But that turned out to be harder than we thought. We walked back to where her family was, and Emily talked in a low voice as we got closer. “Just don’t talk to my dad. If he talks to you, fine, just be really polite. But don’t talk to him first.”
“What about your mom?”
She snorted. “She thinks you’re my friend. She’s so relieved that I have a friend that she won’t care if you kill a little puppy in front of her.”
“I would never kill a puppy!”
She sighed. “I know, I mean—look, just don’t worry about my mom. You know what? Let me handle all of it.”
We got back to her family, and her little brother was sitting with her great aunt, holding her hand, and her great aunt had her eyes shut, and her mother was whispering to her father, while the big guy—“My uncle,” Emily explained—let his giant hand rest on her dad’s shoulder.
“This might work,’ Emily said. “Just stay very quiet and well-behaved. If nothing else sets him off, sometimes he listens to my mother.” So we were really quiet, and Emily got her Aunt Dokhik a glass of water, and her brother showed me his temporary tattoo (a dinosaur), and then her uncle came over to Aunt Dokhik. He looked like a giant, even squatted down, and he put his big hand on her cheek and he said, “Aunt Dokhik?” She just shook her head and didn’t say anything.
Emily’s dad stood behind him, looking down at her, frowning. “It’s your attitude!” he told her. “If you say ‘I feel better,’ you feel better, it’s simple as that.”
“Little brother,” Emily’s uncle stood up. “Take her home. There is always dinner here for you. Take her home.” Next to me Emily held her breath. Her dad looked down at Aunt Dokhik, and no one really looked at him, and finally he said, “OK, OK. Come, Auntie, we’ll take you home and we’ll try his restaurant tomorrow. You will feel better tomorrow.” He said it like it was an assignment. He took her arm, and his brother took her other arm, and slowly, slowly they started out of the mall. The rest of us followed them, and Emily pulled me so I came along with them. “OK,” she whispered in my ear. “So, we have to find Adam. And you said your friend is sending this thing?” She looked up ahead. Her mother was occupied with her brother, her dad was bent over her great aunt, who was even shorter than he was. “This equation or whatever?”
“Yeah,” I said. “She’s going to send it express mail and email it to me. So if I can get to a computer.”
She nodded, thinking. “OK. We can’t go to Adam’s now. My dad will—well, just forget it, we can’t.” She chewed her lip. “Look, if I can get my parents to drop you off at your house, I’ll know where it is, and I can come back and meet you there later.”
“Aren’t you scared you’ll get in trouble?” I said. She gave me a really dirty look, which was fair, and I shut up. I thought about her plan. “I don’t know. If my grandmother sees me, she might never let me go out again. She’ll say, ‘Alyssa! Enough!’” I actually do a pretty good impression of my grandmother, accent and all.
“Right,” Emily said. “So what do we do?”
I considered. “Drop me off and I’ll pretend to go in, but I’ll wait outside,” I said. She nodded, keeping an eye on her dad.
I ended up sitting on the floor of their minivan, which made Emily’s mother really nervous, but seemed perfect to me. I’d seen about five police cars driving slow through the parking lot, so sitting out of sight felt like flying free.
Her dad drove in this furious way, but everyone else was really nice. They didn’t say anything about how I smelled, they just opened all the windows. I felt pretty bad. Ari said, “Mama! Mama, something is so stinky!” but she hushed him.
When we got to my grandmother’s house I said, “I’ll see you tomorrow, Emily,” in what I hoped was a normal voice.
“Yeah,” Emily said, her face blank and easy. I hoped I’d understood her right.
“Yes, yes, you’ll see each other at school,” her mother said. And her great-aunt leaned her head against the window, and they drove away, her father hunched over the steering wheel.