it was kind. She lifted her head and looked to the top of Gossip Gulch.
“Justine! Justine, you’re here! You were right, I was wrong to come this way! But I can’t make it back up the wall! I’m stuck!”
“I was worried about you,” Justine called down. “So I followed you, and waited to see if you would need my help!” Justine tied one end of a rope to a sturdy tree at the top of Gossip Gulch and tossed the other end down to Sherpa. Sherpa grabbed a hold of the rope and began to pull herself up. One slippery step at a time, she moved up the ravine wall until, at last, she stood next to Justine. She threw herself into Justine’s arms.
“How can I ever thank you?”
“By sticking to the narrow road from now on, no matter how long or how difficult it may be.”
“I promise,” said Sherpa. And her heart felt light as she took her first step down the road to the right.
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