Loopholes, Chapter 29

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

We crossed the dead trampled grass to where we’d come up the day before. It all looked like grass to me—short, scrubby, Florida grass, but Adam bent down and worked his hand into a gap where I didn’t even see one, and folded the flap of grass back to reveal the metal gate. He pulled it open and a waft of cold air gusted out—it felt like death. I didn’t want to go down there. I looked around us, at the regular world. The park was mostly empty—a few scrawny palm trees and one lady far away with a baby stroller. An empty asphalt basketball court with baskets with no nets, only rims. “Maybe we should try to find the lizards again,” I said. “You know, to check in with them.” I looked at Emily, and we both looked at Adam, and he just slowly shook his head, like I knew he would.

“Come on,” he said. “Let’s just go.”

We climbed down the ladder, Adam first, then me, and Emily last, and we got down to the bottom and stood there in the cold damp air. I dug out my pig flashlight and shined it down the dark tunnel hallways while we tried to figure out where to go.

Someone was coming down the hall, just a thin dark shape at first, and I backed up against Adam and Emily and tried not to hold my breath. It kept coming, and it held its hand up to shield its eyes from the puny light from the pig flashlight. But then when it came closer to us, it was just a kid. I heard Emily next to me sigh out in relief. It was even a kid we knew—we’d seen him in the lunchroom throwing food just the day before. He still had on his In Your FACE t-shirt. My arms went wobbly. I hadn’t realized how scared I was to see one of them until I didn’t see one of them. Not that he was so great to see either—he was the one, I remembered, who’d said I was Adam’s girlfriend, who’d jabbed Adam in the shoulder. Still though, he was just a kid.

He got up to us and held his skinny arm in front of his face to shield his eyes form the light, and said, “Come with me.”

“Buzz off, Ernesto,” Emily said, her voice relieved and pissed off. “We’re waiting for someone.”

“You’re waiting for me,” Ernesto said. “And we’re waiting for you.”

“Sorry,” Emily said. “Trust me, we’re not waiting for you. Go bother someone else.”

“I’m not Ernesto,” Ernesto said. “Not anymore.”

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