(Previous chapters: 1. Also, um, I declare this…copyrighted! Behold: ©!)
So that's how I ended up in my grandmother's house in Florida. Where everything—everything—was terrible.
Weather? So hot and sticky you felt like you were going to cry every single second. Friends? 0. My grandmother? Well, she’s not a nice person even if she likes you. And she doesn’t like me.
All day, every day, since we came to Florida she said: “Alyssa, no!” And: “Be big girl, no crying!” And of course, everyone’s favorite: “Alyssa! Is enough!”
She has an accent, even though she’s lived in the U.S. practically since she was 10. This is because she was in Germany and in a concentration camp when she was just a little kid and she survived and this is a BIG DEAL. We're never ever supposed to talk to her about it. And it’s supposed to explain everything about her, as in:
“Grandma can be a little difficult, because she had a hard life when she was younger.”—my dad (before he died, obviously)
Or, “She can seem a little harsh, but that’s because life has been harsh to her.” —my mom, before she started talking to lizards and exiling her children to Florida
Or, "Why are you so unfair to Grandma, don't you know what happened to her?" —Jacob, who tries to be perfect
Or, "Grandma is allowed to yell because she's history." —Pinky, who's just too nice for anybody's good
Or, “Your grandmother is kind of mean.” —Phoebe, the only person who ever tells the truth about anything.
And living with her? Was not going well. My grandmother yelled at me before I went to school, and she yelled at me when I got back. If I talked to her neighbor, Doris (who had actual pink plastic flamingoes on her lawn [which looked better than you would think] and high blonde hair), my grandmother yelled at me, then talked to Doris herself, while Doris winked at me.
I tried to be a good kid. I went to the weird new school. I did my homework. I didn't kill my brothers.
But at the same time, I tried to figure out why my mother lost her mind and sent us here. I even—and this is a measure of how desperate I got—asked my grandmother about it. Which gave me the only clue I had. It wasn’t much.
I just said it straight out, when Pinky and Jacob and I were sitting around on a hot Sunday: “Why did Mom send us here?” My grandma frowned.
“It’s OK if you don’t know,” Jacob told her. “I mean, we’re really having a nice time….”
“No,” I said. "It’s not OK."
“I think she wanted us to go because she can’t figure out the equation,” Pinky said. “Remember, Alyssa?” He smiled happily, because he’s only five and he has no idea what’s going on. “The equations?”
“Enough, Alyssa!” my grandmother, like it was my fault. “You do not all the time need to know what the grownups know. Outside!” She always told us to go outside when she didn’t know what to do with us.
But as we went outside I saw her face, drawn and gray and scared. And that’s how I got my only tiny stupid clue: she didn’t know why my mother had sent us there either.