(Previous chapters: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.) (Also this is all copyrighted. Protected under copyright? ©) (Also: there is probably a way to make it so clicking on the Loopholes category will make all the chapters line up obediently. Does anyone know how that would work?) (Also: I guess this is going to be daily, at least for a while.)
Without further ado: Chapter 8.
She didn’t kill me. She made me clean up, and she was madder at me than seemed even possible, and she made me help her tape a giant piece of cardboard over the window, but she didn’t kill me. And that night, as I lay in the bed next to her, I realized that if I wanted to get something or contact my mother, I would just have to leave.
But in the morning, after breakfast, instead of letting me walk to school, she took us outside to where Doris from the flamingo house next door was sitting in a giant car, the motor running.
“School express!” Doris cried. “But don’t get your shoes on the seats!”
“Wait, why can’t I walk?” I asked my grandmother.
“Is Doris. Now into the car.”
“I mean it,” Doris said. “Those are leather, sit on those towels I put out there for you.”
“Wow, it’s like a boat!” Pinky cried, and slid into the back. “And there are towels!”
“Why aren’t you taking us?” Jacob asked.
“Business!” She looked fierce. Jacob nodded and started to get in the car and I grabbed him. “I’m going to call Phoebe from school,” I whispered. “You have to cover for me if I don’t come home.”
“Everything’s probably fine, Alyssa. Don’t make such a big deal of everything.”
“In!” my grandmother ordered, and we got in.
“Come, we’ll all have a good time!” Doris called. Her blonde hair was piled high on her head and she had really crazy lipstick. “But no eating back there!”
“We already had breakfast,” I said.
The inside of the car smelled like perfume and pickles, which isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds. Pinky gave us each a towel, and Doris waited while we spread it out on the seat before moving a giant lever. We began to drift down the street, leaving my grandmother standing there hunched on the sidewalk.
Jacob took out a piece of paper and started scribbling on it. “Are you boys excited about school?” Doris asked. She checked the mirror to see all of us.
“No,” Pinky called from the back seat. “We want to go home and be with my mom.”
“Well,” Doris said. “I’m sure you’ll see her soon,” in that voice where know a grownup is lying.
Jacob shoved his note at me, which said. “Don’t go!!!! We will call Feebee tonight!! Everything is FINE!!!!” I crumpled it up and shook my head at him, so he started on another note.
“Do you think Doris is a person in a similar situation?” Pinky asked. “Maybe she is!”
“What do you mean?” Doris said. “Similar to what?”
“Nothing,” I said, jabbing him with my elbow. “Maybe we should talk about something else, Pinky.”
“And we’ve arrived!” Doris announced as we pulled up at the elementary school. The boys walked out and we watched them go in. I sat in Doris’s giant cushy back seat and contemplated whether to make a break for it. Doris didn’t look fast. But the truth is, I’m not fast either, and it would be supremely embarrassing to be caught by an 80-year-old lady.
The sun was hot and the inside of the car was hot and I had no idea how I was going to do anything I was supposed to do. I wished I could call Phoebe. “She loves you, you know.”
Instead of driving, Doris twisted around in her seat and peered back at me. “Your grandmother. She’s a tough lady. I know that if anyone does, but she does love you.”
I shrugged. “OK.”
“Fine, don’t believe me. But I’m right.” She wagged her finger at me and it made her green earrings swing. They clacked. “She’s doing her best.”
I nodded, because that’s all grownups want you to do anyway.
“Look at me,” she said, and so I looked at her. She was really old. Her eyes were sort of greenish and she had blonde hair and crazy pink lipstick and her shiny green earrings were in the shape of lizards. I watched them swing. Little green lizards, curved like they were poised to take a step, dangling from her stretched-out earlobes. One twitched, and turned its tiny head, and looked at me. I caught my breath and tried to keep my face the same. She didn’t seem to notice anything. She just said, “Look, I know your grandmother’s a pain in the keister. But you be nice! You know she’s had a hard life.”
I wouldn’t look at the lizard, though it was blinking its tiny eye at me. I tried to focus on her old, rheumy eyes. We were talking about my grandmother. Right. “I know.”
She looked at me for a moment more, and so did the lizards. I heard something, the faintest hiss. “Find Adam and Emily. They’re like you.”
“Did you say something?” Doris said.
“They will help you find your mother,” her earrings whispered, while I stared.
“What? What did you just say?” She looked at me sharply. The earrings went still.
“Nothing,” I whispered, staring. “I—uh, I just want to know where my mother is, and I was sort of, you know, wondering aloud about it.” I cleared my throat. “That’s all.”
She looked skeptical, but she put in the car in gear. “Well I’m sure you will see her soon.” We pulled into traffic. “Are you sure you didn’t hear something back there?”
I gave a sort of half quack, half nod, half yes that didn’t mean anything, and turned into a long cough. She shook her head. “Oy, I must really be getting old,” she said, and she drove.