Loopholes, Chapter 24

(Start here.) (Or just go backwards.)

I was asleep when I heard it.


I sat up, banged my head on the side of the house, and fell back down holding my head.

“Alyssa?” I rolled away from the house, holding my head and trying not to cry. It was way darker than before, because none of the house lights were on. The windows were dark, everything was dark, and someone was whispering. “Alyssa!”

“Emily, shhh!” I whispered. I got onto my hands and knees and crawled toward her. My head was aching, my mouth was gross, I smelled worse and worse. She was standing by the curb.

“OK, come on, let’s get away from your house before someone hears us and stops you.” We started walking down the empty, quiet street.

“What time is it anyway?” I asked.

“Late.” She shook out her long hair. She actually seemed energized. “So let’s go: Adam, and whatever your friend is sending.”

“Yes!” I tried to think which we should do. My brain was all foggy and confused, and my mouth tasted horrible. “We have to check my email.”

“Yeah, I remembered. I took my mom’s old iPhone.”

“You stole your mom’s phone!?” I looked over to make sure it was still Emily, but it was: straight brown hair, harsh eyebrows. Her eyes were a little more…ferocious though.

She nodded seriously. “You were right, OK? Something’s happening, and I’m not just going to sit by. Besides.” She started walking. “I mean, I was thinking about it: if you’re trying to do everything right, then you have to think of everything everything, right? Like, the big picture?”

“I guess,” I said uncertainly, and then I looked over at her in the warm Florida night, her mom’s iPhone glowing in her hand. “But I don’t think that’s exactly possible, you know?”

“Besides,” she said, ignoring me. “It’s her old phone. It’s not even a working phone anymore. But the browser still works if we can get to a decent wi-fi signal. Come on.” We walked up the street, towards the stores, till we got to the library. “They leave it on all night here,” she said. “What is it. Gmail?”

“Yeah.” We stood in the shadows of the library wall, and she held the phone so its light glowed up to her face. I logged on. About a million stupid emails from my school, a million more overdue notices from the library (I hoped this library couldn’t read what was going over its network), a stupid chain email from a girl I couldn’t stand, and not one single thing from Phoebe. “Nothing,” I said.

“Check your spam folder.”

“Right.” I checked my spam folder. Still nothing. I shook my head.

“OK,” she said. “So much for your friend Phoebe.”

“Well she sent it to me express mail too,” I said. “And she knew I couldn’t get on my email, that’s probably why she didn’t send it there.”

“Wait!” she said. “Her phone number!”

Duh. Except. “It’s one in the morning or something.”

“I know,” she said, and looked at me hard.

I told her Phoebe’s phone number, and she put it in and we waited while it rang. And rang. And rang. Then I said, “Um, she sometimes doesn’t turn on the sound on her ringer.”

She looked at the phone in disbelief. I bet her phone was always charged, and she always knew where it was. I heard Phoebe’s message come on through the tiny speaker. I wondered what it was like to think you could do everything right. Emily and I looked at each other. It was really late. We were really tired. But I looked at our arms—you could see the silvery glitter even in the dark now. Panic bubbled up in me, and I tried to remind myself that it wasn’t much worse, just a little. “We have to find Adam,” I said.

“Right.” She shook herself, trying to stay awake. “I got his address from the student directory. Let’s go there.”

We started walking. It turns out that one of the good things about Florida is that even in the middle of the night, it’s warm like summer. If we had to walk all over town in Massachusetts we’d probably be dead already.

His house was on a tiny street, and it was a tiny, tiny house, with the same plastic flamingos Doris had. We stood out there in front of it.

“So, do you want to knock or something?” I whispered.

“At midnight? That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard,” she snapped.

“Well fine, then, tell me your brilliant idea.” We both looked at the house. It just felt weird.

“I don’t know,” she admitted. I walked toward the house, heading to a window on the side, while she whispered, “Wait!” behind me. I ignored her. I could just reach the edge of the window on tip toe, but the shade was down and I couldn’t see in. I went around the back, and Emily followed me on tiptoe, saying, “Quiet! Be quiet!” while we looked for a way in.

But there was no way in. Finally, we sat down at the side of the house, where a big water heaterish thing was. “I don’t think we can knock on a window,” I whispered. “But maybe we can somehow, you know, mentally signal him that we’re here.”

“Seriously? Mentally signal him?”

I leaned against the house. “Just try it. We’re connected somehow, right?” I stifled a yawn. “Maybe that’s how we’re connected, anyway, like we’re mentally close and we can communicate with each other that way.”

She snorted. “Fine. Whatever. How do we signal him mentally?”

“Well, um, we close our eyes.”


But I had already closed my eyes, because it felt so good. “Definitely,” I said. “I feel like I can almost see him now.” She didn’t say anything, and I couldn’t make myself open my eyes again. “Then we picture him in our minds.” I tried to picture Adam, his giant body and his sad, sad eyes. “And we try to send him a message. The message is: Wake up right now and come outside. OK?”

“OK,” she murmured. And we sat there with our eyes closed, trying to send him a message. And that’s how we fell asleep.

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