Loopholes, Chapter 6

(Previous chapters: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.)

I flopped across the bed—our bed, ugh—and paced around, waiting for Jacob to show up. I searched under the bed until I found the package Phoebe had given me before we left. I’d been saving it for a bad day, but I hadn’t expected a day this bad. I tore through the tape and the crazy layers of paper (Phoebe is a demon wrapper), because I had the sudden crazy hope that it might be a cell phone—or something useful. No such luck. It was a backpack, decorated with swirls and stars, with a duct tape wallet inside.

Phoebe has made me approximately 758 duct tape wallets. They’re nice and all, but you can’t call anyone on them.

I didn’t know what I was going to do. And after a million hours or so, Jacob sneaked in. He sat on my bed, on the corner, kicking his legs.

I checked the door, then shut it, and sat next to him on the bed. “Something really messed up happened,” I said.

He turned to look at me. His face is really narrow. His eyes are hazel, like my mom’s. “What?”

“Well.” I looked at him. He’s so sensible sometimes. “You didn’t believe me about Mom.”

He flopped back on the bed and stared at the ceiling. “I didn’t want to believe you about Mom, there’s a difference.”

“Fine,” I said. “But you’re not going to want to believe me about this either. So you have to promise you’ll believe me.”

“How can I promise to believe you when I don’t know what you’ll say?”

“Just promise.”

He shrugged. “Fine, I promise to try to believe you, OK?”

“OK, OK.” It was the best I could do, I figured. I took a deep breath. “When I was outside, after you guys left, a lizard came up and talked to me and told me Mom had something for me.” I said it as fast as possible.

Jacob was quiet. After a while he said, “Alyssa, you know how Mom says you have this amazing imagination—?”

“Forget it,” I said. “Just forget I said anything at all.”

“No, I don’t mean that—.”

“I heard you.” We both sat up. Pinky was standing at the door, looking really small.

I tried to see behind him into the hall, to see if my grandmother was there. “How’d you get in here?”

“I was quiet, and I heard you,” he said. He hung onto the doorknob and stood there, looking at us.

“Yeah, well—.”

Jacob turned back to me and tried to act like he could make sense out of things. “Do you mean that a lizard talked to you, or that you think a lizard talked to you?”

I swallowed. “I’m not sure.”

Pinky nodded solemnly. “I believe you.”

“Oh great,” Jacob said, and flopped back onto the bed.

“Something really did happen,” I told Pinky.

“What did it say?” he whispered.

I tried to think. “It said Mom had something that I needed, and I had to contact her and get it.” I looked at the two of them.

“Is that all?” Jacob said from his back on the bed.

I swallowed hard. “It said if I couldn’t do that, I had to meet with those in a similar situation.”

“That’s us!” Pinky crowed.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Is Mom OK, do you think?” Jacob said, trying not to let his voice shake.

“She told me not to talk to lizards,” I said. “When I caught her in her room.”

“Then you shouldn’t,” Jacob said with finality.

“But,” I said. “But—but where is she? Is she ok? Maybe she’s wrong about the lizards?”

“You’re supposed to do what Mom tells you,” Jacob said uncertainly.

“So what are we supposed to do?” Pinky asked.

We looked at each other. “We have to try to contact Mom,” I said.

Jacob shrugged. He’s really skinny and his whole body looks even skinnier when he shrugs. “Or we could wait for Mom to call us.” And when he saw my look he said, “Everything might be fine! You don’t know.”

“What do you think we should do?” Pinky asked me. “Should I do something?”

“Grandma likes you, you’re cute,” I said, and he nodded like this was obvious. “So—let’s try to get her to let us call Mom, at dinner, OK? You have to help.”

“OK,” Pinky said.

Jacob said, “I don’t like the sound of this.”

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