Loopholes, Chapter 25

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

Someone said, “Hey.”

I startled awake, bright light streaming into my eyes around a large dark shape.

“Alyssa? Emily?”

I blinked, then blinked again. “Adam.” It was daytime, sunny and hot. Emily was collapsed against the wall, her head on her arms, drooling on her elbow. I shook her, then rubbed my face, trying to remember what was going on.

“What are you guys doing here?” Adam asked. He had his backpack with him, he was dressed for school. His silvery tracings, which had started out the lightest, glittered like disco makeup on his arms.

I sat up. Emily was still passed out against the house. I shook her. “Wake up.” She groaned. “We’re here because.” I tried to remember why we were there. I felt really gross and tired, like my eyes didn’t work right. “Um, we’re here—wait. Well, the lizards.” I blinked again, and he just stood there, looking down at us. “We need your help.”

“Why didn’t you knock on the window or something?”

“We didn’t want to wake everyone up.” I tried to stand up.

“Is that yours?” He pointed to the poor wig-hat, which was smashed in the dirt.

“Yeah,” I mumbled. “I had to have a disguise—it’s a long story.” I picked it up, shook it out and put it on my head. Emily turned over on the ground, blinking.

“What?” she said. Then she bolted straight up, her eyes wide. “We fell asleep!”

“Yeah I know,” I said. She swayed there for a second like she was going to fall over.

“Do you guys want some breakfast or something?” Adam asked. “My parents aren’t here, they leave for work early. There’s food if you want.”

His house was small and crowded with things, and it smelled like powdered sugar. There was a pot of special coffee with a ton of milk and sugar, and small crunch pastry things that were covered in some kind of crunchy sweet glaze and powered sugar. We sat there at his tiny kitchen table and he watched us while we drank the sweet milky coffee and crunched through the little pastries. “This is delicious,” I finally said when I’d had two.

“You shouldn’t talk with your mouth full,” Emily said, but when I rolled my eyes at her she said, “But you’re right. It’s delicious.”

Adam just watched us as we ate, and then he said, “So, you decided I wasn’t too bad to try to do this with?” I checked to see if he was joking, but he wasn’t, his eyes were big and sad and steady, like he thought maybe we really would have decided that, like maybe that really was true.

I swallowed a bite. “My friend Phoebe told me that when a lizard tells you that you have to do something, then you do it.”

He nodded. “What else did she say?”

I put down my pastry, remembering. “Oh God—the package! It’s coming to my house.”

“Express mail!” Emily said, looking at the clock. “Wait, what are we even doing here? We have to go!” I took my Phoebe backpack, and Emily took off her shoes and shook them out and put them back on, and the three of us headed to my grandmother’s house. It was already hot. There weren’t any kids out—everyone was gone.

“Is your grandmother going to be there?” Emily said.

“I hope not.” I swallowed hard. “As long as Jacob managed to make her not call anyone or do anything.”

We turned onto my grandmother’s street, and started walking faster. I felt nervous. I didn’t see my grandmother, or Doris, or anyone. We got to the house. There was nothing on the front steps. I slowed down, out of breath. Maybe they hadn’t gotten there yet.

“The door,” Emily said from behind me, her voice bleak. I looked and I saw it, stuck there: a tiny notice.

Sorry we missed you! We attempted to deliver…

“But.” I went up the little step and pulled it off the door, staring at it. I couldn’t believe it. “But how could it have come already?”

“Well if you hadn’t gotten us to fall asleep with your stupid vision thing,” Emily said.

“IT’S NOT MY FAULT!”

“Hey,” Adam said from behind us.

I turned on him. “WHAT?”

He didn’t flinch, just said, “You know, the truck’s just around the corner. I mean, if you want to go get the package.”

I was still breathing hard, and we both stared at him for a second. Then we ran.

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