Adam led us down gray-painted stairs. Everything was cold and empty and unbelievably quiet. “Are you sure they’re down here?” I asked, following Adam’s wide back. “Because—oh!” There were pay phones, like you see in museums or old movie theaters. I grabbed one and Adam nodded and leaned against the wall while Emily stood there looking around her, because she’d never been down where they have detention. She spent the rest of the time looking at her watch. I grabbed the phone and read the instructions on how to make a collect call. Emily paced behind me, muttering something about when fifth period started, and I tried to tune her out. It was cold down there, but even so my hands were sweating and I had to redial three times before it worked.
It rang, and it rang, and then Phoebe said, “Hello?”
“Phoebe!” I couldn’t believe it. “I have to talk to you! I —.”
But it was going on, “It’s me, Phoebe! But I’m not answering my phone, so—.” I hung up hard. My throat tightened around a giant lump, and I knew if I said or did anything at all I would just start crying, so I stayed there holding the handset and trying to swallow, except I couldn’t.
“OK, so whoever it was isn’t there, right?” Emily said. “So maybe we should go upstairs—.” And then the phone began to ring.
We all stood there looking at it. It had no caller ID, so I just stared at it while it rang, and then Adam came over and picked it up. “Hello? Yeah.” He held it out towards me. “It’s for you.”
I grabbed it. “Phoebe?”
My legs went hot and weak with relief. “Phoebe, I need your help. Something’s weird here and—.”
“Alyssa listen.” She sounded sharp and concerned and very un-Phoebe-ish. “I went to your house like you told me.”
Emily tapped me on the shoulder and said, “We have to go.”
I waved her off.
“Your mom wasn’t there, your house was all empty and crazy, but I found a bunch of equations?” The phone moved away from her mouth and she sounded muffled. “Wait, it’s hard to read your mom’s writing. And I don’t know which thing is important. Where’s your mom anyway?”
“We have to go,” Emily hissed behind me. “We have two minutes until fifth period starts.”
“Phoebe,” I turned my back so I could hear her over Emily’s buzzing noise. “Can you send them to me?”
“Sure, but what’s going on? Your house was all crazy and torn apart. And empty. Is your mom maybe on her way down there?”
“I don’t know. We can’t reach her. Something’s really wrong and—.” Two fingers pressed down on the silver tab and hung up. “You asshole,” I said to Emily. Except that it wasn’t Emily. It was Ms. Darton. Oops.