We went outside. “We could walk to the store,” Jacob said. “I have money for candy.”
“Don’t you even care that something terrible is going on?” I said.
“Grandma’s right,” Jacob said. “You’re too emotional.”
It’s really, really hard not to scream, “I AM NOT EMOTIONAL!” when someone tells you you’re too emotional. But I didn’t scream, I just said, “We’re. In. FLORIDA!”
“It’s nice in Florida!” Pinky said. “I mean, I miss Mommy, but it’s nice to try to make Grandma feel not so bad, and it’s warm, and there are lots of lizards.”
“You don’t have to be so nice all the ti—. Wait.” I stopped there on the hot sidewalk. “What lizards?”
“That lizard,” Pinky said, and pointed down at our feet, where a tiny green lizard with red spots on its back was standing on the sidewalk in front of us, casting a tiny shadow. “See?” Pinky said. “They’re all over the place. Haven’t you noticed?”
“No,” I said in a careful voice. And I squatted down, and looked closely at it: tiny, green, spotted. It turned its head, so it was looking at me right out of its shiny eye. We stared at each other, and I heard this tiny rustling sound. Maybe it was just the heat rising off the sidewalk, or Pinky’s shoelace, but that’s not what it sounded like. What it sounded like was what a lizard’s voice would sound like if it said, “Alyssa.”
I could tell that Pinky and Jacob had heard it too, or heard something. My feet seemed really far away all of a sudden, and my face got hot. I knelt really slowly until I was on the hot sidewalk next to it. “Um,” I said. I stared at it, and it stared at me.
Then it took three delicate steps towards me, and opened its mouth. I held my breath. WHAP. Jacob’s hand slammed down on it. I screamed, and it ran, disappearing into the grass. “Why did you do that?” I asked Jacob.
Jacob lifted up his hand. Underneath his palm was a tiny shard of the lizard’s tail. He wiped his hand hard on his shorts, and swallowed hard. “Alyssa, quit trying to scare us.”
“I’m not trying to scare you!” I tried to look through the grass, but it was gone. “You heard it! It said something!”
“I didn’t hear anything but birds!” he yelled. “And you are too trying to scare us. You’re talking to a lizard, and you’re acting like there’s something wrong, and everything’s fine and I don’t know why you have to be such a big jerk!”
“You’re not even paying attention, stupid! We got sent here for no reason, and Mom was up all night with her stupid equations—and…well.” I took a deep breath. Because why not tell them? “I heard Mom talking the night we left. And she was talking to a toy lizard.”
Jacob scowled. “No she wasn’t.”
“Yes she was! I heard her.”
Jacob kicked the sidewalk. “You’re making it up because you don’t like Grandma.”
“You’re an idiot,” I told him.
“Alyssa,” Pinky said reasonably. “You’re being kind of mean.”
“I am not being mean! You’re being jerks!”
Jacob’s eyes narrowed. “Fine. We’ll just go and get candy and you can stay here and hang out with Grandma.”
“Fine, go!” And what was so horrible is that I knew in about two seconds I was going to cry, even though I was the oldest. And Jacob would be right about my being too emotional. So I turned around and walked away from them and hid down behind the spiky tropical hedge to be miserable in peace.