Loopholes, Chapter 23

Previously: 1, 2, 3, 4567, 891011, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22.) (©!)

I was on the lawn of my grandmother’s house. I pulled my hat-wig low down on my head, and crept around the side. Jacob was in the bedroom, I could see him sitting on the bed, and through the open doorway Pinky in the living room with the television on. I went up close to the window. Jacob was writing in a notebook. I tapped as quietly as I could on the window. Nothing.

Hey, Jacob,” I whispered.

Nothing.

I reached up and tried to pull the window open, but of course my grandmother had everything locked up tight. I knocked again, louder. He looked up, confused, but not at the window or anything, so then I smacked it hard and he jumped.

“Jacob!” He came to the window and then gave a little scream. My grandmother stood up, and I dropped down onto the ground. I heard her come in—you could hear everything—and say, “What? What is trouble?”

Jacob mumbled something.

“Enough with the drama, with you and your sister, enough!”

More mumbling from Jacob.

“No more with the screaming!”

More mumbling, and then quiet. I lay there on the gravely, sandy side of the house, until I heard the front door open and Jacob announce in the fakest voice I ever heard, “I’m just taking a little night walk for some fresh air, Grandma!” Though I have to admit that the fresh air was a good idea. She’d let you do anything if she thought it gave you fresh air.

“You don’t go far!” she called from inside, and then the door shut, and he showed up around my side of the house, and just sort of collapsed on the ground next to me. “Alyssa!” he cried. “What are you doing?”

“You sounded so fake when you told her about the walk,” I said.

“I’ve been lying to her all afternoon!” he said. “I told her you were with a friend and you were OK and you did this all the time at home! It feels awful. Where have you been?”

“I’ve been trying to find Mom, OK?” I sat up, brushing sand off my shirt.

“And what happened to your hair?” he looked truly horrified, and I realized why he’d screamed. I’d forgotten about my hat. “Oh, right. Well, I’m sort of in disguise.”

“Alyssa!”

“It’s not as bad as it seems!” I told him, though actually, maybe it was. Maybe it was worse.

“She said the school called to say you had detention.” He kicked his toe around in the sand. “And she keeps asking us where you are and what you have planned.”

I sighed. “You can’t tell her, Jacob. She wouldn’t understand, and she hates me anyway.”

“She doesn’t hate you,” he said doubtfully. He looked up at me, his hands in his pockets. “She wants you not to do anything crazy.”

“I’m not doing anything crazy!” He just looked at me in my blonde-haired hat, with my silver sneakers. I still smelled a little like poop. “Well not bad crazy,” I said. “Besides, it’s better than you think. Phoebe’s coming. She’s sending something that’s going to help Mom. I swear to you, everything is going to get better.”

He heaved a sigh that sounded weirdly heavy coming from his narrow body. “I just—just don’t do anything crazy, OK? You know, like with the phone?”

I felt a brief stab of awfulness, remembering hurling the phone through the air, and the glass smashing everywhere. “Look: Just cover for me. Don’t let her call the police.”

“What am I supposed to tell her?” he squeaked.

“You’ll think of something,” I told him.

“I won’t,” he said. “I won’t think of anything.”

“Just don’t let her do it. Phoebe will be here tomorrow, and we’ll find Mom, and everything will be OK again, just do it.”

“Jacob?” My grandmother called out the front door, and she didn’t sound mean. She sounded old and quavery and scared.

I ducked down and Jacob called out, “I’m coming, Grandma.” Then he whispered to me, “Don’t do anything crazy.” I nodded enthusiastically, and motioned for him to go inside. He turned to go.

“Hey!” I whispered. “Wait.”

He turned around with a hopeful look on his face. “Yeah?”

“Do you know anything about lizards? Did we have a lizard or anything when I was little? Do I have any connection with lizards that I forgot or something?”

His face fell. He shook his head. “I don’t know,” he whispered. “They’re reptiles, that’s all. Cold-blooded.” He gave me a look—not a nice look—and went inside.

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