Loopholes, Chapter 45

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

“You know, you should keep the ringer of your phone on,” Emily told Phoebe. “I mean, why even have a phone if you don’t turn the ringer on?”

“It’s true,” Phoebe said amiably. “But you know, I would have had to have it off on the plane, anyway.”

Emily just shook her head.

I sat next to Adam at the curb. He had a big bandage on his forehead. “I’m sorry about my grandmother and that stuff.”

He touched the giant bandage lightly. “It’s all right.”

“How are you going to explain it to your parents?” I asked him. “I mean, it’s pretty big.”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. I don’t so much explain things to them anymore. You know, since.”

I nodded, and he looked off down the street. The sky was a strange darkening pink, and even with the perfectly clipped lawns and smooth streets, you could hear the weird wildness behind it all, the burring, chirping sound of bugs and birds. The clouds were orange around the edges. Florida was strange, but it did have good sunsets, I had to admit. “You didn’t mean it,” I said.

He nodded, but didn’t say anything.

“I think what I did was probably worse than what you did.”

He thought about it without quite looking at me. “People are pretty terrible sometimes,” he said.

“Yeah.” We watched the clouds start to glow around the edges, a crazy white gold with dark pink centers. Behind us, Emily was lecturing Phoebe on why being able to contact people was so important, and Phoebe was cheerfully agreeing without ever saying she would change. “But I guess that’s why the balance thing matters,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said after a moment. “Though I still wish you could undo things.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Me too.”

“Hey,” Phoebe said from behind us. “You guys?”

I turned, to see her and Emily staring at the grass. “What?”

Adam turned around too. “A lizard,” Phoebe said, in a very quiet voice.

It was a tiny green lizard, small and sharp, almost hidden in the grass. It was frozen there, like it was carved out of something, but you could see its tiny sides pulsing in and out with its breath.

We all stared for a second, and then I squatted down. “Hey,” I said.

“Alyssa,” it hissed, and a shudder ran through me. It crept forward two swiveling steps. “You have done well.”

And I almost laughed. Because—well, because that’s almost never, ever true. “Yeah, not exactly,” I said. “I mean—.”

“You could have been a lot clearer,” Emily said.

“And what if you had appeared to everyone!” Phoebe said. “Think about how cool that could have been.”

It turned its head so it could regard each of us out of its small, shiny eye. “We, too, did the best we could. And appearing in this form—well.” It almost sniffed. “This isn’t something we will do anymore. We simply wanted to thank you.”

“Oh,” I said, and I blushed. And we all looked at each other, embarrassed and not knowing exactly what to do, until Adam said, “You’re welcome.”

And the lizard, nodded its head once, and then it stood there, still and frozen, and somehow you could tell it wasn’t one of our lizards anymore, it was just a lizard, and the sun was setting, and it was getting cold. I tried, “Lizard?” It tensed, and scurried off through the grass, underneath the house, and vanished.

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