It wasn’t so terrible behind the hedge. It was a little prickly, but the ground was covered with tiny white shells instead of normal gravel, which was kind of cool. The hedge had weird spines instead of leaves. I could hear Jacob and Pinky walking away. No one came after me, and I started to relax.
Because maybe Jacob was right, even if he was an absolute and total jerk. Maybe nothing was really wrong. Maybe—maybe my mom talked to a toy lizard because she was stressed out and needed something to yell at that wasn’t me. Maybe it had just been the sound of my own crazy brain that made it sound like the lizard said my name. I mean, it wouldn’t be the first time I imagined something crazy and overreacted. I kind of overreact a lot, actually, if I’m being honest. I just—well, I start to think that everything is completely terrible, and it makes me so mad when other people don’t see it. I guess sometimes though, it turns out not to be as bad as I thought it was. Maybe this was one of those times.
I leaned back till my head rested against the prickly white stucco of the house. Something flickered out of the corner of my eye and I jerked my head away: another lizard, small and tense and green, clinging to the side of the house. It was crazy close. Its sides pulsed with each quick breath, and its throat quivered. I didn’t move. The lizard didn’t move.
I tried to make my heart stop hammering, because I was in Florida, right? They just had lizards everywhere, that was all. It was a Florida thing. Except then the lizard said, “Alyssa.”
No confusion, no rustling, no “maybe it was the wind.” A lizard. Talking to me. I tried not to have a heart attack.
“We need your help,” the lizard said. Its mouth and throat worked as it spoke, shrinking and expanding like lungs. I pushed away, the tiny shells cutting my palms. “There is a serious situation, and you must contact your mother,” it rasped. It moved closer to me, walking along the wall like gravity didn’t matter. I shrank back. “Your mother has something for you, Alyssa.”
I couldn’t really talk, could only whisper. “No she doesn’t.”
“She does,” it said. “We don’t know what it is, only that it is necessary.”
I edged away, the shells crunching underneath me. “My mom told me not to listen to you,” I said.
It turned its head sharply sideways, so it could see me from its eye. “She may not have understood. It is imperative that you get what she has, or that she bring it to us. If you cannot do that, you must….” It paused, and clung there, panting. “You must find those in a similar situation. Meet with them.”
I wanted to get away. I tried to move really really slowly and distract it. “Um, I don’t know what you mean.”
It paused again, and I wondered if it was sick. What does a sick lizard look like? I had no idea, except that maybe it looked like this: pale and panting and trembling. “We—,” it finally said, then stopped.
“We?” I said weakly.
“We have limited time.” It stopped and panted. “And limited energy. We will find you again, but you must contact your mother, that is best.”
“We’re not supposed to be calling her so much.”
“Contact your mother,” it hissed. “Get what she has. For her own sake, as well.”
“But wait, what are you even—.”
“Alyssa!” The door slammed and my grandmother was there, glaring at me behind the hedge. “Ach, you sit with the insects and the lizards and is a mess. Get up!” I got up. She whacked the wall with her bare hand and the lizard skittered out of sight.